The Most Important 48 Shots in Golf…

Okay — so you want to be a scratch golfer. I for one believe you can reach that goal — if of course, you have the requisite time and talent. And if you have access to the correct information through instruction or books/DVDs. And if…and this is a big IF…you learn that great play, which to me is the definition of scratch golf, is not…about fabulous shots. Nor is it about terrible shots. It’s about all the shots in between. Or…in my opinion — the most important 48 shots in golf — good misses. Let me explain…

I once read that Bobby Jones hit about six perfect shots a round. I also read that he hit about six awful shots a round. His words – not mine. I found it curious that I also read the same thing about Walter Hagen. When he would hit a poor shot – he would brush it off as just one of the six he knew he’d hit each day. This number six stuck with me through the years as I continued to read more and more about great players. Jack Nicklaus said the same thing. He too would only hit about six perfect shots a round, as well as six awful shots. Tiger Woods said the same thing. What was up with this number? I wondered if they all came up with this number six on their own — or were they all reading each other’s words and just going a long. Either way, I decided to investigate with some of my professional students. And believe it or not — I found the same thing. They all hit about six perfect and six poor shots per round.

Now, what constitutes perfect and horrible for players of this magnitude?

Well, a perfect shot is just that — perfect. For example, they have 148 yards to a right pin and decide to hit a little cut 8-iron just slightly left of the flag. Their result is perfect. The shot goes 148 yards. It ends up right at pin high and leaves the 10-foot birdie putt they wanted. It was dead solid and came off exactly how they saw it in their mind. This would be a perfect shot. This could also be a drive that goes 300+ yards right on their intended line. Or a 25-foot breaking putt that curled into the hole just like they envisioned. These too are examples of perfect shots. Granted, some days the top players have exceptional feel and can hit many more than six perfect shots per round. But I’m talking about on average. We tend to remember the 63’s and 65’s — but these players also shoot a lot of 70’s and 72’s. And at times – even higher.

On the other hand, a horrible shot is something that looks nothing like they intended. They were aiming down the left side of the fairway, trying to hit a little cut, only to double-cross it into the left trees. Or, they have a simple 7-iron shot…which they pull left of the green into a bunker. Or worst yet, they yip an easy straight in 4-footer. These would be great examples of horrible shots. And if you were to follow the PGA or LPGA Tours around — you would see many of the top players in the world hitting tons of horrible shots. Of course, as we only get to see the guys and girls on TV (which means they are playing great that week), we can sometimes get a false impression of just how “perfect” these golfers can be. What about all the players not making the TV cut that week?

Remember, this is an average. I’m talking about the majority of the time — not the 5-10 times out of 100 that a pro can shoot over 75-76. Or for that matter, the 5-10 times out of 100 that a pro can shoot under 65-66. I’m talking about the 80-90 times out of 100 when the pro shoots scores that when combined fit right into their average — between 70-72. I know there are a handful of players out there that average less than that — but I am talking about the majority. And for you — as someone trying to get to scratch (basically a 72 average) — this is even more pertinent.

Ok — so what about the title? Based on the information I just gave you — how did I come up with the most important 48 shots in Golf? And what are they? Well, basically the most important 48 shots in golf are just good misses. As a scratch golfer…or someone who averages 72…you will hit roughly six perfect and six awful shots per round. Lets subtract those 12 shots off 72, which would leave us with 60 more strokes left to play. Now, from that remaining 60 — we have to take off tap-in putts. And scratch golfers average roughly 12 tap-ins per round. This would be anything after a missed first putt — to a tap-in after a good chip. Basically, anything that you SHOULD make. So, if we then take those 12 tap-in strokes off 60, it leaves us with 48 remaining strokes. So what are these remaining strokes if not great, awful or tap-ins? They are simply good misses. And that my friend is exactly what great golf is all about — good misses.

It’s not the quality of your great shots — or for that matter — the quality of your horrible shots (As long as horrible doesn’t consistently mean penalty shots for you) — that determine your score. It’s the quality of your misses, as they will make up the majority of your strokes, that will determine just how good you get at this game. Because if the greatest players in the world can only expect to hit six perfect shots per round — how can we expect to hit any more? But the funny thing is — that attitude is usually what keeps players from reaching their full potential. They think about the one perfect 7-iron that flew 155 yards, as opposed to the other 90% that flew 145 yards. Or the one bombed drive that flew over that fairway bunker positioned 235 yards from the tee, as opposed to the other 20+ that flew directly into that same bunker. Bob Rotella calls it “a conservative strategy with a cocky swing.” I think that’s great advice. Take a club and/or line that takes stress away — instead of one that increases mental anguish.

Let me give you an example of a good miss. You have 155 yards to the pin with 10 yards past the flag before you run out of green. So, basically 165 yards to the back. And to top it off, there is no trouble on the back of the green. And you’re a great chipper of the ball. In front of the pin is a deep bunker that is almost impossible to get the ball close from. You have 146 yards to carry the bunker. Now, you can hit a 7-iron 155 yards. You’ve done so in the past. But realistically, you only carry it about 145-148 yards. So, instead of selecting a club you would have to hit perfectly, take a 6-iron, which you carry easily 155-158 yards, and swing confidently. If you miss it slightly, great – you are right at pin high. If you hit it normally, you’re more to the back of the green. If you absolutely flush it — you are slightly over the green with an easy chip — your strength. So, in this example, no matter what happens — you will probably make a par or birdie. But if you hit 7-iron, you could be either in the bunker or perfect. Those are your only two choices. And if you play those percentages throughout the round — the golf course will eventually get you. But if you play the 6-iron type percentage — you will always be in control and…even when you miss it — you’ll be in position to score. And this is how great players work themselves around the golf course.

Alright, her are some tips to help you get better at the most important 48 shots in golf.

1. Develop a sound course strategy based on your strengths and weaknesses
2. Understand your strengths and weaknesses
3. Develop a sound pre-shot routine that gets you into a consistent mind-set and set-up
4. Develop quality practice habits that focus on set-up fundamentals, which are key to missing it well
5. Become a great putter inside 5 feet
6. Know how far your clubs go on average in the air — not just your best. And then, based on what’s in front of you, plan accordingly
7. Play from the hole backward when you devise your strategy. Imagine yourself on the green before you hit your tee shot and then ask yourself — “where would be the best place to miss this for an easy chip or putt?”
8. Develop a “go-to” shot that can get you around the course when you’re feeling off

If you work on these things and more importantly — make a choice to say “Hey, I’m not going to try and be perfect in an imperfect game” — you will start making progress on that goal of scratch golf. Embrace your misses because no matter how great you get at this game — you will always have more misses than perfect shots.

Good luck and play well…and smart.

52 Responses to “The Most Important 48 Shots in Golf…”

  1. Drew Thomson says:


    Hi from an Aussie who’s Grandmother was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife. I have been in Australia for 53years now. I am 70 years and not likely to hit much further than at present. However I must state that your concept towards good(or better) Golf is, to me, sound advice and should be given great consideration, by all the young and up-coming golfers who strike their right heel on their back swing.

    Best regards

    Drew Thomson

  2. JD says:

    Thank you for your time and effort, I read and look forward to every one of your blogs.

    Thank You

  3. CFI says:

    Great advice; Play Golf, don’t practice golf when playing a round of golf.

  4. William Pilkington says:

    Was very interesting comment.

    Should be very helpful in course management.

    Can’t wait to get the course put it into practice.



  5. william shenberger says:

    There is no doubt this article tells it like it is and I sure have been guilty of going for shots that have to be one of the six perfect shots per round. I believe that many of us do this because we only get so many birdie trys per round and we convince ourselves we can make shots that usually don’t turn out well. This is a good article and I am going to try and use this strategy more this year.

  6. Tom O'Brien says:

    This is a good sensible and practical read. It makes it’s point clearly and well.

    All to often we only think of booming drives and great putts and forget about the rest, well never forget that the others come into the count also, and that is the place to shave off shots. This article cuts to the chase and gives simple, sound advice.

    Well done, Thanks Andy.

  7. Bala Reddi says:

    This is a fabulous article for golfers like me who are trying to find answers to a THOUSAND whys on what went wrong during a game.
    Now I have less to think about..really. Think too much you mess up, think too little you mess up again. I want to think just enough to have less stress and enjoy a round of golf with my friends. Thanks Andy!

  8. Mike Oscar says:

    Andy, I am going to find the time to put all this good stuff into practice. I really am. I am going to find the time to put all this good stuff into practice. I really am. I . . . . . I’ll let you know what happens. Mike

  9. I never thought of analysing my game like this. I normally tried to hit every shot as perfect as possible and just accept the outcome which is basically the same philosophy as the article with the exception that now my mind will be much sharper when executing a shot. Thanks for this insight.

  10. Anthony Olwit says:

    Great advice. I must say it puts 2 and 2 together for most of the rounds I have played well consistently as opposed to those where my game seemed to keep switching on and off. As a 23 handicaper I tend to try to compensate bad shots with heroic ones and more often than not, disaster follows. I am anxious to play a conscious game without being pressed for perfection. Most grateful to you

  11. Roger L says:

    Why is it that the most useful advice comes a day late? The 48 ways would have saved an 11 and an eight in the comp. yesterday. Keep on sending advise and .perhaps, one day I will start listening, Many Thanks rog.:razz:

  12. JM Manning says:

    Master George’s wisdom in this lesson. I maintained a low handicap (2 to 6) for almost 30 years through much practice and twice a week play. I started when I was about 24 years old (I’m now 71) and did not receive lessons from anyone until I was almost 30. It took three more years before I overcame some very bad habits acquired by not getting lessons earlier. I finally learned to swing, to think properly, to pace myself and to trust my swing. Patience and composure are sometimes extremely difficult to maintain but the insights George presents are vital for performing well on the course. Golf like life means you must make plans, take thoughtful risks, know your limitations, keep calm and visualize your shots.

  13. johnny o'connor says:

    what fantasic advice – i genuinely have always been trying to hit 36+ perfect shots per round andno matter how low i have shot – i have always felt i made mistakes and could have done better – this article has certainly changed my thinking and i cant wait to get out this weekend to start af resh – thank you for this mind blowing yet simple information which i know now will improve my game .. johnny h’cap 5

  14. uttam purohit says:

    It gives great insight into playing golf patiently, without losing ones cool.Problem comes when percentage of good-to-bad shots goes haywires!

  15. Randy says:

    Just finished reading the article ” The Most Important 48 Shots in Golf,” and thoroughly enjoyed it. It makes so much sense. I wish I had more time to peruse more information that you send, but unfortunately, I just can’t seem to get it done.
    Anyway, I do appreciate all you do. Keep up the good work.

  16. Robert Hutton says:


    2 eagles + 16 BIRDIES and no pars.

    I forgot a great putting tip from Paddy Harrigton, as published in Golf Tips, making lag putts so much better than before.

  17. Robert Hutton says:

    Great article. Loads of great commons sense thoughts

    I made a conscious decision in late summer last year to make changes in my game. I knew that I needed technology’s help, because I had taken out my set of forged blades and replaced them with a set of game improvement clubs a friend gave me for my son well over a decade ago. Suddenly I was hitting the ball straight. I bought a set of clubs while practicing on a simulator, because the irons were causing me to hit the target and run alongside the target consistently, even when the shots were not great. I was gifted a GPS for Christmas and I bought a brand new custom made driver for a third of the market price for top of the range clubs. Then I took my new equipment and new attitude to the course.

    Today, with the help of the GPS I pick my club, because I know my distances and I think my way arounfd the course. Iplay par fives as par fives. I don’t always go for glory because the tight lie, the wet lie, the rough lie or the tight approach sometimes make mr approach the shot negatively. So I play a shot I can positively attack, and I leave an easy approach to the green with a shot iron and one of my new four wedge system (from Bobby Jones and Dave Pelz). My scores have plummeted. I have played my local course, on better ball stats, to 20 under this season alone. That means I have eagled two holes and parred every other hole and it is all because I don’t worry about a bad shot. If there is one, and I am on my own. I sit another ball down and commit to the shot and the SAME club right away. Often the ball goes right where I wanted it to go and sometimes it goes where the first ball landed. Then I change the club or look at the swing. When I miss, right or left, I am usually pin high. I have considered these to be good misses. I am hittIng pins and chipping in because these misses have been in the right areas, and while I am by no means a star, I believe, with all of my heart, that I am a golfer.

    I played four or five times a year for seven years and my game was almost completely lost. In a little over one season, with a more mature attitude and an eye for what other are doing well, this has changed. Unlike Tiget Woods et all, I play four perfect shots a round, but I play a good amount of good shots which help me to get good scores and ulinke some of my colleagues at the course, I WANT my handicap to be low. I don’t need to keep it high to win money or titles. I want to be a good golfer in my own heart and I have no room for trophies in my already cluttered cabinet.


  18. Ervy Thomas Jr. says:

    Ervy Says
    October 12,2009 at 1:10

    Irealy enjoyed reading the Important 48 shots,if only I remember to used them when I’m playing I’ll a better player. Thank you.

  19. Alan Pojur says:

    A great article, one I read through from start to finish without skipping, for a change. There is a lot of sense in what he say and, as someone who plays with players younger by 10-15 years, I try too hard with what are effectively the wrong clubs. Time for a rethink!!

  20. Rob Southey says:

    THAT should steady me up a bit – Must stop trying the shot I CAN but don’t always manage … Great advice, thank you

  21. Mickael says:

    Great article. No more. Strategy is KEY !

  22. Darryl Luttrell in Oz says:

    this is very good; I just wish I could remember it all in the heat of battle!

  23. jonathan says:

    yeah makes complete sense, i’m playing tomorrow and am going to think that way and see how it works for me.

  24. Alan Roberts says:

    🙂 Having looked back over some recently played rounds I can really empathise with George’s article. My game plan will change in future. Thanks for bringing the article to our attention Andy.

  25. Andy Hill says:

    Makes absolute sense to me. Great Article!!

  26. Andy says:

    Makes absolute sense to me. Great Article!!

  27. Don McFarlane says:

    That’s the most sensible thing I’ve ever read about the game of golf and it’s simple. Can’t wait to try it just as soon as it stops raining in Cornwall.

  28. Nauhar says:

    Hey Andy, that was awesome. I will look out for those 6 shots -good and bad and take them with a pinch of salt. This game is a great leveller-and you’ve hit the nail on the head-you cant take it too seriously or you’ll end up shooting high numbers. Thanks

  29. kevin mcloughlin says:

    😎 yes i can see where your comming from i play off 11 but would like to play off scratch i am going to try this and see if it works will get back to you in the near future thanks

  30. Dr.Sandy Gupta says:

    Wonderful article-simple and to the point.I am 56 and try to compete with guys who are younger and fitter than me and end up under clubbing-result is a lot of shots that end up short or wayward because i try to power them. Will follow the great advice and see if I can drop my handicap of 14.

  31. Bob Stewart says:

    Andy, this article is spot on. I’ve been playin for many years and still my heart overrules my head. I know that I should take a 6 iron, for example, but my heart says “Go on, you can hit a seven as far as that” and I don’t! Result a bogey or worse.
    Thanks for the reminder
    BobSouth Africa

  32. jack shaw says:

    you may have saved me from throwing my clubs in the lake

  33. burn says:

    very good tips
    truly basic things in this game
    which is need you to control yourself before you control your game

  34. david waters says:

    It’s true my best worst efforts come out where I wanted my expected best shot to finish up. In fact most times as the approach it ends up as a near tap in. That addage expect the best and prepare for the worst can stabilize your mind and game. Thanks for reminding me to play with not every shot at peak performance:wink:

  35. Ross McGill says:

    These tips are fantastic and the truth which makes it even better so you are not focussing on that perfect shot all the time and it shall be in my game immediately!!!!

    Thanks very much for the help

  36. brian.d says:

    as with most of the tips another gem for common sense,which sadly requires pointing out from time to time when it come to the game

  37. Ken Holyoake says:

    Exactly right Andy. This is how I have maintained a handicap of 4 and below for over 30 years. I am now 58 and playing less, and this advice is even more important. Thanks for the reminder.

  38. Tom Talley says:

    We certainly have more misses than good shots, but, a lot of us just think that we are going to hit that perfect shot, so we go for it and wind up in the bunker or the lake. Course management is our weak suit and this article points that out. This was a very good article and I am going to save it for another read.

  39. chris stones says:

    A good article I am 49yrs old and play off 1 handicap. Its true we dont hit it perfect all the time. At the start of the season I had three exceptional rounds all well under par and then another 15 to 20 rounds 1 or 2 over par.
    This article makes good sense and will be taking it on board looking forward to this weekend playing at The Carrick Loch Lomond.

    Kind regards

    Chris Stones

  40. Denis says:

    :lol:Thanks for the info it sounds so easy hopefully it will work with some practice I will keep you informed denis.

  41. Terry Moore says:

    Absolutely great advice…especially the ;”6 iron” technique.. I have used this approach to rounds and found out I did play a lot better and had a better feel at accomplishing my goals. Glad to hear a professional re-emphasize this strategy so those of us who amatuers can get better. Keep sending the great information.

  42. paul coxe says:

    Sweet ! thanks for the great article !

  43. Franco says:

    Thank you for today’s tip, I think it is the most helpful piece I have ever read on how to play better golf

  44. Delmar Yennie says:

    This man makes very great sence. I read some where that Ben Hogan expected to have at least 11 shot a round that weren’t perfect shots, so when they happened it never bothered him very much. I know I have made very bad mistakes when chooseing shot not only to the greens but out of trouble which I have added a lot of shots to my handicp. So thanks so much for this one I will save it for farther reads.

  45. Omer says:

    Probably one of the best articles I have read about mental approach to the game! Ego seems to take over with a lot of golfers, cause they hit one perfect shot and think it can be duplicated each time….sadly though it isn’t! I for one, can spot a certain club in my bag during a round that usually gives me the best miss-hit chance to save a hole…..confidence provides a better shot at a positive outcome! I should have started reading these articles long ago!

  46. warner skomars says:

    🙂 Great perspective, Andy. The mind is the game. Muscles have no brains. ie. brain says don’t go in the water – info to the muscles is water and thats where the ball goes. Thanx.

  47. Dave says:

    Good info.
    Ego keeps most of us from playing smart.
    I try to think “DON”T DO ANYTHING STUPID” before each shot.
    Thanks for the article.

  48. Colin Doherty says:

    I am a good player with only average scores and have always thought I planned well but failed to execute on the day. Going by this my scoring should be an awfull lot better as i seem to hit approx similar shots to your commentary and have therefore played a round of my local course in my mind using these according to my normal striking and feel that I should be a low single figure handicapper as my ball striking suggests. This could be the information that finally turns it around for me, thanks, if this works the drinks are on me!!!!!!!!!!

  49. Victor says:

    Hi Andy,

    Truly a great read. Ben Hogan also spoke of hitting only a few shots per round exactly as planned.


  50. Calvin says:

    I think George has got it right think about it and not just smash it good reading well done.

  51. Gerry says:

    This summer I have hit more fairways and more GIR but I have not made as many good scores as last year. My handicap has gone up from 7 to 8. You have just given me the most reasoned argument why I should change my habit of ‘going for the shot that I know I CAN make’ but probably should not! Great article. Thanks.

  52. John Bobek says:

    I thought it was good reading. The story makes a lot of sense

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