If you’re like most amateur golfers, chances are you want to hit more greens and have more birdie putts. And I’m all for that strategy. But before teaching you strategies to do that, it’s important to understand your “benchmark” of greens number based on your handicap.
Because here’s the thing, so many golfers get mad when they miss a green or only have 5-6 birdie putts per round. But depending on your handicap, that might be equal or above the average number per round.
Don’t believe me? Check out the PGA Tour averages first to better understand what’s realistic and what is a pipe dream. I’ll also help you understand your benchmark and five ways to find the putting surface more often.
Green in Regulation Definition
Before we dive in, you might be thinking… so what is a green in regulation (also abbreviated GIR) anyways?
This is a popular statistic to track for professional golfers and amateur golfers alike. Regulation means hitting in the number required (or less). You get a GIR as a regulation statistic if you hit:
- A par 3 in one shot (or a hole in one).
- A par 4 in two shots or less. Yes, driving the green in one counts too!
- A par 5 in three shots or less.
- A par 6 in four or fewer strokes. Believe it or not, but there are some golf courses with par 6’s.
Then, if you have two strokes on the green after hitting on in regulation, you’ll be making par. Or, drain the putt for a birdie or eagle.
As you will learn in this post, this statistical category is so important in shooting lower scores.
Tour Averages For Greens in Regulation
When researching this article, it’s pretty incredible to learn the PGA Tour averages for greens in regulation. Because if you’re like me, you probably think they average 70% or more, regardless of distance.
But it’s just not the case…
The Tours rank golfers based on all sorts of stats from fairways, putting, scrambling, sand saves and more.
Here’s the thing…
These are the best players in the world and yet, they still miss a lot more greens than the casual viewer might realize.
Let’s break it down by distances first.
PGA Tour Approach Shot Statistics (GIR Percentage)
This information is gathered from the PGA Tour:
- 200+ yards = 40% of greens. When they do hit the green from 200 plus yards, the average proximity to the hole is 54 feet from 225-250 yards. And 43 feet from the hole between 200-225 yards. For most golfers, this should be a big eye-opener. If you’re over 200 yards and hit the green, good for you because less than half of professional players do!
- 175-200 yards = 53% of greens. From under 200 yards, PGA Tour players hit just a little more than half of the greens and when they do, they average 34 feet from the hole.
- 150-175 yards = 63% of greens. From this range, players hit the green 10% more the last category, but still average 27 feet from the hole.
- 125-150 yards = 69% of greens. And when they do hit the green, they are still 23 feet away from the hole. This is a surprising proximity number to me since most players have a wedge or 9 iron (at most) from this range.
- 100-125 yards = 74 % of greens. This is another crazy stat as the pros only have a wedge of sorts from this distance and only hit the green 3 or 4 times! Not to mention, the average distance to the hole is still 20 feet.
- Less than 100 yards = 81% of greens. Finally, players from short range on the course average 17 feet from the pin between 75-100 yards and 15 feet from 50-75 yards.
The GIR percentage for each distance from the pros should make even the worst golfer have a little hope. If guys on the major tours can’t get the golf ball on the green constantly, then recreational golfers won’t either. And that’s okay!
As long as you keep working on your short game and have mostly two putts on the putting green, you can score well.
Let’s break down the average green in regulation numbers for amateurs next.
Why Your GIR is Crucial to Your Score
Greg “the Shark” Norman once said, “Happiness is a long walk with a putter.” And he’s 100% right.
It’s a great feeling when you hit your ball on the green as you eye the birdie or eagle putt from the fairway. Generally speaking, when you hit the green, it should mean a lower score and as important, less stress.
Because if you miss the green, all kinds of bad things can happen. Thick rough, deep bunkers, and all kinds of other obstacles the golf Gods throw at us.
But the numbers for amateurs for average green in regulation on the course might surprise you too:
- 25-29 handicap = 3 greens
- 20-24 handicap – 3.5 greens
- 15-19 handicap: 5.1 greens
- 10-14 handicap: 6.9 greens
- 6-9 handicap: 8.5 greens
- 3-5 handicap: 10.2 greens
- 0-2 handicap: 11.8 greens
- +3 to +1 handicap: 12.6 greens
- Tour average: 11.7 greens
Essentially, if you shoot over a 100, you will only hit a few greens. If you shoot in the 90s, you will average less than five greens. If you shoot it in the 80s, you will average about seven greens. And if you shoot in the 70s, you will average about 10 greens.
Also, don’t let the Tour average green in regulation number fool you either. Those guys are playing much longer courses in high stakes environments… often needing birdies to win or make the weekend.
How to Hit More Greens in Golf – 5 Strategies For More GIR
Hitting greens typically means less stress and in general, an average lower stroker average. Even if you’re a world-class putter, your putting can’t make up for poor iron play on a consistent basis. The key is to increase your GIR stroke as much as possible to set yourself up for success.
Now that you have a better understanding of how many greens the pros hit and why they’re crucial to your score… let’s get into some tips. I’m confident that when you use all five of these tips, you’ll hit additional greens in regulation than ever before.
1. Hit More Fairways (Improve Your Tee Shot Game)
If you want to hit more greens in regulation, you need to give yourself the best opportunity to do so with quality tee shots. Because if you’re constantly playing from the thick stuff or behind trees, improving your GIR number is nearly impossible.
Especially for everyday amateur players, who aren’t as skilled with recovery shots as low handicap or scratch golfers. For skilled players, hitting fairways isn’t as important because they usually have a consistent enough swing to get on or near the green from the rough.
But for the everyday golfer, a solid tee ball will help a ton. It will usually mean an easier next shot to the putting green by avoiding fairway bunkers and other trouble off the tee. Because remember, if you hit in a hazard or out of bounds, you won’t be able to hit the GIR.
Plus, when you’re in the fairway, club selection is much easier too. Not having to worry about thick rough or flier lie will increase your chances of selecting the right club and finding the dance floor.
Here are a few tee box strategies to help you out.
Commit to a Shot
One of the reasons that a lot of players miss fairways is because they don’t commit to a shot off the tee. Instead, they hit and hope it finds the short grass. When in reality, you should have a clear starting point and end point for your golf ball before making a practice swing.
Imagine the shot for a second and feel a high draw, a low cut, or a straight shot you want to hit. Whether you pull it off or not, at least you had a high percentage shot in mind. This will help you on the course and commit in your mind the shot you want to play.
Have a Fairway Finder
I always suggest having some sort of “fairway finder” shot and/or club. This could either be a specific shot you play or a certain club that tends to find the short grass.
For some players, this might be a choke down, controlled driver swing. For others, it might be hitting a fairway wood or hybrid to find the fairway instead. Practice your fairway finder on the range so you have more consistency and confidence on the course.
Even Tiger Woods had a fairway finder, he called it the stinger and here is how to hit the stinger shot.
Plan Your Third Shot
Another tip to help you get on in regulation and have an easy two putts (or less) is to plan your third shot on Par 5s better. Sometimes that means going for it so you can get a short chip, while other times it means laying back and going for it in three.
Par 5s, despite being the longest holes, are the best chances for birdies. Set yourself up by thinking one shot ahead, so your third shot gives you the best opportunity.
2. Nail Your Pre-Shot Routine
Hitting fairways will generally help you hit more greens. But once you’re in the fairway, it’s important to have a solid pre-shot routine to lock in your approach shot. Otherwise, you’re more likely to waste epic drives and feel like you didn’t take advantage of a great tee shot.
Plus, your pre-shot routine will help you:
- Find the right distances.
- Evaluate weather conditions.
- Choose the right golf club to hit.
- Create a solid approach shot strategy.
- Pick an ideal target and best place(s) to miss.
- Stay calm under pressure and give yourself the best chance to putt for birdie.
A pre-shot routine will help with every single club in the bag. The more automatic you can make your routine, the easier it will be to go “unconscious” and into a flow state.
Just like training your swing, make sure that you practice your pre-shot routine as well.
3. Know Your Distances For Your Second Shot
Another huge part of hitting more greens every round is knowing your distances for each golf club. Because you could hit a great tee ball and have an awesome routine, but miss the green if you leave your second shot short or long. Then you’re scrambling to get it up and down and save par.
Sure, we’re all humans and bound to hit some shots thin or fat and miss the putting surface. But there is nothing worse than hitting a good shot and missing the GIR because you didn’t know your distances for each club.
Make sure to minimize this mistake by spending time on the range and during casual rounds getting to know your distances. The easiest way to do this is with a launch monitor, as it will tell you total distance and a lot more for each shot you hit. You can also use your rangefinder to hit targets on the range to better understand your distances.
As you become more advanced, try to have several distances with each club too. This will help you hit more greens because you’ll have more shots in the bag. Whether you’re uphill/downhill, playing in wind, or cold temperatures, you will have a shot for it.
4. Aim for the Fat Part of the Green
The PGA Tour stats showed one thing to me above all else – when players hit the green, they’re not that close! Think about the GIR percentage…
- From 200+ yards they only less than 50% of the greens and still have 40 plus feet on average!
- From 150 yards, they hit a little over 60% of the greens and still have 20 plus feet.
- And from inside 100 yards, they still don’t average inside 10 feet.
So what’s the point?
If the best players in the world don’t throw darts all day (and they get paid millions of dollars to play golf), why should you?
The easiest way to hit more greens is to forget the flag entirely. Aim for the widest part of the green and I bet you will be astounded by your green in regulation numbers.
Will your playing buddies give you grief from time to time? Probably, but I bet you will also be the guy who takes their money at the end of the round too.
By aiming at the fat part of the green, you will not only hit more greens, but also short side yourself less often. So even if you miss the green, you will have an easier up and down too and not need your short game on fire every round. Not to mention, hitting greens at or above regulation percentage can help your confidence from tee to green.
As you get into wedges and short irons, then you can maybe aim more towards the flag. But for anything longer than a short iron, aim for the middle, accept a 20-30 foot putt, and keep the momentum going.
5. Track Your Stats
Finally, to hit more greens, it’s super important to track your stats. This way you can learn more about your game and figure out how to practice more efficiently. Since most of us only have so much time to work on our game, it’s important to spend it on your weaknesses.
When you track your stats, you will learn if you need to improve on the putting surface, work on your short game, long irons or hit more fairways. When tracking your round on the course, make sure to:
- Include a statistical category for fairways hit, greens in regulation, up/down percentage, and number of putts.
- Track consistently so you can get averages and practice more efficiently between rounds.
- Notate your common miss-hit as it can be used to manage your miss and quickly improve your score.
Bonus Tip: Get Better on the Putting Surface
The bonus tip isn’t about hitting greens, as the first five tips will help with that a ton. But this tip is preaching the importance of putting when you get on the dance floor.
Because there is not much more frustrating than hitting a bunch of greens and scoring poorly due to bad putting. Trust me, I’ve been there myself more times than I can count.
Putting is the not so secret part about scoring well. But I think a misunderstanding that so many golfers have is how many putts they “should” make.
PGA Tour Putting Averages
The PGA Tour average is 28.95 putts per round.
Basically, if you can keep it under 30 putts, it is usually going to be a good scoring day for most golfers.
But proximity to the hole plays a huge role in making sure you avoid three putts. Check out the 2021 putting averages too for the average professional golfer:
- 35+ Feet: .32% make percentage
- 30-35 Feet: .60% make percentage
- 25-30 Feet: .88% make percentage
- 20-25 Feet: 12% make percentage
- 15-20 Feet: 18% make percentage
- 10-15 Feet: 29% make percentage
- 5-10 Feet: 53% make percentage
- 3-5 Feet: 87% make percentage
When you hit it closer, the odds of a putt dropping are more in your favor. And the best way to give yourself more quality looks is to use the five tips from above.
Also, here are a few more additional stats that might surprise you:
- 1 Putts Per Round = 7.15
- 2 Putts Per Round = 10.08
- 3 Putts Per Round = .54 (less than one 3-putt per round)
- Avg Distance of Birdies = 9.4 feet
- Avg Distance of Eagles = 16.8 feet
FAQs About Greens in Regulation
Do you have more questions about hitting greens so you can shoot lower scores? If so, hopefully our questions and answers below can help you out even more.
What is a good percentage of greens in regulation?
It depends on your handicap and skill level more than anything else. Some players might average a few greens in regulation. While others might have a green in regulation number between 6-9 and highly skilled players will be 10 or more.
Who has the best greens in regulation on the PGA Tour?
If you’ve ever wondered “Who hits the most greens on tour” it’s a great question. The list is constantly changing on a weekly basis, but the 2021 Tour average is 64%.
That means that PGA Tour players average roughly 11 of 18 greens per round (the European Tour is about the same too). But the breakdown by distances above are a much better way to understand. Since overall distance to the pin has a much bigger impact on total score.
What’s the PGA Tour record for greens hit?
There have been tons of times when players on the Tour, LPGA Tour, and European Tour have 18/18 greens per round. This is an incredible feat in itself and obviously requires tremendous ball striking.
And the four round tournament record is 69 of 72 greens according to the Tour’s website! Here is what they said about this crazy good performance… “As for greens in regulation, the record is 69 of 72 greens for a four-round event. The record belongs to Peter Jacobson (1995 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) and Jerry Kelly (1996 Walt Disney World Oldsmobile Classic).”
How impressive is that GIR stat? Imagine only having three attempts for saving par and 69 birdie attempts in four days.
But another amazing record is Tiger Woods from his historical season in 2000. What many have dubbed the greatest golf of his career, during that year he found 75.15% of all greens.
This is the highest GIR in regulation percentage ever since the tour began tracking GIR. His average score was also a tour record as well! Needless to say, Tiger Woods’ golf game that year was something we’ll likely never see again.
Does fringe count as a green in regulation?
No, the fringe does not count as green in regulation. Even though you can (and should) putt a majority of your fringe balls, they technically don’t count as a green on your stat sheet. But in general, putt the ball from the fringe to shoot better scores.
Final Thoughts on Greens in Regulation
Hopefully these stats will show that whenever you’re watching golf on TV, it’s basically the highlight reel. Sure, you will see the occasional bad shot on the big stage (like Ian Poulter hitting shanks) but it’s not often with pro golfers. Instead, they’re showing you the longest drives, the tightest approach shots, and the best putts.
In reality though, the majority of Tour players (both PGA and LPGA Tour) do not get it as close as you think, if they do even find the green. Which should be pretty eye-opening for the casual golfer. And if anything, it should make you feel better about your game by creating realistic expectations about your GIR number for the round.
So instead of going flag hunting 18 holes in a row, use the five tips to set yourself up for success:
- Hit more fairways by getting a go-to “fairway finder” shot and solid tee box strategy.
- Create a solid pre-shot routine to help you pick the right club and focus on the target.
- Know your distances as if you were Justin Rose or some other pro you love. A launch monitor is the easiest way to learn your distances for each club and get the ball on the green more often than not.
- Aim for the fat part of the green 90% of the time (or more). Unless you have a wedge or short iron, opt for the middle part of the largest area of the green.
- Tracks your stats so you can learn to improve your first shot and practice efficiently.
The higher your green in regulation number, the less stress you will have and likely much fewer strokes every round too.