Friday, August 21, 2015

Short Game: When is a missed green NOT an ERROR?

Shot By Shot was the first statistical program to recognize the importance of errors in the short game and enable our users to record them 25 years ago.  When we launched a simplified, web version of the program in 2005, we had users record when their short game shots were successful (hit the green) or missed the green (errors).  The subsequent putting distance recorded revealed the exact level of success but we did not know the exact extent of the mistake.    The percentage of misses (or errors) has been a valuable component in our short game handicap determinations - a proprietary balance of three factors:
  1. Average putting distance when the green was hit;
  2. % of attempts hit close (to within 5 feet for Chip/Pitch, 8 feet for Sand);
  3. % Errors (shots that missed the green).  
The PGA Tour data does not include errors or missed greens in the 409+ ShotLink stats.  I had my my programmer extract these important pieces of data from ShotLink for use in my work with Tour players.  As one can see above, in 2014 the PGA Tour player on average MISSED greens with 7% of their Chip/Pitch shots (within 50 yards of the hole) and 11% for Sand shots from within the same range.  If you think these numbers, when viewed as errors, seem high - I agree. 

A post-round discussion with my genius programmer led us to the solution of this dilemma.  Why not see what percentage of the missed greens actually took the players more than 3 strokes to hole out?  Three strokes from a short game situation is not a SAVE, but it is certainly not a stroke lost. The save %'s are:  Chip/Pitch - 65% and Sand - 50%.  But four or more strokes to hole out is definitely an ERROR.

Once the programming was done, the answer confirmed that "These guys really are good!In 75% of their missed greens with Chip/Pitch attempts, and 73% of missed Sand shots, the Tour holes out in 3 strokes or less.

How does your game compare?  Just stay tuned.  Now that we have been collecting score by hole since last October, we will be able to exactly match our new Tour calculations.  I plan to wait until we have a full year of new data but am very anxious to see the results.

  

Friday, July 31, 2015

How bad could Jordan Spieth's putting be in ANY range?


This year's Open at St. Andrews was by far the most exciting that I have watched.  Forgive me for being a big Zach Johnson supporter - I've been the stat advisor to Zach and his team for the past four years.

Please don't tell Zach, but I was also pulling for Jordan Spieth.  It bothered me to hear the commentators continually refer to Jordan as a poor putter in the important 5-10 ft. range.  I understand that this was intended to build suspense as Jordan stood over these critical putts.  But let's put the record straight.  First, Jordan is by no measure a "poor" putter.  Second, the rationale cited was  Jordan's Tour ranking of #87 in that range, which is just WRONG.  The ranking number is not wrong, but its use to support the assertion is dead wrong.  I decided to write this blog when a good friend (a very knowledgeable golfer - but not a ShotByShot.com subscriber?!) quoted this stat in the context of "... can you believe how bad Jordan is with these short range putts?" I did some homework to set him straight, and realized it was worth sharing.  I hope you agree.

Compaction
First, the Tour maintains a total of 649 Tour Stats.  With the exception of the two Strokes Gained stats (Putting and Tee-to-Green), the remaining 647 stats are one-dimensional snapshots of a small slice of performance and can be very misleading.  The rankings represent where the player stands relative to his peers.  But at this level - the very top of the game - differences are very slight.  I refer to it as "compaction."  For example, let's examine exactly what Jordan's 87th ranking in the 5-10 ft. putt range really means.
  • The #1 ranked player is Troy Merritt (who?) makes 65.15% of his opportunities in this range.
  • Jordan's 57.3% is better than the Tour avg. of 56%.
  • This stat does not drop below 50% for any player until #190
  • The worst player in this range, ranked #196, makes 45% of his opportunities.
  • Like most players, Jordan averaged less that three putts (2.7) in this range per round.
  • Finally, the range should be 6-10.  There is way too much difference in the average make % between 5' 4" and 8 or 9+ ft. so each player's actual spread of distances will influence the result.
Bottom line, Jordan's 57% is not bad at all - he's better than average in a very small slice of the overall putting pie.
Strokes Gained
Jordan Spieth is ranked #6 in this MOST IMPORTANT putting stat.  I don't recall this stat being mentioned in the telecast.  For those that are unfamiliar, this stat compares the player's performance for the distance of each putt opportunity to a model of the average performance of the entire Tour for that distance.  It is as close to perfect as a golf stat can get.  For a more complete explanation see:
 How Good is Strokes Gained Putting

The graph above displays Jordan's current Tour rankings from each distance range.  For perspective, I added his Strokes Gained Putting ranking (6) in blue.  When I average all the Tour rankings by range, Jordan would rank #48.  This makes no sense as the vast majority of putts fall into the first three ranges.  So I performed a weighted average based upon my educated estimates of the # of putts within each range.  In theory, the weighted average should approximate Jordan's overall skill level.  Instead it bumps Jordan up to #64 - a long way from his real skill level - #6.

In closing, my plea to broadcasters:  If you are going to cite statistics, please understand what they really mean.  If you need help, call me!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It only took 26 years!

In 1989, I left a successful career in the reinsurance business to, of all things, get into the golf business.  Imagine having that discussion with your wife?  My idea was to apply what I had learned about computer modeling to radically improve golf stats and performance analysis.  There was no internet, apps or even cell phones.  It took two years to gather enough rounds to create my first "Scratch" model and another year to launch what I called Strokes Lost/Saved Analysis - now known as Strokes Gained (read the History of Strokes Gained).   

Along the way, I was told by lots of smart people that my system would never catch on - notably, several venture capital specialists and the PGA Tour (but only three times).  But there was also a bright side.  Some noteworthy instructors took an interest and helped me keep rolling the stone up the hill.  Carol Mann was the first and introduced me, and the program, to a host of LPGA players.  A few Golf Digest instructors (Hank Johnson, Chuck Cook and Jack Lumpkin) were very helpful and encouraging.  Tom Patri was an early and influential supporter.  And no one has done more for me and my business than my Canadian brother, Henry Brunton.  Could never thank you enough, Hank!

On Saturday night we launched ShotByShot.com's revised Complete Game Analysis.  This new version added Approach shots - the final piece of the complete Strokes Gained puzzle.  Keeping the program simple enough that golfers will actually use it, while introducing a very sophisticated analysis, proved to be even more of a challenge than expected.  But I believe we have done it!  Great thanks to the many users that contacted me with questions in the beta phase, and to two, long-time Group Leaders who spent their valuable time studying the results and discussing them with me.  Special thanks to Derek Ingram (another Canadian and the National Team Coach) and Jeff Isler, who runs a great academy in Southlake, Texas (www.jeffislergolf.com).

I look forward to your feedback on the program and to continued grow and improvement. 

  



 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Introducing Approach Shots - Now Strokes Gained Analysis for EVERY facet

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We are proud to announce the addition of the Approach Shot distance and position to ShotByShot.com.  The distance will be entered and analyzed in the same 25 yard ranges used in the PGA Tour stats.  This adds the final piece of the Strokes Gained puzzle and completes our Strokes Gained analysis.  Every major facet will be analyzed and included in the determination of a player's #1 Improvement Priority.  We are so proud of the result that this additional component will not be an option, as anticipated.  The new information easy, usually only one additional click, and who attempts an approach shot without knowing the distance.  Finally, the complete product is far too good not to be used by all of our players.

What does this mean for our current subscribers and Group Leaders?  Everyone currently using the program will simply have the benefit of the new feature at no additional cost.  There may be a price increase at renewal?

The retail price of the program for new subscribers will increase from $59 to $79.  A premium price for a premium product.

When?  Within days.  The app has been submitted for Apple's approval and considering that it is simply an upgrade of an existing app, approval should come quickly.

How will you know?  We will announce it, but when you login you will see the Approach shot feature.  Simply download the App's update. 

What about an Android App?  Soon!  It was nearly complete when we decided to move Approach shots to the top of our list.  Further, it did not makes sense to release it without the Approach feature.

Skip and I look forward to your feedback.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

What is your 2.0 Putt Distance?


In studying performance at all levels for more than 25 years, I have found that there are two distinct skills needed to become a good putter:  Alignment and Distance Control.  Proper alignment is especially critical in the 1-Putt range.  Distance control is critical to avoid 3-Putts from longer range.  It is important to practice both skills.  I recommend spending 60% to 70% of your practice time on the former, or putts inside 10 ft., with special emphasis on 3, 4 and 5 footers.  I carry the SeeMore Triangulator in my golf bag, and do not let a week go by during the season without using it to sharpen my short putt alignment. 

I like to measure skill levels in these two important skills in terms of the 50% Make distance - the distance at which a player consistently makes 50% of their putts; and, the 2.0 Distance - the distance from which a player averages 2.0 putts.  Simply stated, from your 2.0 distance, you 2-Putt the vast majority.  But when you don't, you 1-Putt and 3-Putt with the same frequency. 

The graph above displays the 2.0 Putt distances for an array of handicap levels.  The 50% Make distances are:
Tour - 8 ft.,  0 Hcp - 7 ft.,  5 to 15 Hcp - 6 ft.  20 Hcp - 5 ft.

Over your next few rounds try to get a feel for where your skills stand.  If you would like to know precisely, log on to www.ShotByShot.com and register for our FREE Trial.  We have been providing Strokes Gained Analysis to all golfers since 1992.