If you watched the live coverage from Quail Hollow’s practice range the other day, you probably saw Rory McIlroy carrying three woods a ridiculously long way, to the tune of 315+ yards. The telecast was displaying his ball flight and showing his “numbers” on the screen, adding validity to otherwise unbelievable length. But were those numbers legitimate, or were we as viewers getting duped?

While his ball-flight curvature and consistency was impressive, the majority of comments I received from students and other viewers were in regard to the carry numbers versus the ball speed. We obviously don’t argue the fact that he can carry the ball 330 yards basically anytime he wants, but it seemed with ball speeds of 170 or 171 mph that something wasn’t adding up properly.

So I wanted to give you my spin on what was seen on TV and retweeted on Twitter about a million times.


Here’s the full video, where you can see his shockingly good consistency and distance

Now, there are several things you must take into account when viewing this:

  1. This was not a Trackman unit calculating the numbers, it was another machine. Every launch monitor has some way to audit the flight of the ball; units such as Trackman use radar to follow the ball from start to finish while others use algorithms that “calculate” where the ball should go and where it should finish from factors that it sees when the club impacts the ball. Therefore, there can be some inaccuracies. Remember, when it comes to launch monitors, the radar units are the most accurate when it comes to the flight of the ball because they follow for the duration of the flight.
  2. There was some elevation between the range tee and the range bottom. In the beginning of the video, you hear one announcer say that there was some elevation difference between the two, and as we all know any elevation change can mean good things for your distance and carry.
  3. It’s a hot summer day and the golf balls are brand new. Just like in tennis where new balls mean faster shots, these balls are not your basic range balls that have been beat to death. He is hitting the first or second shots that these balls have ever seen. Couple this with a hot summer day, and you have the recipe for some bombs.
  4. What is the elevation where they are playing? Quail Hollow is reported to sit at about 600 feet above sea level on average. While this isn’t terribly significant, golf balls will fly farther above sea level.
  5. The machine might have been set for elevation or higher temperatures. With some machines, you can alter the settings, and it’s possible they were set incorrectly.

These are my best GUESSES as to why the numbers seemed juiced, or at least above the norm for the given ball speeds.

As golfers ourselves, the best thing to take from his shots would be his consistency (shows you why he’s that damn good!) and the relaxed effort he made with each swing. You can always move faster when you are relaxed… try it sometime!

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