What makes a good driver of a golf ball?
As the PGA Tour and their stats provider, Shotlink, continue to develop and build a statistical database, new metrics are being created to better analyze specific performance. Much like Strokes Gained Putting has changed the way players, coaches and analysts evaluate a player’s performance on the greens, a new stat has been created to measure the effectiveness of a Tour player’s tee shots.
Aptly named “Good Drive Percentage” it is defined as:
“The percent of time a player hit a good drive. On Par 4 and Par 5’s, the number of fairways hit, + the # of Greens or fringe in regulation when the drive was not in the fairway on the tee shot. / by the number of par 4 and par 5’s played.”
Essentially it measures the percentage of drives hit by a player that do not hurt their score or scoring potential. Indirectly, it takes a look at the severity of a players misses.
If you’ve ever watched golf and TV and you see the ball trickle into the first cut of rough and thought “that’s a shame, he won’t get a ‘fairway hit’ for that”, well this metric accounts for that.
Often players will take aggressive lines or approaches off the tee to get closer to the green and improve their chances on the hole. If they miss the fairway but leave themselves 100 yards in, it is perhaps a better outcome than hitting the fairway but leaving 170 yards. Therefore that might be considered a good drive.
Alternately if a player find a bunker or hazard off the tee, this will heavily impact their ability to hit the green in regulation, thus hurting their Good Drive Percentage.
So how does this stat perform on Tour, which ‘good drivers’ in 2013 were perhaps not ‘good’ drivers, and vice versa?
Top 5 Good Drivers:
Biggest Risers (vs Driving Accuracy):
Biggest Fallers (vs Driving Accuracy):
Interestingly, if you take a look at the current top-6 players in the world and their Good Drive Percentage, it is pretty telling. Whilst Tiger Woods had one of his best driving seasons based on hitting fairways, his Good Drive Percentage compared to the other best players, shows how Tiger’s misses hurt his score.
Typically, Tiger’s misses are pretty wayward, damaging his chances of finding the green. This is shown in his drop of 43 places in the Good Drive rank.
Even at this point, you might be saying “I watch a lot of golf I’ve never heard of this stat, it can’t be that relevant?”
Perhaps, but as anyone who read Tim Rosaforte’s “Making Every Number Count” piece on Golf Digest learned, Brandt Snedeker used good, not necessarily straight, drives to impressive effect earlier this year.
At the RBC Canadian Open in July, Snedeker – who has hit at least 60% of fairways in each of his 8 season on the PGA Tour – hit just 44.64% of the fairways, ranking a lowly 58th of the 73 players that made the cut.
Snedeker won three.
Along with his stat guru Mark Horton, Snedeker noticed something in his game and the course set-up that devalued accuracy and placed a heavy importance on hitting “good drives” rather than fairways.
It may not be as highly regarded as Strokes Gained Putting yet, but keep an eye for references to Good Drive Percentage in 2014.