In 2003, best-selling author Michael Lewis published Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. The book was about how Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane used advanced analytics to uncover hidden value in baseball players and gain a statistical advantage over his more well-resourced competition.
You’ve probably heard of the book. It sold almost 2 million copies, was adapted into an award-winning movie and has made a legitimate cultural impact far beyond baseball. In the 15 years since it was first published, nearly every sport has undergone their “Moneyball” evolution where traditional counting stats are eschewed in favor of advanced analytics. Golf is no exception.
You could argue that Mark Broadie is to golf as Billy Beane is to baseball. Broadie is a Columbia Business School professor who is best-known for introducing the Strokes Gained statistics around 2011. Essentially, Strokes Gained is a more accurate representation of how a player is performing relative to the field. As it quickly gained wide-acceptance in golf, the game’s best players began to consider how a more detailed statistical understanding of their own games might benefit them on the course.
Around the same time that Broadie introduced Strokes Gained, Brandt Snedeker became the first player to hire a full-time statistical analyst on TOUR. It quickly paid off.
In 2011, Snedeker earned $3,587,206, more than doubling his earnings from the previous year. In 2012 he made $4,989,739, not including $10,000,000 bonus for winning the Tour Championship. While his analyst wasn’t the only reason for his improvement, Snedeker was keenly aware of the impact that statistics made on his game:
Not surprisingly, a large number of golfers on professional tours employ some sort of statistical analyst today. Competitive golfers have found that understanding and evaluating their numbers has helped inform practice habits, course strategy and identify areas of weakness.
While many of the resources available to TOUR players are impractical for amateur golfers, basic data analytics is not one of them. If you consider everything an amatuer can do to try to improve, evaluating shot data and tendencies is one of the most simple, cost-effective solutions imaginable.
Here are three ways that using a tool like Rapsodo MLM will help you improve your game:
1. Know How Far You REALLY Hit Your Irons
Most golfers base club selection on their best contact, not their average contact. We remember our best shot on the range and then assign it as our stock yardage for that particular club. The unfortunate reality is that amateurs don’t find the center of the clubface nearly as often as we’d like to think we do. This results in a lower smash factor and significant decrease in distance from the shot we remember flushing on the range.
This isn’t an issue that only plagues high-handicap golfers either. Golfers of ALL levels grossly overestimate how far they hit the ball.
According to research shared by Today’s Golfer, golfers almost never miss long. This becomes especially problematic with approach shots.
Surely the most telling stat, the number of misses short compared to long paints a sorry picture for how many of us are falling foul of golf ‘s most heinous crime. While only one approach in 20 goes through the green for all handicap levels, longer-handicappers leave almost every other iron shot short. Even at 11-15-handicap level, one in three shots fail to reach the green. In terms of the club, we get slightly better as the club gets shorter, but we are still leaving one in four 9-irons short of the green, and more than one in three 5-irons.
0-5: 5% (long) 24% (short)
6-10: 5% (long) 28% (short)
11-15: 5% (long) 34% (short)
16-20: 5% (long) 41% (short)
20+: 5% (long) 48% (short)
2. Manage Your Misses
Greenskeepers call them sucker pins for a reason. They could set a pin two paces from the Grand Canyon and most of us would take dead aim. Pin hunting might be fun, but it isn’t always smart.
Nobody is good enough to attack every flagstick… Not even the pros.
Since televised golf usually only shows round highlights or live shots from leaders (who are playing well), it’s easy to get the impression that the best golfers in the world stuff every shot with a short-iron. In reality, they have a far wider shot dispersion that you might think.
According to Broadie, the average pro on the PGA TOUR will put half of their shots within 23 feet from 150 yards away. The best pros, will have a median of 21 feet.
Comparatively, the average golfer bogey will put half of their shots 56 feet from 150 yards out (and miss the green over 65% of the time).
The shot dispersion tracking and visualization offered by Rapsodo MLM can be an impactful tool for amateurs. By understanding where you miss, how often you miss and by how much you miss, golfers can identify weak spots in their game and make more informed decisions related to course strategy.
3. Data-Friendly Golfers Are More Likely To Improve
One of the most compelling cases for implementing simple data analytics through MLM is that research suggests individuals who do something to monitor their progress are far more likely to improve and achieve their goals.
In 2014, the University of Sheffield’s Benjamin Harkin, PhD did a meta-analysis of 138 studies pertaining to goal setting in hopes of better understanding the impact of monitoring and self-evaluation. Not only did he and his team find that more frequent monitoring of progress was associated with better results, they found that even larger improvements were experienced when the data was recorded and made public.
According to Harkin, “monitoring goal progress is a crucial process that comes into play between setting and attaining a goal, ensuring that the goals are translated into action.”
20 years ago, applying the practice of self-monitoring to golf was impractical for most. Recording meaningful data was extremely difficult and organizing was nearly impossible. Today, with tools like MLM, it’s literally the click of a button. In mere minutes you’re able to review relevant stats, compare results to other users or share your data with friends.
Rapsodo MLM isn’t just designed to make practice more fun, it’s a tool to make game-improvement more achievable. By having a better statistical understanding of your game, you’ll be better prepared for the challenges you face on the course.