Reality Check

Scott Sackett
Director of Instruction
McCormick Ranch Golf Club
Scottsdale, AZ

More Information

I often hear a lot of “I Should be” statements during a lesson and especially in my Signature Schools. The statements typically revolve around what the player feels their statistics should be in a few key areas of the game. The most common is carry distance, the next is greens in regulation, proximity to the hole and total putts. I want to preface this by outlining how watching golf on television can psychologically impact the perceived reality one operates within when it comes to their statistical expectations on the course. To showcase this point, let’s say you have a full field, 154 player event, the average score for the entire tournament is 72 and you cut to 60 players after 2 rounds. Prior to the cut, you’d have a total of 22,176 shots hit by the players. The final 2 rounds, a total of 8,640 shots would be struck. Let’s create a commercial free utopia for our example event. This event has 8 hours of television coverage for the 1st two days and 4 hours for each of the final 2 days, totaling 24 hours. Next, we’ll say each telecast can show 4 shots per minute (1 every 15 seconds). That ends up being 240 shots per hour, 1,920 shots over each of the 1st two days and 960 shots on each of the final days. To summarize: 30,816 Total Shots, 5,760 Total Televised shots

This then breaks down to only 19% of the total shots in a golf tournament are televised. Keep in mind, this is a very generous percentage and if you were to incorporate commercials, analysis and interviews, it would be closer to 15% by my estimation. 

To move forward, we first must take our control (televised shots) and plot out the total number of televised shots (5,760) onto the bell curve.  

Now, we have Carry Distance, Greens in Regulation and Proximity. Pay close attention. PGA Tour averages for each are: Carry Distance 270 yards, GIR 65%, Proximity (from all distances) 32 feet & Total Putts 30.  The bulk of the statistics contributing to those averages lay in the middle 68% (yellow) of the bell curve. This leaves the 13.5% (green) on each side of the median for the better and worse than average.  Finishing the curve, is the additional 2.5% of the very best and very worse shots (purple & blue).    

When we relate this to our “Should be” questions, we can easily approximate that the best 16% of all statistical and somewhere around the worst 3% of all statistical categories. This is primarily influenced by the fact that as the golf tournament progresses, the number of poor shots seen on television will decrease because the players being televised will be at the peak of their game and have a likely a statistical advantage in most of the measured categories; thus, pushing stats like GIR, Proximity & Total Putts towards the far-right side of the curve.  

To summarize, the story on the TV is a drama and battle of those at the top of their game. It rarely showcases the 270-yard drives, repeated pars or 2 putts from 30 feet. Next time you hit a mediocre drive, approach shot to 30 feet or are looking back on your round and see 34 putts, give yourself a break.  

Scott Sackett, GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher the past 14 years. Voted as one of Golf Digest’s Best Teacher in the State the past 21 years. Trackman Master Certification. Titleist Certified Club Fitter. Director of Instruction at Park Meadows CC in Park City, Utah and while in Scottsdale he teaches private lessons at McCormick Ranch Golf Club and conducts all Scott Sackett Signature Schools at SunRidge Canyon Golf Club. If you would like to reach Scott, contact him through his website at