Who is the better player? The long ball or the short knocker?

tall&shortIn this modern day of long hitters is there still a place for the short hitter?  Can the short hitter compete on golf’s modern courses?  Should new players learn the long ball or that slow and steady wins the race?  Bet on the tortoise or the hare?

No matter how young or old we are when we start up this great game, we all want to hit it far.  The long ball is what everyone notices on the first tee.  No one says “man, look at that short hitter, right down the middle again!”.  However, we all notice the loud slap and crack of a ball that just got put into orbit by some young gun or burly mountain type man.  We also always assume that same long ball hitter isn’t in the fairway.

So the question remains can the short hitter compete against the long ball hitter?  
Lets break down the two stereotypical definitions of the short knocker vs the long ball.  The short knocker hits a lot of fairways, he chips and putts very well, he is a great long iron player, and he gets the job done around the green.  Typically the short hitter doesn’t make a ton of birdies, but he is best friends with old man par.  He doesn’t get into a lot of trouble on the golf course, because he doesn’t hit it far enough into the s#!t.  The short hitter is crafty.  He hits great wedge shots, and can get it up and down from anywhere.  What he lacks in brute strength he makes up for with golf brains.

The long ball hits the ball a country mile.  He hits SW from 150 yards out with intentions of getting it on the green.  More often than not the short game of the long ball hitter is not his best strong suit.  He eats par 5’s alive, and has more two putt birdies than anyone should brag about.  Par 4’s don’t scare him because he is typically hitting half shots and punches into those 375 yard holes.  The long ball hitter though is wild, he gets into trouble and he can make a big number or two.  However, because he hits it so far the par 5’s play like par 4’s and the medium to short length par 4’s he is trying to drive or can hit pitch shots into it.

The long ball hitter plays a roller coaster of a game ~ lots of birdies followed up by many bogeys.  The short knocker typically plays very steady and makes a lot of pars.  No matter how you look at it 18 pars is the same score as 9 birdies and 9 bogeys.  The short hitter can manage a course just as easily as the long hitter, they just do it in a different way.  The long ball hitter works on hitting his driver more consistently in the fairway.  While the short hitter works on his short game.  I am a firm believer that the best players in the world have characteristics of the long and the short hitter.

In a study done on the PGA Tour with shotlink data: approach shots from 125 yards from primary rough finished 27 feet from the hole on average.  The same study showed that eqar02_equipment_drivers_290shots in the fairway from 150-175 yards finished on average 27 feet 9 inches from the hole.  The long hitter is going to get it about as close on average from the rough as the short hitter is from the fairway 25-50 yards behind him.  What we all have to watch out for is the long hitter who hits it in the fairway.

The long and the short of it is (YUP PUN INTENDED)~ play to your strengths.  If you are a short hitter, don’t think about hitting par 5’s in two or how far you have into the hole.  Work on your short game, work on keeping it the fairway, and get the job done on the greens.  For the long hitter work on keeping that driver on the planet and for the most part in the fairway.  Work on half wedge shots, and course management.  Instead of trying to bang that driver on the short par 4 with OB right and water left, hit a 5 iron sw.  Course management is something that all golfers can benift from.

None of us can change who we are.  The short hitters are not going to find some secret to all of the sudden turn them into a long hitter, and the long hitters are never going to be as crafty as the short hitters.  Play to your strengths and remember why golf is so great…there is not a spot on the score card to describe the number you got on the hole, just a spot for the number.  All that really matters is how many not how you got the job done.

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