Picture it: You’ve been doing the Bryson DeChambeau regimen and now you’re on the first tee. You feel jacked. The protein powder is pulsing through your veins and the latest and greatest equipment is in your bag. That puny white ball is no match for the new you, despite a few aches from all of those squats you’ve been doing. As the ball explodes off the clubface, you watch it soar towards the trees with that spectacular slice you’ve yet to cure. After a couple of tries, you punch out of the woods and end up with a double bogey.
But, hey, you hit it 280, amiright?
Is Distance Everything?
Like many golfers looking to lower their score, you fell victim to the lie that you need to hit it far and that when you do it hit far, you’ll be happy. As you can see from my example, 280 into the woods is not as productive as 250 in the fairway.
Increasing distance should not be your top priority if you’re trying to improve your game. I preach fundamentals. Grip, posture, ball position and alignment should take precedence over 20 extra (wayward) yards off the tee. When those things are out of whack, you can’t and won’t make consistent solid contact with the ball. So all the pushups and pullups in the world won’t help you hit that par-5 in two.
The guys on the PGA TOUR crush it in a way that we mere mortals can’t. They can focus on distance because their fundamentals are rock solid. And if they do get in trouble, they know how to get out of it.
Distance on the LPGA Tour
I say this as someone who averaged around 270 in driving distance during my quick stint on the LPGA Tour. That, by LPGA standards, is far. The amateur male golfer averages around 225 yards off the tee and the average LPGA player about 255. The average PGA TOUR pro? Around 295.
Although I was one of the longest hitters on the LPGA and averaged more than 70 percent of fairways hit, my short game was abysmal. I would have given anything to trade 15 yards off my tee game in exchange for being able to get up and down whenever I needed to. My length was only a strength if I knew how to capitalize on it.
There are a few stats I look at when making the argument as to why distance is often oversold as the thing that will make you a better golfer.
Take the men’s world No. 1, Dustin Johnson. This season he averaged 321.4 yards off the tee, hit 73.6 percent of greens in regulation, averaged 29 putts per round and from 30 yards in, got up and down 50 percent of the time. His short game is awesome.
Now, let’s look at the women’s world No. 1, Jin Young Ko. She averaged 246.8 off the tee, hit 84 percent of greens in regulation, averaged 28.6 putts per round and got up down from the sand 71.43 percent of the time.
Distance or Consistency?
While Johnson’s distance is alluring, I would choose Ko’s game every time. She’s consistent and, more often than not, is playing her second shot from the fairway. If she’s in trouble around the greens, chances are good she will get up and down.
You don’t have to hit it far to enjoy the game and to play well. Yes, it can help your game but only if you also work on other parts of your game at the same time. If you’re still missing the green and not getting up and down, you’re still going to shoot the same score. And sometimes focusing on distance will cause you to forget about the other parts of their game, like putting.
No one can convince me it’s more fun to hit from the trees or hit a second tee ball because they went out of bounds — all for the sake of hitting it farther.
Your goal should be eliminating “Fore!” from your golf vocabulary and replacing it with “I have honors.”