How much distance will I lose when I age? What about my 7-iron? Will my putting actually get better as I get older?
These are all questions without answers – until Arccos.
Since releasing its first shot-tracking system in 2014, Arccos has become the leader in on-course data capture for amateurs. What used to be guesswork can now be quantified by the immense amount of data accumulated in its system.
So where does that data come from? Using sensors installed in the grip of your club, Arccos has tracked more than 70 million shots (and counting) during more than three-quarters of a million rounds on golf courses in more than 115 countries. These shots have been taken by players ranging from middle-schoolers to grandpas, from scratch players to beginners. The platform knows what club you’re hitting, where you’re hitting it from and how far it travels. It has also captured more than 8.1 billion time-stamped geotagged data points on golfer behavior and 368 million GPS course mapping data points.
Leveraging that incredible data set – without question the richest in golf – we’re able to take deep-dives to deliver previously inaccessible insights. To kick off this series, we’re taking a closer look at what golfers can expect from their game as they grow older.
Let’s begin with a simple truth: No one is going to age like Bernhard Langer. The 59-year-old German won his first pro title in 1980 and is still earning major championship victories on the Champions Tour.
So, what should you expect as you age? What changes will you see on the course – for good or bad?
- You’re going to lose distance – No surprise there. Every 10 years after you hit age 30, your 7-iron will lose about four yards.
- You’re going to hit more fairways – There’s a clear correlation between age and accuracy off the tee.
- Your skills evolve – Approach shots begin to save you more strokes, and your putter will win you more matches – until you hit 60. The numbers predictably show the 60+ age bracket experiencing the most severe drop-offs across the board.
- You’ll play a lot more often – What we all hopefully can look forward to is more leisure time, especially after age 60.
Ready to look into the future?
One of Arccos’ core tenets is identifying the “true average” distance for a well-hit shot with each club in your bag. Dubbed “Smart Distance” this proprietary algorithm removes outliers from the calculation – be they abnormally short (flubs or punch shots) or long (downhill/downwind or cart path bounce).
Arccos data shows the longest hitters off the tee fall in the 21-30 age bracket, with an average Smart Distance of 258 yards with their driver. Two decades later, that Smart Distance is down to 244 yards.
All hope isn’t lost for the older players, however. Players in the 60+ age bracket may hit it 43 yards shorter than their 21-30 year-old counterparts, but they average 49% fairways hit. That’s 10% higher than 21-30 year olds.
Another way to look at driving performance is through Arccos Tour Analytics, which uses an enhanced version of the Strokes Gained model to break down a player’s handicap into five facets – driving, approach, chipping, sand and putting. This analyzes every shot you take and determines whether you got more or less from that shot than you should have. After the round, Arccos takes all of the data and benchmarks your performance against how players of different skill levels typically perform and generates a handicap level for each of the five aspects of your game.
The top driving handicap is in the 21-30 bracket with a 13.2 average. The next best group is the 11-20 bracket with a 13.5 driving handicap.
7-Iron Smart Distance
Focusing on 7-irons, the 21-30 bracket’s Smart Distance is 164 yards. Again, it’s not news that you’ll likely lose distance as you age, but we can zero in on precisely how many yards players can expect to lose in each age range.
On average, each bracket loses four yards, with those who are 60+ have a 140-yard Smart Distance with their 7-iron.
Even though the older age brackets are hitting it shorter, their approach shot handicaps are actually improving. The best approach shot handicap falls in the 11-20 bracket, at 13.0. The next best is the 51-60 bracket, coming in at 13.8. Coincidentally, both age groups have similar 7-iron Smart Distances, at 152 and 151 yards.
On the greens, the youngest Arccos users perform best with the flatstick. With a putting handicap average of 10.1, the 11-20 age group has the lowest figure by far. That figure takes a big leap into the 21-30 bracket. Are teenagers less susceptible to nerves on the putting green? Could their putting stats take a dip as they strive for more distance in their 20s? Those are areas about which there will no doubt be debate, and we’re excited to continue analyzing the data and exploring insights from other sources.
Annual Rounds Played
Even though your distance will tail off, there is major bright side as you age: you’re going to play a lot more golf. The average annual round count for an Arccos user jumps from 19 in the 21-30 bracket all the way to 33 for the 60+ bracket.
So, while getting older isn’t necessarily fun, you now at least know what’s coming as far as your golf game.
What You You Like to Know?
If you have a topic suggestion or question you’d like explored as we continue this series, leave a comment or reach out to Arccos on Twitter @ArccosGolf.
herb3 years ago
im 76 years old they say my swing speed is 74 yet i hit my drives farther than young people with 100 swing speed why
Lenny2 years ago
I’m 61 and started late in my thirties when i started playing. I know what it means losing yards. There is a bright side to helping yourself to a better game. As long as you don’t mine spending some of that bingo money. Find a reasonable instructor, who will take mercy on your piggy bank. As you age you may want to adjust that swing you first came out with and have been using since you came out of the golf sandbox. Equipment changes could help your game by changing clubs, steel to graphite , different grips on your clubs, more hybrids in the bag and ofcourse new golf balls that fit your swing speed. Now this is for those that want to improve and continue to compete. Not for those who are happy just playing and don’t mind losing strokes. There’s nothing wrong with that either, just as long as you can continue playing golf.
mackdaddy5 years ago
Guys the numbers don’t lie. They are averages spread over ten year blocks and every age over 60 together. They include good and bad players. I see players at my home club that are 70+ that hit it 250+ off the tee and I see a lot more that can’t hit it over 200. I am blessed with work hours that let me play a lot of golf (3.5 times a week 10 months a year) over the last 15 years. I am 57 I out perform these averages for my age but I have experienced the average lose of 4 yards over the that period. Some days I am stiff and hit it shorter and some days I am comfortable and lose nothing, over all the averages are about right. Equipment has improved mishits because I take advantage of fittings and info from this site and other sources. Be honest with yourself you see bags of crapy clubs more often that good clubs. Less than 30% of the golfers we know got fit for the clubs in their bags. It is easy to believe all these averages if you keep in mind the players you see around your our clubs. I can out drive most of the guys I play with at my club that are my age using a 4 hybrid (212) not a brag just a reference to prove the averages. Someone has to be at the top of the curve and the bottom.
Stephen Pearcy6 years ago
Quite believable. But I can’t believe all the braggarts posting here. I bet you’d get much agreement with the PGA tour community. The results are averages over a large population, not predictive for any specific individual.
caleb6 years ago
The biggest flaw with this product is the use of GPS, it’ s not accurate and if it can not see the pin, what yardage is it giving? Every GPS product I have use has been way off compared to using a laser.
me6 years ago
someone mentioned above is the 7 iron carry or total distance. I belive the answer to that is total distance. I mean what would carry tell you, some it a 7iron high (which you should) and others do not.
What is interesting is some manufacturers, take a club that is a 1/3 to 1/2 inch longer than standard,combine this with a 6 iron loft ( 27-28 degrees and call it a 7 iron. While most “players irons” for better golfers have much smaller sweet spots, heavier shafts and a 33 deg loft and is a 7 iron.
Tom Kelly6 years ago
Clubs and balls have changed a lot over the years. The True Temper Dynamic shaft has been around for over seventy years. To me, a player with over 66 years of golf and 60 years of competitive golf, the key thing is swing speed. When I was 45 I could swing a 43″ steel shafted driver between 106 and 110 mph. At 73 I’m between 96 and 100 mph with a 44.75″ Titleist 917 D3. And my swing speed is faster than almost all my peers. Ten mph is 30 yards. A current tour professional is pushing 120 mph.
Gary Bridgewater6 years ago
I’m 60 and hit my 7 170. My drives average 275 or so and this is in Louisiana. It’s the golf balls. I recently pulled out my persimmon Powerbilt driver and was hitting oh t over 250 yards.
Roy D, Tousley6 years ago
As a golfer/teacher/fitter, who went to Q school years ago (another story for another time), I may take the opportunity at a later date to tell the real life and on going story of how to keep more of your younger distance/accuracy by keeping fit and getting fitted on a regular basis. As we age (certainly better than not ageing) things change (no brainer there), but they can be much more positive then negative, with the outcome being greater accuracy, less distance loss and enjoyable rounds, beating and out driving the younger set. I am gifted with age currently 73 years young.
DaveyD6 years ago
I’d love to see these bar charts with the variability shown on them. As stated, these are averages, but it would also be very significant to indicate whether the variability increases or decreases with age.
Bignose6 years ago
I’d also like to know what the variability of everything out there called a ‘7 iron’. There is a good 4 degrees of variability in just the sets for sale today (see Cobra King Forged vs. Wilson Staff’s D300), never mind if your set is a few years old or bent to fill your distance gaps. Not sure how this could be known, but there is a variable in this data set that needs to be accounted for.
David Garland6 years ago
I’m gonna gain a lot of distance when I move up a set of tees.
Lyle Alexander6 years ago
Age 71. Factor 2.8. Average of best five drives per round-233. Average of best drive per round-248, up 7 yards from 2016. (Arccos calculated)
Distance loss had been lessened, I believe, because I keep very fit via gym workouts, walkng, skating, biking and working hard, trying to improve. Play 3.5 rounds per week plus tournaments, but hit balls every day. Play from whites-6000 yards, blacks-6400 yards and occasionally from 6700+.
Ed Byrd2 years ago
I’m 73 Now and trying to stay fit. I try to keep active as possible. Now I want to vet back my golf game. With both knee replacements my game will be different.
I used to outdistance everyone “”. Do you have any insights for me?
William Hume6 years ago
My swing has such room for improvement, I am still adding distance!
Greg Watson6 years ago
I didn’t see any post saying “not true”. I did see about 50% saying their numbers were not changing as indicated in the article. I also think most here are average guys. I know I am not a superman nor a super athlete. I do stay active. However the article did say “You’re going to lose distance”. It did not say a percentage of you. Again, about 50% of post show that is not happening. So I say, that heart. All is not lost.
Jeff m6 years ago
I gree with Carolina Golfer to a certain extent.This is what has happened to me at the age of 73.
Keeping fit is a must and you must have a great short game.
Steve S6 years ago
The great thing about this article is that it’s about AVERAGES. Which means you don’t necessarily lose a a bunch of yardage if you stay fit and flexible. It would also be interesting to see what the standard deviation from the mean is on all these stats. I know among my peers the deviation seems to be very large. Drives vary from 180 to 260(carry and roll); that’s a pretty wide spread.
jas herrington6 years ago
I guess I`m n trouble then. I`m 59 I play the blue T`s & I`m a 12hcp. Driver is 240-250 & its my weakest club because of a Hook. I have shot 68-76 from the whites, but I dont like playing from there. I want 2 hit every club N bag, from the whites it just 2 easy. If I did`nt hook & cud fade the ball I cud shoot N the 70`s all the x from the blues. I dont no the answer, but it dont sound good.
Gary Kern6 years ago
Will be 80 this year, bad knees, can’t hit the damn ball out of my shadow, still love to play. The other crap going on in the old body doesn’t help either!
Mike6 years ago
If only I could hit the ball a consistent distance with any club. Sometimes I’ll nail a 7 iron and get about 160 yards but other times when I don’t hit it cleanly I’ll get 140 yards. Unfortunately this goes throughout the whole bag. I guess that’s why I’m a 14 handicapper.
Does it spoil my enjoyment though, No. The joy of the day when it works my perfect and I score under 80 more than compensates for the multitude of days when inconsistency is the name of the game.
All that counts is enjoyment. Don’t worry about length just enjoy even if you can’t boast about a 250 yard drive!
Golfin Gary Crafford6 years ago
I’ll tell you where you lose distance and that is “surgeries” a low back fusion in 2009 and Knee Replacement in 2012, I have lost 50 yards in driver distance and now that I have an autoimmune disease, in the past month I have lost 10-15 yards a club and I’m only 53
Lanny6 years ago
Two things have not changed, however. Father time is undefeated, and listening (reading) to guys describe their own golf games is boring.
Greg Snyder6 years ago
James D. Luckring Jr. Your skills evolve – Approach shots begin to save you more strokes, and your putter will win you more matches – until you hit 60. The numbers predictably show the 60+ age bracket experiencing the most severe drop-offs across the board….see why it takes us 5 hours?
Eldon6 years ago
I am 82 years old and currently carry a 7.3 index. At my best, at about 40 yrs. old I was a 2 handicap. I just got off the course and had a 78 on a par 70 course. I am very much like the stats in the article. My big drive is now about 210 yds. and My 7 iron on a nice warm day may carry 135. I score from 100 yds. in with my short game and putting. Today I had 9 one put pars. I play 3 days a week and make at least two trips a week to the driving range to work on whatever part of my game that needs help. I also work every Saturday morning with the young beginners, 8 to 12 year old, at my local driving range. My advice, stay active, do stretching exercises and hit the course every chance you get. Its a great game and you can play as long as you can stand up.
Terry Riordan6 years ago
Very interesting article but I would like at add My Experiences. I am 66 years old and currently a 12 Handicap (7 Handicap in My 30’s).
I am a Canadian but now retired and living in Scotland. I love Links Golf (especially when the Fairway dry out). I was never a Long Ball Hitter, always Relatively Straight but Poor Short Game and Putting. My Putting has definitely improved after I retired (15 years ago) but since moving to Scotland; I have started practicing regularly (100 Yards and Less). This morning I played 9 holes (after short game practice) and only hit 1 Green in regulation but got up and down 4 of the other 8 greens. So My Advice to Other Seniors is work on Your Short Game. My Handicap dropped from 16 once I moved to Scotland and started working on My Short Game.
Regarding Distance… I have not noticed any drop in Distance (some days are better than others). I was never a Long Hitter but My 7 Iron still fly’s 140 Yards in the Air. With Links Golf you have to think about what will happen once it hits the ground. 7 Iron can run another 10 to 30 yards or stop like wedge (The Fun Starts when you have 30 mph winds). I am still using the same Stiff Shaft Irons (Ping S59 Tour) that I purchased in 2002. I have tried Senior and Regular Shafts but keep coming back to The Old Reliable. I now have Regular Shafts in My Driver and Fairway Woods.
I attribute my current distance to the Golf Ball (use Pro V1 when playing in competitions). When back in Canada; I play My 1976 Pings and seem to hit them as long as I did in the 1980’s.
I have had some Medical Challenges over the Winter and just started back today (Practice and Playing). I plan to sign up for as many competitions as possible and get My Handicap back down to 10.
Cheers from Aberdeen, Scotland
Jose6 years ago
Hi Guys. I feel staying flexible and doing strength exercises will help tremendously in maintaining distance.started playing at 8 in 1950. Played NCAA in 1962 at Duke. Try I play to 6.4 Index with Ping G30 Driver and Wilson FG V2 forged irons. Driver 235-245 carry; 7 iron 148-152 carry. My ball striking is excellent, but I have yips since 1990. Putting and chipping suck. My goal is to shoot my age (75). Got close on June 26. Keep playing. It’s the greatest game ever. Bless the Scots.
TonyG6 years ago
You can always tell the people that do not read the article. Like many, when I first saw the headline, I thought that not much has changed because technology has allowed me to maintain distance while improving accuracy. However, this study is based on age brackets all using similar technology.
Bob Martin6 years ago
I played golf in my early 30s in seasonal company leagues and that’s all the time I could devote. Probably hit 7s around 150-155. However I’m now 70 and hit the 7 iron 135-140 but I can’t compare the distances and relate to age at all because my shots today have about 50% more height today than 40 years ago. So my gripe is that there is a lot more that goes into a golf swing and advancing the ball than just the distance the ball travels.
REX E6 years ago
I certainly understand that distance off the tee isn’t everything, but…I’m 73, in half-way decent shape and have lost 10 MPH on the driver over a period of about three years. My Cobra SS-i irons and SS metals are from 2004 and I’m wondering how far I should be hitting a 7i now, compared to the lower lofts and longer shafted clubs sold in today’s marketplace. And, I wonder if the distances in this study take into account technology advances in club design over the last fifteen years.
Ben Smith6 years ago
I love the guys saying this isn’t true. These are averages guys. You may be able to buck the trend or average for a while but you won’t beat it forever. It happens fast for some. I’ve seen my dad go from shooting 75-82 and over a year with knee surgery dropped to hard to break 90. The drop off as stated comes after 60. Come back when you’re 70 or 71 and see if your 7 iron goes a similar distance to when you were 60 or 61. I’d be willing to bet you’d lose 30-50 yards. Again these are averages. That’s a huge number. We are not talking you hit it on the button swinging out of your shoes, hit a cart path rolled for 30 yards and yeah you hit if further now. But two things I’ve noticed. The distance and height you hit shots goes downhill after 34 or so. I’m 36 and know I’ve lost distance. I play the same courses all the time and notice I don’t enjoy playing the tips everywhere I go. I notice I hit at least 1 club more than I did when I was 30. Could be golf muscles got weaker but I’m seeing a slightly more penetrating trajectory instead of towering. My dad used to hit it long and high but between 66 and 70 he’s lost 50% of his distance and 75% loss in height. It’s very sad. He’s considering quitting because I can’t imagine knowinrhg how to hit the shots but not getting the signals to your hands and stuff. When I shoot 85 I’m extremely disappointed in myself. I can’t imagine shooting 86 and thinking this is my low round this year.
Jerry6 years ago
Try again. As you can see most any golfer who’s been around for long would agree that tech has allowed older golfers to somewhat keep up by allowing us to hit the ball longer. Not only longer but straighter! In the 70’s I played a lot of competitive amateur golf and my game was haunted by a hook under pressure. The antidote was learning a fade but that didn’t always work. But today the balls spin less with low spin drivers helping. You can see that modern courses play to greater lengths to compensate so they’ve moved up tee boxes for us older guys but that presents other issues.
Jerry6 years ago
As you can se
Greg Watson6 years ago
I purchased my irons in 2008. 7 iron distance 150 yards. I’m 61 now and 7 iron distance is 150 yards. My driver is 10 – 15 yards longer now. It is a new driver. I do play almost every day now. I am a better player now than I was then. Currently 8 handicap. I think that barring some kind of physical disability you don’t have to lose distance if you stay active and practice and/or play often.
Shortside6 years ago
They’re averages Greg. Seem pretty accurate from my experience.
John James6 years ago
You definitely lose a little distance due to flexibility and strength drop off. On the other side, advancements in equipment and balls help keep the drop off smaller. Changing from stiff shafts to regular or senior shafts help as well. My largest distance reduction has come with my driver. That is where I have seen the greatest yardage difference.
Danut Munteanu6 years ago
Yeah, I have forgotten : I am 46 years old. I am 5’8” tall and 142 lbs weight.
Bill6 years ago
Are the distances just carry or carry and roll?
John6 years ago
Not necessarily true, unless you play the same clubs all your life and never improve your technique. I am 52 and hit the ball about 12 yards farther with my 7 than I did 20 years ago (driver is about the same) due to advancements in equipment and technique. Now if you want to say I will lose speed, that I will agree with.
Raymond CHASTEL6 years ago
I’m sorry ,I don’t fit in with your stats .I’m past 83 and still play to a handicap of 7. I don’t utilize ARCOSS or any similar device .The shortest way from one point to another is the straight line .So if you are straight ,consistent ,accurate ,have a good short game and put well (25/30 puts per round ) ,you are bound to score low .I don’t hit the ball that long ,but I beat many long ,younger hitters .I played this morning with a FINNISH fellow ,a huge ,young colossus .He hit it longer than me by 60 yards off the tee ,but lost a lot of balls ,and his short game was so so.Guess who won the round?
I play every two days ,150 times + a year ,so I’m ship shape .
You also have to play the mental game and have the proper strategy on the course .Golf is played with the muscles sure,,but also with the short distance between yout two ears
Willis Yap6 years ago
First, I admire what you do for us with your objectivity and willingness to actually review topics of interest to the average golfer. As to losing distance with age, it’s hardly surprising but that can be offset with money for more rounds and equipment and taking lessons. My driving distance has actually increased by about 10 yards measured by launch monitor and on the courses I play regularly. My irons have gotten shorter, though, although not as much as described in your article. I am 75 and have shot a 73, 74 and 75 all within the past 18 months at my local municipal course which is a par 70. My point is if you are reasonably fit and healthy, and willing to score badly while trying to improve, you can get both longer and better. Oh, and have grit. Thank you.
Paul Meyer6 years ago
So there’s a lot of data here, and even more spurious conclusions. The biggest issue is there is only 3.5 years worth of data, so you’re looking at different groups, and assuming they are all the same.
for example, the biggest issue i have is with the conclusions surrounding the 11-20 year olds. most of these people are in school, which means they have coaches to teach them. that’s why they appear so much better than us old guys. You need to separate out those who’ve had formal instruction from those who haven’t, and base it not only on age, but on how long someone has been playing regularly.
That being said, i think you could reasonbably conclude everything you said, except the parts about 11-20 year olds.
Jeff6 years ago
I think technology has covered my distance loss through the years at 57 moving forward I will probably see it more because the slow down of technological advances
Dwayne6 years ago
As for ball-striking ,I have been lucky in that as I age the equipment gets better, the club heads, shafts, balls, hell even the tees, have made up for the body’s deficiencies. Pretty hitting the ball the same now at age 57 as when I was 37.
Chipping, pitching, and putting has gotten worse, however. Ugh.
Rick Kimbrell6 years ago
Sadly, this all sounds way too true. I noticed the drop off in my driver distance starting at age 60. It was about 5 to 7 yards every year. At age 71, a good drive for me is about 215-220. My 7 iron distance did not drop until I was 67 from 160 to 150yards. I wish my putting had improved but it has not. Rounds played have gone up. I average about 160 rounds every year.
Lee6 years ago
How can we reduce the amount of distance loss we experience as we age?
Dave S6 years ago
Duh… just buy the newest driver every time one is released. By 60, you’ll be hitting 400 yd drives and will probably be a regular on the World Long Drive Championship circuit. Screw 401(K)s and IRAs… that’s my retirement plan.
Raymond CHASTEL6 years ago
Just exercise every single day ,stretching of course,but also do some strengthening exercises .Read the book “32 exercises for better golf” ,by FRANK JOBE ,and very ancient book ,but still valid and to the point today
Kenny B6 years ago
Well, I’m screwed! Just turned 70 in May, and I lost another 10 yards off the tee! I didn’t start playing until I was 45, and the first 15 years were so bad that I seriously thought about trying another sport. I definitely hit the ball further, but couldn’t keep it in the fairway. Short game sucked. The data shown seems to accurately reflect my age now though. Yes, I’ve lost yardage but I don’t miss many fairways, and my short game can save scores. I attribute that to having more time to spend practicing. I focus on my short game because I know that I will miss a lot of greens because of lack of distance. No need to practice my long game… it is what it is.
Alan Gregory Comeau6 years ago
Well, I just turned 50 and I hit my 7-iron 170 yards, so I guess I’m a freak. I’m only 5″11 and weigh 170, and don’t feel like I’m swinging hard, so I have no clue why I can do this. And, I use a laser range finder, so I’m not over-exaggerating. It’s strange, because I also play disc golf and am on the lower end re: distance in that sport.
Johnny Cowboy6 years ago
I didn’t play much the last 20 years and I am now 40. I can’t remember how far I hit a 7 iron but today I hit it between 185-195 depending on weather of course. I doubt I hit it that far when I was 25 because my golf clubs didn’t have the same technology as they do now. Maybe it went 170 back then? That sounds right.
Larry6 years ago
You nailed it. While the data is accurate as a snapshot in time it fails to take account golf ball and equipment improvements. If it was possible to go back 30 years in time and measure yardages all age groups would show decreased yardages. I feel my distances are nearly unchanged at age 62 from my 20’s. However my swing speed on Lauch monitors is slowly decreasing. I would have lost considerable distances if I was still using a 43 inch steel shaft and wooden head.
Carolina Golfer 26 years ago
This is a very interesting piece. Also very accurate at least based on my data.
All 4 bullet points in the beginning apply to me. Especially the losing 4 yards every 10 years on the 7 iron. I have gone from hitting it 160 yards in my 30’s to now hitting it about 135 to 140 as I near 60.
I have lost 50 to 60 yards off the tee over the last 5 to 8 years, but have increased fairways hit by at least 3 to 5 a round, if not more.
Arccos has been one of the more active companies in the player data field and seems to be continuing to find ways to capture and use the info.