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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Maybe Your Drives Aren't So Short After All

Golf Digest has an incredibly interesting post about how far amateur golfers actually hit their clubs... and the results may shock you.

A driving range

Based on data provided by Game Golf -- you know, the folks who make that wearable shot-tracker gizmo -- here are the average distances gathered from typical amateurs during six months in 2016:
  • Driver: 219.55 yards
  • 3-wood: 186.89 yards
  • 7-iron: 133.48 yards
  • Pitching wedge: 73.97 yards
Driver averages topped out at 250.93 yards for players with a handicap of 4.99 or better. The article has a chart breaking driver distances down by age and handicap.

Golf Digest says this proves that the USGA fears of runaway distance are unfounded -- at least among amateurs -- but they offer no explanation for why these distances are so much lower than the pros. I can venture a guess.

I suspect it has something to do with the number of pros who are six feet or taller.

For example, I'm just under 5'10" and Tiger (at 6'1") is shorter than most of the longest hitters on Tour. Take the difference in arm length between us into account, and I suspect Tiger's arc is probably six inches or more wider than mine. That's gonna create several MPH difference in our club speeds, and just 4mph is good for maybe 30 more yards with a driver.

If you take a few minutes to look over the distance chart in that Golf Digest article, you may find that you're not doing so bad after all. And having realistic expectations for your golf game might help you make some New Year resolutions that you can actually reach.


  1. Hi Mike,

    I am sure the taller golfer has an advantage in generating longer shots, but I believe that is only one of several factors. Former long drive champions Jamie Sadlowski (5' 11") and Jason Zubak (5' 10") did not have height as an advantage. A relaxed and efficient swing that generates high levels of club head speed is another. Another I would contend is that top level pro golfers have a much better and natural hand eye coordination than the average golfer. Also they get considerably more practice time to hone those longer shots.

    They have equipment that has been customized to their body dimensions and swing characteristics. Something many of us "off the rack" golfers may not invest in. In the realm of a conspiracy theory, it would not surprise me if they are using custom balls that are not generally available to the rest of the golfing public.


    1. Jeffrey, I agree that all of those things can play a part in the difference. Still, if you take a look at the longest drivers on Tour, most of them are much taller than average. Here are all of the players who averaged over 305 yards in 2016:

      J.B. Holmes, 5'11
      Dustin Johnson, 6'4
      Tony Finau, 6'4
      Bubba Watson, 6'3
      Andrew Loupe, 6'1
      Jason Kokrak, 6'4
      Luke List, 6'2
      Hudson Swafford, 6'3
      Rory McIlroy, 5'10
      Gary Woodlawn, 6'1

      Note that 8 of the Ten are over 6 feet tall. The fact remains that the players who are consistently the longest are also taller than average.

      BTW, remember that World Long Drive Champions aren't necessarily the longest hitters in the year they won. Rather, they hit the longest drives in their particular match-ups. A 370 yard drive might advance while a 420 doesn't, even though both were in the same round, simply because they beat different opponents. Plus, regular golfers aren't swinging 48" drivers!