What are we really measuring? Part 2. 

This is the second part of our ‘What are we really measuring?” series. To read the first part, click here. 

Driving Accuracy (Fairways hit) is defined as: “The percentage of time a tee shot comes to rest in the fairway, regardless of club”. It does just that, it only looks at the result in a binary fashion: either the ball is on the fairway or it isn’t. It assumes that all shots that are off the fairway are worth the same (a missed fairway) and that all shots in the fairway are also worth the same (a hit fairway). What this statistic fails to account for is that there are many more factors in play than just accuracy such as the driving distance and what lie the ball ends up in.

The problem with Driving Accuracy: It doesn’t account for distance.

The problem with Driving Accuracy: It doesn’t account for distance; 14/14 fairways hit isn’t necessarily good

A 300 yard drive in the fairway is a lot better than a 250 yard drive in the fairway but the driving accuracy statistic doesn’t account for the distance of the tee shot. It would be relatively easy to hit every fairway on a course by just hitting 7-irons off the tee (assuming that there are no forced carries), but the end result of hitting these 14 fairways is not desirable due to the fact that you’re very unlikely to have advanced the ball far enough off the tee to have a chance to hit your next shot close to the hole.

The problem with Driving Accuracy: it doesn’t account for the quality of the missed fairways

Let’s say you hit a 300 yard drive 1 inch out in the rough. In most cases, if you’re playing a par-4, you will have a relatively short approach shot from this distance and due to the length of the shot, it is actually a very ‘effective’ tee shot, but this is a missed fairway. As a matter of fact, a 300 yard drive in the rough is in most cases a better outcome than a 250 yard drive in the fairway. There are exceptions of course, for example if you hit the ball into a ‘recovery situation’ where you can’t advance the ball to your desired target, but in most cases when you have a clear shot towards the hole you are better off being closer to the hole than being further away.

Since the ‘driving accuracy’ statistic only looks at the binary relationship between hit fairway and missed fairway, it also doesn’t do a good job of accounting for really bad misses. A ball hit out of bounds is simply a ‘missed fairway’ just a like a 300 yard drive 1 inch from the fairway out in the rough. Clearly these ‘misses’ are not worth the same and need to be accounted for in a different manner.