Strokes Gained Explained: How To Use Golf Betting Statistics
Updated from original publish in 2022.
If you want to have a leg up when deciding who to bet on in golf each week, you’ll need to understand all of the newest statistics. Advanced statistics continue to become more relevant for many bettors trying to gain an advantage on the market in sports. Golf is no different, and Strokes Gained is a way to analyze how a player is doing against the field.
In this guide, you’ll learn about all of the newest ways to analyze statistics in golf and how to use them to get an edge on what players should perform well in selected tournaments. Golf is a unique sport that travels to different courses, cities and countries each week. Golf course or course are different in design, layout, distances and types of grasses. Thus, courses with their design and difficulty can be more advantageous for some players, and be set up for specific styles of play. Finding out what players are performing well in specific areas of their game along with their current form and course fit can help predict who could contend in the tournament. In such an unpredictable sport, any extra information is key to being successful on your wagers.
By looking at the advanced stats and knowing how to use them, you’ll bypass bettors who use outdated stats to analyze who is playing well. Finding numbers from previous tournaments that highlight players who may be flying under the radar on a sportsbook is an easy way to back a player before his success comes instead of being late to the party.
My golf coverage and research includes use and references from sites like Fantasy National and Data Golf. I gain added information and betting news with fantasy golf insight from Golf Stats, FanShare Sports and other sites and golf analysts. That includes top golf insider Justin Ray Golf, who contributes to PGA Tour (dot com) and The Athletic with insightful stats and advanced data. The site Golf Stats has also has player performance charts and a player competitor tool plus added stats and previews.
This Strokes Gained page is provided and updated from my contributions at TheLines, where I have been a sports betting contributor and golf analyst including for the Masters and Majors following many years as a proven golf handicapper, bettor and analyst.
STROKES GAINED EXPLAINED
Back in 2011, Columbia University professor Mark Broadie introduced a statistic for the PGA Tour called Strokes Gained. Using ShotLink data, which is the PGA Tour’s real-time tracking system that shows exactly where and how far a player hits their shot, Broadie developed a system to properly analyze how a player was doing against the field average in specific categories.
Using the data, Broadie was able to develop a baseline for the average Tour pro on how he performed from every single yardage and on each type of grass or hazard during a round. With those baselines, he created a formula to analyze how many strokes a player gained or lost on each shot depending where he ended up and how far he hit it to. For example, a Par 4 plays to a 4.2 scoring average. The player hits his drive 321 yards and has 115 yards remaining from the fairway. If the baseline for the average player is 2.8 shots from 115 yards away in the fairway, the player has gained .4 shots on the field from his tee shot. The reasoning is the average tee shot simply takes one stroke away from the 4.2 average from the tee. (4.2 – 2.8 – 1 = 0.4)
These statistics are better than the old-school fairways in regulation and greens in regulation because they properly analyze how the player is performing against the field average. A tee shot hit into the fairway 320 yards away is much more valuable than one hit 270 yards. An iron hit to 10 feet away is much better than one hit 45 feet away even though they’re both greens in regulation.
SG: Off the Tee (OTT)
This analyzes tee shots from a player over the course of a round. The combination of distance and accuracy evaluates how well a player is driving the ball. Sometimes a tee shot into the rough 40 yards from the pin is better than one in the fairway 170 yards away.
SG: Approach (APP)
This analyzes shots into the green on Par 3s, Par 4s and Par 5s. Hitting the ball close to the pin is the key for the stat in simple terms. It properly analyzes averages depending on the distance and the conditions from the approach.
SG: Around the Green (ARG)
This works the same way as Approach, but it’s from inside of 30 yards from the edge of the green. It analyzes shots from around the green in fairway, rough and bunkers to properly depict how the player is scrambling.
SG: Putting (P)
The oldest Strokes Gained statistic is the easiest to calculate and make sense of. If the baseline from 10 feet away is 1.5 strokes, a player will gain .5 strokes putting if he makes it and lose .5 strokes putting if he misses it.
SG: Tee to Green (T2G)
This stat simply adds up the totals from Off the Tee, Approach and Around the Green to create a total number that removes putting from the equation.
SG: Ball Striking (BS)
This just looks at the totals from Off the Tee and Approach to create a statistic that judges a player’s overall ball striking. With how volatile short games can be for players, this may the best overall measurement of how well a player is hitting it.
SG: Total (TOT)
This just adds up all of the categories of Strokes Gained to create a total number for the player’s round. Due to the baselines and comparing it against the field average, it will always total the difference in the player’s score to the field average for the round. If a player shoots 72 on a day when the field average was 70.6, his SG: TOT would be -1.4.
OTHER ADVANCED GOLF STATISTICS TO KNOW
There are some other advanced statistics to use when researching golf that aren’t Strokes Sained. A few are found and created on Fantasy National, a great database used by DFS players and golf bettors. Others can be found on the PGA Tour’s website and are simpler stats to use and understand.
- Opportunities Gained: A stat that compares the amount of times a player hits the ball inside 15 feet on his approach compared to the field average. Great to analyze birdie looks.
- Fairways Gained: A stat simply looking at how many fairways a player hit compared to the field average. On courses with penalizing rough, it can be useful.
- Proximity to Hole: Looks at the average distance from the hole on approach shots. Can also look at proximity to the hole from certain yardages.
- Hole Types: Stats that show Strokes Gained on different Pars as well as hole lengths. For example, Strokes Gained on Par 4: 450-500 yards.
HOW TO USE STROKES GAINED IN GOLF BETTING
In general, the use of Strokes Gained and a few of the other advanced stats cited give a bettor a much better scale to see who is playing well. With how volatile putting and the short game is on the PGA Tour, checking out ball striking numbers like Off the Tee, Approach and proximity will show who has been hitting the ball the best recently – which typically translates to success.
For example, Player A finished T32 in the last tournament and is under the radar for next week on sportsbooks odds, matchups or props. But going back and looking at it, he gained 4 strokes on approach in Sunday’s round but putted below his average. He would be a good player to target for the following week.
Targeting the correct statistics for each week is important. Whether you do your own research on the course to find what style it suits or you read other people’s work, you want to have a plan on the style of game that should play well on the upcoming course. At TPC Sawgrass, you usually want driving accuracy and approach play … at Augusta National you want driving distance and short game. There are so many factors at play each week and Strokes Gained is the No. 1 resource you can use to find the guys you want to support in your betting, fantasy or golf interests.
Finally, as you can see each week in PGA Power Rankings, creating a statistical model using Strokes Gained and other data can create an easy resource to judge the field each week based on what stats you think are important. Fantasy National has a database to do this easily with player rankings in each stat, or you can create it and calculate it yourself. To put it in simple terms, after you’ve researched the course this week, you think it’s heavily focused on ball striking. So, you could create a model to find the best players for the week by setting it at 35% SG: Approach, 30% SG: Off the Tee, 20% Proximity to the Hole, 10% SG: Putting and 5% SG: Around the Green.
Regardless of your game plan, enjoy the golf and stay on course!