How Strokes Gained Works.
Every single distance and lie has an expected baseline score associated with it. For example, this expected score (baseline) from 400 yards from the tee is 3.99. If you hit a 300 yard drive in the fairway, to a new baseline of 2.8, you’ve gained 0.19 on the tee shot. We do this for every single shot on every single hole, and can therefore isolate each shot on their own, group them into categories and give you a way better view of what’s actually going on with your golf game.
Strokes Gained takes into account your shot distribution. (don’t use proximity to hole as your primary stat to measure performance!)
Let’s say you player A and player B hit 10 approach shot each from 100 yards. Player A hits every single shot to 10ft from the hole. The average proximity to hole is 10ft. From 10 feet, a Tour player has an average score of 1.626; this means that the player is expected to hit 16.26 shots to finish the hole from his 10 approach shots.
Player B hits 5 shots to 1 ft and 5 shots to 19ft. The average proximity is 10ft ((5*1+5*19)/10)=10ft. From 1ft the expected score is 1.001; from 19 feet it’s 1.863. So this players expected number of shots to finish this example hole is therefore 5*1.001 + 5*1.863=5.001+9.315=14.316.
Because of the shot distribution, Player B hit better approach shots than Player A, but they both had the same proximity to hole value. Player B’s expected score from his distribution is 1.944 strokes better than Player A’s score. Strokes Gained will capture these differences, which is why it should be your primary variable to measure performance.
Discussion on Strokes Gained.
I would encourage you to look at the Strokes Gained number as simply an objective performance metric similar to for example lifting weights in the weight room. You get a ‘score’ (the actual weight lifted) and you can track your progress over time by following your progress in terms of the number of lbs lifted. Same thing with Strokes Gained: it gives you an objective performance score, and we can track it over time to see if you are improving.
What also happens, of course, is that Strokes Gained is by definition also a direct comparison to an average male tour player. This is due to the fact that the Tour is the only tour in the world that is collecting enough data in order to be able to make a benchmark for performance.
This direct comparison is not relevant in many cases, which is why I would suggest that you simply look at the SG number as an objective performance metric. Then we put it in context by comparing against ourselves, but also against others once enough users have entered their information into Anova.
In the meantime, SG gives you two things: 1. An objective number on what happened during a round and 2. A comparison against an average male tour player.
That being said, the Strokes Gained methodology is a way more accurate way of looking at performance than just looking at things like make%, fairways hit, Greens hit etc because it takes into account your shot distribution.