There’s a golf blog I recommend you give a look to, called 3Jack Golf Blog. It concentrates on professional tournament golf, but occasionally has instructional relevance for us. Find it at https://3jack.blogspot.com/.
One post that struck me presented Richie’s analysis of the telling skills for professional golfers. He called them the 4 Cornerstones of the Professional Game.
1. Driving Effectiveness
2. Red Zone Play (175-225 yards)
3. Short Game shots from 10-20 yards
4. Putting from 3-15 feet
Players that rank average or better in all four these areas do well on the Tour. Recreational golfers who do well in these area will do well overall, too.
Driving Effectiveness is a combination of length and accuracy. For us, accuracy would be more important than length, but don’t discount distance. My par rate is clearly related to being the fairway. I don’t think about distance, because the ones I hit straight are my longest drives.
I would reduce the yardage of Red Zone Play to 125-175 yards for recreational golfers. This is about hitting greens from distances we can realistically have a chance. I once wrote about the yardage gap for recreational golfers, the distance from 175-200 yards that we don’t have a realistic chance of hitting the green with any consistency. Take a look at that post.
By the way, I have this rule of thumb for hitting greens. It is just my guess, with no data to back it up at all, but it makes sense to me. Add a zero to the number of the club you are using. That is the percentage of greens you should hit with that club.
The standard for a 9-iron then is to hit 90% of greens, and with a 5-iron, 50% is a reasonable expectation. Thinking along these lines can help you plan you approach to the green, as in what are my chances of missing, and if I miss, where is the best place to do that?
Numbers 3 and 4 are obviously just as important for us, without modification, as they are for the pros. The short game metric is measured in yards from the green, not from the hole. Putting? How many putts from 3-15 feet do you sink? Just two more per round would help, don’t you think?
I know these cornerstones sound obvious, because when you take them out, there isn’t that much of the game left. Long-range pitching, bunker play, and approach putting is about it.
But you might want consider concentrating on these four areas in your practice sessions and see how it works out. I’m focusing on #3, because those are great places from which to steal a par, and there’s no reason I can’t get good with those shots. Or you, for that matter.