Total amount of putts – totally useless number

Looking at social media and even European Tour, we see a lot of talk about total number of putts. Someone had 26 putts and someone had 35 putts on a round. I have used Strokes gained stats for 2 years now with my players and they certainly give us interesting observations and most importantly – the truth. That truth is that as a single statistic the total amount of putts is completely useless.

Why is that then? I will use my own trip with our golf club to Portugal as an example. As usual, when you go out and play after the Finnish winter, there are a lot of things happening on the golf course and even though we have a really good practice green in our indoor facility, putting on the real golf course is still totally different,

So, here are the total amount of putts on my 5 rounds in Portugal.

  1. round  29 putts
  2. round  36 putts
  3. round  35 putts
  4. round  32 putts
  5. round  30 putts.

So, what is your guess which was my best putting performance on the trip? Looking at the total amount of putts, the first round was best and the second was worst, right? Well, that wasn’t the case, lets see the same stats with the strokes gained putting added after the total amounts.

  1. round 29 putts SGP  – 0,789
  2. round 36 putts SGP – 4,251
  3. round 35 putts SGP – 2,883
  4. round 32 putts SGP – 0,751
  5. round 30 putts SGP – 3,317

It turns out that the worst putting round actually was the second round when I used 36 putts. That was a poor performance, I didn’t make a lot of putts and took 3 putts a couple of times. But looking at the best putting performance, this turns interesting. The best performance was on the fourth round when I had 32 putts. And looking at the second best total amount , the last round when I had 30 putts was actually very poor putting. Surprised? I am not.

How to explain these numbers?  On the last round I had two chip ins and otherwise my approaches were quite close but I missed a lot of relatively short birdie putts, hence the big minus in SGP. For example missing from 2,5 meters gives you – 0,5 on SGP.  You only need to miss 3-4 of those and you’ll have a lot of negative SGP.

On the best round I had a lot of GIRs but I was quite far from the hole and that means 2 putts is good. I also made a couple of nice birdie putts and the end result is a good putting performance that isn’t obvious when looking at the total amount. Looking at the SGP stat we can see that the round when I took 35 putts was a better putting round that the one where I used 5 putts less. This once again shows that total amount of putts is a really bad statistic that doesn’t really nothing about the performance on he course.

Lets take an exaggerated example.

18 holes of golf and 18 GIRs. All the birdie putts are 12 meters in length. Players with handicaps of 0 and 10 will take 2 putts on every green which gives the total amount of 36 putts. The scratch players SGP would be + 3,96 and the 10 handicapper would have SGP of + 6,66. In other words 12 meters is so long that the expected total amounts for these players would be 39,96 and 42,66 putts on the round.

If these same players would have 2 meter putts on every green and still take 2 putts on every green, the SGP numbers would be – 8,28 and -6,3. So you can have 36 putts and it can be a really good performance or you can have 36 putts and have a really poor performance.

Looking at the modern statistics and knowing that a lot of players on the tour use all kinds of statistic programs to monitor their own game, its really hard to understand that The European Tour still is giving only some basic stats that are of no use.

Comparing The PGA Tour and The European Tour statistics its safe to say that on the ET, the stats are like Fred Flintstones stone tablet. It just doesn’t tell us who is putting well and who is not.