As a professional Golfer, and statistician, I have spent a lifetime trying to evaluate my game with a measurement system that is informative, robust, and reliable. For all intents and purposes, I hit upon something when I was a very young competitive player (30 years ago), and have only developed it slightly since then.

I called it, the Stroke Performance Gage.

Think of the distance you are from a target. If you hole out the shot, it’s perfection… therefor, give it a score of 100. If you do not hole the shot, consider “the leave”, as a ratio of what you were left with after subtracted from the shot distance… for example, if you have a 100 yard wedge shot, and you leave the ball 3 feet (1 yard) from the hole, that’s a “99”. If you left the wedge shot 5 yards from the hole, that’s a 95. A simple system, and easy to understand. When I hit approach shots that were valued at 96 or higher, I scored pretty well. If I was leaving my approaches in the 90-92 range on average, it wasn’t something to get excited about, unless it was really windy. Under 89, not so good. It was a good enough system that I was able to focus on process, and play better because I wasn’t getting lazy… distance control was the real determinant of success this way.

When I began my Putting Trials in the early summer of 2010, I was thinking about a better system for putting. Though proximity is important, I thought in terms of “makes” instead. This got me thinking about Process Capability, as we measure it in factories.

I tinkered with a few preliminary ideas, then hit upon what made sense then, and more sense now. I call it, my “Putting Capability Index”.

It’s a fact that Putts vary in difficulty from various factors… environmental, as well as circumstantial. So we need a benchmark.

After numerous statistical studies, I came upon the simplest and most effective test… the 30 foot putt, with at least a foot of break. At that distance, both speed and line are about equally critical. Also, the fact that at 30 feet you miss significantly more than you make allows this to be a test that forces concentration. You can’t just wave at it and get one in. Also, as the protocol is from 30 to 36 feet (tough to find cups exactly 30 feet apart), this mirrors the zone where Tour players three putt about the same proportion as they one putt.

So how does it work? What’s the math, and the logic? Simple…

Tour Professionals average just under 10% from 25 to 30 feet. They are hitting a putt only once, so greens reading errors factor in significantly. So by selecting a high enough expected make% in a Professional trial means increasing the Tour level make% accordingly. After a lot of trials, we realized that greens (the putt itself, bumps and all) were too variable to set a standard without a number of trials being done, on different days, different greens, different putts.

None-the-less, it’s fairly easy to see on any one putt attempt series, that making more than 10% from 30 feet with at least a foot of break is fairly difficult… with conventional putters.

But what if you are comparing two putters? Say… a Black Hawk vs. a conventional Ping Anser style putter?

Try it for yourself. Hit 30 putts from 30 feet (with break) and count the makes. Then repeat with the other putter. Then pick a different putt (same parameters) and reverse the order of what putter is used first. Now you have 60 putts with each putter. Count only makes. Compare the results.

In repeated tests, PGA Professionals (including Tour players) make about 3 putts of 30 attempts from 30 feet, in such a test with their conventional putters (better than their Tour stats, and it’ll take another page to explain why). Then, they use a Black Hawk or Black Swan… and increase that by about 43%… to about 5 makes of 30. Sometimes it’s far better (like the Collegiate player who made 14 of 30 with the Black Swan compared to 0 of 30 with his Cameron, on a hard breaking putt). Sometimes not as good. But overall… the Black Hawk & Black Swan give all players a huge edge in putting.

The wise ones are using it. Eventually… all will become wise!

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