Adding distance is perpetually a hot topic in the golf world. Instead of talking about the pros, I want to talk about you – and why it’s a good idea to pursue distance and how you do it responsibly.
Recently, Adam Young, Cordie Walker, and I recorded our third podcast episode on this topic. You can listen to it below. In this article, I’m also going to summarize some of the main recommendations I have for golfers, and link to other articles I’ve written to provide more detail.
The closer you are to the hole, the better opportunity you have to post a lower score. All things being equal, distance is a scoring advantage. Mark Broadie demonstrated this in his ground-breaking book, Every Shot Counts
While the pro game usually dominates the discussion about distance, and whether there is too much of it, the fact remains that recreational golfers need help in that department. The typical male golfer swings their driver at about 90 mph and doesn’t drive the ball more than 230 yards on average. On top of that, almost every data point suggests that the farther you can hit it off the tee, your scores will drop.
Take a look at this chart from Shot Scope, which tracks the performance of golfers on the course. You can see a correlation between average driver distance and handicap level:
The good news is that you don’t need to bulk up and drink 6-8 protein shakes a day to increase your ability to hit the ball farther. There are reasonable steps golfers of any level can take. But make no mistake, pursuing distance is a vital game-improvement category that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Most golfers assume that to hit the ball farther, they need to add swing speed. While speed certainly helps, it’s not the only way to get the job done. In fact, for most players, going the “efficiency” route can be just as fruitful as trying to add swing speed.
Here are some of my key ideas on how to become more efficient:
All things being equal, the faster you swing the golf club, the more distance you can expect. Many golfers certainly want to swing it faster, but they don’t know ways to get it done correctly. In my research, I’ve encountered two methods – you can do them separately, but you’ll likely get the best results if you do them together.
Personal launch monitors have become all the rage over the last year, especially in the below $500 category. I’ve spent a lot of time testing all of these gadgets and writing reviews. One of their primary benefits is that they can measure your golf ball speed, swing speed, and estimate distances. If you’re working on adding length to your game, these gadgets are a great and relatively inexpensive way to benchmark your progress.
Here are links to reviews on several that I recommend:
Long story short, hitting the ball farther allows you to shoot lower scores. However, you should have a plan on how to add distance to your game! If you pursue some of the ideas in this article, or from our podcast episode, I think you’ll see some nice results.
California is a big state with an even bigger list of great golf courses, and that selection can make it difficult to narrow down a destination for your next buddies’ trip or golf getaway. We’ve gone through some of our golfers’ favorites and picked out four of the best golf courses in California that give anyone a great place to plan a round. And these four are just the start – with fantastic options from San Francisco to San Diego, there really isn’t a bad choice among the bunch.
Speaking of San Diego, Maderas Golf Club is a beloved Southern California treasure of a golf course. Creeks, mature trees and rocky terrain offer an excellent mix on this track less than an hour outside of San Diego, while rolling fairways and greens provide a challenge for every golfer. And several of the bunkers feature high edges, making for a real challenge if you stray too far from the fairway.
In the northern part of the state, just an hour outside of San Francisco, The Links at Bodega Harbour is the type of California golf course that offers golfers the coastal views and links layout they dream about. But don’t let the amazing scenery lull you to sleep – you’ll need a solid game plan and some arrow-straight shots to avoid the nearly 100 bunkers and rough spots comprised of tall coastal grasses.
Yocha Dehe Golf Club at Cache Creek Casino Resort
Just west of Sacramento, set among scenic rolling hills that seem to stretch on forever, is Yocha Dehe Golf Club at Cache Creek Casino Resort. An elevated first tee greets golfers ready to line up their shot over a 160-foot drop. Hilltop greens and strategically placed water hazards can make for some difficult situations if you’re not careful, as can the blind tee shots on 12 and 17. But keep your aim true and line up a few critical shots well and you’ll be rewarded with one of your most memorable rounds of golf
The Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links, situated right on San Mateo County’s coast, will have you feeling like you’ve been transported to an idyllic Scottish golf course – without ever having to leave California. Catch a round on the right day, and the wind and fog will only add to the feeling that you’re playing a golf course half a world away. Coastal cliffs and bay views, combined with elevated tees, rolling terrain and some undulating greens, all make this a highly recommended California golf course from local players and visiting travelers alike.
The way you practice has a great deal of influence on how well you will perform on the golf course. You want to be efficient and productive with the limited time that you have. In this article, I’ll explore one of the foundational concepts of productive practice – blocked vs. random.
In my opinion, most golfers have spent way too much time on blocked (repetitive) practice. While repetition has its merits, I want to explore why introducing variation to your training can help take you to the next level in your game.
Also, you can listen to a podcast episode that I, Adam Young, and Cordie Walker did on the topic to give you a bit more perspective below:
Most of you are very familiar with blocked practice; it’s what the majority of golfers are doing. A simple definition would be practicing the same skill over and over again, repetitively. An example would be if you were at the range and hitting your 7-iron to the same target without making any changes.
Random practice introduces some changes in each shot. Let’s say you had a lob wedge in your hands, and you hit to targets that were 75 yards, 25 yards, 50 yards, and then 40 yards. Each time you had a new goal, and it would force your mind and body to go through a calibration process. Another example would be changing the club on each shot – you could hit a sand wedge, 7-iron, and driver.
In my experience, the vast majority of players are spending way too much time on blocked practice. A lot of golfers don’t even know what random practice is and what kinds of benefits it can provide.
Over the last several decades, there has been plenty of research emerging in sports and plenty of other disciplines that call into question the efficacy of blocked practice. One of the main arguments is that repetitive practice might lead to better results during training sessions, but fails to transfer long-term skills that can be used in “game situations.” Many of you likely know the frustration of hitting great shots at the driving range and then being wholly demoralized when you can’t recreate that success on the golf course. I believe a lot of that has to do with the way you practice.
Additionally, blocked practice can work against many golfers because they are merely ingraining bad technical habits. If you are struggling with a slice, and keep hitting balls over and over again without making any changes, how can you ever expect to fix it?
Perhaps taking a lesson and getting some new drills to try or experimenting with trying to hook the ball could fix the issue. But you would never know until you made some change.
Without getting too deep into the woods on the topic, it’s believed that randomized practice helps transfer skills more effectively because it challenges you to solve more problems.
When you hit a driver 30 times in a row, likely, you are not paying too much attention. It requires a lot of mental discipline to concentrate while you do something repetitively. However, if you had to change your club and target each time, your mind will have to readjust and adapt to the new challenge. Many believe that variation is training your brain to perform better under pressure.
It’s impossible to know precisely the right amount of blocked practice and randomized practice that will lead to your best results. I believe both have their merits when it comes to improving your golf game.
No matter what you are doing, engagement and concentration is the most critical factor in my estimation. If you have a plan for each shot and focus throughout the process, you are giving yourself a better chance of improving your skills. I believe that introducing random practice to your routine can help with that process. But that doesn’t mean you should throw repetitive practice out the window!
Let’s say you were hitting your 8-iron to the same target 20 times in a row. Here is a list of things you could be doing to increase your engagement:
Those are just a few examples, and there are probably hundreds of different ways you could come up with to give meaning to a blocked practice session. I don’t want to inundate you with too many ideas, because focusing on one thing at a time will likely work best for you. For many golfers, merely concentrating on the target and taking note of where the ball ended up could enhance their performance.
Overall, repetitive practice does have its merits if you are correctly engaged. My number one hope for you is to prevent those “zombie range sessions” where you mindlessly hit balls without giving much thought to what you are doing. You are lowering your chances of increasing your skills.
I don’t want to give the impression that random practice is the solution to all of your golfing woes. Because it isn’t. Even if you changed your target every time you hit a golf ball during practice, there is still going to be a chance that your mind and body are not adequately engaged in the process. However, I believe variation gives you a much better chance of simulating the conditions you will see on the golf course, and preparing you more effectively.
After all, golf is a random game. How often do you get the same shot on the course over and over again? Every round you play, you are always faced with randomness. You’ll get different lies in the rough, uneven stances, the wind will keep shifting, or perhaps a tree will be in your way, and you need to find a way around it. Your preparation should take that into account and introduce some variability.
Here are some examples of random practice:
The best part about all of these methods is that they are usually more fun for golfers. If you try some of them out, you’ll likely start looking forward to the practice range, rather than feeling like it’s some obligation.
Overall, I think there should be a healthy mix of repetitive and variable practice methods. No matter what you are doing, you want to have a plan and be engaged.
It’s difficult for golfers to make improvements in their games if they don’t know where to look. Unfortunately, when most players finish their rounds, a lot of that critical information is discarded. You might remember a few of your great shots or your poor ones, but I find that golfers don’t have a real grasp on what is actually going on in terms of their overall trends.
That’s where stats can help. But traditional ones like putts per round and fairways hit can be misleading. If you want to really know what’s going on, you need to take a much deeper dive. Fortunately, over the past few years, there are several companies in the performance-tracking space that collect that information for you while you play and present that analysis in a neat online dashboard.
One of the leaders in this space has been Shot Scope. Several years ago, the Scottish-based brand solved a significant problem with their V2 GPS watch, which allowed automatic shot-tracking without the use of a cell phone or having to manually tag your shots before each swing. Their new release, the V3, just hit the market and it packs a significant upgrade. After using it several rounds, I now believe the company has removed pretty much any objection to using their system from a price perspective and functionality.
Shot Scope V2 was a fantastic product. The system allowed golfers to track their game automatically, show yardages through a GPS watch, and gave access to a robust online portal, which showed a detailed analysis of where they needed to improve. The only complaint you would hear from golfers is that the watch was too big.
Back in January, I met with Gavin Dear, the company’s Chief Commerical Officer at the PGA Show. I knew what I wanted to hear from him – that Shot Scope had a new hardware upgrade, and the watch was now smaller. In my view, it was the system’s only real imperfection. Low and behold, he delivered on my request.
My next question was the price point. I assumed they would charge more of a premium for a newer release, perhaps in the $300 – $400 range. Gavin told me it would be around $200.
I responded, “I think you’re going to sell a lot of these.”
If you’re not familiar with Shot Scope, you can read my review of their V2 release for a bit more detail on what it has to offer. They managed to create a system that solved many of the problems its competitors faced. Arccos requires a cell phone to be in the golfer’s pocket to track their shots, while GAME GOLF requires users to manually tag shots before each swing. Shot Scope was the first solution that allowed golfers to play their rounds with just a GPS watch tracking their shots in the background (you have to screw in tags on top of each of your club grips).
While I didn’t have a massive problem with the V2 watch, it was a deal-breaker for certain golfers due to its size.
Shot Scope V3 debuts a noticeably smaller GPS watch. It now has color, a better battery life (up to 10 hours), and a more substantial GPS capability to improve shot-tracking accuracy. It’s almost exactly the same size as my Apple Watch.
Recently, I played five rounds with the V3 watch. Similar to V2, you still get yardages to the front, center, and back of the greens as well as hazards. It’s a sharper screen with colors now, but most importantly, it’s no longer a burden on your wrist.
All course downloads and round editing is handled through their mobile app, which is quite intuitive to use.
For the most part, almost every shot I hit on the course was tracked appropriately. You do have the option of manually tagging where the pin is while you play for enhanced putting accuracy. However, I found that even when I did that, you still should expect to spend about 5-10 minutes after your round in the app to make sure everything is accurate. Putting is really the only place where the watch might not detect precisely where you are on the course. Shot Scope did tell me they will potentially address that issue with a firmware upgrade that will boost the GPS signal.
Overall, there wasn’t much of a problem with V2 in terms of its functionality, but the newer version of Shot Scope solves the “watch size problem” and adds a boost to its GPS accuracy and battery life.
The online dashboard is still top-notch, and they’ve also added a lot of social elements where you can compete against other golfers. For less than $200, you’re getting a GPS watch and shot tracking system that doesn’t have any ongoing fees. In the current marketplace, I think that’s a great value proposition.
When this category first started 5+ years ago, I was very excited about its prospects. If you want to become a better golfer, I do believe keeping track of your stats can absolutely help. Traditional statistics like fairways hit can be misleading, though, and almost every company in this category does a great job taking a deeper dive into where your game needs help.
I did like what GAME GOLF had to offer despite its requirement to manually tag shots, but unfortunately, the company is no longer in business.
is still a big player, but it does require you to keep your cell phone in your pocket while you play, which is a deal-breaker for me. They do have a workaround with a sensor you can wear on your belt, but it’s currently unavailable and brings the total cost of the product closer to $300. Additionally, there are ongoing fees to use their software.
Garmin has their CT-10 tracking system
, which I liked, but it does require the purchase of one of their watches, which makes it even more expensive.
With its current release, I think Shot Scope has nestled themself at a nice price point. Additionally, they have mostly solved the problem of tracking your shots during the round without being a nuisance.
You can purchase Shot Scope V3 on their website here.
I know many of you are used to reading my thoughts on golf, but I’m happy to announce Practical Golf is on another platform! I’ve joined forces with Adam Young and Cordie Walker from Golf Science Lab to record a series of podcasts. We are going to try to answer different reader questions, and our first episode just launched.
We debate whether the concept of “swing your swing” is good advice or not. Give it a listen, and feel free to post your feedback in the comments section or ask a question about golf that we can potentially cover in future episodes.
A lot of apparel companies want to honor the traditions of where golf has been. Swannies, an up and coming golf apparel brand, takes a less serious approach and captures where the game is going for many.
The younger generation of golfers doesn’t want to look like their parents. And they don’t want to take the game so seriously either. While many outsiders view golf as a country club sport, the muni culture is just as important for the future of the game. Swannies is one of the few brands looking to address that culture in the golf world.
It’s been impressive to see them grow over the past few years. Golf apparel is a fiercely competitive market, and it’s difficult for small companies to generate momentum in the beginning. Most retailers and pro shops are perfectly content stocking the clothes they know will sell versus a newer, unproven product.
Swannies started with a very small line of apparel, and now they’ve grown it into a full offering that’s being stocked by hundreds of pro shops across the country. When I first reviewed their clothing, I was impressed by their designs, quality, and laid-back approach. If you take a look at their new arrivals, you’ll see that everything is moderately priced, and it certainly appeals to the younger golf demographic.
The golf world took notice when Justin Thomas teed it up at Riviera this year in a hoodie. The horror! (kidding)
If you dig the hoodie look, then one of Swannie’s newest releases might entice you. They’ve got a nice performance hoodie made from a polyester/spandex blend that’s comfortable to lounge in or easily swing a golf club. This is perhaps my new favorite product of theirs.
Swannies also beefed up their polo offering this year, and I think they’ve kept up with a lot of the trends with their new designs. I’ve worn the Blake Polo several times so far this year, and love its comfort and subtle stripe design.
Whether you like more traditional polos or more modern print designs, they’ve got something for everyone in their selection. I also think they’ve done a great job sourcing quality fabrics that won’t break the bank (most of their polos cost $59).
Lastly, if you’re into t-shirts, Swannies has got you covered with plenty of designs.
Overall, it’s great to see their continued growth. I also think Swannies is on to something, and it’s not a surprise that their overall style is resonating with more and more players. You can check out their complete line on their website here.