Ask a room full of golf pros to agree on the longest-held misconception most golfers have, and there’s a good chance you would ultimately hear this: how far they truly hit the ball.
Unlike just a few years ago, though, affordable distance-measuring devices now allow many of us pros to back up these age-old claims with cold, hard (and often painful) facts. And while it can be humbling to stand before that Doppler device and be confronted with the truth about your distances (or lack thereof), there are good reasons we have those misconceptions and some game-changing benefits to discovering the truth.
First, the reasons.
Ask the average male golfer how far he drives it, and you invariably hear a number north of 220 yards. A 7 iron? “Oh, about 150.” There is a stigma attached to being a short-knocker, especially among men, and this subconsciously conflates our perceptions of how far we actually hit the ball. I’ll give you the true data in a moment, but if we want to improve, most of us need to come to terms with the fact that no one (other than ourselves) is confusing us with an escapee from the Re/Max World Long Drive Circuit.
Ask golfers how far they hit a given club, and most incorrectly include roll in that equation. That’s fine for tee shots, but it’s trouble for approach shots. Tour players don’t calculate roll into their approach shots: only how far they carry it. Approach clubs roll between 5 and 15 yards, and if you’re factoring that in you will be consistently short. Golf course architects know this, so consequently, where do you think they place the majority of the hazards? That’s right, short of the green.
Most golfers base their yardages with each club on a good shot — likely their best shot. Depending upon your handicap, though, chances are the percentage of time you actually hit that “best shot” are pretty close to the same percentage of chances a snow ball has of surviving you know where. We have a hard time intentionally playing for something less than our best, and better players often get most caught up in this trap because they have the hardest time accepting that they don’t always hit it perfect. Tour players know how far they carry each club on average, not that 1 in 10 outlier, and if you want to save strokes you should too.
Eric Jones, an actual Re/Max World Long Drive Champion, fellow PGA Professional, and friend of mine, has worked with a lot of average golfers using radar to chart how far they carry the ball. He then tested them by having them play rounds using their yardages as shown via radar to determine club selection. The stunning results of his testing is that the average golfer improved by more than 5 strokes per round. The real kicker? His tests were conducted with both men and women, and women suffered far less from the distance misconception. So if you’re the average red-blooded American male, your results will likely be even better.
Here are the cold-hard facts.
More than 80 percent of male golfers swing the driver slower than 100 mph, and about 60 percent are slower than 95 mph. With optimal launch and spin rates, a drive hit with a 95-mph swing will carry almost 200 yards, quite a bit short of the aforementioned minimum most men admit to. This means that, at the very least, most male golfers out there are either misinformed, or just not being honest with themselves. And I’m being generous here, since we all know plenty of guys who claim to hit it 250, 275, or even 300.
If you want to shave 5 strokes off your score today, figure out how far you really carry your clubs, on the average. To do that, you may need to pay your local pro a few bucks to spend an hour with you on their radar device. And while that may not sound as sexy as buying the latest and greatest driver on the market, it won’t cost as much, is a bigger game-changer, and you won’t have to spend near as much time explaining it to your wife next month when the club bill comes due.
Let me know what you think.