Ignoring Individuality When Using Stats

One of the great things about modern day golf coaching is that it is becoming much more individualised to the person in front of us. Gone are the days of the clichéd “one size fits all”, cookie cutter approach. We as golf coaches are becoming much better versed in understanding and embracing the fact that all players are different and thus should be treated as such.

We have evolved.

That is, seemingly apart from our approach towards statistics.

With statistics we defer to the Science. We use the Maths. We compare to the average. We create an environment of right and wrong. And in doing so we make a terribily limiting and destructive assumption that…

Each player has the same potential to improve and same glass ceiling of performance in each aspect of their game

And unfortunately they don’t. They just don’t. And it’s not even close.

Imagine a 10 handicapper comes to you looking to get their handicap down and they would like a plan for how to achieve that. You talk for a bit and after a while, potentially with the help of stats, you ascertain that putting is the strongest part of their game and driving is the weakest part of their game (for arguments sake we are only choosing to focus on 2 aspects of the game here although, as will be seen, this can be applied to all parts of the game). In fact, the sensors in their clubs highlight how their driving is the equivalent of a 16 handicapper and their putting is the equivalent of a 4 handicapper.

Accepted practice, and to a certain extent, logic, would suggest that the most beneficial plan of action would therefore to be, maintain their putting where it is and try to improve driver.

However, this again assumes that each aspect of performance should be more or less at equal levels and that they all have equal potential to improve.

Potential. Potential is the key word here.

It would seem that for this player they have almost achieved their full potential in putting and have nowhere near achieved their full potential in driving and thus the biggest gains and lowest hanging fruit would be to improve driving.

But what if it wasn’t that simple?

What is absolutely a possibility is that even though we may have strong parts of our game (and comparitively they would be stronger than others) they still might be nowhere near their full potential. And likewise for weaker parts of our game; they might actually be performing realively close to their full potential.

With this player they might actually be nowhere near their full potential with the putter but actually relatively close to it with the driver.

If you compare everyone to the average, you just get average.

In that regard, say what you want about Bryson, but one of the great things he has done with the changes that he has gone through is to demonstrate that the glass ceiling of potential might be somewhat higher than what you may think.

There is also the concept of ease of improvement here. Back to our player in the example, we need their time spent practising and playing to be as efficient as possible. If they would theoretically practise 100 hours both on driving and putting, which would produce the biggest gains? The answer may not always be what we think it will be.

In our own playing and coaching we have come across those people that always seem to hit good putts but they never seem to go in. Or players that really struggle with chipping or those who can’t hit a green to save their lives (me). What if constantly choosing to focus on bringing up the weak part, there were other ways to do it and dare I say it might be actually focusing on making the strengths even stronger.

Of course, this then raises the question, “how do we know a player’s full potential?” Well, we don’t. But I am a big believer in conversing with our players, keeping our eyes and minds open to all possibilities and then maybe our use of statistics can be equally as individualised as the other elements of our coaching.