In an effort to constantly improve the Ledgestone Insurance Open, every year tournament staff evaluate the event and using various methods for improvement. Whether that is conversations with players, staff or fans, or trends that the staff see on social media, the goal is to continue to make the event better. One of those methods is the usage of advanced statistical analysis. One of the things that tournament staff heard a few times was that the course was too penal to left handed players at Lake Eureka. Was that correct? Let’s find out.
First of all, it’s important to note that we tried to make this as understandable as possible, so please bear with us. So while we won’t be using statistical terms like standard deviation, we will use terms like sample size and statistically significant or insignificant. Sample size is important here because while we had plenty of right handed players, we didn’t have very many left handed players. Our data set is somewhat limited in that the size of the left handed players is small compared to the right handed player data set. Alas, lets dive right in.
It was actually pretty easy to take all of the left handed player data and the right handed player data and get an average score for all rounds. UDisc was very helpful in getting all of that information. So if we look at all rounds for right handed players, they averaged a 67.23 at Lake Eureka. If we look at all rounds for a left handed player, they averaged a 65.59. Study over, right? Not quite. If we dig in a little more, we find that the average of all of the left handed players was about 15 rating points higher. One stroke equaled about 7 points at Ledgestone, so we would expect left handed players to average 2 strokes better. They ended up averaging about 1.6 strokes better, which means the course played .4 strokes harder per round. It’s not a big difference, but it does come to about 1.6 strokes over the course of the 4 round event. Once again, we need to point out that the sample size on the left handed player pool was not very big, so it would be safe to say this is probably statistically insignificant and not conclusive.
Moving on and to try to be more exhaustive, let’s pretend that we want to eliminate anyone who finished outside of the top 70. The top 70 players made the cut and it could be argued that is a more accurate representation of the field and how we should evaluate the stats. When looking at the top 70, the left handers played to a 63.7 average while the top right handed players played to a 62.7 average. Of these top 70 players, the left handed players had an average rating of 1007 while the right handed players had an average rating of 1004. This is even a smaller sample size than the previous iteration, but we do see that the course played slightly harder for a left hander. We would have expected a left handed player to shoot .4 strokes better and yet they shot 1 stroke worse.
In looking at specific holes, we found that holes 1, 3, 7, 8, 15 and 18 played definitively easier for a left hander, while holes 4, 5, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 17 played easier for the right handed player. At the end of the day, it would not be accurate to say that the course played much more difficult for a left hander than a right hander. The graph below illustrates this more clearly.
However, there is a slight tilt to the right handed player with a small sample size being kept in mind. The tournament is currently evaluating moving the tee on the water tower hole to the left, which would make the hole more lefty friendly. In addition, an alternate pin location is being evaluated on hole 6 (the long par 4), which would be lefty friendly. We are also investigating opening up the ropes on this hole to allow more aggressive drives. We are also looking at other small tweaks to the course, including a few other potential alternate pins. These changes are not just with the left handed player in mind. At the end of the day it’s important to note that different skills need to be tested, and each hole should have a different spread between left and right handed players. While holes 13 and 14 play easier for a right handed player because of the presence of the lake on the right hand side, it wouldn’t make sense to eliminate two signature holes for that reason. On the flip side, the lake is on the left hand side on hole 18 and that hole played much harder for a right handed player. Our goal is to try to keep the overall balance very close, and we feel we did that this year but have some work to do. Look for some small tweaks next year on the course to address some of those concerns. TD Nate Heinold wants the course to be challenging but fair, and wants to test the players in the best way possible.