From the Fairway to the Spreadsheet: The Rise of Golf Analytics and Data-Driven Strategies

Novedades   |   Spencer Hong   |   May 12, 2023

Nearly every aspect of golf can be refined down to a data point. 

Whether it’s golf club selection, the type of golf ball used, the temperature on the golf course, moisture in the air, or even the wind direction, each data point is a decision a golfer must consider before they stand over the ball and swing. I’ve become familiar with these data points during my time as a collegiate golfer. 

Even before I hung up my clubs and dove full time into the world of software analytics, I used data analytics to improve my game and performance. I wasn’t a PGA tour golfer, but as my game evolved so did the collection, usage, and analysis of the data and statistics of the game.

Early on, I would measure typical golf metrics such as driver accuracy, putts made, strokes gained, greens in regulation, etc. The difference maker happened when I began incorporating more sophisticated measurements into my game to highlight better visibility into areas of strength and find places for improvement. 

Driving Data Beyond the Fairway

Understanding my game by way of putts made or greens in regulation was a good start. But it didn’t give me answers to questions I had about how to improve my game.

I wanted to progress from descriptive analytics (what is the current level of my short game?) to prescriptive analytics (what do I have to do to improve?). To answer that question, I needed to collect and analyze data on activities that would enhance my game.  

I started by measuring my workouts and diet and how they affected my golf performance. Next, I focused on equipment. I began testing out different golf balls on different courses and in different environmental conditions, all while recording and measuring my results.

By measuring the distance and accuracy of different golf balls with differing temperatures and wind conditions, I found that certain golf balls were better during warmer climates while others performed better in windier conditions. Understanding all these factors made me better equipped to go out and compete. 

Like with any data collection process, I faced a few challenges. It took a lot of time to manually enter my data and process it for downstream analytics. In my first year, I relied on a “master spreadsheet” where I would go in and manually enter all the different data points I wanted to measure. The good news is, as golf data has increasingly become more popular, so have the sport training tools and technologies.  

How Technology Helped Automate Golf Analytics

To increase automation in my data collection, I began using three different tools. I used these tools to help with data collection and provide more prescriptive recommendations.

  • First, I used Whoop, a wearable training device, to measure and monitor my strength training.  
  • Then, I started using golf swing phone applications that could record my golf swing speed and shot data and provide tips on areas of improvement.  
  • Finally, I purchased Arccos, IoT devices I put onto each of my golf clubs. It provided real-time data collection of my game with geospatial mapping. 

This combination of tools enabled me to visually understand where the shots went on each hole, which informed me if I was hitting the ball left, straight, or right. It also allowed me to segment insights by club choice.  

I went from a lower-ranked player at the start of my career to a top-five player and captain of my team by the time I graduated from college.  

The Importance of Data & Analytics for Golfers

The ways I used data analytics and golf metrics to strengthen my game as an amateur golfer is an excellent example of the key role data analytics can play in the game of golf. Data analytics can be used to improve nearly any aspect of a golfer’s game.  

Every time a PGA tour pro walks up to the tee, they must consider many factors before they select a club and hit the ball. How far are they from the green? What is the wind direction? What is the temperature? By having data on these aspects, a pro and amateur golfers can more precisely determine the shot they want to hit and with what club. 

I not only personally experienced the positive impacts data analytics can have on my golf game, but I’ve also seen how PGA tour players have adopted it to train better, hit the ball farther, and ultimately score better. Similar to how organizations are looking to become more data-driven, so are professional athletes, and so should the amateur golfer. Golfers of all skill levels can use golf analytics to analyze their own performance with the end goal of getting better. 

 To learn more about how analytics is revolutionizing the world of golf, read “The Next Era of Golf” whitepaper.