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Strokes Gained Explained – How To Stop Losing Strokes

Strokes Gained

Golfers love numbers.

We love to analyze every bit of information we can find. That’s why we…

  • Use rangefinders and GPS devices to pinpoint distances. 
  • To track average strokes over time and performance, log our stats in Shot Scope.
  • Buy launch monitors to track different data points in practice so we’re more prepared on the golf course.  

This makes sense as you can play better golf if you know your numbers. 

Numbers make things black or white. Peter Drucker stated it best: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” 

Luckily for golfers, there’s an endless amount of numbers to help you learn more about your golf game.

All this in the hope of improving and seeing how many strokes can you drop your score. The most important metric in golf is strokes gained.

This metric is often mentioned by announcers when you watch golf on television. I’m sure most golfers don’t know what this metric means or how you can improve your game. 

It can help you shoot lower scores when you know this crucial statistic. Plus, it can make golf more enjoyable to watch on TV and won’t feel like the announcers are speaking in a foreign language.

Continue reading to learn all about strokes gained.

Strokes Gained Analysis – Why This Number Means So Much 

Know your numbers before you take a shot. Not only does it help you in golf, but also in your life. Think about it…

The more you weigh yourself, take a step on the scale and track your body fat, it’s easier to make weight-related changes. It is easier to gain muscle if you keep track of your workouts, reps and sets.

Golf is no different. 

It is easier to practice efficiently if you know how each component works. You will be able to score lower scores by turning your weaknesses into strengths. 

While numbers and data are super helpful, sometimes it’s a little overwhelming though. Particularly when it comes tracking your stats. Using apps and other methods we’ll outline in this post, you can have hundreds of data points from every round of golf.

Some of the most popular statistics in golf include:

  • Number of greens reached.
  • Number of fairways reached.
  • Total number of putts.
  • Scrambling percentage.

You might also be able to play more advanced golf statistics like:

  • Sand saves 
  • Strokes gained 
  • Average
  • Put make rate 
  • The hole is close by 
  • Driving distance/accuracy

I believe that there is an endless sea of data. strokes gained is arguably the most important metric of all. Here’s why… 

History and Definition of Strokes 

Before diving into why strokes gained is such an important metric, let’s first define it. 

According to the PGA Tour

“The strokes gained concept was initially developed by Professor Mark Broadie of Columbia University, utilizing ShotLink data that has been made available to academic institutions for research since 2007. 

Strokes gained is a better method for measuring performance because it compares a player’s performance to the rest of the field and because it can isolate individual aspects of the game. Traditional golf statistics, such as greens in regulation and putts per green, are influenced by a player’s performance on shots other than those being measured.”

Creator of Strokes Wined 

So who is the inventor of the strokes gained category

Mark Broadie used his financial background in order to transform the golf game. Shotlink tracks every shot that these guys hit. This data is invaluable for a number of reasons.

Hence, why is it so important to know how strokes are gained? 

Let’s first look at all the data. This allows us to see how the top players in the world perform. To see every stat possible, you can access the PGA Tour website anytime. For specific events and total season numbers… It’s fascinating to see them! 

This is great news for amateurs, as it gives them something to work towards. I’ve found that a lot of times the everyday golfer thinks we should be better than we are. But when you look at some stats from the PGA Tour, even the best players in the world aren’t perfect… far from it.

Most everyday players believe that PGA Tour players are all sloppy. However, the statistics prove otherwise. In the 2021 PGA Tour season the average driving distance was 296 meters. 

Don’t get me wrong, nearly 300 yards is impressive, but that’s the average. K.J. being the most notable, many players were significantly shorter than that. Choi, at 269 yards, was the shortest. 

These are some other metrics that may surprise you from the 2021 PGA Tour Season:

  • 65% – Average GIR (green in regulation) 
  • 29.01 – Average number of putts per round 
  • 50% – Sand save percentage (this one is the most shocking to me) 

These data are used by players to improve certain aspects of their games. Individual stats are important, but strokes won is the best way to measure their overall performance. 

Strokes Gained Explained – Improving Your Golf Game

Strokes won is the metric that determines success on the PGA Tour.

It compiles all types of data points to give players an indication of where things can be improved. As they have more data, the strokes they gain are changing. It’s not just one number, instead, it’s broken down into multiple categories including: 

Strokes Total 

The total strokes achieved was the first category to be used for this stat.

As the PGA Tour stated, “Strokes gained: total simply compares a player’s score to the field average. A player who shoots 69 on a day with 72 averages will gain three strokes. A player who shoots 74 on that day loses two strokes to the field.”

This number was further broken down into tee-to-green and putting in 2014. Since then, they’ve added additional data points, so the categories have expanded as well.  

Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green

So what does strokes gained from tee to tee mean? 

Tee to green measures all shots that don’t happen on the putting green.

This includes all tee shots, approach shots, recovery shots and chips/pitches. You can’t have a putter in your hands for every shot. 

Strokes gained driving (Off The Tee).

The strokes gained for “Off the tee” measures how a player performs on all par 4 and par 5 tee shots a given round.

Notification: This does not factor in par 3’s as that is considered in our next statistic – approach to green. This is only tee box performance on par 4’s and par 5’s.

Strokes Gained Approach To Green 

Although strokes from the tee are important for understanding your long game better than strokes from the green, approach the green can help you understand your mid-game. This measure measures your performance on your approach shots, which includes:

  • Tee shots on Par 3s
  • Approach shots on the par 4s
  • Approach shots on the par 5s 

For par 4s or 5, things like fairway to rough (or intermediate rough), the number of shots it takes to reach the green, and many other factors contribute to this statistical analysis.

Strokes – Scrambling (Scrambling). 

Next up is the around green strokes gained number. It measures performance between 30 yards and the edge of green. It measures how quickly players can scramble to reach the green if they are not successful.

It’s important to note that this stat is specifically for around the green – not on the dance floor. 

This is a great way to improve your short game and gain strokes on the green. When it comes to how you’re putting performance, that is the next and final statistic. 

Strokes made in putting

The last, but certainly not the least important stat is Strokes made in putting. This is where the majority of strokes occur, and it is one reason why shorter games are so important to shoot lower scores.

As I’m sure you know, putting is arguably one of the most significant stats in golf. The better you can roll it, the higher your score. A three putt vs. a two putt vs. a one putt can make all the difference in a player’s game.

A scratch golfer is more likely to make fewer putts than the majority of amateur golfers, but has a higher average than a PGA Tour Pro.

That’s why strokes gained putting is such a critical metric. This statistic shows how many strokes you gain and lose depending on your putting performance. 

It clearly shows if you’re doing well with putting or if you need to change something up. 

The Formula for Strokes has gained data

Now that you have a better understanding of the different categories, let’s get into the formula. This is the confusing part and, thankfully, it doesn’t require you to manually calculate.

There are many apps and programs that can do the math for us. Here is a quick breakdown that will give you the 30,000-foot view. 

  • To establish a baseline, Strokes first calculated the average score of each hole to gain statistics. A par 4 could be 4.2 or even 4.3 (over par), while a par 5 might be 4.8 (below). 
  • Once you’ve hit your tee shot and are satisfied with the result, you can make further calculations. You need to know whether you hit it in the fairway, rough, or at the green for your second shot. If you have 100 yards to go on a par 4, your SG will be lower than if you have 180 yards. The average player scores less when they are closer to the green or playing from the fairway, according to the PGA Tour. 
  • More factors are involved once you have hit your approach shot. Your chances of hitting the green are higher if you hit it. This will increase your strokes gained. If you miss the green, scrambling and other factors will come into play. 
  • The final factor is what you do on your putting green. It doesn’t matter how far you are from the hole. The PGA Tour stats indicate that the closer you are, you are more likely to make the putt. 

For more information, see Rickie Fowler’s 2015 Players Championship example. click here

Strokes Gained App 

As you can tell, a lot goes into these calculations and isn’t simple math you can do on your own. To reap the benefits, you need a golf app that does the hard work for your. It could help you lose five strokes, or any stroke, from your game.

If you’re interested in tracking more of your game to get strokes gained statistics, make sure to use one of these apps to get started. 

Shot Tracker V1 game

With the Shot Tracker V1 app, your phone can be turned into a stat tracking wizard. While it is a premium app and requires a subscription, most of them do. It’s worth every penny though as you get amazing insight into your game.

The dashboard allows you to view your results and analyze your game. You can also connect it with your Google account. Apple WatchAs well. 

Arccos Shot Tracking

Arccos, another shot tracking app, is quite different from other apps. This device works by attaching club tags to each grip. Your phone will detect each shot. It uses GPS to track the location and club of each shot.

Many clubs include them as an option. They also come with a 30-day free trial. You can also get a belt clip to keep your phone safe in the cart.

Decades App (BirdieFire)

One statistic tracking program that I’ve been quite impressed with is the Decades App. It’s an impressive app that lets you track every part of your game imaginable. While it takes some time to enter your stats, it’s worth it. 

It will give you a glimpse at your performance after you have chosen your course and entered all your shots. Look at the strokes achieved categories.

It breaks down SG into four categories, and compares my numbers to the PGA Tour average (you have the option to change this setting within the app). It’s easy to spot trends and see where I should be focusing my practice time. 

This app has a learning curve at first but it’s well worth it. The app has tons of training videos and webinars that will show you how to use it, as well as tons of hacks for better golf. 

Find out more about our favorite golf apps.

Mark Broadie’s book called “Every Shot Counts” is another great book for most golfers to learn this important stat. This book explains why this stat is important, and how to make it easier for lower scores. 

What’s fascinating about Mark Broadie is his background. After working in the financial industry for a while, he learned the importance and application of analytics to golf. He analyzed endless amounts of data, both from professionals and amateurs, to help players improve. 

It’s a fascinating read and provides great insight into what makes great players great. This book will help you make every shot count. 

Click here to read more on Amazon.

FAQs about Strokes Gained Statistic

Are you looking for more information about this important metric to help you better understand it and how to implement it in your game? If so, you can find answers below. 

What does it mean to strokes gained?

It’s a metric to gauge a player’s performance when compared to other players using a set of data points. It uses a variety of data points to calculate a score in different categories. 

How are strokes gained calculated

The strokes gained calculation isn’t something you can do on your own. It involves many factors such as hole length, lie type and shot length.  

To make it easier to understand each component, strokes are now broken down into different parts of the game. There is a total score. However, you can also get individual parts by using apps such as Decades Golf or Shot Scope.

Decades Golf allows you to enter your stats and shots and get strokes for off the tee and approach to the green. It’s easier to find your weaknesses and spend more practice time with them when you have separate numbers. 

Are strokes worth it?  

Yes, it’s a great metric as it measures overall performance and individual components as well. It’s much better than just looking at stats such as fairways, greens, or total putts. 

To get the most out my game, I began using various stat tracking apps. To track my data, I log my stats into Decades after each round. This software does all the heavy lifting, making it easy to see what you can improve on and what to do in practice.

What is bogey Avoidance?

Advanced stat tracking apps can provide a wealth of data, including this one. Bogey avoidance measures the percentage of time a player does not make a bogey on any hole.

Are negative strokes worth it?

No, strokes won are always either positive or negative.

A positive number indicates that you were above the average in a particular category or total. A negative number means that you were below average, and thus, less than the benchmark. 

Final Thoughts on Strokes 

Learning strokes can help improve your golf game.

Even if you drop one stroke, it’s worth tracking each golf shot during a round. However, this only works if the right apps are used and data is accumulated over time. 

But it’s important to not get so obsessed with the numbers that it does the exact opposite and ends up hurting your game. Knowing these numbers will make your golf experience more enjoyable and will help guide you in the right direction for practice.

All I ask is that you don’t let it consume you like changing your swing and end up making things worse. Track your stats and use some of these apps to have fun on the green.

You can lower your handicap by entering your rounds regularly, studying strokes gained stats (specifically the short game), and then practicing improving weak areas. 

Remember, the numbers don’t lie, especially strokes gained!