Strokes Gained – How It Works (Part 1)

 Scott Fletcher PGA Member – UK Golf Academy

Using statistics is the perfect way to measure where your game is currently and if you’re moving towards your goals.  It is important to have goals for your golf game because it will keep you motivated to practise and measurable improvement in our skills is what keeps us coming back after all!

Mark Broadie works alongside the PGA Tour to provide statistics for the players on the PGA Tour.  He found a way to measure the quality of each and every shot they (and you) hit. This is called “Strokes Gained”.

Strokes Gained works by starting with the average amount of shots to hole out from any given location.  This could be 1 shot for a 1 foot putt or 2 shots for a 35ft putt.  Then by subtracting the amount of shots you actually took, from the average, we get your strokes gained score.

Average amount of shots to hole out – Your amount of shots to hole out = Stokes Gained or Lost

For example, a 35 foot putt should, on average, take 2 shots to hole out. An excellent putt that goes in would be 1 shot better than average (gaining 1 stroke).  This shot would have a value of +1.

2 shots (average) – 1 shot (your amount) = +1 strokes gained.

If you 3 putted, you are 1 worse than the average (losing 1 stroke) and the value would be -1.

2 shots (average) – 3 shots (your amount) = -1 strokes lost.

A 1 foot putt, should take 1 stroke to hole out.  If you miss and make a 2 putt, this stroke is valued as -1.

1 shot (average) – 2 shots (your amount) = – 1 strokes lost.

If you make the putt, you’re completely average and the value is 0.

1 shot (average) – 1 shot (your amount) = 0 strokes gained/lost.

A 120 yard approach from the fairway  should take 3 shots to hole out.  So if you get up and down, you’re 1 stroke better than average (3-2 = +1)! If you duff the shot, then take 3 more (4 total) you’re one stroke worse than average (3-4 = -1).

By having a standard measure for all golf shots, we can measure the quality of each area of your game.  If you’re gaining strokes when putting, but losing strokes when driving, we know where to practise and improve.

We currently only have data for PGA Tour players (stroke average of 70).  In future, we are hoping to have data for all standards of golfer to make the data even more accurate.  However, in the meantime, the below data is more than sufficient.

                    70    75      80    85      90     95     100    105     110

Driving        0      1.25    2.5    3.75    5         6.3     7.6      9.3       11

Approach    0      2         4        6         8        10       12       13.85   15.7

Short            0      1.05   2.1      3.15   4.2      5.2     6.2      7.05    7.9

Putting         0      0.7     1.4      2.1     2.8      3.5     4.2      4.8     5.4

As you can see, the PGA Tour player is 2.5 shots better than an 80 shooter from the tee, 4 shots better with approach shots, 2.1 shots better in the short game and 1.4 shots better when putting.

A more realistic and useful example is, the 90 shooter vs 100 shooter.

Driving – 90 shooter is 2.6 shots better.

Approach – 90 shooter is 4 shots better.

Short game – 90 shooter is 2 shots better.

Putting – 90 shooter is 1.4 shots better.

It is important to note that the improvement is not divided equally between areas.  You would be forgiven for assuming that the 10 shot improvement is 2.5 driving, 2.5 approach, 2.5 short game and 2.5 putting.  This is not the case.

In fact, a 110 shooter (40 strokes more than PGA Tour average) is only 5.4 strokes worse at putting!  The bulk of the difference is how well a PGA Tour player hits his irons compared to a 110 shooter, a massive 15.7 shots better!

My hope is that this article should give you an idea of how strokes gained works, how you can use it to reach your next scoring milestone and how much better the PGA Tour player is in any given area of the game than the regular golfer.

In a future article, I will explain the finer details.

  • How you can measure all of your shots against the PGA Tour baseline for very accurate measurements.
  • Plot yourself against the above table so you can see which areas you’re better than your scoring average and which areas you’re worse.
  • Then its get practising to improve and reach your goals!

Cliff Notes:-

  • Strokes Gained is a way of giving all shots a value of difficulty.
  • We can measure our performance on any given shot against a baseline.
  • We can see what areas of our game out-perform or under-perform against our handicap.
  • A good action plan can be put in place to improve areas that will have a big effect on our score.

For any questions on the above please feel free to email any comments below.


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