What does consistency look like?

Lou Stagner's Newsletter #12

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What Does Consistency Actually Look Like?

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Ask any teaching pro how 99% of students answer this question:

"What do you hope to achieve with lessons?"

The overwhelming response will be:


I was curious about what consistency actually looks like for amateur players so I did a MEGA DEEP DIVE into the Arccos Golf database (use code DATALOU15 to get 15% off).

How players were selected to be included in the analysis:

  • Played 30 or more 18-hole rounds in a given calendar year

  • Their best handicap index was no more than 3.0 shots better than their worst handicap index during that year. (e.g., if a player's best handicap index was 2.4, in order to be included their worst handicap index had to be 5.4 or better)

    • I did this to remove players that were dramatically lowering or increasing their handicap. I did not want those big changes to muddy the waters (e.g., players that started to play & practice a lot more and take lessons and were improving rapidly. Players that were seeing a big drop off due to something like injury).

Below I will rattle through a number of different stats and charts showing you how amateur golfers have a lot of variability in their scores. In my opinion, your big takeaway from this issue should be that golf comes with a fair amount of ups and downs. You should NOT beat yourself up when you put up a big number. Look at the bigger picture. Pay attention to the overall trends.The data below will give you some insight into what consistency looks like across skill levels.

The Stats

Let's start with a quick and simple overview of all players. The chart below shows the number of shots between a player's best and worst score that calendar year. If your best score was 80 and worst was 96, that is a 16 shot difference. The number of shots between a player's best and worst score is along the bottom. The percent of players that had that shot difference is represented by the column.

  • Average shot difference is 17.03

  • Median shot difference is 17

  • 10.9% of players have a 16 shot difference between their best and worst score during a single calendar year

In this next plot, each dot represents a player in the analysis. Along the bottom is a players median handicap index from that calendar year. Dots to the left of the zero are players with a plus handicap index. The numbers along the side are a players standard deviation for their round scores. The higher the number, the more variance they have in scoring (e.g., they have wilder swings with scores). The lower the number, the more consistent they are.You will notice that as handicap increases, players tend to be less consistent.

This next chart is interesting. For each player in the analysis, their scoring average for the year was calculated. Each round they played was compared to their scoring average. How much better, or worse, was that round compared to their scoring average?Higher handicap players are more likely to be:

  • 5+ shots BETTER than their scoring average

  • 5+ shots WORSE than their scoring average

This next one breaks things down by age. This is ONLY for players with handicap indexes from 10-15. Are older players more consistent?The answer is yes - just slightly!

Next, we are going to take a look at the most consistent versus the least consistent players at each skill level. Most consistent = players in the top 20th percentile (low standard deviation)Least consistent = players in the bottom 20th percentile (high standard deviation)You can see there is a big difference between the most and least consistent players!

Finally, I was curious where the biggest difference was when looking at the most consistent versus least consistent players. Quick answer: It's the short game. The most consistent players at each skill level tend to be much better putters and chippers than the least consistent players. They are roughly 1 to 1.5 shots better per round in putting/chipping.

What Does This Mean For You?

I hope this sheds some light on what consistency actually is in golf. You will have some good days and bad days. It's normal. Stop beating yourself up when it happens, because it will! As a final side note, all these numbers look pretty much the same if I would have used strokes gained instead of scoring average. Because strokes gained and scoring average painted the same picture, I decided to use scoring average as more people tend to grasp that compared to strokes gained.

Thank you!!

If you are enjoying the newsletter, you might also enjoy the podcast I co-host. It's called "Hack it Out Golf".

We just finished releasing an 11-part series titled:
"Learn to Consistently Score in the 70s"

We just started a new 10-part series titled:
"Ultimate Guide to Gaining Distance"

We interview multiple experts and no stone is left unturned. You will add yards!

Please give it a listen!

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Thanks so much and have a great week!

— Lou