Anyone who has been watching telecasts of PGA Tour golf events over the last couple of years will be familiar with the term “strokes gained putting”. The Strokes Gained Putting (SGP) stat is the result of a new analytical method initially devised by Professor Mark Broadie of Columbia Business School, and further analyzed by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by Professor Stephen Graves.
In Prof. Broadie’s new book, Every Shot Counts, he has taken the “strokes gained” analysis and applied it to the whole game. Based on the PGA Tour’s huge accumulated database of actual shot measurements, Prof. Broadie has been able to determine the importance of a golfer’s performance in all aspects of the game to their final result, the score, and for all those who hold dear the ancient truism, “Drive for show, putt for dough”, the answer will be surprising.
Using the SGP method, Prof. Broadie compared two performance datasets – overall strokes and putting – to scoring. What the data revealed was that putting contributes 35%, on average, to victories on the PGA Tour, which means that tee-to-green performance contributes 65%.
Further validation of that result is shown by Prof. Broadie’s application of the strokes-gained analysis specifically to tee-to-green performance, which he does by comparing the number of strokes tee-to-green to the average number of strokes required to hole out. Sharpening his pencil even further, Prof. Broadie also shows how the method can be used to calculate the strokes-gained value for each shot taken to complete a given hole, using ShotLink data that combines distance and location (fairway, rough, sand, etc.) to build a table of the average number of strokes required to hole out from a range of distances broken down by the type of location.
Again, the conclusion reached by this analysis bucks conventional wisdom, showing that getting closer is, generally speaking, better. We have all seen PGA Tour players laying up to a desired distance so that they can hit a “full wedge” into a green, but what Prof. Broadie’s analysis of ShotLink data shows is that from the tee, from the fairway, from the rough or from sand, the closer the ball is to the hole, the fewer strokes are required, on average, to hole out.
Of course, analysis based on data from PGA Tour events might not seem to be too relevant to recreational golfers, but thanks to the Golfmetrics database, which contains data from casual and tournament play by recreational golfers, Prof. Broadie has applied the same statistical analyses to the recreational golfer’s game as he has done to the professionals’, reaching essentially the same conclusions. The inclusion of analysis based on data from recreational golf raises this book from an intellectual exercise aimed at explaining the new stats used by the PGA Tour to a useful tool which the recreational golfer can use to improve their own performance.
Every Shot Counts presents clearly stated, cogent explanations of the surprising revelations that resulted from Prof. Broadie’s analysis of shot data. The prose is somewhat dry, and the volume of information often daunting, but Broadie has made what might have been an arcane discussion of obscure number-crunching into an easily-understood presentation that will help the average recreational golfer focus on the aspects of their game on which they should concentrate their efforts at improvement. The book’s layout is very textbook-like, which might be off-putting to some readers, but is actually quite appropriate to the book’s intended purpose. Chapters covering on-course strategy and practice drills and games are aimed at helping golfers practice with a purpose, and put to use the concepts that are presented in the text.
Every Shot Counts is available from major bookstores and online book retailers, and from the author’s website, http://everyshotcounts.com.