It Doesn’t Exist!

In the first part of this series, we took a look at Justin Thomas’ 2017 season in its entirety. Despite some incredible successes, he also showed some in consistency that is to be expected in golf.

Now why we would all love to be as “inconsistent” as a PGA Tour player, in many ways, we already are. While our scores might not be as low, they follow the same pattern of that of the best players.

As a reminder, below are Justin Thomas’s scores for the entire 2017 season. When drawn out in the graph it represents a common bell curve. The majority of Justin’s rounds fall between 67 and 73. He has a few scores lower than 66 and a few scores higher than 73. The difference between his best score and his worst was 21 shots.

Below is a graph I made for a golfer with a 20 handicap. One point I would like to make is a common error in the way golfers view their handicap. The handicap is the average of your 10 best scores of your previous 20. It does not include all of your scores, and therefore, should not be viewed as what you “should” shoot on a given day.

Note the similarities in the shape of the 20 handicapper and that of Justin Thomas. The difference between their lowest score and their highest was 21 shots. The majority of their scores fell between 96 and 103 with their mean and average score being around 98. On any given day they have the same chance of shooting a score below 98 and above it.

All golfers have some sort of “bell” curve to their scores. Even at the highest level, the difference will be somewhere between 12 – 13 strokes. It is very hard to shrink that curve to less than that. The real way to improve is to work on moving the entire curve to the left, not by hoping to eliminate your bad scores.

Now, let’s break this concept down into just a single round of golf. The same bell shaped curve applies to an average round of golf. We will have some great shots, some bad shots and the majority will be about average. The image below shows what we can expect in a typical round.

“A round of golf is a summation of your great, average, and poor shots combined. You can’t eliminate the poor ones and then tell yourself that you are better than what you actually shot – the poor shots are part of the game, part of your skill, and thus part of your score.”
– Dr. Rick Jensen

I think having this image and expectation in mind is very helpful. Yes, there will be days when you hit more great shots and some when you hit more bad shots. But on average, a typical round will look like the picture above. Keep this in mind the next time you try to carry the water hazard off the tee or attack a pin that is tucked behind a bunker. While you may occasionally pull off the shot, the law of averages is not in your favor.

I hear all the time from golfers, “I just want to be more consistent”. As we have seen, this simply is not a realistic goal to have. For real improvement to take place we must make an effort to improve our skills and move our entire curve more to the left. Golf is an unpredictable game. When we can better understand and accept this, we will be in a better frame of mind to play our best golf!

***

Thank you to Dr. Rick Jensen who introduced me to this concept and Trent Werner for some great additional insights.

Darren Falk, PGA

Director of Instruction Holly Ridge Golf Club

darrenfalkgolf.com