We used real data to determine what clubs a mid-handicap would hit at a major setup


We all know we’re not capable of doing anything remotely similar to what Brooks Koepka does, short of tying our shoes. But not only is Koepka comfortably ahead of the pack on the PGA Tour, he is so far removed from the average golfer that what he’s doing, or more precisely what we’re doing, might as well be a completely different activity.

How different? Data from Cobra Connect, a stat-tracking system powered by the Arccos Caddie GPS grip-based sensors, paints a slightly terrifying picture of how an average golfer might navigate Bethpage Black compared to how Koepka just did. One example from the data: Average golfers playing the best golf of their lives would hit more 3-wood second shots in the first four holes than Koepka hit for the entire week.

Through Cobra Connect’s database of average golfers, the Arccos Caddie sensors determined typical club distances for a 16-20 handicapper. We then compared those distances to how Koepka played the holes at Bethpage Black. (Of course, given Bethpage Black’s infamous sign warning of its “Extremely Difficult” conditions for only “Highly Skilled Golfers,” in reality our 16-20-handicapper would be strongly discouraged from playing the course at all, but let’s allow our fantasy to play out.) It’s also worth noting that these hypotheticals don’t include how inaccurately our average 16-20 hits every club in his bag. Given that the rough at Bethpage Black had reached close to five inches deep by the end of the week, it is also highly unlikely that most average golfers would even be able to reach the fairway most of the time, let alone hit clubs out of the rough anywhere near the distance they might hit them from a clean lie in the fairway.

2019 PGA Championship
J.D. Cuban

Koepka on Sunday had a wedge into 9 of 18 greens on Sunday.

Related: What separates Brooks Koepka from his competition

A USGA study once suggested that average golfers only hit the green from the rough 13 percent of the time. But that was data collected at a resort course, not major championship rough. It’s probably safe to say that the average chopper would never hit the green from the rough at any distance that required a full swing. Indeed, Cobra Connect’s data from Arccos shows that an Average Joe hits the green only a third of the time with only his 8- and 9-iron and his wedges, clubs he’d only be using on Bethpage Black’s two par 5s. Maybe.

In fact, according to the numbers, he would only hit the green on about one in four chances with his 6- and 7-irons, one in six chances with his 5-iron, one in eight chances with his 4-iron and just one in 10 chances with a 3-hybrid. And about that 3-wood? According to the numbers, the average golfer’s GIR percentage with that club, as they say, has no grade point average.

All of those missed greens (and the attendant tragic golf despair and perhaps some measure of physical injury) then would be compounded further by plenty of around-the-green misadventures and misplays. Arccos data suggests the average 15-handicap gets up and down less than one in five times. Furthering this ugliness would be all those 3-putts, which Arccos data suggests might happen on at least four holes a round, particularly at major championship speeds.

In reality and given the rough at Bethpage Black, it might even be fairly likely that a 15-handicap would double up on Koepka’s opening round 63 at the Black as it was set up for the PGA Championship—assuming he’d even finish the round at all. But let’s go best-case scenario. Here’s a look at the hole-by-hole, comparing the two-time PGA Championship winner’s best shots at Bethpage with an Average Joe playing the best he can possibly play, which as we’ve discussed is highly unlikely. Short strokes: Koepka is walking up his driveway, we’re climbing Everest.

Hole-by-hole breakdown (Koepka yardages from final round)

1st hole, par 4, 430 yards
Koepka: Driver, half-lob wedge
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood

2nd hole, par 4, 389 yards
Koepka: 4-iron, gap wedge
Average Joe: Driver, 6-iron

3rd hole, par 3, 230 yards
Koepka: 4-iron
Average Joe: Driver

4th hole, par 5, 517 yards
Koepka: 3-wood, 8-iron
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood, gap wedge

5th hole, par 4, 478 yards
Koepka: Driver, gap wedge
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood, lob wedge

6th hole, par 4, 408 yards
Koepka: Driver, lob wedge
Average Joe: Driver, 6-iron

7th hole, par 4, 524 yards
Koepka: Driver, pitching wedge
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood, pitching wedge

8th hole, par 3, 210 yards
Koepka: 8-iron
Average Joe: 3-wood

9th hole, par 4, 460 yards
Koepka: Driver, 6-iron
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood, half-lob wedge

10th hole, par 4, 502 yards
Koepka: Driver, gap wedge
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood, lob wedge

11th hole, par 4, 435 yards
Koepka: Driver, pitching wedge
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood

12th hole, par 4, 515 yards
Koepka: Driver, 5-iron
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood, sand wedge

13th hole, par 5, 608 yards
Koepka: Driver, 6-iron, 8-iron [layed up]
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood, 3-hybrid

14th hole, par 3, 161 yards
Koepka: 8-iron
Average Joe: 6-iron

15th hole, par 4, 484 yards
Koepka: Driver, gap wedge
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood, lob wedge

16th hole, par 4, 490 yards
Koepka: Driver, 7-iron
Average Joe: Driver, 3-wood, lob wedge

17th hole, par 3, 207 yards
Koepka: 6-iron
Average Joe: 3-wood

18th hole, par 4, 411 yards
Koepka: Driver, gap wedge
Average Joe: Driver, 3-hybrid

Cobra Connect Arccos average yardages for 16-20 handicapper

Driver: 235
3-wood: 203
3-hybrid: 192
4-iron: 174
5-iron: 171
6-iron: 165
7-iron: 155
8-iron: 145
9-iron: 134
PW: 118
GW: 105
SW: 93

Brooks Koepka yardages

Driver: 315
3-wood: 265
3-iron: 245
4-iron: 225
5-iron: 205
6-iron: 195
7-iron: 180
8-iron: 170
9-iron: 155
PW: 140
GW: 125
SW: 110
LW: 95

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