How Far Do Average Golfers Actually Hit the Ball
There is something very satisfying about your driver or your iron making sweet contact with the ball and hitting it a long distance away. Distance is important from a technical point-of-view as well because the further you hit the golf ball, the closer you get to the hole.
Your handicap score is also impacted by how far you can hit the ball.
There is a difference between how far a professional golfer hits the ball and how far average golfers actually hit the ball. This difference is backed by certain studies conducted in the past.
You can probably guess which group hits the ball farther. And that conclusion is logical as well given how much work one group puts into its game. You get based on how much you put in.
How Much Distance is Considered LONG in Golf?
With advancements in technology, sports science, and nutrition, professional golfers seem to be hitting the ball longer than ever before. A 300-yard drive is seen as somewhat of a benchmark.
However, even professional golfers cannot get close to that. Even hitting the 280-yard mark is quite challenging.
However, the distances that golfers hit do keep increasing steadily as constant innovations are happening in club manufacturing as well as ball designs.
The Distance Insights Study
There is a joint initiative by the R&A and the USGA called Distance Insights. Its aim is to study past, present, and future impacts of distance that golfers can hit on the overall game.
Distance Insights is also meant to be a platform that promotes the exchange of ideas on the topic of distance among various stakeholders in the golfing community.
The most recent report of Distance Insights was published in 2021. It measured the distance from the teeing point to where the ball came to rest after being struck by the driver.
The location where the ball came to rest (fairway, bunker, green, rough) was not taken into account and the study was conducted independently of such locations.
A GPS and laser measuring equipment are used to measure the distances that golf balls travel.
The distances that professional golfers hit in 2021 ranged between 275 yards and 300 yards. These figures are for the men’s game. The women’s game saw distances range around 250 yards.
How Have Distances Changed Over Time?
The report compares the average ball distances in 2003 and 2021. Across the professional game, be it the men’s tours or the women’s tours, there has been an increase in the average distance on all monitored tours.
The increase in yards hit in 2003 vs 2021 has varied between 3.5% to 4.3% for the most part. The distribution, however, has not changed much.
So, the longest hitters are hitting about 6%-8% more distance than the average while the shortest hitters are hitting about 6%-8% less than the average.
What About Average Golfers?
The Distance Insights 2021 report also conducted a study of amateur golfers in the UK. Six different venues were used in this study and visits by the Distance Insights team were made between May and September when the golfing season is in full swing.
The average distance according to the study for male golfers was around 216 yards. It is much lower than what the professionals on tour were hitting.
The distance hit by golfers with a handicap score lower than 6 was almost 240 yards.
Those with handicap scores between 6 and 12 were hitting around 220 yards.
The group with handicap scores between 13 and 20 were achieving an average distance of 200 yards while those with handicap scores of 21 and beyond were only hitting 177 yards.
These results were not surprising as lower handicap scorers had longer distances. They would probably be considered to be higher performing than amateur golfers with a higher handicap score.
One interesting trend observed in the report is the more frequent use of drivers by golfers with higher handicap scores. Despite this higher adoption of drivers, the ball distances still lag. So, factors other than club selection seem to be at play.
What About Amateur Female Golfers?
The Distance Insights initiative has been conducting a study of distances hit by amateur female golfers since 2013. As per its data from 2013 to 2019, the average driving distance was 148 yards.
Golfers with lower handicap scores were hitting the ball longer than those with higher handicap scores. This phenomenon was also observed among male amateur golfers.
Female golfers with a handicap score under 6 were actually hitting an average distance of 197 yards. The longest in that data set was 261 yards, which would be on par with what professional male golfers would hit on average.
Golfers with a handicap score between 6 and 12 were hitting 178 yards on average.
Those with handicap scores between 13 and 20 were achieving an average distance of 155 yards.
Amateur female golfers with scores between 21 and 28 were hitting 142 yards while those with scores over 28 were achieving an average ball distance of 120 yards.
What to Make of The Data
There seems to be a perception that technological innovation is taking place too rapidly. People might think that golf ball designs and club manufacturing innovations are allowing golfers to hit increasingly longer distances.
Some believe that such trends are making golf course designs obsolete. However, average golfers are not hitting anything like such distances.
It is only the professionals that seem to be getting close to the 300-yard mark. So, the argument that golf courses will get obsolete is not holding ground in the face of the data that currently exists.
While we can debate about ball distances and club designs, ultimately, the number that matters the most is the one on the scorecard. And in order to improve that number, one has to practice not just the driving, but also the pitching, the chipping, the putting, and all other aspects of the game.