Why You Shoot What You Shoot

January 05, 2018

We’ve all been cornered by a fellow golfer who decides to launch into a shot-by-shot postmortem of his last round, as if you’re dying to know just what goes into a 93. “I hit the fairway on 1, missed the green right, bad lie over there, caught it a touch thin, should’ve grabbed my lob. On No. 2 . . .” These monologues can be painful to endure—and impossible to escape. That said, they usually do start with an inquiry, however innocent, like “What’d you shoot on Saturday?”

The reason golfers need to explain so much is that golf is messy. The final score is a harsh reality, and often a disappointing one. It comes with a lot of baggage, like bad bounces and mystery wind gusts and 360-degree lip-outs. Most golfers are unwilling to spit out a number when asked what they were doing out there for four hours. Even fewer are disciplined enough to catch themselves when your eyes start rolling back.

Of course, these little chats are therapy sessions in disguise. We, as golfers, need them because we often don’t know how we got to the score we did. We hit some good drives and some crappy drives. We missed greens, sure, but we had the irons going for a while there. Some putts dropped; others were pathetic. There was that birdie, but also two 7s. Every round is such a mixed bag; it’s hard to grab onto anything to characterize it.

So here’s the question: What skills have the biggest impact on score? We asked Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Adam Kolloff, and he came up with a hit list for average golfers. Kolloff says learn to hit a draw with the driver—it’s the best for distance and accuracy—and groove your hybrids, because they’re the most versatile clubs. He says focus on controlling distance on wedges and mastering one greenside shot. And, of course, some putting, specifically long lags and five feet and in—don’t waste time on middle distances where you’ll always two-putt.


We liked Kolloff’s take so much we created a video lesson series with him called “Scoring 101: The 5 Requirements.” He shows you how to incorporate these scoring skills into your game, including swing basics, practice drills and on-course tips. The video series ($14.99) is available on Golf Digest’s new instruction platform. And if it leads to less rehashing of rounds, well, we’ll find another way to annoy each other.