Review: 'Every Shot Counts' adds it all up

Mark Broadie's "Every Shot Counts: Using the Revolutionary Strokes Gained Approach to Improve Your Golf Performance and Strategy," published by Gotham Books in 2014.

Review: "Every Shot Counts: Using the Revolutionary Strokes Gained Approach to Improve Your Golf Performance and Strategy," by Mark Broadie; Gotham Books, 2014, 267 pages; $35

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Reading Mark Broadie’s “Every Shot Counts” took me back to the day in late 2012, when I interviewed him for a feature in Golfweek’s annual Numbers Issue. Broadie, a professor at Columbia ’s Business School, explained his revolutionary strokes gained-putting statistic, which was adopted by the PGA Tour in 2011.

His book already was in the works when we met, and in hindsight, I think I served as a test dummy that afternoon, further proof for him that you don’t need an advanced degree in mathematics from Columbia to understand how strokes gained is measured. It is simple and intuitive, much like the book he wrote, and told in the same conversational style.

“It’s not partial differential equations and what I do in my financial world,” Broadie told me. “This is arithmetic.”

Nor do you have to be a rocket scientist to see that standard golf stats are deficient in linking skill to score.Putts per round is a misleading statistic because it doesn’t take into account the initial distance of putts. Likewise, fairways hit doesn’t distinguish between a big miss (out of bounds) and a small miss (first cut of the rough).The sand-saves stat mixes shortgame skill and putting. These crude measures provide little insight into golf performance. The strokesgained stat solves the problems by tracking the quality of individual shots, which became possible with the advent of ShotLink in 2004 .

Simply put, strokes gained-putting is the Tour average number of putts to hole out from a given distance minus the number of putts taken. The Tour has been dragging its feet in rolling out the next iterations of strokes gained to compare driving, approach shots and short-game shots .

Thankfully, Broadie has done all of this for us and he puts a numerical answer to the question : What’s the most important part of golf? In 2004- 12 across all tournaments, putting contributed only 15 percent to the top 40 golfers’ scoring advantage, while offgreen shots accounted for 85 percent.Analysis of millions of golf shots disproves the conventional wisdom of “ drive for show, putt for dough. ” In the ShotLink era, Tiger Woods has excelled in every aspect of his game, but it is his approach game that has made him the best. The long game also explains two-thirds of the difference in scores between two typical amateur golfers.

Why should we care? Well, strokes gained can help diagnose the strengths and weaknesses in our own games.The data and analytics can help you determine the best way to spend your limited practice time. And some of the information might make you feel better about your own deficiencies. Take, for instance, Luke Donald, who from 2009 to 2011 ranked first in putting on Tour but sank only 57 percent of his 8-foot putts during this period. I don’t know about you, but I already feel better about that last putt I missed.

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of Golfweek magazine; click here to subscribe.

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