The purpose of this study is to develop a new method for ranking driving ability amongst PGA Tour players. Currently the PGA Tour ranks golfers from first to last place in both driving distance and driving accuracy, and then adds the two ranks together for an overall measure of driving performance. The best drivers are the players with the lowest combined rank. While this measure accounts for both driving skills, information is lost by converting driving distance and driving accuracy to ordinal measurements.Thanks to the generosity of the PGA Tour, data from the PGA Tour Shot Link database has been made available. In this study, hole-by-hole level data is recorded for each player. Variables include: driving distance; distance to the hole after the drive; whether the drive was in the fairway, left rough, right rough, water, etc.; par for the hole; score on the hole; and others. With the level of detail now available in the data, a much more accurate measure can be made of the driving skill of each player.A linear mixed effects model was used to determine the actual value of driving the ball a certain distance and in a certain location. The predicted score on a hole, given the distance and location of the tee shot, was used to assess this value. Player was modeled as a random effect, to account for the correlation among the multiple measurements for each player. The Total Driving Performance measure developed in this study not only provides a more precise ranking method, but also quantifies the difference in driving skill from one player to another in terms of strokes gained or lost per round and per tournament.
©2012 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston