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Birdies, Bogey & Doubles By Handicap

Many golfers believe they need to start firing at flags and become birdie machines to make it down to scratch. In fact, the opposite is true. Great golf is far more about not making errors and minimising damage from any situation you are in.

In this article, we share some great data from Shot Scope to help us understand how golfers of different handicaps build their score.

Below is a table showing the average number of birdies, bogeys and double bogeys (or worse) by handicap.

A big thanks to Shot Scope for sharing this data.

Double Bogeys +

As you can see, the clearest trend is in the number of double bogeys or worse make by round. Running from a painful 9.18 average per round for 25 handicappers, down to just 0.27 for scratch handicappers.

To put this another way scratch golfers make one double bogey or worse every three rounds.

Birdies

The result that surprises golfers is that, on average, 5 handicappers only average just over one more birdie a round compared to 25 handicappers! And scratch golfers average 2.34 birdies a round.

For context, Scottie Scheffler is currently averaging 5.48 birdies/round this year, but this will likely fall below 5 as the season continues (he says…).

Bogeys

Bogeys is the slightly trickier one to analyse, as players start to make fewer double bogeys, they make more bogeys. So we see this jump around until players move from 5 to 0.

What does this mean for your golf game?

If you are above a 10 handicap you should focus almost entirely on how you can have fewer double bogeys (or worse).

When you are moving from 10 to 5 and down lower, the focus becomes how you can have fewer bogeys, whilst maintaining as few doubles as you can.

When you get to a plus handicap or want to become a successful pro, start to work out how you can make 3-5 birdies a round, while maintaining a high level of bogey avoidance.

What to focus on in practice and play?

You will all have individual strengths and weaknesses. This is where Break X Golf becomes very useful. However, below are a few general tips.

Keep the ball in play

To become great you do need to learn to hit the ball a long way off the tee. However, to maximise your scoring you need to keep the ball in play. This means fairway, or in the rough where you can advance the ball forward.

Lost balls are killers.

Try to develop a ‘safe shot’ off the tee with one of your longer clubs. Aim away from trouble and if you are a higher handicapper and struggling off the tee just use a club that you feel confident with.

In practice you can work on mastering your driving.

Compounding errors

The second big cause of doubles is golfers compounding mistakes. This is one thing tour pros are great at.

  • If you are in trouble, take your time to play a very conservative recovery shot.
  • Take penalty drops when needed.
  • AIm for the large parts of fairways and greens.
  • Playing away from water is absolutely fine.
  • Play shots round the green that will have the best ‘bad outcome’ (putting over flop shots).

Work on holing out

Holing more putts inside 5 feet is something all golfers are capable of, and can improve with just a small amount of practice. Check out our recent article on putting drills for some ideas.

Summary

Bogey and double bogey avoidance is far more important than making birdies for lowering your handicap. As you turn pro you do need to start making 3-5 birdies a round, but the same holds true, bogey avoidance is the biggest predictor of your current ability to score and earn a living.

There will always be exceptions to the above, as these are averages, but hopefully the data and ideas gives you a fresh insight to work on improving your handicap.

Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider

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Will is a PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. He spent 10 years lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds in Biomechanics and Motor Control before becoming the Head of Golf for the University of Exeter. He currently runs Golf Insider UK, Sport Science Insider around wider consulting and academic roles in sport performance and motor control.

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