Golf, a sport that encapsulates precision, strategy, and skill, often requires a nuanced approach to assess a player’s performance. One metric that has significantly transformed the analysis of golfers’ capabilities is the “strokes gained” concept. A relatively recent development in golf analytics, the strokes gained concept helps players and coaches identify strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to make more informed decisions and ultimately improve their game.

Strokes gained, as the name suggests, measures the number of strokes a player gains or loses relative to a baseline performance, typically that of the average professional golfer. Introduced by Mark Broadie, a professor at Columbia Business School, the concept has its roots in the academic paper “Assessing Golfer Performance on the PGA Tour,” published in 2011. Since then, the strokes gained concept has been widely adopted by golfers and analysts alike, shaping the way performance is evaluated in the sport.

The fundamental idea behind strokes gained is to compare a player’s performance on each shot with the expected number of strokes taken by an average golfer from a similar position. By quantifying the difference between the actual and expected strokes, the metric provides an accurate representation of a player’s efficiency in various aspects of the game. Strokes gained is calculated for every shot, and positive values indicate that a player performed better than the baseline, while negative values show underperformance.

One of the most significant advantages of the strokes gained concept is its ability to break down a player’s performance into distinct categories. This allows for a more in-depth analysis of individual skills and highlights areas where improvement is needed. With the assistance of modern technology like a gps watch, rangefinder, or a system like Arccos, golfers are more empowered than ever before to improve their game using data. The four primary categories are strokes gained: off-the-tee, approach-the-green, around-the-green, and putting.

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  1. Strokes gained: off-the-tee (SG:OTT) assesses a player’s driving ability, capturing the proficiency of the tee shot on par-4 and par-5 holes. Strong drives that leave the golfer in a favorable position for the next shot result in a positive SG:OTT value.
  2. Strokes gained: approach-the-green (SG:APP) focuses on a player’s approach shots, which include any shot that is intended to land on the green. This category evaluates the player’s ability to hit greens in regulation and get the ball close to the hole, improving the chances of birdie or par.
  3. Strokes gained: around-the-green (SG:ARG) measures a player’s short game performance, accounting for shots taken within 30 yards of the green, excluding putts. This category evaluates a golfer’s finesse with chips, pitches, and bunker shots, which are crucial to saving par and minimizing bogeys.
  4. Strokes gained: putting (SG:PUTT) evaluates a player’s putting skills, comparing the number of putts taken to the expected number of putts for an average golfer from the same distance. The ability to sink putts consistently and avoid three-putts is vital for maintaining a low score.

By examining each category, players and coaches can identify areas where a golfer is excelling or struggling. This targeted approach to performance analysis helps create tailored practice routines and ultimately leads to better results on the course.