How many putts per round (PPR) do you take? Less than 36? And do you record your putting stats? Using a PuttBANDIT ball marker has helped me to regularly get below 36 putts per round. But how many putts should we be taking based on our handicaps?
Before we even get into how many putts is good, what counts as a putt? It sounds obvious, but the rules are clear when it comes to official golf stats.
According to the PGA, a putt counts when a stroke is made with the ball touching the putting surface. But it doesn’t count as a putt if you choose to use a putter from the fringe or off the green when you could have chipped.
How many putts is good?
There are petabytes of data on putting available from the PGA tour, a lot less on LPGA and LET players, and data on amateur putting is not easy to come by at all. Amateur putting data gets captured by golfers using GPS phone apps or watches who may not be totally familiar with the putt stat definition. That data is usually private. However, after a bit of web hacking I found some published data by totally legal means.
PPR – Tour pros vs amateurs
Let’s set the bar unrealistically high and look at the tour pros first. During the 2022 season the tour average PPR was 29 for PGA men and 30 for LPGA women. Not much in it.
For amateurs like us, we need to look at PPR relative to our WHS index. I took three published sources of amateur putting data, TheGrint, Golfshake and Shot Scope, and averaged out their PPR data by handicap range. This was interesting.
Data: PGA Tour, TheGrint, Golfshake, Shot Scope
But hold on just a minute. There are a lot of factors that influence a PPR number such as: how often you hit the green in regulation (GIR); how close you get to the hole with your approach from the fairway, or with a chip or putt from just off the green. And then there’s the dreaded number of 3 putts you take that can really mess with your score and confidence.
Someone who misses greens but always chips close could have a low PPR. A golfer who hits a lot of GIR but then has long putts might have a higher PPR. Who is the better putter? To know, you have to look at some other data points.
Does GIR matter?
If I hit every green in regulation, then I’d have to get it very close to the hole with an approach to increase my chances of a single putt that lowers my PPR number.
From 150-175 yards I might get it to 23-33 feet from the hole on the PGA Tour. That’s a 12% or less chance of making the putt. I’m not a tour pro. I just want to avoid a 3-putt.
Data: PGA Tour
And getting onto the green in regulation, especially a big multi-tier rolling green, and then having a super-long low-percentage first putt, can increase the risk of 3-putting.
As an 11.7 handicap amateur, I’m only going to hit about 6 greens in regulation per round, so I’d better be good at pitching, chipping or putting from off the green to get it to within 3 feet for a single putt. Who does that? I thought of one of the most popular YouTube pros, Rick Shiels.
Image: Rick Shiels Golf
Rick’s Break 75 series of videos lets us see his every shot and putt during a round on a variety of quality courses as he tries to beat a gross 75 score. I wanted to learn how his recovery from missed greens impacted his putting performance.
I watched five of his recent rounds, one at Mere, his home course for 20 years, Formby, Clitheroe, West Lancashire and Wilmslow to look for clues. His key stats for those rounds are below.
Rick Shiels is great golfer and broadcaster, particularly under the pressure of having every shot captured on video for 2.4M subscribers. No pressure.
Like all of us, he has good and bad days on the course. That said, I’d be happy with his bad day scores. On two of the above rounds, he beat the PGA tour average for PPR helped by seven single putts, despite missing about half of the GIR.
His off green chips and putts usually get him close for single putts but his worst PPR totals were partly fuelled by 3-putting and low number of singles. During his last two rounds his chips onto the green weren’t as close as usual.
Big greens – great for GIR, not PPR
When Rick did hit more greens at Formby, and those greens are really big and undulating targets, his PPR went up. Granted he’d been on holiday and his putting feel was a bit off, which helps explain two early 3-putts. West Lancashire was just a bad day at the office. We all have those.
To be fair to Rick, this is a very small data sample but, nonetheless, it was valuable and entertaining to watch his short game and see some data trends.
What did impress me was Rick’s ability to chip or putt it close from off the green to make a single putt on most days. When he didn’t play well, he stayed relatively cheerful, at least on camera. I’d have been grumpy at best.
This venture into the putting stats, and the golf that lies behind them, has given me a fresh perspective on putting performance and the influencers of scoring. Here’s my key takeaways:
- With my handicap, I should be achieving an average of 33 putts a round, but I want to get lower.
- Getting to within 3 feet with a chip or putt from off the green is critical to lowering PPR
- 3-putts are really bad news
- Rick loves a sausage roll.
My strategy from now on is to use my free shots to get onto the green and close to the pin, basically a nett GIR, and then break 33 putts per round after a midway hot snack. Let’s see how that goes.
Putt well every round
Paul Hart is a co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT ball marker and enthusiastic golf improver hoping to break 36 every round.
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