Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tour Bunker Play 1980-2012



Recently, I compiled the Tour average sand save percentage for each year, starting from 1980. Here's the results.



What's interesting is that the best sand save percentage occured from 1989-2001. And the best year was 2000 with an average sand save percentage of 53.81%.

Since 2001, the Tour has failed to average above 50% on sand saves. And at this time, the Tour's average sand saves are about where they were in 1983-1988.

I do not like the 'sand save' metric because it doesn't account for the golfer who may make sand saves with better putting than actual bunker skill. However, I think it gives a reasonable ballpark of sand play. But, the key is that all of the data I've encountered is that Tour golfers make more putts today than they did in yesteryear. This is presumably due to the smoother putting surfaces.

So, it's a bit surprising to see that sand saves today are about where they were in 1983-1988. And considering that the data suggests that golfers made fewer putts in 1983-1988, you have to think that Tour players from '83-'88 may have been more skilled in the bunkers.







3JACK

4 comments:

ce245b3a-8860-11e2-9739-000bcdcb471e said...

What about the possible explanation that Tour hole locations have become more "tucked" and closer to the edges of greens in an effort to protect scoring, possibly starting around 2001 when the post-wound ball distance boom began?

Rich H. said...

Nobody really knows for sure if the pin positions became more difficult. The PGA Tour tends to follow the USGA guidelines of '6-6-6' (6 easy, 6 hard, 6 medium difficulty) from what I've been told.




3JACK

ce245b3a-8860-11e2-9739-000bcdcb471e said...

Still, wouldn't you admit that something changed around 2001? Sand save percentage was over 50% for the entire decade of the 90s, and all of the sudden it permanently, if not precipitously, dips below. You say, "you have to think that Tour players from '83-'88 may have been more skilled in the bunkers." So by implication are you saying they were especially skilled in the 90s (when the rate was consistently above 50%)? I recognize the difficulty of quantifying hole location trends by mere anecdote, but I wouldn't dismiss it as a factor. Also, there could be a change in spin rates around the greens with the old wound/balata balls vs. the current multilayer ball (a shift that occurred in exactly 2001). I find it hard to simply conclude that tour players were "more skilled in the bunkers" back in the 80s. It's an interesting topic though. Thanks for sharing.

Rich H. said...

Sure, something *could* have happened. But, perhaps players are slightly worse bunker players. As I wrote about in Pro Golf Synopsis, driving is not nearly as important to a player's success today as it was back in the 80's. Sometimes the game changes in the sense as to what the best players do well and don't do well.




3JACK