PGA-Shotlink DataVis

Designed for Golf Enthusiasts

2015      Georgia Tech       In Progress


John Stasko (Mentor)       Anand Sainath (Previous Work)

Project Scope

Sports analytics are becoming more complex. In particular, the PGA has begun to adopt new metrics for assessing the play of their pro golfers. Since golf is an individual sport – these metrics do not directly factor into how much each player is paid: there are no teams, no salary caps, and no “starters”. The statistics of golf are used by: the golfers themselves, the analysts who assess them, and the golf enthusiasts who watch them.

Golf enthusiasts and recreational golfers are different when compared to their likeness in other sports. The avid recreational player is interested in stats because they define themselves as golfers based on their handicap. Golfers refer to themselves as +5 handicap or maybe a scratch golfer (I wish). You don’t see that in other sports, where recreational athletes define themselves based on their stats. A basketball fan probably cannot tell you their average points per game in pick-up basketball. Therefore the recreational golfer has a greater interest in the statistics of professional golfers.

Given this vested interest in stats, the golfing enthusiast needs tools to analyze and compare golfers to ask questions and gain new insights. Maybe a fan wants to compare the performance of the latest up-and-comer, Rory McIlroy, to the Arnold Palmers and Gary Players of the game. Or perhaps a fan wants to compare Tiger Woods’ performance in the U.S. Open across his career. There needs to be a tool that can elicit these questions while also providing the answers if they exist. Also, there needs to be a tool that can make new-age statistics, such as shots gained and z-score models, accessible to the every-day golfing enthusiast.

Project Goals

Develop an interactive information visualization tool for analyzing PGA statistics. The system will visually display historical and current statistics of PGA golfers. The tool will allow for comparison between golfers, between tournaments and between rounds within tournaments.

The tool will also help to explain more sophisticated statistics such as Mark Broadie’s shot gained model. The tool will explain these statistics by showing the user how the statistic is constructed and calculated. Visual story-telling would be a great technique to explain these concepts.

Also, in order to stay relevant, the tool could ingest real-time data from ongoing tournaments and display it to the user with shot-tracking. The user could even compare a golfer’s current performance in a tournament to their previous results.

In order for this tool to be successful it must be able to inform the target user. The system must also be enjoyable to the user – perhaps it mirrors the tranquility and serenity of a golf course with engaging course graphics. The tool must also be able to handle dynamically updated data. This means being able to ingest new results during the ongoing PGA tour events.

Project Updates

Coming soon... Please check back to my blog posts in Fall 2015.