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The myth behind the “one-way miss”

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We often hear from professional golfers how important it is to have a “one way miss’”and to be able to “take one side of the golf course out of play” in order to drive the ball more effectively. However, statistical evidence indicates that this is not quite an accurate depiction of how the best golfers in the world effectively drive the ball.

A metric that I have explored quite frequently is “miss bias.” This is the percentage of time a player misses a fairway right or left. What I have found is that there is no direction that is better to miss the fairway. Having a right miss bias is equal to having a left miss bias. Typically, what is more important is the ratio of the miss bias.

I feel the best indicator of driving success is to look at the top players in my “Driving Effectiveness” ranking. Driving Effectiveness is based on algorithm that considers the following metrics:

  • Driving distance
  • Fairway percentage
  • Average distance from the edge of fairway (on drives that miss the fairway)
  • Percentage of fairway bunkers hit
  • Missed fairways and other (shots that end up in the trees, water, O.B, etc.)

Here is a table with the current top-20 players in Driving Effectiveness and their Miss Bias.

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 3.28.23 PM

As the chart shows, 13 of the top-20 ranked players have a miss bias that is no more than 55 percent either way.

Now, let’s look at this year’s players with miss biases that are greater than 60 percent and their rankings in Driving Effectiveness.

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 3.28.33 PM

Tour golfers can strike the ball well off the tee with a large miss bias, however, not one of these players on the list is ranked in the top 20 in Driving Effectiveness. Furthermore, let’s take a look at the players on that list that played last on the Tour last season.

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 3.28.42 PM

The chart shows that if the player’s miss bias in 2012 was less than 60 percent, they were typically more effective off the tee. Rod Pampling, Rory McIlroy, John Huh and Tiger Woods are examples of golfers that had a miss bias less than 60 percent in 2012 and also drove the ball much more effectively as well.

What the data tells me is that trying to taking one side “out of play” is not great advice if you wish to be an effective driver of the ball. There are likely too many holes where the golfer has to favor the right side or the left side.

What I’ve seen from my tour players is that having a “one-way miss” is actually more about having a “one-way curve.” If a golfer tend to hit a draw with their stock swing, they’ll be best served to continue to hit draws or straight balls off the tee. When many golfers try to alternate between draws and fades, however, they often risk getting into trouble and being less effective off the tee.

If a player has a more extreme miss bias, that tends to indicate a common “big miss” that they cannot rid themselves of. And that miss may cost them down the line.

I recommend that amateur golfers forget about having a “one-way miss.” They need to concern themselves with getting the ball to curve one way, and identify that common “big miss” and work to make it a smaller one.

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at ProGolfSynopsis@yahoo.com or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Pingback: Tips in Beating a Pro Golfer – Aymerich Golf Club

  2. TheFightingEdFioris

    Sep 4, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Cool article by the way. Always enjoy your writing.

  3. TheFightingEdFioris

    Sep 4, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    No look into what they actually scored on the hole and/or the actual distance they missed the fairway by? Were Tiger’s driving stats better in 2012 when he missed it left more than right? Apparently… But did the left miss cost him a shot in a few tournaments? Absolutely (see 2012 PGA when Rory missed left off the tee basically zero times)
    I am not disagreeing, you’ve clearly done a lot more homework on this than I have. But would you agree Rich that the biggest advantage to feeling that you have a one way miss is mental? To stand on a tee box and know you can swing as hard as you want and not even sniff the OB left, or not worry about blocking it high and right.

  4. Jtriscott

    Aug 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I think this is pretty simple…

    There is usually a side on the hole that is a much better miss (ie, hazard, OB, etc).

    For the RH golfer:

    If the good miss is RIGHT, I just weaken my grip and make sure I am not going to HOOK the ball.

    If the good miss is LEFT, I strengthen my grip and make sure I am not going to SLICE the ball.

    It works all the time, 60% of the time!

    • Geoffrey

      Apr 9, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      Is there any way to interpret a players extreme left vs right miss tendency to determine if a player’s primary shot is a draw vs a fade?

  5. Mike

    Jul 31, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    This article could not be more on point! The best players know which direction their ball will curve on less than perfect shots. When they talk about eliminating one side of the course, what they mean is eliminating one direction the ball will curve on their poor shots. And Matteo, as a club fitter you should know that tour players have their own clubs built with exactly this in mind. Nice article.

  6. CT

    Jul 31, 2013 at 11:22 am

    “What I’ve seen from my tour players is that having a “one-way miss” is actually more about having a “one-way curve.” ”

    You should make that the title of the article, and the first sentence summary to set the writing, because this information is great stuff. Because that what it is – it’s all about the favored curve.

    • Richie Hunt

      Jul 31, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      Thanks for the kind words. I had a little difficulty coming up with a good title.

  7. Dustin

    Jul 30, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    The one way miss is a draw or fade. I can miss a fade down the left and a draw down the right. Point is I want a shot that I know will fade or draw.

  8. Steve

    Jul 30, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Good article…working with tour players it makes perfect sense. Keep sharing 🙂

  9. Brian

    Jul 30, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    While the data is interesting, I think the conclusion you are drawing from it is a bit heavy. Just because a player misses in one direction more often off the tee, doesn’t mean they are neccesarily trying to miss in that direction. And, in my opinion, a player, especially a pro, who is truly trying to “miss” in one direction would see something more like 70/30 at the worst, not 60/40. With that said, from the pro golf that I’ve watched in person, most pros are paying no attention to the old addage and just hitting towering bombs right down the pipe. With the low spin driver and ball technology available, and the caliber of swings, it just seems to be the norm. Perhaps the approach data is more rellevant?

    Also, the math behind what you consider a “myth” is that if you can eliminate one side of the course, your bigger misses are less threatening. Think about it. If you have a 20 yard wide fairway, and you know you won’t miss left, you can aim at the left side of the fairway and afford a 0-20 yard miss to the right side of the fairway. If you have no bias, then you aim down the middle, and you can afford a 0-10 yard miss in either direction.

    And let’s be honest, nobody, not even the pros, can truly eliminate one side of the course. If a RH golfer has a trusty fade, at some point they are going to double cross and yank one left. That’s the true definition of a miss, otherwise it’s just a shot shape.

    • Richie Hunt

      Jul 31, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Brian,

      I agree with what you are saying about the player ‘not trying to miss in that direction.’ I think those with a larger miss bias are likely struggling with a shot that does not prevent them from missing towards that bias.

  10. Dixie Flatline

    Jul 30, 2013 at 9:58 am

    I think the author is taking the phrase “one way miss” and “taking one side of the golf course out of play” too literally. Those phrases are used in a discussion of ball flight off the tee, not where the ball actually lands.

    • Richie Hunt

      Jul 30, 2013 at 10:05 am

      Perhaps that is the case and I can respect your opinion on that. I know that when discussing this with some golfers, even some of my Tour clients, they think of it in very literal terms.

      The main point I was trying to convey is that the miss biases on Tour are not as pronounced as some people tend to think it is and those with more pronounced miss biases tend to not hit it as well off the tee.

  11. steff

    Jul 30, 2013 at 9:23 am

    A one way miss has nothing to do with the fairway! It depends on were you aim and the knowlage the if you miss it wont go left or right.

    Example: You have OB left but you open up the hole the more left you aim.
    This is were a “one way miss” comes in handy. You can aim close to the OB and you feel confident that if you hit it good it will go were you aim. But a miss will never go OB! A bad shot will allways go to the right and not OB.

  12. Jokke

    Jul 30, 2013 at 3:38 am

    I totally agree with the above comments that the data used in this article has nothing to do with one-way misses. None whatsoever.

  13. stephenf

    Jul 30, 2013 at 3:33 am

    It may be that the secondary goal of “taking one side out of play” isn’t particularly valid, but the primary reason to establish a go-to consistent curve is simply that you’ll have the whole width of a fairway to miss (or something close to it) rather than only half the fairway (as happens if you don’t know which way you’re likely to curve it, and you have to hit it down the middle and hope for the best).

  14. Mateo

    Jul 30, 2013 at 1:33 am

    Wow. utterly pointless article.
    This dude must be a 25 handicap.
    Eliminating a side of the golf course has nothing to do with what side of the fairway you miss. It has to do with the 15 of variables he obviously will never understand.
    As a teacher, a club fitter, a golf nut, and a scratch player with years of tourney experience……………. I advise everyone to disregard this article.

    • Richie Hunt

      Jul 30, 2013 at 10:01 am

      I fully stand behind what I have written.

      The article is discussing about missing either left or right. The ‘one way miss’ is often described as if you miss, you miss one direction or the other (left or right).

      As we can see, once the ratio is greater than 55/45 the player tends to become less effective off the tee. Particularly as the ratio gets to 60/40 or even a greater discrepancy.

      I even stated in this very article that there is no difference in somebody who tends to miss left versus misses right. It’s the size of the ratio that matters more.

      Why?

      I know the obvious variables that can come into play with the way a hole is designed. But the *point* that has been missed is that in general, Tour players do not have very pronounced miss biases and the ones that do; generally do not drive the ball as well.

      And I do not think it’s fair to assume that I’m a 25 handicapper just like it would not be fair for me to assume that you are a poor instructor because you were unable to comprehend my obvious points.

    • Nick

      Jul 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      Haha, you must be trolling dude. Either that or you like to run your mouth about people you don’t know.

      • Nick

        Jul 30, 2013 at 4:36 pm

        My previous comment was directed at Mateo if that wasn’t clear.

  15. Mat

    Jul 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Very low correlation here.

    Imagine a hole that goes water-rough-fw-rough. Player aims centre-right to ensure that only a left miss would be a strong left miss to get wet. Whether the player hits the fairway or not is almost irrelevant; it’s that the ball isn’t wet.

    If you’re not sure why, flip the hole; rough-fw-rough-water. It’s effectively even.

    If you want to study misses like this, correlate the number of penalising hazards a player hits vs their average fairways hit. In other words, do they put it in the water more because they ignore the one-way miss. Or, an even stronger cause-effect is to see how often players miss to the opposite side of water in the rough.

    Bryce Molder, at 66%, simply means he misses right more often when he misses at a rate of not quite 1 in 3. Assuming he hits 8 of 14 in a round, that means that he’s going to miss 4 right, 2 left. Just one shot per round would flip that, and he’s the worst there is.

    I’m not buying this one as-is.

    • Richie Hunt

      Jul 30, 2013 at 10:10 am

      Mat,

      I think you’re missing the point that players with more pronounced miss biases tend to be less effective off the tee. I also point out players like Tiger, Rory, John Huh and Rod Pampling as players whose miss biases became much more pronounced this year and they are now less effective off the tee.

      My Driving Effectiveness algorithm takes into consideration shots that go in hazards (i.e. Missed Fairway – Other %) and fairway bunkers hit % as well as Avg. Distance from Edge of Fairway. I could certainly look at the correlation just between miss bias and Missed Fairway Other and fairway bunker %, but the big picture here is that when it comes to all of the main factors that relate to effectiveness off the tee; the bigger miss biases tend to make golfers less effective off the tee.

  16. Brian

    Jul 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I think you missed the point of having a one way miss. It’s not so much which side you miss it on, it’s that is usually the same side that you miss it on.

    The point is to always miss right, or always miss left. The side doesn’t matter, just that you aren’t missing left half the time and right half the time. These stats have absolutely nothing to do with the point of a one way miss.

    • Nick

      Jul 30, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Did you read his article? He’s saying that while people say exactly what you said, a statistical review of the best drivers shows most have no more than a five percent favoritism towards missing on one side as opposed to the the other, which many who have a much stronger statistical favoratism for one side (i.e. the guys who seem to be the best able to take one side or the other out of play) are not ranking high on driving effectiveness.

      I think the issue is that a one sided driver of the ball will simply accrue less penalties, not necessarily find the fairway the best. You can find more fairways but I’ll take multiple shots out of the rough over a rinsed tee shot or god forbid OB or LB and a retee. Obviously the goal would be to find the fairway, but you can drastically improve your scoring by cutting out penalties if your game features a penality drive or two a round. You could esily be shaving upwards of two – four strokes on eliminating two bad swings that find water and force a drop way back or land OB.

    • Andy

      Aug 8, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      You didn’t even read the article dude.

  17. Jeff

    Jul 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    on most golf holes, there is a side that is a worse miss than others. i think in general you see that professional golfers play the odds more than anything else. if there is OB left and lateral hazard right, a right miss is better, but that could just as easily be switched. therefore, having a “one side out” that ignores the particular hole seems worse to me than trying to hit a shot for the hole. i play (and i think most pros play) to a spot that is safe and then work the ball away from the worst trouble. whether it’s right or left, stay away from the worst trouble.

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Bogey Golf

Bogey Golf: Holiday Gift Guide

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Pat and Larry discuss their holiday wish lists talk about the Peloton commercial controversy, discuss how Larry is awful at gambling and do a deep dive into the Presidents Cup as only they can!

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Leaving golf comics for a higher purpose: Rick Newell, LITT and M.U.S.T.

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Rick Newell drew the best golf comic strip ever. No debate. No competition. The four main characters of Life In The Trap, and the troubles they faced (in both golf and life) mimicked our lives in an eerily-accurate fashion. And then, the strip came to an end. Newell and his wife, living in Seattle, were drawn to a higher purpose. The mentoring of urban youth and teens was too large a challenge to ignore. Think about that for a moment: take on not one child, but hundreds, with one goal—to contribute to society. We caught up with Rick this fall, and he was generous with his time. Total transparency: I made my donation last week. Click the logo before, while, or after, reading the interview, and help MUST make hope a reality.

Ron Montesano: How did LITT start?

Rick Newell: My uncle Jerry, who is a great golfer, gave me the idea way back in college (I turn 50 next year). I thought it was a pretty good idea since the niche would be big enough and there would be a lot of material to go with. Plus it would give me an excuse to play. I took a year off in between my junior and senior years of college and traveled through New Zealand and Australia for nine months. I took my sketchbook with me and worked on the characters as I traveled. When I got back I continued to slowly work on the comic strip and started to see if anyone would publish it. A black and white version of Life in the Trap was picked up by a paper in Florida for a time but it did not last and I stopped making the comic strip.

RM: How big did LITT grow?

RN: In 2002 I had a pretty bad personal meltdown. It was the perfect storm in many ways and things got pretty bad. I even started thinking about taking my own life. As I put my life back together I resolved to do the things that make me feel alive and make me feel awake and to not really care what anyone else thought. Life in the Trap was one of the things that had made me feel alive so I resurrected it. Once I added color and put it on the computer, it took off. I made the website (http://lifeinthetrap.com/) which provided an easy way for editors to preview the comic and it was also an easy way for them to receive the most recent comics for the month.

After the website was up, I started to email editors of magazines, websites and newsletters to see if they would be interested in publishing Life in the Trap. The response was good right away and the circulation rapidly grew. At its peak, Life in the Trap was read by over 1 million people in different golf publications around the world.

RM: Who inspired which characters?

RN: Life in the Trap has four main characters: Duff, Clay, Putts and Rosie. They are all combinations of people I know. Duff is named after my dad but his golf game is more like mine. My dad’s nickname was ‘Duff’ when he was young so the relation to a golf ‘duffer’ was obvious.

Clay is named after the man I was named for. My dad played college basketball with an African American guy named Clayborn Richard Jones. My parents named me Richard and I gave one of my characters the name Clay because of him. The inequities African Americans face have been on my heart since I was young because of whom I was named for. Duff is black in the comic because of Clayborn. Clayborn died of asthma before I was born so I never got to meet him but I have always been proud to bear his name.

My mom’s middle name is Rose, which she hates by the way, so Rosie is named after her. Not named after her because she hates the name but because I thought Rosie sounds like a good character and because I love my mom. I knew one of the characters had to be married because of all of the funny material that would be generated between spouses due to the game of golf.

Putts rounds out the crew. One of the characters had to be pretty bad at golf because so many people would be able to relate to him and and one character had to have a short fuse so I put those into one character. The love/hate relationship with golf defines Putts.

RM: What is your relationship and affinity for golf?

RN: My dad taught me golf so I have him to thank for all of the pain and suffering over the years. Just kidding… sort of. Our local course in Seattle was Jackson Park Golf Course. They have an executive course that we would play together and then we eventually graduated to the main course. I was not the easiest kid to raise, especially through my teens and early 20s, but I have very fond memories of playing golf with my dad on that course. I have never been a great golfer but it has always been a regular part of my life thanks to him.

RM: How can golf serve to make the world a better place?

RN: I read recently that if your household income is $50K or above you are in the top 1% of people on the planet. It might not seem like it to some, but we are a very wealthy nation. The average golfer’s household income is over $100K and there are about 24 million golfers in the U.S. That is a lot of wealth. In my opinion, with all of that wealth should come some responsibility. If every golfer in the U.S. picked a cause they cared about and devoted some time, resources and money to it then golfers could literally reshape the nation. There are so many amazing causes out there. Golfers should pick a cause that lights their fire and get behind it.

RM: What are you doing now?

RN: My background is in technology. I worked at big computer companies like Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Cingular. After my meltdown in 2002, I decided that I did not want to be in the IT industry anymore. It certainly did not make me feel alive or awake. Instead I took a job at an inner-city Boys and Girls Club here in Seattle. I worked there for seven years and it changed my life. My dad was a successful doctor so I grew up not needing anything. Working at the Boys and Girls Club showed me first hand what some families have to overcome to just survive, much less succeed.

During my time at the club I came to believe that the most urgent need in the urban core is positive male role models. I felt that if you could provide that it would help the most number of people. There are many complicated reasons for male absence from the family, so if you can help fill that gap moms would get support and kids have opportunities to flourish. The economy would also benefit. So we started a mentoring program called MUST (Mentoring Urban Students and Teens). MUST finds African American guys who are in college and pays them well to mentor African American guys who are genuinely in danger of dropping out of high school. It is a four-year mentoring program. The big idea is that the younger guys watch the older for four years and begin to think, ‘He comes from the same place I do. If he can do it… so can I!” We are now in our eighth year and it is working better than we thought. Youth that we know would have dropped out of high school are attempting college. It is amazing to watch their courage and determination.

The average high school dropout costs the nation $600,000 or more. Great prevention programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters are less expensive but focus on younger kids. Rehabilitation programs like juvenile detention centers are very expensive and do not have a great track record of successful rehabilitation. MUST is a premium intervention program that exists between prevention and rehabilitation. We find kids who are the most vulnerable before they hit high school and give them a lot of support. One of our mottos is that we will support you all the way through high school…no matter what!

RM: How can we help?

RN: Donations are always great but one of our three core values in fundraising is joy. MUST wants the people that partner with us to take joy in helping us out because we are doing good work. There is more than enough money in the world to solve most of its problems. Literally. If you do not find joy in giving to us then there are so many other great organizations out there doing incredible work. Find the organizations that are solving the problems that pull on your heart and get behind them.

The best way to help us is to get on our newsletter list and start to get to know us. We put a lot of effort into our newsletters so current donors and supporters know what their efforts are supporting and see the difference they are helping. Come check us out and see if it would bring you joy to help us out.

The MUST mentoring model is more effective than we thought it would be. Because of its effectiveness we are now researching to see if the model would work in other communities that have high dropout rates. We are currently asking the Latinx community if they think our model might work for their youth. Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are also vulnerable youth groups here in Seattle. MUSTs goal is to one day have the MUST mentoring model in every major city in the U.S.

RM: Why did you stop creating LITT?

RN: I stopped because it did not make me feel alive anymore. I was working at the Boys and Girls Club and working other jobs to make ends meet and I just did not have time for it anymore. More than a million people were reading it but because I was giving it away for free, I did not make any money off it. Once it started to be a grind just to produce it, I stopped doing it. It is a great body of work that I am very proud of. I wanted to stop before the work I was proudly producing became compromised.

RM: What would it take to bring LITT back?

RN: We are considering bringing it back. Life is full so we will need to make sure. My wife and I have four sons and MUST obviously takes up a lot of time. We would want Life in the Trap to add to our family and MUST and not take away from it. Our oldest son fell in love with golf last year. He has been basketball, basketball, basketball up until high school and he was pretty good too. However, he joined the high school golf team his freshman year and now he loves it. Obsessed with it really. It might make sense to resurrect Life in the Trap.  MUST is a great cause and if we could get the same numbers of readers looking at Life in the Trap a percentage of them might want to follow MUST and help out. Who knows. Stay tuned to GolfWRX to find out!

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