In November 2016, we started a new feature where a volunteer steps forward and works with us to analyze a bunch of representative rounds to shed some light about their game. You can find the first article in the series here, with all the appropriate background on the goals of this series.
In this second article, we will take a close look into @SlowCelica’s game (from now on, referred to as SC). We will intentionally throw a lot of numbers at you, so if that is not your style, then there is no need to read on. There are lots of charts below, so if you want to just skim, you’ll likely get the gist. Later, we will create a thread in the discussion forum, where we can have a dialogue with SC about the analysis.
The point is to see what useful knowledge we can get from of the numbers, not to simply geek out with stats. We will also get a baseline of where SC stands now, and as we get deep into the season, we intend to check back in with SC to see how his game progressed.
SC is in his late 30s, and he took up the game in high school when he worked at a local golf course. Like so many others, SC never took lessons until much later in life, because there was really only time to play a few rounds per year. Several years ago, SC began to play golf weekly, and he decided to seek out instruction. After sampling local golf instruction, SC is now an Evolvr student, and he is happy to have shaved about 10 strokes already.
SC is now breaking 90 regularly, with some blowup rounds over 100 occasionally. His goal is to score consistently in the mid-80s, with a low perhaps under 80 every so often. SC regularly plays a course that is relatively easy (white tees are a par 70, rated 68.0/116), and we’ve chosen to use 8 rounds at that one course to establish his benchmarks for improvement.
As for why he likes old, slow Toyotas, we’ll just have to wait for the discussion thread topic to ask him about that part of his history.
SlowCelica’s (SC) Initial Thoughts
As a GAME GOLF (GG) user, SC already is aware that his driving distance needs work. His goal for instruction has been to improve his length off the tee, because even on the 6000yd course, he is often leaving himself mid- to long-iron approach shots. SC wants to see that turn into short- to mid-irons more regularly.
GG, however, tells him that he can gain the most by improving his putting, so he is torn as to which to make a priority. We will try to give an alternative view to GG’s assessment to help SC choose where to spend his practice time.
GG also tells him that his short game is the second place to look to save strokes, but as we transcribed his rounds from GG over to our analysis tool, the short game didn’t appear to be a glaring weakness. It would be surprising if short game practice would yield much of the 7 or 8 stroke improvement that SC is looking for.
As mentioned in the first article, the key in this analysis is simply to look at the lie and the proximity to the hole- before and after every shot. From that, we can categorize each shot and determine some numerical assessment of the quality by category.
We will do something different from our first analysis, by bringing in an adaptation of a post-round assessment checklist described in Lowest Score Wins (LSW), a best-selling book by Erik J. Barzeski and David Wedzik. For those who have purchased the book, you are able to visit the member content on the LSW site (with the password from the book) and find the sample assessment checklist.
Lots of data ahead, so buckle up. First, let’s take a look at the big picture.
These GG profile statistics match the 8 representative rounds that we selected to export to our tool. The only thing to add is that his nGIR rate about 56%, which is not a statistic provided by GG yet.
A good starting point, as these are what most of us consider the traditional stats. Some initial thoughts:
- 43% FIR- seems reasonable for a 20 handicap, but this stat is independent of driving distance- limiting its use as a full indicator of how well SC gets off the tee.
- 25% GIR- right in the ballpark for an 18 handicap, but a tad low for his target scores.
- 56% nGIR- about 10 out of 18 holes where SC is near the green in regulation- certainly an area to improve to reach his target.
- 11% scrambling. This seems a tad low and worth investigating, and likely why GG recommended it as a second priority.
- 2.0 putts per hole also indicates an area that could use work. Our tool indicates 2.5 putts per GIR (again, a stat GG does not provide yet), also indicating a potential issue.
A striking characteristic of SC’s game is revealed in this graphic:
What consistency! For this course, SC reliably scored par, bogey, or double-bogey. Only 1 or 2 holes per round were the dreaded “other” (triple-bogey or worse). This is likely a result of the relative ease of the course, due to its lack of diabolical hazards.
GG does not have a report on penalties per round, but for the 8 rounds we selected, SC only had 7 penalty strokes recorded, and just one of those was stroke and distance off the tee. In my experience of reviewing rounds, that is unusual for a player who scores in the low 90s. This also tells us again that the course could be relatively forgiving compared to others that we have analyzed similarly.
At this point, the statistics do not clearly indicate one area for SC to focus on. Let’s dive into the strokes gained information that we can glean.
GG provides this strokes gained analysis, derived from their data on scratch players:
From the 8 rounds we analyzed, we derive this strokes gained chart against PGA benchmarks (worth noting is that GG uses 100yds as its threshold for “Short Game,” but our analysis uses 60yds):
We expect differences against different baselines, but as usual, there are quite a few differences in the numbers.
GG shows that the lost strokes are roughly equal inside 100yds and outside 100yds.
When comparing against PGA data, however, we see 60% outside 60yds (full swing), and only 40% inside 60yds.
Since there is some minor disagreement between GG’s and the PGA strokes gained comparisons, I’ll assert that these things below are likely true:
- Approach play is where SC loses the most strokes,
- Putting is a skill where SC is losing about 6 strokes per round,
- Short game represents approximately half of the strokes lost of approach play.
- Based on the rounds manually reviewed, driving was likely responsible for more than the 3 strokes that GG indicated.
At the LSW website, the member content area has a chart that we can each use to analyze our game to assess how to allocate your practice time. We give ourselves a grade of 1 (poor), 2 (average), or 3 (good) for how well we execute each shot. When broken down by category, we will see a numerical answer as to how successful we were for each area.
Starting from this idea, and getting assist from the PGA Strokes Gained charts here, we can take this to a truly geeky level.
We will assign a grade of “Flub” to a shot if SC loses more than 0.6 strokes to a PGA player. What does that look like?
- For a drive, that equates to hitting a 100-130yd drive (depending on the resulting lie).
- For an mid-iron approach with say, a 7-iron, it’s leaving yourself a short game shot anything beyond around 30yds.
- For a straightforward chip shot on the perimeter of the green, it’s leaving yourself a 20ft putt.
All of those are rough approximations from the PGA shot data linked above, but they give you a sense of how the numbers work out when we are discussing a “flub.” These are definitely shots that we want back- even for bogey golfers.
A grade of “Great” is assigned to shots where SC only loses 0.1 strokes or fewer to a PGA professional. We will assign an “OK” grade to all shots in between “Flub” and “Great.”
After a full review of 8 rounds, the chart above shows how many consequential opportunities SC had for each category (average per round), along with how many shots of each grade resulted. Keep in mind, the 76 consequential shots per round does not include gimme putts, penalty strokes, or any shots deemed to be recovery (chipping out from the woods, for example).
The main takeaway from that chart is that SC flubs 11 of 35.5 full swing shots. For strokes inside 60yds (short game and putts), SC flubs 9 of 40.4.
In the chart below, we focus in on the strokes gained for both the total round and the flubbed shots. This answers the question of how damaging the flubbed shots are to SC’s score.
Interestingly, SC has the fewest flubs and the fewest strokes lost due to short game shots. Partly, this is due to the fewer opportunities, but when compared to driving, he actually had more opportunities for short game than he did for driving.
This chart also sheds light on those that say, “if I could only be more consistent, I’d instantly improve by a ton!” Well, yes, the majority of your strokes lost are from a relatively small number of your total shots. The key is identifying the source of those flubs, and to determine how much work is involved in eliminating those flubs. Is there some flaw in your form that is contributing, and therefore should be eliminated by “changing the picture?” Or do you just need to groove your current swing with more practice? This is where an instructor is invaluable (not to mention TST discussion threads), and is beyond the scope of this article.
At this point, it is fair to say that short game practice will not be a major source for SC to improve his scores. Let’s continue into each area individually to take a deep look at his performance.
In the “Insights” area, GG provides us with this report on SC’s driving:
GG also provides this in the club data:
SC has hit just under 50% of fairways off the tee, with a “typical” distance under 210 yds. SC is aware that distance is an issue, and his instructor is working on that with him already. Since this snapshot was taken, there may be improvements already on this front, so time will tell.
SC is fully aware that distance is a form of accuracy, in that generally, the farther the ball is hit from the tee, the closer to the pin it will be for the next shot. Simply gaining 20yds off the tee will immediately help SC reduce his scores by 1 or 2 strokes, just from a back-of-the-envelope look at the PGA data. The longer he can hit the drive, the more the benefit.
This chart below analyzes the impact of all of his drives over 8 representative rounds we selected:
If SC can hit the fairway, he doubles his chances of hitting the green, and he more than doubles his chances of reaching near the green.
What is hurting SC the most with his drives is that he has about 4.5 drives of the 13 opportunities per round (he plays a par 70 course with five par 3’s) where he is not giving himself much of a chance. See the section above on flubs. Those poor drives account for 5 of his 7 strokes lost in driving the ball.
Bottom line: we expect that by more consistently advancing the ball farther with his driver, SC can reduce his scores by 2 or 3 strokes.
In the “Insights” area, GG provides this scatter plot:
Extracting the shots from GG, we can generate this view of things to see the impact on scoring of hitting greens:
When SC is on or near the green (10.3 times per round), he scores about +8 for those holes (better than bogey golf). But for the 7.8 holes per round where he is not near the green in regulation, SC scores nearly +14. These poor ball-striking holes are hurting SC. To improve his scores, SC must get up near the green more often.
These charts below provide specifics regarding his ability to get the ball close and to score from various ranges that align with the ranges found in LSW, Section 2, Chapter 12: Full Swing Practice, if readers want to follow along with the averages and ceilings provided there. A wealth of information, but we will highlight a couple things that stand out.
Over the 8 rounds, SC is getting just over 6 opportunities per round from the fairway in the 120-170yd range (likely a mid-iron), and he is flubbing 1.5 of them on average. Costly. Bogey golfers need to strive to get a much higher percentage of shots from the fairway up near the green- for either a putt or simple short game shot.
To summarize this approach play, SC loses about 8 strokes per round outside 60yds (excluding drives). And he is getting 22 opportunities to hit these shots per round. SC is flubbing more than 6 of these 22 opportunities per round. From this, we conclude SC would benefit by simply advancing the ball toward the green more consistently with all of his irons, under all lie conditions.
With moderate effort in his full swing mechanics, SC may be able to make up 3 strokes from the 8 he is losing in this category.
GG shows us this scatter plot from inside 100yds:
All in all, this looks reasonable for a bogey golfer. We can extract proximity data from GG, and we reveal this information:
SC only had a few bunker shots for the 8 holes we analyzed, so we will leave that off the analysis. According to LSW, SC has some room for improvement with his proximity on his shots around the green. In the 20-60yd range, the ceiling listed is 11ft, for example, whereas SC is just over twice that. Other bogey golfers we have seen can average inside 10ft from <20yds from the pin, but SC averages 14ft. With 14 short game opportunities per round, sticking it just that much closer with a chip or pitch could improve his up and down conversion rate.
At the same time, while SC could improve with some continued practice, we do not see the short game as being the major area where SC could significantly improve over a short time. Since the area includes shots of all kinds (pitches, chips, bunker play, etc), it could be tough to pinpoint exactly what type of shot to focus on- for what appears to be a small potential gain (only about 1 stroke might be at play to improve to being a mid-80s player).
GG indicates that SC has 2.0 putts per hole (36.0 per round). GG says SC loses 6 strokes to scratch players. When we extract the same putts and compare against PGA data, we see SC losing just under 6.5 putts per round. As a comparison, we typically see bogey golfers a couple strokes better than that on the greens.
Here is more data after extracting the putting data from GG:
SC was also determined to have 2.5 putts per GIR (not shown above), and we all know how frustrating it is to arrive at the green in regulation and walk away with bogey.
The 3.6 three-putts per round indicate some room for improvement with longer putts, but also that SC would benefit from hitting those knee-knocker comeback putts after an iffy lag putt. While those three-putts can hurt, the analysis shows that SC loses nearly 5 strokes putting to PGA pros in the 3-15ft range.
It is quite possible SC could shave 2 or 3 strokes per round by simply getting him back into parity with the putting skills of other players near his scoring ability. We know it is possible, because we have seen it with other analyses.
Putting it All Together
GG says that driving is the area where SC is doing relatively the best according to their strokes gained, and their recommendations are this:
We recommend re-ordering their list, and if you add up the potential gains in each area below, SC can comfortably achieve his goal of reducing his stroke average by 8 (from 92 to 84). Obviously, this is not an exact science, so each area is only a rough approximation of something that is possible (and in my mind, somewhat likely):
Full Swing- Approach shots and Drives. In 35 full swings per round, SC has 11 flubs that cost him over 10 strokes to PGA professionals. If those 11 flubs can be turned into shots similar to the rest (i.e., more consistent), that can save several strokes right there. Improve driving and approach shot distances, and it may be possible to improve by 5 or 6 shots with the full swing as a means to achieve the mid-80s goal.
Putting. The 3-15ft putting is costing strokes compared to others of a similar overall scoring ability. Putting poorly in this range is also contributing to three-putts from longer distances. It is reasonable to save 2 or 3 strokes in putting, simply by getting to a skill level in putting that is representative of others who score similarly.
Short Game. There is room for improvement to get closer to the ceilings listed in LSW for how close you can expect to get with short game shots. However, at 14 opportunities per round, an improvement of much more than 1 stroke in this area will not be easily achieved, when compared to the full swing and putting areas.
Our goal here is simply to show where he is most likely to gain strokes on the course to get SC reliably into the mid-80s on the course we analyzed. Nothing can replace a good instructor who may be able to find perhaps one technique that SC can learn easily that pays dividends. That is ultimately up to SC and his instructor, but we would like for SC to succeed in his goal and follow up later to see where the specific gains were made. But how cool will it be to see SC’s scores come down so we can track where gains were actually made- since we now have a solid baseline? Ball is in your court now, @SlowCelica!
Review of SC Prediction
SC was reluctant to pick a strength, but the data shows that relatively his short game stacks up the best.
SC was exactly right in his feeling that he needed more length off the tee. He also admitted that his putting had not been the best for these rounds. We agree with those assessments. Arguably the biggest area, and not discussed in the initial self-assessment, is approach shots. In our experience, approach shots tend to be where the numbers show the greatest discrepancy between golfers of different skill levels, and that is likely the case here as well.
Discussion and Your Interpretation of Results
We will start a TST discussion thread to allow members to comment on some of the information here more easily than the comment feature below. Please join us there, if you have comments and feedback for either the author, @RandallT or the golfer, @SlowCelica.