03/23/2015

We’ve all played with them. Delusional golfers.

You may have heard them in the clubhouse rambling on and on after another heartbreaking bad break. One was over on the green adjacent from yours, barking like a wounded dog after another injustice. Their shortcomings in the game are saddening.

I mean, they play 4-10 times per month, depending on work schedules, children’s activities and other commitments–and they practice even less. But the expectations they place on their golf game are beyond reason. It’s sickening to hear isn’t?

Patrick Reed is one of the PGA Tour’s top talents–and he was guilty of this unreasonable self-abuse last fall.

So how can golfers everywhere taper their expectations? You aren’t as good as you think you are at golf. Neither am I. If you’re reading this far, and you expect nothing from a day of golf other than a great day outside and a stressless day of enjoyment, you deserve to pour yourself a cocktail right now while simultaneously patting yourself on the back–with complete sincerity.

You are in golf’s minority.

My goal through this article is to point to concrete examples from the world’s best golfers as to why we (as amateurs) aren’t as good as we think we are.

Here are three PGA Tour Statistics to Tell Amateur Golfers with High Expectations:

Blow up hole

1. On average approach shots 50-125 yards, the BEST on the PGA Tour was 15 feet, 6 inches in 2014

Justin Leonard was the PGA Tour’s leader from 50-125 yards in 2014, and by reading the title above, you know his average proximity was 15 feet, 6 inches. You know what this means? For every time he hit a good shot to 6 feet, he hit another shot to 25-feet.

I like this metric for yardages because this pretty much encompasses all wedge distances for the PGA Tour professionals. Most pros would use no more than a pitching wedge from any of these distances, unless they’re facing those treacherous British Open winds (where I remember in 2011, Greg Norman used a 5-iron from 125 yards).

So let’s dive a little deeper. The worst player in proximity to the hole from these yardages in 2014, was Derek Ernst with an average of 23 feet, 6 inches. Fun fact about Ernst–he won an event in 2013! So a PGA Tour Winner averages 23 feet, 6 inches. This leads me to ask one question:

What should YOU average?

No. You should not throw your club at your cart when from 116 yards you spin your ball away from the hole to the front of the green, leaving an 18-footer. At the same time, I don’t want to hear “I should do that every time” when you hit your 125-yard pitching wedge to 7-feet. Spoiler Alert: the best in the world don’t do it every time!

Please, golfers. Start managing your expectations on the golf course. Smile when you hit the green with your wedge and have a 15-foot putt for birdie. You hit it inside the best on the PGA Tour! Now focus on making that birdie putt….


2. Average Putts Made 5 to 10 feet, the BEST on the PGA Tour averaged 32% in 2014*

His name is Stuart Appleby and he made 200 of his 625 attempts from 5 to 10 feet last season on the PGA Tour. He did not make a majority. In fact, he was 113 putts made from making a majority of his putts.

A ten-footer doesn’t look long, does it? Lay your driver down on the ground. Two of those should equal about 7.5 feet, the mean distance for the putts in the range we are measuring. You can make that, right? I’ll tell you right now–you shouldn’t make this putt as often as you think you should.

‘That can not be a straight putt!’ says yet another infuriated golfer as his 9 footer slides by the hole. He’s missed a putt for par and he’s furious. His is fury justifiable? By some misalignment in the stars, how could he miss yet again a putt shorter than a free throw in basketball? Can his anger with himself be valid? I am here to tell you, it is not.

Click here to see the statistic used!

Only 7 players on the PGA Tour in 2013 (with enough putts to qualify) made more than 31% of their putts 5-10 feet. The rest were under that mark. Most hovered around that 26% to 28% range, meaning out of 10 putts, they will hole less than 3 of those putts.

Granted this stat doesn’t indicate the difference between a slider and a straight putt–a right-to-left breaking putt from a downhill right-breaking putt. There are a lot of variables, but through the law of large numbers, we’re forced to believe there is authenticity to these statistics.

So next time you have an 8-footer and you see a little break in the putt, approach it with this mindset–even the best professionals in the world might not make this putt 50% of the time. Strip yourself of the pressure! (In fact, it will probably help you make a more free stroke anyways, giving yourself a better chance at holing it.)

After you hit it, accept the result.

*(04/28/2015) Editor’s Note:

Upon conducting some research, we’ve found a bit of an error in the data used for this study. Now the percentages are completely accurate, but they aren’t wholesome representations.

The numbers I used were “percentage of 1-putts” from that distance. This is the percentage of all 1-putts from this distance. It’s a different statistic.

Here is the statistic for 2014 Putts 5′-10′.

The leader in that category was Greg Chalmers at a clip of over 64%. In fact, every golfer in the top-25 on the list makes more than 60% of their putts 5 to 10 feet. This is a much more impressive statistic to indicate the ability of these talented professionals, but there is still merit to my argument.

In 5 putts from this very makable distance, the best professionals on the PGA Tour are missing 2 of those putts. 

Now the information I included above in my original content doesn’t offer conclusive evidence and the points are now different. I am glad to have made this edit.

But the point still remains, the best players in the world are missing putts from a makable distance, how can we expect to make every single one?

Thank you to George Clucas for the comment! (see at the bottom in the comments section)


3. 52 PGA Tour Players Averaged Less than 285.0 Yards Per Drive in 2014

Let’s take this statistic and couple it with some food for thought.

The guys on the best Tour in the world have access to the best workout facilities in sports. They can lift weights, stretch, take saunas and receive therapy to make sure their bodies are performing at their peak ability. Their limitations–physically–are less than yours.

Along with that, they have access to the best golf equipment in the world. They are able to select from hundreds upon hundreds of club heads and shafts, combining them all to optimize their driver for its maximum output. Each yard they gain is precious, especially in a game with lengthened golf courses.

Their swings are among the most efficient in the world. That’s why they’re out here. They hit the center of the clubface–and they hit it often. They know their numbers–spin rate, launch angle, shot apex and angle of descent. They take this knowledge and use it to increase their distance. They maximize their roll out and utilize the elite equipment in the world to blast it out there.

So how do some 1/3 of the PGA Tour average less than 285 yards with their driver?

We’ve all heard that guy. He gets his yardage from the fairway after finding his tee shot, only to find he’s 155 yards from the pin. He looks at the scorecard and finds out he’s hit his drive some 255 yards on the 410 yard par-4.

This can’t be right,‘ he says to his buddy in the cart. ‘I usually hit it 280 on average.’

Well, players like Ryan Moore, Matt Kuchar, Luke Donald, Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson can barely say ‘I usually hit it 280 on average’ without their foot in their mouth. And those players are the best in the world, playing pristine golf courses with equipment fit to match their already world-class talent.

Even they only average 280-yards off the tee. I doubt this individual “lasering” his 155-yard shot does.

Hey, look at the bright side, at least you’re only 155-yards out. But remember, it’s a little uphill and into the wind…your 8-iron probably won’t get there. Club up.


I don’t write this post with strictly outward intent. I am using it as perspective for my own game as well. I need to understand the difficulty of golf and pair that with the ability of the best in the world. Don’t cease at striving to improve, but taper expectations.

And finally, my great shots need to be cherished more often than my poor ones are crucified.

Hope you enjoyed the read! I encourage you to SHARE on social media and tweet at me with any thoughts you have pertaining to this post.