How many “greens in regulation” should you be hitting based on your golf handicap?

Golf commentators talk about greens in regulation, but what do they actually mean, and how is this relevant to the average club golfer?  A “green in regulation,” also abbreviated to GIR, is a statistical category on the PGA Tour that tracks the number of greens the professional golfer reached within the allowed amount of strokes.

How do they work out the “allowed number of shots” to reach the green?  Well, the pro is allowed two putts at each hole, therefore subtract two shots from par and you’ve got the number of shots he/she should reach the green in.  So, if Leona Maguire is playing a par 4, she should be on the green with her second shot, or if Rory McIlroy is playing a par 5, he should be on the green in 3.  Kieran Hagan playing Dungannon’s 2nd, a par 3, should land on the green with his tee shot (and frequently does).

A quick search online revealed that Jim Furyk is top of the GIR leaderboard with 81.94%, Tommy Fleetwood is in 7th position with 77.31% whilst Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry are further behind with 72.22%.  Bear in mind that these statistics are for the current season and it’s only just started. (Click here to see the leaderboard)

These percentages translated: in an average round Jim Furyk has hit an average of almost 15 greens in regulation (14.74), Tommy Fleetwood has his hit almost 14 (13.92) whilst Rory and Shane have hit 13.  Another way of looking at it is:  Jim has missed only 3, Tommy has missed 4 and Rory and Shane have missed 5.

Take a look at the graph below, produced, a strokes-gained analysis website.

You may be wondering why the PGA Tour professionals don’t hit as many greens in regulation as the +3 to +1 and 0 to 2 category amateurs. claims this is down to the dramatic difference in the length of the courses played by professionals and amateurs.  It may also be due to the fact that pros tend to attack more pins and go for birdies while amateurs typically learn to play to the centre of a green for more consistency.

What about you?  Are you hitting more or fewer greens in regulation than the average for your handicap?  I was surprised when I saw this graph, as the figures are lower than I’d expected, mind you, I don’t honestly know how many GIR I hit in an average round so I’d better count the next time I’m out… I may be disappointed!