Taking Your Game on the Road

Lou Stagner's Newsletter #17

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Taking Your Game on the Road

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Many golfers play most of their rounds on one course. I am sure you have had chats about being able to "take your game on the road".

Can you go to a different course and play well?

There are a lot of people that think the more difficult your home course, the easier it will be to take your game on the road and play well somewhere else.

I was curious, so you know what that means. I am doing a DEEP DIVE into the Arccos Golf database (which now is up to an astounding 734 MILLION shots). Use the code DATALOU15 to save 15%. The logic I used to pick players for this analysis:

  • Played at least 30 rounds at their home course in a calendar year

    • At least 90% of their home rounds had to be played from the same tees. The slope and rating of those tees were used

  • Played at least 5, but no more than 10 rounds at an away course during that same calendar year

I wanted players that had enough rounds at their home course and had *some* rounds at away courses, but not too many away rounds. I have friends that play 70+ rounds per year with more than half of them being at a series of away courses. I did not want to use those types of golfers.

I wanted golfers that are playing mostly one course (which is most of us), and have enough away rounds for us to evaluate how their game "traveled".


To evaluate how golfers performed, I used score differentials for each round. Differentials are calculated using attributes about the course, namely slope and rating.

Just looking at the score is not very useful. Using the differential will take into account how difficult or easy the course is. For example, if you shot an 81 from the tips at Kiawah Ocean Course, and a 78 from the 6000-yard tees at the local muni, that 81 is a MUCH better score even though it is 3 shots higher.

Using the differential as a measure of performance will allow us to control for that difference in difficulty. What I did for each golfer:

  • Got their median differential from all rounds at their home course

  • Looked at the differential for each of their away rounds

    • Was the differential better or worse than their median home differential?

    • Essentially, did they play better or worse than their typical (median) home round?

  • Then for each player I calculated what percent of the time they played better on the road than their typical home round

For example, we have a player with a median home differential of 12. This player has 10 away rounds. In 6 of those away rounds, the player had a differential that was better than their home differential. On the road, this player played better than their typical home round 60% of the time.

Now we can look at how players performed based on the rating and slope of the course. Is your game more likely to travel from a tough course...I also grouped players by their median home-round differential.

This is not perfectly aligned to their handicap index, but it is very close. I don't have handicap handy in this dataset and it's late, and this newsletter drops in the morning, and I need to get some sleep! :)

The Data

My Thoughts

  • Golfers that play at an easy home course have a harder time taking their game on the road

  • Golfers that play at a difficult home course have an easier time taking their game on the road.

  • The better the player, the more likely they will be able to successfully take their game on the road

I'm not telling you how to pick your next partner for the member/guest, but I would strongly encourage you to find someone with a bogus handicap. A 15-cap that can play like a 3. Just kidding. :)The way the numbers shake out, pick a partner that plays at a very difficult home course AND has a lower handicap. They are much more likely to take their game on the road.You will still lose to the 15 that plays like a 3, but maybe you can squeeze out a prize for closest to the hole.


I have had a few great ideas submitted by the readers of this newsletter. If you have something you would like me to look at, please reply to this email and let me know what you are thinking!

Have a great week!

— Lou