Academic journal article The Sport Journal

The Importance of Driving Distance and Driving Accuracy on the PGA and Champions Tours

Academic journal article The Sport Journal

The Importance of Driving Distance and Driving Accuracy on the PGA and Champions Tours

Article excerpt

Introduction

Which is more important to a golfer's success--how far they drive the ball or how accurate they are with their drive? Past attempts to answer this age-old question have been unsuccessful for a variety of reasons, including the utilization of flawed methodological procedures as well as the failure of researchers to consider that the relative importance of driving distance and driving accuracy might actually depend upon the combination of a number of different factors. The literature contains numerous studies that look at the extent to which driving distance and driving accuracy, along with other shot-making skills measures such as greens-in-regulation, putting average, and sand saves, were correlated to a golfer's overall level of performance. Consistently, in these analyses, greens-in-regulation and putting average were found to be more highly correlated with scoring average and total earnings than either driving distance or driving accuracy (3,5,10). Further, in many instances, neither driving distance nor driving accuracy was statistically significant. These past analyses were typically based upon the performance of PGA Tour members, although the performances of members of other professional golf tours and amateur golfers have also been analyzed (2,6,7,8,11).

There are a number of methodological issues that need to be examined when attempting to evaluate the relative importance of driving distance and driving accuracy, especially when these two measures are considered in conjunction with other predictor measures. Failure to do so can result in faulty conclusions being made. In this paper, the distance versus accuracy question is examined by conducting separate analyses for members of the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour.

Methods

Populations

The populations of interest in the study are members of the PGA Tour and the Champions' Tour for the last four tour seasons, 2006-2009. The latter tour is for golfers who are at least 50 years of age. Data used for both tours in this analysis came from the PGA Tour website (http://www.pgatour.com/).

Dependent Variables

scoring average has frequently been used as an overall performance measure in analyses that examined the effects of various shot-making skills. However, in the present study, which compares the relative importance of driving distance and driving accuracy, scoring average should not be used as the dependent variable measure. The reason for this is that scoring average is based on all 18 holes in a round, and golfers will typically use a driver only on Par 4 and Par 5 holes and not on Par 3 holes. The fact that there may be as many as five or six Par 3 holes in a round makes scoring average an inappropriate performance measure for the purpose of this study.

The total earnings of a professional golfer on a particular tour are another measure that has been used for the dependent variable. Like scoring average, total earnings have problems associated with its use in the present study. The first problem is that tournaments on the various professional golf tours do not offer the same amount of prize money. As a result, total earnings is more heavily weighted to how well a golfer performs in tournaments that have the largest purses than to how well a golfer performs in all of the tournaments in which they play. A second problem is that total earnings do not take into account the number of tournaments played in a season. Accordingly, low total earnings may be due either to poor performances or to a small number of tournaments having been played.

Due to the problems associated with both scoring average and total earnings, it was decided to use two different dependent variable measures for determining the relative importance of driving distance and driving accuracy. These two measures are (i) scoring average obtained only on Par 4 holes and (ii) scoring average obtained only on Par 5 holes. …

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