Strokes gained: What is it and can it improve your game?

strokes gained golf what is it

Strokes gained: What is it and can I use it?

In the recent years a new statistic has appeared all over the PGA tour – strokes gained. This mystical number is frequently talked of, raved about and discussed, but rarely understood. Here we will look at why it is a great stat and why it has zero bearing on what you need to do to win your monthly medal.

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How Rory Mcilroy used biomechanics to become world number 1

Image shows the read out of a DEXA scan

How the world’s top golfers train and use sport science is mystical subject that many golfers want to understand. In golf there is slowly a shift towards embracing what sport science can offer. When used correctly, it can give great insight and should make things simpler. However, just like any industry it gets a bad rep from some not so good practitioners.

So…have you ever wondered how the world’s best golfers use sports science? How Rory Mcilroy, Lee Westwood and others used biomehanics to progress towards becoming world number 1’s? Well (somehow) I was there and part of it.

I was completing a masters degree and running 3 part-time jobs to fund it, this sure was the most interesting out of the 3. I should note at the time a was a dogs-body, setting up cameras, putting on markers, editing data. However, it was a great start into the work of sport biomechanics and testing.

Why were they testing

Both Rory and Lee were working with a condition coach called Steve McGregor. He’s a seriously bright man (check out how many letters he has after his name), and now a world leader in conditioning athletes. His goal was to condition these players to play better golf. However, knowing he was doing this is far trickier than you may imagine.

With a strong background in science he knew he had to test and re-test his methods to ensure he was getting the results he desired. He also knew this information would be valuable in providing data, results and motivation for his athletes.

The set up was simple, he would condition these players for 4-6 months and then come into see what had changed. Had things improved, stayed the same or somehow got off-track.

Our job was to provide the data to answer these questions.

 Please note, the data examples used below are not from the players, it is example data from my time in the labs.

Physiological changes

Image shows the read out of a DEXA scan
Image shows the read out of a DEXA scan

The first thing we would measure was changes to their physique. We would you a high-tech piece of equipment called a DEXA scanner. This would tell us fat mass, muscle mass, bone density. It even gives a break down of these aspects for different parts of the body, such as right leg versus left leg.

This read out allowed us to see if there had been any physiological changes, and if so where had they occurred. The basic premise in conditioning is to reduce fat mass and increase lean muscle mass. This leads to an increased ability to produce force, and less ‘excess mass’ or fat to apply that force against, leading to an increased ‘potential’ to accelerate (F = m x a .˙. a = F/m I like it when things are simple).

There is a far greater discussion surrounding neural adaptation and the concept of momentum. IF you’d like more info on these post a comment below.

 Physiological measures

 Firstly we’d check what physiological changes had occurred to each player. This involved a high tech piece of equipment called a DEXA scan. The scanner gives a really accurate reading of body composition, which gave an insight into changes in overall body mass, fat mass, muscle mass and even bone density. At a simplistic level we’d want golfers to reduce their fat mass and increase their percentage of lean muscle mass. This leads to an increased ability to produce force, and less excess mass to apply that force against, leading to an increased ‘potential’ to accelerate (F = m x a .˙. a = F/m I like it when things are simple).

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