A couple of years ago, I was having a conversation with a student of mine who was competing locally on the Eggland’s Best Ladies Professional Golf Tour. During our conversation I told her the scoring average for players who made the last check in the previous five events was 76. Met with an unbelievable amount of doubt, I proceeded to sketch out for her the numbers you will see below.
I went through all of the results from 2019 for both the Eggland’s Best Ladies Professional Golf Tour and the Florida Elite Golf Tour for men and calculated what place made money and what scores were needed to finish and have a payday. My hope in publishing this information is to give you a new perspective on what it takes to be successful at this level of professional golf.
As you read on, please note: There are a number of variables that cannot be factored into the results such as; course conditions, field strength, weather conditions and entry fees. My findings are meant to be a rough guideline to illustrate the level of play required on a consistent basis to earn money playing in an entry level professional tournament.
The most popular women’s mini tour in the Southeast is the Eggland’s Best Ladies Professional Golf Tour. Established in 2007 as the Suncoast Ladies Tour, they operate 3-day tournaments throughout Central Florida and the east coast year-round.
Below are the results for the entire 2019 season, displaying the placement and finishing score of the last player to earn a check.
From the above season long results, the averages are as follows. To make a check, players averaged +5 for an event over 3 days, with an approximate score of 74 each round. This had them finishing somewhere around T12 each week depending on field size.
What this shows you is that bogey-avoidance is the name of the game. An ultra-conservative strategy should be employed off the tee and when approaching the green. Off the tee, playing away from trouble is more important than being in the middle of the fairway. When hitting approach shots to the green, ignoring hole locations and playing to the center of the green will reduce the number of times a player is short-sided.
Having a shot shape that curves the same way each time will reduce the number of swing errors that can appear under pressure. Pick one shape and play that as often as you can. If you favor a draw, I would recommend knowing how to hit a fade, but keep the fade in your back pocket only for situations where it is required (ie: being blocked out by a tree, etc.).
When it comes to the focus in the short game, I believe the best investment of your time is in mastering your ability to adjust trajectory and carry distance. The ability to control your landing angle will allow you to have more solutions to the different shots around the green you encounter. So many competitive players practice only one kind of shot and are left scratching their head when presented with something outside their skill set.
Putting practice should be divided into two categories, lag putts (30′ and longer) and short putts (10′ and shorter). I choose those two distances because of the frequency of those putts you will see on the course. The average first putt distance after hitting a green in regulation is roughly 30′ (depending on the distance of the shot). After missing a green and chipping on, you will likely have between 2′ and 7′. The fact is you don’t have many putts from 10′-20′ in a round, unless you are playing a short golf course, you are a world-class ball striker, or have a terrible short game.
As I said earlier, your focus should be shooting par on different golf courses under pressure. I see so many scorecards with 4 birdies and a final score of 76. The player is skilled enough to make birdies, but lacks the strategy and perspective to know they don’t need to try and shoot 65 every day. Most bogeys are due to unforced errors, trying to perform a shot that is harder than it needs to be. Always make a point to set yourself up for success and don’t try to make the game more challenging than it needs to be.
The differences in women’s and men’s games are mostly related to perceived difficulty. I believe many women playing professional golf don’t think they’re as good as they actually are, and believe they have to be Superwoman to cash a check on a weekly basis. Conversely, I believe the vast majority of men entering professional golf have an inflated view of their abilities and an unrealistic view of how difficult the game is at the professional level.
The premier men’s golf tour in Central Florida is also the newest kid on the block. The Florida Elite Golf Tour is operated by Knight39, the operating entity of some of Orlando’s premier golf courses (Orange County National, Celebration Golf Club and The Golden Bear Club at Keene’s Pointe). The tour boasts highly competitive fields on excellent courses and delivers same day payouts.
Below are the 2019 Florida Elite tour season results for the last placement to be paid out:
From the above season-long results, the averages are as follows. To make a check, players needed to average -4 for the 2 day event, with an average score of 70 each round. This had them finishing somewhere around T24 each week in a field of roughly 80 players.
Notably, these results are much different from the ladies averages displayed earlier. Things to consider include the field size in comparison to the women’s events, as the men average 80 players per event. The men also play on courses that tend to be in better condition which could create the potential for lower scores.
The other glaring difference is, there are simply more men playing professional golf than women. This creates more competition and thus lower scores.
For men reading this, your strategy when approaching a golf course varies slightly from the women, but should still be on the conservative side. I prefer golfers play with predominantly one shot shape and only curve the ball the opposite way when absolutely necessary. When approaching the green, play to the center rather than “flag hunting.” In many cases, a player’s scrambling percentage will improve dramatically as a result of a more conservative strategy with their irons. Playing to the “safe side” will result in more greens in regulation as well as easier up and downs.
The PGA Tour employs a statistic known as “strokes gained,” which measures the expected number of strokes to hole out from a given distance. For example, from 160 yards in the fairway, the expected number of strokes to hole out on the PGA Tour is 2.98. If a player hits to 15 feet where the expected strokes to hole out is 1.78 instead of 30 feet where the expected strokes to hole out is 1.98, that player just gained .2 on the field (1.78 – 1.98 = -.2 or .2 strokes gained).
That .2 gain in the moment doesn’t feel like anything, but repeated 5 times over the course of a round equals a full stroke. Understanding these incremental gains will prevent players from trying to force a result and open the door to potential disaster.
This approach isn’t to say “don’t make birdies, just play boring golf”, but understand that simply trying to make birdies doesn’t make them any more likely to happen. If that was the case, we’d all shoot 59 every round and I wouldn’t have a job.
Players who excel in the men’s game hit it high and hit it far. There is no getting around the fact this part of the game is changing. The shorter you hit it and the lower you hit it, the more important your short game and putting become. Knowing your strengths and playing to them will help you have a more successful career.
At every level of the game, I believe the most successful players are the ones who have a measurable goal and a plan to make it a reality. As a coach, my role is as much swing technician as it is statistician, life coach, and psychiatrist.
I hope the information provided in this post gives a realistic picture of what is required when measuring performance. Winning tournaments will come down to performing well enough to be in contention and getting a couple of breaks to go your way at the right time. Season-long earnings are a more realistic measuring tool and the best indication of consistent performance.
Instead of focusing on what it takes to get to the next level, figure out what you need to do to be successful at the level you’re on.