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Golf Digest Happy Hour

A tour-proven way to play smarter golf, with Scott Fawcett

Tuesday, February 27, 2024 @ 8:30 p.m. EST
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March 01, 2024

When Scott Fawcett was playing mini tours in the early 2000s, he was just like us, finishing his rounds and realizing that he should have shot a much better score. The frustration of making "dumb" mistakes prompted Fawcett to dive into Strokes Gained statistics to uncover a definitive strategy for how golfers should play. The result is his course-management system, DECADE Golf, which is popular with PGA Tour players, college golfers and anyone looking to play smarter golf.

Fawcett joined the Golf Digest Happy Hour to discuss course strategy and how average golfers can use the same system that many tour players adhere to. Speaking for over an hour to Golf Digest+ members, Fawcett used Strokes Gained statistics and shot patterns to dispel common myths about the way tour players play golf and the way you should be playing, too.

The Happy Hour was offered exclusively for Golf Digest+ members, who were able to ask Fawcett questions throughout the presentation. In answering members’ questions, Fawcett gave practical advice on how to apply his strategic principles. Below is the complete video of the Happy Hour with Scott Fawcett, as well as a few key takeaways and the full transcript.

Key Takeaways:

  • All golfers’ first selection off the tee should be driver. There must be a very good reason to not hit driver, as any gain you get from increased accuracy is offset by the amount of distance that you are giving up.
  • On approach shots, golfers should shade toward the middle of the green. The middle of the green is not always the best target, but it is certainly better than aiming at every pin. Often, the ideal target is somewhere between the middle of the green and the hole location.
  • When you miss a green and are chipping, your only focus should be on having your next shot be a putt. Don’t worry about how close you get it to the hole; you are merely trying to avoid having two chips in a row. Statistics prove that amateurs taking two chips is among the most costly mistakes they make.
  • When putting, focus on speed, as it is far more important than line. Stop trying to make putt, and instead focus on minimizing three-putts. You can do that by making sure you have good speed on your mid- and long-range putts.

Full Transcript

Drew Powell:

Thanks everyone for joining us tonight. Like Scott said, this is the first Golf Digest Happy Hour. We're really excited about these webinars. We're going to be having a lot of great guests, whether it be pros, teachers, mental coaches, trainers, architecture experts, but in our case tonight it's a course-management expert. These are a great chance for our members to learn to learn from some of these industry experts and also engage with them as well. So, at any point tonight, if you have any questions for Scott, just throw them in the Q&A, and we will try to get to as many as possible.

So, I'd like to introduce Scott Fawcett. Whether you're familiar with Scott or not, you're definitely familiar with some of his principles that he preaches, just from watching golf on TV. A lot of those guys adhere to Scott’s system and even the ones who don't necessarily explicitly adhere to it, they're probably following a lot of these principles, whether they know it or not.

You hear players say, “I missed it in the right spot,” or “I got a lot out of my game today,” but we're not really sure how to do that. But Scott's system quantifies that and makes it more relatable so we can approach each round with a system that we know is going to take risk as much out of play as possible.

He's the founder of DECADE Golf, which is, like I said, it systemizes course management, and makes it really accessible for people. It's really popular on tour and with college golfers, but also just with anyone looking to play smarter golf. So tonight, Scott's going to run you through his backstory. He's going to take you through how he works with his tour players and how that can translate to your game as well. And like I said, at any point, just throw your questions in the Q&A, and we'll be sure to get to as many as possible throughout the presentation tonight or maybe at the end as well. So Scott, thanks so much for being here. How's it going?

Scott Fawcett:

Oh, fantastic. How about you?

Powell:

Doing well, thanks.

Fawcett:

It really is honestly pretty surreal. I was talking to my mom just before we started this actually. Just to have been a Golf Digest reader growing up and everything and be like, How do I possibly have anything to say at scale in golf?

But as a former playing professional who was close but obviously did not make it, I think that's what actually gives me the credibility for what I teach because it's like some of the guys that are on tour, they're just kind of savants. They just get it and they don't even really know why. And I as a guy who's like, Hmm, why didn't I make it? I feel like I've got all the physical skills. And to be perfectly honest, just because I didn't start playing golf until too late and then had some injuries through college, I just never got the playing experience.

And so looking back at every single round of golf that I ever played in college and professionally and everything, you finish every round and think you should have shot lower, which holds true for every human. We're all, it's apparently crazy, but when you finish a round and think you should have shot lower, it had to either be a mental and strategic mistake or you're just not as good as you think you are. I mean, there's really nothing else it can be.

And so what I would say is looking back at my professional golf in my 20s, I'd finish a round, I'd go to Outback Steakhouse with my buddies and we'd laugh about all the dumb stuff we did. And then I really just came up with this realization recently. I just think that I thought just practicing more and just getting better physically is what would finally eliminate the dumb bogey from 135 or whatever. And it's like, no, your target was just way too aggressive. And so to your point, I'll start sharing my screen here.

Obviously we know a lot of these names here on this screen, but Will Zalatoris was a 9-year-old kid when he moved to Dallas, and he joined the country club that I was a member at when I was a Korn Ferry Tour member. And so he and I played a lot of golf, and I watched him struggle for seven or eight years until finally figuring it out once I caddied for him at the Texas Amateur and then the US Junior back in 2014. So we're actually coming up on the decade anniversary of DECADE.

But what's funny is just taking this kid who as we all know now is an amazing ball-striker and just saying, “Hey, let's think a little bit better on the golf course.” And at the time I was a 40-year-old former playing professional who's spent a lot of time digging into strokes gained statistics, which we'll talk about here in a second, and just really understanding like, oh, he didn't need to get better.

He was already like the third best player amateur in the world. He just didn't know how to score. And I think that's the weird thing about golf, because golf is the only sport in the world that's not taught on the field of competition. So if you're getting a basketball lesson, you're on the basketball court tennis lesson, you're on the tennis court, but in golf, because every hole is different and they're spread out over hundreds of acres, it's just not how the game works when it's taught.

So here we give you these physical skills and a pat on the back and say, “Go figure it out, how to actually play.” The best analogy I've come up with is it would be getting a tennis lesson in a parking lot and then you show up in order to play your tennis match and there's a net and lines and you're like, What's going on here?

And that's what bunkers and hazards and greens and everything are as the analogy. And so back to Zalatoris. I'm from Dallas, he's from Dallas. The SMU golf coach is a guy that I've known since basically high school playing golf. And he told me at the time, Bryson DeChambeau, who I think was a junior in college, he's like, “I can't get Bryson to stop firing at flags.” He just basically plays like a complete idiot. Can you come teach this to Bryson?

And so in February of 2015, just six months after I did everything with Will, the second person I worked with was DeChambeau, and he winds up winning the NCAAs and the US Amateur. And again, I catch a lot of grief for taking credit for a lot of players’ play sometimes, but it's like, well, this is just the factual history of what happened.

What you said earlier, I do fully agree with when you said most of the players on tour are doing something like this. There's not a single one out there, no matter how much they hate me, that's not like, well, I know what he teaches and it's impacted my play and my thought process. There's not a single one. I'm sure some would be stubborn, but it's just the correct way to methodically work your way around the golf course.

And it's funny because in 2015 when Bryson won the US Amateur, obviously it was my first year of teaching, so I hadn't been working with too many players, but Jordan Niebrugge, he wound up finishing seventh in the British Open as an amateur. Obviously, we've got Zalatoris; we've got Kyle Jones here who won on the Korn Ferry Tour, and played on the PGA tour. Sean Walsh won the North South Amateur the week after he attended my seminar. Noah Goodwin won the US Junior. Austin Smotherman is on the PGA Tour, and then we've got DeChambeau.

So my first few players that I actually worked with did a pretty good job. What's funny about this picture is a lot of people are like, “Did Bryson sign the wrong side of the flag?” And actually what's funny is when you hold a mirror up to it, it's his signature the correct way, which is the most insane thing I've ever seen somebody do in my life. I'm not sure what the point of it is, but it's pretty damn impressive. If you ever get to see anybody watch this or watch anybody do this live because I'm not sure how he did it, and I'm glad he didn't screw my flag up. So let me run through strokes gained because when we're watching TV, you obviously hear people referring to strokes gained.

We've got Mark Broadie here who's my idol in golf, math and stats. Somebody told him that I was talking bad about him in a seminar one time. I was like, I want to make sure this is very clear. I'm not talking bad about this man and put him in a heart. He's the nicest guy on the planet. But the way the modern strokes gained statistics work is an eight-foot putt is 50/50 [make percentage]. An eight-foot putt is basically coin flip on the PGA Tour. So it takes us an average of 1.5 strokes to hole out from eight feet on the PGA Tour and people will be like, well, not all eight footers are the same. Some are big breakers, we get it. That's all baked into the math obviously once we're dealing with averages. But what I'll tell you is the big breaking eight-footer versus the right lip six-footer, or I should say that the other way, the big breaking six-footer versus the right lip eight-footer, it's not as big of a difference as you would think.

The length of the putt is by far the most important thing in what your make rate is going to be. So from eight feet, the expectation is 1.51-ish strokes. Every once in a while they three putt apparently. So you can't hit the ball one-and-a-half times obviously. So rather than thinking of putts per green-in-regulation or how many putts did it take you to hole out, what we want to do is be comparing what the expected value is from your starting position. So if you're eight feet, your expected value is 1.5 strokes. If you make it in one stroke, you have moved the ball 1.5 strokes closer to the hole in one stroke, you in essence gain a half a stroke. Really is that simple. A lot of people try to act like this is super confusing and they can't quite follow it along. But at the end of the day, if we know what the initial expectation is and then we know how many strokes it actually took you to hole out from there, the delta of that is what your strokes gained or loss was.

So if we two putt it from eight feet, we're going to lose a half a stroke. But now the math is very simple. If you think back to elementary school, if on one hole we two putted it on an eight-foot putt and on the next hole we one putt an eight-foot putt, well we've used three putts in two holes. We've used one-and-a-half putts on average, and that player is a dead even strokes game putter through those two holes. Now because of Mark Broadie's brilliant work and Shot Link’s great work from the PGA Tour, we know how many strokes it takes to hole out from every inch from every starting condition on the PGA Tour.

So 100 yards in the fairway, it takes them 2.8 strokes on average to hold out so much about decade. And I don't even think I would've put this together back in the day initially, is simply about expectation management and having realistic expectations. Now, I did realize that the first “E” of DECADE is expectation. That's what it meant was understand what's a realistically good shot from here. And so on the PGA Tour, if we hit a shot from 2.8, so again, rather than thinking I'm 100 yards, think I'm 2.8. If we take it from 100 yards in the fairway from 2.8 and we hit it to eight feet, which is 1.5, we have, yes, we've moved it from 100 yards to eight feet, but what we've really done is moved it from 2.8 strokes to 1.5 strokes.

So we technically have moved it 1.3 strokes closer to the hole in one stroke. We in essence gained 0.3 shots on that hole. Now this is what is weird to me. Making an eight-footer doesn't seem like that much better of a shot than hitting it. I would think that hitting it to eight feet from a 100 yards is a much better shot than making an eight foot putt intuitively. And it's just not. Making that eight-foot putt is actually way harder. Again, as I'm sitting here doing this in my head I'm like, I haven't done this in a while. Am I saying this correctly? Because it still even blows my mind. But if an eight-foot make gains you 0.5 shots and hitting it to eight feet from a hundred yards gains you 0.3, the eight-foot putt is almost twice as good, which again, I just find absolutely amazing.

But what I want to tee up now is the Tiger Five, and this has actually been popularized this week because Smiley Kaufman went on his podcast and said somebody told him about this. Well, it was me, Smiley, hi in San Antonio. If you remember Tiger back in the day, he had these five stats that he tracked: how many double bogeys, how many bogeys on par fives, how many three putts, Tiger technically tracked bogey with 9-iron or less (which in order to quantify the data, I don't know what club they hit on the tour, so I had to just say, let's call that 150) and then blown easy saves, which again, that's subjective to Tiger's opinion, so for the DECADE app, we turned that into two chips per round.

Powell:

And this was in his prime. I mean he was diligently tracking, these.

Fawcett:

This was in the middle of the ‘99 season, 100 percent in his prime. Because what he determined, was that these were essential to him winning tournaments. I did stats work for Tiger when he was working with [Chris] Como, but never actually got to talk to Tiger. I mean I have since, but I would love to ask him more details on this, but my understanding is it was in the ‘99 season, he was just like everyone else. Gosh dang it. I feel like I should have shot lower today. OK, why? And if you objectively think about that question, it's never, “I should have made birdie with that 4-iron.” It’s “I made bogey with a gap wedge because I like drawing my gap wedge, and I tried to float a cut into this right pin and blocked it right in the bunker.” That was just a dumb bogey. That's the stuff that if you're actually thinking about it objectively after the round and thinking I should have shot lower, if it's not one of these five things, you're probably kidding yourself.

And again, critical to this is it's not no double bogeys, it's not no three putts, it's not too many three putts. It's not too many doubles. And so Tiger somehow figured out that if he could keep these five categories to six or fewer per tournament, he'd win. And what's amazing is the actual number 6.4, I mean this is just how this guy figured this stuff out. I would love to ask him about meditation with his mom and how the heck did you figure this out? Because these two things are just, those are the two reasons he was the greatest player.

Powell:

That’s crazy. I mean, so six a tournament and he's winning. That's over one per round. I mean we have three putts and double bogeys every round and we think we're playing terribly. But it’s almost, if you allow yourself to have a certain number of mistakes, each one of these mistakes you give yourself a few you can make each round, it's going to keep your expectations in check, right?

Fawcett:

One hundred percent. So I just played in Champions Tour Q school two months ago, three months ago now, and I had played golf nine times in the prior five months, which I would not suggest that's a recipe for success. But going into it, I purely was trying to think of how many Tiger Fives do I think I can have and still be competitive. And I decided on somewhere between three and four [each round]. And so as a self-described hothead for the last 50 years of playing golf, once you're going into it and you're like, well, I'm going to three putt, I'm going to do all this stuff three or four times today. When it happens, you're like, well, there's one. There's one. Now obviously if you get to seven on the front nine, we've got a problem, but it still can't hurt your expectation.

Powell:

Scott, you were talking about strokes gained a few minutes ago. Does that back up these Tiger Five? Was Tiger right in determining that these were essential?

Fawcett:

These are just essential. Again, you have to really, one of the core tenets of DECADE that I talk about all the time is stop trying to make birdies, stop trying to make putts and winning requires luck. And I literally created those back in 2014 and ‘15 because I just, I don't feel like this is about making more birdies. I feel like it's about doing less dumb stuff. And this is before I had access to Shot Link to really go in, and this is just from caddieing for Zalatoris honestly for 25 rounds those first two years and just watching, and we're just tiptoeing around and avoiding landmines.

And what's hard about this is people then often go, well, “I mean I got to get out there and make some birdies to shoot low.” And I'm like, well, I understand that those are probably going to come on the par 5s and the short par fours and the downwind par fours. Everything else, you're kidding yourself if you think you're playing it under par on average.

And so I don't like talking about par 5s being so important so often, but if you're going to shoot a nice round that day when one of my players is going out for Monday qualifier and I'm like, you better play the par 5s well tomorrow. Now that's not actionable advice. Nothing you can do to intentionally play the par 5s well, but I guarantee you, if you call me tomorrow after having qualified, you're going to tell me I played the par 5s well. I stuffed a 7-iron that I wasn't exactly aiming at the flag, and I didn't do stupid stuff. That's how you shoot 7 under and Monday qualify. That's it. There's other ways you just happen to chip-in twice and hole a shot. But on average, 85 percent of the time, that's how you Monday qualify for golf tournaments.

And again, what I'm always looking for is actionable advice. What can I tell you to go out and intentionally do? I cannot tell you to go out and intentionally make more birdies. That will not work. I can tell you to go out there and try to intentionally avoid these five mistakes. And again, the date is just so clear. So between the guys missing the cut on the PGA Tour and the guys finishing first to fifth--and I use first to fifth, so that way when DJ wins by nine shots, it doesn't distort the metric--but they make 0.42 fewer doubles per round. Well, I think that's obvious because it's a scoring statistic. So duh, the guys that are missing the cut make more doubles than the guys that are finishing first to fifth. And that's really what the majority of these stats are: You know what? They're just not doing the dumb stuff. But the one stat of these that I do think is actionable is, hey, just try to not make bogey inside 150 because most of the guys on tour are capable of that.

Powell:

How do you do that though? I'm sitting in the fairway, 150 yards [away], what's my shot selection going to be? Different if I'm saying I'm going to try to make a birdie versus I just don't want to make a bogey?

Fawcett:

Target selection. So I used to think again in my 20s, I mean I won 10 times in 72-hole golf tournaments. I was a solid player. Again, I didn't make it. I probably just got exhausted with it more than anything at 26 than just finally quitting because of lack of success. So I was trying to shape my pitching wedge both directions. I'm trying to make birdies with my pitching wedge as opposed to just accepting, man, the average score is like 2.9. I don't need to make very many birdies from 140 to average 2.9. But once I start giving any of those away with a double or excuse me with a bogey, that's really hard to get it back because as we're going to see here in a second, once we start thinking of fractions of shots gained and lost, and I'll directly quote that to Mark Broadie because I never would've thought of saying it that way.

But rather than thinking in what you are relative to par, so if you make a birdie on a hole and it was a par 4, you gained one shot against par. But basically every par 4 on the PGA Tour plays over par. So let's say that we've got a hole that played with a scoring average of 4.2, and I made a four, well, I picked up 0.2 shots against the field. The average score, and if you boil it down, a 72-hole event is eight nine-hole scores. That's 72 one-hole scores. But those 72 one-hole scores are also a drive, an approach, a chip and a putt or two putts, whatever it is, and we can actually break it down rather than the average score is what we're trying to beat for 72 holes. We can break that down into per round, but we can also then break that down into each shot. So what we're trying to do is gain strokes on each shot and those are all going to come in tenths of a shot.

Powell:

And this holds true for everyone, too. I mean we may not quantify it as often via strokes gained, us playing on the weekend, but it's all relative. You're trying pick up, you're just trying to hit decent shots over and over again and you're going to pick up tenths of shots on your own scoring average, your own expectation. It's not this one hero shot that's going to make your round or one terrible shot that's going to lose it, right?

Fawcett:

To that point, the hero shot, let's call that gaining more than a half a shot, like a big gain. So you've really stuffed a shot, you've made an eight-foot or longer putt. Those are big gains. Those don't happen much. And again, there's nothing you can do to intentionally make one of those happen.

But what we really want to avoid are the bad shots that lose more than half a shot or 0.75. So Tiger, and I'll get this number wrong, so don't quote me on it, but one of my rookies was coming out, and he played an event where he got frustrated. He started just playing super aggressive and he had like nine shots in a 72-hole event that lost more than a half a stroke. Tiger had, I wish I could remember the stat exactly, Tiger had like 23 approach shots that lost more than a half a shot in the entire 2008 or 2007 season.

This guy lost more than a half a shot in one 72-hole event than Tiger, excuse me, half as many times as Tiger did in an entire year. Now obviously tiger's better and all these other things, but also just in talking to him afterwards, he's trying to flight and shape shots and doing all kinds of stuff. He is trying to attack as opposed to just sitting back and letting the attack happen wherever it can.

Again, because the critical point of this whole thing is the first three categories sum to less than a shot, the bogeys inside 150 is over a shot. And I know if you watch TV, you feel like these guys have a gap wedge into every single hole. They just don't. The average approach shot is still 170 yards basically on the PGA Tour. And if you boil that down even further, there's like nine or 10, maybe 11-ish shots inside 150 on any given round of golf on tour. If they're bogeying two of them, they're literally making bogey 18 to 20 percent of the time from inside 150. You simply cannot make enough birdies to offset that.

And so to your point, the people playing at home, their numbers are totally different than these, but it's all just proportional. Like maybe it's stop trying to make pars instead of stop trying to make birdies. That's why I chose to go with this because I know that our handicaps we're talking to are in that 10-ish range. It’s all relative.

Powell:

That's what I wanted to get into. Should these change for a 10 handicap say or should they just accept that they're going to have more points than Tiger did in his prime? Should they be thinking, I'm going to try to make no triples or no doubles on par 5s?

Fawcett:

So much of it though is just about understanding the idea. I mean it really is. So for the DECADE app, yes, we have quantified this down to how many you should have at any given handicap level. And then we tell you, well, to get to the next handicap level, you need to take the doubles from this to this. And again, it's more about understanding, it's kind of like rubbing a dog's nose in it.

You didn't have to try to make that birdie or try to make that par from whatever position you were in. Just take your bogey, take your par, take your whatever it is it. It's all about not trying to force things, which again, to me starts feeling very cliché, but there are a number of the old clichés that do hold up. Drive for show, putt for dough, that is not how it works.

But the clichés of trying to avoid the landmines are 100 percent how this game actually works. And what's funny though is as you can see from Tiger here, let's not look at the first three columns because honestly they're about the same. So when you look at the late ‘90s, I mean Tiger won, but it's not like he was winning everything. He really started crushing it in the middle of the ‘99 season. And really if you go back here, bogey per round 150 or less, you look at this, he's averaging two-and-a-quarter through ‘96, ‘97, ‘98, and that's actually what he was averaging two, the first half of ‘99. And then it just shut off literally overnight. And that's the question I would love to ask him someday is like, what day did you figure this out? Because I feel like it was about June of 1999 because it literally just one day shut off overnight.

He was like, I'm just going to try to not make bogey inside one 50 this week and see what happens. He wound up winning eight of his last nine events in ‘99 and the rest is history. And I do believe people have cynically, maybe he got better overnight. You can only make that kind of adjustment by thinking and being strategically different.

But this is what holds up through all scoring average is again, because in the DECADE app, I had already kind of created this math before even learning the rest of the math of the Tiger Five, excuse me, as your scoring average drops through the 70s, and this holds through all the way in the 80s and 90s as well. But I want to look at solid quasi elite players as you're scoring average drops every three shots basically from 79 to 76 to 73 to 70, yes, a lot of it is from more birdies, but the vast majority of your improvement as your scoring average drops through, 70 to 80 percent of that is by avoiding bogeys and higher. This game is just not about making birdies. This game is about avoiding bogies.

I think, again, an analogy would be avoiding double faults and stuff in tennis, you just can't double fault points away. It's just too unnecessary. And especially now as you look at this from 95 to 79. So as you improve 16 shots, only one of those is from making more birdies. And again, these are just numbers that are just, I want to say quasi-irrefutable, but they're completely irrefutable.

Powell:

That stat you have at the bottom there is fascinating. So one birdie is the difference between someone who's shooting 95 and 79. It's not going out there and saying, I need to go tick off three or four birds today. It's how about we not make a double or triple and just limit it to bogeys and limit our three putts? That's essentially what you're saying.

Fawcett:

Yeah. We'll think about it on the PGA Tour. They average three and a half birdies around. So that's our upper threshold of realistic birdies. If I'm shooting 95 and I gave you the entire PGA Tour’s birdie average, it doesn't even get you into the 80s.

There's something else going on.

Powell:

It sounds great in theory for everyone listening: Oh, I'm just going to try to make less doubles, but how can we do that? How do we need to change our targets or expectations?

Fawcett:

Number one, when you're in the trees, you're making bogey. Like you're not making par. Stop the hero shot back to that strokes gain math. If you think about it, if I'm one and a half strokes is where I'm starting and I average, and I make a putt, I've moved it one and a half strokes closer to the hole.

If you think of that math from the trees on the PGA Tour at 100 yards, they averaged 3.8 shots to hole out. They're basically making bogey 80 percent of the time. I showed you earlier, they average 2.8 shots from 100 yards in the fairway. This is not quite the most accurate way to say this, but the point is clear.

If I'm 100 yards in the trees, and I should average 3.8, if I chip it out sideways into the fairway, to 100 yards in the 200 yards in the fairway where average 2.8, I've moved it from 3.8 to 2.8. I've moved it one shot closer to the hole in one shot. I didn't gain or lose anything. It's literally on the PGA Tour, they could chip it out sideways in almost all circumstances and not hurt themselves. Like you're just making bogey man.

So especially the amateur home, I want you to advance it as far up there as you can. But if you can't pull the shot off 90 percent of the time, you need to come up with a better option.

And actually the funny thing about that is I love these conversations because they bring back so many memories. I was having lunch with Mark Broadie and David Ogrin at the PGA Show a few years ago. And David asked, is there anything you guys disagree on? And I was like, I'll answer it first. I don't think so, but anything we do disagree on, I'll say Mark's math is correct.

My ability as a player is helping me. Analyze, read into it differently than he is. And Mark said, yeah, I basically agree with that. Although there is one thing I'll say, I'm like, what's that? He goes, I wish you'd give me credit for the 90 percent rule from the trees. I was like, what do you mean?

He's that's an appendix in my book. And I'm like, I didn't read the appendix. I promise I did my own math on that. So the point being two different math dudes, one that can play in one, that's an Ivy League business professor came up with the exact same answer to the amateur at home. If you can't pull the shot off, you're trying to from the trees, basically 100 percent of the time, you need to choose a different shot.

And if that means taking an unplayable knock yourself out. And that's, that is by far the freest money in golf is just stop doing stupid stuff from the trees.

Powell:

Scott, I think one of the most interesting aspects I find from what you talk about is this idea of shot patterns. I want to get into this a little bit just because I think it can change the way that everyone on this call thinks about the golf shots that they hit, specifically your idea of a shotgun shot pattern. What is a shot pattern? What are average golfers shot patterns? What are PGA Tour players’ shot patterns? What can we learn from this?

Fawcett:

Shockingly massive is the bullet point answer. This is Aaron Wise now who's worked with Jeff Smith, who's a guy that has put a lot of stock in what I teach teaches it to all of his players out on the PGA Tour. And Aaron won the NCAA championships. He won the Byron Nelson. He's the PGA Tour rookie of the year. I was then out in Vegas, shooting some content with him and Jeff. And for the DECADE app, I was like, can you just hit 27 irons? Just at this white flag out there in the middle of TPC Summerlin's range.

And I'll be honest, we had about a 15 mile an hour wind off the left this day. We're on the other side of the range. And I was like, I don't want you to actually worry about where the ball goes. I'm going to normalize this to no wind. So just hit it like you're in a simulator. And then let's see what happens.

And the first point is I said, how far do you think this will go? He said, it's my 7-iron should be 188 at this altitude. So this is technically exactly where he was aiming. And he actually just threw a donut right around it. He didn't hit a single shot in 20. Now, if he'd hit a million, this would all fill in.

Obviously it's relatively normally distributed from left to and it's not really normally distributed on distance control. You're going to hit way more short than you do long. That's part of the problem with club selection, but essentially one thing that I think I did wrong when I was playing professionally in my 20s is I think that I chose good targets, but then I didn't actually try to hit it there.

So if the pin was four yards from the left and I had a 7-iron, I think I was smart enough to know I should be aiming: six or seven yards right of this flag, but then in my brain, I would literally be thinking, I hope I pull this. And what's funny is I've done this seminar and had this conversation with at least a hundred playing professionals.

And every single time they get to this part and they just laugh and they're like, dude, I do that seven times around. And I'm like, I know I did too. This is amazing. Yeah. The only guy that didn't do it is Tiger. I've got a video of him, but I'm not, let's see how this works.

Powell:

I'm just looking at the headers here. We're talking 15, 16 yards. Aaron Wise, one of the best ball-strikers, he's on the PGA Tour, and he's hitting 7-irons, 15 yards left and right.

Fawcett:

It's insane. It's just literally insane. This is Tiger when he was in the booth at the hero. We'll see how many copyrights we can break on this one, but you guys can edit this out as need be, but this is amazing.

He's in the booth at the Hero and they're asking him, Tiger, did you play more aggressively, more conservatively? As you got older, more aggressive as a younger player, learn to be more conservative. Do you think that's never changed throughout your career?

Tiger Woods (from soundbite):

I've always played aggressively. Yes. A hundred percent. I am very aggressive, but I am aggressive to my spots. And so wherever I choose the spot would be that it may be a little more on the cursor, but. I'm still playing aggressively to that spot.

Fawcett:

I think that's probably the most important quote I've ever pulled off of TV in my entire 10 year career of teaching golf. What Tiger said there, the question wasn't, are you playing conservatively and correctly? The question is, are you firing at pins? And Tiger is such a savant at this that he's like, Oh, I'm playing very aggressive.

But I'm playing aggressive in my spots, which are probably more conservative. I'm like, that was the question, dude, but he's the only one I've ever heard that didn't say I hope I pull and push it. Like you've never stood on a driving range and thought, I hope I push this. Now to your point, real quick, drew you are correct.

Let's kick this one out. This was actually the first shot where I think he was having trouble with the wind is off the left and not trying to actually center it. Let's just take, like you said, 12, 16 yards left at 12 yards, right? Which is pretty typical of an actual shot pattern from 190 for a PGA Tour player.

But what's amazing then is once you start looking at Shot Link images, this is now a 200 yard par 3. It's number 15 at Innisbrook and the shot pattern is actually 50 yards wide and 50 yards deep. So you were freaking out a second ago, 15 yards left and right. It's no, actually 50. It's basically the entire one side of a football field from 200 that they basically can't keep it within.

And this is why stop trying to make birdies hold so true, but critically to this. Now, if we actually start looking at the data on this, now let's look at the satellite image. This line right here is 28 yards across. This portion of the shot pattern is 28 yards across.

This was the shy shot patterns. You're like, no way. Now, if I lay that shot pattern over the green, this is the exact, these two ellipses right here are the exact same size. Look at all this other junk. Yeah. If this was crazy to you, look at the rest of this.

Powell:

I think this is great to show what Tiger was saying about hitting to his spots.

Look where the pin is on the left. So if you moved the center of Aaron Wise's shot pattern to where the pin is. i. e. if he was aiming at the pin, a large majority of his shots would be in the bunker, would be in the left rough, and so that's essentially what you're saying is picking spots that are smarter, correct? Based on the fact that you're, you've got a wide shot pattern.

Fawcett:

And to your exact point, there's, if we took all of these shots, we can't just take these shots and move them left. We even have to take the guys that stuffed it, and we've got to move them about 10 feet right. Now, if we move all of these shots right, yes, some of these guys are going to be chipping from a worse spot, but this is a much easier chip than this is a bunker shot.

Essentially, and I'll actually go to this other slide real quick, the way you've got to start viewing shot patterns is like a Venn diagram. So this red ellipse is centered directly over the hole. This front left hole location, this yellow ellipse is centered directly over the air quotes decade target.

What you really got to understand is that the vast majority of the shots are like mutual. They're, you're going to hit about the same amount close with either target. You're going to hit it a little bit further away on average with the DECADE target, the proper target. But you're going to have more birdie putts.

So yes your birdie putt on average is slightly longer, but you have more of them. So your birdie rate actually does not change. When you're playing, air quotes correctly. What we've really done is trade the left side of the red shot pattern out for the right side of the yellow shot pattern.

And that is a very profitable idea. I always talk about things being profitable or not profitable purely from. Poker. If anybody listening plays poker, this is entirely based on poker math, poker mindset, poker psychology. Once I quit playing professional golf in 2001, I got heavy into poker for about five or six years.

It's actually comically where I met Chris Como was playing in an underground poker game here in Dallas back in 2006.

And it's just so funny to to look back at it all and be like, it's all. It's just all poker. But going back to this example. Now, this is something that again, this is how easy it is to wrap your head around this. This idea of gaining fractions of shots. So this is that whole PGA Tour Shot Link. Thank you. Oh my God. I was just about to thank whoever hosted who hosts Shot Link. I was going to try to give him some props here. CDW way to go. CDW. The average score in this hole is 3.22 to this front left hole location. If you make a par. You gained 0.22 shots. As I just showed you, if Aaron Wise aim, this is a big green.

If Aaron Wise aimed the dead center of the screen, he would hardly ever miss it. He would accidentally hit some close. He would accidentally hit some 70 feet away. But on average, if I just scattered balls all around this green and put the pin anywhere on the screen, a tour players would average roughly two putts to hole out.

On average. Okay. So now if it's pretty easy for me to average three, and if I average three, I gained 0.22 shots. If we played a 72 hole event on this one hole. I would gain 15.8 shots. Now, what's important about this is people talk about Oh, I got to get to 20 under to win this week or man, it's a hard week.

It's going to take even par the most consistent stat on the PGA Tour is the winning score is somewhere between 12 and 14 shots clear of the field average. So when Cam Smith won the Tournament of Champions a year and a half, two years ago, whatever it was, he was 34 under par. He was also 14 shots clear of the field average.

The year that Zach Johnson won the masters and all the announcers are like, he didn't go for a single par 5. Yeah. And he won at one over Zach Johnson is not winning the Masters at 20 under DJ did when he's not going for a single par 5. He only won the masters. No offense, Zach. He only won the Masters because the conditions were miserable and nobody was going for par 5s.

If it's a normal Masters, he has absolutely zero chance of winning. It's like Kevin Kisner with that one video where they're like, can you win this week? He's no, why are you here? They pay a lot of money for 20th. That's okay. But seeing this and understanding this idea of fractional shots man that's everything to me.

And, cause I actually skipped ahead a few times and back, I want to say one more thing and then we'll do some of the questions that have been coming in. This is number 13 at Riviera. This yellow ellipse is just circling 85 percent of the shots. And this yellow, this blue ellipse is where I'm implying that exact same shot pattern could be hit into.

I'm not making the shot pattern bigger. I'm not making it smaller. I'm just saying. If they're good enough to put it into the yellow shot pattern, they're also good enough to put it into the blue shot pattern on the PGA Tour from 161 to 180 in the fairway. They hit it the green and regulations 71 percent of the time to back hole locations and they only hit it 57% of the time to front hole locations. Wow.

That's because even a tour player, let's say we're 155 to the front, 160 to the pin, they're trying to land at 157 or 8 because they're trying to make birdie, they're trying to make birdie on a hole with a 4.26 scoring average. Like par picks them up way more than they need to on this particular hole. But now you take that to the amateur at home where it's man, I hit this 7-iron 165 one time. That's my number of that club.

Powell:

This disparity I would imagine is so much greater also for the average player too, because we're thinking like you were just saying of our best shots, our best 8-iron is going whatever distance.

Your average 8-iron is going this distance and that it's probably five or 10 yards shorter. And so when you're thinking in your optimal shot, right to these front hole locations, you're going to leave a lot of these shots short based on this idea of shot patterns. Is that right?

Fawcett:

A hundred percent. And so now here we're back to Aaron Wise that day here we are on the range at Summerlin. And now I had asked him hit me 20 110 yard sand wedges. Okay, cool. Out of 20, he hit a whole bunch. 107, 8, and 9. This is pretty impressive actually. But out of 20, he only got four. Only four went more than one 10 and this is because you're not going to accidentally over flush a shot.

Like most people, if one 70 is a tour players stock seven or eight iron, whatever it is these days, they're not going to accidentally hit it 180, but they're definitely going to accidentally hit it 160. And so if I were caddieing for Aaron and every time he was 110, I told him he was 108, he would be a materially better player.

Not just like a little bit better either, like materially better. And these are the things that, again, the nuance of when you said earlier about like tour players, understanding this is the kind of thing that tour players are really starting to get. So for the people listening at home, if you've got a launch monitor or anything and you need to use the range balls, the actual ball that you use in play, but you want to hit 30, 40 balls with.

Every other club with every club technically, but I know that's not realistic for most people, but you want to hit 20, 30, 40 balls. And then you just want to throw out the shortest 20%. Like I don't even care where your worst shots go and then take the average of the remaining shots. And that's how far you hit that club.

Because that number will for sure be five to eight yards less for the, at least five to 10 yards less for your 10 listening at home. Cause it's three to four yards less for a tour player. And this is what's hard though, is let's pretend that your eight iron is. If you hit it perfectly, it carries 165, but you're 160, but your 80th percentile average is 160.

You need to just stand up there and do everything you can to hit it solid and full and stock. And then cross your fingers. You happen to miss it a little bit. That's the way averages of math work. What sucks is when you stand up there trying to do it and then you just flush it right at the flag and you carry it 15 feet long.

You're like, ah. But you didn't know that shot was coming before you hit it. So your question earlier about shotguns, we've got this shotgun style shot pattern, but you don't know which BB is coming out next. So if I were aiming a shotgun at a bullseye from 30 feet, I don't know how far you need to be away for it to be a big shotgun blast, and I wanted you to hit the bullseye, you should aim directly at the bullseye.

All of a sudden, if instead of 50 BBs coming out, only one does, it totally changes the equation. But it doesn't change your target. Like it still should be the same thing. You're just crossing your fingers that the happy one comes out.

Powell:

That's so, man, that's the hardest part. Let's, whether it be the middle of the fairway, the pin, and you're constantly aiming there, regardless of where trouble is, you're going to get yourself into a lot of that trouble. Just because not because necessarily you're making bad swings, but just because you're human, your shot pattern is like a shotgun and however many of these shots that you hit are just going to be 10, 15, 20 yards offline, just cause golf is hard. And if you don't pick the correct targets, you're just going to hit it in trouble. Just just as it is. All right.

Fawcett:

Voila. So this is, this goes back to when you said something about architecture earlier, the new theme in architecture is width and angles. But if my shot pattern with a driver is 70 yards wide. And we designed some hole where you want to favor the right side. You can't take a 70 yard wide shot pattern and a 70 yard wide fairway and shift it to the right. Like I'm hoping eventually there's a bunker or a hazard or something. If you're giving me a 70 yard wide fairway.

So that person needs to be aiming at the dead center of the fairway and about half the time they will have that angle. That's great. And about half the time they won't, but the half the time from the. The air quotes poor angle, it's always going to be better to have your ball in short grass than it is from any sort of rough or bunker or anything, even with the worst angle.

And what's really wild about this is once you actually start doing the math. Using shot link once a piece, let's say the pen is on the left, over there where you want to be on the right side of the fairway, the right side of the fairway scoring average typically is actually higher than the left side.

The unoptimal angle because, and there's just no way to know, but logically it would seem that the guy's Oh, I got an angle. Yay. Green light. Let's go right at it. And then they're screwing it up way more than when they're in the left side. And they're like I don't have a good angle. Let's just get it on the green and two putt and move on. They literally play better from out of position in the fairway than they do from air quotes again in position.

Powell:

I want to jump in here with a good question that came through. Charlie's asking how he can apply these concepts to practice sessions to prepare for tournaments or to prepare for important rounds. So how do we take this theory that we need to aim a little more conservatively, you might say, how do you take that and actually practice that on the range and also on the course?

Fawcett:

The first thing first and foremost, which if you know me at all, I argue all the time about block versus random practice. Block practice just being you're hitting the same club at the same target. You're just hitting stock shot over and over again. Random practice means that you're changing targets all around. In studies, it shows that random practice is better. And the reason I believe that is because the player's just being forced to slow down.

So my only answer to your question is how do I take this information and apply it to practice to getting ready for anything? It's nothing about this information. It's about slowing down. My dad used to tell me when I was a teenager, you hit balls too fast. I'm like, but I got improvement. And I'm like, basically exercising what I can now tell you.

Let me like from Como and Hank Haney's book and just word of mouth, Tiger is the slowest practice. Like it's excruciating to watch him practice because he'll hit five or six shots, take a little breather, hit five or six shots. When you see him at a tour event, he's just warming up, but like when he's actually practicing.

So my answer to that question is it has nothing to do with how do we take these ideas? Actually, I will answer that to some extent, start being aware of the width of your shot pattern. Start being aware that, man, I miss. Balls, 15 yards left and 15 yards, right? That's what I tell my college coaches when they say, how do we practice swim?

Just use your launch monitor to illustrate to guys. They have a shot pattern and this is why we have to play committed to our decade targets. Because the variance within our shot pattern is what's going to yield those results. But if there's any one thing that matters more than anything else in practice, it is 100 percent slowing down.

Again, this is where it's hard because nobody's actually going to get behind every single shot in practice. But what I do is, let's say that I hit a shot. Let me see here. Hold on, I'll come back and share again in a second. Let's say that I hit a shot. It's not a bad idea. It's a bad idea. If you're gonna hit a shot, you're gonna pull another ball over.

Most people are just sitting here, and they're not even looking downfield. They're just pull the ball over and go again. What I want to do is get behind so not all the way behind. But if I hit a shot. Bam Watch it all the way down and critically, if you hit a good shot, take a second. And really feel that in your, like your brain really is wiring up neurons.

Like your brain is trying to create a map of what just happened. And so if in your follow through, if you happen to hit a good, take a second, hold your pose, really feel what just happened. Pull another ball over and like I say, you don't have to get all the way behind it, but just taking this last step in every single time, because what we're training then is your weight shift.

We're training your trigger with how you start your shot. If you look at Zalatoris, again, I haven't gone out and watched any golf in a couple years, but what's comical about Zalatoris is he's got the exact same waggle where he stands here to the side of it. He's got two waggles. He goes, and then he comes in and he's got the way, like I could snap my fingers the second he's about to start his swing. And that's not. That's not on accident. That's because the guy has practiced this a bazillion times. And again, if you think about it, everything we're trying to do is be consistent in golf. That's what we're trying to accomplish here.

Powell:

We’ve got another good question here about shot patterns and especially with the driver. How wide is a shot pattern for a PGA Tour player with a driver from left to right? And how much does that change for say, a 10 handicap who hits a 220?

Fawcett:

The, a tour player, it's every ounce of 70 yards, which just blows.

Powell:

So can you, so their furthest left shot that they, what theoretically can hit or they typically hit how would you quantify that?

Fawcett:

Typically hit, typically it can go anywhere.

Powell:

It can go 35 yards left of their target, and then their furthest right point is 35 yards of their target is what you're saying?

Fawcett:

Yes. Yes, which is why I say when these architects are trying to give people like the 70 yard, they're trying to entice them to make a bad decision by giving them 70 yards of width.

So they'll try to favor the right for a left pin. That's a fool's errand. The shot patterns. Are so much bigger than you would possibly imagine. Like number 18, like once you start putting a hazard on one side, number 18 at PGA West, where Nick Dunlap just won. So you've got that water on the left. It's a hundred yards from the water over to the cart path. And players hit it right at the cart path every single year and hit in the water. Like it's just, it's mind boggling. So to your question again, but what you've got to start thinking of rather than if I've got a triangle, so the same degrees offline.

If my shot pattern is only 200 yards versus 300 yards, like it's the same degrees offline, but my shot pattern is going to be more narrow. So even as a player is worse so let's say a 10 handicap. And again I'm being theoretical here. If a tour player shot pattern is three degrees offline and 70 yards wide at 300.

I have no idea if that trigonometry works, but let's just say that if I come back to a 200 yard shot pattern, I can now go twice as much offline. And the shot pattern is still the same width. I hope that makes sense. I've literally never tried to explain that in my entire life, but it's really you don't need that much more room for a bad player because it's already going shorter and it's already going more crooked, but it's technically about the same width.

As a tour players, the main thing that people get wrong with approach or with tee shot strategy is they start dropping back too often. Just be like I'll get this three wouldn't play like a three. What is a much harder club to hit than your driver? And I posted this on Instagram not too long ago.

And literally someone posted I hit 50 percent of the fairways with my driver and 75 percent with my 3 wood then your driver's not fit for you. That's not possible. There's no chance those numbers are accurate, but people actually do believe that.

Powell:

Would you say it's more so about keep the driver in your hand, but just change where you're aimed on a specific hole to take the risk out of play based on your shot pattern?

Fawcett:

As best as you can, yeah. But again, sometimes also it's yeah, that's a pretty big shot pattern. We need to just get a little bit better at golf too. For that player, just dropping back to 3 wood or hybrid, Like now you've just made all of you, you might get five or six more percent of balls in the fairway, but you've made a hundred percent of your shots, second shots, 30 or 40 yards longer.

That's a bad idea.

Again it's the mathematical equivalent of if you and I are flipping coins and every time you get it right, I give you 5 and every time I get it right, you give me 10 and we flip a coin, you get it right. I give you five bucks. Did you make money? I would argue you didn't because if we do this long enough, you're going to cry uncle pretty quick.

So it's all about expected value. The expected value in that bet for you is negative. Just because you won on one iteration does not make it a good bet. So if I drop back to 3 wood and I get it in the fairway like, Haha, I told you yeah. But if we do that a thousand times, you're not going to keep saying, yeah.

The real question for tee shot strategy is what's the alternative and what does it accomplish? And that answer is typically not enough.

Powell:

This sort of leads into Todd's good question about Is length more important than putting? Which is more important in your mind?

Fawcett:

I wouldn't say length, but I would say driving. There's just no doubt. And this is a hard one for people to trust. This is actually, it's a really lucky topic for me. Back in June of 2011, May of 2011, is when they first started releasing the Strokes Gained Putting data. And I remember just looking at it and I couldn't wrap my head around like an eight-foot putts, 50, 50 I could not wrap my head around that fact, but then I wrote a thread on an online poker forum that was just titled is dry for show putt for dough really true? And that unequivocally, there's I would say five to 10 golf stats, nerds in the world that really know what we're doing. And that's one of the main topics a hundred percent of us agree on. So I don't like the question of his distance more important versus putting, but driving is definitely more important than putting.

And again, this is, it's based on the fact that nobody's very good at putting, there are obviously better putters than worse putters, but I love Zalatoris like a son. I've got tons of signed stuff by him back here. I've got more stuff over here. Like he's my man. Quite obviously he struggles with his putting that year back in 2022 when he won.

And when he was like fifth or sixth in the world, that guy's not a good putter. He was 89 percent from four feet to her average is 92%. It's not like he was 50%. He was 3 percent worse than to her average. It's just not that big of a deal. And so it really comes down more to the fact that everybody sucks at putting that's obviously a tongue in cheek joke, but it's also not too far from the true relative to your handicap.

You probably putt about average, but tee shots are the way that you can just start taking massive chunks of expected value off of a hole.

Powell:

I'd like to get into putting here a little more in the last so we will go for about another 10 minutes here. So thanks everyone for joining. We'll I know we've covered a lot of stuff here.

We'll have a write up a recap of all of these principles and ideas that Scott's been talking about. And that'll be available for all plus members. But Scott, I want to get into this putting a little bit because you've got a couple stats that have really blown my mind. One of them being the percentage, and I could be butchering this, but the percentage make rate on 8 feet versus the percentage make rate from 35 feet. Can you explain that how that can define your approach strategy?

Fawcett:

Yeah, I wish I could find this image quickly. I don't know which PowerPoint it would be in, but what you're talking about. So I actually spoke at MIT's sports analytics conference a couple of years ago. And the guy who runs the analytics conference from Wharton now was talking about a decision making conference. And he asked me if I'd come speaking and find out something, some sort of an economic type topic.

And so what I decided on was this three foot, eight foot, 32 foot idea. So from three feet on the PGA Tour, they basically average one stroke to hole out from eight feet on the PGA Tour they basically average 1.5 strokes to hole out. So in the first five feet from that's good too. It's a coin flip. They lose a half a shot of value. Basically every inch from three to eight feet is 1 percent in your make rate.

Now we need to go from one and a half strokes to two strokes. So we're going to lose the next half shot of value that takes all the way up to 32 feet. So you lose your first half shot of value in five feet from three to eight feet. You lose your next half shot of value all the way from eight feet to 32 feet. So at the end of the day, I'd rather you be 20 feet than 25 feet, but at the end of the day, that's also it's point it's 0.054 shots. It's basically a half a 10th of a percent in those five feet.

It's a full half shot from three to eight feet. So that's why I'm like, even if you're aiming directly at the flag, the amount of subtle variances in wind and contact and everything else, it's just so much luck to actually hit it close.

It's ridiculous, especially on the PGA Tour where they're not using lasers. They're using yardage books. and green pin sheets like their yardage is approximately correct. But every single shot that a guy's ever stuffed, there's no chance he had the correct distance. Literally zero chance the distance was exactly what he was trying to do.

Powell:

It's in other words, there's just not much difference between you having a 12 foot putt and a 25 foot putt. The percentages are slightly different.

Fawcett:

I wouldn't quite go 12 to 25. But also 12 feet is 1.70. 25 is 1.93, so it's 0.2, two, three shots for those 15 feet. It's a quarter of a shot. That's huge, but that's the same difference in five to seven feet.

Powell:

If you were to say the difference between hitting it to 20 feet and the difference between hitting it to 20 feet versus 40 feet is not that big of a deal. So maybe if you're going to take a lot of trouble out of play to hit it to 40 feet, maybe that's worth that. Maybe that's worth it.

Fawcett:

20 versus 40 feet is literally 0.18 shots. It's just, and this is the whole deal. So one of the more informative things I've ever done, Maverick McNeely and Joseph Bramlett to PGA tour players right now, Maverick, I worked with when he was in college and on the Korn Ferry Tour, and I went out and stayed with him and his family at their amazing house out in California one time and Maverick, after we went through everything, he's man, this makes so much sense.

I asked Tiger one time why he's the best player ever and Tiger's answer was cause I'm the best lag putter ever. And Maverick was like, he's so smart. He's can you expand on that? Cause I'm not buying. That's the reason. So I goes, it doesn't matter like how much trouble I can get into. I can usually get it somewhere onto the green 40 ish feet away.

Like I can dump it somewhere on the green to put it move on. And it's that's so eloquent. A couple of months later I was playing with Joseph Bramlett in San Jose. And after nine holes, I came walking back to the cart and he's literally just sitting on it. He's something tiger told me just makes so much more sense now.

I'm like, what's that? He goes he told me one time that he was the best player on ever because he was the best lag putter ever. And he's if you think about that, there's so many times you can just be in trouble and just get it on the green and move on. And I'm like, yeah, that is exactly correct.

And it's, and it really is just amazing. Like again, looking back at it. Cause again, like I just turned 50 last year. I don't play much golf. I've got far too many injuries. But when I play, I typically play fairly well, I had the lead in the Texas state open this year through around shooting 64 like I can play, but I don't have anywhere near the physical skills that I had 25 years ago, but I would bet you my 25 year old self would beat me now, but it would not be by much and it would be comical if you could somehow factor in effort versus scoring average.

It's just, It's a little disheartening because I would rather have 50 million than what I have right now, but it is just amazing. Like again, Zalatoris, DeChambeau, Maverick, Doc Redman. Like I can name a hundred of these 20-ish year old kids on tour that weren't doing great things and then just put a slightly different brain in their head.

And again, where we kicked it off with is if you feel like you should have shot lower every time you play. It's only one of two things. You're not as good as you think you are, or you made mental and strategic mistakes. It can literally be nothing else. And so it's nobody wants to admit they're not as good as they think they are.

So it has to be the other, and they're probably actually correct. So then the question becomes, what are you going to do to start making better decisions? And again, I hate, I really do hate feeling salesy, but like the decade app and its tutorial content has essentially become a living diary of just all the dumb stuff I've seen done over the last 40 years in this game at the highest level. It's just. It's so comically obvious and simple, it's pretty mind boggling, honestly.

Powell:

Scott, LeeAnn submitted a really nice question on your discussion of putting. She says, Scottie's struggling with putting is not as big of a deal as announcers make it out to be. Is that correct? Incorrect? Based on what you're saying.

Fawcett:

It's correct if you're trying to be number one in the world. It's Zalatoris when he was a zero strokes game putter in 2022. He was ranked ninth. I'm like, I thought that was about as good as he's going to get. Cause I, I did not I'm impressed with how this putting is going so far with this mid length broom.

It's definitely better than I was expecting. The game's just hard. Being great at every aspect is just difficult, but what I'll show you here what was her name again? LeeAnne, what I really want to show you more than anything here is this is Aaron Wise that same day and all I'm trying to do here is get him to hit putts.

He's trying to lag them to this hole and I'm just moving the balls off to the side to illustrate a shot pattern. So at the end of the day, his shot pattern, even throwing out the first one, the green was slow. So I'm discounting the worst shot. And then he basically rolled the next 19 into a 12 cup depth.

So all I've done here is shown how deep I'm using this, the size of this fake hole, his shot pattern is four times deeper in distance control than it is wide. And the reason that matters is once we start having any break on any putt, The putt that Aaron hit the softest would start breaking sooner. Even given the identical start line, the putt he hit the hardest would start breaking later.

His shot pattern is becoming wider because of his speed control than it is from for her, I should say. This putt is the shot pattern is becoming wider, meaning your make rate is dropping more because of your speed than it is because of your line. And this is true. For everyone. I've never seen somebody with less than a three X depth versus width shot pattern.

So if the putt is dead straight from 20 feet, Aaron's probably going to hit the hole. But once you start throwing some break into it, now all of a sudden we've got a giant problem because again, the brakes, what's going to create the speed is what's going to create the break. So to Scottie and I don't know what they're working on.

All I see him every time they show it on anything is he's grinding on a stroke. And I'd be like, Hey, why don't we go do a bunch of speed drills? Because Zalatoris again, I hate saying this in public. Cause I really do love the kid. You're not going to get a worse putting stroke than wills. It's just not going to happen.

And that kid was a zero strokes game putter, which means he was dead on tour average in 2022. And, but that doesn't include when he finished 3rd in the Masters or 5th in the match play or 6th in the US Open. There's some stuff that's not in Shotlink. There's a great company called Data Golf that does some really impressive golf data work.

And I think they had him ranked overall at like 60th on the PGA Tour out of 210 players. That year. And it's because he was second in approach putt performance, which is the average length of your second, but the guy's speed control is basically as good as anyone's on tour, even while being a little bit yippy.

Powell:

So speed is far more important than the start line, you'd say?

Fawcett:

It’s way more important. It's, again, this is where people get cynical, maybe what if you start at 90 degrees offline? I'm like, I assume you're trying I assume you're trying to start it on a line. Everyone, if you go out tomorrow and you put a coin down at 20 feet, and then you just try to lag balls to that coin, and you move them off, I don't want the prior putt getting in the way, so 20 putts, and then put an alignment rod, just like I did right here.

Hit 20 putts and go grab each one and just move it online. So when I, when he hit that putt here, I moved it just left of the hole and short hits the next one, he hits it right over the lip. And so I put it dead pin high and just lovely. If you go do this 20 times and create your own shot pattern, You will be stunned at how much deeper it is than wide.

And so what's funny about this is as he finishes it, now I'm going back here and I'm explaining to him and he's what's the problem? And I'm like, your speed sucks. Like you can see we're all laughing because I'm like, that's atrocious. It's literally atrocious and you've really got to cement this idea into your head.

What this is showing is this is the lowest but fastest line it can be made on. So this is the lowest and hardest a putt can be hit. This is the highest and softest a putt can be hit. Any putt in between here, it's like combinations in a lock. Any putt in between here has a speed matchup that will make it go in. I can kick it between those two lines. It's not the line control at all. It's being able to control that speed.

So if you think about it, it's like a beehive. And so if you think of this speed, this microphone. If I've got a beehive coming in, but as my speed gets worse, the beehive starts expanding. The beehive, some part of it is still going to go in the hole. Something's going to go in. The tighter I can keep my speed, then I can start dialing in my reeds and my line, and then the holes are going to start jumping in a bunch, which is why Zalatoris inside of 10 feet is pretty atrocious. And Zalatoris in every single bucket outside of 15 feet, so they have five foot buckets, he's in the top 70 on tour.

This guy makes a disproportionate amount of mid length 15 to 30 foot putts while also sucking inside at 10 feet because his lines terrible and his speed is amazing. And then he's also, I think he was like 65th on the PGA Tour and three putt avoidance that same season where it's like the dude can't hit the whole air quotes from based on the announcers from four feet, but he doesn't three putt very often that can only be explained by speed control.

Powell:

Michael here has got a good question to start taking us home here. He's fairly new to the game. He wants a little nugget that you can share as a takeaway. And I would expand on that as, can you give people on the call, just two or three takeaways that they can take next time they're teeing it up that they should be working on.

They should be focusing on based on the stuff that you've been talking about.

Fawcett:

Absolutely. The first selection off the tee should be driver. There needs to be a very good reason we're not hitting driver. Okay, so we've got it off the tee. Approach shots. This is the challenge because if somebody says I'm 147 in the fairway, should I fire at the flag? I don't know. Is the pin in the middle of the green? Is it three from the left? Is there a lake left? I just need more information. But on average, shading towards the middle of the green. Is a good idea. Now, this is where it's hard because the middle of the green quite often is less optimal than at the flag

This is why, again, I catch a lot of grief on social media that this is all common sense. Like it's not, there's an inflection between point between at the flag and at the middle of the green that is optimal. So somewhere in between those is where somewhere between those, on average, let's shade towards the middle of the green.

All right. So now we're up here by the green. We're chipping. Just don't miss the green, man. It's stunning. How many, two chips per round, a five handicap and higher. And again, I'm saying five, like a five is a good player. They can get their ball around a golf course. It's stunning. How many times they miss a green on a chip shot.

And now once we're on the green, get really good at speed control. That's it, man. Hit it as far as you can with driver off the tee, kind of shade it towards the middle of the green. Don't screw up chip shots, easy up and downs. Like Tiger said, I want to convert my easy up and downs easy up and downs.

We want to do well on and then speed control and putting. And again, not to make it too salesy, but the main thing of the DECADE app is simply recognizing all of the mental hurdles. So like I was a lunatic, I was a club throwing club, breaking lunatic. But even if you're a guy that doesn't outwardly show any emotion, we're all still rolling this emotional rollercoaster inside. We're all over the place. Like it's the most bonk golf. Unfortunately, it tracks a bunch of type a people who think they can perfect this game and then just get frustrated to no end. But I can tell you after years of a meditation practice, after years of understanding the data, at some point assuming you, you are trying, it becomes impossible to get mad at yourself.

I had a buddy, Jane Ellison shout out, just in case he's watching for some reason it was so bad. Like it was probably a three handicap, but he was so bad compared to the playing professionals that we're playing with, but he used to break a rake per round because he sucked from the bunker. And one of my best friends, Nick Mounthouse, he said to him when he's you're not good enough to get mad. And that's actually the quote for all of us. Like even a tour player you're not good enough to get mad. And once you can, I hate using the word quit. Because quit is such an offensive term.

Like you told me I was a quitter. I'd be like, I'd want to punch you in the face, but also at the point that you're getting mad or you're trying to force things, that's a form of quitting. You've abandoned your game plan that you had set out for the day. There was a great quote from a college golf coach a number of years ago on Facebook.

I wish I would have screenshot it. Cause it was amazing. But he said, one of those players who had a 72 scoring average made the turn at three over and he yelled, don't worry, coach. I'm going to get a few back. And the coach said, I yelled back at him. Just stop giving them away. If you're a 72 scoring average guy and you turn the front nine at that 39, you're not a 72 scoring average guy.

You're now a 75 scoring average guy. Let's don't make that 76, seven or eight because we quit an abandoned strategy or mindset or anything. Let's stick to what we're doing and let's just plot along. And again, circling back to what you said earlier about tour players, like at this point, a hundred percent of them know what we're working on and it's impacted them in some form or fashion because at the end of the day, there's just so much data.

Millions and millions of shots and shot like millions of shots and in DECADE and Arcos and all these other stats platforms. And we all agree on these core tenants. And those are the ones that are, they're just not, they're, I don't want to say they're not hard to do cause they're really hard to do, but they are doable.

That's a word, right? Should we end it on a grammatical error? Any other questions?

Powell:

It's getting late. Why not? Thank you so much for all the time, Scott. Can you give members a place where can they find you? Where can they find DECADE and I understand we might have a discount available to them.

Fawcett:

Yeah. Luckily at this point, if you just, we've, we finally tried to take this company seriously. So now if you just go to Decade.golf, pretty simple domain Decade.golf. And if you enter the the promo code, so you're going to select along the way buying decade for myself. And then once you get to the actual checkout, OPENHOUSE24. It was given to me in all caps. I'm not sure if that's actually mandatory or not.

All caps OPENHOUSE24, no apostrophes or anything or dashes in there. And that'll give you the normal DECADE product is a six month product. And then it goes to 19.95 a month after that 93 percent of our people keep renewing because we have free yardage books and a number of other features in there that actually make the app pay for itself.

But you're going to get 20 percent off of a six month subscription and then three free months in addition to that. So it's a pretty, pretty damn good deal. Yeah, I played professional golf from ‘96 through 2002. I started an electricity company in 2002. This really is just an accident that I've not taken necessarily as serious as I want to from a business standpoint.

But at this point, I finally realized. From the emails and positive reinforcement, I get, this is really helping a lot of people not only shoot lower scores, but enjoy the game more. And so that makes it actually really fun for me. It's just, it took me 40 years to figure this stuff out and to just help the next person not have to take 40 years.

That's why I called it DECADE. Zalatoris sent me a text and said, you've given me 25 years of experience in five days. And that's why I came up with DECADE. Luckily, the acronym worked distance expectation, correct target, analyze, discipline, execute. If that hadn't worked on the first go around, I'm not sure what I would have tried next, but it's been a lot of fun. I appreciate it. It really is surreal doing something like this for Golf Digest. So thanks for letting me.

Powell:

Yeah, no, of course. We really appreciate it. And thanks everyone for coming on. And like I said, we'll have a recap of everything Scott talked about available to every Golf Digest+ member and be on the lookout for future happy hour events soon to come soon to be announced. So stay tuned there. Thanks, Scott.