What’s more important: Greens in regulation or fairways hit? Data tells us

What's more important for lowering your golf scores, greens in regulation or fairways hit? Data from Lou Stagner provides the answer

With the help of data from Lou Stagner, we identify which stat is most critical for scoring lower.

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Welcome to Shaving Strokes, a series in which we’re sharing improvements, learnings and takeaways from amateur golfers just like you — including some of the speed bumps and challenges they faced along the way.

During my first couple of golf rounds this season, I was impressed by my showing off the tee, as I hit all but one fairway in each of those two rounds.

The driver has given me issues for years, as I’ve battled a slice and inconsistent results again and again. So to hit so many fairways was a definite boost of confidence.

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Problem is, when I looked at the scorecard after each round, I didn’t get my expected reward for hitting so many fairways — because my approach shots and short game were both so out of whack. The result was bogeys and a couple of double-bogeys, making clear what I need to focus on as I try to break 80.

That got me thinking: How much emphasis should golfers really put into fairways hit versus greens in regulation (GIR)?

Stats reveal what’s most important: Greens in regulation or fairways hit

Lucky for me, with the help of some data from Lou Stagner and Arccos (you can subscribe to Stagner’s awesome newsletter here), we’re able to get a sense of how a player scores each round depending on the number of greens hit versus the number of fairways hit.

So whether you’re a 5-handicap, 10-handicap, or a 15-handicap, Stagner shares the answer in the charts below.

5-handicap player

The difference in average score for a 5-handicap player. Image via Lou Stagner

10-handicap player

The difference in average score for a 10-handicap player. Image via Lou Stagner

15-handicap player

The difference in average score for a 15-handicap player. Image via Lou Stagner

After looking at Stagner’s data, it’s clear which stat is more important for the average golfer: Hitting more greens in regulation (GIR) — and it’s not even close!

Let’s say you’re a 15-handicap (or around there) and hit “only” half of the greens in regulation. Based on Stagner’s info, that could be a difference in eight strokes per round. On the contrary, even if you hit every single fairway during a round — but are struggling to hit greens in regulation — his data shows that it’s only a difference of about three strokes each round.

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Knowing this, it’s understandable why my scores early on this golf season haven’t budged much: Because I’m focusing on the wrong thing!

While the gap isn’t as wide for 5- or 10-handicap players, it’s still quite substantial (with the former seeing a difference of about five strokes per round, and the 10-handicapper seeing a difference of about six strokes per round).

So if you’re serious about hitting your golf goals this year, it’s best to focus on your approach shots and dialing in your greens in regulation. It might not feel as impressive as bombing it down the middle of the fairway with your driver each hole, but it sure will matter more on the scorecard.

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