There is a lot of talk these days about driver distance and its impact on the game. This is not really a new topic as the same discussions happened when Tiger first made a splash on the pro tour. Separate from the pro tours, this leaves many amateurs wondering if they are hitting their driver far enough. This article will take a look at the different ways we can answer that seemingly simple question.
If you want to know how your driver distance stacks up against other recreational players, we gathered data from several resources:
Between these three sources, we can see how far millions of golfers are hitting their drives by handicap level and age (spoiler alert: you may be surprised).
The common assumption is that golfers are hitting it much further today than they did in the past. To study this, the USGA and R&A released their “Distance Insights” report earlier this year. While the report proved to be light on recommended solutions, it did provide a lot of data.
Here is their driving distance by handicap level since 1996:
This data comes from an R&A survey of club golfers. Unfortunately, their methods weren’t exactly “robust,” and the USGA either hasn’t collected or released this data for US golfers yet. However, the R&A data syncs up well with what we can gather from golf technology providers like Arccos and Shot Scope.
As you can see, amateur golfers aren’t exactly bombing the ball. The majority of players are not driving it farther than 220 yards on average, and that number has held stable for over 20 years.
Shot Scope has been tracking millions of real golf shots around the world over the last several years. If you look at the distribution of driving distances amongst their users, you’ll see that only 29% can hit it more than 250 yards.
The largest segment of golfers is driving the ball between 200-224 yards.
Also, looking at driving distance by handicap level, you see that hitting it longer off the tee is a scoring advantage.
Similar to Shot Scope, Arccos has had the benefit of tracking millions of real shots amongst golfers at all levels. This year they released their Average Driving Distance report, which features data ranging back to 2017.
Looking at driving distance by handicap level, we see similar distances:
If you take a larger step back and look at all of their users, you can see that the average male golfer hits their driver about 225 yards while a female averages just under 170 yards.
While amateur golfers don’t seem to be hitting it farther on average than they used to, it’s clear that the professional game has changed.
The Distance Insight report gathered average driving distance amongst the major professional tours over the last several decades. We can definitively say that pros across all tours are hitting it further these days than they did 30 years ago.
Taken together, it seems pretty conclusive that while the pros have gained distance, that really hasn’t translated down to the amateur level. While you may have a playing partner who regularly cracks drives over 300 yards, the average (and median) drives across all handicap levels rarely top 250.
So how do you hit it farther? Let’s discuss…
To get more in-depth than the averages above, we must understand that everyone’s golf game is different. Driving the ball is an essential aspect of the game, so a better understanding of our potential driving distance can help all golfers play better out on the course. That brings up the question; how far should you hit your driver?
Two fundamental factors mostly determine how far you can hit your driver – clubhead speed and strike quality. Looking through data across all different golf levels tells us that it will produce around 2.55 yards of carrying distance at sea level for each mile per hour of clubhead speed.
This 2.55 yards per mph of clubhead speed is what we can call the “driving efficiency.” While some golfers can produce higher efficiency (notably LPGA tour players who tend to be more efficient than their male counterparts), this would be considered very high for most golfers. Producing this type of efficiency brings the second factor into play – strike quality. While a lot goes into strike quality, it is all about creating the optimal launch angle and spin characteristics for the driver’s swing speed.
Trackman provides fitters with “optimal driver” numbers by club speed. We can see that slower club speeds require higher launch and higher spin to achieve their optimal carry from this data. As the club speed increases, these launch and spin numbers decrease.
Another interesting tool to play with to determine optimal numbers is the Flight Scope Trajectory Optimizer tool. This site allows you to input the launch parameters and get an estimated carry and total distance. It uses ball speed instead of club speed. This is another strike quality variable but is roughly 1.4 to 1.48 times the club speed (this multiplier is the smash factor).
For example, a golfer hitting the ball 150mph at a 15-degree launch with 2500rpm of spin will create a carry of around 246 yards.
However, by raising the launch to 18 degrees and lowering the spin to 2000rpm, the ball will be expected to carry six yards further.
Equipment definitely plays a part in both club speed and strike quality; however, the most significant influence is the swing itself.
The reason that golfers care so much about driver distance is simple; we want to hit it farther. And we should. Hitting your driver well is one of the keys to lower scoring!. The simple answer to hitting it farther is swinging faster, increasing your attack angle, and improving strike. That’s much easier said than done, but a few general tips previously covered in Practical Golf can help accomplish them.
You can read our guide to increasing your driving distance for more in-depth tips.
Understanding your driver distance requires having the data to complete the picture. While tracking your drives during rounds certainly helps, it involves many uncontrollable variables that will impact the results. This is where launch monitors help.
Getting your data on a professional level system like GC Quad or TrackMan can be done with clubfitters or teaching professionals. Also, several personal launch monitors are on the market today, which can provide the essential numbers for adding distance, like swing speed, ball speed, and launch angle.
You’ll generally hit it the farthest with the driver by striking the center of the clubface or even just above. Get a can of Dr. Scholls Odor X and spray the face of your driver. Take note of where you are hitting the ball. Working with a professional or using resources like Adam Young’s Strike Plan can help you improve your impact location.
As seen in the Trackman data, an upward angle of attack produces the most distance at amateur-level swing speeds. Launching the ball higher can be as simple as teeing it up a bit higher or moving it further up your stance.
Here is a great drill to help from Andrew Rice:
The problem many regular golfers have is they connect swinging “faster” with swinging “harder.” Trying to swing harder tends to result in tense muscles and poor mechanics, which cause awful shots and lead to injuries. Swinging faster can be accomplished with golf-specific fitness plans to increase strength and flexibility.
Driver distance is always going to be a topic of conversation. The data proves, though, that most recreational golfers aren’t hitting it any further than they ever had. Still, the quest for more distance is going to remain a goal for many of us. While buying the latest new driver is an option (make sure you get fit for it), you can likely add just as much distance, if not more, by applying a few concepts to improve your ball striking. Training your body to swing faster is a nearly guaranteed path to more distance and has the additional benefits of improved fitness for your life off of the course.
Cory Olson is an avid golfer and writer for Practical Golf, a website dedicated to being an honest resource for the everyday golfer who is looking to enjoy the game more, as well as improve. He is passionate about all parts of the game, from equipment to training, and especially the mental aspects of performing your best on the course.
Over the past few years, utility irons (sometimes referred to as driving irons) have become a growing category in the golf equipment industry. Almost every major manufacturer is making them now.
Compared to traditional long irons, a utility iron’s design can offer higher ball speeds and launch angles. In theory, it makes them a suitable replacement for those who struggle with hybrids, fairway woods, or long irons.
But does that mean golfers should choose a utility iron over a fairway wood or hybrid? Unfortunately, the answer is not so simple. With any equipment decision you make, you have to match your swing tendencies with the proper club design.
In this guide, I’ll help you understand how utility irons perform compared to other clubs and what kinds of players they might be suitable for.
I’ve learned a lot about golf equipment over the last few years from some of the industry’s top experts. For this article, I tapped two resources – Mark Crossfield and Woody Lashen.
Many of you are familiar with Mark Crossfield; he has one of the most popular golf YouTube Channels. I’ve always admired his data-driven approach and have learned a lot from him over the years.
Mark was kind enough to shoot this video exclusively for Practical Golf readers:
In his test, Mark showed how a utility iron could perform against a hybrid. Despite having similar lofts, you can see how the clubs perform differently due to the difference in center of gravity and clubface design.
Woody Lashen is the co-owner of Pete’s Golf located in Mineola, NY. They have been recognized as one of the top clubfitters in the industry by almost every media organization. I’m lucky to have him as a resource on all matters related to clubfitting.
I spoke with Woody about his thoughts on utility/driving irons and how they can work with certain golfers.
He told me that the main benefit of a utility iron (versus a traditional long iron) is that they can launch the ball higher due to a lower center of gravity, achieved through a hollow face. Additionally, they’ll have a little more MOI (a measure of forgiveness).
On the whole, he finds that less than 10% of the players he fits are good candidates for utility irons, but here are a few conditions that usually lead to him selecting them:
While Woody prefers most golfers to choose fairway woods or hybrids as replacements for longer irons, some of these conditions warrant a utility iron choice instead. One recommendation he did make was to have the shaft of your utility iron match the profile of the ones you use on your iron set.
He would like to see more utility irons being offered in higher lofts, such as a five iron replacement. Woody thinks they can be more beneficial to a wider range of golfers than the top of your bag.
Last but not least, he did warn about using a driving iron exclusively off the tee. I’ll explore why later in the article.
Whenever I do guides like this, I like to give some real-world examples. That way, you can choose equipment as a mixture of diagnosing your tendencies as a ball-striker and matching the right club that will give you the best chance of success on the course.
Please keep in mind that my results will be different than other golfers, which is why I always encourage all of you to get custom fit if possible.
My interest in utility irons was mainly to see how it compared to my fairway wood. Could a utility iron be a better match for me? Also, I wanted to see how the ball flight compared to my 3-iron hybrid and approach shots, which is one of the most reliable clubs in my bag.
So I had my friends at Sub 70 Golf build a club to my specs with their 699 Pro Utility Iron. Their club has all of the features you would expect in a modern utility iron, but their value proposition is lower consumer-direct prices and custom options (this club cost $99 custom built). You can read my review of them here.
Generally speaking, I am a low-launch, low spin player. So when I am evaluating equipment, I need one of two things to happen to have success with a club:
Using my launch monitor, I hit a series of shots with my fairway wood, the 699 Utility Pro, and my 3-iron hybrid. My fairway wood’s static loft and the utility iron were within a degree of one another, while my hybrid has three degrees more loft. However, you can see that static loft is just a starting point in my results. I’m looking at launch angle, spin rate, ball speed, distance, and peak height.
Here are my results using a tee:
|Club (off the tee)||Ball Speed (mph)||Total Spin (rpm)||Launch Angle (degrees)||Carry Yards||Total Yards||Peak Height (feet)|
Here are my results without a tee:
|Club (off the tee)||Ball Speed (mph)||Total Spin (rpm)||Launch Angle (degrees)||Carry Yards||Total Yards||Peak Height (feet)|
Also, I took the Sub 70 699 Pro out on the course for a couple of rounds to see how it performed off the tee and on approach shots.
Off the tee, I did find a lot of value in using a driving iron. The days I took it out on the course, it was very windy, and the turf was firm. It was like hitting a “stinger” draw without having to manipulate my swing. The ball launched very low and came off the face with a ton of ball speed, which was helpful on holes where I wanted to use less than driver and was playing into the wind. On several shots, I could roll the ball as far as 250 yards if I hit the fairway.
Additionally, the club was very forgiving and had everything I was looking for in performance (good job, Sub 70).
Looking at my launch monitor results, there were a few tradeoffs though:
While I did like the performance of the utility iron off the tee, where I ran into the biggest dilemma was on approach shots.
The iron launched so low with so little spin that it robbed it of distance. Despite my hybrid having more loft and less ball speed, it still carried more than 10 yards farther on average than the utility iron. And if you look at the comparison to my fairway wood, it’s a no brainer. I lost almost 30 yards of distance.
This is when my swing tendencies (low launch, low spin) worked against me with the utility iron.
For my swing tendencies, the utility iron was a bit of a “one-trick pony.” If I used it exclusively as a driving iron, I might put it in the bag only in certain conditions depending on the course layout. Perhaps when the wind was really whipping, and the turf was extremely firm.
However, that would remove the ability to hit longer approach shots on par 5s with a fairway wood. This is exactly why Woody Lashen warned using a club exclusively off the tee. It removes versatility.
For the most part, I don’t think it was a good fit for my swing. However, that doesn’t mean a different golfer might find it useful as a fairway wood, hybrid, or long iron replacement. You won’t know until you test and compare.
As always, when I write articles like these, my main goal is to show you how equipment can work differently for each golfer.
I struggle to hit longer irons on approach shots. That’s why I have found so much success with my hybrid. So I don’t think a utility iron is appropriate for my game because I can’t use them on approach shots. Also, I don’t want to lose the ability to hit longer approach shots with my fairway wood, so putting it in the bag as a driving iron doesn’t make sense to me in most scenarios.
Despite that, a golfer who has the opposite set of launch conditions (more spin, higher launch) might find more success with a utility iron on approach shots.
Interestingly, companies like Sub 70 are starting to offer utility irons in higher lofts – they just announced a 7-iron replacement. So we could be seeing more of these designs finding their ways into the middle part of a golfer’s bag.
Either way, based on my conversations with experts and my own testing, I still view a utility iron as more of a “niche” club – fairway woods and hybrids will work more effectively for the majority of golfers.
Are you playing a utility iron or interested in one? Continue the conversation on this thread in our Practical Golf community.
Golf can be a remarkably counterintuitive game. We’re taught to perform the same technique repeatedly to gain proficiency as a ball striker. But what if going completely off the script and doing the complete opposite of what you usually do can make you a better player?
In this article, I will introduce you to a practice method that I think can add a lot of value to your sessions. It’s not something that you have to do all the time, but adding small doses of it to your regiment here and there can provide many benefits, especially when you are struggling with controlling your ball flight.
A couple of years ago, I was invited to play in the Goslings Invitational Tournament in Bermuda. Before the tournament began, we had a pro-am on Monday. I was paired with two athletes I had watched on TV for years, and another golfer who (as luck would have it) was a follower of the site.
Needless to say, I was a little more nervous than usual before the round. I felt a lot of pressure to play well that week because the guy who invited me (now a close friend) used one of his invites on the premise that I was supposed to be a pretty good player. Also, I had never played golf with any celebrity before, so that threw me for a little bit of a loop.
Unfortunately, after not having played in over a month, my swing was really out of whack. Typically, if I’m struggling, it will be with hooking the ball because my swing path is very in-to-out. For the first six holes, I was hitting duck hooks and completely dumbfounded. Luckily, my teammate, a former Cy-Young Winner, carried me in our match with 330-yard drives and birdies.
I decided to do the only thing I could think of with embarrassment mounting – try to hit a huge slice. So before each shot, I used a drill that a friend of mine had given me years ago. I pointed my feet towards the target and rehearsed an extremely exaggerated out-to-in swing path. Perhaps I looked foolish, but it worked like magic and saved the rest of the round (and week).
In reality, what the drill was doing was shifting my swing path. What felt like a huge “slice swing” was really moving my in-to-out swing back into what I would call “functional territory.”
The most common complaint amongst golfers is that they want more consistency. But in reality, most players are remarkably consistent with how they deliver the golf club. This could be any of the following categories:
For example – I draw the ball, typically deloft the club, have a shallow angle of attack with irons, and strike the heel when I’m struggling.
Over time, our tendencies can get extreme. Becoming a better golfer entails fighting those extremes and getting back to the aforementioned “functional territory.” I’ve found that doing the exact opposite, or “fighting fire with fire,” can help neutralize the problem.
The best place to start is knowing your tendencies. You can measure your impact location, work with a teaching professional, use a shot-tracking system, or even use a launch monitor to understand the inclinations in your swing.
Luckily, this practice method is pretty simple. The goal is to get you to do a little self-exploration and get outside of your comfort zone. Broadly speaking, I want you to do the exact opposite of what you seem to struggle with.
Here are a few examples:
While I can’t account for all of your results, I think many of you will see some interesting things happen when you do this. Going back and forth between practicing extremes and then trying to hit the ball “normally” might reduce many of the problems you have in your swing.
Overall, the reason I like this kind of practice is that it helps build your skill. Too many golfers try to fit into some model swing and make their technique look a certain way. However, what’s most important is your inherent skills as a ball-striker – not what it looks like.
In 2005, after playing competitive golf at the junior and NCAA level, I stopped playing the game entirely for around eight years. Like many young people building a career, I moved to a city where I found golf inconvenient and, quite frankly, unaffordable. When I returned to the game, I felt like a character in a movie that has been suddenly transported to the future—everything seemed at once familiar and utterly foreign. Elite golfers were armed with new equipment and new strategies – even a new understanding of the physics underpinning the flight of the ball.
Golf had changed—and of course, I had changed, too. I’m 40 now—with a much different body and brain than when I was 20. I recently discovered a quote attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, which is apt: “No man fishes the same river twice, for it is not the same river, nor is he the same man.”
Here are the main differences that I now navigate as a middle-aged golfer.
My absence from the game coincided with the rise of big data and analytics—first in finance and then eventually in everything else. For golf, the data revolution involved tracking and analyzing millions of shots hit on the PGA tour via a system called ShotLink. As far as I can tell, the main insight from all this data wrangling is that golf is really, exceptionally, excruciatingly hard, even for the best players in the world.
When I was in college, I expected to hit every iron on the green, every wedge shot to within a 10-foot radius, and hole every putt inside six feet. The stats from ShotLink show how foolhardy these expectations were, particularly for me, a bench-warmer on an Ivy League golf team. From 150 yards in the fairway, PGA tour players miss the green on one out of four attempts. From 110 yards in the fairway, they hit it outside ten feet the vast majority of the time (74.6 percent of the time, to be precise). Even the best putters in the world can expect to miss a six-footer a third of the time.
I find stats like these both dispiriting and liberating. It’s depressing to think that even highly talented athletes who dedicate their entire professional life to the game still basically suck a significant portion of the time—what hope is there for a weekend warrior such as I? The great American psychologist B.F. Skinner discovered long ago that the most addicting thing you can offer lab rats or humans is unpredictable rewards. That’s exactly what you’re guaranteed in golf. No matter how hard you practice—no matter how good you get—you will sometimes get positive reinforcement and sometimes get punched in the face. There is no way to predict when it’s going to happen. It can be incredibly infuriating—and addicting.
But now that I have internalized this —now that I’ve seen the stats and faced the cold-hard truth—I feel unshackled from unrealistic expectations and the self-punishment that follows when such expectations are violated by reality. Sure, it still hurts my ego when I dump a 150-yard approach into a front bunker, or three-putt from 40 feet, or miss the green from 90 yards. But it soothes my ego to know that even PGA pros do all of these things—and not infrequently, either. My self-talk shifts from “you suck!” to “ golf is hard.” I enjoy the game more than I ever have because I can shrug off bad shots as just part of the experience of playing golf. And when I hit a truly great shot—say, when I hit the green from outside of 230 yards—I celebrate the outcome more because I know how rare it is. Golf is essentially unconquerable. I love the game even more now that I have accepted this.
Throughout my junior career, I had been told that the path of the golf club at impact determines what direction the ball starts, and the face determines where it finishes. To hit a fade, the right-handed golfer should aim his clubface at the target, and then swing left. That’s totally intuitive—and totally incorrect. In fact, launch monitors have shown that the alignment of the clubface at impact mostly determines the direction that the ball starts, and the relationship between the face’s aim and the club’s path is what determines how much it curves and where it finishes. What this means in practice is that to hit a fade, your clubface needs to be closed to the target at impact (how much is determined by the path).
This may sound technical and wonky, but it is hugely important for golfers struggling to fix a recurring miss. In the past, if I was over-doing a fade, I would try to move my path more to the left, because I (incorrectly) believed that this would start the ball further left. Of course, all this was doing was making my problem worse—it caused the ball to start on the same line and just slice more. Does understanding this mean I hit fewer bad shots? I doubt it. But at least now I can figure out the root cause of those bad shots—and adjust more quickly.
I have to marvel at how the golf community got the ball flight laws so wrong for so long. This isn’t quantum physics. It’s stuff Newton could have figured out centuries ago. Yet, as is so often the case, common sense overrode science until it could no longer resist.
When I grew up playing golf, elite golfers fetishized a “good” golf swing. It was the Leadbetter/Faldo era when instructors felt they were closing in on the “right way” to swing. Today, I sense that elite golfers are less concerned about how their swing looks and more concerned about impact conditions—the “moment of truth” when ball and club connect. I know one competitive golfer who doesn’t even send video to his swing coach, only numbers from his launch monitor (e.g., “hey coach: 1.9 degrees up, 2.8 degrees left, face to path 1.5R, 2145 rpm. What do you think?”). I remember obsessing over my takeaway and backswing in college. For many instructors today, the club’s position in the backswing really is an afterthought. Who cares? Just make a turn and rip it.
Elite golfers today have a similar disregard for the “swing easy” ethos of my era. This is obvious off the tee, when golfers are being taught to feel as if they are explosively jumping off the ground with their front foot through impact, which leads to more clubhead speed. Even “control” players like Francesco Molinari have learned that they will get better results by swinging full bore with their driver—a strategy he used to tame Carnoustie at the Open Championship two years ago.
In my youth, long-hitters were treated derisively as meatheads—“the woods are full of long hitters,” was a common way of dismissing golfers with speed. The “smart” golfers were the “tacticians” who laid short of hazards and picked their way around the golf course. So it’s ironic—but perhaps inevitable—that it was math nerds who overturned this misconception by crunching “strokes-gained” data provided by ShotLink. And what they found was that the meatheads were the ones playing smart: with only a few exceptions, the best way to improve your score is to just send it.
It’s difficult to describe how unnerving it is to adopt this new approach to the game. I still feel uncomfortable hitting drivers on hard holes in competition—not to mention swinging at full bore. To do so goes against everything instructors I grew up respecting and admiring taught me—including my father. I feel like an old Communist apparatchik during the Cold War who has defected to the West. I can see a better way of living all around me, I can even adopt the local customs, but I know I will always feel slightly uncomfortable—and I will never lose a conflicted fondness for the life that I have left behind.
But isn’t that true of aging, generally—that we begin to feel more and more as if we are strangers in a foreign land? Or that we no longer belong as a new generation comes through? It is misguided loyalty to the past to fight inevitable change. You may know these types at the golf course—they are the ones giving the 17-year-old high school hotshot a lecture about the “right way” to play the golf course even as the 17-year-old is setting new course records.
One of golf’s great gifts to me in recent years is that it has shown me a more graceful and enjoyable way to age. “Old men ought to be explorers,” the poet T.S. Eliot wrote, and what I think he meant is that we should never stop learning and growing and taking delight in each new step forward, even if it takes us further from what we find familiar and comfortable. Now when I step on to the tee—even on a tough par 4—I reach back and hit it as hard as I can. With my hunching shoulders, graying hair, and sagging belly, I’m sure I look a bit ungainly to the 17-year-olds I often compete against. But I don’t care. For as I watch the ball fly out into the blue abyss, in that split second of uncertainty all golfers share as they look up to see what direction their ball is headed, I feel that old sensation in the veins once more, that lightning rush of discovery and fear which is the defining feature of youth.
Eben Harrell is an editor, writer and competitive amateur golfer who splits his time between Colorado and Scotland.
I’ve been playing golf for close to 25 years now. As I learn more and more about the game, there are lessons “hiding in plain sight” that I wish I knew when I was first taking up the game.
In this article, I’d like to explore a concept that eluded me for a long time. While I grasp its significance now, it’s not something I’m perfect at. But like anything else in golf, I want to get better little by little over time. I think this basic framework can help you tremendously.
When we play golf, tons of moments feel connected. As you tally up your score, you can’t help but think how the tee shot on the 3rd hole really changed how the day went. Even while you’re in the heat of the battle, it’s hard not to think about what happened on previous holes, or how the shot at hand might affect future results.
Without getting too philosophical, this game tugs at your brain from opposite directions. The past and the future want to influence your decisions. However, I’ve found that it’s best to evaluate this game as a series of independent decisions.
Every time you approach the ball on the golf course, there is a new situation to evaluate. Even if you’ve played the same course 100 times, the wind, temperature, turf conditions, and how your swing feels that day are all variables to contend with. That’s the beauty of golf – every day is different.
Once your round has started, your mind begins to fight against the past. If things are going poorly, your negative emotions may start to carry over. Perhaps you’ll get a little more aggressive with your line off the tee, or start hunting at a pin you know you have no business attacking.
Conversely, if you’re off to a hot start, your brain can start playing different tricks on you. To preserve your good fortunes, you might play a little too safely, and even start changing your technique.
Either way, no matter how strong your mental game is, prior results can weigh heavily on a golfer’s mind as they evaluate the shot at hand.
As it pertains to strategy, golfers often let the future influence their decisions. One of the hardest things to do is not make decisions in the present that are affected by “wishful thinking” of your future self. To illustrate what I mean, I’ll go through a couple of scenarios with tee shots and approach shots.
Golfers often try to favor one side of the fairway to get a better “angle” into the green based on pin position. For a long time, I subscribed to this belief myself. As I learn more about the game and seeing top-level statistics from all skill levels, I have yet to find any convincing argument for why it’s a good idea.
For starters, take a look at this image compiled by Lou Stagner:
The image is a visual representation of about 90,000 shots hit on the PGA Tour with pins on the left-hand side of the green and the right. The numbers represent whether players are gaining or losing strokes by landing the ball in certain parts of the fairway or rough based on the pin position. For example, from 125-149 yards, a player who lands the shot in the right rough to a pin situated on the green’s left side is losing .07 strokes to his competitors (indicated by the negative number).
While the image might be a bit confusing to some of you, let me summarize some of its key findings:
So if PGA Tour players can’t gain any advantage with a better angle into a pin, why should you? Wait, it gets even better…
A typical tour player has about a 65-70 yard wide dispersion pattern with their driver. In my own testing, I saw the same dispersion, which you can view in this article. With a shot distribution that wide and a typical fairway being around 30-32 yards on tour, how could they possibly keep it on one side with regularity?
For golfers who don’t hit the ball that far off the tee, their dispersion patterns start to narrow. But it’s nearly impossible for any golfer on the planet to land the ball consistently on one side of a fairway (let’s say a 10-15 yard target). As my friend Scott Fawcett says, you’re not out there with a sniper rifle; you have a shotgun in your hands. Don’t expect precision off the tee (or just about anywhere else).
Getting back to my original point – when you do start worrying too much about your approach shot (the future) before you’ve even hit your tee shot, you are likely going to make some mental errors.
My basic strategy off of the tee, which is based on plenty of statistics I’ve analyzed, and my own data, is that you should try to hit the ball as far as possible while avoiding big trouble. That basic framework can help you lower your scores.
A concept like playing for the better angle on your approach shot might make sense theoretically. But it’s virtually impossible to gain strokes over the long run because, for every angle that you do gain, you are likely bringing trouble into the play. Worse, if you do gain the angle, it’s not really an advantage! As I’ve said before, being a gambler on the golf course doesn’t work.
That’s why every time I tee it up on a hole, I am *trying* (I’m not perfect) to remove the allure of gaining a favorable spot in the fairway, and not thinking about the future.
For those of you who have read Practical Golf for years, you are more than familiar with my belief that chasing pins is a losing strategy. This is another battle between your “current self” and your “future self” on the course.
I know what you all want, and I want it too. It’s a glorious feeling to watch your approach shots float at the pin and then drain that birdie putt. Sadly, it’s unrealistic to expect.
Similar to chasing angles off the tee, trying to land the ball close to the pin does not work for two reasons:
I’ve often cited this stat from the PGA Tour, and it’s always worth repeating. In the fairway from 100 – 125 yards, tour players average about 20 feet from the hole. Despite what announcers tell you, even they can’t place the ball next to the pin.
On average, a tour player will only make 15% of their putts from 20 feet. A golfer who averages about 90 will be about 6%.
This combination of proximity with approach shots and putting difficulty is why birdies are not very common. The average PGA Tour player made 3.69 birdies per round in 2020. For recreational players with handicaps outside of the low single-digit range, birdies are almost non-existent (sorry to burst your bubble).
Overall, the desire to have those short birdie putts (future thinking) puts your present self in a bad situation. That’s exactly why I tell almost every golfer this boring strategy will lower your handicap.
Simple concepts that are almost too good to be true often raise eyebrows, and what I’m discussing in this article is no different. Of course, nothing I’ve said here is difficult to understand (or at least that’s my hope). The separation value in golf will always be discipline and execution.
If you can get better at not letting the past and future effect each shot’s decisions, you will become a better golfer. However, it’s worth noting that you will fail at this many times, even if you’re committed to this philosophy. I still do.
While I only discussed a couple of scenarios, it pertains to all parts of the game. Recovery shots, wedge play, putting – they are all tests. When you hit an errant tee shot, will you let the disappointment (past) and desire to save par (future) affect your target and club selection? Or will you analyze the situation without emotion and choose the optimal decision for the shot at hand.
I want you to give this concept some thought and think about how it applies to all the situations you’ve faced in recent rounds. I also encourage you to continue the conversation with other golfers in this thread in our community. I believe this is a problem that we can help each other solve.
There are scores of golf courses to choose from in and around the Atlanta metro area, but none can compare to the sublime setting at Cobblestone Golf Course.
Love life at the lake? Zip up I-75 about 30 minutes north of Atlanta and you’ll arrive at one of the most scenic public courses in Georgia. Cobblestone Golf Course features 18 holes, 8 of which border and overlook scenic and quiet Lake Acworth.
Cobblestone Golf Course is owned by Cobb County and operated by Bobby Jones Links. It holds a reputation as one of Georgia’s best municipal golf experiences since it opened in 1993 and was later fully renovated in 2013. Designed by Ken Dye, the course has four sets of tees from 5,400 yards up front to a 6,759-yard championship box and is a past venue for PGA Tour qualifying.
You don’t have to be a pro golfer to compete at Cobblestone Golf Course, however. The Men’s Golf Association is 120 members strong and conducts monthly tournaments and is always welcoming new golfers.
The 4th hole at Cobblestone is an early standout: A 313-yard dogleg right that hugs the lake from tee to green. The 16th, meanwhile, is one of three par 3s that border the lake.
“Oh my.. the course today was the best I’ve ever seen it,” wrote Golf Advisor reviewer ‘KyleSalone’ in their September, 2020 review. “Green and lush, very well manicured and the greens? Incredible.”
Cobblestone also features a full practice facility and teaching academy, as well as plenty of room for outings and events. You don’t have to travel far at all from Atlanta to find a peaceful and affordable golf escape.