Live scoring can change strategy of golfers' approach

May 1—In NCAA Division II golf, players are connected to a live-scoring system throughout the entire tournament. Players are asked to update their own scores through an app on their phones.

That's how the scoring is tracked by coaches and officials to make sure everything is updated correctly.

This also offers an opportunity to track opponents. In competition, players usually are in a group of four playing down the course and every other competitor is ahead of or behind them on a different hole so they don't know the scores of those players. With live scoring, they know anyone's score at any time throughout the day.

"You're looking for momentum and now that we have this live scoring that everyone gets to watch, all of the coaches watch it and a good portion of the players watch it. Everyone knows what everyone's doing," MSSU head coach Mike Wheeler said.

That momentum Wheeler talked about can be found near the end of a round. If a team is gaining ground on an opponent that can change strategies.

The Lions have said live scoring affected their MIAA conference championship victory this year as well as last year. The tournament earlier this year saw MSSU make a comeback from seven strokes down to start the final day.

They took the lead with multiple holes left and Wheeler wonders how it may have affected Central Missouri to see MSSU making that charge on the live scoring during the final day.

"How that affects the individuals on their team (Central Missouri), I can't say exactly, but it has an effect," Wheeler said. "Because I've seen that same thing have an effect on us when we're leading."

MSSU's players Tradgon McCrae, Ben Marckmann, Dylan Bagley, Luis Limon and Josh Hamnett each had a different perspective on live scoring.

Once the lead was intact for MSSU, Limon saw the score tracking make an impact in his approach to the final few holes.

"I like looking at it. At conference, we had three more holes to play and I knew we were winning by four so I played more conservative," Limon said. "If we were down by one (stroke) I would have definitely tried to make some birdies."

That effort to try to make up a stroke can be seen on a par-5 with a dogleg. A players may be more comfortable taking the simple shot into the middle of the fairway, but if they know they are trailing they might take the riskier shot up the edge of the fairway and try to get more distance toward the green by hooking or slicing the ball with the fairway.

It can even be seen with a par-3 that has a water hazard around the green. Hamnett talked about playing more conservatively to avoid a hazard on Hole 17 in the MIAA tournament.

"It definitely made a difference at conference on the last day going into Hole 17. I went up to coach and I was like 'How are we doing? Do I need to birdie one of the last two?'" Hamnett asked. "We were three (strokes) ahead. So I just clubbed up to make sure and get the ball on the green and not even mess with the hazard (in front of the green).

"I don't really check it throughout the day, just the last few holes to know where we're at."

There are other factors that go into each shot besides the score. Wind can play a major role in the decision to be aggressive or when to be conservative and just take the safest shot. Some players simply like to read the shot, decide their best opportunity and take it.

"I don't really look at it. I don't want to get too connected to it because the round's not over yet and a lot can happen," Bagley said. "I'm afraid I'll get in my head if I look at it too much."

Other players may develop a routine. MSSU's Marckmann said he likes to feel comfortable after a good shot, heading into a shot he's confident in or following a good hole is when he likes to check the score.

"I do check the score on the course because you have to do the live scoring on your phone anyway," Marckmann said. "So you can just go to the next tab and see where everyone is at.

"I do use a routine. I don't check it before a difficult shot or a difficult hole just so I don't put myself under more pressure."

McCrae admits he watches the updates. Knowing how others are playing and how he's playing is important to him. That could fall back to that momentum Wheeler mentioned. McCrae always knows who's sliding up or down in the field of play.

"I check it basically after every hole. ... Josh (Hamnett) almost never looks at it," McCrae said. "It's always good to see how the team's doing."

In the past, most players only knew the scores in their group.

"We used to play without it (live scoring) and I didn't know. It was guesswork," Wheeler said.