I can’t help myself. Statistics have intrigued me since I was a little kid. I read Darrell Huff’s “How to Lie with Statistics” when I was in the fourth grade. I was calculating the “Earned Run Averages” of baseball pitchers when I was in the third grade. Statistics are my drug of choice. What are the odds?
Wednesday’s golf match on the Ambiente course was played under the agitated hand of Mother Nature. Winds for most of the competition hovered around ten knots and gusted to twenty for most of the day. For the most part, winds were at our backs for the first ten holes then spit in our faces for the last seven. As expected, some of the players chanted the mantra of how difficult it was to score with the wind whistling as it did. However, I observed no instance where the wind blew only as one particular player put his ball on the tee and stopped when another prepared to tee off. Everyone played the same course under the same conditions. In other words, it was a fair match.
But for the number junkies, it was an opportunity to evaluate the impact of the wind. So like a kid in a candy store, I dug in. Here’s what I found after analyzing 2,606 rounds of golf played from the Camel tees of the Ambiente golf course.
- Under “normal” circumstances, the back nine on Ambiente plays about a tenth of the stroke easier than the front side. That’s probably not terribly significant statistically – call it even.
- With ten knot winds like we had Wednesday, scores were relatively unaffected when the wind was at our back. You no doubt got a little distance boost, but shot making was complicated by the need to estimate the effective distance. Everything seemed to work itself out with (if anything) a slight increase in difficulty.
- When the wind was in our faces, we still suffered the same complication of estimating correct distances, however, that problem was compounded by the loss of distance when hitting into a headwind. The end result is the back nine played a little over one full stroke harder than the front side. Little slices were big slices; little hooks were big hooks. The back nine played at least one full stroke more difficult than did the front.
- The biggest positive impact on scores when the wind was at our back came on the par five holes. The biggest negative impact appeared on the shortest holes. Yes, with these observations, it’s clear I have a keen sense of the obvious.
- With the wind in our face, the reverse was true, i.e., longer holes issued greater punishments, another revelation of the obvious kind.
What can we learn from all this? It’s harder to play in the wind!
Upon closer scrutiny, there probably are some little tidbits that can be extracted from the data that will give you a competitive edge. But in the final analysis, it will undoubtedly amount to the following adage; “smart golf” carries a premium under adverse conditions. You might want to give a little more consideration to club selection. “Grip it and rip it” is NOT necessarily the best advice for windy days.
With all that said, here are a couple of quotes to put in your quiver for defense against number junkies.
“There are three kinds of untruths: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
“Torture numbers enough and they will confess to anything.”
“Four out of three people have trouble with fractions.”
Finally, one more statistic that conclusively proves it is well within the realm of possibility to play well in high winds. Observe the scorecard. Then congratulate Dr. Bill Yarbrough.