In the mid-1980s, Bill James elevated baseball statistics to unthought-of heights and called his work sabrmetrics. The “sabr” part is an homage to the Society for American Baseball Research, of which I was once a member.
Now, Mark Broadie, a professor at Columbia University, is doing the same for golf, with his strokes gained concept. His work has great value for professional golfers, but the jury (of which I am the only member) is still out on its value for recreational golfers.
Here are the stats I think you need: just three numbers.
1. How many full swings did you make?
2. How many shots did you make from a distance that is less than a full swing with your pitching wedge, down to just off the green?
3. How many putts (shots where the ball lies on the green) did you make?
Throw in penalty strokes and hack-outs from big trouble, and you’ve got ’em all.
By the way, everybody thinks the 3rd one isn’t worth much, but for recreational golfers it’s critical.
One of my old blog posts tells you how to diagnose your game with just these three numbers.
I often play with three guys who don’t break 90, but who write down hieroglyphics on their scorecard after every hole. All they need for each hole is these three numbers.
That’s all you need, too.