Why Distance is Overrated…

Why Distance is Overrated…

Is Hitting It Far the Be-All and End-All?

Precision-Golf_Bubba Watson Swing Distance_01The PG Fitters speak to every type of golfer out there in the consultations carried out in the Studio, and there’s a general trend for the majority of them when it comes down to where they think they could improve – Distance. But is hitting the ball longer off the tee all it’s cracked up to be? PG Fitter Jack Symons shares his thoughts on why he thinks distance is overrated…

One of the questions I ask all the people I fit is “Why do you think you are not 3-4 shots a round better?”. What you might expect to hear – short game, don’t hole enough putts, not long enough – rarely comes up in their answers. Of the hundreds of people I have fitted over this past year, the resounding number one answer is “inconsistency off the tee”. And, having played with golfers of all levels, I’d be inclined to agree with them. Once or twice a round, amateurs tend to putt their drives into positions that are triple-bogie country. Nearly all golfers are well aware that they aren’t going to launch 315 yard drives, but with if they had more playable “bad” drives, their handicaps would plummet.

Manufacturers are in competition with one another to make their drivers go longer and longer. The trouble is, they don’t know how to anymore. They’ve been set limits on springiness of face, size of head and the balls are on the limit, so how are they trying for extra distance? Longer, lighter shafts.

As a practical thought, how can this be helpful to the average, or even advanced player, from a scoring point of view? A little more club speed will, all things being equal, give longer drives, by around 5 yards. But the pressure to get all parts of the body moving in the right places at the right time becomes more and more critical, and, invariably, the results are worse performing drivers and higher scores.

The statements below should back this up:

  • The average handicap in 1970 is 1 shot better than in 2012 in the UK and US.
  • Picture two touring professionals. One hits 5 iron into a hole and the other hits 7 iron. Statistics show, the tour pro hitting a 5 iron into a green is odds on to make par. The tour pro hitting 7 iron into a green is also odds on to make par. Only around 10% of the time is a tour player going to make birdie with 7 iron, and 85% of the time a tour player is going to make par with 5 iron. So, the vast majority of the time, they are going to shoot the same score. Granted, players hitting into the green with slightly more loft will make the occasional birdie more than the shorter hitter, but this is soon cancelled out by the fact that the longer hitter, due to having less margin for error, will miss fairways more, and make bogies as a result.
  • Generally, tour players scores come from how close to the hole they hit 9-iron,PW and SW, and how many 6-15 footers they hole.
  • Generally, amateurs shoot good scores on days when they keep the ball in play more.

So, why are manufacturers obsessed with making long drivers? Well, they are in competition with one another – If one company makes a driver they claim is longer than any other, manufacturers are forced to stand up and take shaft-weight/head-weight/shaft length too far, resulting in off the shelf equipment being even less suitable for average golfers than ever.

What would you rather do – hit more fairways and keep the ball in play, or miss more fairways and occasionally hit it 5-10 yards longer?