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The Missing Statistic: Strokes Gained Putting

It's Not That Hard

I promise Strokes Gained Putting isn't as hard as that picture. No really, it's not that hard. What it is though, is simple math to actually see how your putting performance stacks up day to day and over an extended period of time. Now, while that doesn't seem like such a huge deal, it is part of managing your expectations as a golfer.

When I first meet a player, I typically ask how they are assessing the difference between the good days and poor days on the greens. The answer never ceases to amaze me...

In days gone by, players would typically count the number of putts they took on any given day and decide if that was too high or too low. You might still do that today. The real question is how are you deciding if the 33 putts you took is too high or too low? Did you hit a lot of greens, but just not near the cup forcing you to have a lot of two putts? Did you miss a lot of greens and take 33 putts? Let's take a closer look at these scenarios...

Not All Putts Are Created Equal

Player A hits a ball to 33 feet and takes 2 putts to hole out. Player B hits a ball to 10 feet and takes 2 putts to hole out. Both players took two putts, but it should be pretty clear that Player A putted better on that particular hole because of how far away he started from the cup.

Herein lies the issue with counting putts. Counting putts is a very incomplete picture of a very complex story. Insert the Strokes Gained Putting metric.

Strokes Gained Putting: How it Works

Developed by Columbia Business School professor Mark Broadie, Strokes Gained Putting has revolutionized the way players and instructors are valuing and measuring a golfer's putting performance. Because it takes into account the starting distance from the cup, it is a far superior method to counting a player's total strokes.

Strokes Gained Putting is built around PGA Tour averages and is easily calculated. The average number of putts taken from 8 feet is 1.5. If a player makes an 8 foot putt, they gain .5 strokes (which is a good thing). If a player takes 2 strokes to hole out from 8 feet, they lose .5 strokes (that's a bad thing). Add up the totals for an entire round of golf, a tournament, or an extended period of time, and you'll have a great barometer for how well you are actually putting.

Back to Our Example

Let's take a closer look at our first example with Player A and B. Player A hit his ball to 33 feet where the PGA Tour average is 2.0 strokes. Because he took 2 putts from 33 feet, he didn't gain or lose strokes. However, Player B hit his ball to 8 feet where the PGA Tour average is 1.5 strokes. He took 2 putts to hole out from there and lost .5 strokes. Player A putted better on that hole than Player B.

Below is an example of one of my student's putting performance during the first round of a recent Canadian Tour event. This is how we are measuring his progress and can highlight any immediate needs or areas of future focus such as short putts, midrange putts, or lag putts.

You'll notice that the player had a great stretch of putting on holes 3, 4, and 5, gaining a 2.17 strokes. The only hiccup came on the back nine with a 3 putt on hole number 12 that cost him almost an entire stroke. While we know 3 putts are never good, the 3 putt may be a product of having left the approach shot in a difficult position where he had to navigate a tier or severely sloped surface.

In future blog posts, we'll dive deeper into the Strokes Gained metric and understand how a player might have been able to improve in that particular scenario.

Time To Get Started

It's time for you to get started! During your next round, write down on your scorecard the approximate starting distance from the cup and the number of putts you need to hole out. After that, be sure to check out the SpiderPutt app so you can start tracking your progress on the greens. I use it for all of my players and won't recommend anything else. Click the link below to get started!

Keep in mind that these numbers are based on the PGA Tour average, so don't be discouraged if you find yourself in the red for starters. The guys on Tour are "probably" better putters than you and have a bit more time to practice.

And lastly, remember that you are adapting to a new way of measuring your success. It can present some challenges, but, because I think ahead, I'm going to address those concerns in the next post. So keep an eye out for the article entitled "SGP, Part 2: Breaking Barriers."

Thank you to Mark Broadie for sharing such complete and accurate information in his book "Every Shot Counts." Click the title to be taken to a link where you can purchase the book and read more about Strokes Gained Putting and understand how this metric applies to other parts of your game.

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