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Taking the mystery out of Strokes Gained Putting



When I ask people about their games, inevitably most tell me that they are good putters. I like this answer, because to putt as well as you can, you must have confidence. But do these players really know what good putting is?

A statistic that has taken the PGA Tour by storm the past few years is called “strokes gained putting,” developed by Columbia University professor Mark Broadie. It is the best measure to gauge overall putting prowess that we have, far better than total putts, percentage-made statistics or total distance of holed putts. In this article, I hope to take the mystery out of the statistic and show you how you can use it to measure your own putting ability.

Strokes gained putting is the measure of how well someone putts compared to the field average, taking into account the length of the first putt. You then compare the number of actual putts taken to the average number of putts the field would take from those given distances. If the golfer putts better than the field, he would said to be “plus” strokes gained putting, and if he putts worse, he would be “minus.”

As an example from the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, the median percentage for putts made from four feet was 92 percent (Chesson Hadley, 89th out of 177). You could then say the expected stroke average, rounded to the nearest tenth, for a PGA Tour player from four feet would be 1.1. From eight feet, the median percentage of made putts was 52 percent, so the expected stroke average here would be approximately 1.5. If a Tour player’s first putt on the first hole was four feet and first putt on the second hole was eight feet, his expected stroke average for these two holes would be 2.6. If he took two putts, he gained .6 strokes on the field and if he took three, he lost .4 strokes.

To figure your own strokes gained putting prowess, measure the length of your first putt on every hole to the nearest foot, and record the expected number of strokes from there on your scorecard. Not being the tallest guy myself, I can measure relatively accurately using short steps of about two feet each. If you’re playing with others, and walking off your putts might be a problem, do your best to visually estimate the distance of your first putt, although being as precise as you can is ideal. Do not use putts from the fringe — only use first putts from on the green itself. The chart to use is as follows, based on the 2013-14 PGA Tour season:

strokes gained putting table

*This number is more difficult to precisely figure, as putts in this length category can vary wildly, but is a good estimate from 26 feet and longer.

At the end of the round, compare the number of actual putts taken to the expected number of strokes. This will give you your strokes gained putting number for the round. If you are minus (taking more putts than the expected average), don’t be too hard on yourself; after all, you are comparing yourself to a PGA Tour pro!

To compare yourself to those of your own skill level, a good estimate can be determined by adding six to your handicap index and multiplying that figure by 0.2. Take the result and add it to the expected number of strokes total for the round. For example, if your index is 14.0, adding six gives us 20.0. Multiply 20 by 0.2 and the result is four. In other words, a typical PGA Tour player (with a handicap index of +6.0) will putt about four strokes better, on average, than a 14-index golfer. This will be a much more realistic estimate of how well you putt for your skill level.

You can also use this method to determine from what lengths your putting might be strong or weak by figuring individually how well you putt from various distances, using several rounds. Don’t get too picky with this. Say you average 1.3 strokes from six feet, 1.9 strokes from seven feet and 1.5 strokes from eight feet. You’re still a very good putter in the 6-8 foot range.

Golf statistics have made tremendous leaps in the past 10 years, and even non-Tour players who don’t have ShotLink can use some of them. Strokes gained putting gives you a quantifiable way to truly determine how well you putt.

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Mark Harman is the national course director for the United States Golf Teachers Federation, the nation's second-largest organization of golf professionals. He has won 14 professional events overall and is a member of the World Golf Teachers Federation's Top 100 Teachers worldwide.



  1. Pingback: What exactly is ‘Strokes Gained Putting’? | Instruction | Compleat Golfer

  2. Rob

    Apr 21, 2015 at 8:46 am

    You guys obviously don’t play at Royal Melbourne then….a 6 footer there is often a 2.0

  3. Tom D.

    Apr 21, 2015 at 1:19 am

    Good article. I use a similar system, but with a much simpler chart. 0-6ft is a 1-putt. Over 6ft is a 2-putt. If I sink a 7-footer in 1 putt, that’s 1 stroke gained. If it takes me 2 putts to sink a 6-footer, that’s 1 stroke lost. You get the idea. Far more meaningful than a total putt count. Accounts for those holes where I chip it close and then sink a 2-footer. That would look like a 1-putt normally. With strokes gained/lost, it’s a 0 – nothing gained, nothing lost.

  4. Earl

    Apr 20, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Nice article and please don’t post this in the instructional forum. So much false info on there. It isn’t even funny anymore

  5. MJ

    Apr 20, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Does it factor in degree of difficulty of short putts and if your going to miss the cut by 8 shots. I think rather then charting the whole field it should be top 10 20 30 etc
    Anyone who makes a pga tour field has great talent but when the difference from 1st money to last money is 25 strokes it seems like a stat like that has many human elements that can’t be charted

  6. John

    Apr 20, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Great article. I hadn’t seen such a simple explanation of Strokes Gained putting before.

  7. Brutus

    Apr 20, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Good explanation of the strokes gained. I knew it had something to do with comparing one against the field, but the details were fuzzy until now. I don’t know about the add 6 to one’s index and multiply by 0.2 does for me. So a pro putts in your example 4 strokes better than a 14. So? it would be nice if a league records that, but play is slow enough that having them pace off their putts! Bottom line is one’s score still, not putts gained or lost.

  8. other paul

    Apr 19, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    I would green read like that guy if everyone else did it to. And I would putt like Michelle wie because it works, if I didn’t get so many butt jokes.

  9. Andy

    Apr 18, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Yeah, like that clears is up? And who on earth greenreads like that besides CV.

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More stroke-saving advice for seniors: Love thy hybrid



Continuing our series for seniors, this is a topic I’ve written about before but it is so important to our senior games, it is worth revisiting.

Some of you may be aware of the “24/38 rule.” It deals with the idea that most golfers lose consistency with an iron that is less than 24 degrees of loft and over 38 inches long. That USED TO BE a 3-iron. And I always thought even that was marginal—a 3-iron for a middle handicap players has always been a bit “iffy.”

Then came the “juicing era” when manufacturers started making golf clubs with much less loft and some added length. Now, that “24/38” rule applies to 5-irons! The cavity back era gave way to some great innovations, particularly forgiveness, but it also introduced stronger lofts and added some length. For example, today’s 6-iron, on average is 31 degrees and 37.5-38.o inches. The point is this: Many golfers do not have sufficient speed to hit 5-irons, maybe even 6-irons, from the fairway!

This goes for golf in general, but in senior golf, it is even more important to remember!

What to do? Voila! The invention of HYBRIDS! We have to understand one simple golf impact principle:  Getting the golf ball airborne from the turf requires speed. If we lack that speed, we need clubs with a different construction. The HYBRIDS are built to help launch the golf ball. Basically, it works like this: when the center of gravity is further from the hitting area (face), it is easier to launch the golf ball. On an iron that CG is directly behind the ball. In a hybrid, it is moved back, so the ball can be launched higher. There are other factors, but basically, that’s it.

My personal recommendation is as follows

  • If your driver clubhead speed in under 85 MPH, your iron set might go 7-PW
  • Driver speed 85-90 MPH, your iron set might be 6-PW
  • Driver speed 90-100, your iron set might be 5-PW
  • Driver speed over 100, you can choose the set make-up with which you are comfortable

As this piece is largely for seniors, I’m assuming most of you are in one of the first two categories. If so, your game may be suffering from your set make-up. The most common swing issue I see in seniors is “hang back” or the inability to get weight through at impact. This is often the result of a club shaft too stiff, OR clubs too difficult to launch—example, a 3-iron. Please DO NOT beat yourself up! Use equipment that is easier to hit and particularly easier to launch.

The question invariably arises, what about fairway woods of similar loft?  They are fine if you do not mind the added length. The great thing about hybrids is they are only slightly longer than similarly lofted irons. My advice is to seniors is to get with a pro, get on a launch monitor, find your speed and launch conditions and go from there.

Note: I am NOT a fitter, and I DO NOT sell clubs of any kind. But I do know, as a teacher, that hybrids should be in most seniors’ bags.


Want more help with your swing? I have an on-line swing analysis service. If you are interested in a “look” here it is.






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Clement: Long and short bunker shots



It happens to all of us where: We get short-sided and need to put a shot together to save the furniture. The short bunker shot can really be a challenge if you do not have the right task to perform it and can result in you wasting a shot in the bunker or letting the shot get away from you because you don’t want to leave that delicate shot in the bunker.

And of course, so many of you are afraid to put a full swing on a longer bunker shot because of the dreaded skull over the green!

We have the easy solutions to all of the above right here and the other videos I have, which are great complements to this one including an oldie but goodieand this one with Chantal, my yoga teacher.

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The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training



If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.


Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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19th Hole