Ryder Cup Vibes: Who’s better – US vs European Amateur Golfers?

Our friends at Shot Scope have access to the best performance-tracking data in golf. You know, how far on golfers drive the ball on average? How far from the hole they actually hit their gap wedges? Good stuff. Smart data.

In recognition of our explosive excitement for the Ryder Cup kicking off this week in Rome, we wanted to set the record straight. Good vs. Evil. Us vs. Them.

Shot Scope’s empirical performance data would never lie.

We came right out and asked them: Who is better – US hacks or European hacks? Ok, so we didn’t ask just for data on the hacks reading this, but you were included in the data set we received. 1,000 US amateur golfer rounds played by varying skill levels vs. a comparable European data set.

So which group of golfers performed better? Here is what we learned:

This was closer than a 360 lip out
  • Europeans shoot lower scores. 15.37 vs 16.22 strokes over par. But here’s the catch: this data isn’t reporting on 1,000 US golfers and 1,000 Euros playing the same course. Nope. The Yanks played in the States and the Brits and their friends played overseas. We still give credit to the “team” who averaged the lower score, but not by much. Advantage: Euros
  • Yanks are less likely to come up short. There is a joke in here somewhere, but we don’t want to get banned from Google Search Results, so we’ll let you close your eyes and think dirty. 49.1% of US approach shots come up short vs. 51.4% for their adversaries. We’re opining that the Euros play in more wind which makes it harder to control iron distances. With that being said, facts are facts and the US squad does come up short less often. Advantage: Yanks
  • Neither the US hacks nor Euro hacks hit a high % of greens, both coming in at just over 23% of greens in regulation. The Euros may come up short of the hole more often, but they do hit their approaches slightly closer than their playing counterparts from the US. 23.8% vs. 23.4%. Don’t kid yourself — this is a key stat that drives home that both of these groups need to play more golf and sharpen their skills. Advantage: Euros
  • Driving distance. Not a surprise here, US golfers are longer. By seven yards on average. That isn’t an insignificant distance. When a shorter-hitting Euro is pulling a 5-iron for their 2nd shot, the stronger/faster US golfer in their group is likely pulling a 6-iron. Now, per the previous stat, the US golfer isn’t hitting their 6-iron any closer, but they should be. (Hello PGA Coaches out there.) There are a whole lot of US golfers roaming the fairways that need a lesson or three to improve their scores. Advantage: Yanks
  • US golfers hit it longer and straighter off of the tee. Nice! (Sorry, we’re biased here at B&B). US golfers hit the fairway off the tee on average 52.1% of the time vs. 49.4% of the time. For every three rounds of golf, the Yanks hit one additional fairway. Advantage: Yanks
  • Euros play par 5’s better. They dink it down the fairway. Dink it again. And then hit the green with a wedge more often. More greens in reg on par 5’s = lower scores. 5.78 compared to 5.92. Darn it. Advantage: Euros
  • I don’t care what the data says; making a par on a par 4 is never easy. In the case of the data we are reporting on here, US golfers average a better score relative to par on par 4’s – 5.01 to 5.12. Lots of room for improvement. Advantage: The Good Guys
  • This stat isn’t a surprise: Euros hit more greens in reg throughout a round which directly translates to lower scores on par 3’s – 3.77 to 3.94 strokes on average. Good for them. We’re bombers, remember! Advantage: Euros
  • This stat is a “slight” surprise, at least to us. Total number of putts per round. Sure, most US courses are better manicured than their Euro counterparts, but links courses’ greens are traditionally slower which should help average golfers cut down on three-putts. Again, maybe the windier conditions in the UK lead to more putts per round. On average US golfers take 31.8 putts per round vs. 32.9 putts per round. That is a big difference. One whole shot. Advantage: US
  • Who makes more putts from inside 6 ft? This is a virtual tie. 74.2% compared to 74%. Shot Scope is giving the stat victory to the US squad because they are nice people from Scotland. Maybe the midday whisky has them feeling warm and fuzzy. Advantage: US
  • The Euros are better chippers, pitchers and lobbers, getting up and down 21.1% of the time vs. 20.6%. Not surprised here. With all that wind they deal with, they’re getting more experience/practice hitting shots from just off the green. And in the UK they’re playing on tight fescue, probably hitting Texas wedges (ironic, don’t you think?), whereas in the Southwest and Southeast parts of the US, golfers are gouging out of clumpy Bermuda grass. Not fair we say. Not fair at all! Advantage: The lucky folks from across the pond playing on fescue
  • Europeans hit their chips, pitches, and lob shots closer than the US group. 12.7 ft vs 13.3 ft. Big whooping deal (actually, kind of is). See above. Putting the ball from just off the green is always going to be easier than having to hit filthy gougers. Advantage: Euros

There you have it — the US bests the Euros in six stats, while the Euros best the US team in six stats.

But in our Ryder Cup spinoff there can’t be a tie, at least where Shot Scope data comes into play. Looking at all of the stats, they came up with a tiebreaker metric. Over the course of 1,000 rounds each, the US golfers included in the data set holed out 237 shots from off of the green vs. 211 shots made by the Euros. Note: What we don’t know is how many of those hole-outs were for albatrosses or eagles or birdies or snowmans? (Should it be snowmen?) Nor do we know from where on the course, near or far. But we do know that Americans love the limelight and step up when they need to most.

Play Off Decider…the United States of America!

We hope that all 12 members of the 2023 US Ryder Cup squad read this post before they tee it up next Friday in Rome. If they do, they surely will be inspired to win the Cup on European soil for the first time since 1993. Let that sink in. As good as the US squads have been since Phil and Tiger came onto the scene, they still haven’t won on European soil in 30 years. Dang.

Good luck to both teams. We can’t wait to watch all of the action.

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