Strategy - PGA tour vs scratch players

Lou Stagner (stat guy for DECADE) recently posted this on his twitter:

I did some quick calculations and found the following (expected strokes to hole out is obtained from Mark Broadie’s GolfMetrics App)

Scratch baseline:
Hybrid: 3.07
Driver: 0.2 x 2.79 + 0.6 x 2.94 + 0.2 x 3.06 = 2.934
–> Driver better by 0.136 strokes

PGA tour baseline:
Hybrid: 2.81
Driver: 0.2 x 2.65 + 0.6 x 2.91 + 0.2 x 3.14 = 2.904
–> Hybrid better by 0.094 strokes

Now I’m miffed that apparently from 60 yards in the sand, scratch golfers take fewer strokes to hole out than PGA pros, but for the scratch golfer, driver will still the better play so long as you average less than 3.89 strokes to hole out from 60 in the sand.

I think this just shows that getting closer to the hole is even more important for amateurs (even good amateurs) than it is for pros.


@LouStagner he has an account here… not sure he checks it!

Awesome math! I’m hitting driver!

Really would like to know why a scratch players 60yd bunker shot is better than a pro… @LouStagner has to have a guess as to why that is. I can’t come up with a logical explanation other than much smaller sample size for pros who are smart enough to avoid 60 yard bunker shots!

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It happens sometimes for chip shots in the rough because the average difficulty on those kind of shots is just a lot easier on the setups amateurs play (fast greens + thick rough makes chipping a lot more difficult). That being said I have a hard time believing this is the case for 60 yard bunker shots.

That is unlikely to be correct and if it is it would be due to pin positions and bad data collection by the scratch!


this pretty much falls in line with the decade flowchart…

the recurring theme is that rough/sand is not too bad of a penalty… lost ball, ob, laterals and severe punch outs are what make the decisions interesting…

otherwise it is just “bomb driver”

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It’s not really in line with the DECADE flow chart and that’s why I posted this. First of all, the DECADE flow chart is the same for scratch golfers driving it 270+ and PGA tour players but the optimal club choice is different for both - so it has to lead to the incorrect decision for one of them. Second, the DECADE flow chart says not to take on extra risk if you already have a wedge in your hand. This is clearly not the case here. I think the DECADE flow chart is a great tool but it is not infallible and this is one of those cases where it fails. Specifically, I think the “it is unlikely you should drop back to 2-iron / hybrid unless the hole is short and you will have a wedge into the green” is something that doesn’t really apply to amateurs.

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Its funny… obviously the math is the math, and numbers don’t lie… but it’s interesting to apply this to the messy real world… I have a similar choice on my first hole (I talk about it a lot here… sorry… it’s flummoxes me)

If I hit hybrid, I’ll have between 120-150 in but it’s easy to hit the fairway (allegedly… I need to commit to this shot) and if I hit driver I can be anywhere from blocked by a tree to having a wedge shot I’m confident I will one day hole out…

I’m not sure how the tree changes my math… if I’m to the point I can’t hit it over, I can knock it near the green with a punch shot…

Ironically, my only birdie this season on it has been from the woods on the left where i just threw a gap wedge over everything and had a 6 footer left.

Trees always make the calculations messy. You have to estimate how often you’ll be blocked out because of them and how penal being blocked out actually is. Unfortunately, these can vary drastically based on the density, size, and type of trees. I play courses where all the trees are spruce trees with thick limbs that grow right next to the ground. These trees are very penal and usually result in an unplayable or 10-yard punch out. They are basically 1-stroke penalties. Other courses are lined with big oak trees which are much more forgiving. Occasionally you get totally blocked out but usually you have a full swing and can hit a low punch shot at or close to the green. These are probably closer to half stroke penalties.


In poker, you would be called a nit