Technical Tips

December 2011

What's Your Short Game Handicap?
by Terry Koehler

Almost all reasonably serious golfers have some kind of handicap, just to allow us to keep track of our overall improvement with our golf games. But wouldn't it be more useful if that handicap was such that it told us where we could improve the most? Unfortunately, that's not the purpose of the USGA handicap program, so I've devised my own "Short Game Handicap" calculation to help golfers understand that this is where they are most likely going to improve their scoring.

The premise of my short game handicapping formula is the notion that once we get inside short iron range, the physical differences between golfers is increasingly negated. Your physical skills and abilities will never let you hit drives and irons shots like the best players. But anyone can learn to execute good quality chips and pitches, and even full swing wedge and short iron shots. It really doesn't matter whether your full-swing 9-iron goes 140 or 105, if you can execute shots from there on into the green, you can score better than you do now.

So, the starting point is to know exactly where you stand in relation to "par" when you are inside scoring range. And I don't really care how many strokes it took you to get there, actually. Once your ball is inside that range where you can reach the flag with a comfortable full-swing 9-iron, you should be able to get up and down in 3 strokes or less almost all the time. In fact, I'd say that the times you get down in two strokes should outnumber the times it takes more than three, regardless of your skill level.

So, let's start with understanding what this kind of scoring range skill set can do for your average score. I created this exercise as a starting point, so I'm encouraging you guys and ladies to chime in with your feedback.

What was your last (or typical) 18 hole score?

  1. _____ Number of times you missed a green with a 9-iron or less
  2. _____ Number of times you got up and down afterward
  3. _____ Number of chips or pitches on any hole that ended up more than 10’ from the cup

#1 minus #2 plus #3 = ______ Your short game handicap

And that’s how many shots will come off your average scores if you give your short game and scoring clubs the attention they deserve. (Think you can save that many shots with a new driver?)

I would like for each and every one of you readers to do this simple calculation and let us know what you find out. Come on, share!!!

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