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Strategy in Game


DeadMan
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A friend of mine wants to try out a game he saw online. You get points as follows:

  • If you make par on a hole, you get points equal to the yardage of the hole
  • If you make a bogey, you get 0 points
  • If you make double or worse, you get negative points equal to the yard of the hole
  • If you make birdie, you get 2x the yardage of the hole
  • If you make eagle, you get 3x the yardage of the hole

You also get to pick which tee box you tee off from. 

My friend is trying to convince me to try this game. However, I think this game will be pretty boring. I think the strategy is pretty obvious for it - you play the hole as far forward as possible, make a lot of pars and sprinkle in a few birdies. Maybe there are a few wonky holes where further forward puts water or OB into play, but other than that, I think it's pretty obvious. 

Do you think I'm missing anything here? It seems pretty boring, if you have any knowledge about game planning, have read LSW, etc.

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Hmmm, I think on a first glance you'd almost play as far back as you could (within reason — you can't be hitting hybrids to half of the par fours). You'd deprive yourself of a few pars, but bogeys don't cost you anything.

Let's say you play 5994 yards and 7200 yards. That's 333 yards and 400 yards. Maybe you make four birdies and two bogeys on the shorter course, and four bogeys and two birdies on the longer course.

  • 333 * 12 + 666 * 4 + 0 * 2 = 6660
  • 400 * 12 + 800 * 2 + 0 * 4 = 6400

So, no, the added yardage doesn't offset the added points from making birdies.

Now, that's one quick example, but it has me leaning the other way now. A more fair game might be to take off 100 yards from every hole when figuring out the points, in which case you'd tempt more people to play back farther.

If you're good, though, too: guys can shoot 66 on a long course, a PGA Tour level course, but can't shoot too much lower on a short course, so I wonder if the added length… see, but even as I'm typing it, if they can birdie just three more holes, or eagle one or two more holes because of the length, that length gets multiplied and basically adds another 300 or 450 (a short par five that they eagle) yards to the total… so I think it would be tough to out-race.

One way you could think of it is to say that every time you birdie, you get to play another hole and get points. If you par a 350-yard hole, you played one hole and got all the yardage points. But birdie that hole and it's almost like you play 19 holes (taking a 6300 yard course to 6650) and are guaranteed the 350 points on that hole.

So, yeah, I'm flipping from my very initial quick thought. Play as short as you can within reason (basically, that means staying in a par 72 or at least 71 situation: a 3200-yard par three course would be horrible for this game*). So, yeah, I'd like the game more if you took 100 points off each hole so a 350-yard hole offered 250 points. Then you're looking at:

  • 233 * 12 + 466 * 4 + 0 * 2 = 4660
  • 300 * 12 + 600 * 2 + 0 * 4 = 4800

* Also, if you do play a par three course, don't remove the 100 points. The holes are already short enough, and making even a par from 150 out should be worth full points. It's tough. Then again, on an executive course with all par threes… aren't you almost just keeping Stableford score with this points system? With the only modification being the points available change slightly by the yardage? Still, a decent game, as it really makes you bear down on the longer par threes.

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It looks like we came to more or less the same conclusion, then. Curious if others have thoughts.

I also wonder if moving back on par 3s might make some sense. Just thinking about a hole from 75 or 150 yards. A par from 150 is the same as a birdie from 75. If the hole has little chance of a double bogey (no water, easily avoidable sand, etc.), it might make sense to move back there. Let's try some math. I looked at my GameGolf stats to come up with something approaching what's accurate for me:

From 75:

  • From fairway from 50-75 yards, I'm within 15 yards of the hole 81% of the time; from 75-100, I'm within 15 yards 73% of the time. So, just a rough estimate of what I think would happen:
  • 15% chance at bogey, 77% chance at par, 8% chance at birdie
  • Average score = (0.15*4) + (0.77*3) + (0.08*2) = 0.6+2.31+0.16 = 3.07
  • Points for the game is (0.15*0) + (0.77*75) + (0.08*150) = 0+57.75+12 = 69.75

From 150:

  • From tee box from 125-150, I'm within 15 yards of the hole 79% of the time; from 150-175, I'm within 15 yards of the hole 58% of the time. Another rough estimate (probably a little optimistic, to be honest, but I'm not sure it changes all that much):
  • 25% chance at bogey, 70% chance at par, 5% chance at birdie
  • Average score = (0.25*4) + (0.7*3) + (0.05*2) = 1+2.1+0.1=3.2
  • Points for the game is (0.25*0) + (0.7*150) + (0.05*300) = 0+105+15 = 120

I'm assuming that the hole is unlikely to yield a double bogey. I'm not sure I can think of a hole in real life that's not on a par 3 course where that would be the case, but it looks like I might be able to get more points by going a bit further back on par 3s. 

That said, I don't see a scenario where moving back on par 4s and par 5s would make sense, barring some weird lay up hole or something like that.

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I am not sure this game is any more interesting than a Stableford type format. Although I admit the points variability equivalent to hole yardage is a fun little addition. I am going to run this game through my home course scorecard for which I have played tips (black) and 'men's' tees (white). At face value, I am thinking the 2X multiplier for birdies trumps any other strategy. Meaning shorter the course, more the birdies, higher the points. 

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Can you pick the tee box on each hole? From your follow up comments, it sounds like you can. If so, my general strategy would be as follows. 

- Play the back tee boxes (within reason) on any par 4 or par 5 without serious OB or hazard trouble

- Play a middle or forward tee box if the tee shot presented a serious possibility of penalty strokes

- Play all par 3's between 120-175 yards. Exception being if a more forward tee would considerably improve the angle or remove a forced carry. I don't think there is any scenario where I would go past 175, as putting a 5 iron or less in my hands reduces the odds of par too much. 

It sounds like kind of an interesting game but one that would be really hard to play unless the two of you were evenly matched. Giving or getting strokes seems like it could skew the numbers quite a bit. 

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9 minutes ago, Big C said:

It sounds like kind of an interesting game but one that would be really hard to play unless the two of you were evenly matched. Giving or getting strokes seems like it could skew the numbers quite a bit. 

I suppose you could do net-pars, net-birdies, etc... and go with 90% of your handicap. 

10 minutes ago, Big C said:

- Play the back tee boxes (within reason) on any par 4 or par 5 without serious OB or hazard trouble

- Play a middle or forward tee box if the tee shot presented a serious possibility of penalty strokes

- Play all par 3's between 120-175 yards. Exception being if a more forward tee would considerably improve the angle or remove a forced carry. I don't think there is any scenario where I would go past 175, as putting a 5 iron or less in my hands reduces the odds of par too much. 

Your strategy seems sound to me. 
Unless you birdie the first par 5 and the person you are playing against makes a double on that par 5. Then I would think you'd want to move up to the forward tees more often to protect the big lead. ... But I'm not sure. Math is hard. 

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1 hour ago, Big C said:

- Play the back tee boxes (within reason) on any par 4 or par 5 without serious OB or hazard trouble

Why? This doesn't make sense to me. LSW says the average 70s golfer hits the green from 130 yards less than 60% of the time, an a 90s golfer is more likely to miss the green than hit it from 75.  The further back you are, the less likely you are to make par. Or birdie, for that matter. Your best chance at par or birdie is to be as close to the hole as possible the whole time.

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20 minutes ago, DeadMan said:

Why? This doesn't make sense to me. LSW says the average 70s golfer hits the green from 130 yards less than 60% of the time, an a 90s golfer is more likely to miss the green than hit it from 75.  The further back you are, the less likely you are to make par. Or birdie, for that matter. Your best chance at par or birdie is to be as close to the hole as possible the whole time.

Of course. But there is a tradeoff to moving forward - fewer points available. 

Does the reduction in expected strokes you gain by moving forward offset the available points you will lose? I'm sure the calculus is different for each golfer, but out of curiosity, I took a look at some PGA data. They list Par 4 Efficiency for holes measuring 350-400 yards and also from 450-500. The top 250 players are ranked. The median results are

450-500 yards - the median player (Webb Simpson) averages 4.04 strokes

350-400 yards - the median player (Jason Kokrak) averages 3.91 strokes

For that set of players, a 20%-25% improvement in available points only costs them about 3.2% in expected strokes. 

I'm not saying that data can be automatically translated to a bogey golfer, but it's a pretty strong indicator in favor of biting off as much yardage as you reasonably can.

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3 hours ago, DeadMan said:

Why? This doesn't make sense to me. LSW says the average 70s golfer hits the green from 130 yards less than 60% of the time, an a 90s golfer is more likely to miss the green than hit it from 75.  The further back you are, the less likely you are to make par. Or birdie, for that matter. Your best chance at par or birdie is to be as close to the hole as possible the whole time.

This is the right way of thinking about it.

3 hours ago, Big C said:

Of course. But there is a tradeoff to moving forward - fewer points available. 

Does the reduction in expected strokes you gain by moving forward offset the available points you will lose? I'm sure the calculus is different for each golfer, but out of curiosity, I took a look at some PGA data. They list Par 4 Efficiency for holes measuring 350-400 yards and also from 450-500. The top 250 players are ranked.

Nobody here is a PGA Tour player. Think of it this way.

For a 350-yard hole that you could play at 400 yards… even a 15% chance of getting bogey instead of par is not worth the tradeoff:

350 > (400 * .85)

Basically, you're risking 350 points against scoring an extra 50 points if the choices are 350/400.

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So here are results of two actual scores from my home course. These are very representative of my normal play for the yardages. The difference in results seems huge. The negative pints for double or worse is a killer. 

1) tips (black - 6,648 yards) at score 93/points (-2197). 

2) men's (white - 5,912 yards) at score 83/points (1915). 

I will say the black set up was the day after the Eastern Amateur and greens very ultra fast with the hardest pin placement to be had on every green.  

While not a 'bogey' golfer, I am not too much better. 

image.png

Edited by GolfLug
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