Strokes Gained Explained:

Strokes Gained statistics are calculated using mathematical equations that incorporate player performance with the ShotLink® data collected by volunteers at each PGA TOUR tournament. This concept was initially developed by Professor Mark Broadie of Columbia Business School and was then further analyzed by a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), led by Professor Steven Graves.

Strokes gained is a better method for measuring performance because it compares a player's performance to the rest of the field, and because it can isolate individual aspects of the game (discussed below). Traditional golf statistics, such as greens in regulation and putts per green, are influenced by a player's performance on shots other than those being measured. This makes Strokes Gained statistics valuable and meaningful for research.

The Strokes Gained: Putting statistic was introduced to the PGA TOUR in 2011. Despite its relatively new beginning, player performance has been recorded through the 2004 PGA TOUR season based on ShotLink® data that had already been collected and was used by Broadie as he developed the Strokes Gained statistics.

On June 1, 2016, Strokes Gained expanded to include off-the-tee, approach-the-green, and around-the-green statistics. Strokes Gained has been hailed as the most accurate and meaningful way to record player efficiency, and has uncovered new findings and overturned previous assumptions surrounding player performance.

What Strokes Gained Means for Golf:

“Strokes gained recognizes that sinking a 20-foot putt represents a better performance than sinking a three-foot putt, even though they both count as a single stroke on the scorecard. Strokes gained assigns a number to this intuition. Though strokes gained has roots in some fancy mathematics developed at the dawn of the computer age, there is an elegant simplicity to a stat that, at its core, merely involves subtracting two numbers.” - -Mark Broadie, Columbia Business School, developer of Strokes Gained, and author of Every Shot Counts

“The strokes gained concept provides us with numerous future opportunities. Now that we have computed the baselines and statistics for each phase of the game we can focus on how to leverage this data when telling the story of the best players in the world. Strokes gained gives us the ability to explain performance and objectively compare multiple player performances. It also allows us to leverage the baseline data to compute probability for each player situation. People have seen this executed in our telecasts for putting. Now we can bring probability to the rest of the game.” -Steve Evans, PGA TOUR Senior Vice President, Information Systems

Data Collection: The Process for Strokes Gained: Putting

  • Utilizes data collected by ShotLink®
  • Takes into account putting proficiency from various distances and computes the difference between a player’s performances against the performance of other players each round.
  • Calculates a player’s strokes gained or lost are then compared to the field.

The statistic is computed by:

Ex: Average number of putts to hole out from 7 feet, 10 inches is 1.5.
If a player one-putts from that distance, he gains 0.5 strokes.
If he two-putts, he loses 0.5 strokes.
If he three-putts, he loses 1.5 strokes.

  • The player’s strokes gained or lost are then compared to the field.

Ex: If a player gained 3 strokes over the round, while the field only gained 1 stroke, the player’s “Strokes Gained Against the Field” would be 2.

  • Finally, this information is used to show the best putters on the PGA TOUR for a given year.

The PGA TOUR’s Strokes Gained Expansion

The new strokes gained statistics, which were introduced June 1, 2016, break down tee-to-green play into three categories: off-the-tee, approach-the-green and around-the-green. The sum of those three statistics equals strokes gained is tee-to-green.

Off-the-tee + approach-the-green + around-the-green + putting = strokes gained: total

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee measures player performance off the tee on all par-4s and par-5s.

Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green measures player performance on approach shots. Approach shots include all shots that are not from the tee on par-4 and par-5 holes and are not included in strokes gained: around-the-green and strokes gained: putting. Approach shots include tee shots on par-3s.

Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green measures player performance on any shot within 30 yards of the edge of the green. This statistic does not include any shots taken on the putting green.

For more in-depth explanations of the Strokes Gained Expansion, click here.