The Strategy of Corporate Course Management

January 24, 2019
Matt Collings

The world’s top players are masters of strategy and execution and manage their performance with great decision making. Just like an elite chess player thinking numerous shots ahead, players will start at the green and work backwards. Where’s the flag? Where do they want to be hitting their approach shot from? Where should they aim their tee shot? Course management is a vital component in a players profile, but prior to the advance of analytics in the game it has been challenging to surface its relevance to both player and commercial partners.

Corporations make strategic decisions – for themselves and their customers – every day. Professional services firm AON (PGA Tour & LPGA Tour) provides risk & health solutions; Deloitte, one of the ‘big four’ consultancy firms, are the strategic partner of the USGA. Insurance brands Zurich and Travelers have partnered with the PGA Tour and AIG have recently diversified their sponsorship portfolio to include golf with recent deals with the Women’s British Open and PGA of America. Charles Schwab (also PGA of America) weigh up risk & reward in their investment strategies. The introduction of big data to golf has given these brands a unique opportunity to activate their brand through the lens of decision making and strategic thinking in the high performance and high pressure arena of the world’s best golf tours.

Brands like AON have an opportunity to leverage both golf and analytics to build a great narrative for storytelling. Brands are under pressure to differentiate more than ever – gone are the days of sponsorship activation being restricted to brand exposure and general awareness. AON, CMO Andy Weitz recently commented “We have done really high-profile global partnerships, with Manchester United for example, which gave us great brand exposure and a lot of awareness of our firm but we realised that we wanted to drive a better understanding of who we were.” Although partnerships of old gave them huge exposure, there was an apparent disconnect with the brand and the message they intended to portray.

The landscape is changing, and fast! Weitz has spoken publicly on their latest partnership with PGA Tour/LPGA Tour, “We view it as an opportunity to create content more than anything else. We’ll be integrated into the broadcast and will be pushing through social media to audiences so they better understand who we are.”

By virtue of our powerful analytics engine and team of world class quantitative analysts we understand the game better than most. We deliver insights to assist in generating credible, authentic and powerful storytelling narratives.

Specific to one of the holes recently selected for the AON Risk Reward challenge, we have focused on a hole described by the Golden Bear as one of the greatest short par 4’s in championship golf – the infamous 10th at Riviera. During the Genesis Open (PGA Tour) it’s by far the most volatile, with anything from a 2 to a 7 a reasonable possibility. As you can see below, the approach shot and shots around the green are the two most critical shots on the course.

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Critical Shot Rank – Importance of shots at Riviera CC

In playing the hole, the ideal strategy changes slightly depending on pin position, but generally, playing short left of the green gains between +0.24 and +0.37 shots on the field. However, miss slightly left and catch the slope, and you are in trouble to every flag, losing between -0.17 and -0.41 shots. Take the risk and pull it off, you get the reward.

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How strategy changes with pin position

Laying up anywhere short of the left fairway bunker is a losing play overall, even with a great wedge game and a favourable pin position, there is no advantage to playing conservatively. Going for the green is the best play (since 2014, of the 61% who did, 30% made birdie) but it is the detail of where to hit it and where not to miss that really counts. Missing in the front right bunker to a back right flag is 0.9 shots better off that to a front pin, where the player is hitting towards a green sloping away from them.

For the players in our stable, this level of analysis informs playing strategy and enables clarity of thinking during the execution of the shot. For the brands we are working with, such depth of insight allows them to tell a relevant and authentic story and activate in a way that is so much more powerful than simply showing a logo.

Is there a better sport than golf for corporations to tell us what they do?