A Look at Tour Statistics
I've been a fan of PGA Tour statistics for a long time, because the numbers don't lie ... at least most of the time they don't. The Tour has long run their ad campaign on the theme, "These Guys Are Good." And they are. But just how good are they?

At SCOR Golf, we've been doing a "deep dive" to find out a lot more about the Tour players and their statistics, with the goal of seeing the separation between the "haves" and "have nots" in various categories, particularly as it applies to hitting their approach shots from various distances. Well, the results were surprising, to be honest.

We all know these guys hit it miles ... at least most of them, but do they hit close? Well, not all the time, the statistics prove. Here are some interesting factoids revealed by our analysis:
  1. Outside 175 yards, these guys are all about the same. Very interestingly, we found out that the competitive advantage of the best over #125 in this category isn't much. From 175-200 yards, they range from 29 to 34 feet on their average approach; outside 200 yards, the range is 42-50 feet. When you find out that tour pros make less than one percent of their putts over 35 feet, the advantage of being the best from long range isn't all that great.

  2. They aren't as good as you would think inside 100 yards. What surprised us was that tour players miss the entire green 10-15% of the time from inside 100 yards!!!! And they average 15-18' from the hole on their approaches inside 100 yards. Bet you all thought they were better than that, didn't you?

  3. 100-150 yards is the "SCOR Zone". The best in this range hit it inside 20 feet on average – the others don't. Tour players make 20-25% of their putts from 15-20 feet and half that many from 20-25, so hitting it closer with the 9-iron and wedges is where a tour player can pull away from the pack.
This all gave us reason to ponder why the typical tour player ... and amateur for that matter ... is carrying 6-7 clubs that go further than their 5-iron, and only 3-4 that go shorter than their 8-iron. The numbers don't lie. If the best in the world can only hit it within 12-15 yards of the hole from that range, why would anyone need 10-12 yard distance gaps at the long end of their set? Especially when it causes you to sacrifice distance accuracy at the short end because you don't have tight enough gaps ... because you don't have enough tools in the toolbox.

A guy might be the best Mercedes mechanic in the world, but are you going to trust him with yours if he only has a hammer and pipe wrench?
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[ comments ]
Matt McGee says:
Do I need more short clubs, or the ability to hit more shots with the short clubs that I have? I've discovered that having too many wedges leaves me feeling as though I don't understand what the ball is going to do when I use some of them.
12/11/12
 
Bryan K says:
That's what practice is for, Matt. I actually have four wedges in my bag right now, and I'm thinking about adding a fifth. But I'm not going to until I have the distances dialed in on the wedges I have. I know my pitching wedge is a 120 yard club, but I choose the wrong wedge when I'm inside of 120 a lot.
12/11/12
 
Mr_X says:
WG, I do not understand your math. 6-7 clubs longer than a 5 iron? I am a 18 handicapper who plays 4 iron, 3 iron/hybrid, 5 wood, 3 wood and driver. That is 5 clubs. Who on the tour is playing 6 or 7 clubs above a 5 iron? Can you send me a link to one WIYB on the PGA website with 7 clubs above 5 iron? Below are the numbers posted on various sites for the current top ten money winners and the number of clubs they list in their bag longer than a 5 iron.

Rory McIlroy 5
Luke Donald 5
Tiger Woods 4/5
Justin Rose 4
Louis Oosthuizen 5
Lee Westwood 5
Adam Scott 5
Bubba Watson 4
Jason Dufner 5
Brandt Snedeker 5

I will agree with you that scoring clubs and solid short game is where its at. But if you are citing statistics please check you numbers. I just spent 20 minutes looking at the club make ups listed by the pros. I did not see anyone playing 6 clubs above a 5 iron, let alone 7! Just making up numbers is not good for your credibility.
12/11/12
 
windowsurfer says:
@WGuy: ". . . why would anyone need 10-12 yard distance gaps at the long end of their set?"

When yer right yer right.
12/11/12
 
bkuehn1952 says:
Good point Mr_X. Even I only carry 5 clubs that go further than a 5-iron and often it is 4 clubs when I leave one of them in the trunk for misbehaving (play with 13).
12/11/12
 
Dusty23 says:
This seems to assume that pros have Driver, 3 & 5 Wd, 2,3,4 irons. It seems that I see all the time pros who list not having a 5 wd or a mix of 5 wd, hybrid, or 2 iron depending on the course but seldom all. This months issue of Golf Digest has Scott Stallings setup listed as Driver, 3wd, 2I, 4I. I am no pro and I carry Driver, 3,5 Wds, 22 deg Hybrid and no 3 or 4 iron. I also only have PW,GW,SW in the bag
12/11/12
 
windowsurfer says:
Given enuf interest, the oob admin guys could prolly take a look to see what oobers are carrying in their "My Equipment" pages? I suspect my Drvr-19*hy-21*hy-26*hy-5i would be less than common. (I stick to 19 off the tee & 21 off the turf, or I'd even have one less.)
12/11/12
 
joe jones says:
From 100 yards in I will take Gary Player, Lee Trevino or Corey Pavin with one wedge against anyone on the tour today that has four wedges in his bag. It's called shot making. A lost art today. Player was better out of a trap with anything from a seven iron to a wedge than anybody on tour.
12/11/12
 
Bryan K says:
I have three clubs longer than a 5i.
12/12/12
 
Tim Horan says:
I am playing driver, 13 degree fairway, 18 and 21 degree hybrids and then 6, 7, 8, 9, 48,52 56 and 60 degree wedges plus a putter. Leaving one spare spot for a specialist club (either 24 degree hybrid or a sharp edged wedge depending on conditions).

21 degree Hybrid is easy to finesse from 160yds right up to 200yds so i do not see the benefit of carrying a five iron or below.

I understand what Terry is getting at but all my clubs are scoring clubs.

Thinking around a course using a full arsenal of shots with a variety of clubs has got to be better than trying to blast away.
12/12/12
 
Virtuaframax says:
90% of the times I carry Dr, 3W, 19* Hybrid, and 4 iron. Also carry 4 wedges (PW, GW, SW, LW).
Same as Brian, when the LW misbehaves (its not a user error, LOL), i leave it at home and introduce the 3 iron...
12/12/12
 
Tim Horan says:
I always swore that I would never buy a laser range finder. But recently went to Turkey for a weeks golf and all courses are measured in metres, add to this a set of hired clubs and I needed some confidence from somewhere and so bought one. What a great piece of kit they are...they really focus your mind on the minimum club you need. Our fairway markers are all to the front of the green (200, 150, 100yds) but I ask you... do you know how deep your greens are? I certainly didn't and honestly believed that the difference between a front flag and a back flag was just stepping on the selected club a bit. Some greens on the course are almost two clubs. So to Terry's point about being accurate with distance control...if you don't know the distance how can you hit it?
12/13/12
 
windowsurfer says:
Would like to hear more about golf in, and visiting, Turkey.
12/13/12
 
onedollarwed says:
1) Am I right in assuming that most of the courses the pros play have harder and slopier greens?
2) Yet, these guys have caddies and practice the very courses they play repeatedly.
3) Driver, either 2 woods (or two hybrids), 3i, 4i = 5 clubs
4) It's trick question, or comment: With these new clubs, your 6 and 7 irons both go further than your 5 iron, hah! Or better yet, almost all of my clubs go further than my 5 iron... when I throw them!
5) I've been tracking a new stat, the PSF or PSY... or penultimate shot footage/yardage. How far away are you when you hit your next to last shot, or assist? Obviously, if you miss short putts, you'll kill this number. But it's pretty telling. Recently I shot a 79 with an 8yd PSY. Previously, I had shot a 74 with a PSY of 27. Much better. The higher the number the better. In other words, I was getting up and down from 27yds on average (81ft), or 8yds in the other round(24ft). See my scores for more details.
12/13/12
 
onedollarwed says:
On one round I had PSY from 90,100, and 150 yds. This is great for a "hot zone" average (where you can get up and down from), but it does illustrate how tough it is to "score" from way out. In other words, if I was even able to use a 5-iron or stronger and chip in or put in a long putt from that result, it would be a huge number, 500 ft and more. Perhaps those will trickle in in the coming rounds. We'll see. Send me your PSY averages.
Another way to keep track would be to count how many Assists you have from >100yds, or >150yds per round of 18, or percent of holes if it would be easier. Well call >100yd assist, a Red Dagger, >150 a White Dagger, Blue Dagger, etc. Then we can compile the data.
12/13/12
 
wedgeguy says:
Sorry about the misdirection, guys. Writing early in the morning has its downside. I meant 5-6 clubs 5-iron or longer. My point is that a deep dive into PGA Tour statistics reveals that there is little separation from best to worst (#125) in approach shot distance from the hole outside 150 yards, which is a 9-iron for most of these guys these days. Regarding the shotmaking skills of the old guys, I tend to agree with that. But no matter how good a mechanic you are, better tools will help you achieve your best.
12/14/12
 
onedollarwed says:
This is a great post. Too bad we got mired in # of clubs < 5 iron. This makes a lot of sense as my own approach accuracy seems to have a ceiling, where driving, short game, or putting can reach relatively higher heights. GIR to me reflects the kind of course you play, and if the greens are large and soft. Also, level fairways make GIR easier.

I used to be a one-club guy around the greens - everything from lobs to chips. I varied ball position wildly, and stance/grip down etc. Years back it was a 52, and then a 58 Vokey for many years. While I liked that method, the bounce of the club was often a hindrance. Ithen went to 3-Vokeys (52 b08,56 b12,60 b04) with highly variable bounces. This meant I had to use each club in a variety of specialized situations to fit the lie, the firmness of the ground, etc. I now use 4 V-sole wedges and can play any type with all of the wedges. After all, even if you carry 4 wedges, you can still hit any one all sorts of ways.
12/14/12
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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