Few amateurs would want to face off against a PGA Tour pro on a par 5. The distance gap would simply be too much to overcome. But, standing on the tee box of a par 3 – with only one swing between them and a birdie putt – plenty of amateurs would talk themselves into thinking they could hang with the pros.
The numbers say: Not so fast.
Using the massive dataset collected by Arccos, we’re able to pit the average scores on par 3s by amateurs against the results of PGA Tour pros from the 2016-17 season. Through sensors inserted in the grip end of clubs, Arccos automatically tracks data on the course and has more than 120 million total shots in its database available for analysis. We broke down par 3 scoring averages for amateurs in the same way PGA Tour players receive their analysis, in 25-yard increments, and looked at four different handicap brackets for Arccos users.
The scores back up the Tour’s slogan: These guys are good. The PGA Tour scoring average barely fluctuates no matter the yardage. From 125-150 yards, the average score is 2.99.
While the PGA Tour Average is unchanged from the previous range, amateurs within every handicap bracket see their average scores increase.
From 175-200 yards, the PGA Tour average is only slightly above par, while every amateur group averages more than 3.5 strokes, with handicaps above 11 averaging more than 4 strokes.
Stretched out to 200-225 yards, the average only rises to 3.12, a 4.3% increase. From the same distance, the average amateur player with an 11-15 handicap sees their average score jump from 3.82 to 4.18, a 9.4% increase.
The biggest differentiator between the pros and the 1-5 handicap range? It's the monster par-3s, which typically range from 225 to 250 yards. A single-digit player can most likely still reach a par 3 of this distance, but the gap between a pro hitting a 4-iron and a 3-handicapper pulling 5-wood is stark. The 1-5 handicap typically cards a bogey, with a 3.96 average score, compared to the 3.18 mark for pros. (Interesting fact #1 – Retief Goosen and Matt Every managed to average 2.83 for these holes in 2016!)
It helps that PGA Tour pros know the exact distance for every single club in their bag. For the average amateur, this information is tough to acquire without access to Trackman, and most have a greater shot variability throughout the bag. For Arccos users, it’s easy. Within the app, users can access their Smart Distance, which provides a true average for every club by algorithmically removing outliers on the top and bottom end of the spectrum.
Pros also have caddies clubbing them on every par 3. For Arccos users, this is easy to match as well. Arccos Caddie, developed in partnership with Microsoft, uses artificial intelligence to calculate the impact that hole location, wind speed and direction, elevation, size of the green and much more – will have on the shot to provide an optimal strategy off the tee. (Interesting fact #2: the first time testing Arccos Caddie, Sal Syed, the Arccos CEO and Co-Founder, carded a hole-in-one. His best strategy was with an 8-iron, instead of the 9-iron he would have typically selected.)
Hitting the ball like a Tour pro isn’t easily attainable. But anyone can leverage the power of data to make smarter decisions on the course. That can help you start to lower your par 3 average, no matter the distance.