How to utilize performance data to gain a competitive edge

How to utilize performance data to gain a competitive edge

Performance data is becoming a tool in the bag of elite players and professionals around the world to advance their game. Over the past 5 years, data has increasingly become available for amateur players, with ambitious performers seeking out solutions that will help them lower their scores. 

We are going to explore 3 key questions surrounding performance data and its utility for coaches and players:

  1. What is performance data and why is it important?
  2. How do coaches and players utilize insights to improve performance?
  3. Where do I get started? 

  1. What is performance data and why is it important? 

As a coach, you have limited visibility into a player's game at any one time. For many players, you will only see them on the practice tee. For almost every player, your interactions will be limited. As coaches, we rely on information from the player, a task that players cannot accurately complete because of natural cognitive bias. Players have an inability to resource you, their coach, with the information that can help you identify and address areas of their game that will lead to the greatest score reduction. 

Put simply, at a minimum you should know 5 key things:

  • When is a player on the course?
  • Objectively, how have they performed during that round?
  • When are they practising?
  • What are they practising during their sessions?
  • Objectively, how have they performed during that practice?

Objectivity is crucial. Over a round, thousands of data points can be collected and analyzed related to performance. Not only are players unable to process that quantity of information during a round (and we should not expect them to), but all too often subjectivity creeps into personal evaluation. Cognitive bias takes over, resulting in them communicating the wrong information to you, as you seek the best route to improve performance.

This is where performance data comes in. Recording basic shot data that is already being collected (lie of the ball & distance to the pin) allows objective analysis and communication between player and coach, resourcing you with the information you need to influence performance. 

  1. How do coaches and players utilize insights to improve performance?

Understanding the current performance of a player is a fantastic advantage. Where it becomes meaningful is how it is applied to players to move them from their current performance level, to their goals. Working with the player, coaches seek to establish:

  • What is the current performance level of the player?
  • What are their goals for improvement? 
  • What are the best ways to bridge their performance gap?
  • How do coach and player work together to iterate their approach?

Understanding a player's current performance level is established through the analysis of performance data. Data provides a benchmark of performance for that player, clarity of their performance profile, and forms the beginning of meaningful interaction regarding improvement. 

Building goals for improvement and identifying the best plan to bridge the gap combines both data analysis and data science. We seek to understand which areas of a player's game will have the greatest benefit to score reduction. 

Iterating this plan is achieved by establishing a coaching cadence using evidence of a player's performance, collected during rounds and practice sessions. For players, they are able to continue working on areas that will be most impactful for them. For coaches, you’ll see faster results, and an increase in lesson times from a wider group of players.

  1. Where do I get started? 

Exploring how you can add data science to your coaching offer can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there is growing expertise within data science for golf, and it has become easy to get started. Depending on your level of comfort and understanding of collecting and utilizing insights from performance data, you’re able to dip your toe in with more information or move directly to engage players who you want to establish data-driven coaching plans with.

Circles is free for coaches and involves free trials for players too. Circles provide free education to coaches considering this change, as well as education and support for players. A helpful blog on the top 5 apps can be found here.

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