Matt Fitzpatrick knows his numbers – he knows them better than anybody else on tour. He’s tracked them religiously since his days as an amateur golfer. He knows that when he’s off, he’s two yards less accurate.

And he’s got some helpful advice for you.

Cracking the code

The 2022 US Open champion talked about it recently, and it’s called the five percent rule.

How Fitz’s 5% rule works

Imagine you’re on a golf hole, about 150 yards away from the hole. The pin is in the middle of the green, and there’s a scary bunker short that you don’t want to go in.

The question we posed to Fitzpatrick was about cover numbers (which you can learn more about right here): how much of a margin for your error, short or long, should golfers give themselves?

Fitzpatrick says that pros give themselves at least a five percent buffer:

“It depends obviously on the club, but probably the rule of thumb is if you within 5 percent of your distance, you’re doing pretty well. So at 150 yards, you’re looking at about eight yards short and long. That’d be my sort of rule of thumb for a top tour player – if you live in that zone for the rest of your life, you’ll be pretty happy.”

So if Fitzpatrick budgets for a five percent distance loss on mishits, that means if he’s 150 yards away from the green as we outlined in our previous example…

  • A five percent mishit distance loss on his 150-yard club would leave him 143 yards (and probably in the bunker)
  • Hitting your 160-yard club means a five percent mishit would leave you 152 yards (and right next to the pin).
  • Therefore, he should probably hit his 160-yard club.
Photo: Sean M. Haffey

Five percent is the rule of thumb for pros, but for the rest of us, we should probably factor in a bigger margin for error. Closer to eight or 10 percent, which would break down like this.

8% rule buffer

  • 200 yards – 8% = 184 yards
  • 175 yards – 8% = 161 yards
  • 150 yards – 8% = 138 yards
  • 125 yards – 8% = 115 yards
  • 110 yards – 8% = 101 yards

Either way, you can’t eliminate margin for error in golf, but you can learn to play it. That’s what playing smart is. And that’s what Fitzpatrick does so well.