Why horse-for-course bias isn't exactly what you think it is
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Why horse-for-course bias isn’t exactly what you think it is


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Everyone has a system. Every fantasy golf player and every golf bettor feels they have a way of identifying winners, each-way cashers, top-10 studs and cut-makers each week.

Some have a very simple process, throwing money and burning picks on the hottest hands and the highest-ranked players. Others choose a more complicated strategy, trying to reverse engineer why players do well at certain events by looking at statistical data.

The debate in fantasy golf circles usually boils down to how much you trust current form compared to course history. Logic says you should pick the best at the moment and the most consistent players week-to-week. But there are some players who just love some courses. They're horses for courses. Or are they?



A few weeks back, I got into an interesting Twitter conversation around horse-for-course bias, including the gang from Data Golf, which produces great statistical analyses of trends, scoring and other data in an effort to see if there really is a system that can predict tournament results. So far, he's found little to no statistical trend suggesting pro golfers broadly have a horse-for-course bias. His modeling suggests players largely fall close to their general mean, even on courses they like and at venues they feel most confident.

But then you remember the examples. Dustin Johnson at Riviera. Jason Day on Pete Dye courses. Charley Hoffman at TPC San Antonio. Tiger Woods at, well, a lot of places. Luke Donald at Harbour Town.

What do you mean there's no correlation?!

And then it struck me.

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About the author

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com