Political consultant and strategist Lee Atwater was famous for saying, “Perception is reality.”
His timeless phrase rings true with golfers, particularly when it comes to their perception of how far they hit each club versus the data-driven reality of how (not so far) they actually hit each club.
And more often than not, perception impacts the reality of their scorecard, round after round.
That is, until they learn to harness the power of on-course performance data available with Arccos Caddie and its integrated Smart Distance feature (and coming soon, the new Strokes Gained feature that will provide personalized insights).
As Arccos CEO and co-founder Sal Syed has always said about the cognitive bias that fuels club selection, “You end up making decisions based on your best shots, and that’s not smart.”
The Real Data Story
Let’s start with irons.
According to a study of more than six million shots recorded by Arccos, 40% of approaches land short of the green, eight times the percentage that land behind the putting surface.
That’s right, both recreational and serious amateur golfers aren’t nearly as long as they think they are. In fact, based on recent club-by-club shot data Arccos recorded, golfers overestimate their length in epic fashion.
Take a 5-iron, for example: the mean start distance for a scratch golfer using this club is 194 yards, while the median distance he or she actually hit the ball is 176 yards.
Scratch. Golfer. As in zero handicap. Nearly a 20-yard difference between perception and reality.
For a bogey golfer (20 handicap) with the same club, 187 is the mean start distance and 152 is the median distance hit. Raise your hand if you’re an 18-20 handicap and just assumed your 7-iron was your tried-and-true 150-yard club.
Okay, so how about said 7-iron, a club so many golfers love.
Well, the mean start distance for a scratch golfer is 170 yards, the median distance hit is 159 yards. For a bogey golfer, 162 and 140. Using data points between the two markers from a 10 handicap yields 165 and 148.
In fact, it’s not until we arrive at the proverbially player-friendly pitching wedge that the differential between the mean start distance and median actual distance hit reaches single digits for players of all handicaps.
For a scratch golfer with a “PW,” the mean start distance is 126 yards and median distance hit is 122 yards; for the 10 handicap, 119 versus 114; and for the 20 handicap, 112 versus 104.
How about when it comes to driving?
Arccos players in the 0-5 handicap range average 243 yards off the tee, while those in the 16-20 range average just 209 – a distance many of us equate with a long-iron or hybrid club.
To put those distances in perspective, the average driving distance on the PGA Tour in 2019 was 293 yards, and on the Korn Ferry Tour, it was an eye-popping 302 yards.
The punchline being, stop comparing your game to the pros and start improving your game with data-based decision making.
Arccos Caddie Smart Distance
This is where Arccos Caddie’s Smart Distance features comes in.
Smart Distance is the estimation of an Arccos player’s expected distance on a well-struck shot. Based on historical data, it automatically excludes mishits and abnormally long shots to provide an exponentially more accurate account of true club distances.
This, in turn, helps go beyond guesswork by using real on-course data to develop an understanding of how far he or she hits each club. When golfers move past ego-driven decision making and know the correct club to use for every shot, they hit more fairways, greens and can even reduce their average putts per round.
And while change doesn’t happen overnight, it occurs in dramatic fashion after just 10 rounds. Arccos players average 14.91 feet closer to the hole on approach shots after logging 180 holes with the Arccos Caddie app and leveraging the Smart Distance feature.
Couple Smart Distance with the “Arccos Caddie Number” generated by the new A.I. powered Arccos Caddie Rangefinder, and players are armed with a historically unprecedented amount of information for rapid game improvement.
There are times when golfers want to know not only their average distance by club, but the entire spectrum of good, bad and ugly.
Smart Range is Arccos’ estimation of a player’s expected range on well-struck shots. A narrower range is indicative of more consistent shot performance. Both Smart Distance and Smart Range are located in the “Clubs” section of the Arccos Caddie app.