No Mulligans Necessary with Smarter Analytics

Social Media Manager and Webmaster, Accessibility, IBM


Golf is all about analytics.

As you watch golf on television or take "a good walk spoiled" yourself, think about all of the data calculations made before the right club is selected to hit a golf ball on the tee or fairway:

  • What is the distance to the hole?
  • Which club will carry me that distance?
  • Does wind factor into my shot?
  • Am I hitting uphill or downhill to the hole?
  • Where is the ball lying – on the fairway or in the rough? If the rough, how deep?
  • Is the ball lying below or above my feet?
  • Is there any water, trees or sand traps in my way?

And don't forget about the math that goes into a perfect swing – from weight distribution to angle and speed of the club. This could be why golfing legend Arnold Palmer once said, “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.” And is a reason why more and more golfers are opening their minds to the wonderful world of analytics.

Those of you who play golf might not care about any of those questions and would just prefer to rely on physical ability, whack it and hope the ball ends up close to the hole. That’s why most of us are not part of the field at the Masters where analytics will be all the rage – both on and off the course. I watched a video on golf and analytics from the recent MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference that discusses some the current trends of how analytics are finding their way deeper into golf’s lexicon.

Like baseball and Moneyball, golf is even more traditional with the adoption of new analytical techniques. But, more and more golfers are now taking advantage of the available data to improve their overall game and better understand weaknesses to eliminate unnecessary strokes.

For instance, if a player was only successful in “sand saves” 20 percent of the time simple analysis might assume that player is just bad from the sand. But, by measuring a balls start relative to the hole, and the balls end relative to the hole might reveal that the player is actually a bad putter.

Speaking of putting, golfer Luke Donald has started to look deeper into the statistics of his game. He has found there was a deep correlation between a good year and bad year based on his ability to knock down putts between 4-8 feet. Now he spends more time practicing those short putts.

And one final statistic on putting – the folks at the MIT Sloan Conference found that professional golfers are way more cautious with birdie putts and more aggressive on par putts. If they would change their thinking and become more aggressive on birdies, they could significantly lower their scores.

As you can see, players are beginning to understand, that just as in business, if you’re not using Smarter Analytics you might as well let the competition just play though.

And, the next time you're out hacking up a golf course, remember to do the you too could become the next “Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It's in the hole!"