In the game of golf, there’s an expression: “Drive for show, putt for dough.” What it means is: If you want to win tournaments, practice putting.
It makes sense. In a standard even-par round of golf, putts make up half of all strokes. You’ll use your driver less than half the number of times you’ll use your putter. There’s more strokes to get rid of in the putting part of the game.
“Drive for show, putt for dough” makes sense – but it’s wrong. Why? It can tell us a lot about other places in life and work with “raised floors.”
Golf is a reality-distortion field First, a little background on the game of golf, for those unfamiliar. You’ve got a roughly one-and-a-half-inch ball, you’re trying to hit into a roughly four-inch hole. That hole is anywhere from one-hundred yards away to five-hundred yards away.
A one-hundred yard hole is a short par 3. A five-hundred yard hole is a long par 5. Meaning you have three strokes to get the ball in the hole for the par 3, and you have five strokes to get the ball in the hole on the par 5 – that is, to shoot even par. In between these distances are the more-common par 4s.
So you’re hitting a tiny ball with a chunk of metal on the end of a long stick, and you’re trying to get it into a tiny hole a few football fields away.
It’s insanely difficult, and trying to accomplish this will challenge your perception of reality. So no wonder the common wisdom in golf is wrong: It’s hard enough to make solid contact with the ball. It’s even harder to look back on a round, or even a hole, and have a clear picture of what the hell happened and how you could do it better.
Golf is essentially a reality-distortion field. It’s endlessly multivariate. It’s full of hidden risks and difficult decisions. It’s also frustrating and emotionally challenging, which makes it even harder to see reality and improve.
So, yes, golf is a good analog to life.
Seeing reality in Golf Mark Broadie of Columbia University wanted to make it easier to see reality in the game of golf. So, he collected a ton of data. He got detailed data of more than 100,000 shots from 200 men and women of all ages and skill levels. He knew where each shot started, where each shot ended, whether the shot was from the sand or the fairway or tall grass – he even knew whether each putt was uphill or downhill, left-breaking or right-breaking.
This is a lot of data. At the time, if you were a stats-minded golfer, you were counting how many fairways you hit in your drives, how many greens you hit in regulation (A “green in regulation” is par minus-two, because the goal is to average only two putts on each hole.) Since you believed you were “putting for dough,” you were also counting how many putts you had.
But this information stats-minded golfers were collecting didn’t really help. Maybe you had only 28 putts instead of the standard 36 putts, but the reason you had so few putts was because you didn’t hit any greens, so you were hitting the green from a shorter distance and thus your putts were shorter and easier to make.
It didn’t help you see reality. If anything, it made reality harder to see.
The “strokes-gained” method of seeing reality But Mark Broadie revolutionized golf stats. He developed a system called “strokes gained.” Basically, for your skill level, where on the course are you gaining strokes and losing strokes?
Your average PGA Tour golfer hitting from the tee on a 400-yard hole – a par 4 – averages 3.99 strokes. From 8 feet, he averages 1.5 strokes.
So imagine a golfer who is better than other pros from 8 feet. Instead of 1.5 strokes on average, he takes 1.3 strokes. Yet this golfer still averages 3.99 strokes from 400 yards off the tee. He’s better than other pros from 8 feet, but somehow just as good as other pros from 400 yards. That means somewher