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Understanding advanced golf stats

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

April 13th, 2021

The game of golf is so intricate that no one statistic can predict a player’s probability of winning.

A big hitter, like Bryson DeChambeau, might seem like a solid bet on a long course like Augusta National. But if he struggles with his approach play and putting, he will tumble down the leaderboard, like he did last weekend at the Masters.

With about 130 official stats charted by the PGA Tour, the amount of data at a bettor's disposal can be an overwhelming blessing.

Luckily, not all statistics are created equal. Before you attempt to crunch all the numbers on the PGA Tour’s official site, make sure you know the meaning behind the data and which statistics to factor in with a particular course or tournament.

Below we break down 10 advanced golf stats and how to use them to your advantage when betting.

Total driving

Some golfers, like Dustin Johnson, bomb it off the tee and seek as much distance as possible on their first shot. Others, like Webb Simpson, aim for accuracy and a more precise landing spot on the fairway.

There are advantages to both approaches, depending on the course, but to best gauge a golfer’s overall driving abilities, look to total driving.

Total driving is fairly straightforward. It adds a player’s ranking in driving distance with their ranking in driving accuracy to get a total score.

For example, Scottie Scheffler currently ranks 28th in driving accuracy percentage — measured by the percentage of tee shots that come to rest in the fairway. In driving distance, which is calculated by the average number of yards per measured drive, Scheffler is tied for 31st on tour. Therefore, Scheffler's total driving score is 59 (28 + 31 = 59), which ranks first.

Strokes gained tee to green

Strokes gained statistics compare a player's performance to the rest of the field and are calculated using ShotLink data, the PGA Tour's real-time scoring system. 

Strokes gained tee to green measures all strokes a player takes, excluding those on the putting green

Strokes gained tee to green is a useful statistic for extremely difficult courses, like PGA National's Champion Course.

Strokes gained approaching the green

Generally considered one of the most important statistics in golf, strokes gained approaching the green measures quality of iron play. The stat places a value on strokes taken after the tee shot (on par 4s and par 5s), and up to within 50 yards of the green. The tee shot on a par 3 is also considered an approach shot.

Proximity to the hole

Proximity to the hole measures the average distance (in feet) the ball comes to rest from the hole after the player’s approach shot.

This does not count any shot that originates on or from around the green. The approach shot must end on the green, in the hole, or around the green (within 30 yards of the edge of the green) for proximity to the hole to be measured.

Strokes gained around the green

Strokes gained around the green measures a player's performance on any shot within 30 yards of the edge of the green. It does not include any shot taken on the putting green.

Greens in regulation percentage

When you want to find a player capable of creating scoring opportunities, look to greens in regulation percentage. This statistic determines the percentage of holes where a player is able to get the ball on the putting surface with enough strokes remaining to make birdie or better.

A green in regulation (GIR) stroke is determined by subtracting two from par. For example, the first stroke on a par 3 is the GIR stroke, the second shot on a par 4 is the GIR stroke, and the third shot on a par 5 is the GIR stroke.

The goal on a par 3 is to hit the green on the first shot, while the goal on a par 4 is to hit the green on the second stroke, and so on.

To calculate GIR percentage, divide the number of greens hit in regulation by the number of holes played.

Scrambling

Scrambling measures the percentage of time a player misses the green in regulation but still makes par or better.

At a tournament like the RBC Heritage, where the greens are small, players must rely on their short game to save par. Ten of the last 14 winners at this tournament ranked inside the top 60 for scrambling on tour. 

Putting average

Putting average measures the average number of putts taken per green in regulation. By using GIR to calculate putting average, the statistic eliminates the variance caused by a player chipping close to the hole and recording one putt. 

Patrick Reed and Justin Thomas rank first and second, respectively, in putting average, while Bubba Watson ranks 213th on tour. 

Bogey avoidance

As important as it is to make birdies, it's just as crucial not to bogey and fall down the leaderboard. Bogey avoidance measures the percentage of time a player makes a bogey or worse.

Simpson and Russell Henley are currently tied on tour for the lowest bogey percentage.

Scoring average

On the PGA Tour's site, you can find a player's actual scoring average — or the average number of strokes per completed round — and adjusted scoring average, which involves more complicated math but better quantifies a player's abilities.

Adjusted scoring average is weighted by taking the stroke average of the field into account and is a good way to determine who is playing best among their peers ahead of a tournament.

You can break down scoring average into further detail with par 3 scoring average, Round 1 scoring average, back nine scoring average, and so on.

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