Whistling Straits
August 11, 2010, 01:52 AM
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With the PGA Championship returning this week to Whistling Straits, a spectacular pseudo-Irish Pete Dye golf course on Lake Michigan north of Milwaukee, I thought I'd link to this review I wrote of the course when it was new in 1999.
(For my 2005 magnum opus on the art of golf course architecture, see here.)
Also, Michael Agger is writing a long series this week in Slate on innovations in the study of golf statistics, which looks pretty good.
One issue that distinguishes team sports, such as baseball, from individual sports, such as golf, in terms of the applicability of moneyball techniques is that baseball teams have both statistics-driven training and selection techniques available to them, while individual golfers have only training. Touring pros can't deselect themselves, without taking up an exciting new career in giving golf lessons at the country club.
For example, the Bill James revolution in baseball encouraged teams to start asking their players to try to walk more and hit more home runs, even at the cost of additional strikeouts. Sometimes hitters could change their style, sometimes they couldn't. If they couldn't, teams became more likely to get rid of them. (See the career of Raul Mondesi, who was worshiped as a god of the diamond, until more sophisticated baseball stats came into fashion.)
With golf moneyball, it can be very useful for players who are amenable to changing approaches. I suspect, however, that we will see some pretty good golfers fall apart as they attempt to incorporate the insights of the new golf statistics and, in the process, ruin the delicate balance of their games and psyches.