Bounce Back: Measuring the Flow of Your Rounds

March 15, 2016
Jake Nichols

The bounce back by Jordan Spieth in the final round of the 2015 US Open was one of the most impressive I’ve seen in golf. He came to the 17th tee two shots up on the field. Any finish under par would likely win him his second straight major championship and par-par would place him in an excellent position. But after a poor tee shot, a failed up and down, and a missed five footer, Spieth walked off the green with a double-bogey five, dropping him back into a tie for the lead and leaving Dustin Johnson and Branden Grace just one back going onto the 18th hole.

At this point, Spieth could have let the moment and his failure on the last hole affect his play, but instead he stepped up on 18 and ripped a 300+ yard drive down the fairway, hit a 3 wood to 16 feet, and two putted for birdie – requiring Johnson to finish birdie-birdie to even tie him. It was a remarkable effort to bounce back from a disastrous hole in the most pressure packed moment of his career.

MEASURING THE BOUNCE BACK

The Bounce Back stat measures how a golfer recovers after a bogey to make birdie on the next hole. In that way, it’s a measure of how they have responded to adversity or a poor shot or putt on the previous hole. Because the typical pro at a typical course will make on average 3-4 bogeys in a round, a golfer who can consistently respond by remaining focused after bogey will have an advantage over a golfer who allows their play on the last hole to filter into their swing thoughts on the next hole. Maintaining this focus becomes even more critical in the bigger events – when the course difficulty ramps up and bogeys or worse become even more prevalent.

The PGA Tour calculates their Bounce Back stat as the percentage of holes where a player is over par on one hole and under par on the next hole. In other words, how often does a golfer follow a bogey or worse with a birdie or better. For last season, Jason Day dominated the Bounce Back category, making birdie 34% of the time after a bogey – 6% more often than 2nd placed Bubba Watson. Other big names like Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, and J.B. Holmes also ranked in the top 10.

However, the PGA Tour stat doesn’t consider each golfer’s ability to bounce back in their calculation. For an accurate measurement of ability to bounce back, we need to know how likely each golfer was to make birdie already and then compare their actual figure with their normal figure. What we’re interested in is how each player responds to a bogey. For example, Dustin Johnson ranked 20th in bounce back at 24.6%, but that exactly matches his normal rate of making birdie. In other words, Dustin Johnson was no better at bouncing back than average. On the other hand, John Senden ranked 4th in bounce back at 27.7% – 7% better than his typical birdie rate. Senden was clearly able to respond well after making bogey.

This statistic does not currently exist on the European Tour site. So 15th Club have taken a look at the data.

OUR APPROACH

15th Club has calculated a number of bounce back related stats for the 2015-16 European Tour:

  1. The normal Bounce Back statistic which is the percentage of holes where a birdie or better follows a bogey or worse.
  2. Adjusted Bounce Back which compares your Bounce Back rate to your typical rate of making birdie and shows how much more or less likely a golfer is to make birdie or better after bogey or worse.
  3. Consecutive Bogey Avoidance which is the percentage of holes where you avoid making back-to-back bogeys.
  4. Adjusted Consecutive Bogey Avoidance which compares your rate of back-to-back bogeys to your typical rate of making bogey and shows how much more or less likely a golfer is to make consecutive bogeys.

When looking at European Tour data, the clear standout was Jamie Donaldson. Donaldson ranks #1 on the European Tour since the start of 2015 in Adjusted Bounce Back and Adjusted Consecutive Bogey Avoidance. He and Graeme McDowell also showed better than average ability to bounce back with a birdie and avoid consecutive bogeys on the European Tour in 2015-16 and the PGA Tour from 2014-16.

I have included the top 10 for each statistic since the start of 2015 below:

Bounce Back Ranking

Consecutive Bogey Avoidance Ranking

Adjusted Bounce Back and Adjusted Consecutive Bogey Avoidance are shown relative to the field. Jamie Donaldson makes 10.7% fewer consecutive bogeys than the field.

Understanding where you rank in these stats can – over larger samples of play – reveal how you respond to adversity. Consistently falling short by following a bogey with another bogey could indicate deeper issues with the flow of your round. This is just one detail out of many that impacts your performance, but improvement comes from applying intelligence to your data and then looking to address these individual details. 15th Club can analyze your data and generate actionable insights that help you win.