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Where is your game on golf’s seesaw?

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“What’s the most important stat in golf?” As a golf statistician, I’m asked that question more than any other. To answer it, I explain that there isn’t a most important stat I can point to for all golfers. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses and find our own special way to reach our number. That being said, the question is still an important one that deserves further study.

Research into my company (ShotbyShot.com) database of 280,000+ rounds reveals that the game is actually a very important balance of different facets of the game, and I have yet to see a player that performed at the same handicap level across all five facets of the game in my 29+ years of golf analysis. Golfers of all levels are balancing the number and frequency of good shots/good results against the frequency of errors.

I refer to this as Golf’s SeeSaw Effect.

ScreenS.Golf.SeeSaw

The secret to scoring at every level is much more than the ability to hit good shots. It’s also the skill to manage one’s game and limit the frequency and severity of bad shots or errors.

When I started my company over 29 years ago, I discovered that one of the major deficiencies in golf statistics was that they did not address the negatives in the game. Even today, the PGA Tour produces 650+ stats on each player and only ONE of them addresses a negative: 3 Putt Avoidance. In fact, when I search the Tour’s ShotLink stats for “Penalties,” I get the surprising answer below.

ScreenS.Penalty??

Are we to assume that penalties do not happen on Tour? Believe me, they do!

The significant role that errors play in our games led me to make sure that I built them into my version of Game Analysis (ShotByShot.com). As you can see by the graphic above, the seesaw effect is that the more good shots/results on the left match up with the fewer errors on the right, the lower the one’s handicap will be.

Good Shots/Results Defined

  • Greens Hit in Regulation (GIR’s).
  • Chip/Pitch shots hit to within 5 feet of the hole (Chip/Pitch = shots from within 50 yards of the hole).
  •  Sand shots hit to within 8 feet of the hole (Sand = shots from sand within 50 yards of the hole).
  •  1-Putts from 4–10 feet (or greater).

Errors Defined

  • Tee shots hit out of play (requiring an advancement, or resulting in a penalty).
  • Chip/Pitch shots that miss the green either short or long; fringe results are not errors.
  • Sand Shots that miss the green either short or long; fringe results are not errors.
  • 3-Putts from 30 feet and closer.

The seesaw graphic above is telling us the following about the zero handicap golfer:

Good Shots/Results = 18 (on average per round)

  • GIR’s: 12
  • Chip/Pitch shots to 5 feet: 2.5
  • Sand shots to 8 feet: 0.5
  • 1-Putts from 4-10 feet: 3

Errors = 1 (on average per round)

  • Tee shots hit out of play: 0.4
  • Chip/Pitch shots miss green: 0.2
  • Sand Shots miss green: 0.1
  • 3-Putts from 30 feet or closer: 0.3

Note: How can a golfer hit a Tee shot out of play 0.4 times per round? Easy. The zero handicap golfer will make one of these driving errors on average every 2.5 rounds or four in every 10 rounds.

Record these simple stats on a separate scorecard for the next 3-5 rounds to see where you fall on Golf’s SeeSaw. This exercise will reveal the true strengths and weaknesses of your game.

For a Complete Strokes Gained analysis of your game, log on to www.shotbyshot.com

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In 1989, Peter Sanders founded Golf Research Associates, LP, creating what is now referred to as Strokes Gained Analysis. His goal was to design and market a new standard of statistically based performance analysis programs using proprietary computer models. A departure from “traditional stats,” the program provided analysis with answers, supported by comparative data. In 2006, the company’s website, ShotByShot.com, was launched. It provides interactive, Strokes Gained analysis for individual golfers and more than 150 instructors and coaches that use the program to build and monitor their player groups. Peter has written, or contributed to, more than 60 articles in major golf publications including Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golf for Women. From 2007 through 2013, Peter was an exclusive contributor and Professional Advisor to Golf Digest and GolfDigest.com. Peter also works with PGA Tour players and their coaches to interpret the often confusing ShotLink data. Zach Johnson has been a client for nearly five years. More recently, Peter has teamed up with Smylie Kaufman’s swing coach, Tony Ruggiero, to help guide Smylie’s fast-rising career.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Tom54

    Apr 3, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Interesting formula. I know after every round good or bad I always mentally go over the good vs bad shots. The nice shots aren’t always a given but the bad shots that all of us piss away are the ones that always prevent a better score simple shots like missing greens with wedges, 3 putts, etc. eliminating those wasted shots are usually the key to keeping your hdcp in check. That’s the allure of this frustrating game we all love.

  2. Bob Jones

    Apr 3, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Here is how to evaluate EVERY shot (except maybe 1-foot putts):

    If I hit every [whatever shot you’re evaluating] like this one, I would:
    a. shoot par
    b. shoot 80
    c. shoot 90
    d. shoot 100
    e. take up tennis

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For those of you who are big football fans, we are lost in the off-season, waiting a few more months before we get to watch our favorite pro or college teams duke it out on the gridiron. Living in Texas, of course, football is a very big deal, from the NFL Cowboys and Texans, through our broad college network representing multiple conferences and into the bedrock of Friday nights – high school football, which drives fans and entire towns into a frenzy.

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Pay attention to your own red zone stats, and work to improve them. I guarantee you that you’ll see your scores come down quickly.

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