Punta Mita range 2021

Running the Numbers

Golf's preeminent data analyst digs in on a season of Broken Tee Society data

Editor’s note: As a part of our season-long Index Experiment, we partnered with Arccos on an exclusive offer for Broken Tee Society members. After tracking more than 3,200 BTS rounds this season, Arccos sent us the data, and we reached out to its lead Data Analyst and renowned golf statistician Lou Stagner to parse the numbers. His findings are below. You can view the full 2023 Index Experiment Year in Review here.

As you continue on your game improvement quest, one of the most important things you can do is track your stats. This is because each golfer has their own unique blueprint. If someone tells you they play to a 10 handicap, you probably think you have a general idea of how their game looks. But not all 10s are created equal.

Using years of accumulated Arccos data, we’re able to report that there are significant skill gaps between the best and worst 10% of players at every handicap level. The best 10-handicap putters are 6.16 shots better at putting than the worst. That is a massive gap. These two types of players should have very different game improvement plans. The delta in skill between the best and worst holds true through each Strokes Gained category. Sticking with our 10 index friends, the gap between the best and worst 10% of players off the tee is 3.51 shots. It’s 4.43 shots on approach and 3.92 shots around the green.

This is why it’s critical to continue to track your stats: It allows you to focus on your weaknesses. Unlike a closer in baseball who can rely on two world-class pitches to put away three batters every night, you can’t simply build up your strengths at the expense of the rest of your golf game. Or rather, you can, but it may very well result in a series of those rounds we’ve all come to dread. You know the ones, where every tee shot splits the fairway and yet the card fills up with squares or, even worse, the ones where you pile up greens in regulation only to be left at the altar by the flatstick.

It may seem simplistic, and it’s certainly no fun to spend the majority of your practice on the worst parts of your game, but your future self will thank you for it. And if you are working with a swing coach or instructor, this is also fantastic information for them to help guide your improvement.

driving range

The sample size of 160 Broken Tee Society members who spent this year tracking their game via Arccos doesn’t offer quite as much variety as Arccos’s full data set, but the results do tell a very interesting story. I’ve taken a look at your data, and here are my official takeaways and recommendations for the BTS:

Maintain your cruising speed

As a group, this crew hits the ball a long, long way.

  • 65% of you are longer off the tee than a typical player at your handicap index
  • 50% of you are 10 or more yards longer than a typical player at your handicap index
  • Only 35% are shorter than expected, with only 20% being shorter by 10 or more yards
  • Strokes Gained: Off the Tee is the best category for 38.5% of you, and the worst for only 11.8%
  • 56% of you gain strokes off the tee compared to the average player at your index

Hit more greens, shoot lower scores

Hey, I never said this would be rocket science! Your worst category as a group is Strokes Gained: Approach. Only 38% of you gained strokes when hitting approach shots. And those strokes are the most critical pieces of the game improvement puzzle.

Strategy guru Jon Sherman shared a great breakdown on X that I still return to: On average, a 10-handicap player loses more than six shots per round on approach when compared to a typical professional golfer. Off the tee, 10s only lag three shots behind pros, and the numbers are lower for around the green and putting. Iron play separates good players from great ones.

Single-digit players should spend more time on the practice green

Interestingly, the better players in this group tend to be worse putters compared to a typical player at their handicap level, while the lesser players over-index on putting skill. You can think of this as a corollary to the point above. If you’re in that mid-teen and above handicap range, the majority of your practice time should be spent shoring up your iron game. Players with higher skill levels should carve out more time for putting practice, and, borrowing again from Jon Sherman, should really zone in on making more putts from three to 10 feet.

While it is fun to see how the overall group looks, what should matter most is your stats. Make sure you continue to track your performance and share it with your coach, your instructor, or at the very least with the community in the BTS Discord server. Figure out what parts of your game need the most work and focus your practice efforts there. Make sure you are validating your Arccos stats after every round so your data can be as accurate as possible. It will take you less than five minutes to do this, but it is worth your time.

Best of luck on your road to improvement!

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View the full set of Broken Tee Society Arccos data here

Access your own exclusive Broken Tee Society Arccos offer here