Friday, July 25, 2008

Golf numbers: comparing amateurs to pros

Last Monday, the New York Times described some interesting findings in golf sabermetrics.

The analysis, by golf researcher Mark Broadie (who does research for the PGA), describes and quantifies some of the differences between amateur golfers and the pros. So if you're looking to compare Tiger Woods to Phil Mickelson, Broadie's work probably won't help you quite yet. But it's interesting nonetheless.

Broadie had the PGA database with which to analyze pro scores. For amateur scores, he got players at a local course to log all their shots. He wound up with 43,000 amateur strokes, which, I suppose, is about 400-500 rounds.

He then analyzed the entire database to break down some of the score differences. For instance, at what distance is there a 50% chance of sinking a putt? The professionals break even on 8-foot putts, but, as you would imagine, it's shorter for amateurs. The breakdown by handicap:

8 feet: Pros
6 feet: Amateurs with handicap of 0-9 [I'll call these "A" amateurs]
5 feet: Amateurs with handicap of 10-19 ["B"]
4 feet: Amateurs with handicap of 20-36 ["C"].

In yardage off the tee:

279 yards: Pros
248 yards: Group A amateurs
237 yards: Group B amateurs
216 yards: Group C amateurs

And, a very interesting statistic: when hitting from 100 to 150 yards away from the hole, what percentage of that distance is left after the stroke?

5.6%: Pros
8.7%: Group A amateurs
12.0%: Group B amateurs
17.3%: Group C amateurs

And so Broadie suggests a way to see if your short game needs more help than your long game: figure out your own percentage, and compare it to which group you fit into. For instance, suppose your handicap is 3, which puts you in Group A. If your percentage is higher than 8.7, it means your short game is worse than that of your peers (which means your long game is better).

There are more tidbits: check out the entire article.

HT: Bob Timmermann

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