In 2011, the PGA Tour introduced ShotLink, which is a real-time scoring system that captures data points on all shots taken during PGA Tour events. ShotLink measures the distance from the hole, as well as categorizing shot types like tee, fairway, rough, sand, and green.
Mark Broadie, a professor at Columbia Business School, took the data from ShotLink and helped develop a new way to analyze putting performance. This new statistic was called “strokes gained: putting,” and it measures the number of putts a golfer takes relative to the PGA Tour average from that same distance. Strokes gained putting recognizes that sinking a 20-foot putt represents a better performance than sinking a three-foot putt, even though they both count as a single putt and a single stroke on the scorecard.
This was revolutionary because golfers no longer had to rely on the number of putts per round to understand their putting performance. Strokes gained also provided a unified way to measure an individual golfer against his opponents on the PGA Tour.
In 2016, the same concept used for strokes gained: putting was applied to other areas of the game. The PGA Tour developed new statistics including “strokes gained: off-the-tee,” “strokes gained: approach-the-green,” and “strokes gained: around-the-green.” This expansion allowed a PGA Tour golfer to precisely see where he excels and where he needs to improve.
What is strokes gained
In the most simple terms, “strokes gained” is a way to measure a player’s performance compared to the rest of the field. It also allows you to isolate different parts of a player’s game. In order to understand the statistic, you have to know that the PGA Tour has historical data from ShotLink that has calculated the average number of strokes needed to hole out from every distance and location on a course. Below I have included four scenarios to better illustrate the idea of strokes gained.
The scenarios below show how strokes gained could work on a single hole. Remember most strokes gained statistics are the aggregate of all the holes for a players round.
Scenario No. 1: Driving
You are playing a 450-yard par 4. The PGA Tour scoring average for a par 4 of that length is 4.1 strokes.
You hit a drive that ends up in the fairway, 115 yards from the hole. The PGA Tour scoring average from in the fairway, 115 yards out is 2.825 strokes. In order to calculate strokes gained: off-the-tee you use the formula below
(PGA Tour average for the hole) – (PGA Tour average left after your drive) – 1 = strokes gained: off-the-tee
Next, plug the numbers from the scenario above into this formula to calculate the strokes gained: off-the-tee
4.100 – 2.825 = 1.275 – 1 = 0.275 strokes gained: off-the-tee
Since you hit your drive in the fairway 115 yards from the hole you gained .275 strokes off the tee from the average PGA Tour player.
Scenario No. 2: Approach Shot
Let’s take the same drive from the first scenario. You hit a drive on a par 4 that ends up in the fairway, 115 yards from the hole. The PGA Tour scoring average from in the fairway 115 yards out is 2.825. You hit your approach shot on the green 10 feet from the hole. The PGA Tour scoring average from on the green 10 feet from the hole is 1.61 strokes.
(PGA Tour average from your approach) – (PGA Tour average for your putt) – 1 = strokes gained: approach-the-green
2.825 – 1.61 = 1.215 – 1 = .215 strokes gained: approach-the-green
Since you hit your approach shot to 10 feet you gained .213 strokes from the average PGA Tour player.
Scenario No. 3: Putting
Continuing the scenario from example scenario No. 2. You have a 10-foot putt left for birdie which you make.
(Your # of Putts) – (PGA Tour average from that distance) = strokes gained putting
1 putt – 1.61 = .61 strokes gained putting
Since you made that 10-foot putt you gained .61 strokes from the average PGA Tour player.
Scenario No. 4: Total for the hole:
To calculate strokes gained total use the formula below:
Strokes gained off-the-tee + Strokes gained approach-the-green + strokes gained around-the-green + strokes gained putting= strokes gained total
0.275+.215+0+.61=1.1 Total Strokes Gained on that hole
This makes sense because the PGA Tour average for the hole was 4.1 and you made a 3.
Definitions of Strokes Gained Statistics
- Strokes gained: off-the-tee: Measures player performance off the tee on all par 4s and par 5s. This statistic looks at how much better or worse a player’s drive is then the average PGA Tour player.
- Strokes gained: approach-the-green: Measures player performance on approach shots and other shots that are NOT included in strokes gained: around-the-green and strokes gained: putting. It does include tee shots on par 3s.
- Strokes gained: around-the-green: Measures player performance on any shot within 30 yards of the edge of the green without measuring putting.
- Strokes gained: putting: Measures how many strokes a player gains (or loses) on the greens compared to PGA Tour average.
- Strokes gained: tee-to-green: Strokes gained: off-the-tee + strokes gained: approach-the-green + strokes gained: around-the-green
- Strokes gained: total: Strokes gained: off-the-tee + strokes gained: approach-the-green + strokes gained: around-the-green + strokes gained: putting