Driving range shot tracking: this, my friends, is the future

Today, I witnessed the future. Not only that, I *experienced* the future.

I took my daughter to play crazy golf at World of Golf’s Dinosaur Golf in New Malden. Our first visit to that venue. Thoroughly recommended. (I had a good round, scuppered by a woeful effort on the 16th, comparable only to Rory McIlroy’s efforts on the 10th in his final round at Augusta in 2011. I digress.)

After an intense 18 holes, we bought 100 balls to crack off on the driving range.

A big banner told me that my shots would be tracked and measured at no extra cost. This had me rather excited. Data meets golf. What’s not to like?

This is how it works.

You choose your bay. We chose bays 45 and 46 on the top deck. (If there are two decks, you have to choose the top one, right? It’s the law.) Then you log into the Wi-Fi with your smart phone, hit a website and tell it which bay you’re in. And you put your phone on a stand in front of your tee.

Then you start cracking off your balls. (Not a euphemism.)

Cameras track your shots. Don’t ask me how. It’s voodoo I believe. Your screen shows you the arc of your shot. (The right side of my screen was becoming well-worn and overheated.) And it tells you the take-off angle and speed, as well as the distance the ball carried and its maximum height. Utterly mesmerising.

And it seemed pretty damned accurate.

I didn’t figure out a way of you telling it which club you were using. I’m sure there’s a way, but I was too busy being blown away by the concept to worry about that.

Apart from the odd 5I shots, I stuck to my lovely new driver and my equally delightful new 3W. It was only the second outing for the 3W, yet it proved rather fabulous, equalling the driver for distance and being more reliable in direction. (This was probably more down to my poor handling of the driver than my prowess with the 3W.)

Here’s a link to my stats. Only 25 shots were recorded. (My daughter took half of the balls, and the technology had me sufficiently baffled for many of my own. For the record, she strikes the ball consistently and well, and while she lacks distance, her aim is probably better than mine.)

I’m happy carrying over 200 yards on a few occasions, some of those with the 3W. But I need to work on my direction consistency.

Utterly blown away by the technology. It really is rather special. And I will most certainly be going back.

Ryan Giggs’ longevity

So, with Ryan Giggs having made his 1,000th professional appearance the other night, I thought it an opportune moment to post this, a chart showing his Manchester United longevity.

Quite impressive on all counts, I’d say, particularly with at least a year left to run. Remember: this only shows players with 100+ caps. Click through to see it full-size.

Ryan Giggs

Full medal analysis: London 2012

And here is the eagerly anticipated analysis of the medals won in London’s 2012 Olympic Games. It comes after a similar analysis following Beijing’s Games in 2008.

The USA topped the table with 46 golds, 29 silvers and 29 bronzes (104), followed by China (38G, 27S, 32B (88)) and Great Britain (29G, 17S, 19B (65)). Russia, South Korea, Germany, France, Italy and Hungary occupied the next spots, with Australia rounding out the top ten (7G, 16S, 12B (35)).

In Beijing, Russia took third place with 23 golds to Great Britain’s 19.

If medal winning was entirely random across the globe, then Great Britain would expect to win 8.6 medals (compared to the 65 it won), the USA 43 (it won 104) and China 185 (it won only 88).

If, as is the case for NBC, a medal is a medal is a medal, then Russia would replace Great Britain in third spot, with 82 medals over Great Britain’s 65, and Germany (44) would hop past South Korea (28) and France (34). Indeed Australia would leap to seventh. So let’s not do that, shall we?

In total, 85 of the 204 participating nations went home with a medal.

If you allow for countries’ populations, then Grenada won by a country mile, with 95 medals per 10m population, followed by Jamaica (44), Trinidad & Tobago (30), New Zealand (29), the Bahamas (28) and Slovenia (19). Great Britain came 23rd (10.4), USA 49th (3.3) and China 74th of the 85 medalling countries with 0.65. (Chinese Taipei, in 69th, beat China with 0.86, as did Hong Kong (62nd with 1.4).) India bring up the rear (of the medal-winning nations), with 0.04 medals per 10m population.

Top spot in 2008 went to the Bahamas with 60 medals per 10m population.

Looking solely at the larger nations (populations over 10m), Australia in 2012 was the most successful nation (15 medals per 10m), followed by Cuba (12.4), the Netherlands (12.0) and Great Britain (10.4).

If Yorkshire were a country, and medals won by teams with one or more people from Yorkshire counted for the county, then it would be eighth in the actual medals table (9G, 1S, 2B), ahead of Italy, Hungary and Australia. It won 30 medals per 10m population, fourth on this ranking, behind Trinidad & Tobago.

In sitting down sports, Great Britain romped home (18G, 9S, 7B), ahead of Germany (8G, 8S, 5B), Australia (5G, 7S, 5B), New Zealand (5G, 2S, 5B) and France (3G, 4S, 1B). We fare less well in sports that require standing up.

In purely men’s events, Great Britain tied both China and the USA on golds (17 apiece), and leapfrogged China into second place, taking 17G, 9S, 13B to China’s 17G, 8S, 11B. In women’s events, Great Britain drop to fourth (9G, 6S, 5B) below Russia (12G, 17S, 15B). In mixed events, we top the table (3G, 2S, 1B) over Germany (2G, 1S, 1B), China (1G, 1S) and Switzerland/Belarus (1G).

And of the countries boasting medals in the double figures, Kazakhstan had the highest gold percentage (54%) followed by Hungary (47%), South Korea (46%), New Zealand (46%) and Great Britain (45%). The USA (44%) and China (43%) came next, but Canada converted a mere 6% of its medals to gold (that’s one out of 18 medals). Since Belarus were stripped of their women’s shot put gold, their percentage drops to 17%.

[Click through for a full-size version.]

The poppy debate: why Fifa was right

Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty since the outbreak of World War I.

Since it was established, the men’s England football team has only played one game on the day itself. On 11 November 1987, we beat Yugoslavia 4–1 away from home. But almost every year in recent memory, England has played a match somewhere close to the date. In 2005, we beat Argentina in Switzerland the day after Armistice Day. In 2001, we drew with Sweden at Old Trafford the day before.

Yet for some reason, this year there is a big row over Fifa’s original decision not to allow the England team (and indeed the Welsh team) to sport a poppy on their jerseys. Apparently today, they have changed their stance slightly, allowing poppies before the game as well as one on the black armbands that the team will wear during the friendly against Spain on Saturday 12 November.

David Cameron confronted the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions today.

I think [the questioner] not only speaks for the whole House, but in fact the whole country, [in] being completely baffled and frankly angry [at] the decision made by Fifa.

Quite frankly David, he doesn’t.

Fifa’s original stance was, in my view, correct. While I expect that the majority of people across the globe would support the principles behind the allied forces’ stance against Nazi Germany, I doubt that more recent wars in which Commonwealth countries have engaged would attract similarly unanimous support.

Sport is divorced from politics and agendas. And this is one of its beauties. The furthest it has historically gone in commemorating the past has been the wearing of black armbands as a mark of respect for a recently passed sporting hero, or a minute’s silence before a match for similar reasons.

Should Germany be allowed to wear an emblem on their jerseys to commemorate those lost in their wars? Or Afghanistan and Iraq? Or is the Commonwealth – or more to the point England – seen as a force of good, the founder of football, a country elevated above other nations’ causes?

The furore has been fatuous. And the cynic in me thinks that maybe it’s been raised this time around to divert attention away from the racist allegations against the England captain.

Instead of wearing a poppy, maybe Mr. Terry should commemorate the Commonwealth’s contribution to the war efforts by embracing fellow players that have emanated from the Commonwealth.

An analysis of the 7,466 Premier League games

Between the 1992/3 season when the Premiership began and the end of the 2010/11 season, the biggest goal difference in the Manchester derby was five, United beating City 5–0 in the 1994/5 season. The biggest away victory in the fixture was United’s 3–0 win that same season. Not a good year if you were a City fan. The former record was equalled today, with City’s 6–1 drubbing of United at Old Trafford; the latter was shattered.

Across all 7,466 Premiership/Premier League games, only 2.3% have seen seven or more goals. (Portsmouth’s 7–4 win over Reading in 2007/8 holds the single game goal record, btw.)

If we ignore the home/away victor, 1–0 has been the most common scoreline (18.52% of games), followed by 2–1 (14.91%), 2–0 (12.63%), 1–1 (12.22%) and 0–0 (8.68%).

Two is the most likely number of goals (24.85% of games seeing this many goals), followed by three (20.80%), one (18.52%), four (14.26%) and zero (8.68%).

If you want to see lots of goals from your team while they’re at home, buy a Man Utd season ticket, with an average of 2.21 goals scored, 4.34 goals per season more than their closest rivals, Arsenal. (Steer clear of Wigan Athletic, with 1.06 goals scored by themselves per home game.) If you want to follow a team around the country, choose Man Utd, with 1.74 away goals per game. Of the current Premier League crop, don’t follow Norwich around, at 0.68 away goals per game.

If you just want to see goals, irrespective of who scores them, follow QPR, with 3.01 goals seen per game. Steer clear of Stoke City, with only 2.30.

Fabulous dataset, btw. Took a little compiling.

Some impressive Premier League/Premiership stats

During the 15 years for which the Premiership/Premier League has consisted of 20 teams (excluding the as yet incomplete 2010/11 season):


Premier League: points needed to avoid relegation/win the league

Since the 1995/6 season, when the Premiership was reduced to 20 teams, the best-placed relegated team (that in 18th-place) in the top flight has had:

This is the number of points that you’d need to exceed to stay in the league. This season, 39 looks certain to get you relegated.

At the top, the second-placed team (the number to exceed to win the league) has had:

This season it looks like being a mere 73.

So this season has seen more competitiveness from the lower teams, leaving less spoils for the top teams.

Dalglish vs. Hodgson

I’m impressed with how Kenny Dalglish has managed Liverpool since he took over on 8 January. So much so that I decided to create a spreadsheet to compare his performance with that of Roy Hodgson. Below is a summary of the results.

In the Premier League:

Dalglish has averaged 2.06 points per Premier League game, to Hodgson’s 1.25. Incredibly, Dalglish would have averaged 2.06 points per game had all of his games finished at half time too. Hodgson would have averaged a meagre 1.15. Unfortunately, for Liverpool, the average points per game across the two managers was 1.61, not sufficient to trouble the top of the table.

In the Premier League, Dalglish has won four (50.0%) of his eight away games, drawing a further one (12.5%). Hodgson won one (10.0%) of his ten away games, drawing a further two (20.0%). In front of the Kop, Dalglish has won six (75.0%) and drawn two (25.0%). Not a loss in sight. Hodgson won six (60.0%), drew two (20.0%) and suffered two (20.0%) losses.

In Hodgson’s nine losses, his team lost by an average of 1.67 goals. Dalglish’s team lost by an average of 1.33 goals in their three losses. (This number is, by its very nature, always greater than or equal to one, btw.) Dalglish’s winning margin is a staggering 2.5 goals per game compared to Hodgson’s 1.71. Across all Premier League games, Dalglish racked up an average of 2.19 goals per game, letting in an average of 0.88; Hodgson’s team averaged 1.20, letting in 1.35.

At half time, Hodgson’s average was 0.5 goals for and 0.5 goals against. Dalglish averaged 1 goal for and a mere 0.19 goals against.

In Europe (including qualifying), Hodgson performed better, although he would have managed the easier games at the start of the season:

Across all competitions, Dalglish has won 11 (52.4%) of his 21 matches, Hodgson winning 13 (38.2%) of his 34, again inflated by early European competition.

Dalglish’s record in the FA Cup is less rosy. One game played, one game lost. 1–0 away at Old Trafford. It was on his second day in charge though.

Golf in honour of Her Majesty

Yesterday I played golf. Civil servants get the day off the end of May Bank Holiday as a privilege day, meaning they don’t bother turning up for work in honour of one of the Queen’s many birthdays.  I too took the day as holiday and joined two of them for a day of golf at Cray Valley near Orpington.

Now this morning, the sun is shining and conditions are perfect for a relaxing round of golf.  Yesterday, there was light rain throughout the day, clearing up the moment we stepped off the 18th green.  Bastard rain.

I’ve not played for a couple of years, but held my own pretty well.  Actually, that’s not quite true.  I held Simon’s late dad’s.  His driver.  And it served me very well indeed.  The direction was not always spot on, but the distance and connection was there 90% of the time, which is no mean feat for someone whose last round was probably two years ago.

I went out in 56, which I was marginally disappointed with, mainly because it was tainted by a septuple bogey on the first hole—four shots of which were taken within inches of one another in a bunker.  Had that been a six instead of an eleven, I’d have been ecstatic with a 51.

And I came back in 48, a remarkable feat for me, but a half-round again tainted by a hapless nine on the twelfth.  My last six holes were all fives, something I don’t think my scorecard has ever seen.

And four pars in a single round is unheard of for me.  (Simon disagrees, and never having played me before, believes I’m a ringer.  I’ll suggest he calls my dad to vouch for my overall ineptitude for the game.)

Simon will be producing a full, Excel-driven Stableford analysis forthwith.  But in the meantime, I’ll dine out on my score of 104 and my three pars.  Despite the rain, I spent a great day in very good company, and here’s hoping my next round is less than two years from now.

Now, I must speak to Simon about his dad’s will, and whether the driver was in fact left to his son’s friend, one that he’d never met.  I’m hopeful.

A wonderful life

Tonight I’m sat on our balcony having just devoured a delicious mountain of self-barbecued meat and scrumptious wife-prepared salad.  The blackbirds are hopping around the freshly-watered lawn below in search of aquaphobic worms; and delightful engine noise interrupts the evening every 90 seconds or so, as planes make their final descent, returning holidaymakers to Heathrow.

The sun has dipped over the house and now drenches the tops of the trees and the houses opposite with its deep orange sunlight.  And the breeze is sufficient to make the trees rustle and sway, but is not so strong as to interrupt my pleasure at the passage of the evening.  Meanwhile my daughter sleeps soundly and safely in her cot.

Life is good.

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