Whether it be for regular PGA fantasy or in one of the many weekly DFS Golf contests going on around the world, Fantasy Stars is here to help you identify the players best suited for handling a golf course and taking your fantasy team to the top of the leaderboard. Today we teach you How To Analyse A Golf Course for Fantasy Play.
Golf is an outdoor sport played on a different playing field every single week. The variables are enormous and can create a fantasy edge for those willing to identify trends and patterns.
How To Analyse A Golf Course for Fantasy Play
Consider the NFL, although some stadiums are outdoor and the weather can certainly differ each week, the field is still the exact same dimensions every single week.
NBA is even more one-dimensional in that sense, every stadium is played in an air-conditioned arena with the exact same dimensions and all the rims are the same height off the ground.
Player performances in these type sports are going to be relatively consistent and steady.
Golf on the other hand, is played on a new course, in new conditions every single week. There are variables galore!
It’s much more likely that Jason Day may be suited by a particular course such as St Andrews than LeBron James be more likely to playing better at the Staples Centre as opposed to Madison Square Garden.
Here are the variables to consider when analysing Golf
- Changes in altitude that affects ball flight and how players control ball flight.
- Weather that affects fairway speed, green bounce and speed as well as the rough density
- Pin position (they change these after each day of a four-day tournament)
- Green speed (the greens normally quicken as the weekend comes around, unless of course it rains!)
- Types of grass both on the fairway and greens
- The type of sand used in the bunkers and the general structure and design of the bunkers
- Course layout (big or small, wide or narrow, flat or undulated)
The list goes on! But now you get the picture. This is the mindset you need to get in each week to separate yourself from the pack and start turning those solid fantasy lineups into perfect lineups!
— Golf2Win (@Golf_2_Win) June 16, 2016
So, here are some simple steps to follow and tick off each week to help find the right fantasy Golf value plays.
Step 1. Course Overview
Start with the basics. Google the course in which the tournament is being played out.
Every single course that hosts a PGA tour event will have their own website that will contain a course tour or overview function that will allow you to see a flyover and images of every hole.
You’ll also get a nice description of each hole in terms of yardage, history and nuances most likely.
This forms a great base to your overall study and helps to get you dialled into that specific course mindset.
Take Pebble Beach as an example, one of the world’s most popular and renowned golf courses: https://www.pebblebeach.com/golf/pebble-beach-golf-links/ from here you can gather the following information.
So just from the course website you’ve now for every hole on the golf course got an overview of that hole, you’ve seen a flyover, 3d satellite views as well as quality photos from both the air and ground.
This allows you to get a nice feel for the course, the type of conditions and challenges a golfer will face.
It also allows you to also visualise the type of golf shots they’ll be faced with and you can start to think about who it may favour.
Lots of right dog-legs? Then right handed golfers that hit a natural fade may be advantaged.
Step 2. Tournament History
Ok, now it’s time to look at some historical data.
The majority of PGA Tour stops host tournaments year in, year out so there is course history that allows us to identify the types of players that be may be suited to the course and conditions.
Does the course suit the longer or straigher hitters? Good putters or gusy that hit greens in regulation?
Does it require good scrambling or Par 5 scoring?
Well, a good starting point is to look at the Top 10 at the past three tournaments played on the course.
Always remember that a course changes over the years in subtle and at times by way of major changes and reconstruction so be wary of digging too deep into data back any further than say five years.
It’s handy to keep notes or a database on when major changes to courses occurred as it will have an impact on the accuracy of your historical data.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at an example.
The table below details the Top 10 at the 2016 U.S. Open played at Oakmont.
There are two key conclusions we can make from the above data.
- We can see that eight of the top 10 at the 2016 U.S. Open ranked in the top 14 for greens hit. Which makes sense if you know the course well because the rough at Oakmont is brutal and if you miss a fairway it’s very hard to make the green, and if you can’t make the green it’s very hard to make par on the ultra-fast greens.
- The second is the strength of the Oakmont Par 4’s. Dustin Johnson was the only player in the top 10 who finished in the red on Par 4’s. On the flip side all but one player finished under par on the Par 5’s and all but two finished under par on the Par 3’s. Considering the majority of the holes on the course are Par 4’s it would be reasonable to suggest that Par 4 scoring and in particularly scoring on long Par 4’s was one of the keys to Dustin’s success.
Step 3. Check the weather forecast!
This is such a simple step that many handicappers and fantasy players ignore week in week out.
Weather plays a big part in course difficulty and thus a players performance.
Some players are better suited to wind than others, sometimes it’s due to the ball flight and how low or high the golfers natural shot goes and some guys have just been brought up playing in windy conditions.
Most players from the UK grew up playing very windy coastal courses for example. On the PGA tour currently players from Oklahoma and Texas for some reason seem to play rather well in the wind.
If the weather is sunny and windy on Thursday and Friday we can normally assume that the green speed will increase as the tournament goes on. Therefore making putting more difficult and it also more difficult to hit and stick greens for the players.
Conversely, overnight showers on a Wednesday will soften the greens and players who hit off early on Thursday morning should be able to really attack the pins.
Step 4. Practice Rounds, Interviews and Pro-Am’s – The Lead Up!
This is a really interesting one that not many players are doing and requires you to follow various social media outlets and if you can, keeping an eye on the Golf channel or PGA website.
In the days leading up to a Tour event most players will arrive on the Monday and complete several practise rounds and of course several interviews.
Information and access to this can be found on Twitter by following various golf journalists and of course by following the PGA Tour on all social channels. They do a great job of chatting with players and going round the course before the event begins.
By following this information you get a chance to validate the thoughts you’ve gathered in steps one and two and obtain special information and insight from players that can’t be quantified or found in statistical analysis.
Keep in mind that players may be trying new things in the lead-up and not be fully dialled into a mindset of scoring well.
The edge here may be small but it’s an edge that many players are ignoring. That extra one or two percent might be the difference come Sunday afternoon!
— Ben Everill (@BEverillPGATOUR) August 24, 2016
Step 5. Tee times matter
This one is a natural flow-on from Steps 3 and 4.
Yep, tee times matter alright. Most of the time they favour those hitting off early, but not always!
The majority of Golf courses and the ‘traditional’ style are set up by curators to ensure that they course progressively gets tougher as the weekend unfolds.
Part of this and a big factor that impacts players ability to shoot low numbers is green speed.
Assuming fine, clear weather the greens are naturally going to faster at 2pm on Thursday afternoon than they were at 7am Thursday morning. This gets amplified on Golf courses like Oakmont that are renowned for their incredibly fast greens that are like putting on glass.
We can also assume that if the winds are between 30-45 mph in the afternoon it’ll be more difficult for players to shoot low numbers than during the morning where winds should not exceed 15-20 mph.
Want to dive really deep into this metric? Why not find out the best 10 rounds of the previous tournament played at the course and cross-checking it against the tee-times and weather at that time during that tournament.
How far are you willing to go to find your edge?
We hope that you’ve now got a better understanding on how to analyse a Golf course for fantasy play and you’re ready to go out there and create some killer lineups!