Distance Makes the Fonder Heart, or Not – Part 3

If you are just learning golf in your 70s, it may seem to be a race against biology for you to hit sufficiently long drives before your muscles give out. There are exceptions, but mostly that’s true… if you want to keep score or keep pace with other golfers, that is. However, books that you will read about hitting in the 90’s start out with #1, you must hit your tee driver 200 yards. Some snotty golf courses even have a sign at the first tee saying players who cannot hit a 200-yard drive should use the shorter distance tee boxes (for juniors).

It’s why you need to learn an adequate – but cagey – game of golf before it is too late. I have heard good golfers say the old guys who they play with do fine by just hitting the ball straighter than anyone else. That makes their golf game move along well, since these old guys are not always looking around the edges in the rough for their sliced balls. I’ve also had a groundskeeper say he’s seen that if a golfer can hit 150 yards EVERY fairway shot they can blend right in. Others say it doesn’t matter if your drives are short, it’s how efficiently you can get to the hole from 100 yards out.

What if this all could make a pattern for the golfer in their seventies, one that is not impossible, if you work at it?  It would be called Hope. It would be called theoretically doable. It could make the vistas of your golf open toward the Future. It could be called a pathway for Life. In truth, if you know you can hit every ball straight for only 100 yards — but EVERY time – then you can probably still have a game of Golf. Some days it may even be one some players would envy (whatever they say in blogs like these!). So here’s your formula:

We know your Math Cap is over 70 years old, but please dig it out and put it on, Now. Ok…The average 18-hole golf course probably measures 6000 yards. That means that if you hit EVERY ball straight for at least 100 yards, you use 55 strokes to cover the basic fairway distance, leaving about 25 yards to each of 18 holes – or 450 more yards. The best Golfers play around Par (about 72 strokes – called Scratch Golf for some reason), but an average recreational golfer over 50 may hover around 100 strokes per game. That means you have 45 extra strokes – over your basic 55 – to work with.

Let’s break those extra 45 strokes down further. You’ll need 18 of them for putts, as you usually cannot be so lucky as to hit it straight into the hole from off the green. (We’re  not giving any luck in this formulation.) Now between getting up to the green, and your last shot to hit the ball in the hole, you still have 27 strokes to work with – assuming you’ve made it on or near the green with your 100 yard shots. The average Golf course has 4 holes that are Par 5 and 450 yards long, and 4 holes that are Par 3 and average 150 yards. The average Par 4 is about 340 yards and usually there are 10 of those Par 4 holes.

Now we are coming within range for 70 years old and beyond. IF you can hit any ball – and every ball — on the way to the hole a minimum of 100 yards, then you can build your own respectable round of golf. More math: Theoretically, if you make excellent pitches toward the hole from the 40-60 yards out, the ball can often end up within ten feet of the hole. If you make consistently excellent chips from just off the green, they will end up within 3 feet of the hole. So that Short Game is clearly something you can practice a lot, and requires no great strength. You have 27 strokes to go from as much as 60 yards out to your final putt.

But keep your Math Cap on! If you have practiced a lot of putting, your chances of hitting a putt from 10 feet out are about 30%, and the chances of hitting a put from 3 feet out are about 70%. But get this: your odds are 95% of sinking the final putt if you are within a foot and a half of the hole. This means that your whole game becomes not how many putts you hit from on the green, but by how closely you miss. And so it’s worth practicing putts on every green or strip of carpet you can find.

So Hallelujah! If you can miss every long putt you attempt by less than 18 inches, you’ve got a game!

Copyright 2021 – David Hon

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