By Mark Harman, USGTF National Course Director
Back in the 1990s, I authored an article for Golf Teaching Pro about a statistical study in Golf Digest that showed the most important statistic in relation to overall scoring average was greens in regulation. A number of USGTF members and other professionals strongly disagreed, even though I verified the study through an amateur tour in Pensacola, Florida, that kept various stats. The consensus was that the most important aspect in scoring was the short game – a belief still held widely today. (How many times have you heard a teacher say that the best way to lower your scores is to improve your short game?)
Enter Mark Broadie, a professor at Columbia University who is the resident PGA Tour stats guru. With the data available on tour from Shotlink – data unavailable when I wrote the article – Broadie not only confirms what I wrote back then, but goes so far to say that the tee-to-green game overwhelmingly determines who the best players are on tour, as well as determining our scoring averages at the non-tour levels, too.
And still, here we are in the year 2014, and people on the Internet are saying that Broadie is full of, shall we say, nonsense – never mind that the research and numbers are rock solid. Which brings me to my main point: Golf teachers who cling to dis-proven belief systems, and who do not embrace science, technology, and research, are simply going to be left behind. As an analogy, think about baseball its use of “Sabermetrics.” The Oakland Athletics were the first to embrace it while traditional baseball men pooh-poohed it. As the Athletics became successful, more and more teams adopted the new statistical methods. Today, no team goes without.
The same will happen in golf. Tomorrow’s golf teaching professionals will use high-tech launch monitors, super slow-motion video, training aids that have all sorts of electronic sensors, and sophisticated statistics to help their students. Of course, this is being done in some measure today. While it is not necessary to spend tens of thousands of dollars to be an effective instructor, there is no excuse for not taking advantage of the free information that is out there…and no more excuses to cling to old, outdated, and inaccurate belief systems.