Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Update to the Refutation of the MyGolfSpy Article

After the refutation of the MyGolfSpy article post, I received some feedback from MyGolfSpy that I would like to rebut.

Here is from the MyGolfSpy Twitter feed:

3.5 million data points sounds great, but the actual point is was making was not about sample size. It was the conclusions they were drawing from a chart that lacked very key and important data.

Here are some of the flaws I see with using this chart:

1. It actually does not show the total time spent. It shows the percentage of time a golfer works on certain parts of their game. For example, the chart shows that a 30 handicap works on their driver roughly 22.5% of their practice. And the 0-4 handicap works on their driver about 16% of their practice. If the 0-4 handicap practices for 5 hours a week, that means the golfer is getting 56 minutes of driver practice per week. If the 30-34 handicap is only putting in 30 minutes a week of practice time, then they would be projected to put in 6 minutes and 45 seconds of time on the driver.

2. The chart shows nothing in terms of improvement in any part of the game. It only shows the practice habits, in terms of percentage of time practicing a certain part of the game, for each handicap. We don’t know if golfers of different handicap ranges are actually improving in any way, shape or form in anything…even score.

3. Correlation does not imply causation. So while there is a correlation between practice time percentages of short game and handicap (supposedly), that does not necessarily mean that just because you practice a greater percentage of time you will have a lower handicap. A good example of correlation does not imply causation is in the NFL where QB’s that kneel down in the 4th quarter tend to win the game nearly 100% of the time. While true, it does not mean that being able to kneel down in the 4th quarter will win the team the game.

With this example of percentage of golf practice time, MyGolfSpy does not consider why lower handicaps are better golfers. Things like the total amount of practice time spent each week, how often they play, how long have they been playing, when they started playing, physical health, money spent on golf each year, age, etc. are all factors that were not considered in their conclusion from the chart.

I don’t think that was the point of my refutation. However, I think you did imply some criticism of Every Shot Counts as the book talked about how overrated the short game and putting was and how golfers should work on improving their long game more in order to lower scores. The MyGolfSpy article was trying to discredit that premise from Every Shot Counts.

In the end, I am actually not saying that the point of the MyGolfSpy article is absolutely 100% incorrect. I have not tested against this theory of practice time nor do I know of any other test of practice time and improvement. I would assume that the more time spent practicing a certain part of the game, the better the golfer will get at that part of the game. Therefore, practicing the long game and the driver more would logically help you improve those parts of the game and because the data shows how important the long game is to lowering scores, it would logically help the golfer more.

But again, that logic has not been tested either.

For this hypothesis to be more properly tested, we would need to see something like certain handicaps deciding to focus more of their practice time on one part of the game and what their scores were and then change the practice focus to the other part of the game and see what the scores were after that.  We would also need to know how percentage of time practice works versus length of time practiced.  That and many other aspects need to be considered to draw a more meaningful and accurate conclusion.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Refutation of MyGolfSpy's Practice the Short Game Article

Here's an article from and their belief that amateurs, regardless of handicap, should practice their short game more instead of practicing their long game.

The article cites Dr. Mark Broadie's book Every Shot Counts in which Dr. Broadie mentions throughout the book that the 'long game' is more important in golf than the 'short game.'  The article does not mention my annual e-book Pro Golf Synopsis (2015 version due out before Christmas).  However, I am in agreement with Dr. Broadie's research for the most part.  I have published Pro Golf Synopsis since 2011, so it has been out there for quite some time.  In fact, one of the main sticking points of the article is how the wedge game is vastly overrated by golfers of all skill levels.

First, let's examine what Dr. Broadie defines as the 'long game' versus the 'short game.'

Dr. Broadie has segmented the game of golf as the 'long game' being any shot that is from a distance longer than 100 yards and the 'short game' as any shot shorter than a distance of 100 yards.  He does have the ability to utilize his strokes gained method to distinguish driving from long game shots that are not hit off the tee on a par-4 or par-5.  He also has the methodology to distinguish putting from short game shots within 100 yards.  And in all, he can use strokes gained in a variety of different ways to distinguish bunker play versus non-bunker short game shots, shots from certain distances, etc.

There are some things with the strokes gained methodology that my colleagues and I disagree with in terms of accuracy.  But all in all, I find it a valid measurement, particularly when it comes to putting and that is why I refer to Strokes Gained - Putting in Pro Golf Synopsis.

Throughout Every Shot Counts Dr. Broadie mentions how putting is overrated and that is his main point of contention.  However, he contradicts that mantra by showing how important putting is to winning an event.  Again, I'm in perfect agreement with the concept that putting is important when it comes to winning an event from a statistical standpoint.  It just is.  The vast majority of winners on the PGA Tour gain +0.5 strokes or more per round in the event they won.  Furthermore, I'm in perfect statistical agreement that putting becomes less important over time when it comes to Tour success.  But, the same applies for a golfer that gradually wants to lower their handicap.  Perhaps 'putting was overrated' was a tagline set forth by the publisher to sell the book.  But, that is where I disagree with Every Shot Counts.

My statistical research which includes amateur research shows that all-in-all, putting is roughly the 2nd most important part of the game.  However, I should mention that I prefer to further segment the game of golf more than Dr. Broadie does because of the following reasons:

The Short Game vs. Long Game segmentation is not exactly an apples to apples comparison.

Let's say for all intents and purposes the long hole we can play is a 650 yard Par-4.  With the long game segment, that's essentially comparing 550 yards of data (650-100) versus 100 yards (Short Game) of data.  I think the comparison warrants something more similar in terms of distance (doesn't have to be exactly similar, but more similar).  And therefore it should not be a big revelation that shots coming from 550 yards of distance range would be more important than shots coming from a 100 yard distance range.  I can understand the segment to a degree because there is a theory that putting is most important because you it can be 'half of the shots you hit in a round' and that is an invalid representation of the game.  But, this broad segmentation is too broad to draw conclusions as well.

For instance, if I was looking at crime data and was looking at the total crimes of city with 5 million residents versus a city with 500,000 residents, I don't think it would be a revelation that the bigger city had more total crime.

There are different skill sets, technique, equipment, etc. involved at different distances within the Long Game vs. Short Game parameters.

The skill sets, techniques, equipment, etc. involved with a 10 yard pitch shot is far different than a 50-yard shot which is far different from a 100-yard shot which is far different from a 150-yard shot which is far different from a 200 yard shot which is far different from hitting your 3-wood off the ground which is far different from hitting a driver off the tee box.  Therefore, you're not giving the golfer precise parts of the game to work on and that can lead to a golfer working on the wrong things.

Not all Short Game shots have the same value and not all Long Game shots have the same value.

For a Tour player, putting is far more important than shots from 100-150 yards.  So, if we were to use the advice that 'the Long Game is far more important than the Short Game' this could lead a Tour player working far more on their 100-150 yard shots versus their putting.  It could lead to a player working on their 75-100 yard shots when they do want to practice their short game more than their putting or 10-20 yard shots because the reasoning would be that the 75-100 yard shots are closer to that 'Long Game' range.  If a Tour player could improve their Driving, Red Zone play (175-225 yards), shots from 10-20 yards and their putting from 5-15 feet, they would be far better served from a historical statistical standpoint...than they would be if they improve their play from 20-100 yards, 100-150 yards, shots from 225-275 yards and fairway bunker play.

Again, for the overwhelming most part, I agree with Dr. Broadie's conclusions based on my own statistical research.  However, it is important to note what Every Shot Counts entails since that is what MyGolfSpy is arguing against.  Furthermore, while my research shows that for amateurs that putting is the second most important factor to improving their handicap, I agree more with Dr. Broadie's statements than I do with the MyGolfSpy article.

First up, the Dave Pelz video:

Mr. Pelz states in a matter of fact fashion that 'putting is number one' which is not the case over time and is often not the case in many events.  In fact, James Hahn won at Riviera last year with a negative strokes gained per round of -0.050.

The debate from MyGolfSpy and Mr. Pelz is the amount of time and how you can practice.  Mr. Pelz argues that they could get a player that could practice every hour they are away for 5 years and never hit the ball as well as Rory McIlroy.  But, that does not make his point valid.  Nobody is saying that you have to hit the ball like Rory McIlroy in order to improve your handicap.  In fact, if we were to take a 10-handicap golfer and give them the choice of improving 1 of the following:

- Improving their driving to a level of Billy Hurley III driving from the 2014-2015 season where he ranked 168th (out of 184 golfers) in Driving Effectiveness while generating 108.5 mph club speed (something reasonable for many amateurs to achieve).


- Improve their putting to Bubba Watson's level in 2014-2015 season where he ranked 54th (out of 184 golfers) in Strokes Gained - Putting.

The 10 handicap would see their handicap get lower with the Billy Hurley improved driving performance than they would with the Bubba Watson improved putting performance.

The MyGolfSpy article then states the following:

The chart above clearly illustrates that as handicap goes up, the amount of practice time devoted to the short game goes down.

What’s also interesting is that when you look at practice time with longer clubs (5 iron and above) and driver, an inverse relationship is revealed. As playing ability goes up, the time spent on this portion of the game goes down.

This presents an interesting dilemma, and it goes against Broadie’s findings. Based on his data you would expect that better golfers would devote more of their practice time to the long game, but the reality is exactly the opposite. - MyGolfSpy

Broadie's book, Every Shot Counts, never states that lower handicaps practice a certain way.  Therefore, the chart does not go against his findings because practice habits are not part of his findings in Every Shot Counts.

I think it is reasonable to expect that if you want to improve upon something, there is a correlation with practice time and improvement.  So Broadie inferring that people should practice their long game more because better long game play will improve a golfer's score more than improvement in short game play at the same level is perfectly reasonable.  The chart does not show actual performance in the short game or the long game.  Furthermore it doesn't show improvement either.  Nor the length of practice.  It just shows the % of time golfers of different handicap levels spend on various clubs.

So, the chart completely ignores the key point in Broadie's work...when it comes to reducing scores, performance in long game matters more than performance in short game.

If you want to argue the ability to improve, the chart ignores a key component of how long was the practice session.  A 5 handicapper may spend 10% of their total practice on the driver compared to a 20 handicapper spending 50% of their total practice.  But, if the 5 handicapper is practicing for 4 hours a week and the 20 handicapper is practicing for 30 minutes a week, the 5-handicapper is spending much more time practicing.  And if you polled instructors across this country, they would tell you that their students that improve the most are the ones that are dedicated to practicing more.

And the chart doesn't account for other factors as far as why lower handicaps are better than high handicaps such as practice time, golf experience, equipment, physical condition, age, etc.

And in all, the chart never shows improvement which is what this thing is about.  In statistical analytics, the chart would be deemed worthless in terms of conveying the point of whether you should practice more with long game or more with the short game.

I think Every Shot Counts goes overboard with the 'putting is overrated' mantra, but if a player wants to make the largest and most permanent improvement on their handicap, they simply have to improve their long game.  Putting can improve the handicap quicker, but the improvement level is far more limited than improving ballstriking by the same level or even at a lesser level.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Search for Flatstick Nirvana - Part IX (11.12.15)

Part I -
Part II -
Part III -
Part IV -
Part V -
Part VI -
Part VII -
Part VIII -

My putting has more or less ‘progressed’ rather than improved. I am much more adept and now more confident on putts inside 6 feet. I have created a solid practice routine that I think allows me to get the practice I need to get in and figure out what to work on. Since the time change, there’s not much daylight for me to get on the practice greens with, so I do the following.

1. I grab 10 Titleist Pro V1x balls (my gamer golf balls).

2. I will start off simply by putting 10 balls toward the fringe of the green. I will then putt the 10 balls against towards the other fringe of the green. The purpose is to simply get ‘warmed up’ and get a feel for the stroke, the green and get my eyes adjusted to putting again instead of looking at a computer screen. I also want to work on some key pieces to my putting stroke.

3. I will then do the clock drill with the 10 golf balls

I usually do it from about 5 feet. Some days I will do it from 8 feet or 10 feet. I never really go beyond 10-feet. This is also part of the warmup because now I get the feel of trying to make a putt which also goes into reading the putt and working on your pre-shot routine. If I have time, I will do the clock drill, twice.

4. From there I will grab 5 balls and hit 5 putts from the same spot on usually a sidehill putt from 10-15 feet. I will hit each putt doing my AimPoint Express read, then my pre-shot routine and stroke the putt. I will do 5 putts on a right-to-left breaking putt and then 5 putts on a left-to-right breaking putt. Then I will do the same process, again. The idea here is to not only get practice in on leftward and rightward breaking putts, but to become equally adept at both types of putts and if not, determine what type of breaking putt is giving me more problems and where the common miss is.

5. If I have time, I will then grab the 10 golf balls and put them in pairs and place them in different locations. So, I may have 2 balls that are 30 feet away with an uphill, left-to-right putt and 2 balls that are 7-feet away with a downhill straight putt and 2 balls at 15 feet away at a sidehill left-to-right putt, etc. This is randomizing the practice which actually helps stimulate the creativity in your brain which is needed to start incorporating the mechanics I want with the putter. However, it will give me 2 attempts at the shot so I can self-correct a poor putt. I will use the AimPoint Express read and my pre-shot routine on each putt.

6. If I have time (usually only for the weekend), I will use the string drill using yarn and threading needles:

This is helpful for starting to better see the line. I have also found that this is helpful if I start to push (or pull) putts. One of the things David Orr talked about in a video on his Web site (FlatstickAcademy) is that depending on how the putter head moves in the stroke, it will make the ball’s initial launch angle *look* differently and creates an illusion.

For me, the illusion is that the ball is launching to the right of where I want it to launch. So a ball perfectly launched appears almost like a push for me due to my stroke pattern. This really cleared things up for me because I could see how I was adjusting my putting stroke, especially on breaking putts. Below is a SAM Puttlab report that I did with John Graham back in January. The first pictures is my aim at address (Aiming Report) and my face angle at impact (direction). This is on STRAIGHT PUTT.

The second picture shows the same thing (address versus impact), but this time on a LEFT-TO-RIGHT putt.

I think it’s pretty simple to see that my misperception of ball launching to the right was causing me to aim well left on the left-to-right putts. I think my stroke back in January just closed the putter face anyway from address to impact. But, on the straight away putt my face was closing 2.1 degrees and on the left to right putt it was closing 3 degrees. Again, the misperception of pushing my putts when I was actually launching them correctly was likely the cause for this and the string drill really helps with this (although it helps to understand where your misperception is likely to be).

Here’s more evidence of the ball launch misperception. Take a look at my putter path on the straight putts (2.1* left) versus left to right putts (7.5* left)

You can see these differences and the struggle with the launch direction misperception throughout both SAM Puttlab reports.

I plan on getting on the SAM Puttlab again, perhaps in December. I would be interested in seeing what the results look like, particularly my acceleration profiles. One of the things I have been doing is measuring my face impact spot and I’m still too much towards the heel. I simply use Dr. Scholl’s foot power spray and then hit a few putts. I then get some warm water and use a toothbrush to remove the spray from the face. I tend to think that with my putting stroke style, I really should try and avoid heel strikes, even if they are slight. I don’t think it’s quite compatible with my putting stroke and I wonder if I have a putting stroke issue or a putter fitting issue or both. I still feel like I’m on the right track with the Edel Torque Balanced putter, but the little things like lie, loft, length and grip need to be tweaked.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Devoted Golfer Dr. Rob Neal Interview

Here's a couple of videos of an interview that Devoted Golfer did with the founder of Golf Biodynamics, Dr. Rob Neal.

Dr. Neal has worked with many PGA Tour players and not only studies the golf swing, but short game and putting as well.

Back at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show, Dr. Neal did a presentation on the Short Game at Nick Chertock's Open Forum that I found very interesting.  One of the major revelations is that when it comes to short game shots from Tour players, there is no real correlation between how far they carry those shots and the launch and trajectory.  Players tend to have different preferences as to how high they want to hit a certain shots.  One Tour player may prefer to hit a 50 yard carry shot with a much lower launch than another Tour player.  And when it came to carry distance, the biggest correlation was ball speed which translates into club speed. 

I know that Dr. Neal also works with David Orr in the Flatstick Academy and there are two interesting tidbits that they came up (there are countless other pieces of info as well):

1. No two golfers have the same putting stroke.

2.  No golfer can make the same exact putting stroke twice in a row.

As golf instructor Mike Hebron says, 'golf is not a hard's an inconsistent game.'