UBC Sauder students and professor develop innovative golf analysis software
At the invitation of UBC Varsity Golf Coach Chris MacDonald, UBC Sauder Professor Martin L. Puterman gave a presentation to the UBC Men’s and Women’s Varsity golf teams in November 2015 about a new golf statistic called “Strokes Gained.”
The 20 athletes watched as Puterman spoke about the importance of keeping statistics to improve performance and how Strokes Gained could give them valuable insight into their personal development.
Strokes Gained converts every shot a player takes during a round and compares it to the PGA Tour average from an identical distance and terrain on the golf course. It was created by Professor Mark Broadie of Columbia University and has become widely accepted in the golf community.
A member of the UBC golf team took particular interest in the concept of Strokes Gained and wondered how it could be used to enhance the UBC golf program. Gavin McQueenie, a second-year student studying at the UBC Sauder School of Business, worked for the next two weeks on an excel model to calculate strokes gained for the UBC golf teams. He then approached Prof. Puterman with his work and was subsequently hired as a research assistant to further work on the project and create a software product to be used by the UBC golf teams.
“When I saw Professor Puterman’s talk about the strokes gained statistic, I was determined to figure out how the UBC varsity golf team could leverage it,” said McQueenie. “I’m a big fan of stats and numbers, and being able to collect data and turn it around to help my golf team enhance their game was a pretty exciting thing to take on.”
A few months later the team of Puterman and McQueenie solicited the help of Fridrik Karason – a Master of Management in Operations Research student in the Center of Operations Excellence at UBC Sauder – to develop a professional website. Karason worked as a professional web developer for two years in Iceland prior to pursuing his masters at UBC and joined the project team in February 2016.
Together they built a website to input and analyze team statistics including strokes gained, which has enabled players and coaches to identify player strengths and weaknesses and gear practices accordingly.
“Academics and sports mix well together. By inputting and tracking statistics, our varsity teams have been able to gain valuable insights into their game and how they can improve performance,” explains Martin L. Puterman, professor emeritusat UBC Sauder.“By collecting information on each shot and having our software analyze the data, the team can strengthen their game by precisely identifying where they need the most practice.”
The website has been endorsed by and become a valuable tool for use by team coaches and players. With over 5,000 shots inputted to date, it is used by the UBC Varsity Men’s and Women’s golf teams,as well as the Canadian National Junior golf team.
With golf, winning is in the details and UBC Varsity Golf Coach Chris MacDonald says the software has had a big impact on the team and changed the way he develops lesson plans.
“Without a doubt, the Strokes Gained software has improved how we train. We can now get very specific information on where a player needs to focus their efforts, and where they’re at their strongest. For example, we can isolate that a player is their weakest at four to six feet from the golf tee, so, to increase performance they need to spend more time practicing from that distance.”
The new software has also been highly beneficial for the UBC Women’s Varsity golf team, whose performance has traditionally been compared with men’s statistics since strokes gained data is only tracked by the PGA and not by the LPGA. By collecting data from the women’s team, players are able to compare data against other female golfers, more accurately tracking strengths and weaknesses and in turn, tailoring lesson plans.
The UBC Sauder team continues to improve the website and encourages avid golfers to sign into www.tbirdsgolf.com to create an individual account. To create a team or enquire further, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The trio hope to make the platform available to other golf programs in Canada and the United States this year.