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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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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Why we play golf

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I played golf the other day with friends. COVID-19 restrictions, but we got out. They will attest that I stunk, but that isn’t news or the basis for this piece.

Normally that kind of golfing experience has me in borderline depression searching for a swing change that I know will allow me to play at my fantasy level. What was remarkably different was the pleasure. Being outside, sunshine, fresh air, joking with friends, enduring the glares from my partner. It was four hours that were singular in their positivity made more so by the daily media barrage of doom and being essentially quarantined for all other activities.

To start, one of the great things about golf is when you play, it requires total concentration—world events, personal issues are put on hold. You see, golf isn’t fun, it’s hard and that element is what brings us joy no matter how small our victories.

I’ve played the game for some 70 years and studied it for 40, working in the industry. One of my favorite exercises over the years has been to ask someone who played recently to describe their best shot of their previous round. Immediate answers flow accompanied by a smile or whimsical expression. Whether it’s a tee shot, a chip, putt, it’s a moment of slaying the dragon. And this is golf. Not an 18 or even 9-hole score—one shot, immediate recall and the reason to play again.

We find ourselves today bordering on panic—daily feeds from the media, warning us, frightening us. For those who play the game, it is a needed respite. There have been some articles, and I’m sure more coming, about what will happen in the distant morning. Massive unemployment, lost wages, and crashing investment portfolios, a small sample. Sadly, the media is going to have bad news to emphasize for months to come and there is no question that some of the collateral damage will be human lives and financial well-being.

It’s easy to sit and critique humans making decisions. But when asked the question about affecting lives now or in the future, it’s way more complex. Political expediency focuses on the now knowing there will be a pivot down the road.

What does all this have to do with golf? The game provides an instant middle ground. People can have four hours in the sun and fresh air and the difficulty involved forces them to temporarily shelve daily tribulations. Even with reduced course services as a precaution, just the chance to go to bed at night knowing the weather looks great and you can escape to the course for a few hours…it’s something that brightens one’s outlook.

So, I’m championing the playing of golf, while accepting various related restrictions. I’m championing a few hours where we can forget the drama, the panic, and get our butts kicked by a little white ball. And when done, we’ll make arrangements to play again.

Oh yes, now that the internet is overflowing with tips from golf teaching experts, I really need to play, because I have this new move that is guaranteed, guaranteed, to produce 12 more yards off the tee. You see, it all has to do with the position of the shaft vs. the left knee and…

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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