The New Golf Stats/The Secret to Golf

Do you think that fairways hit, greens in regulation (GIR), number of putts, etc, are important stats to keep? Many golfers do, and I hear teaching pros say their students should keep track of them. There has always been this gnawing feeling that they don’t really tell us what we want to know about why we shoot the scores we shoot, and the only reason we use them is that they’re easy to count.

Enter the statisticians, the real statisticians who work at the university level, and who use analytical procedures that would make your head spin. They’re going straight to the heart of golf, and their works is starting to emerge into the mainstream.

A few weeks ago, the PGA started posting a new putting statistic, Strokes Gained–Putting. This is the brainchild of Mark Broadie, of Columbia University. It compares the putting of a particular player with the putting of the field overall. It was mentioned during the Wells Fargo Championship on May 8, that eventual winner Lucas Glover had gained 8 strokes on the field on the greens, per this new stat.

You could say his putts per GIR were low, or his total putts were low, but SG-P tells you directly what the effect of his week with a hot putter was.

Broadie’s description of the new stat is posted here.

There are several other reports I would like to call your attention to. One by Devin Pope and Maurice Schweitzer concludes that the pros are more likely to leave birdie putts short than par putts of the same length, showing that they are loss averse, that is, the risk for them of making a bogey outweighs the gain of making a birdie.

Another study, also by Broadie, shows that where Tiger Woods has (or had) his advantage over the field is not on the green, but from the fairway. In 2003-10, Woods had a 3.20-stroke margin on the field, but 2.08 strokes of that came from his long game, mainly his iron play, and only 0.70 shots per round from his putting, and 0.42 shots from his short game. Read it here. Tiger himself has said that his irons are his offensive weapons.

Hopefully, these new stats and ways of analyzing golf will trickle down to recreational golfers. But even if they do, they will only tell us that our irons need work, not how to work on our irons.
This video, a mock infomercial, has been making the rounds lately. It’s John O’Hurley’s The Secret to Golf, and it’s pretty darn funny. When you watch it, pay attention to the guy in the bunker in the background.

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at It will change everything about the way you play.

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