The sporting landscape has been transformed in the past decade by advanced statistical methodologies which have revolutionized the way participants, commentators and normal fans look at the games they love.
It started with the sabermetric movement in baseball, which has gradually grown over the past 20 years from an unorthodox hobby of a handful of data nerds to a virtual cottage industry, with analysts utilizing technological innovations and advanced statistical concepts to not only help fans obtain a greater understanding of the sport, but also assist Major League teams in making day-to-day decisions about the personnel and strategy they employ during individual games and seasons.
Taking baseball’s lead, other sports have gotten into the advanced analytics game as well, and now there are specialists parsing data in every discipline across the sporting spectrum.
Golf is no exception, as an explosion of number crunching has swept the PGA tour with the help of high-tech equipment which gives statistics gurus access to data that previous generations could only dream about.
Take the PGA Tour’s ShotLink system, which measures the flight path and landing spot of each and every shot taken on the tour within inches of exact accuracy. Golf Analytics – the science of logical, quantitative analysis of the sport – has burst into the mainstream, with cold hard facts helping to give a fuller picture of concepts that were once only hypothesized about through subjectivity and intuition.
Golf, like other sports, has always relied heavily on statistics to judge individual players’ capabilities, but modern advanced data sets have proven to be a much better predictor of future success than the limited numbers of yore.
Some of the ideas revealed by careful analysis of new data have been shown to be of particular value to players trying to improve their game. For instance, analysis using the aforementioned ShotLink data showed that players on the putting green shooting for birdie were less effective than if they were shooting that exact same shot for par.
This statistical finding reveals a glimpse into the inner-psyche of golfers, both tour pros and everyday amateurs – when faced with the chance to mark a birdie on the scorecard, players naturally revert to a “loss aversion” mentality that dictates an individual’s tendency to avoid loss rather than seeking gains.
Analysts concluded that on birdie putts, golfers remain worried about being able to two-putt to save par instead of taking full advantage of the opportunity to nail the birdie. Whereas, on par putts, the chief concern is that a miss could lead to a negative outcome, a bogey, so the putter aims directly for the cup, and therefore is more likely to achieve the goal.
The study went on to suggest that if a top flight PGA tour golfer could correct this seemingly innate human tendency to shy away from risk, and take the same approach on birdie shots as they do on par strokes, it could be worth as much as a million dollars per year in tour earnings!
It is these types of insights that the statistical revolution in golf is able to help generate, and many golf analysts believe that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the things we can discern when we analyze the mountains of data that can now be collected on the PGA tour. The future will likely hold more interesting revelations on the sport of golf, as analysts continue to parse new statistical sets and test their hypotheses against the cold hard data.
About the Author: Detailed statistical analysis suggests that Scott McCormick could have avoided over $250 in golf gambling losses in the last year if he stopped betting against players who are clearly better than him. When he isn’t making dubious financial decisions, Scott works as a freelance golf writer for GolfNow.com, which offers discount golf tee-times on courses from San Diego to Boston, Vancouver to Naples, and all points in between.