Avoid the short side

How Viktor Hovland spotted—and fixed—a scoring mistake in his game

August 24, 2023

Michael Reaves

In one season, Viktor Hovland has managed to do something incredible.

Last season, Hovland had a scoring average of just over 70, with a total strokes gained of .768 shots. The following season, his scoring average dropped to 69, and his strokes gained over his opponent doubled to more than 1.5.

It's a remarkable one-season improvement which, to be clear, wasn't because Hovland was some no-name player before. He had three PGA Tour victories, and a Ryder Cup appearance. He finished in the top 10 of that year's Players Championship and played in the final group of the 2022 Open Championship. Hovland was one of the best players in golf, yet he figured out how to get even better—basically overnight.

How? Speaking during the Tour Championship this week, Hovland explains:

"I would have a double bogey here or a double bogey there and it would mess up the whole tournament for me. There was something that was missing. There was something that's not right. In poker terms, it's like my frequencies were a little bit off. There's a certain percentage of the time you're supposed to bet, you're supposed to check raise, or you're supposed to bluff."

Which led to his key point:

"Basically, there's a certain percentage you're supposed to short side yourself. But I was doing that way more than the average player... I was short siding myself way more than the average TOUR player does. So that was very revealing."

Why you should avoid the short side miss

Ultimately, Hovland said his issue was short siding himself, which is when you miss the green on the side nearest the hole. Statistically, it's one of the worst possible mistakes in golf, because it's requires you to hit a difficult chip, with little margin for error.

We dive more into the stats in this video below, so check it out, but in a nutshell: A bad short-sided miss can make it almost 50 percent less likely to get up-and-down. One bad decision, and half the time you’ve lost a shot.

For Hovland, who has been honest about his around the green struggles (though his chipping is getting better by the day), short siding himself almost served as a double-penalty. Which is why preventing the short side miss mistake proved such an instant upgrade to his game.

It's something the rest of us should learn from, too.

1 thing to remember

You can check out the stats in our How Do You Compare? interactive right here, but basically, 80s shooters from 150 yards are prone to missing their ball into a 20 yard zone at any given moment. When you're standing over a shot like that, don't take the opportunity to aim at the pin. Remember your margin for error, and aim away from the pin, towards an area which will leave you with lots of room between the pin.

Do that, and like Hovland, you'll improve almost instantly.