Strokes Gained, Simplified

, Lead Editor of GolfLink
Updated April 27, 2021
A stack of old golf scorecards

    In its simplest form, strokes gained is a representation of how a golfer actually performed compared to how they were expected to perform. A positive number means they performed better than expected, or they gained strokes. A negative number means they did not perform as well as expected, they lost strokes.

    How Strokes Gained Works

    The PGA Tour collects data on every shot hit in every tournament using ShotLink, and the Tour calculates the average number of strokes to complete a hole from every possible location on a golf course, down to one-inch increments on the green and one-yard increments off the green.

    If a player is in a location where the average number of strokes to complete the hole is 3.75, and that player hits their shot to a location where the average number of strokes to complete the hole is 2.25, that player gained half a stroke with their shot. If that happened to be their tee shot, that player gained 0.5 strokes off the tee with that shot.


    Strokes Gained Categories

    On the PGA Tour, strokes gained are tracked in six categories: off-the-tee, tee-to-green, approach, around-the-green, putting, and total.

    Strokes gained: tee-to-green includes all strokes not taken on the putting green.

    Strokes gained: around-the-green includes any shots taken within 30 yards of the putting green, but not shots taken from the green.

    Strokes gained: approach includes all shots outside of 30 yards excluding tee shots on par-4 and par-5 holes.

    Strokes Gained Compared to Traditional Statistics

    Strokes gained statistics provide a solution to the traditional golf stats that are often misleading. Statistics like fairways hit, driving distance, greens in regulation and total putts don’t tell the true story of what a player did well or needs to improve.

    Example: Amanda and Bob each finish their round with 26 putts. Amanda made several putts from outside of 30 feet, while Bob hit several short-game shots to within three feet, resulting in easy tap-ins.

    Comparing the number of total putts would not differentiate these two performances, but a strokes gained comparison would illustrate that Amanda gained strokes putting, while Bob gained strokes around the green.


    Strokes Gained for Recreational Golfers

    Strokes gained statistics aren’t reserved for PGA Tour players. Recreational golfers can track their strokes gained stats as well, and can quickly identify the areas of their game where they have the most potential to lower their scores.

    There are a number of ways for weekend warriors to begin tracking their strokes gained stats. For players who don’t want a large up-front cost and don’t mind using their phone throughout the round, there are apps such as 18Birdies, V1 Game, Golf Pad, SwingU Versus, and others.

    Those who are willing to make an investment in their strokes gained stats, and don’t want to pull their phone out on every shot, could take advantage of products like ShotScope, Arccos, or Golf Pad Tags, which utilize sensors on each club to track the club used, location, and result of each shot throughout your round. offers a free strokes gained: putting calculator. To use the tool, be sure to note the length of each putt and number of putts on each hole throughout your round, then input those numbers, along with your handicap (or target handicap) into the calculator.

    Regardless of the method used to collect your own strokes gained data, analyzing your statistics can result in quicker improvement and more accountability on the golf course.

    Image: bgwalker/E+ via Getty Images