Monday, August 17, 2015

Putting Metrics at Whistling Straits

A while ago on GolfWRX I was challenged when I made the statement that in general, faster greens on Tour will have higher make percentages from inside 15-feet.  As much as that may seem to counter common logic, faster greens are typically smoother and they also usually have less undulation.  If greens are undulated and fast, they may not hold the green or even worse, if the wind picks up the ball may move when the golfer addresses the putt, thus incurring a penalty.

This is nothing new as there have been numerous studies on the make percentages based on green speeds and their findings agree with that sentiment.  Where courses get most difficult to putt on is usually when they have undulations and are bumpy.  Pebble Beach and Riviera are the 2 of the lowest make %'s on Tour and they have very undulated greens.  The grass has been reportedly smoother at Riviera in recent years, but the make % is still low due to the big breaks in the putts.

Anyway, here's a look at the make %'s for the PGA Championship:

3-5 feet:  89.97% (Tour Average 87.64%)
5-10 feet: 59.93% (Tour Average 56.78%)
10-15 feet: 34.66% (Tour Average 30.08%)

Where golfers tend to confuse faster = lower make % is that they tend to 3-putt more on faster greens.  So while the make % gets higher, the 3% raises as well because one can hit a 40-foot putt on a fast green to 7-feet where the make % for the 7-footer is higher than on a slow green (let's say 55% on fast green and 51% on a slow green).  But, on slow greens with a 40-footer that golfer may hit that putt to 3-feet where the make % may be less than on a slow green.  Let's say from 3-feet, the make % on a slow green is 90% (avg on Tour is 92%).

Again, the make %'s are higher on the fast green, but the distance of the 2nd putt is going to be longer on fast greens.

Now, the 3-Putt percentage at Whistling Straits was actually lower than the Tour average (2.70% vs. 2.92%).  But, 3-Putt percentage's can be skewed due to green size and GIR %.  The field average GIR % was only 61%.  Thus, if you're chipping more often the first putt is likely to be from a shorter distance on average and you're less likely to 3-putt.

You can see the metrics on this Google Sheet at: Whistling Straits Player Data


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