Beyond The Course: Vol. 4

Driving Change: The TUGR Approach to Golf Rankings

The Universal Golf Rankings (TUGR) began as an idea amongst friends on Kiawah Island in 2022, and has transformed into a full ranking system that was recently used as an entry criteria into the LIV Golf Promotions Event. The idea of a performance-based ranking system seems so simple. We fans are always discussing who’s better and using stats to back it up. It would only make sense that the professional golf world uses those same stats when looking to invite the best players in the world to the most prestigious events.

We had the opportunity to get some perspective from the guys over at TUGR. First things first, we needed to know in layman’s terms how TUGR differentiates itself from OWGR, or a system like OWGR.

In the simplest terms OWGR is a ‘points-based’ system that is based on a complicated formula with many moving parts and leverages dated technology to calculate their rankings. TUGR is a ‘performance-based’ system where we map the relative scores of every player, against every other player they compete against, and leverages the most up-to-date technology when calculating all variables. Unlike OWGR, TUGR does not exclude any players from the rankings.”

The Universal Golf Rankings

OWGR uses a complicated formula that has gone through several changes over the years, but effectively they allocate points to an event based on the strength of the field, and then award those points based on finishing positions. This presents numerous complications that have been openly criticized by many in the golf world.

Tiger Woods was quote as saying “It’s a flawed system” and went on to clarify that they have changed things in the past, and the tours that are involved with OWGR should come up with a better system than they currently have. TUGR thinks a ranking system should be independent of any tours. As they like to say they “rank players, not tours”.

Think of it like a centralized vs. decentralized system. OWGR is centralized and the executives at the institution make the rules and change the rules at their discretion. TUGR is the closest thing to a decentralized ranking system as you can get because relative player-performance determines the ranking, that’s it. TUGR won’t “change the rules”. It’s like a satellite system that can pinpoint your exact position amid 2,000+ players.”

The Universal Golf Rankings

Davis Love III, major champion, Ryder Cup captain and 37 time winner recently said “You can solve a lot of things in the golf world if you stop using OWGR”, and suggested that the world revert back to an old system, inviting players based on major tour’s money lists. While something like this is certainly possible, it doesn’t solve the most pressing issue in golf rankings. The top players in the world are no longer part of the traditional “establishment”, and unless all major tours were considered it wouldn’t work.

In 1998 Augusta National began to include the World Golf Rankings in their entry criteria, inviting the top 50 at the end of the year, and the top 50 roughly one month before the tournament. This change reflects an important philosophy amongst majors. They want the best players in the world playing at their events.

“Our existing qualification system served us well. We think, however, our new methodology better reflects the changes in golf, and will ensure that the best players worldwide are invited to the Masters each year.”

Hootie Johnson, 1998

As of the writing of this article, their current methodology doesn’t ensure that the best players will be invited to the Masters. Joaquin Niemann, winner of the 2023 Australian Open on the DP World Tour sits on the outside, as OWGR ranks him 74th in the world. He was inside the top 10 when he joined LIV Golf in 2022. TUGR has him ranked 28th. Another performance based ranking system, DataGolf, which uses a strokes gained analysis, has him 20th. This is just one example of how a once sufficient entry criteria is no longer doing it’s job. TUGR thinks they could be the solution to a system that’s so deeply entrenched in the professional golf landscape.

“TUGR is the escape hatch from the legacy system that isn’t working anymore. Players, fans, and tours want and need accurate rankings as these rankings determine so many incentives within the game. As TUGR continues to show it’s a more accurate way of rankings all golfers, regardless of where they choose to take their skills, our hope is that the golf community will opt out of the legacy system for a better approach.”

The Universal Golf Rankings

Whether it’s the current TUGR ranking, a future TUGR system, or an entirely different ranking system altogether, it’s important that a stats-based system is what’s being used for entry into the game’s most prestigious events. It’s imperative to the preservation of their legacy.

When asked what the visions and future plans were for TUGR, the answer was simple.

“TUGR aims to be the independent source that players, fans, and all stakeholders can trust – free from politics, discord, and pettiness. Golf governance is complicated and the battle for control is playing out in real-time. There are rules governance, tour governance, majors governance, and so on. If TUGR can continue the path we’ve started, our hope is to rise above the politics of all these governing bodies and be a steady hand as an independent party to the game.”

The Universal Golf Rankings

There’s a fair argument that the game of golf is more divided than it’s ever been before. However, I think something that everyone can agree on, if a ranking of professional golfers is going to be used for invites to the game’s most prestigious events, a stats based approach is the way to go. Both TUGR and DataGolf provide in depth statistics on player performance and utilize those statistics to rank the worlds best. It’s an approach that seems so easy, so effortless, and just makes so much sense.

“Golf is the greatest game on earth. It deserves better on many fronts, but especially the rankings front. Golf is going through an “evolve or die” moment in what is becoming the biggest evolution and transformation in decades. Old systems won’t fit the new paradigm and new companies will pop up all over the industry to address the new landscape. This new paradigm will require greater transparency, at all levels, and TUGR is a small piece to this landscape.

The Universal Golf Rankings

I like the methodology behind TUGR, and while I definitely don’t think any system is perfect, a performance based analysis and ranking system seems like the best way forward. What they offer is unique, a new head-to-head style ranking system for golf, that can truly be applied to any professional golf tour in the world, regardless of how many holes they play, or if they have a cut.

Be sure to check their rankings out on their website:


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