Welcome to the GOTM analytics series! Here’s where I’ll keep writing posts about stats from the PGA Tour and how they affect results, courses, players. I have a background in computer programming, love scraping data, and grabbed a bunch of data already from pgatour.com meaning it’s time for a series of posts where I analyze stats on Tour. If you want to look at the method and code that I wrote to snag this data, you can check out the post on my other blog, Big-Ish Data, specifically this post.
Considering there are tons of different ideas on golf specific stats, I decided to write golf posts here, and leave the other blog for more specific programming topics.
If you have other ideas for Tour stats analytics, hit GOTM up on Twitter and I’ll see what I can do!
And to start out, I just want to say that this post violates Betteridge’s Law because the Strokes Gained stats are very impressive at determining scoring averages, and defining which parts of the game players are good at.
Part 1 of the series here is analyzing the importance of Strokes Gained. So what is Strokes Gained? Take a look at the PGA Tour’s press release. If you’re looking for a more technical explanation of strokes gained, read this article.
Basically, they know the average number of shots it takes a Tour player to hole out from a specific distance. They count the number of shots it takes a player to finish the hole from that distance, and then credits him for + or – strokes from the average, with a positive number indicating he is that many strokes better than the average. Then they add his strokes gained from the four different parts of a hole: 1) off the tee, 2) approaching the green, 3) around the green, and 4) putting. The total of those four is his total SG, but SG can also be broken down into the four components.
As an example, let’s look at Daniel Berger:
- Off the Tee: Berger ranks 39th, with an average of +.416.
- Approach-the-Green: Berger ranks 18th, with an average of +.595.
- Around-the-Green: Berger ranks 152nd, with an average of -.136.
- Putting: Berger ranks 25th, with an average of +.462.
To get Berger’s total SG, we add up all four averages to find a total SG of +1.337 which is exactly what the stats show for him here! (Note that these stats are updated weekly, so depending on when you read this, the numbers may not match exactly.) Super cool, and fantastic to show different places where players are better, and where they probably need to practice more. Based on these stats, Daniel Berger may want to focus more on shots around the green, since his average there is pulling down his total SG.
The goal of this analysis is to answer questions about the SG stats:
- How good is the Strokes Gained stat at predicting scoring average? (In case you’re wondering right now, it’s really really good).
- Which of the strokes gained values is most correlated with a player’s scoring average?
- If you have four different players who are all +1 strokes gained in each of the four different SG stats, which one would you expect to have the lowest scoring average?
Analytics terms defined
Before getting back to the golf stuff, I want to talk quickly about two terms you’ll need to be familiar with for the rest of this article to make sense: normal distributions and r-squared.
The scoring averages on tour follow a normal distribution, like this:
Look at that! So pretty. In this case, the average scoring average is 70.923 with a standard deviation of 0.591. This means that 68.27% of player’s scoring averages are between (70.923 + 0.591 =) 71.514 and (70.923 – 0.591 =) 70.332.
Before running analysis on stats, it’s important to make sure they’re normally distributed. Clearly the scoring average stats are normally distributed, and so are the strokes gained stats, as I’ll show quickly below.
We’re good to go on that front!
One last definition to mention that I’ll talk about a lot is the coefficient of determination, also known as r-squared. You’ll see me mention this a lot. R-squared values range from 0 to 1, and the higher the r-squared value, the more correlated the data sets. And since all the data sets we are using are normally distributed, these numbers are correctly comparable.
When looking at Strokes Gained stats for the first time, I decided to check how correlated the SG: Total stat is with Scoring Average. Checking that there’s an initial indication of how correlated these stats can be. When I saw the following graph and how correlated the numbers are, I knew this was a great part of PGA Tour stats to analyze.
Look at how incredibly, dead, freaking accurate this is! The r-squared value is an impressively high at 0.926, and just by looking at the graph, you can see how correlated those dots are.
Another quick test to see how valid this regression is by checking that fitted line on the graph. Using the equation of that line, if a player has 0 strokes gained total will probably have a scoring average of ~71.079, which is very close to the average scoring average mentioned above of 70.923. Since the slope of that line is -0.96, it means that adding one stroke gained in total, your scoring average will drop by 0.96 strokes. Not exactly 1, but so close that it proves how correct that data is.
Ok, now time to test the more specific SG stats.
In case you’re not sure how golf works, the first shot you hit on a hole is off the tee. And in this case, the SG stat measures performance using all tee shots on par 4s and par 5s.
i’ve completely forgotten that coursehaving only been out there oncei remember 16 is uphillfrom running that laser up to the group in front lol– Grant Freitag, friend, and caddie for the week
Ahh the US Four Ball. We got lucky this past year for this the tournament. First was that our qualifier in the north was back at the end of September, which meant that my partner and I had the whole summer to get decent at golf rather than having to try to qualify in spring while rusty after time off from the winter. Second, this was the 3rd year of the event which meant that we got to play at Pinehurst, which was redesigned to host US Opens more often in recent and coming years.
Hosting the event at US Open courses was a great move by the USGA. The US Four Ball is a new event that took over the Pub Links (pour one out). As such, they got US Open courses to host the first 3 years of the event as a means of bringing the event legitimacy. We failed to qualify the first two years when the events were at the private clubs of Olympic Club and Winged Foot, but getting to play the public Pinehurst Resort, #8 and #2 turned out just as great.
This post is about #8, and it’s somewhat tough to describe the quality of the course. Am I supposed to give it a rating out of 5 stars? 10 stars? Compare the two Pinehurst courses and talk about which one I’d rather play? Talk about which course I’d rather play compared to the other courses I’ve reviewed? It’s a beautiful, decently tough, very great tournament course. If I’m picking a course I’d want to go play with friends who want to have some good bets, I’d pick this course.
Slightly off site from the other Pinehurst courses, which means more elevation change and a different feel. Classic Tom Fazio design which makes it and absolutely great course great to play.
This is the review for Pinehurst #8.
Different holes and big elevation change
lol I don’t want my quote at the beginning to make it seem like the course wasn’t memorableI was just so stressed that first 9 about not fucking up that I wasn’t exactly as focused on the course and each shot haha– Grant Frietag, after reading this review for the first time
There are two big things I like about courses. 1) Every hole and the routing is different, meaning that after a single round you’re able to remember what every hole is. You won’t have trouble recalling which hole was which. 1.5) I love elevation change, both because it’s fun to have to think about clubs to hit, but also because it makes it easier to remember each hole! If both of those things occur on a golf course, I’m a big fan, no matter the “quality” of the design.
Taking pics of the course and showing how easy it is to remember the hole difference is decently tough, so here are a bunch of pictures showing the fantastic elevation changes. Here we go!
Let’s start with the third hole. This is the approach shot up the giant hill to a green at which you can’t see the bottom of the pin. I didn’t take a picture of the drive on the hole which would show the elevation difference on the entire hole, but you can see the change here.
Here’s the instagram picture of the 4th hole I posted, a downhill iron approach shot after a downhill drive, where, if you have the correct aim point on the drive, you’ll shoot it down the fairway and have a wedge in.
The Phoenix area has plenty of 36 hole resort courses — Troon North, Greyhawk, Talking Stick, and in this case We-Ko-Pa. And if you’re in the area looking to pick one to spend a 36 hole day at, I can’t totally suggest which one to make tee times at, but playing a full day at We-Ko-Pa will never be a bad choice.
Story time From the Morning
From the AirBnb we were staying at in this baller little community in Phoenix with sweet looking one-story houses and tons of palm trees, we had about a 40 minute drive to the course. Now here’s some advice when you’re deciding which tee time to make. If you have the option of 7:40 or 8:50 tee time, you gotta pick 7:40. Biggest help of the day is that we didn’t have any traffic to the course which definitely would have been an issue for the 8:50. And if you’re playing 36 holes in one day, early tee times give you more time between rounds and also make sure that your first rounds cruises since you won’t have too many groups in front of you. (Also, if you’re playing golf in the morning, make sure to stop at a Dunkin and get a sausage-egg-and-cheese-on-a-sesame-bagel and medium iced coffee with cream and sugar. Perfect breakfast in my opinion.)
I got to the clubhouse at 7, paid, looked at all the apparel they have there with the We-Ko-Pa logo, and walked out to my cart to find my bag already loaded. Time to note one of the best things about We-Ko-Pa: they have so many carts that they don’t care if a group is using three carts by themselves. Granted, golfers are usually so nice that getting paired with randos isn’t a big deal if you have to share a cart, but it usually takes a little while to become friends with playing partners, which means sitting quiet and awkwardly at 7:30 in the morning isn’t completely ideal. Oh also, you’re not required to bring the cart back after your first round, which worked out perfectly because the We-Ko-Pa carts are charged enough so they won’t run out of energy when playing the entire 36 holes.
At 7:10 I drove up to the driving range which is a giant field with two levels of tee areas, really good grass, and pyramids of golf balls. Grass was in excellent condition and the range has a great feeling not only for warming up, but it also an ideal practice range. Considering I’d been hitting the ball like trash the past week (and past month really), I decided to just hit as many balls as I could before the round rather than hit a few putts to figure out the speed. This was the best decision ever for me considering I finally, finally figured out some swing thoughts and was hitting the ball way better than before. Remember people… keep your head down with your eyes looking straight at the ball, and stay in posture as much as you can, then you’ll hit it great. With that said, hitting putts beforehand is probably something I also needed to do considering I had four 3-putts that first round and thought of a GOTM Tip of the Day.
While I was striping the range balls for 10 minutes, a ranger called my name and asked if I wanted to tee off at the 7:20 tee time with the players who were already on the first tee of the Saguaro course. Since I didn’t know who I was supposed to play with for either tee time, I said screw it and was off to the first tee.
One thing to mention here is the length of time I take before I write these course reviews. In this case, I played at We-Ko-Pa about 3 weeks ago and I definitely wasn’t willing to write this review right away, even though I did have opinions about the course on the drive back to the AirBnB. When you do anything, such as playing a new course, going to a store to buy new clothes, thinking about changing to a new job, listening to new music artists, you’ll right away have a first impression either positive or negative. Over time, your reactions can change and there’s nothing wrong with that. Stop here before you keep reading and try to think of something that you’ve started in the past and initially loved doing, but you began to view more negatively over time. Now think of something you weren’t a fan of initially, but then became a favorite of yours. Talking about your early opinions happens so much that you need to label those as initial opinions so people know those can change.
A great example of this type of modeling for reviews is YouTube user BIGQUINT who has tons of entertaining videos about his opinions of rap / hip hop albums with over two hundred thousand subscribers. If you want some examples, check out his review of Frank Ocean’s Blond(e) (I’m a huge fan of the album). The first three quarters of that video is his initial reaction to all the songs on the album with him dancing and talking about the difference between songs. During the last quarter of that video, he talks about his full reaction after listening to the album “25 to 50 times.” Another one of his great reaction videos that’s a few days old is about Kendrick’s new album DAMN. (I’m a big fan of that album too). Considering Kendrick’s album had so much hype that BIGQUINT felt the need to post a video about his initial reaction right away, he’s splitting up his initial reaction video with another one coming for his full reaction. First reactions exist, but those can change over time. Another example of the mindset is from this New Yorker article about the NYT restaurant critic, who mentions how he goes to all the places at least three times before being able to write the review.
On my end, these reviews that I’m writing here are somewhere in the middle — I’ve only been able to play the courses once, (they’re in different parts of the US, somewhat expensive, and need to make sure to make tee times in multiple days), but I also take my time before writing about them so I have full thoughts and am not just talking about an initial reaction. Sometimes when I’m writing, I even imagine I’m out there on the same holes again, this time hitting perfect shots. My initial reactions count, but these articles are my full reaction.
Allll that being said, my opinions of the Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa are exactly the same as I had the day I played out there. So sometimes opinions don’t change. Time for the full reaction on Saguaro!
Saguaro is a tournament style course, full of mini-doglegs that require thoughts about what to hit and where to aim off the tee, and full of changes in fairway and green style depending on how long the hole is. These types of designs constantly require correct planning and shot selection, which is ideal for tournaments and adds thought to a round of golf that you won’t usually find on other courses.
As I mentioned just above, one of the first things you’ll find on tournament courses are something I’ll call mini-doglegs. Overall, doglegs come in two styles. The first is the ‘standard’ dogleg which you’ll often find on tree lined courses, especially up north. Hit your drive dead straight with whatever club makes you stay just short of the end of the fairway, and then hit your second shot something like 60 to 80 or even 90 degrees to the right or left. Famous examples of holes like that are number 11 at Augusta National (drivers straight since it takes a lot of driving distance to fade it around the corner), 18 at Augusta National as well, number 1 at Brown Deer (course I play all the time), 15 at TPC Sawgrass, 8 at Erin Hills (check out the US Open there this year, though there is a slight possibility for hitting drives over the hill, but keeping it in the fairway that direction is very tough).
Don’t be confused by the title of this post because the courses at Streamsong Resort have nothing to do with Pocahontas. But the courses there have colors as names (Blue and Red), and when Mike and I played there recently it was super windy thanks to a cold front coming through. Also, GOTM went to a Disney-themed trivia night at a bar at home and we knew none of the answers other than the one about Colors of the Wind, the main song in Pocahontas. Also also, my sister and girlfriend sang that song using the karaoke system that was at our AirBnB the night after we played. So if you want to listen to that song while you read about how great the Streamsong courses are, here’s the link for listening on youtube. If you watch that music video, Pocahontas and John Smith do go swimming in a stream at one point, so that’s also a Streamsong.
At first I planned to review both the Red and Blue courses in one article, but I had too much to say and too many cell phone quality pictures to share, so I ended up breaking them into two posts. If you’re looking for part 2 of the review, meaning of Streamsong’s Blue course, check out the review here.
With that being said, here we go with Streamsong Red!
It’s incredibly modernly classic, and totally worth paying and playing. If you don’t want to read this awesome but very long article, that’s cool, but the pics are worth it and provide a good summary.
The day after I played 36 holes out at World Woods, MD Mueller flew down to Florida and and we drove an hour from our AirBnB on some highways, some back roads, and a somewhat long tiny road where the speed limit is 20 mph, and made it to the courses at Streamsong Resort.
Many modern resort courses, such as Bandon Dunes, Cabot Cliffs, and Sand Valley, require similar drives. All these places are decently far from any big city, and each of them has a large amount of beautiful land on which to build some of the best modern courses in the US – Streamsong included.
Similar to Victoria National in Indiana, Streamsong is built on what used to be a mine, creating plenty of hills and valleys and even lakes. When you walk out the back side of the Red and Blue courses’ pro shop / clubhouse you see a few holes and the lakes and sand hills from left to right.
There are currently two open courses — the Blue designed by Tom Doak and the Red designed by Coore-Crenshaw. The course routes are close to each other and slightly intertwine. Actually, the sixth hole of each course returns to the clubhouse, allowing golfers the option to play a 12-hole course made up of the first six holes of each Blue and Red. And they even have a scorecard for the 12-hole option! As of now, the Black course is almost done and will be open for play in the fall of this year.
The Red and Blue clubhouse is absolutely beautiful and looks almost like a modern apartment building. It’s made mostly of glass, is somewhat tall, and includes a restaurant / bar and a pro shop on the inside.
We were able to play 36 of the 37 holes currently open (with the 37th being the bye hole, a par 3 near the clubhouse to help groups that need a playoff hole to settle their bets) right after a cold front came through, leading to highs of mid 70s and super windy conditions with gusts around 25 mph. During the main season for the Florida resort, they have rules about no carts on the courses meaning that we were walking the entire day. This wasn’t an issue for me because apparently I’m in good shape, while Mike was riding the struggle bus at the end.
The first round on either costs about $225, and if you play 36 holes in one day like we did, the replay rate is around $150. Considering how highly ranked these courses are, we found the cost to be expensive but fair. The most expensive courses I remember hearing about are Pebble Beach for around $500, Pinehurst #2 for about $400 (Mike and I get to play there a couple times for free this year after qualifying for the US Four Ball this May), and I think Doral raised its price to about $400 as well for some reason which is dumb since that course isn’t that amazing. I digress.
Before our morning tee time for the Red course, we hit a few balls on the driving range with well-maintained bermuda grass. The range is downhill so you can see where every ball lands. Next to the driving range, we hit a few pitch shots on the very high quality pitching / chipping green – super large with plenty of flags, which reminded me of Michigan’s practice area from back in college. In case you’re wondering, that’s exactly the type of green that you should look for if you want to get better at chipping and pitch shots.
As for the putting green next to the first tees, there was great grass again which did end up matching all the greens on the course, but for some reason there were no holes, only those wooden sticks they put in the green that have a like a real hole, but really don’t do much for you. After hitting a few putts at these sticks, it was time to head to the first tee.
The Tee Time
Here’s a pic of that first tee shot. See those bunkers? The one on the right is about 400 yards out – talk about depth perception issues. Also see how the entire right side of the landing area is open? I thought that too, so I hit a slice off the first tee to avoid the left side bunker. Turns out one of the few lakes on the course is actually just hidden by the mound to the left of the tee. A cut is still the type of tee shot to hit on the first in case you were wondering, just don’t slice it too much.
Here we are folks! New rules that are suggested by USGA and R&A! A little ago, there was some info on possible changes and we wrote an opinion piece on the rules that were leaked. Now the full information of rules changes for 2019 just came out online and on the Golf Channel, however, when looking through USGA and R&A websites, neither of them had a web page that just straight listed the changes. Each of their sites made you click a bunch, and had odd images along with the words.
So figured, to help everyone out on this Wednesday morning, I’d copy and paste the info for the possible changes so you don’t have to click a lot. If you do want the full info however, go here for the R&A coverage, and look here for the USGA. Otherwise, just quickly read the possible changes that I copied and pasted. Look for opinions from GOTM coming soon as well.
When Things Happen to Your Ball in Play
Ball at Rest Accidentally Moves
- Accidentally moving your ball while searching for it: There is no longer a penalty.
- Accidentally moving your ball or ball-marker when it is on the putting green: There is no longer a penalty.
- New standard for deciding if you caused your ball to move: You will be found to have caused your ball to move only if that is known or virtually certain (that is, it is at least 95% likely that you were the cause).
Replacing a Moved or Lifted Ball
- New procedure when you don’t know the exact spot where your ball was at rest: You must replace the ball on its estimated original spot (rather than drop the ball at that spot); and if the estimated spot was on, under or against growing, attached or fixed objects (such as grass), you must replace the ball on, under or against those objects.
Ball in Motion Accidentally Deflected
- Your ball in motion accidentally hits you, your equipment, your caddie, someone attending the flagstick for you or a removed or attended flagstick: There is no longer a penalty (such as when your ball bounces off a bunker face and hits you).
Dropping a Ball in a Defined Relief Area
- Relaxed dropping procedure: The only requirement is that you hold the ball above the ground without it touching any growing thing or other natural or artificial object, and let it go so that it falls through the air before coming to rest; to avoid any doubt, it is recommended that the ball be dropped from at least one inch above the ground or any growing thing or object.
- Defined relief area: The ball needs to be dropped in and played from a single required relief area (whereas today you are required to drop a ball in one area, it can roll away and you need to re-drop if it rolls to any of nine specific places).
- Fixed measures define the relief area: You use the fixed distance of 20 inches or 80 inches to measure the relief area (no longer using one or two club-lengths); this can readily be measured by using markings on the shaft of a club.
- Reduced time for ball search: A ball is lost if not found in three minutes (rather than the current five minutes) after you begin searching for it.
- Relief for embedded ball in the general area: You may take relief if your ball is embedded anywhere (except in sand) in the general area (which is the new term for “through the green”), except where a Local Rule restricts relief to the fairway or similar areas (this reverses the default position in the current Rules).
Ball to Use in Taking Relief
- Substituting another ball: You may continue to use the original ball or substitute another ball, whenever you take either free relief or penalty relief under a Rule.
Rules for Specific Areas of the Course
- Putting with flagstick left in the hole: There is no longer a penalty if you play a ball from the putting green and it hits the unattended flagstick in the hole.
- Repairing damage on the putting green: You may repair almost all damage (including spike marks and animal damage) on the putting green (rather than being limited to repairing only ball-marks or old hole plugs).
- Touching your line of putt or touching the putting green in pointing out target: There is no longer a penalty if you or your caddie does either of these things, so long as doing so does not improve the conditions affecting your stroke.
- Replacing your ball if it moves only after you had already marked, lifted and replaced it: Anytime this happens on the putting green, you replace the ball on its spot – even if it was blown by the wind or moved for no clear reason.
- Your caddie marks and lifts your ball on the putting green: There is no longer a penalty if your caddie does this without your specific authorization to do so.
- Penalty areas expanded beyond water hazards: Red- and yellow-marked “penalty areas” may now cover areas the Committee decides to mark for this purpose (such as deserts, jungles, or lava rock fields), in addition to areas of water.
- Expanded use of red penalty areas: Committees are given the discretion to mark all penalty areas as red so that lateral relief is always allowed (but they may still mark penalty areas as yellow where they consider it appropriate).
- Elimination of opposite side relief option: You are no longer allowed to take relief from a red penalty area on the opposite side from where the ball last entered the penalty area (unless a Committee adopts a Local Rule allowing it).
- Removal of all special restrictions on moving or touching things in a penalty area: There is no longer a penalty if you touch or move loose impediments (such as leaves, stones and sticks) or touch the ground with your hand or your club in a penalty area.
- Removal of special restrictions on moving loose impediments: There is no longer a penalty if you touch or move loose impediments in a bunker.
- Relaxed restrictions on touching the sand with your hand or club when your ball is in a bunker: You are now prohibited only from touching the sand (1) with your hand or club to test the condition of the bunker or (2) with your club in the area right behind or in front of the ball, in making a practice swing or in making the backswing for your stroke.
- New unplayable ball relief option: For two penalty strokes, you may take relief outside the bunker by dropping a ball back on a line from the hole through where your ball was at rest in the bunker.
Equipment You’re Allowed to Use
- Use of damaged clubs: You may keep using any club that is damaged during the round, no matter how it happens (for example, even if you damaged it in anger).
- Replacement of damaged clubs: You may not replace a damaged club, unless you were not responsible for causing the damage.
- Substituting another ball for a cut or cracked ball: You may substitute another ball if your ball in play on a hole has become cut or cracked while playing that hole; but you are no longer allowed to change balls solely because the ball has become “out of shape.”
- DMDs allowed: You may use DMDs to measure distance, except when prohibited by Local Rule (this reverses the default position in the current Rules).
How You Prepare to Make a Stroke
Alignment for a Stroke
- Expanded restriction on caddie help with alignment: Your caddie is not allowed to stand on a line behind you from the time you begin taking your stance until you have made your stroke.
Promoting Faster Pace of Play
- Encouraging you to play promptly: It is recommended that you make each stroke in no more than 40 seconds – and usually more quickly than that – once it’s your turn to play.
- Playing out of turn in stroke play (“ready golf”): This has always been allowed without penalty, and now you are affirmatively encouraged to do so in a safe and responsible way for convenience or to save time.
- New alternative form of stroke play: The Rules recognize a new “Maximum Score” form of stroke play, where your score for a hole is capped at a maximum (such as double par or triple bogey) set by the Committee, so that you can pick up and move to the next hole when your score will be at or above the maximum.
- Other changes to help pace of play: The simplified dropping procedure, reduced time for ball search, expansion of penalty areas, greater use of red penalty areas and ability to putt with the flagstick in the hole should all help pace of play as well.
Standards of Conduct and Trusting Players Integrity
Insisting on High Standards of Conduct and Trusting Player Integrity
- Playing in the spirit of the game: New provisions are added to reinforce the high standards of conduct expected from all players on the course and the Committee’s discretion to disqualify players for serious misconduct.
- Code of player conduct: Committees are given authority to adopt their own code of player conduct and to set penalties for the breach of standards in that code.
- Elimination of need to announce intent to lift ball: When you have good reason to lift your ball to identify it, to see if it is cut or cracked or to see if you are entitled to relief (such as to see if the ball is embedded), you are no longer required first to announce to another player or your marker that you intend to do so or to give that person an opportunity to observe the process.
- Reasonable judgment standard: When you need to estimate or measure a spot, point, line, area or distance under a Rule, your reasonable judgment will not be second-guessed based on later evidence (such as video review) if you did all that could reasonably be expected under the circumstances to estimate or measure accurately.
This week’s PGA Tour event is the Wampo! which is the shorter acronym, and hopefully what the twitter hashtag will be for anyone tweeting about the tournament.
Another interesting note is that if you go to their website, they mention that the two words are either “The Greatest Show on Grass” or “The People’s Open”. But then if you go look at their twitter, they use the hashtag #greenestshow for every tweet (and unfortunately not #wampo yet). So many phrases and words that they want associated with their event.
This week I really wanted to post a song from Run the Jewels new awesome album that was released on Christmas, but pretty sure I can’t exactly post one here since every song on this album has a bunch of swear words. So guess I’m going to go with an old Arcade Fire songs from 2010.
The 16th Hole
If you hit the green, the fans will cheer for you. If you miss the green, the fans will boo. This glorious simplicity allows for maximum cheering because most everyone watching at that hole will be drunk all day!
Currently, the 16th hole looks like this, which is an awesome pic from last year by GOTM correspondent Wyatt when he was at the event. The entire hole is surrounded by so many seats it basically looks like a colosseum, which is also what a bunch of people nicknamed the hole at this point!
Interesting that pretty much every seat there these days are boxes, paid for by sponsors, meaning there are only a few normal seats. So if you have a standard ticket and want to watch the 16th hole, you gotta get there early in the morning and just be prepared to sit there until players come through. And probably drink a lot cause that’s what everyone does all day.
Besides how cool the hole looks now, it’s actually interesting to look back on older versions of the hole to see what it looked like before. The most interesting thing to note is how TPC courses designed by Pete Dye are all built with hills on the side of the holes so every fan who’s at that hole watching would be able to see easily above the person in front of them. TPC Sawgrass is like this, so when you watch the Players Championship in May, you can check out some of the same little hills that everyone can see off of.
We’re back! No more tumor in my brain, and starting to feel better from the surgery, so time for more weekly previews. Though the fourth tournament of the year, this southern California event is by far the best full field tournament thus far and is on our first NFL-less weekend since September 2016 (we don’t count preseason or Pro-Bowl). A tournament with a lot to watch for coinciding with our first football-free weekend makes for an extra fun preview. But first, music:
Yes, Tiger Woods is playing. And if you didn’t know that before reading this, then you really need to follow golf more because everyone’s been talking about him playing this week. This is his first tournament in 17 months! So get excited.
It’s really going to be interesting watching him and seeing how he plays. Back a few weeks ago when he played in the Hero World Challenge, Tiger had the most number of birdies, but still finished T15 (30 players total).
Basically he’s like Brett Favre. Brett really was a great quarterback when he played in the NFL, tons of touchdowns, tons of great passes, but anytime he had the lead going into the 4th quarter, all us Packer fans would sit there worried that he was going to mess up, throw an interception, and we’d lose the game because of it. Oh Brett.
Oh yeah, the other thing about Tiger is his new clubs selection! Nike’s decision to get rid of making clubs meant two things. First, they decided to increase the number of clothes they’re going to make with the Nike swoosh, so Tiger, Rory, and now Jason Day will all be wearing that. Second, all the Nike sponsored players need to find a new brand for all their golf clubs! For example, Rory switched over to Callaway equipment a while ago before his injury. Tiger however, hadn’t told people what clubs he was switching to until this (Wednesday) morning! Drumroll please….
TaylorMade!!!!!! What’s interesting is what he claims to have done to determine which club brand to go with. Apparently he tested all different brands for several months and eventually chose TaylorMade because those clubs were “better” for him. But why did he actually choose TaylorMade? Like was it the quality of the their clubs that really made him decide to use those from now on? Or did it also have to do with the amount of money and advertising that they’re going to give to him?
Just a quick little write-up about the CareerBuilder Challenge as Jack is still on the mend. The old Bob Hope remains a pro-am at heart with celebrities competing alongside the pros this week. We’ll see three (3) not terribly memorable courses over the first three rounds (La Quinta, Nicklaus Something or Other, and TPC Stadium West) that showcase brown rough, green fairways and greens, mountain views, and stupid low scores. Honestly, it would not be at all surprising to see another #59watch or two, even with the “bad weather” that is supposedly in the area. Also, it’s a three-day cut, so get ready for a rare weekend Bowditch sighting and a near double-digit under par cut-line.
Looking through the field and it’s… abysmal. Well, maybe not that bad, but not good by any stretch. Phil Mickelson has committed to play the event at the last minute, having played fewer than a handful of rounds since multiple back surgeries in the off season. Lefty also has duties as Tournament Host to look forward to, so his success outlook is worse than Kenny Pigman’s (a real player in the field and totally not just a made up name). In all reality, Patrick Reed is the best player in the field, and having won here in the past is a definite favorite to win this week. Other potential top finishers this week include Bill Haas, Charlie Hoffman, and David Lingmerth, who have all enjoyed past success in this event.
That’s enough about the CareerBuilder Challenge, whoever wins better be ready to shoot -25 if past results are any indication.
European Tour – Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
Jack’s Summary: DJ, Fowler, Euro guys, but no Rory. Much better tournament to watch. Better players.
Mike’s Summary: Jack is correct. Rory’s out with a stress fracture in a rib, but he is still ferocious on Twitter, brutally mauling Brandel Chamblee with this: https://twitter.com/McIlroyRory/status/821752324448288769
The field over in the Middle East this week has a far superior field compared to the CareerBuilder, and it’s good to see a couple top Americans making the trip to compete against the world’s best. I’m still disappointed I didn’t pick Jordan L Smith (who will be eligible for WGC events and majors this year, mark my words) with my final pick in the fantasy draft. He’ll probably take top 5 this week in Abu Dhabi.
PGA Tour Rookie C.T. Pan is on Instagram:
He has cool pictures, and also uses the video of a day to show where he’s traveling. Follow him at @ctpan63
The 2017 fantasy golf season is upon us and the best part (the draft) has already come and gone. Beginning last year, six GOTM contributors have competed against each other in a year-long total money fantasy game with a single draft prior to the Sony Open. Each contributor selected 25 players via a snake draft. As usual, things got interesting once the upper echelon of PGA Tour players had all been selected. Also not surprising, a healthy Tiger Woods garnered early interest, but can’t believe how long it took to actually be selected.
Below are the draft results for each of the six contestants as well as short recaps about how each of them feel the draft went.
Billy Hurley III
I (unwillingly) took the first pick in the 2017 draft and had to go with Dustin Johnson. From there my picks just kept getting better and better. All joking aside I’m very happy with my 11 rounds and then things got dicey. It seemed like we ran out of good players to draft earlier than last year. I’m banking on James Hahn, Adam Hadwin, John Curran continuing to play well and hopefully getting wins in 2017. I also took a flyer on Bud Cauley who was out on medical last year and Graham Deleat who had a terrible 2016. I think I finished the draft strong with my last 4 picks (Jonas Blixt, Andrew Loupe, Cameron Smith, Peter Malnati). 2017 will be my year!
Player on my team I’m excited about is Jon Rahm. I took him arguably way too early (3rd Round) but I’m hoping he plays in a lot of events and I almost positive he will get his first win this year.
Best value: I’m really banking on Graham Delaet have a turnaround from last season because last year he was absolute garbage. Doesn’t help having the yips but towards the fall he seemed to be on the mend. Getting him at the 84th pick may be a great call by me… or absolute garbage.
My biggest regret is not a player that I didn’t pick but rather some that I just missed. I really wanted Ollie Schneiderjahns as I had him last year and he made me a whopping $0. Now he actually has his card and I think he’ll make some serious cash. I also missed on Danny Lee and Harold Varner III who I think will have good years and they play in like 30 events.
Best pick on any team: Jon Rahm – He’s better than everyone else at golf.
Worst pick on any team: Xander Schauffele – Probably a good rookie with great potential if he wasn’t a made up German children’s book protagonist.
If you look up our article on what’s to watch for in 2017 golf, I said there’s a great chance H-dek would be the best, and if not, second best behind DJ. And since I selected second, and Pat took DJ with the first overall selection, pretty easy for me to pick H-dek here. I got to keep Byeong-Hun An from last year with my 17th round pick, which seems to be a pretty good deal for someone who’s going to be playing in the majors and WGCs.
Also shoutout to Sara for making my last four picks while I was knocked out getting my temporal surgery done last week (I gave her a list to go off of). Max Homa is a good pick, but besides him… yeesh. I literally have no idea who Joel Dahmen is, so gotta be a big fan of his from now on. Very excited about Dahmen.
Most excited about (my team): Joel Dahmen, for obvious reasons.
Best value pick (my team): Dahmen, Joel. Late rounds = great rounds, baby.
Biggest Regret (my team): J. Dahmen. I should have taken him far earlier.
Best pick (any team): The Dahmster, hard to beat this pick regardless of round.
Worst pick (any team): Joel Dahmen.
Rafa Cabrera Bello
I know way less about golf and am way worse at golf than the other members of the league. I make up for this knowledge handicap by having irrational confidence in certain players. Even though I got 5th last year I went with a strategy of loading up on players I had last year. Question: If you have a high opinion of a player and he underperforms your expectations in one year then does that mean that, based on the law of averages, said player has to overperform in the following year? Answer: ABSOLUTELY! Of my 25 players, 8 of them were on my team last year and drafted based on that completely logical reasoning. On the very low likelihood that sound logic doesn’t turn out in my favor I have a guaranteed 5+ Tiger(!!!) victories this year as a nice fall-back.
Player on my team I’m excited about: Tiger!! 4th round– I almost took him a round before I actually pulled the trigger on him. I had to have him. I’m already fully in the tank on cheering for his success this year and to not have had him on my team would have been tragic. I have no idea if the value is correct where I got him but I’d rather lose this league with Tiger than win it without him.
Best value: Robert Streb 22nd round– I drafted Streb in the 6th round last year and he woefully underperformed for me. However, given that he made $4M two years ago I feel great about the potential value to be offered as a 22nd round draft pick if Mr Vertical Follow-Through can find get any closer to that 2015 form.
Pick I liked least/regret: Chris Kirk 6th round– By the time we got to round 6 I had run out of top guys I was excited about and wasn’t yet ready to jump into my sleeper/breakout guys. I did a little research and felt like Chris Kirk might be decent value. However, he bores me and I immediately regretted this pick. The only thing I could find interesting about this guy (who I don’t believe even has an Instagram account – c’mon man!) is that he was somehow listed by Golfweek as one of their best dressed golfers of 2016 for this meh look at the Dean & Deluca Invitational last year.
Best pick on any team: Daniel Berger 6th Round by Mike– I hate his swing but feel like he’s a great breakout candidate this year. He’s the guy I was planning on taking in round 6 before Mike sniped him 2 spots before me and I ended up with the ‘stylish’, missed-the-cut-in-every-2016-major Chris Kirk
Worst pick on any team: JJ Spaun 10th Round by Jack – He was the first guy drafted who I had not previously heard so when he was drafted I looked up his pgatour player card and, other than bearing a striking resemblance to actor Michael Pena, I couldn’t find any information to make me think he will be good this year.
“If there was any strategy, it was to identify players who would play a lot in the states, or could at a minimum conceivably do some monetary damage in the majors. I also had the first pick [Jordan Speith], which was pretty hard to screw up this year.” – Zach Zangl on his 2016 Fantasy Golf Draft
Holy Trap! How off base was that quote?!?! – I managed to draft a lot of guys who didn’t play much in the states, specifically picking three guys who didn’t make a single dollar. Further I had the worst pick in 8 of the 25 rounds, and had the second worst pick of the first round going with Speith. That’s some hot stuff right there.
So my motto for 2017 is that I can only go up from here. I continued to try and pick folks I like to watch and hence have some retreads from last season (Speith, Dufner, Aphibarnrat). My other thought was to target players who made big jumps in the world rankings over the course of last season (Stricker, O’Hair, Kokrak, Dufner). Even though Speith wasn’t much of a #1 last year, he is still one of the best and worth the 4th pick in the draft. Took some early risk with Stenson and Grace, as they play a modified tour schedule, but I couldn’t pass up on Hank in the second round and I think Grace is eventually going to win a major (this year would be a big help for me). I don’t know a lot about a number of cats I took in the later rounds so I am excited to learn about some “new” players…players actually playing in PGA tour events.
A) Player on your team most excited about: Jason Dufner – I like watching him play golf.
B) Pick on your team with most value: Lee Westwood – Normally not one of my favorites, but I think this is a rebound season for him and he’ll contend in a major or two. If he wins $2m in earnings, I would be overjoyed.
C) Pick on team we like least/regret: Colt Knost – he is physically tough to look at.
D) Best Pick on any team: I loved Grant’s early move on Brooks Koepka. He is one of my favorites.
E) Single Worst Pick on any team: Rory McIlroy – wish he’d just give up the game already.
Rock N Roll,
Charles Howell III
Draft Recap: As the reigning league champion (*waving hands like I just won an Olympic gold*), I was awarded the 5 pick for the draft. Initially I thought I’d be screwed into having to choose between an oft-injured Jason Day, a hit-or-miss Jordan Spieth, or an un-root-forable Patrick Reed. Luckily Rory fell into my lap, so there’s a guaranteed $10 million. From there I tried to be pretty stock as far as proven players. Disappointed that Bubba fell to the end of the 3rd round so I had to take him with a frown on the outside. Other than Rory, Russell Knox was my favorite value-wise pick in the first 10 rounds. On the other hand, Paul Casey was a bit of a stretch early in the second round, but his recent form and the number of events he plays in leads me to think he’s prime for a win or two. In the later rounds, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen are going to dominate WGC’s and Majors, while C.T. Pan and Curtis Luck (am) are going to let me down like elevators. Thorbjorn is team Captain.
Most excited about: Thorbjorn Olesen. Thunderbear. My dude. Came on strong after some injuries in the past few seasons with a win in Turkey and looked exceptional at the World Cup of Golf last month.
Best value: Alex Noren. Ranked 9th in the in the world at the time of the draft, the Swede had four wins on the European tour last season. He dropped to the 13th round, likely due to a limited U.S. tour schedule, but c’mon… 9th in the world in the 13th round.
Biggest Regret: Curtis Luck. I waffled on the 25th round pick and was disappointed with my selection immediately. I really wanted to take Jordan L. Smith, who just took 3rd in South Africa in a Euro Tour event. Didn’t trust my gut and regret it. Also Luck is an amateur and is likely to remain so until after the U.S. Open. Hoping he gets enough sponsor’s exemptions after turning pro to make some money.
Best pick on any team: Lee Westwood. The guy can flat out roll the rock. In fact he rolls the rock far more often than he should.
Worst pick on any team: Richard Sterne. Zach… I’m sorry.
Harold Varner III
First off, I missed out on Rory. I chose to pick in the 6th spot over 5th thinking that McIlroy was a lock in the top-4 and would be gone. However, I’m not complaining about ended up with Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed. I think there is major success this year. Moving on, I really like my squad’s selection from round 13 on. I honestly was disappointed the draft ended when it did as I had a few more guys ready to go waiting to be selected. I love the mix of PGA Tour veterans who cash checks like Harman, Herman, Molder, and Jacobson. I love the mix of risky young guys like Barber, Wyatt, and Stone. Brandon Stone is a multiple European Tour winner, top 100 in the world and picking up a few starts in 2017 on the PGA Tour. I love the mix of Europeans who are planning on playing more in US in 2017 like Lowry and Kjeldsen. Oh yeah, I love one of my keepers, Si Woo Kim. There wasn’t a better value pick than him in the entire draft.
A: player on my team most excited about: Justin Thomas slightly over Soren Kjeldsen. JT already has two wins on the season and is poised for more. Kjeldsen plans to play a lot in US this year so I like his prospects.
B: best value on my team: Freddie Jacobson in round 23 was a steal.
C: least favorite pick on my team: Ian Poulter is round 12 was a bit of a reach as he is on medical extension but one good start sets him up for the year.
D: best pick overall: Rory McIlroy falling into your lap at the 5th spot overall is definitely up there but that was too easy so I’ll give credit elsewhere. Francesco Molinari in the 12th round is pretty good. A guy that gets his PGA Tour starts and is top 35 in the world in the mid rounds is going to be fruitful.
E: worst pick overall: Other than choosing to pick 6th overall and thus missing out on Rory in the draft, my worst selection is probably going to be Richard Sterne in the 11th round by Zach. It was such a shock, that don’t even know why it was bad other than it wasn’t good.
First off, sorry for the click-baity title there, but how else was I supposed to describe a list of golf courses? With that apology out of the way, I won’t waste time introducing this post since I’m sure people never read anything other than the titles in list posts. Also, this article isn’t meant to be full reviews of the courses, that would take up too much space. Rather, this represents a quick hit on some of the notable courses I got to play this past year. They aren’t ranked against each other, but instead listed in the time order I played them. First up, Alabama.
This past end of January 2016, so coming up on a year ago now, I had a week off and went to play some solo golf down in Alabama on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. And if you didn’t see some of my comments from back then, I highly highly recommend the trail.
None of the courses I played were below average, and what was great also was that it was the “offseason” which meant that it was cold enough to keep the locals away, but warm enough for me and my resistance to cold weather when golfing.
Of all the courses, I’ll highlight Ross Bridge. Mostly because it tips out at 8,191 yards, with a rating / slope of 78.5/135. It was also great because I was literally, and I mean literally in the literal sense, the only person to play the course that day.
The cloudy sky, and lack of overseeded rough also made for some cool pictures.
The one thing that happens with an 8,000 yard course is there’s very little variation in the lengths of the holes. The par threes were all about 225 yards, and likewise on up with the par 4s and par 5s. I can’t imagine having a course that long with a drivable par 4 or something, though I think Erin Hills can claim that honor, which is over 8k and has a drivable par 4 on the second hole.
A few notes on the other courses I played on the trail: The ones at Capitol Hill were awesome, only issues were that it was in the 30s to start (cold to even me), and also that the cart ran out of juice on my second 18 of the day around the 13th hole. Oxmoor Valley was also baller, with the Ridge course being on a ridge. Scroll through those pictures on the link and check out that elevation. It was great. Also great that I got 54 holes in that day with only having to play through 2 groups. Now that’s the best.
If I only played 13 of the holes at a course, does it still count as playing a full round? Definitely not handicapwise, but in terms of this post, it sure as hell does.
The newest of the Coore Crenshaw production courses only had the front 9 officially open when we played in July, with 10, 16, 17, and 18 open for play, but without tee markers, which made finding the tees on number 16 very difficult.
The course was so new when we also played it that they were in the process of digging out grass that had grown its way into the newly sanded bunkers. The expression on the face of this high school aged dude who was doing the digging showed that he really really didn’t want to be there. But hey! That’s what summer jobs are supposed to be right?
It’s very hard to describe this type of dry, links golf when most people are used to the tree lined country club style courses with lush rough and round greens. Coore Crenshaw do use some of the “template” holes that you’ll see on those old school courses (like the punch bowl 17th, or the redan 3rd), but a lot of their green designs are novel. I think my favorite example of this is demonstrated in the second hole, with a wide fairway to the left, and an offset green to the right. Challenging the right side leads to an easier approach shot, both visually and slopewise, but there’s also a pack of trees to that side which can screw you if you veer too close.
The new Coore Crenshaw courses also feature the hip runoff areas without rough that are becoming more and more popular. Think the Olympic course by Gil Hanse, or any of the British Open rotation courses. Rough is out, runoff areas are in.
Made it out to @sandvalleygolf recently, really cool to get a preview of the course. Played the front 9 twice, and then the 4 open holes on the back. This is the view from the 9th tee, downhill shortish par 4. Some options off the tee, but I ended up hitting driver down in the front right bunker the first time, and 3 wood to 60 yards the second time around. Excited for the rest of the course to open next year.
I was also a fan of the elevation change on the property out there. A lot of design has to do with the piece of property you’re given, and unless you pull a Pete Dye at Sawgrass where he made a course out of swamp, it’s hard to get that super highly ranked course design unless you have some elevation.