Author tees up metrics of Wall St. to analyze golf

"Every Shot Counts," by Mark Broadie.
"Every Shot Counts," by Mark Broadie. (From the book jacket)
Posted: June 27, 2014

"Drive for show, putt for dough." That has been the long-standing wisdom in golf for decades - until Mark Broadie came along.

The Columbia Business School professor gave a lecture like few others this week at the storied Merion Golf Club, where such greats as Ben Hogan, Bob Jones, and Lee Trevino have competed. Broadie's new book, Every Shot Counts, employs Wall Street-style numbers-crunching and quantitative analysis to deconstruct the game.

"It's about how to use data and analytics to measure and improve golf performance," Broadie said in an interview Wednesday. He upends the traditional calculus and proposes that distance and the long game are just as important as putting.

"Putting has a reputation as being the most important part of the game. When you analyze the data," he said, "that conventional wisdom is wrong."

His talk at the Ardmore club was attended by about 40 Philadelphia-area alumni of Wharton, Columbia, Harvard, and University of Chicago business schools. It was hosted by the Columbia Business School Alumni Club of Philadelphia.

Broadie is an expert in quantitative finance and sports analytics, and works closely with the PGA Tour, professional golfers, and coaches.

His book espouses a metric of "strokes gained" as more meaningful to the game, which he believes can help both pros and amateur golfers improve by identifying where to practice. It was adopted by the PGA after Broadie crunched data on about 11 million strokes from the PGA Tour.

"His book is kind of like sabermetrics for golf," said Rich Selverian, a cohost of the event, referring to statistical analysis of baseball.

"Tiger Woods looked like he had a great putting game," Selverian said, but overall, it was one of the least-distinguished aspects of his game. "Professor Broadie showed us the data, which pros understand, but we the public don't."

Broadie marries a Wall Street background to golf: "It's the same kind of tools in financial research that apply to golf data," like Monte Carlo simulations.

"As an investor, I could appreciate his quantitative approach," said Bill Feingold, of portfolio-management firm Hillside Advisors in Valhalla, N.Y. "As in finance, everyone wants to use benchmarks, but they might not be using the right ones."

Kane Nakahara, a strategy consultant based in Chester Springs, enjoyed Broadie's take on pro golfer Vijay Singh: "He loses strokes to the field when he putts. But he still wins because other parts of his game are good."

It turns out that Broadie also plays a decent game of golf. Nakahara, his brother Asuka Nakahara, a Wharton professor, and Jeff Silverman, author of Merion: The Championship Story, played a foursome with him on Merion's course.

Broadie, who had never played Merion, "had a great game," Kane Nakahara said.

They were being kind, Broadie said: "I did OK. I shot an 81, 10 or 11 over par. I shot a 37 on the back nine holes. I had several bad holes on the front nine."

In other words, it's time to practice.

215-854-2808 @erinarvedlund

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