2017 The Northern Trust – Thursday, August 24th through Sunday, August 27th

No Course History, No Stats, What to Do?

Case Study:  Week 1, 2017 FedEx Playoffs

The Northern Trust

The Glen Oaks Club, Westerly (Long Island), New York

7,3109 Yard Par 70

Top 125 Players in the year to date FedEx points; 100 get through to the next round.


This week the Northern Trust hosts the first round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs at The Glen Oaks Club, which has never hosted a PGA event. No matter where you fall on the “relevancy of course history” debate, it’s significance stabs you in the eye when you don’t have any “course history” and the statistical summaries that we use to determine “course fit.”   This situation pops up about once a year; it always reminds me of how reliant we are on other people’s, assumptions and often meaningless, course descriptions.  I used to listen to all the pods available, synthesize all of this information regarding the course and players that fit.

BAD IDEA.  I’m sure you have noticed how two different touts will have opposite reads on the demands presented by that week’s tournament.  This week we have nothingNo history, no stats, and no real reports from players, except a couple of Scott Brown post-practice quotes and an (excellent) interview with the Superintendent of the course: click here

I know I have been beating this drum for a couple of weeks, but nothing will make you better at DFS Golf than doing your own “course fit”analysis.  This week, we don’t have any choice: There are three pillars of analysis in DFS GOLF:  Course History, Course Fit, and Recent Form.  Since we don’t have any history, we have to develop our own “fit.”  I’m not going to discuss it here but obviously,  “Recent Form” takes on even greater importance this week.

Despite the dearth of information, you still need to approximate “Course Fit.”  As I have discussed in previous editions of the DFS Golf Primer, this starts with establishing key second/approach shot distances along with general characteristics that could influence play.  What type of greens? What is the courses biggest defense, water, penal rough, tons of bunkers? How wide are the fairways, what is the potential range of scoring (how many strokes relative to Par.)

Where should you start?

Start with PGATOUR.COM.  Even better, if you’re running Windows 10, download the PGA Tour APP.  On the website, you’ll usually find the hole by hole descriptions or flyovers of each hole with the Superintendent’s description of the course.   The Northern Trust is rolling out all the stops (the event is very NYC; half fashion show, half haute cuisine, with a dash of golf)  so there is a plethora of simulated holes and descriptions:

Hole by hole descriptions: click here

3D Virtual Tour:  click here

In general, the PGA APP is better than the website but lacks the “hole” descriptions.

Each hole is clickable and expands in 3D so you can get a sense of the problems presented by each hole. At the top of the picture, you see that Glen Oak plays as a rather long 7,350 yards Par 70; longer than the tour average and the third longest Par 70 on tour.  The knee jerk reaction is to roster all the bombers, and print money on Sunday.  After a more in-depth review, I think that distance control and long iron play will be equally, if not more important than distance off the tee.

Some quick impressions:

Many of the holes at Glen Oak are substantially lower than the tee boxes. Downhill tee shots run out long, especially on courses that haven’t seen any recent rain.  These factors will make a course play shorter than advertised.

The greens are a cultivated Pao and Bent mix; they play fast:  12.5 on the Stimpmeter.  I’ll be curious to see if these greens change throughout the day.  Some say that Poa courses are actually two courses because they change so much from morning to afternoon.  Usually, Poa becomes bumpy and grainy in as the day progresses.  One strategy you could employ is to roster golfers that start as early as possible in each shift.

One thing you notice immediately about Glen Oak is the large number of strategically positioned, sand traps that litter the course.  Superintendent Craig Currier (who has worked at Augusta and Beth Page Black), deliberately placed fairway bunkers in the general vicinity of the tour’s average tee shot.  Thus, golfers are consistently confronted with high risk/reward situations, depending on how they navigate decisions about distance control and accuracy.  People don’t “lay-up” or “club down” on tour anymore, so I expect some big numbers caused by misjudgments on these holes.

In the following breakdown of each hole, you will see that it’s imperative this week to land your tee shot in the fairways.  Most approach shots will be in the 175-200 yard range.   At these distances, it’s impossible to put enough spin on the ball to stick the greens if you’re shooting from the rough.

Not sure how successful this strategy will be, but, if you can out distance these traps and still land in the fairway, then sure…you will have a huge advantage on the field.  But, if we assume a very generous, 60% DA (Driving Accuracy), I think you can safely assume that 40% of these attempts will fail, further driving down scores.

I’m expecting the winning score to be in the low double-digits unless the course softens up.

For each hole, I assumed a DD of 300 yards, once again I’m generous.  However, even at these inflated DD’s, approach shots still average over 175 yards.  It should be noted that this isn’t a thorough course overview, I’m just looking for second shot distance, notable hazards, and moving on.  The entire process takes around 30 minutes.

  1. Par 4 498-505 Yards—————–200 Yard Approach (Once you click on the individual hole, it expands, and you can manipulate it, and check it out from different perspectives.)
  2. Par 3 ——————————200 Yard Approach *Par 3’s are graded as “”
  3. Par 5 625 Yards—————–Reachable, kind of… Downhill but guarded by bunkers, third shot wedge?
  4. Par 4 490 Yards—————–175-200 Yard Approach
  5. Par 4 474 Yards—————–175-200 Yard Approach
  6. Par 3 185 Yards—————–Tricky, skirted by water and in between clubs, might be a “tourney ”
  7. Par 4 470 Yards—————–Another hard hole, fairway slopes toward OB area 200 Yd. Approach
  8. Par 4 450 Yards—————–Tricky again, fairway bunkers where you want to put the ball
  9. Par 4 440 Yards—————–Best to club down, narrow fairway-protected (Got me leaning OTT)
  10. Par 4 445 Yards—————–150 Yard Approach
  11. Par 4 315 Yards—————- Distinct water hazard, <50 Yard Approach, or Eagle Opp.
  12. Par 4 450 Yards—————–Dangerous bunkers again, narrow fairway, 150 Yard Approach
  13. Par 5 540 Yards—————–Reachable, >200 Yard Approach
  14. Par 4 445 Yards—————–150-175 Yard Approach
  15. Par 3 185 Yards Water——–185 Yard Approach, bailout to the left bunker, green slopes towards the water on the right, tricky again.
  16. Par 4 400 Yards—————–Depends, you don’t need a driver. 100-150 Yard Approach
  17. Par 3 235 Yards—————–Definite par hole if you pin seek probably looking at a 4
  18. Par 4 465 Yards—————–Great finishing hole, up to the golfer: <100 Yard Approach or >150; If you go over the pond and the bunkers easier shorter shot. If you play it safe, it’s a downhill lie to an uphill approach.

There are only two par 5’s, only one of them reachable.  There are four par 3’s, and they are long; three of them are over 200 yards, and all protected by bunkers and water.  That leaves us with eleven Par 4’s with an average distance of around 480 yards.  Therefore, a majority of our approach shots are 175 yards or more.  (On Par 3’s the tee-shot is considered an approach shot).  What are the key stats this week?

SG: APP 175-200 Yards


Proximity 175-200 Yards


Par 4 Efficiency

Par 3 Efficiency

And a weird one I’m looking at: BOB 475-500 Yards.

A word of caution, while I expect this to be a second shot course, I could be wrong, and bombers could rule the day.  Most of my lineups will reflect the fit you see here.  However,  I’m “risk averse,” so I’ll be correlating my lineups based on different types of golfers:  “Ball-Strikers,” other lineups with distance taking more of a leading role, some Poa specialist.s, early tee-times, etc.