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It’s that time of year again.

Golfers are starting to play their first competitive rounds of the season, which means those same golfers are wondering how they can shoot lower scores heading into summer.

One way to do that, you might think, would be to make more birdies. While it’s factually undeniable that turning pars into birdies will help your score, trying to make more will probably do more harm than good. Allow us to explain.

Data collected by Shot Scope shows that for every single golfer, the key to lower scores isn’t making more birdies, it’s eliminating the big, ugly, numbers.

How do I shoot lower scores?

Let’s take two sets of data: one from a scratch player and another from a 15-handicap player.

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On average (remember, this is all about averages!) a scratch player will make 2.4 birdies-per-round. Not eight, not six and not even three, but, give or take, two birdies every time they play 18 holes. Generally speaking, these birdies aren’t coming from sticking it close on a 200-yard par-3s, either, but from par-5s, where scratch golfers will average under par.

Compare that to our 15-handicap player, and that number becomes 0.4 birdies-per-round.

Basically, a scratch player averages two more birdies a round than their 15-handicap playing partner, while taking around 15 shots less per round.

All well and good, but where does the difference in score actually come from? It’s all about eliminating double bogies or worse, and the data backs that up.

The same scratch golfer who is averaging less than three birdies a round is also averaging less than one double bogey every round, 0.9 to be exact.

Compare that with a 15-handicap, and the average number of double bogies becomes 3.7.

While the difference in birdies made between our two players makes up two shots per round, the difference in doubles makes up more than six.

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So, next time you stand on the first tee with a scorecard in your pocket, be realistic about how many birdies you’re going to make. If anything, trying to make those birdies is going to have the opposite effect, and you’ll probably be marking down more big numbers.

Instead, work on turning the double bogies, or worse, into something a little less destructive.

It might not earn you the course record, but your handicap index will thank you.


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Lewis Fraser As bunkered’s Performance Editor, Lewis oversees the content that’s designed to make you a better player. From the latest gear to tuition, nutrition, strategy and more, he’s the man. A graduate of the University of Stirling, Lewis joined bunkered in 2021. Formerly a caddie at Castle Stuart Golf Links, he is a member of Bathgate Golf Club where he plays off four.

Performance Editor

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