What are we really measuring? (Part 1)

This is the first post in a series highlighting the issues with using traditional golf statistics to measure our performances on the golf course.

Key takeaway:

Since traditional golf stats are not precise in what they are measuring, we end up with the same metric in a range of different scenarios. Two players can play a hole extremely differently and end up with more or less the same stats, and this means that we can’t be sure of what these traditional metrics really mean.

Key Solution: 

We have to be more precise in the way we measure our performance on the golf course.

It’s not enough to rely on traditional golf stats to accurately measure our skill level; instead, they should be used as supporting variables in a bigger analysis that also includes a Strokes Gained combined with a frequency analysis. We may be a bit biased here, but we think Anova.Golf is a great solution to use. If you haven’t already, you can sign up here for a free 30-day trial.

The traditional way:

From an early age, we have been told that if we want to go into more depth than just our gross score or stableford points, measuring our performances in golf is about keeping track of fairways and greens hit, up and downs, sand saves and counting putts. For a scratch handicapper, shooting 72 with 12 greens hit, 10 fairways and 30 putts could be a typical composition of these traditional golf stats. One might say something like: “what if I had only had 3 less putts, then I would have shot a 69”; or ‘it’s clear that putting is my weakness, just look at the tour average which was 28 putts”.

Will your scores really go down in ‘no-time’?:

As we will soon see, all of these traditional metrics are flawed in one way or another, because they either try to do too much or too little, or they completely omit the effect of the shots that were ‘unsuccessful’. What they all have in common is that they have, for a very long time, been widely accepted as ‘the truth about what happened during the round’ and that the key to improving your golf game is to improve these metrics. Sounds simple, right? Just hit more fairways, then hit more greens, then make more putts. Get more shots up and down from off the green, and increase your sand save percentage. Your scores will go down in no-time.


There are some big problem with this, and it is that when you look at these variables in a bit more detail, it is obvious that there are some very big flaws in how they actually measure performance, and in some cases, what they are actually measuring.

In order to understand the reasoning below, it is beneficial to be familiar with the statistic called “Efficiency”which is the average number of strokes to hole from a specific distance. This means that we can look at the effect of hitting the ball further or shorter, in the rough or other lies, by looking at how the average score is changing based on where your next shot is played from.

Stay tuned:

For the next few days, we will highlight a specific traditional stat and show how it is difficult to know what they mean. Stay tuned!