strokes gained golf

What Is Strokes Gained And How to Calculate Strokes Gained

Strokes gained is a term that has puzzled many golfers for years. Even many professional golfers don’t have a clear understanding of what strokes gained or lost actually means. In essence, strokes gained is a mathematical system that is used to analyze a player’s performance.

However, it does more than simply analyze a player’s skill level. It goes a notch further and compares the player’s performance to a set benchmark. Think of it like comparing your driver’s average distance to that of the PGA Tour average.

Moreover, it breaks down the individual aspects of a player’s overall game into a numerical format that is easy to understand. Players have a better understanding of the areas where they excel and areas where they need improvement.

Strokes gained was originally developed by Professor Mark Broadie of Columbia University in 2007. He used massive amounts of data on ShotLink that was provided to academic institutions for research purposes.

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Strokes Gained Explained

Golf courses record and collect statistics of all the prominent players during professional golf tournaments and use this information to calculate the strokes gained by individual players. Nowadays, courses can collect extremely detailed data, right down to the hole level and distance covered in each stroke.

After that, analytical techniques are used to calculate the average number of strokes that a player takes to complete one hole or the entire game.

In other words, an average score of the entire field is calculated. Then, the number of strokes of a particular player is compared to the field average, and ultimately the number of strokes gained or lost is calculated.

This still might be a little confusing for some people, so we’ll explain the concept using a simple example. Consider a par-3 hole that has average strokes of 3.5. This means that, on average, players take 3.5 strokes to complete that hole.

However, if a player completes this hole in 3 strokes, then this particular player will gain 0.5 strokes compared to the other players. On the other hand, if he takes 4 strokes to complete the hole, then he will lose 0.5 strokes. This shows that strokes gained can also be a negative number.

It can get a bit complex if you’re trying to calculate this manually. Use a strokes gained calculator to do the job for you. 

Types of Strokes Gained

When we say strokes gained, we generally refer to strokes gained: total.

Over the years, ShotLink has divided the overall strokes gained into six different categories. These categories pertain to the different areas of the golf course, including the tee box, around the green, and the putting green.

Since 2014, PGA has divided strokes gained types into two broad categories; namely,

  • strokes gained: tee-to-green
  • strokes gained: putting

Strokes gained: tee-to-green contains all the three types except strokes gained: putting.

Here is a list of all the different types of strokes gained.


This parameter tracks the driving abilities of a player by considering the shot accuracy and the distance covered.


The approach strokes gained statistic analyzes the following shots after the initial drive. This parameter is crucial as it tracks the vital 2nd and 3rd shots into the green on all types of holes.


This statistic measures the player’s performance on shots within 30 yards from the edge of the green, usually, from the fairway, rough, and bunkers.


Putting is one of the most talked-about aspects of the game, and tracking your progress using this parameter can help you make more putts.


The strokes gained: tee-to-green stat is obtained by adding all the strokes gained from the tee box to the putting green.


Total strokes gained is the sum of all the strokes gained or lost by a golfer from the tee box to the putting green.

How Strokes Gained Can Help You Improve Your Game

Before strokes gained was developed, golf associations used classical golf stats for assessing players’ performance. However, most of these statistics were binary, meaning that they only had two outcomes.

Consider the parameter fairway hit or missed, which is used to determine driving accuracy.

However, this statistic provides a flawed interpretation of the driving ability of a player. Why? This is because even if you miss the fairway by a yard or by a hundred yards, it still counts as a fairway miss.

On the other hand, strokes gained takes the shot distance into consideration and provides a deeper analysis of a player’s driving skills.

For example, in the classical system, a player who misses the fairway by an inch and another player whose ball goes out of bounds will be assigned the same score. However, in the strokes gained methodology, the player who missed the fairway by an inch will get a much higher score than the other.

Strokes gained is a brilliant amalgamation of advanced analytics and golf that is tremendously helpful for players and golf associations alike.

By regularly tracking their strokes gained or lost, golfers can pinpoint the specific areas in their game where they need to improve. A player who consistently gains strokes in putting but loses in off-the-tee shots clearly needs to work on his driving abilities.