Canadian Fade - Play, Practice, Enjoy

How Far Do You Hit The Golf Ball?


Finding out your distances used to be a difficult task.  Golfers will have a general idea how far they hit each club through their experiences on the golf course but unfortunately these estimated distances were unreliable and .... I'm going to hurt a few people here ... often overstated.

In a previous article I wrote about a study that shows that the majority of golfer's approach shots end up short of their target and that how through the simple adjustment of taking an extra club players will see their scores come down.  How can you take advantage of this "low hanging fruit" in order to lower your scores this coming golf season?  Well, the first thing you need to do is get an accurate assessment on how far you currently hit your ball.  As mentioned in the opening paragraph most players overestimate how far they hit it but not to worry we also overestimate how far others hit it.  Below is an interesting chart containing the average Driver Distance for various groups of golfers broken down by age and handicap.  Keep in mind the distances are total distance (carry + roll).  

As a general assumption that will get you close enough you can think of roll as been about 20% of carry.  As an example if we look at the 10 to 20 handicap group with a Median Total Distance of 215 yards we can guess that carry would be roughly 175 yards.

Category  Median Driver Distance 
 Handicap under 5  250.93 yards
 Handicap 5 - 10  231.04 yards
 Handicap 10 - 20  215.65 yards
 Handicap 20 - 30  195.93 yards
 Handicap > 30  177.49 yards
 Age 20 - 30  238.68
 Age 31 - 40  231.21
 Age 41 - 50  220.52
 Age 51 - 60  211.93
 Age over 60  196.40

Knowing your distances regardless of what they are is an important step in improving the way you play a round of golf, it is a vital piece in course management.

If you are interested in finding out your current distances schedule an hour with me using the GC Quad Foresight which provides accurate measurement of ball and club data.  Not only will you learn how far you hit it but we will also be able to see what adjustments you can make in order to add yardage to your game.

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Do You Know Your Carry Distance?

Do You Need To Go With One More Club?

The picture below speaks volumes.  The image shows the dispersion of shots from 160 yards for the Average Male Amateur (AMA) golfer.  For definition purposes the AMA is described as a player with a handicap of 14 or 15, there is no age range for this player.  The dispersion chart was created by Trackman from information taken from over 10,000 golfers completing the Trackman Combine.   The green balls indicate shots that have hit an average sized green the red balls are ones that have missed the green.  It is easy to see how the majority of balls missing the target have come up short, between 10 and 30 yards short in fact.

Let's make a quick assumption here for the purpose of our "extra club" theory.  Let's say that by taking an extra club for example using a 5 iron instead of a 6 iron the golfer would hit their shot 10 yards further.  I've adjusted the image to help up picture how different the dispersion graph would look if that were the case.   You can see that a number of the green balls, shots that would have landed on the green get knocked out of the top of the ring (off the green) because with the additional 10 yards they would now miss the green long but the number of shots that get moved up into the ring (on the green) that would have come up short when using less club more then make up for the few that are now long.


Mark Broadie author of the book "Every Shot Counts" is widely considered the guru of golf metrics and his analysis of statistics from over 10 years and 100,000 golfers shows among other things that distance from the hole on approach shots is a key determining factor on what a player's score is going to be on a given hole.  The addition of 10 yards onto an approach shot results in a larger percentage of shots actually hitting the green as opposed to coming up short with the added bonus of more shots ending up closer to the hole.  You can easily see how your scores would come down if on 3 or 4 holes per round you were leaving yourself with a 30 foot putt as opposed to still having to pitch onto the green not to mention for the balls that did miss the green short you now have a shorter pitch shot which should mean that you pitch it closer to the hole and in turn lower how many putts it takes to get the ball into the hole.

This is "Low Hanging Fruit" indeed.  No swing changes, no lessons, no strength and flexibility exercises simply lower scores by just taking an extra club.  Most of us have heard the advise before of taking an extra club and swinging easy but until it is presented in a way that paints a clear picture of just what benefits listening to that advise can yield we often ignore it.

So, this leads us back to answering the question asked in this blog title.  Do you know your carry distances for your irons?  Are you guessing or do you know that those numbers are accurate?  Be sure to make time to find out your yardages so you can put into practice better course management and better club selection during your round in order to shoot lower scores.


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Swing or Skill?

Take a look at the video below.  What do you notice different about these two swings??

The above video is the basis for my argument of why so many golfers are minimizing their improvement by only working on their golf swing whenever they go to the practice range to hit balls.  Did you spot the differences?  Can you tell the "good" swing from the "bad" swing?  If I had not told you that they were different, would you have thought you were looking at the same swing?

The fact is that these two very similar swings produced two very different ball flights.

For the swing on the left the ball was struck solidly (red circle) and carried 169 yards on target with a little draw.  The swing on the right was struck thin towards the toe of the club (blue circle), carried 149 yards and was more of a low hook finishing well left of target.  If these two shots would have taken place on the golf course you would have been happy with one of the ball flights while the other one would have left you shaking your head.

And here is where the trouble starts. For most golfers we would mis-diagnosis the reason for the poor shot, blaming a breakdown of a Gross Motor Skill; ie. the poor movement of our arms, shoulders, legs or other large body part (insert "I lifted my head" here) when what the above video clearly shows is that this is simply not the case.  Where we need to focus our attention is on the Fine Motor Skills, the smaller movements that go undetected with the naked eye and also quite often with slow motion video.  Hitting the centre of the club face is a Fine Motor Skill and needs to be treated as such.  All too often we try to get better at what are Fine Motor Skills by working on Gross Motor movements and that won't get the job done.

I've seen it all too often, a golfer will hit a shot well off the centre of the club face producing an undesirable ball flight and quickly blame their swing and go about "fixing" it by trying to change something on their next shot.  Usually the attempted change will be something that they heard that weekend on TV while watching the PGA Tour or something that they read in a golf tips magazine or saw online.  Let's use as an example a tip such as "take the club back low and slow", the player attempts to take the club back low and slow on the next shot and they actually do make better contact closer to the centre of the club face and get a better result.  The player now thinks that the secret to their swing is taking the club back low and slow when in actual fact the better contact had nothing to do with the takeaway at all and was just a random improvement.  Since they believe that they have found the secret they will go for it again, taking the club back low and slow and maybe once again they will get more solid contact but soon enough the randomness of the contact will return and they will clunk another shot off the toe or heel and quickly abandon the "low and slow" that was for an all too fleeting moment in time their "magic move" and then the player will go back in search of another random tip to try, and the viscous cycle of tip after tip with no real lasting improvement begins.

Now don't get me wrong mechanics and technique do play a roll in the golf swing but they are not as important as we make them out to be.  Many recreational golfers that come to me for lessons have mechanics that are "good enough" to play at the level that they are striving for, the problem is they are just not skilled enough, there is a big difference here.  For these players improving technique does not automatically result in improved skill, it could just as easily have a negative impact.  But when a golfer becomes more skilled the result inevitably is improved scores. 

The habit of an endless search for improved technique which leads to golfers continuously working on their swings is not their fault, it is not their fault at all.   We have been conditioned over the years to think this way, but it is time we changed our way of thinking about playing better golf and changed our approach to practicing and taking lessons. 

So how do we move from been less focused on technique and more focused on Skill Development?  We need to change our practice habits and our mind set.  Start you next golf season off by getting a base line of where you currently are when it comes to golf's Big 3 Skills (centre hits, low point control and club face awareness), measure how well can you preform these skills.  Once armed with this information you can put together a game plan and timeline that makes sense and matches up with both your goals and the amount of time you have to commit to practice and training.  Think of your golf improvement along the same lines as a fitness program.  We all understand that getting in shape or losing a few pounds does not happen overnight or with one workout.  We understand that a fitness program takes time and commitment, that is what makes getting in shape so difficult.  It is not really the difficulty of the individual exercises themselves that is holding all of us back from been in the physical shape that we want to be in it is our lack of commitment to the process, this is a difficult thing to admit to.

To get you started on a more Skill Based Approach to you golf game try the exercise below to build hand-eye coordination and feel for hitting the sweet spot. Focusing on a task that provides clear feedback allows your body to self organize and fine tune the Fine Motor Skills that are required to hit solid golf shots.

It is drills like this one that I have students perform to help them turbo charge their game improvement without over complicating things and overwhelming them with swing thoughts and technique changes.  And just like sticking to a fitness routine, sticking to a golf improvement routine is hard so that is were finding a good environment that makes the time you spend building skill enjoyable and rewarding becomes an important piece in helping you play better golf and that is exactly what I try to build into all of my instruction programs.

If you are interested in a more "Skilled Based" approach to golf instruction visit and look into our Private or Group program offerings to find a best fit for your game.

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