Explaining the Two Meanings of 'Ball Striking' in Golf

Golfer Scott Jamieson strikes the ball during the Portugal Masters golf tournament
'Ball striking' is all about fairways and greens - as is the PGA Tour statistical category by that name. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Most simply put, "ball striking" is just a reference to the full swing in golf — shots played with woods, hybrids and irons. A golfer who is said to be a great ballstriker is one who excels at the full swing.

"Ball striking" is also a statistical category in professional golf. Let's take a look at both uses of the term, starting with ...

The General Meaning of 'Ball Striking'

A little more in-depth, ball striking refers to a golfer's ability to put the clubface on the ball at impact in the desired manner, time after time, and with great command. When you hear that this or that golfer is a great ballstriker, there is also the implication that the golfer can make the ball do what he or she wants — that the golfer possesses a great ability to "work the ball" (producing the desired amount of fade or draw, for example). Which goes back to the above: put the clubface on the ball at impact in the desired manner, time after time, and with great command.

Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino are often offered up as examples of the greatest ballstrikers because they were highly gifted at the full swing shots — they had extraordinary consistency in their swings, and were able, with great precision, to make the ball go where they wanted it to go.

For more discussion on this meaning of "ball striking," see "What is a 'good ballstriker' in golf?"

The Ball Striking Statistic in Pro Golf

The term "Ball Striking" is also the name of a statistical category tracked on some professional golf tours, including the PGA Tour. The stat is a measure of a golfer's combined abilities in driving and hitting greens.

To produce its Ball Striking rankings, the PGA Tour combines a golfer's ranking in two other statistical categories, Total Driving and Greens in Regulation. Add a golfer's ranking in Total Driving and his ranking in GIR and you get his Ball Striking "points." But Total Driving itself is a combination of two other statistical categories, Driving Distance and Driving Accuracy. So it's actually a 3-step process to arrive at a PGA Tour golfer's Ball Striking standing.

Did you follow all that? Not to worry. Here's an example of adding it all up.

  • First, determine a golfer's Total Driving ranking. Let's say Golfer X is No. 53 in Driving Distance and No. 17 in Driving Accuracy. Fifty-three plus 17 is 70. That's 70 "points" for Total Driving. Where does that rank compared to other PGA Tour golfers? Fewer points are better, more points are worse. 
  • Let's say Golfer X's 70 points is good enough to rank him No. 14 in Total Driving. And he's No. 17 in Greens in Regulation (GIR). Now, Step 2: Combine his Total Driving ranking with his GIR ranking: 14 + 17 equals 31 Ball Striking "points."
  • Finally, compare Golfer X's 31 "points" to all other golfers' Ball Striking points. Where does he fall on the list? If 31 points is the fewest, then Golfer X is No. 1 in Ball Striking on the PGA Tour.

So: Determine Total Driving rankings; combine Total Driving and GIR rankings; compare that result to other golfers to get Ball Striking ranking.

The Ball Striking stat was introduced by the PGA Tour in 1980, and the very first champion ballstriker — by a wide margin — was Jack Nicklaus. Not surprisingly, the year Tiger Woods won three majors (2000) he was No. 1 in ball striking. Nicklaus and Woods, in those years, both ranked No. 1 in Total Driving and No. 1 in GIR, so each had the best possible Ball Striking point total of two.