Lou Stagner's Newsletter #19

18th Hole at Royal Liverpool

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The 18th Hole at Royal Liverpool

There has been a lot of chatter about the 18th hole at Royal Liverpool this week. It’s a 600 yard par 5 with internal OB all the way up the right side.

I have read a few comments that being up the right side of the fairway will give you an advantage coming into the green.

There is one HUGE problem with this approach.

Even if there was a big advantage to being on the right side of the fairway, that advantage is destroyed by the fact you will hit A LOT more balls OB if you intentionally try to play it up the right side.

Hitting more balls OB is not a strategy that will lower your scores.

Back-of-the-Napkin Breakdown

Let’s run through two simple examples and calculate expected scores.


  • Tee shot travels 310 yards.

  • “Typical” course conditions with no wind.

  • The player has an offline standard deviation with driver of 16 yards

    • This means they will hit ~95% of their tee shots within an area that is ~64 yards wide.

  • There is an advantage to being on the right side.

    • From the right side the player will average 0.10 shots BETTER than what is typical from this distance.

  • As you move to the left, away from the OB stakes, the shot begins to become more difficult than what is typical from that distance.

    • For example, for shots from the extreme left side of the fairway, the player will average 0.10 shots WORSE than what is typical from this distance.

    • The farther we get into the left rough, the more difficult the shot becomes. For example, shots that finish more than 30 yards left of the fairway, the player will average 0.70 shots WORSE than what is typical from this distance.

      • Please note this 0.70 “difficulty adjustment” is on top of the already existing penalty for being in the rough.

The images below provide a breakdown for each situation. Given a specific target off the tee, and the offline standard deviation of the player, we can estimate the percent of shots that will finish in different areas of the fairway, rough, and OB.

For each area, we know how far it is from the hole, how many shots players typically average from that distance/lie, and the difficulty adjustment we are applying to those shots.

Then it’s just some simple calculations to get the expected score for the hole.

The Data

My Thoughts…

Picking a target that is close to the OB stakes is going to result in an expected score that is 0.14 shots worse than a target that is near the left edge of the fairway.

For all golfers, it is critical to reduce big numbers on the scorecard. Limiting how many tee shots you hit OB will go a long way in helping to reduce your scores!

I also want to note in the examples above, the difficulty adjustment between the right side of the fairway compared to the middle and left side was exaggerated for this example. From ~280 yards on this hole, there will be minimal difference in scoring from the extreme left/right side of the fairway.

Lou Stagner