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Study: When Do Birdies Occur?

September 28, 2011

Beginning in September, I set out to do a small study notating when birdies were the most likely to occur in a round.  My idea for this project started because I had noticed (or thought I did) throughout the years when looking through tournament scorecards (pro, college, club, etc.) a trend that birdies occurred more frequently when adjacent (either before or after) to a bogey or worse.  With this in mind, I set out to do some record keeping to see if this trend held true.  As it tends to happen, the project did not turn out exactly as I expected but I did note some items that may be of interest.

From my observation, I was hoping to find a distinct statistic that birdies were more likely to occur when adjacent to a bogey or worse.  What I found was that birdies obviously occurred the most frequently adjacent to pars.  Of course this makes sense to me now, as par is the expected score for any hole.  Therefore, especially on the professional tours, birdies were most common adjacent to pars, and second most common adjacent to fellow birdies.  However, I did notice while looking through college and other amateur tournament scorecards (where birdies are overall less frequent than on professional circuits) that birdies were more likely to occur adjacent to bogeys or worse than on the professional circuits.  I saw numerous scorecards where the lone birdie occurred after a double or triple bogey.  Likewise, I saw numerous scorecards where the lone double or triple bogey occurred after a birdie.

A computer program with a lot more speed and statistics knowledge than I would be better suited to conduct this type of study.  There are so many different combinations that could be looked at; handicap vs. birdie percentage, birdies before bogeys or worse, birdies after bogeys or worse, the list can go on.

If I could summarize from my time restricted amateur study, I would say this:

1. Overall, birdies are most likely to occur adjacent to pars (at the level of tournament play in which I studied).  Admittedly somewhat obvious now.

2. The scorecards on professional circuits had more birdies and less bogies (or higher) overall than college and club scorecards.  Again, perhaps this is elementary, as they are professionals who make their living playing at the highest level.

3. Therefore, on professional circuits birdies are most likely to occur after pars and second most likely to occur after fellow birdies.

4. As handicaps increase, birdies are less frequent and the pattern of birdies occurring adjacent to bogeys or higher increases.

Why is this? In my opinion, this relates to the mental game and the mindset change amateurs experience, both after having a birdie or high score.  These themes indicate that if professional scorecards do not follow the pattern as much as amateurs then their mindset is not changed as much by a particularly lower or higher score on a certain hole.

Let’s take the complete average golfer for an example.  Let’s say he or she is steadily going along playing his or her routine game and then has a birdie.  He or she may become quite excited about it and try extra hard to do something out of their normal realm to keep their good round going.  This would be the example of when that triple bogey then occurs as the golfer tries to force a birdie and ends up miss hitting a shot or two, leading to a difficult hole.

Let’s take the typical competitive collegiate golfer for an example.  Let’s say this golfer is steadily going along playing his or her routine game and then encounters a sporadic 9 on a hole.  He or she may become frustrated and disappointed initially, realize the impact of scoring a 9, but then realistically let go of some pressure to feasibly shoot a very low round, therefore actually freeing him or her up to focus without that distracting pressure and allow them to play their highly skilled game.  Boom.  Birdie on the next hole.

In both cases, a mental change has taken place.   It was particularly interesting to see these scorecards where there was only one birdie, yet it was after or before a bogey or worse.   This to me is a direct relation to the mental approach taken on the hole.  It is funny how we do not always have this approach, but it can happen or be spurred to happen on the course.

We can also take a lesson from the professionals.  There have been studies done that indicate professional golfers have much less emotion change and significantly fewer overall thoughts during their rounds than the average amateur.  A good challenge would be to stay within a more even keel when playing.  Without emotions pushing too far in either direction, there is room for true golf games to shine though.

Look for this trend of when birdies occur when you are watching golf or checking leaderboard scores. Let me know what you think.  Have you seen this happen as well or in your own game?  Why do you think this is so or not so?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2011 9:55 am

    Interesting. Enjoyed reading that.


    • September 28, 2011 10:54 am

      Thank you JG. Very amateur study on my part but think it would hold true on a larger scale too.

  2. September 28, 2011 9:58 am

    I agree with JG…very interesting. You should approach a statistics dept at a college and find someone to do a little project on this.


  3. September 28, 2011 11:15 am

    I have noticed with my son who has a low handicap, that after making a birdie, he will sometimes have a bad hole. I think it is a result of him being young and getting to excited, he then tends to get a little to quick, a little to cocky, just a little less disciplined in his routine. I hope experience and maturity will teach him to not get to high or to low, but to play and trust his game.

  4. September 29, 2011 6:00 am

    Great Stuff! Thank you, Sara! So many amateurs ride the emotional roller-coaster. Calm ‘mental-waters’ are to be sought. Let’s take a deep breath (or a few dozen), and help our pupils even their keels!

  5. October 21, 2011 12:49 pm

    I am not sure where you’re getting your info, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for great info I was looking for this information for my mission.

  6. February 9, 2012 10:47 am

    Fascinating! I follow junior golfers all the time and have noticed the “post 9” birdie effect. This is really good insight for a young golfer to understand the mental outlook he/she needs to play their best!

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