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Mark Broadie: Luke Donald’s success from the sand dispels some commonly-held bunker myths

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http://m.golf.com/1018469/luke-donalds-success-from-the-sand-dispels-some-commonly-held-bunker-myths/

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Here's how my Strokes Gained from greenside bunkers works. Tour pros average 2.5 strokes to hole out when starting in the sand 20 yards from the hole. A shot hit on the green to where the average to hole out is 2.0 (that is, 33 feet from the hole) loses 0.5 strokes on the field. A shot hit to one foot gains 0.5 strokes. Leaving the ball in the sand loses a full stroke. Strokes Gained from greenside sand is a pure measure of performance because it measures the quality of the shot, not the outcome of the putt. It's intuitive, too: Closer to the hole is better than farther.
How does Donald dominate from greenside traps? He hits the green more often (97 percent, compared to the Tour average of 91 percent), and he hits it closer to the hole (on sand shots starting from 20 yards, Luke hits half his shots within seven feet, compared with the field's nine feet). And here's an amazing stat: Based on ShotLink data, Donald has hit 415 consecutive sand shots (since 2009) without once leaving it in the sand. Wow!
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I tried looking for the myths in that article, but didn't find any.

He's a good sand player because he hits the green and closer than everyone else. Sounds reasonable.

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I tried looking for the myths in that article, but didn't find any.

He's a good sand player because he hits the green and closer than everyone else. Sounds reasonable.

Yeah, I was wondering the same thing when I read it earlier. :)

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Could it be that LD's sand save percentage ranks him 112th? So the "myth" is he's not a good sand player?

http://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.111.html

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Could it be that LD's sand save percentage ranks him 112th? So the "myth" is he's not a good sand player? [URL=http://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.111.html]http://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.111.html[/URL] [URL=http://thesandtrap.com/content/type/61/id/103066/] [/URL]

That makes sense, given the line from the article that says Strokes Gained from greenside bunkers measures the quality of the shot, Not the outcome of the putt.

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That makes sense, given the line from the article that says Strokes Gained from greenside bunkers measures the quality of the shot, Not the outcome of the putt.

He's a good putter too. At first I thought it must be an old article but it is not.

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He's a good putter too.

At first I thought it must be an old article but it is not.

Yeah, combined with the piece below by his old coach, I did a double take too.

Here's the full non mobile version: http://www.golf.com/instruction/luke-donalds-bunker-success

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In 2010, Luke ranked 1st in sand save % and  5th in 2011.  It seems to me that part of the drop in that stat for him must be due to longer bunker shots in more recent years (but he also ranked 1st in strokes gained putting both of those years compared to 8th & 13th this year and last).

While I think the methodology behind strokes gained putting and strokes gained from greenside bunkers tells you more about how good someone is on the greens and in greenside bunkers than total putts or sand save %, I don't think either stat is perfect as the distance a putt or sand shot is from the hole is not the sole determining factor as to how hard a shot it is.  This is especially true from the sand as the lie can play a big role (not to mention the depth of the bunker and amount of green you have to work with).

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Yeah, combined with the piece below by his old coach, I did a double take too.

Here's the full non mobile version: http://www.golf.com/instruction/luke-donalds-bunker-success

Yeah, but I just read it, and…

…I think that's the key there. The bold. He's saying if you look at Sand Saves Luke sucks, but if you look at strokes gained from the sand he's good.

He is still top ten in Strokes Gained Putting this year though: http://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.02564.html .

This is explained if Luke leaves himself a LOT longer bunker shots than average. That would allow him to be better out of the sand than others (from 35 yards), but worse at "sand save" because others are saving from 15 yards or whatever.

While I think the methodology behind strokes gained putting and strokes gained from greenside bunkers tells you more about how good someone is on the greens and in greenside bunkers than total putts or sand save %, I don't think either stat is perfect as the distance a putt or sand shot is from the hole is not the sole determining factor as to how hard a shot it is.  This is especially true from the sand as the lie can play a big role (not to mention the depth of the bunker and amount of green you have to work with).

Distance is, by far, the largest determinant*. Things like "how good is your lie" tend to even out to a very minimal factor.

* One of the many topics from both Broadie's book and the one in my avatar. :P

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He's saying if you look at Sand Saves Luke sucks, but if you look at strokes gained from the sand he's good.

He is still top ten in Strokes Gained Putting this year though: http://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.02564.html .

This is explained if Luke leaves himself a LOT longer bunker shots than average. That would allow him to be better out of the sand than others (from 35 yards), but worse at "sand save" because others are saving from 15 yards or whatever.

That makes sense. I've been trying to figure out how he is both a good putter and bunker player, yet somehow has a mediocre sand save %. Somebody better tell him to avoid long bunker shots.

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That makes sense. I've been trying to figure out how he is both a good putter and bunker player, yet somehow has a mediocre sand save %. Somebody better tell him to avoid long bunker shots.

It's like bunkers may as well have red stakes around them… :-)

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It's like bunkers may as well have red stakes around them…

That's a pretty good line. Somebody should put that in a book or something :whistle:

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…I think that's the key there. The bold. He's saying if you look at Sand Saves Luke sucks, but if you look at strokes gained from the sand he's good.

The discrepancy is really only for the not yet completed 2014 season.  If you look at the last 9 full years, Luke ranked 1st in sand save % 3 times and was never worse than 38th (top 25% except for 2008 where it appears he didn't play enough rounds to get a ranking).  Since the article starts "since 2004" I really think it is a stretch to say they are busting any myths.

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He's a good putter too.

I think this is an excellent point. People used to say what a great bunker player Brad Faxon was, this was primarily due to his putting skill versus his bunker skill.

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