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‘Hi Scores asks: What is the Actual Value of Strategy?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer


All shots require the skills of planning distance and line, including putting and/or recovery shots, which account for 36 strokes, and whose rankings bear the closest relationship to the money leaders. Estimating the advantages gained specifically through strategically playing to preferred positions (vs. skill and/or power) of the other 36 strokes is subjective. I’ll use PGA Tour stats, where the results of strategy are presumably already incorporated to some degree, to give an idea where scoring comes from.

 

PGA Tour Ave.
(92nd of 185 ranked)

Champions Tour Average.

Nationwide Tour Average.

Fairways Hit

63.5%

70.2%

65%

Greens in Regulation      
…..Overall

64.3%

66.1%

67.6

     From fairway

74.9%

Not Available

Not Available

     From Rough

48.9%

Not Available

Not Available

Short Game*

67.3

70.2%

68.1%

     Sand Saves

48.9%

46%

45.9%

     Scrambling

58.1%

58.1%

57.0%

Putts per GIR

1.78

1.8

1.80

Birdie Ave.

3.45

3.16

3.5

Birdie Conversion

28.7%

22.0%

28.4%

Eagle Ave.

.07/Round

.05/Round

.02/Round

Drive Distance

286.0

272.6

289.9

Scoring Ave.

72.21

71.88

71.28

Par 3

3.08

3.08

3.09

Par 4

4.08

4.08

4.08

Par 5

4.68

4.79

4.55

Ave. Course Length

(7061 Yards)

(6860 Yards)

(6987 Yards)

Ave. Approach Length

170 Yard

169 Yard

163 Yard

Ave. First Putt **

36 feet

35 feet

34 feet


*Average course length, less 14 average drives. Remaining yardage divided by 18.
**I use Dave Pelz stats, assuming average approach is within 7% of approach shot distance.

Using the above stats (and shameless rounding) we’ll say average PGA Tour players, in a typical round:

* Hit 10 of 14 fairways (seven par-4s and three par-5s):
* 12 of 18 greens in regulation or better:
· two from par-3 tees, (missing 2)
· five from fairways on par-4s (missing one)
· two from roughs on par-4s (missing two)
· one from second landing area fairway on par-5
· two in under regulation on par-5s (missing 1)
*Scramble for 3.5 pars and 2.5 bogeys per round.
* Average 3.5 birdies per round (1.5 ) on four par-5s, (0.4) on four par-3s and (1.6) on 10 par-4s (from PGA Tour Stats)
* Take 1.8 putts per GIR, and 29.5 putts per round.

Longer players’ birdie more par-5s, and this alone accounts for the differences in top scoring averages. But power isn’t strategy, and neither is accuracy with short irons. Nonetheless, I’ll arbitrarily attribute half those birdies, or 0.75 strokes per round to strategy. ***

On approach shots, players can aim for pins, or play safely. Hypothetical analysis (assuming typical approach shot distribution) shows that, on averagee, there is little statistical difference playing either way. Presumably, top players are aiming at pins that fitting their skill sets and executing. Even with a net -0.08 over par on 3 and 4 holes, I’ll attribute half (1.0) of these birdies to strategy.

Backing up to tee shots, courses usually have six each of easy, medium, and hard pin locations. Realistically, only the six “tucked pins” (perhaps five full tee shots) create strategy other than hitting the fairway. Statistically, we expect players to find prime position three times, creating two birdie opportunities, and converting one. They’ll also miss two fairways and one green from the rough, leading to 0.43 bogeys. Thus, the “strategic tee shot net” is 0.57 strokes per round.

As any golfer will tell you, all bogeys are attributable to either bad luck or unfair course design and set up, (wink) but I still have to deduct 25% of bogeys to poor strategy, deducting 0.6 strokes per round.

That’s 201.7 strokes per round attributable to good strategy. While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s enough to move from the middle to the top in scoring average, which, in 2004, would increase earnings by $8 million!

So, I’d say the value of strategy is pretty high!