Teacher’s Comments: Every Shot Counts turns much of what we “know” about golf on its head.
Through the twin miracles of the PGA Tour’s Shot Link data collection and modern statistical analysis, Mark Broadie has given every player—from weekend hacker to top Tour Pro—a new set of tools with with to analyze their games.
At the core of Broadie’s approach is the concept of “Shots Gained.” which is a measure of how well a golfer does against the average from any given distance. Here’s the paragraph from the book that made it all clear to me:
On a 460 yard hole, about average for par-four and par-five holes on tour, a drive that travels 300 yards and finished in the fairway leaves 160 yards to go. The PGA TOUR average strokes to hole out from 160 yards is 2.98 strokes. A drive that travels 20 yards farther and finishes in the fairway leaves 140 yards to go, where the PGA TOUR average stokes to hole out is 2.91 strokes, a gain of 0.07 strokes. If the longer drive finishes in the rough, the PGA TOUR average strokes to hole out is 3.15, representing a loss of 0.17 strokes (3.15 strokes compared with 2.98 strokes). Suppose, in a round with 14 par-four and par-five holes, one longer drive finishes in the rough. The total gain for the round is 13 (0.07) – 1 (0.17) = 0.74 strokes.
What he’s saying here is that Shots Gained tells a player the value of every shot relative to the “field.” This applies not only to TOUR players, but also to the hacker. Using vast amounts of simulated and real statistical data, the value of every shot can be measured.
Every Shot Counts is not an easy read (nor is it as obtuse as a statistical analysis could be). I have a very solid background in economics and statistics, but often found that I needed to reread a section to be sure I fully understood Broadie’s conclusions—and how he arrived there. That, however, is likely just a function of my own background. I not only needed to know the results, but also the process.
The less statistically inclined will want to concentrate on the results. In this, Broadie is abundantly clear. He summarizes each finding succinctly, and provides bullet points at the end of each chapter.
What is especially nice is that although the shot link data is all about the pro game, Broadie is ever mindful of the weeekender. Indeed, every conclusion he draws has a component that the amateur can use.
Here’s what I took away from the book (and it in many ways confirms what I already suspected): Because I don’t hit the ball far enough off the tee, I am behind against the “field” from the start. Short tee shots means longer approach shots (which Broadie conclusively proves is the most important shot in the game). Longer approach shots tend to put me further form the hole—again losing in the “shots gained” category against the “field.” I then have fewer one-putts and more two-putts because of the distances involved.
Nearly every teaching pro I’ve visited has wanted to offer instruction on the short game and putting as the key to lower scores: “Drive for show and putt for dough.” Broadie conclusively puts that old saw to rest. Here’s what we should be working on instead:
1) Hit it as far as you possibly can off the tee.
2) Develop more skill with your approach clubs: irons and hybrids.
3) Short to medium putts. It turns out that from long range, the pros are not much better than the weekender. Pros, on the other hand, don’t miss the four footers.