Disc Golf Metrix: Drive for show, drive for dough

Last weekend’s La Mirada Open introduced the new Disc Golf Metrix. While it was piloted at the 2015 United States Disc Golf Championship, the Disc Golf World Tour’s inaugural event was the first time we’ve seen the Metrix ran on the full field.

Up until now, you could look at a disc golf scorecard and see only one stat: their score. Broken down to a hole-by-hole number, you could determine where birdies happened or where some bogies piled up. You were still missing context.

The Disc Golf Metrix followed four stats: Inside the Circle Putts, Outside the Circle Putts, Greens Hit, and Penalties.

While it might seem confusing at first, each stat can easily be defined:

  • Inside the Circle Putts: Total number of putts taken inside the 10-meter circle. Drop-ins from under the basket count.
  • Outside the Circle Putts:  Any shot from outside the 10-meter circle that lands in the basket. This could be from just on the edge of the circle, a 150 foot approach shot, or even a drive that lands for an ace.
  • Greens Hit: Just like ball golf, this is treated as Greens in Regulation. This is counted if your drive on a par three lands inside the 10-meter circle or your drive or second shot lands inside the circle on a par four.
  • Penalties: Number of penalty strokes received on a given hole.

We were anxious to see what the new data would show once the tournament ended and we actually found a few interesting stats.

Driving accuracy proves most important

The saying “Drive for show, putt for dough” has beed said for ages in ball golf and disc golf. The idea is it doesn’t matter how great your drives are, if you can’t make your putts and shorter shots, you won’t stand a chance of winning.

After the three rounds of the La Mirada Open, and admittedly this is still a small data set, Greens Hit was the most accurate in terms of determining the final leaderboard. Eventual winner Paul McBeth hit 52% of the greens in regulation during the course of the tournament. He was only one of three who hit 50% or more with Paul Ulibarri and Simon Lizotte joining him.

Look at the golfers in the top-10 (and ties) for greens hit with their ultimate finish noted:

1. Paul McBeth – 52% (1st)
2. Paul Ulibarri – 50% (7th)
2. Simon Lizotte – 50% (7th)
4. Dave Feldberg – 48% (4th)
4. Zach Melton – 48% (10th)
6. Dana Vicich – 46% (12th)
6. Jeremy Koling – 46% (10th)
8. Ricky Wysocki – 44% (2nd)
8. Don Smith – 44% (33rd)
8. Teemu Nissinen – 44% (21st)
8. Will Schusterick – 44% (5th)
8. Nate Doss – 44% (5th)

The average finish for those 12 golfers was 9.75. Putting yourself in a position for birdie, weather you convert or not is highly important. If you are accurate off the tee on par threes and you can take care of your second shots on a par four, the odds of a lower score go in your favor.

Sure, a few outside-the-circle made putts can help make up for this, but those are lower percentage shots and in a sense, you’re making things harder on yourself by relying on longer putts to go in to lower your score.

Inside-the-Circle accuracy helps, birdies are better

Being able to convert putts inside the circle is important, but taking into account the context of those putts is even more important. If you’re making a high percentage of your putts from within 10-meters, but you’re only scoring par, it continues to put more importance on getting into the circle earlier.

Again, looking at the top-10 (and ties) for putts made inside the circle, you see some larger numbers:

1. Michael Williams – 98% (67th)
2. Karl Johan Nybo – 96% (7th)
2. Ricky Wysocki – 96% (2nd)
4. Sean Kapalko – 95% (23rd)
5. Jack Peterson – 94% (56th)
5. Bobby Musick – 94% (2nd)
5. Chris Finn – 94% (38th)
5. Devan Owens – 94% (14th)
5. Drew Gibson – 94% (12th)
5. Steve Rico – 94% (14th)
5. Zackeriath Johnson – 94% (23rd)

The average finish for these 11 pros comes out to 23.45. Many of those listed had very few holes where they had two putts from inside the circle. Even with one putt inside the circle, it was typically for par, or even bogey on occasion.

Analyzing two top finishers

With Wysocki ranking high on both lists (8th for greens hit, 2nd for inside the circle), we wanted to look at both his stats from the Disc Golf Metrix and compare them to McBeth (1st for greens hit, 19th for inside the circle to determine what made the difference that sent McBeth to the win.

Disc Golf Metrix - Ricky Wysocki

Disc Golf Metrix – Ricky Wysocki

Looking first at Wyscoki’s round, you see he was a perfect 100% from inside the circle for two of the three rounds with just two two-putts during round two. What stands out more is the 39% of greens hit in the second and third round. A few outside the circle putts help make up some of the deficit, but there are a lot of pars with only one putt which puts a lot of weight on an accurate drive.

Disc Golf Metrix - Paul McBeth

Disc Golf Metrix – Paul McBeth

McBeth on the other hand leaned on greens hit to give himself a chance to pull off the win. A few streaks stand out here. The start of round two was highly important, especially with the poor weather for the latter half of the round. Hitting the greens gave him easy chances at birdies. As the weather turned, driving accuracy fell and he was forced to settle for bogies at times due to penalty shots being applied.

McBeth never putted more than once from inside the circle throughout round two. If he converted a birdie it was also when he landed inside the circle on the same hole.

Finally, in round three, holes 5, 6, and 7 were telling. McBeth landed inside the circle, but needed two putts to finish the job and thus leaving birdies on the course. This slow start allowed the field to catch up to the eventual winner, but accurate drives on the back nine again put McBeth in a position to hit a few birdies and eventually take the win.

Quickly becoming second nature

Anyone who has participated in a disc golf tournament knows the routine of heading to the next hole, having someone call out names and then stating your score out loud. At the players meeting the Disc Golf Metrix was explained and the fact that it was completely optional was also noted. The only thing required by the PDGA was a score. Putts, greens hit, and penalties were just a part of the Disc Golf Metrix and if someone didn’t want to participate they didn’t need to.

As we watched groups roll through the course, we noticed how quickly everyone was buying in. The participation was nearly 100% with only a few opting not to add in the extra stats. The Disc Golf World Tour organizers had a volunteer on many of the top cards to help with the scoring and provide live scoring update too.

When someone’s name was called to provide their scores, we heard things like “three, a green hit, and one inside the circle” or “three and an outside the circle putt.” Combinations like this were common and almost seemed natural as the tournament went on.

Future of the Metrix

With only three rounds in the Disc Golf Metrix, we still have a small data set. With three events in Europe before the USDGC, we expect to see even more accurate data as time goes on.

Do yourself a favor and create your free account with the Disc Golf World Tour so you can take advantage of all these stats. It just takes a moment and certainly won’t hurt anything.

From a journalist point of view, this is what has been missing to provide better context to these big tournaments. We look at other sports and most of the discussion revolves around stats like this more than the overall wins and losses themselves.

Just look at Major League Baseball and even Fantasy Baseball. It’s all about the micro stats that break down a player to the smallest details. Disc golf finally has this with the Disc Golf Metrix.


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