Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Statistics 101 - The Golf Edition

Michael Thompson's stats as of 4/10/11. Click on the image to get a better view.
by Roz Roberts III

Are you confused by all of the stats thrown around in golf?  Don't feel bad, next to baseball, golf keeps more statistics than pretty much any other sport out there.  We're guilty of using them all of the time here at ThompsonTide because often they are the easiest way to evaluate a round (other than the overall score).  So we thought we'd throw a little "cheat sheet" together for the stats you'll most often see here at ThompsonTide.com or over at PGATour.com.

Driving Accuracy
PGA Definition:  The percentage of time a tee shot comes to rest in the fairway (regardless of club). 

Why It Matters:  This stat is intended to provide a measurement of how accurate a golfer is with their tee shot.  Obviously, when a drive is in the fairway the subsequent shot should be easier.  A tee shot that lands in the first cut of rough counts the same as a shot that goes out of bounds - that is it counts as a missed fairway.

Nuances:  Although this stat is intended to measure tee shot accuracy, it is only applied to par four and par five holes.  It also doesn't matter what club is used so an iron off the tee counts the same as a driver off the tee.

Driving Distance
PGA Definition:  The average number of yards per measured drive. These drives are measured on two holes per round. Care is taken to select two holes which face in opposite directions to counteract the effect of wind. Drives are measured to the point at which they come to rest regardless of whether they are in the fairway or not.

Why It Matters:  The further the drive off the tee, the easier the subsequent shot(s) to the hole.  Typically, the shorter the approach shot to the green, the closer to the hole you'll be.

Nuances:  Since the driving distance is measured to the final resting place of the ball, this stat can be significantly affected by the driving accuracy stat.  Obviously, a ball landing in the rough or a bunker will not roll as far as one in the fairway.  If a player's driving distance is down for a particular round or tournament, it may be due to some missed fairways.
Greens In Regulation (GIR)
PGA Definition:  The percent of time a player was able to hit the green in regulation (greens hit in regulation/holes played). Note: A green is considered hit in regulation if any portion of the ball is touching the putting surface after the GIR stroke has been taken. (The GIR stroke is determined by subtracting 2 from par (1st stroke on a par 3, 2nd on a par 4, 3rd on a par 5))

Why It Matters:  If you hit a green in regulation, by definition, you have a putt for either birdie or eagle.  The GIR stat doesn't take into account distance from the hole.

Nuances:  The fringe around the green is not considered part of the green.  If the ball lands in the fringe it is considered a missed GIR even if the subsequent shot is made with a putter.

Putts Per Round
PGA Definition:  The average number of putts per round played.

Why It Matters:  More than 40% of a player's shots in a round will be putts.  The fewer of them you have, the better score you'll have for the round.

Nuances:  A putt is only considered a putt if it originates on the green.  If a player putts from just off the green it is not considered within the putting stats.  If a putt is holed from off the green it is counted the same as a chip in and would result in 0 putts for the hole even though the putter was used to make the shot.

Putts Per GIR
PGA Definition:  The average number of putts per hole that was reached in regulation.

Why It Matters:  Rather than measuring the overall putts in a round, this stat measures the number of putts on each hole reached in regulation.  The lower this number, the more birdies and eagles are converted per GIR which results in a lower overall score.  This stat provides a qualitative way of measuring both putting proficiency and the quality of approach within the GIR stat.

Three Putt Avoidance 
PGA Definition:  The percent of time 3 or more putts were taken for a hole (total 3-putts, 4-putts, etc./ total holes played).

Why It Matters:  Typically, a 3-putt will result in a bogey or worse.  Avoiding 3-putts will typically result in scoring par or better on a hole.  This stat also provides an indication how well a player is putting overall since avoiding 3-putts requires leaving longer putts in a makeable position.  You want this stat to be a low number.

Sand Save PercentagePGA Definition:  The percent of time a player was able to get 'up and down' once in a greenside sand bunker (regardless of score). Note: 'Up and down' indicates it took the player 2 shots or less to put the ball in the hole from that point.

Why It Matters:  Usually landing in a greenside bunker is the result of missing a green in regulation.  Since the GIR stat assumes you have two putts to make par or better, getting "up and down" from a greenside bunker means that you've scored the same as a 2-putt.

Nuances:  Landing in a fairway bunker doesn't affect this stat.  It is measuring "up and down" from greenside bunkers only.  Often times you'll see a player have a sand save percentage of "-".  This simply means that the player's round (or tournament) didn't include any shots from a greenside bunker.

Scrambling Percentage
PGA Definition:  The percent of time a player misses the green in regulation, but still makes par or better.

Why It Matters:  In the same way that the putts per GIR stat measures the quality of play when a green is hit in regulation, the scrambling percentage provides a stat to indicate how well a player is scoring when the green is missed in regulation.  This stat is often referred to when describing how good a golfer's "short game" is because it usually involves chipping from off the green or making sand saves.

Nuances:  This stat takes into account the sand save percentage as well as any "up and downs" from the green side fringe or rough.

Proximity to the Hole
PGA Definition:  The average distance the ball comes to rest from the hole (in feet) after the player's approach shot. The approach shot distance must be determined by a laser, and the shot must not originate from on or around the green. The shot also must end on or around the green or in the hole. Note: 'Around the green' indicates the ball is within 30 yards of the edge of the green.

Why It Matters:  This stat typically measures how well a golfer's iron play is.  The closer to the hole an approach shot is, the better the scoring opportunity.

Nuances:  This stat is valid no matter what score is made on a hole and is valid no matter where the approach shot lands (as long as it is within 90 feet of the hole).  This stat is typically not kept during tournaments where the Shot Tracker system isn't in use because of the PGA's requirement that the measurement be taken with a laser.

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