Don’t Be Stat Stupid

Drowning In Statistics

Statistics are great.  We’ve never had more of them, and it’s never been easier to capture them thanks to systems like Arccos.   But are they helping us get better?  It depends how you look at them.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You track your stats on the course

You want your stats to lead to meaningful improvements

You don’t want your stats to lead you to the wrong conclusions

Stats in a Vacuum – Dumb

Numbers don’t lie, but they can be misleading.  Here are some examples:

“I hit 2/14 fairways.  I’m a terrible driver.”

Not necessarily.  As I discussed at length HERE, fairways hit is a terrible stat.  What if you drove it through six of those missed fairways?  What if three of those fairways were missed by a yard or two?

“I hit 4/18 GIR.  My iron play is awful.”

Did you have 18 clean looks at the green?  It could be that your driving didn’t allow you a real chance to hit half the greens.  You might also consider your course management.  If you missed several greens because you came up a club short, that’s not a ball striking issue.

“I only took 24 putts today.  I was on fire with the flatstick!”

Oh really?  How many GIR did you hit?  It might be that you missed every green by a couple yards, wedged everything close, and made a bunch of tap-ins.

You could come up with examples like this for nearly any stat in the game.  Without context, the stats you’re keeping aren’t telling you the whole story.

Stats in Context – Smart

Here’s an example of a more holistic view of a round.

Driving: “I gave myself a realistic shot at GIR on every hole which is very good.”

Irons: “I only hit 9 GIR.  I see in my notes that I had two mis-clubs, but a number of fat shots.  That’s a problem.”

Short Game: “I didn’t make any big numbers, but I only got up and down once.  I wasn’t in any particularly tough spots, so I’m not happy with this.”

Putting: “I had no three putts, but didn’t make any long ones either.  I’m happy with solid two-putts given my distance from the cup.”

Overall: “I’m happy with my score, but fat shots and average wedge play kept it from being better.”

A Comprehensive Approach

If you want to get the most out of your stats, here’s my two-pronged recommendation

For each individual round, come up with a short summary like you see above.  These notes can guide your practice between rounds.  You can also look for trends to figure out the areas of your game that need the most work.

Keep a spreadsheet of your stats to track improvement over a long period of time.  One stat from one round isn’t necessarily meaningful, but when you see that you’re consistently failing to hit enough GIR, that’s data you can use.  These long term trends can also guide decisions about making swing or equipment changes.

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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4 Comments

  1. Kerry Lovvorn

    A very good stat tracker is
    Shot by Shot, it helps key in on exactly what you mention here in the article.
    It is very easy to keep while you play your round and not a distraction.
    It also breaks your handicap down into categories. If you have not done a review on this app, I would suggest a review, i think for stat lovers its one of the best out there.

  2. ChristopherKee

    Good article. I spent a while with shot tracking tags and came away feeling the same as you. Any stat was only meaningful in context. Once I started tracking situational stats, like missed greens that I should hit at my skill level I started getting better.

    As for putts per round it’s a useless stat unless you’re north of 40. I once shot 70 on a par 72 with 38 putts.

  3. Just get a system like Arccos or GameGolf. You will get stats in context. Absolutely necessary to improve your game.

  4. BeBrassie Golf App ($50 a year) keeps track of all your stats in a SG18 type of method, and lets you place all your shots in it’s GPS tracking system, so you can visually see your round after the fact. It takes all the guesswork out and based on a SG18 approach, you can actually see what part of your game is taking more strokes away. You’d be surprised how good/bad you are in a certain area if you keep accurate tabs on your round.

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