The Myth of Consistency

You aren’t a robot. There, I said it.

The number one request I hear from golfers of all skill levels is to be more consistent. John will say, “I shot 84 last week and then yesterday I shot 95. My game just isn’t consistent.” What John is really saying there is, “I shot 84 last week, therefore, I should shoot no worse than 86 for the rest of my life.” John thinks he’s a robot. This month’s blog is going to uncover the myth of consistency and how seeing the big picture will show you you’re already more consistent than you think.

No matter what level of golfer you are, you’re consistent. A 15 handicap player consistently hits around 5 greens per round, gets up and down 25% of the time and will have one or two holes that resemble the final score of a soccer game rather than a golf score. A 15 handicap player is a “bogey golfer,” meaning on their best days they are shooting 85 and on their worst days they are shooting 95.

PGA Tour players are no different. The average tour player hits 12 greens per round, gets up and down 60% of the time, and three-putts once per round. The winner of a tour event will probably average 67.5 per round, whereas the last place finisher will average 77 (scores obviously vary on the course, altitude and weather conditions).

When studying consistency, the most important concept to consider is called variance. Variance is how far a set of numbers are from their average. In my experience, most golfers have a scoring range of about 15 strokes. Meaning a bogey golfer averages 90, but will shoot anywhere from 84 to 99.

Where the average golfer gets it wrong though is thinking that PGA Tour players are more consistent than they are. The television coverage of the events is designed to entertain, not to educate. As you’re watching the leader of the tournament lag a putt up to 3-feet, they will cut to a player you haven’t seen all week stick a wedge to a foot. This gives you the idea that every player on tour hits every shot perfect, they make every 10-footer they look at and they haven’t signed for a 79 since they played in high school.

Today Phil Mickelson shot a 78 in the second round of the Bay Hill Invitational. He opened the tournament by shooting 68. If you do some reading in the statistics section of pgatour.com, you’ll find hundreds more cases just like Phil’s.

Here are Phil Mickelson’s results by round for the 2018/2019 season.

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You can see his low round being a 60 at the Desert Classic and his high round being a 79 at the World Golf Championship in Mexico. That is a 19 stroke difference. How’s that for consistent?

Jordan Spieth is one of the most successful players in the last five years. He has 11 PGA Tour victories to his name including a Masters Championship, a U.S. Open and a British Open title.

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In the seven events Jordan has played in this season, he has a 17 stroke differential between his best round and his worst round. Just three days after shooting the lowest score of his season, 64, he shot his highest score of the season, 81. Jordan practices every day, makes millions of dollars, has the best equipment in the world and plays on golf courses that are in immaculate condition.

The average golfer plays twice a month, has clubs that don’t fit him, doesn’t practice and plays on courses that resemble a cow pasture. Despite all of those factors, the average golfer still has a variance in scores relative to the best players in the world. These changes in score from round to round are the result of so many different factors, most of which we have no control over. They include:

  • Weather
  • Course conditions
  • Playing partners
  • Pace of play
  • Pin locations
  • Length of course

The things what we do have control over:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Sleep quality and quantity
  • Course strategy
  • Club selection
  • Practice habits

To move that variance lower, the average golfer should work with a coach to find out what aspect of his or her game is holding them back from lowering their score. This can only be done through statistical analysis, which will help you see where you are losing strokes. There is no sense in working on your lag putting if you only hit three greens per round.

The key to remember is that even as you improve your skills and shoot better scores, you will always have a high end of your variance. Much like the Range Game on The Price is Right, we’re just trying to move that red area a little lower every day.

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