I remember hearing about strokes gained years ago while watching a PGA Tour event. The announcer talked about average scoring, and the concept of strokes gained came up. Many great golfers know the effectiveness of strokes gained in tracking game progress.

However, amateurs have a hard time tracking strokes gained. With more and more golfers using widely available technology to track strokes gained, I thought you might want to learn more about it, how it works, and whether or not you can improve by analyzing strokes gained.

image of what is stroke gained - AEC Info

What is strokes gained?

Strokes Gained is an invention by Mark Broadie and a way to measure player performance compared to a specified benchmark to see if you performed better or worse and by how much. The easiest way to understand strokes gained is to think about a 20 handicapper that wants to improve to be a 15 handicapper.

Strokes gained will tell you if you need to improve on tee shots, recovery shots, approach shots, chips, putts, etc. Let’s say a golfer gains strokes on the tee, meaning they are more accurate than the average 15 handicappers, but they lose strokes from 100 -125 yards. That player can now focus their practice on the 100–125-yard distance to improve overall performance.

Two different approaches to tracking progress in your game of golf

Some amateur golfers head out to play a round of golf and don’t track anything. Others are very specific about the information they collect. I will show you the difference between traditionally tracking your round and taking the strokes gained approach.

Traditional approach

The traditional approach to tracking a round of golf involves fairway hits, greens in regulation, and putts. From this information, you can gauge if you are in the range you want to be or could use some practice.

However, this information is limited. If you look at professionals like Scottie Scheffler or Jon Rahm, they know they almost always hit the ball in the fairway. So, they need more detail to help their game improve.

That’s where strokes gained come in.

Strokes gained approach

The strokes gained approach utilizes GPS technology to help you analyze performance on approach shots, drives, and all performance tee to green.

Each time you take a shot, your position is marked on the golf course, and the average score (number of strokes) it takes to get the ball in the hole from that position is analyzed and calculated into your strokes gained analysis.

Yon a good round, you may gain two or three strokes. You can break that information down further and see that you lost strokes each time you had a 20-foot putt due to inaccuracy.

You may also find that your average strokes increased because of the inaccurate approach shots from 150 yards. Clearly, you can break down the performance to get more details using strokes gained.

Are positive or negative strokes gained better?

In golf, the goal is to shoot lower, so positive strokes are good. If you have gained negative strokes, you have an area to work on and improve on.

The positive or negative strokes gained are impacted by the baseline you chose. If you set the baseline for a professional golfer, but you are a 20 handicap, you will gain negative strokes, showing you exactly how your game differs from that of a professional.

It usually makes more sense to set the baseline to something within 3 to 5 shots of your current handicap. You can then see what makes you better than an average 15 handicap and what makes you worse.

image of stroke gained calculation chart - AEC Info

Do strokes gained work for high handicappers?

Strokes gained work regardless of your handicap. I’ve seen some players with high handicaps that were just as good from 100 yards as a scratch golfer. Yet, their approach shots from 150 and out and the tee shots were causing all the problems.

If the same high handicapper were to look for ideas on how to improve their game, they might get a bit about practicing the short game. How would that help this player?

How to start tracking strokes gained?

Strokes gained are just math and stat tracking. But without the strokes gained app, it is hard to keep up with all this information. The easiest way to track strokes gained is to use a golf GPS app equipped with strokes gained tracking.

After playing, you can also enter the round into an app like this, but you must remember all your shots. Keeping track of strokes gained month after month will allow you to see how your game progresses.

The average player is probably not doing this, so if you want to improve your golf game, strokes gained are a tremendous opportunity.

Final thoughts

If you can’t figure out what is causing your handicap to go out, strokes gained will tell you. You’ll head into practice with a clear picture of what needs fixing. But don’t get so obsessed with these numbers that they make your golf performance worse.