The Golf Channel’s WinZone

The Golf Channel debuted their Win Zone statistical system during the Mercedes-Benz Championship. Is it really as accurate as they say it is?

The Numbers GameI don’t know about all of you, but numbers really tickle my fancy… especially new types of numbers! While watching the debut of The Golf Channel’s coverage of the PGA Tour, I noticed they had a new number on their leader board. I came to find out this was their Win Zone statistical systems which output how the system thought each player would finish in the tournament based on the information it had at hand as well as two years prior.

Looking back on when I first saw this and looking at it today, I can say with almost 100% certainty that any golf fan can pick as well, if not better than, their “statistical system” does. Before I ridicule it any more, let’s look at some numbers:

WinZone Reliability – Round By Round

              Outright      Win Zone
               Leaders       Leaders
Round 1          18%           30%
Round 2          25%           41%
Round 3          55%           67%

WinZone Reliability – Leader in Top 3 of WinZone

Round 1 - 44%
Round 2 - 58%
Round 3 - 90%

Now I am no math genius, nor do I claim to be. However, in looking at those numbers I have to wonder how advanced the calculations their computers are doing. Let’s get a bit of perspective on this, shall we?

The Sand Trap’s Fantasy League

As most of you know we are running a PGA Tour Fantasy league on From the week by week standings, here is the number of times players had selected the winner from each of the seven tournaments to start the year:

The Sand Trap Reliability

Tournament        Players  Winner Picks
----------------  -------  ------------
Mercedes-Benz        14         9 (64%)
Sony Open            21         0  (0%)
Bob Hope             21         1  (5%)
Buick Inv.           19        15 (79%)
FBR Open             21         1  (5%)
AT&T Pebble Beach    25         5 (20%)
Nissan Open          24         3 (13%)
Averages            20.7     4.9 (26.5%)

A thing to note on those numbers… those picks were made before any round was played. I would think that if you were to allow a player to make his picks after the first, second and third rounds, the percentages would increase – as the Win Zone numbers do.

Let’s look at that again. On average, The Sand Trap users are picking the winner 26.5% of the time. I guess I am putting my foot in my mouth now as Win Zone shows they get the winner in their top three 44% of the time after the first round. Because we don’t get the luxury of seeing the first round before making our picks, I’m going to deduct at least 5% from that number. That leaves us with 39%.

Okay… my foot is now officially in my mouth on this one.

Just a Slow Start?
One could argue that the players in our fantasy pool are just off to a slow start. If we were to throw out our two lowest picking weeks (Sony and Bob Hope) we end up with an average of 36%… still not as good as Win Zone with my little adjustment.

We all know there are way too many variables in picking any sport, but particularly golf. The mental state of a player plays right into how well they will play for a given week. If a player isn’t as sharp as he normally is, his scores, more often than not, suffer from it. Because of this simple fact I don’t think that it is possible to create a statistical application that would predict any golf scores prior to a golf tournament. During, maybe, but that is just taking information that is right in front of you.

Final Say
In the end a statistical system is the same as our guesses… it can just guess faster than we can along with more accurately.

The Golf Channel may actually be on to a little something, even if it is a bit hokey. Do you pay attention to these numbers when TGC flashes the leaderboard, or do you ignore them all together? I would love to hear your thoughts!

This article was written by guest author Harry Solomon, an active member of our forum.

7 thoughts on “The Golf Channel’s WinZone”

  1. Very interesting David. It would be good to see how the Sandtrap’s picks versus the WinZone picks compare in a couple of months time, when the season is well underway and we can all see the form players and who’s looking good and not so good this season.

    However, there’s nothing like picking a winner before the start of a tournament and it’s certainly great fun trying! Although I’m absolutely rubbish at it (see my pick(s) for this week!).

  2. I am betting on Tiger any given Sunday when he is within 2 shots of the lead on the back9. No need for WinZone on that one :mrgreen:

  3. Call me cynical, but my opinion of the “win zone” is that it’s just one more thing for the Golf Channel to show instead of showing us professional golfers hitting golf shots. I don’t turn on a golf tournament to watch “the driving report”, the complete field scores (they could scroll that across the bottom of the screen instead of taking three or four minutes to show us nothing but scores), or to see Kelly and Nick talking for three or four minutes. Maybe a lot of people love seeing all the “features” the Golf Channel (and other networks) come up with, but each of these additional features comes at a cost — that cost being fewer shots of golfers hitting golf shots. IMO, the “win zone” is just another dopey feature to keep actual golf off the screen. OK, I’m off my soapbox!

  4. It’s a great point Q.Q.Quillume. I don’t get the Golf Channal over here in the UK, so I don’t see the coverage, but I’d hope the Win Zone wouldn’t be to the detriment of watching the players competing on each of the tourney holes – that would be sad to see.

    You guys would have to comment on the coverage. Although I don’t seem to get a feeling that the golf coverage is receiving glowing reviews right now?

  5. I was going to compare the Golf Channel’s win zone to the sports books here in NV, but there is actually no comparison. Sports books can usually pick with about a 85-90% accuracy which far exceeds the “Win Zones” picks. As with any sport, as the season progresses it becomes easier to pick winners based upon their past performances during the current season, outstanding players on any given team, etc. One might argue that it is easier to pick a winner in professional golf because there are far fewer variables from tournament to tournament i.e. weather, course condition, player health. Whereas in, lets say football, you have to take into consideration the health of the whole team, not just one player, whether they are playing home or away, is the team they are playing a conference rival, etc. In the end the guess is only as good as the guesser, or in the case of the “Win Zone” only as good as the guy who created the statistical system!!! I, myself, have not seen Win Zone on the leader board but I will be looking for it in the future. Thanks for the heads up!!!!! 😀

  6. David,

    Don’t forget that we fantasy players are further handicapped because are choices of a winner are limited to five (Win Zone essentially picks from actual top performers that week so its effectively much broader pool) and our picks are constrained by the $1M “salary cap.”

    To my mind, “Win Zone” is an interesting try, but basically a failure. And I agree with Q.Q.: it’s a waste of air time. Show me golf.

  7. I TOTALLY agree with ALL of QQ’s comments, and would like to add the following. Let’s save ALL interviews for the Post Game show, so that people who enjoy that portion of the telecast will be able to watch it, and the serious golfers who enjoy watchin GOLF won’t have to be deprived of golf covereage. How about the LPGA Field’s 2nd round “weather delay” coverage? Could they not have recorded early round play so that they could show some same-day coverage of the event instead of showing current interviews of players hoping to finish their round for 1 1/2 hrs and then showing 30 minutes of the same coverage from the first round? The one GREAT thing that TGC has shown earlier that I would love to see more of, is the extreme slow motion replay of various golf swings. I would love to see more of that, and from various angles, instead of the club-face/ball impact.

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