First one might ask, why do I need to understand my stats?
In order to improve efficiently, a golfer needs to understand all areas of their game. Identifying with certainty and fact, rather than with emotion, what your strengths and weaknesses are is a key component of improvement. It may be fun to practice your strengths, but if you want to improve smarter and faster than everyone else then working on your weaknesses is a way to achieve that goal.
Below are the definitions of the four main traditional golf statistics:
- Fairways Hit – Your tee shot ends up on the fairway on a Par 4 or Par 5.
- Greens in Regulation – Your ball is on the green after one shot on a Par 3, two shots on a Par 4, and three shots on a Par 5.
- Sand Save – You get the ball up and down from a greenside bunker in two or fewer shots.
- Putts – The total number of putts taken on the greens during a round of golf. This statistic does not include putts from off the green, such as the fringe.
Understanding why traditional golf statistics are flawed allows us to better understand the relevance of more advanced analytics that will be introduced later in the course. Below we highlight some key problems with the traditional stats.
- Fairways Hit – Whether you found a fairway or not with your tee shot does not accurately represent the success or the value of the tee shot. A binary result does not necessarily give us the correct answer when analyzing whether it was a good tee shot or not. For example, would you rather hit a 300-yard tee shot that ends in the first cut of rough or a 125-yard tee shot that just makes the fairway? Similarly, the Fairways Hit statistic treats all missed fairways the same, even if the tee shot ends up out of bounds, in a water hazard, or just 1 inch off the fairway.
- Greens in Regulation – While this traditional statistic can tell you if you hit the green in the requisite number of shots what it does not tell you is how far from the hole you hit it, nor does it tell you how bad your miss was when you do miss the green. For example, would you rather be on the green 60 feet away from the hole, or would you rather be 10 feet away but just on the fringe? When you miss a green we also need to understand where the miss was: is it in a water hazard, just on the fringe, in a bunker, or in the long rough? Unless we know the result of the shot we do not fully understand how good or bad the miss was.
- Sand Saves – The sand save is actually a combination of two facets of the game: bunker play, and putting. Because of this, a strength in one facet may mask a weakness in the other. For example, a bunker shot that leaves a 30-foot putt which is subsequently holed counts as a sand save but does not truly reflect the poor execution of the bunker shot. Similarly, an excellent bunker shot leaving just a 2-foot putt which is subsequently missed results in a failed sand save but does not tell the complete story as the bunker shot was excellent and the putt was poor.
- Number of Putts per Round – A final and very misleading statistics which does not truly reflect your skill with the putter. The number of putts per round does not take into consideration the distance of the first putt and places the same value on a 3-foot putt as a 50-foot putt. Similarly, a holed 12-foot putt versus a holed 1-foot putt is clearly a more skillful and valuable putt.