Book Review: Every Shot Counts
Let me start off by saying that I found Every Shot Counts absolutely fascinating, and it was a real eye opener.
Every Shot Counts is essentially Moneyball for golf. However, it’s not a story about the success of the system, it’s the author actually presenting it. Mark Broadie has poured over data from millions of rounds played by pros and amateurs. Just like Bill James did with Sabermetrics in baseball, Broadie has come up with new statistical measures that he feels are better predictors of a golfer’s success.
The heart of his analysis is his ‘strokes gained’ statistic. It was adopted for putting by the PGA tour in 2011, and it was the first statistic they added in a very long time. The golf world is slowly starting to take notice of his findings. Many pros have taken a hard look at his numbers, and started to adjust how they work on parts of their game accordingly. Sean Foley wrote the forward if that’s any indication.
Every Shot Counts – A Deep Read
As you would expect, this is not a light read.
Every Shot Counts looks like my statistics textbook from college. There are tables of data and images on almost every page, which makes sense because Mark Broadie is a professor at Columbia. Lucky for him, this book was about golf so I didn’t find myself falling asleep with drool pouring out of my mouth. It’s also about 200 pages so it won’t take you a month to read. Overall, he builds a very convincing case with his data that goes against what many great golf minds have been preaching for decades.
I’m not even going to attempt to dive into the specifics of what he discusses, because it would take me forever. Let me paint some broad strokes for you.
Putting is not that important
Brodie assigns putting only a 15% importance in determining any player’s score, which is kind of earth shattering. He states that pros and amateurs do not make that many putts from longer distances. Because of this, he feels putting is not a major determining factor in why certain golfers shoot lower scores than others.
Your total score might have 28-38 putts, but many of those are so short that they are statistically insignificant in their influence on your total score.
Bonus Content: Be sure to check out my complete guide to putting.
Driving the ball farther is better than straighter
After digging through the numbers, and using his strokes gained analysis, the author declares that hitting the ball farther with your driver is more important than keeping it in the fairway. He wants us to be Bubba long!
Long Game accounts for two-thirds of scoring differential
This was another revelation that shook many people up. Broadie says that your shots over 100 yards are the biggest factor in determining why one golfer scores better than another. This went against many short game advocates like Dave Pelz who claim that your game inside 100 yards is the most important area to improve.
I believe that all of this analysis needs to be taken with a grain of salt, and he even alludes to that himself several times throughout the book. Every golfer has different strengths/weaknesses to their game, and this data does not suggest a specific fix to anyone’s game. It is providing general findings across thousands of golfers.
He does concede that fixing the short game can lower the average golfer’s score the fastest (phew!) because those shots are easier to master than longer shots. Additionally, every golf course is different. Certain parts of the game might be rewarded more based on their setup, which is also something his findings cannot account for.
My other main contention is that he does not discuss the mental game at all. I consider the mental part of golf to be a disproportionate determining factor in a golfer’s success compared to other sports. The data simply cannot account for this in my opinion. Much of the book is focused on the pro’s data, due to the use of shotlink over the last few years at PGA tours, and I wish he had spoken more about amateurs.
I do think Every Shot Counts is on to something huge here though. This is just the beginning of this kind of analysis because we now have the technology to track all golfer’s shots. It will be very interesting to see what is uncovered during the next few years as more people do this kind of analysis.