The game of golf is one that includes an incredible amount of tradition; more so than most sports. It has been around for hundreds of years, and not much has changed other than the players and the clubs they use. For years players went up and down the links, scored their rounds, and went about their business. Other than knowing the course and their competitors, that was about as much as there was to it. But in 2003, raw data analytics and golf finally crossed paths.
The ShotLink system, developed by the PGA Tour, is an advanced ball-tracking system that has provided a vast amount of insight that the game of golf has never before seen. With this system each player’s round and overall game can be analyzed, picked apart, and thus improved by simply using this system that can break down every detail of each and every stroke. Not only is this useful for the players in breaking down their game, but it is great for television and better engaging PGA viewers. On the PGA website, it says the vision of this system is to: “Turn data into information, information into knowledge, and knowledge into entertainment”. If you watch any old PGA tournament on television, you will be able to see a yellow tracking line following the ball after each stroke. This helps fans engage and enjoy television broadcasts better because a golf ball is obviously not easy to see; much less follow in the air.
ShotLink has provided analytics that have helped the game of golf not only from a player perspective but also on behalf of the fans.
The raw insights derived from data found as a result of ShotLink are really what makes this system as great as it is. Some of the insights listed, courtesy of golfweek.com, are as follows:
- “Every week, the player who wins makes an inordinate number of putts from 11 to 20 feet.”
- About 33 percent of all first putts are 20 feet and longer, and when faced with a putt from more than 20 feet, the best putters in the world leave themselves within 7 percent of the first putt’s length, or 3 feet, more often than other players. Because players on the PGA Tour make putts from inside 3 feet about 99 percent of the time, the best putters rarely three-putt.
- Everyone on the PGA Tour plays under par when they play from the fairway. “If you look at the scores after an average Tour player, top-five players and even the guys who get cut, when they hit the fairway, they all average under par on those holes,” Sanders said, citing the data in the table below. “From the rough, they don’t, except for the players in the top five. The average difference between playing from the fairway and hitting the rough is about a quarter of a shot.”
The numbers speak for themselves; ShotLink has generated data that is vastly more insightful than just looking at scorecards.
Numbers derived from this system as shown above obviously speak for themselves; tools used to gather and break down data analytics have changed even the most traditionally-natured games such as golf. It just goes to show that innovation can squeeze itself in anywhere and make a difference. It also shows how useful data analytics can be in sports, and how they can push even the world’s best golfers to be better than they ever thought they could.