Putting Statistics You Need To Know
If you have played golf for a decent amount of time you will have probably heard the saying “drive for show and putt for dough”. Despite this most amateurs tend to be obsessed with the latest drivers in an attempt to hit the ball further rather than working on a part of the game that could probably bring them greater dividends probably with less effort.
TV coverage does little to help since you tend to see players near the top of the leaderboard all the time who are therefore hitting the ball well and also holing lots of putts.
If you dig a little into the statistics you quickly find that the pros aren’t as good as you imagine. While you probably don’t have the time or the talents to reach their standards, understanding what can be achieved is a great way to start.
Putts Per Round
For many years this was the standard statistic used on tour to measure your putting performance. It’s also a very simple one for amateur players to work out as you merely need to add up all the putts you take in a round of golf. You should note that on the tour this statistic only counts putts actually on the green so if you used your putter as a Texas wedge it wouldn’t be included in the figures.
On a personal note when I used to look at this area of my performance I did tend to include putts from just off the green but obviously, that’s a decision you need to make yourself.
For the 2021 season, Cameron Smith topped the PGA Tour starts with 27.76 putts per round. The average for the season across all tour players was 29.01. Only Michael Gellerman failed to break 30 putts per round for the season. Over on the LPGA, the ladies are losing almost a stroke per round with the leader, Inbee Park taking 28.71 putts and the tour average being 30.24.
Unfortunately, the European Tour doesn’t seem to provide many useful stats anymore. So I am unable to compare the two biggest tours.
For a typical amateur, 28 putts per round sounds completely unachievable. However, don’t forget that even tour pros only hit around 60-70% of greens in regulation so they will have quite a few opportunities to chip and single putt for par. If you are able to avoid 3-putting then you should almost certainly be able to get your average down to 33 to 34. If you are able to improve your chipping, pitching and iron play then you could shave even more shots from that figure.
You do need to have realistic expectations though. If the best players in the world spend hours every day working on their game then you can’t be expected to match that performance and you shouldn’t get down on yourself when you don’t hole a putt.
The reason why other parts of your game will greatly affect your putts per round statistics is simply the fact that outside of 8 feet or so even the best putters in the world don’t hole that high a percentage.
Some years ago Dave Pelz studied PGA Tour players and came up with this concept of the “golden eight”. He found that there was a marked drop off in the percentage of putts holed once the distance got beyond the eight-foot mark. This is why it’s important to improve your chipping, pitching and iron play so you can get the ball close enough to the hole to give you a good chance of single putting as often as possible. Combine that with minimizing your number of three-putts and all of a sudden you can have very impressive putts per round statistics.
The putts per round statistic is actually not that great a way of measuring your performance. The more greens you tend to miss the lower your putts per round would tend to be. A better measure would be putts per green in regulation.
Putts Per GIR
Interestingly Cameron Smith also led this metric for 2021 with 1.689 putts per green in regulation. It makes a little more sense to use this rather than putts per round as you are eliminating the holes where you’ve missed the green and might get up and down with a single putt.
Another way of measuring performance that TV commentators have used increasingly is “footage holed”.
This is merely a sum of the total amount of feet of putts someone has holed during their round. The bigger the number then the better they have done compared with everyone else. It’s a very simple concept to get your head around and therefore works very well on TV broadcasts.
A much better method of measuring the relative performance of professionals, at any rate, is strokes gained putting.
Strokes Gained Putting
When the PGA Tour introduced shot link a whole slew of new statistics became available compared with previous years. Strokes gained putting is a statistic that tries to quantify how well a particular player has done relative to the rest of the field. This is much more complicated than simply working out an average or total number of putts and is easiest where you have data like shot link available e.g. on the PGA Tour.
There is a website where you can enter details of your putting performance and it will calculate your strokes gained figure if you are prepared to record the length and number of putts you take. You might have to content yourself with using putts per round, putts per green in regulation and three-putts per round though.
Putts From 4 Feet
Even the top players on the PGA Tour manage to miss occasionally in the 3 to 4-foot range. Sam Burns topped the statistic with only one putt missed through the season. The tour average was 92.09% so that means every hundred times they were missing eight!
The lowest-ranked player on this stat was Aaron Wise who managed to miss 24 of 132 attempts for a season average of 82%!
While you and your friends are probably happy to give three and four-footers in friendly and even not-so-friendly games you shouldn’t forget that even tour pros can miss from this range surprisingly often.
Short putting is something you can practice at home even if you aren’t able to get to the course so work on lining up correctly. Try to develop a stroke that hits the sweet spot every time. This will make judging longer putts a lot easier and allow you to develop consistency. If you can consistently get long putts within 3 or 4 feet and hole out from there then you should see improvements in your scores.
I found practicing to a much smaller target helped my focus. Sometimes I would use a coin or even an upturned tee.
Putts From 8 Feet
Moving out to the 7-8 foot range there is as Dave Pelz found a massive drop-off in the number of holed putts. Shane Lowry was the leader for the 2021 season making just under 71% of his putts in this range but the tour average was 52.94% so only just over half of the rate they achieve from 4 feet.
It`s difficult when you`re in the middle of a round a golf but when you do miss putts from 8 feet and in you probably kick yourself mentally. You really shouldn`t since even the best players are missing almost half of their attempts from this range.
Putts From 10-15 Feet
Rhein Gibson managed to hole an impressive 41% of his putts during the 2021 season with the tour managing to average 30.19%. So if you`re able to hole 3 out of every 10 putts in this range you are doing just as well as the best players on the planet!
Don`t forget these guys are also playing on some of the best courses in the best condition. If you`re playing at a local municipal course then chances are you`re having to deal with putting surfaces that aren`t anywhere near as good.
Putts From More Than 25 Feet
The next time you spend five minutes lining up to putt from 30 feet or so just think about this statistic. The best player on the PGA Tour in 2021 managed to hole just 10% of his putts outside 25 feet. As a whole, the tour could manage just 5.48%.
Let that sink in. The best players in the world managed to hole 1 out of every 20 putts from outside 25 feet!
If you manage to hole even one long putt in a round then you are ahead of the game.
This just emphasizes to me the importance of making sure your first putt finishes close enough that you will make the next one. If the best players in the world are only holing 1 in every 20 then can you really expect to hole many putts from 25+ feet.
3 Putts Per Round
This is one of the stats that you probably don`t want to top! Ted Potter Jr. and Michael Kim were the unfortunate leaders in this category with 0.81 3-putts per round on average. Tyrrell Hatton managed just 15 three-putts in 63 rounds giving him the lowest average for 2021 of 0.27. Overall the PGA Tour players managed a season-long average of 0.53.
So if you can avoid 3-putting no more than once per round then you`re not going to be far behind the best players in the world.
3+ Putts Per Round
Another stat that you don`t want any part of no matter what your level of golf. Taking four or more putts on a regular basis is simply going to destroy your score and probably your confidence with it.
During the 2021 season, the tour average was to take four putts once every hundred rounds or so. The worst offender was Aaron Wise with four 3+ putts in 82 rounds!
Many tour players are fairly aggressive putters, particularly from short-range so if they get it wrong they may leave themself a longer putt coming back. This is why even the best players occasionally make a complete hash of it.
Looking at data from the Arccos website you can see the typical rate of 3-putting for amateurs. For higher handicappers, there’s definitely scope to save a shot or two per round just by reducing those 3-putts.
|Handicap Range||3-Putts per Round|
How Amateurs Should Measure Their Performance
In my opinion, the most important statistic for amateurs to keep a track of and try to improve is how often they take three or more putts.
Keeping those three-putts to a minimum will help your scores and boost your confidence as there is little that irritates a golfer more than a three-putt.
If you are 3-putting more than you’d like then you need to try and work out whether it is because you are leaving yourself too much to do with your second putting or whether your short putting is at fault.
If you`re struggling to get your long putts close is it mainly because you don`t read the breaks correctly or more likely that you don`t get the speed correct.
Judging the speed is a lot easier if you are striking the ball consistently from the sweet spot. If you are sure your striking is correct then you need to look at drills to help you judge distance better.
If you aren`t able to judge distance consistently then it will be difficult to read the correct amount of break that will depend on how fast the ball is traveling during the putt.
Dealing With Pressure
I`ve certainly been guilty in the past of being too critical of my putting. One way I found to reduce the pressure is to change the definition of a successful putt. Most amateurs will define success or failure as holing or missing a putt. However, a better option might be to say:
- you hit the putt you wanted
- on the line you wanted
- at the speed you wanted
If you did that then irrespective of whether it went in you hit a good putt. A number of authors have talked about reducing performance anxiety by altering the definition of a “good” shot. Your mental game is often more important than your physical game.
The other thing you need to remember is you aren’t practicing anywhere near as much as the best players so it is unreasonable to expect the same levels of performance. I think the stats have already shown that even the best players aren’t infallible on the greens so there is no reason for you to expect you should be.
Don’t forget they are also playing on some of the best putting surfaces available and it’s quite likely that you aren’t.
Dave Pelz rightly pointed out that even “perfect” putts might miss due to imperfections in the green.
Putting Statistics You Need To Know: Conclusion
While it is very unlikely you will be able to emulate the best players in the world, putting is an area of the game that doesn`t require great strength or flexibility so improvements can be made by anyone.
Probably the two most important areas to work on are putting from inside 4 feet and making sure you can judge the distance of long putts so that you leave yourself inside 4 feet most of the time.
The other area that amateurs like to work on is their driving. While most tend to focus on driving distance they might be better off looking at their driving accuracy. Arguably the greatest effect on their scoring would be to improve their proximity to the hole with their approach shots though!