The Challengers Mark Broadie
Mark Broadie: "Drive for show, putt for dough" is probably the most incorrect expression in golf.
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Mark Broadie: My name is Mark Broadie, and I'm a professor at Columbia Business School.
On screen text: The Challengers
A series about people who QUESTION. ENGAGE SUCCEED
Mark Broadie: I'm in the Decision Risk and Operations Group. Throughout my career I’ve taught financial analytics, business analytics, and more recently, sports analytics.
I've loved golf since junior high school—practiced playing in my backyard with my father's clubs, hitting plastic balls. So I decided to combine my personal passion with my professional interests, probably around 2002.
I was wondering what separates average golfers from better golfers, and what separates average PGA TOUR® pros from the best PGA TOUR pros?
Spoken on screen text: How do you get better, and what are the biggest contributors to better scoring?
Mark Broadie: You can look at driving distance, you can look at putts, you can look at proximity to the hole—and it's like, yeah, but these are all sort of disparate measures. How do I combine a 300-yard drive with a 5-foot putt that misses? It's not obvious how to do that. And somewhere in that process, I realized the key is to measure everything in the units of strokes, and you want to benchmark things relative to some average.
Strokes gain measures, progress to the hole—not in distance, but in terms of strokes.
If you're standing on a par 4, where the average strokes to hole out is four, then an average drive should get you to where you’re three strokes away from the hole—three strokes to hole out.
So if you hit a 300-yard drive in the fairway and your average strokes to hole out goes from 4, say, to 2.8, you're two-tenths better than an average drive.
There’s a misconception that strokes gained just applies to professionals because you see it on the PGA TOUR website and on broadcast or PGA TOUR events, but it applies to amateurs just as well. Back when I started on this, I needed data. Was there any amateur-level shot data—not fairways, greens, and putts, but actually shot-level data? Where did shots start and where did they finish? And there wasn't any. So I needed to start writing a program called Golf Metrics to be able to gather, in this case, amateur data, but at a shot level.
And we didn't have GPS, we didn't have phones with Google Earth. I would have images of the hole on paper and I'd write an X where my shot would finish, make a few notations—"I was 152 yards in the rough." This would get filled up throughout the round. And then at the end of the round, I'd spend 10 or 15 minutes clicking on these images on a computer, and the computer would know if I clicked here, I was in the rough.
Spoken on screen text: I recorded tens of thousands of shots.
Mark Broadie: When I finally got access to the PGA TOUR ShotLink data, which is this amazing data set, I could slurp it into my Golf Metrics program. And when I looked at their data versus the data that we were collecting, it wasn't a surprise that they were almost identical. Now I could analyze professional data, as well.
So now you could compare not only a 90 golfer to an 80 golfer, but you could compare an 80 golfer to a PGA TOUR pro, or great PGA TOUR pros versus average PGA TOUR pros.
The most surprising thing that I found was that putting only accounted for about 15% of the stroke difference between the best PGA TOUR pros and average PGA TOUR pros, whereas shots outside 100 yards count for 65% of that scoring difference. And that similar breakdown between the best pros and average pros in between 80 golfers and 90 golfers was incredibly consistent.
The single most important shot that amateurs should practice is 150-yard approach shots. The reason for that is there are great skill differences between 90 golfers and 80 golfers, and between 80 golfers and pros. And you have a lot of these shots during a round. It's the combination of skill differences and quantity.
Never would I have imagined when I started this research that I would be talking to players, coaches, and caddies, but it helps them get better. So they call me to help interpret and analyze their data.
Golf Pro: We got reports from Mark Broadie on all the strokes gained.
Several golf pros say "Strokes gained" one after the other.
Rory McIlroy: And strokes gained is the best stat, by far, that has come into our game.
Mark Broadie: When I heard Rory McIlroy mention my name in the context of strokes gained, that made me feel incredibly proud that this was a worthwhile endeavor. I hope the lasting effects of strokes gained is that we understand the game better, we enjoy it more, and that people become better golfers because of it.
On screen text: ASK QUESTIONS. BE ENGAGED.
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Mark Broadie: I would much rather be a great ball striker than a great putter, because you'll be doing well week in and week out, and in those weeks when you're putting above your normal average—well, that might be the week that you win.
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On screen text: Thanks to Boo Weekley
Columbia Business School
Mike Diffley, PGA
Pelham Country Club
What are the biggest contributors to better scoring?