Greens In Regulation (Improve Your Statistics)

Hitting a green in regulation means simply that you have managed to get your ball on the green in 2 shots less than the par for the hole.

Every hole has a par figure assigned which is the number of shots you are expected to need to hole out. Since it is assumed you will need 2 putts on every green that means you are “allowed” 2 shots less than the par to reach the green.

So for a par-3, you are expected to reach the green with your tee shot. A par-4 should take no more than 2 shots and a par-5 no more than 3.

greens in regulation

Personal Par

If you are a handicap golfer I would suggest altering this so that it includes any shots you are allocated based on your handicap or the difficulty of the particular hole.

So an 18 handicapper (getting a shot per hole) for example should be aiming to reach a par-3 in no more than 2 shots et cetera. While I would suggest you base your par on the stroke indexes on the card you may need to use your judgment on occasion. 

For example, you may receive a shot on a 500 yard par-5 but not on a 430 yard par-4. I would argue that the vast majority of handicap golfers are more likely to hit the par-5 in regulation than a par-4 of that length. In that instance, I would make my personal par for both holes, 5.

Greens In Regulation Statistics

Greens in regulation stats were one of the most popular ways of measuring the performance of PGA Tour players. At the end of every season, the leaders in this category would be hitting around 70 to 75% of greens in regulation. The average for the tour as a whole would be around two-thirds (66%).

These days players probably are more interested in their proximity to the hole statistic as that will give a better indication of how well they are playing and probably scoring.

This is because greens in regulation is a very black and white statistic. You are either on the green or not and there is no indication of how close you are to the flag. Given that your chances of holing the next shot are very much dependent on how close you have finished to the hole it means that greens in regulation can tend to be somewhat misleading.

For example, you could just barely scrape onto the front edge of the green in regulation but if the flag is at the back of the green then you might be looking at a 30 yard (or more) putt. Conversely, you could be an inch off the green in the fringe but only 12 feet or so from the hole. 

Looking at the PGA Tour stats for the last completed season (2021) shows that on average only 5% of puts outside 25 feet are holed compared with 30% in the 5 to 15-foot range. Finishing on the green is less important than how close your approaches finish to the hole.

While it’s a slightly imperfect measure of your performance it is a very simple one to keep track of over the course of the season. If you’re reading this I’m guessing you’re not able to access your shot link data on the PGA Tour! Keeping your greens in regulation stats is a much simpler way of measuring your improvement. If you want to you could go the whole hog and start calculating your strokes gained figures using calculators such as this one. I suppose it comes down to how seriously you take improving at golf.

How To Improve Your Greens In Regulation Statistics

The obvious way is to improve your golf swing so that you hit the ball further and more accurately. Improving both aspects of your swing should automatically lead to better greens in regulation figures.

However, you might be looking for ways of improving your GIR without resorting to a swing rebuild!

Here are some tips on how you might improve your greens in regulation:

Tee Shot Strategy

There is nothing in golf that says you must hit a driver on every par-4 or par-5.

I always tried to get past the 150-yard marker as a minimum. If I could do that with a fairway wood or hybrid then I might choose one of them over the driver especially if there were plenty of hazards on that hole.

While hitting the ball as far down the hole as possible can often lead to lower scores you also need to avoid significant hazards like trees, water and bunkers.

Depending on the course you are playing, even the rough might be sufficient to stop you from reaching the green unless you have the strength of Brooks Kopeka!

Approach Shot Strategy

Give more consideration to your own tendencies when picking out your targets. If you play with a slice for example don’t go chasing flags on the right edge of the green. Play for the middle of the green and a straight shot won’t hurt you while your usual fade/slice should get you a bit closer to the pin. If you try to go directly at the pin and hit your normal shot shape then you’ll be missing the green to the right which is bad for your GIR statistics and probably for your score too!

Most weekend warriors would probably benefit from ignoring the flag altogether and playing for the middle of the green. You are probably giving yourself a 10-15 yard margin for error straight away both in direction and distance.

150-yard marker
How far still to travel?

Know Your Yardages

Make sure you know how far you can hit your clubs. If you’re not sure what club to hit from a specific distance then you are going to struggle to hit the green with your approach. Personal launch monitors are reasonably affordable these days but even if you can’t stretch to one of them just hit 10 or 12 balls with each club on a practice ground and pace out the distance to the “average” shot.

You will still need to adjust for elevation, wind and temperature but you will have a much greater chance of success.

Get a GPS or a rangefinder so you know how far you have left. Failing that a GPS app for your smartphone or pace out from the 150-yard markers!

Be Realistic

Maybe you managed to hit that par-5 in two during the summer with rockhard fairways and a 30 mph tailwind! However, you need to look at the course and weather conditions before choosing your shot. Can you leave yourself 100 yards or so from the green with 2 fairway wood shots? If so, that might be a better option than hitting your driver off the tee especially if you tend to be wayward. 

Don’t forget that even professional golfers only manage to hit around 66% of greens in regulation throughout a season and they spend their lives working on their game!

For more explanations of golf lingo check out the glossary.

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