PGA Golf Statistics – How Good Are They & What Can We Learn?

Reaching the standard of PGA Tour players is out of reach for most of us, however, it is still useful to know what that top-level looks like – sometimes you could be judging your own game too harshly, other times you have to stand back and applaud just how good the PGA Tour pros are.

In this article we’ll cover two things, firstly what separates the top players, using strokes gained data. Then we’ll take a deeper dive into what best explains the differences in strokes gained – i.e. what shots and attributes best explain the gain or loss in shots.

In the second section, we’ll also show the actual standard of PGA pros for key areas – this is very handy for understanding performance and is often overlooked when we simply look at strokes gained data. All data has been sourced from the PGATour.com

What is strokes gained? Check out this article explaining strokes gained if you need a refresh.

Strokes gained averages

Below is a summary table for the top 20 and bottom 10 players on the PGA Tour measuring scoring average and strokes gained data in each area. No surprise here, on average (a dangerous phrase as we will see shortly) the top players gain most of their shots with driving and approach play.

The bottom 10 players lose shots on the field across the board, with the key areas being i) approach play, ii) putting and iii) driving.

ScoringSG DrivingSG ApproachSG Short GameSG Putting
Top 2069.930.410.600.200.33
Bottom 1073.11-0.42-0.59-0.27-0.46

Let’s dive a little deeper into the strokes gained profiles of individual players on tour. The two interactive graphics below show every players’ scoring average against strokes gained data. The top plot displays driving and approach play, the second graphic shows short game and putting. I would love to plot it all in one, but 5D graphics are a little challenging…

The lower down on the graph a player is, the lower their score and the better they are performing. I’ve coloured the top 20 players red and the worst 10 green. You can spin and zoom the graph to see where each player sits on each axis.

Scoring average vs SG driving & SG approach*

*For small mobile devices, turn your phone to landscape once zoomed in to explore.

This graph shows us that each player has a unique profile for success. There is no doubting that you have to be excellent tee to green to be a top 20 player in the world.

We see Bryson right on the edge of the graphic leading the way in driving strokes gained and better than average in approaches. No surprise to see Colin Morikawa out by himself in strokes gained approaches, and gaining 0.38 shots off the tee.

However, Cameron Champ shows us that driving doesn’t guarantee success – gaining a whopping 0.64 in driving but averaging 72.8 shots a round.

Scoring average vs SG short game & SG putting