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The problems with Rory and traditional golf statistics



Mark Twain was once said “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”

This is often a popular adage from critics of an advanced metrics point of view. Normally this tends to occur with people who utilize anecdotal evidence to formulate their opinions and when the numbers tell them something they don’t like. The reality is that statistics do not lie, but incomplete and flawed statistics can lead to faulty analysis and conclusions derived from that analysis.

A prime example of this right now is the “fall” of Rory McIlroy’s play. People are stating that his dip in his performance is due to switching equipment. Johnny Miller thinks it is a giant mistake for Rory to switch his irons, as he did the same thing in his prime and he could never quite adjust to the change. Let’s take a look at his “traditional” golf metrics:


As we can see, Rory is better this year in fairway percentage and greens in regulation. He has regressed in scrambling percentage. Most people, including statisticians, would agree that greens in regulation has a larger impact on Tour success than scramble percentage. So, why has Rory performed worse this year despite hitting more fairways and greens in regulation?

Let’s take a look at his putting. While putts gained is not a “traditional” metric, it’s becoming more accepted as a traditional metric. Is the putting the problem?


The table shows that Rory is actually putting better this year than he did last year. It’s traditional metrics like GIR percentage, total driving and scramble percentage that tend to confuse golfers and consequently brush off metrics as “lies, damned lies and statistics.”

However, all it takes is to dig a little deeper and to use more detailed statistics and we start to see a better depiction of Rory’s play in 2012. Here’s a look at my main ballstriking metrics which include:

Driving effectiveness: A proprietary formula that uses the metrics of driving distance, fairway percentage, percentage of fairway bunkers hit, distance from the edge of the fairway and “missed fairways – other” to determine a player’s effectiveness off the tee.

Birdie zone: Proximity to the cup on approach shots from 75-125 yards.

Safe zone: Proximity to the cup on approach shots from 125-175 yards.

Danger zone: Proximity to the cup on approach shots from 175-225 yards.


These numbers suggest that the new equipment is not an issue or at least the new irons have worked out better for him this year.

While he is less effective off the tee, considering this is based out of 190 players on Tour he is still a driving the ball great.

So, where is the issue?

From what I have gathered so far, I would look at the two largest statistical regressions: scrambling and driving.

First, let’s look at my metric called “short game play.” This is the average proximity to the cup on all shots that are no more than 20 yards away from the edge of the green. We have seen that Rory has improved his putts gained, so let’s see if his actual skills around the green have regressed.


So yes, there has been a regression. But we simply cannot stop there because it is not a big enough regression to explain Rory’s dip in play from last year as we the numbers tell us that short game play does not have that large of an influence on a player’s score. Let’s drill down further and look at the attempts per round on shots from around the green.


And here is where we start to see some of the issue with Rory’s play. While he has regressed a bit in his ability to get the ball closer to the cup on shots around the green, one major issue is that he is leaving himself with more shots from a longer distance. With that said, that still does not quite tell the entire story. So, let’s drill down and examine his driving a bit further.

We know that he’s hitting it about the same distance off the tee. We also know that he is hitting more fairways this year. Since he is less effective off the tee this year, that leaves it to examining what I call the precision metrics of driving as we have already examined the power (distance) and accuracy (fairway percentage) metrics of driving.


And here is where we are starting to see more of the entire story into the regression of Rory’s play from 2012. Essentially, Rory is hitting his irons better and putting better. He’s hitting the ball virtually the same distance off the tee and is actually more accurate (fairway percentage), but he is much more imprecise off the tee this year and it is affecting his play despite the fact that he’s been better at the popular “traditional metric” greens in regulation percentage.

This is why I generally avoid examining greens in regulation percentage, particularly on the Tour level. For starters, it is too vague of a metric to really learn from. I have seen plenty of high GIR percentage players who struggle off the tee, but hit it great with their irons (Tiger). Conversely, I have seen high GIR percentage players who hit it great off the tee but have their struggles with the irons (Bubba Watson). It simply fails to tell the golfer how they get the ball on the green in regulation, either from a good drive or a good iron shot or both.

Secondly, across the board the numbers show that proximity to the cup has a higher correlation to success on Tour than GIR percentage. In fact, if you go to a Tour event it is obvious that Tour players have some sense of this as they are more apt to fire at a flag, even with trouble nearby, rather than to aim for the middle of the green. Simply put, the average Tour player makes one birdie putt outside 25 feet per 98 holes of golf!

Thus, Tour players instinctively understand that in order to make birdies on the course they need to get the birdie putt close to the hole. And most of the time the Tour players would take a 25-foot chip shot from off the green than the 50-foot putt that is on the green. And if you’re a golfer, you should probably do the same as well or start improving your short game enough so you start to want to have those much shorter chip shots over those longer putts.

What greens in regulation percentage does not tell us about Rory’s game is that he is hitting a higher percentage of greens in spite of being more imprecise with the driver. And what is happening is that when he misses a green it is coming more from a bad tee shot than a bad iron shot. Not only does that possibly mean that he is finding hazards and out of bounds more often (missed fairway –- other), but his bad drives are much worse this year and it leaves him with much more difficult shots to save par from.

So for now, I would say that the new irons and putter are actually helping Rory. But he now has to figure out how to get back his precision off the tee with the new driver. If he can, he’ll be even tougher to beat.

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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, 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10



  1. John R

    Apr 20, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Am I understanding correctly? You’re saying that he’s hitting the ball pretty well but when he does miss, he misses big and it’s the occasional big miss that’s costing him. Is that right? Is it possible to validate that with some sort of hole-by-hole scoring comparison? In other words, could we say that in 2012 his scorecard doesn’t have enough big numbers on it but in 2013, there are always a couple of holes that have more influence on the high score?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 20, 2013 at 10:51 pm


      You have the right idea. Essentially, his bad shots off the tee are worse than last year.

      Unfortunately, the Tour does not have track double bogeys or worse on their Web site. However, he was 27th in Bogey Avoidance last year…currently 93rd this year. He was 1st in Birdies last year, 7th this year. The bigger dropoff is obviously in the Bogeys.

  2. Nick

    Apr 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I think the analysis of Rory’s game is fascinating. That being said, the advice for the average player to fire for the flag is wrong. Pro level short game is so far and above that of the average player that the penalty they pay for a missed green is not even close to what your average weekend warrior plays. Hit a green, and your going to be in at probably two, three max. For plenty of amateurs, 4 strokes from the green side is not entirely uncommon, three is the most likely result. Obviously, the problem their is not firing at flags, its sub-standard short game but that’s what most amateurs are bringing to the table. Combine that with the fact that a pro’s dispersion with his irons is much smaller than an amateur, and I still think firing for center of green is the better play for those who aren’t playing off low/mid single digit handicaps or otherwise don’t have the game to go pin-seeking everytime and make it pay for them.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 19, 2013 at 8:51 am

      It depends on the difference in closer to the hole. While Tour players have very good short games, more amateurs would be better off with a 25 foot chip/pitch than a 50 foot putt. Now if it was a 25 foot shot from the bunker, that would be a different story. And he better amateurs tend to aim for the middle of the green way too often.

      That’s why they can shoot the scores they do despite a Tour average of a little under 12 greens in regulation while averaging 1 birdie putt made from greater than 25 feet for every 98 holes played.

      They are more capable of firing at a flag and if they miss…miss in the right spot and make for an easy up-and-down. If they don’t miss…they end up with a birdie putt that is close to the hole and give themselves a better chance of making the birdie.

      From the amateur data I’ve collected, most amateurs aim at the flag unless there is a bunker or water hazard in the way. The closer to scratch amateurs tend to aim at the middle of the green more often and when they fire at flags…they do not account for where the best spot is located if they miss the green. It’s really the greatest example of poor strategy that kills rounds for good amateurs.

      The best way I would explain it is that regardless of handicap, it should not be mandatory to have to hit 14+ GIR in order to shoot in the 60’s.

  3. Ivan

    Apr 18, 2013 at 2:34 am

    And what if Rory was struggling simply because he has done some changes at his swing?
    His hips seems less rotating during a driver swing …

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 18, 2013 at 10:35 am

      The only difficulty I have with that Ivan is he’s hitting the ball just as far and hitting more fairways. It could very well be the issue rather than the new driver.

      I don’t necessarily think it’s quite either. Rory is a fairly streaky player and he hits a gigantic draw off the tee. I think that plays into why he is streaky…when the ball is not drawing like it should he has difficulty playing for it. Take a player that hits a smaller draw if he starts drawing it more or less than normal, I don’t think it’s quite as big of a problem for them.

  4. Jack

    Apr 17, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    I’m confused by that his GIR hasn’t dropped, but his distance from the edge of fairway has. Since the distance from edge is a contributing factor to the GIR, doesn’t that just mean his iron play has gotten better? And yet the end result hasn’t changed (getting it on the green), so why? It seems like to me it’s his short game. He’s regressed with less attempts in the 10-20 range. Plus when you add up the totals he gets 4.77 strokes played within 40 yards and 4.48 for 2012. If GIR remains steady, then the lower short game strokes would be beneficial as a cumulative measure. This is getting too involved. I’m just going to blame it on the driver.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 18, 2013 at 10:32 am

      Good points, Jack.

      First, while he’s ranked 103rd in Avg. Distance From Edge of Fairway; that is actually a very good ranking for a golfer that hits it as far as he does. When he ranked 29th in 2012, that was downright outstanding for his length off the tee. Usually good drivers of the ball that are that long are around 150-165th in that metric. He’s also hitting more fairways and hitting his irons better.

      I think it’s fairly simple to see that he’s hitting a lot of great shots on the course and that is allowing him to hit more greens. But, it’s the occasional big miss off the tee (and fairway bunkers) that is really killing his game right now. He didn’t have that last year and that’s why he dominated.

  5. john

    Apr 17, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    he has only played less than 10 rounds… obviously his stats will look better. how about you write another article after the conclusion of the 2013 season? It doesn’t take rocket science to see rory’s struggle. you are just playing devil’s advocate saying all the analysis is wrong for saying he is playing bad..

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 17, 2013 at 10:39 pm


      I disagree with your point because I’m utilizing the rankings instead of pure numbers which makes the comparison more apples to apples.

      I think it’s obvious that Rory is struggling as well as I inferred that in the title. I’m going into *why* he is struggling in spite of traditional metrics like GIR being better (ranking wise) this year.

      And he’s hitting his new irons and putter better which was supposed to be a big part of his struggles. And he’s even doing some things with the driver better. He’s just hitting more of those occasional bad drives than he was last year and that is causing him to lose strokes whether it be off the tee or of the subsequent shots.

  6. Morgan

    Apr 17, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Fantastic article Rich, great read and very informative.

  7. christian

    Apr 17, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Personally, I would always think it is a biggger issue changing drivers than irons. Especially blade irons, the blade rory plays is probably more or less exactly the same as his old one. With the same grind, look and probably even tha same steel. Starting to use a driver with a “cavity back” would seem to be a much bigger step, equipment wise. So, his driver (and also woods) is probably the issue.

  8. Richie Hunt

    Apr 17, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Thanks Roger. I think if anything, Rory does not have far to go. The assumption that his game has fallen badly off because of the equipment is inaccurate at this point.

  9. timmy

    Apr 17, 2013 at 5:38 am

    i think distance from the fairway edge is too subjective to be included in the calculation

    it is very possible that the player intended to land the ball closer to the edge under certain circumstances.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 17, 2013 at 9:41 am

      It’s not as subjective in the terms you think of it as. It’s very telling of a player’s precision off the tee. That is in part what made Rory #2 in my Driving Effectiveness metric, he hits it super long and was an astouding 29th in Distance From Edge of Fairway.

      All of the data I’ve collected thru ShotLink and Shot Tracker shows that the Tour players are always trying to find the fairway in some regard. The real difference is how much it really matters given the course. A course like Bay Hill…hitting fairways and having a close Distance from the Edge of the Fairway is fairly important to a player’s success. That’s because the rough is usually taller at Bay Hill. But a course like Redstone (Shell Houston Open) hitting fairways and having a close Distance from the Edge of the Fairway has never had statistical importance to a player’s success there. I’ve never been to Redstone, but my Tour clients tell me that the rough there provides virtually no consequences to hit out of.

      So at a place like Redstone, hitting a 280 yard drive in the fairway will provide an advantage over hitting a 280 yard drive in the rough. It’s just that the advantage is smaller than if those drives were hit at a course like Bay Hill.

      And there’s a correlation between distance from edge of fairway and ‘missed fairways – other.’ Strangely, that correlation doesn’t quite exist with fairway bunkers. That’s because the longer hitters who are less precise can often blast it well over the fairway bunkers. But for Rory, that has not been the case this year.

  10. Roger Faithfull

    Apr 17, 2013 at 3:39 am

    Thanks for a hugely detailed analysis on Rory’s game.
    So all he has to do is add a 910D3 in a Covert Cover into the Bag.
    I’m a great Rory fan. I wish him well for the balance of 2013.
    I seem to recall he did a Huge come back in 2012…………….
    Regards, Roger in New Zealand..just below Australia !

    • Eric

      Apr 17, 2013 at 7:40 am

      Great summary but I would want to know are you comparing the statistics from all of 2012 versus the first 3+ months of 2013 or are you comparing the first 3 months of play for both 2012 and 2013? It would be interesting to see how these statistics stack up at the end of the year versus the entire previous year. Anything that shuts Johnny Miller up is a bonus from my point of view. Now… can the average Joe track this stuff 🙂

      • Richie Hunt

        Apr 17, 2013 at 9:34 am

        I’m just comparing the first 3 months versus the entire 2012 season. That’s why I used rankings instead of the actual numbers to help make it more ‘apples to apples.’

        It is also another reason why I thought the short game shots around the green data wasn’t enough to cause the dip in his play. Instead, we see dramatic differences in his drives that go into fairway bunkers and drives that are ‘missed fairway – other’ which is any shot that is not in the fairway, rough or fairway bunker (i.e. trees, hazards, O.B., etc).

        I am currently collecting data that will be able to track specific data for each tournament. I plan to use that soon.

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Opinion & Analysis

A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy



New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?



Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?



You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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