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Opinion & Analysis

Stats! What are they good for?

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For years the world of golf has attempted to quantify the game with the idea that data will somehow improve the experience and provide information as to what and how to improve performance. The various professional tours have invested millions of dollars in order to gather the data that can be boiled down into about 600 statistical categories. Those of us not affiliated with professional tours are encouraged to gather, record and keep our own stats so that we too can improve our golfing experience and provide a basis for improving our games.

And now, many years later we have Greens in Regulation, Driving Distance, Driving Accuracy, Putts Made from every conceivable distance, Proximity to the Hole from every conceivable distance and a whole range of analysis based upon the advanced notion of “Shots Gained.” Some of these stats have added to the experience, but none of them have actually helped most of us improve our games.

And why is that?

For example, if a player had 27 putts in a round, what did he/she shoot? Meanwhile, Phil Michelson shot a 59 to win the 2004 PGA Grand Slam of Golf hitting only three fairways. And, how is missing a fairway by inches automatically a negative while hitting a green leaving a 90-foot putt a good thing?

Instead of beating up on all of the unnecessary and unproductive stats and all of the data points necessary to base averages and the like, I will share with you the one single most useful and helpful stat that I have used and tested — and it only requires a binary response. A simple “Yes” or “No” to the question: “Did the shot produce the result that I tried to produce?”

  • For the beginning player, getting the ball off the ground and going generally in the right direction for some acceptable distance would be a “Yes” answer.
  • For the high-handicap player, getting the ball off the ground and going generally in the right direction for some acceptable distance without going out of bounds or into a hazard would be a “Yes” answer.
  • For the middle-handicap player, a shot that has the general appearance of correctness without going out of bounds or into a hazard would be a “Yes” answer.

For the low-handicap or professional player, more specific definitions or targets are necessary. Meaning, does the ball flight have the “General Appearance of Correctness” (GAC) and is the ball coming to rest within the intended target area. “GAC” refers to direction, trajectory, distance and curve. The better the player, the more exact would be the standard for GAC. For your general information, “targets” are stated objectives into which the player desires the ball to come to rest.

I define targets as:

  • Large Target: a “box” being 40 yards wide and as deep as desired (a rectangle, a parallelogram or a square)
  • Small Target: an area* having a radius of 10 yards or 30 feet
  • Scoring Target: an area having a radius of 10 feet
  • Short Game Scoring Target: an area having a radius of 3 feet

*Note: Areas are defined as having the shape of a circle, a semi-circle, a triangle or a fan

As a point of interest, it isn’t usually necessary or desirable to define targets in more definitive terms. You may have noticed that there wasn’t any references to the pin, the green, the fairway or the hole. They may or may not be considerations when targeting, and they may or may not be within the boundaries of the actual targets!

“Byron [Nelson] said that the secret to playing Augusta National was to play to the green, not the pins,” Ben Hogan said after his 1942 playoff loss to Nelson at the Masters.

I concede that there are a few major flaws to this system. First, the player is required to be honest. Second, the player is required to record all of the “No” answers onto a “scorecard” that then becomes a permanent record for that round. Third, the player must determine if the “No’s” were a result of bad decision making or substandard execution. Finally, the player must schedule and then do both the physical and mental practice that turns the “No’s” into “Yeses.”

So, what percentage of the time is a player in the right position for the shot about to be played, how is the right position determined, and how does being in the correct position actually effect scoring? A topic for another time.

Ready to get started? I will email you the scorecard I use by request. Contact me at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

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Ed Myers is the author of Hogan’s Ghost, Golf’s Scoring Secret and The Scoring Machine. He was the Director of Instruction at Memphis National Golf Club, and he is currently the scoring coach for players on all professional tours. "The Ultimate Scoring and Performance Experience" an all day program featuring on course private instruction and unlimited play with "Hogan's Ghost." is now available. More than a "golf school"and more than just short game. Individualized evaluation determines where to start the experience. Learn and work according to your goals, preferences and ability. All practice is supervised and structured to ensure maximum benefit and verifiable results. Program runs Monday -Friday from April through October, 2018. See you in Memphis, Tenn. "The Distance Coaching Program" is now available to all level of golfers worldwide. Thanks to modern technology everyone, everywhere, can train like a touring professional. Learn more about Ed at edmyersgolf.com. He can be reached at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. 3puttPar

    Jul 29, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Stats! What are they good for? CONFUSING THE AVERAGE GOLFER leading them to poor practice routines, if they even practice.

  2. DaveyD

    Jul 29, 2018 at 9:39 am

    My goal to to make greens in regulation. This one stat means I’m staying out of trouble & avoiding penalty strokes. It’s giving me the best chance for a par or sub-par. I don’t track it, I simply know if I make it or I don’t and where the extra strokes came from.

  3. CrashTestDummy

    Jul 28, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    It is good to keep track of putts, gir, fairways hit, and proximity to the hole. However, at the end of the day the score is what counts. Most tour pros know and high level golfers where they are losing strokes.

  4. Adam

    Jul 28, 2018 at 11:55 am

    I agree with everything here but technically… turning “No’s into Yeses” requires some sort of stats, right? Maybe not actually tracking and analyzing numbers but to get better, you must eventually improve the areas of the game referred to as “stats.”

  5. Mike

    Jul 28, 2018 at 9:13 am

    I used to keep tons of stats (I work w/ # so it’s a habit). I ditched all that except for 1 stat…what did I shoot. # of putts is a fairly useless stat. If u hit every green in regulation & 2-putted each, you have 36 putts & shoot par. If you missed every green but got up & down every time, you shoot par w/ 18 putts. Which is better? At some point, after playing for a few years, you should know your game, meaning, where you s/b focusing on for improvement.

    • Blaise

      Jul 28, 2018 at 1:01 pm

      Still pretty useful, isn’t it?

      If you had 18 GIR and 36 putts you can be fairly sure that your game from the tee box is solid (hard to hit greens when behind the trees) and thus your wedge game and putting is where you should focus your efforts.

      Conversely if you get up and down that often you know it’s the longer clubs.

      But, I mostly agree. The stats aren’t always a perfect indicator as there is much nuance.

      • Frankie

        Jul 28, 2018 at 6:07 pm

        Why would you need to work on your wedge game if you are already hitting 18 GIR’s…? Strokes gained around the green offers the lowest strokes gained out of any strokes gained categories so therefore it is the most negligible part of the game to work on; not to mention the short game is so random on the course because they are a result of misses that there is no way to practice it off the course without making it block practice, which is the wrong way to practice such a random part of the game. Everyone is better off practicing from the driving range and putting green and then practice their short game creativity while playing on the course.

  6. Prime21

    Jul 27, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    Thanks for saying it again, not sure what would have happened w/o your approval.

  7. R k

    Jul 27, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    I will say it again.. Ed Myers produces the best golf improvement articles on this or any other golf outlet.

    While I have not used his scorecard(s) specifically, I have heeded only some of his advice on and off course and have had my best rounds ever this year, multiple rounds not just one.

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Opinion & Analysis

College golf: What you really need to sheet to play in tournaments

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No doubt the greatest part of the collegiate golf experience is traveling, which provides amazing bonding, as well as access to some of the greatest courses in the country!

However, getting on the bus at most schools requires some good scores! How good? I collected data from 25/50 Men’s Division I programs on the subject and found that on average these teams report playing qualifying from an average distance of 7,072 with a course rating of 74. They report that on average they play four rounds of qualifying, and the winner of the qualifying averages 67.2, while the fifth player usually has an average of 71.3. This means that for a four-round qualifier, the last person to qualify must shoot 4 under, while the winner shoots about 20 under. Pretty darn good!

According to Tennessee Head Coach Brennan Webb, whose team started the season with two victories, “If you are going to be a successful golfer at any level. you have to be good at qualifying. That includes every level of professional golf. It is what makes golf the purest sport there is. There is no draft to the PGA Tour. Learning that skill in college will be very valuable to you as your career progresses. Every successful program I have been a part of utilizes qualifying as a major part of the growth process of their players.”

Players at other levels also face very strong competition in qualifying. For example, at Emory University, the No.1-ranked team by Golfstat at the end of the fall, the team usually qualifies at either Smoke Rise of East Lake CC. Both courses have slopes of at least 135 and play between 6,800-7,100 yards. In six rounds of qualifying in the fall, the best player averaged 72.15, while the fifth player averaged 73.5.

The story is not much different at the NAIA level. According to Coach Sikorski at Ottawa University in Arizona, for the first event of the year they played five qualifying rounds with the top three performers shooting 8 under or better. The fifth man for the five rounds was 2 under, and the team currently boasts 12 players with a stroke average of 75.22 or better.

According to Andrew Danna, now at LSU but who last year coached the NCAA Division 2 Champion Lynn Fighting Knights, “we had a tremendous group of talented athletes at Lynn, including seven players in the top 750 in the WAGR. The players were very driven, and the results showed daily with qualifying often below par.”

These numbers demonstrate clearly how good college golfers are day to day on their home golf courses. At the highest level, the best college players are approximately +6 handicaps on their home courses, while players who are on the cusp of traveling have handicaps of between +1 to +3. At other levels, including DII, DIII and NAIA, the competition really is not that much easier with many coaches reporting players routinely winning qualifying with between -6 to -15.

When considering these scores, it is important to remember that scores are likely to be the lowest in the fall for two reasons; it has the best weather and many players are coming off three months of summer golf where they don’t have the demands of schools. Together, these make players the most prepared and it is the reason why we often see very low scores in September.

For junior golfers in the recruiting process, understanding the qualifying process is extremely important. This includes not only what type of scoring maybe required but also the way coaches prefer to qualify which can range greatly. For example, some coaches might simply allow the lowest five scores from a certain number of rounds to travel, while others might use the point system which solely relies on their discretion has one simply rule: if they point to you, you are going to the tournament.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: ColoVista Golf Club in Bastrop, Texas

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member Austincountyag, who takes us to ColoVista Golf Club in Bastrop, Texas. In his description of the course, Austincountyag tells us how it’s a tale of two very different nines at ColoVista.

“The course is usually in decent to great shape, and for the price, it is very hard to beat in the greater Austin area. The front nine is a links type of layout, while the back nine provides dramatic elevation changes as the holes wind through pine trees along the Colorado River.”

According to ColoVista Golf Club’s website, 18 holes during the week will cost $40, while the rate rises to $50 should you want to play on the weekend.

@Omstar114

@VisitsBastropCo

@DillonBecker7

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Podcasts

TG2: Stacks of Kuchar jokes | What irons would you have reissued?

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Danny Lee has some SWEET Mizuno MP-32 in the bag and it makes us ask the question, “What irons would you want reissued?” But before that we have to make a bunch jokes about the Matt Kuchar/El Tucan situation.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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