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Opinion & Analysis

A first timer’s trip to the promised land

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Hello. My name is Dustin, and much like many of you, I, um, have a problem. I am addicted to golf. I guess it all started, or rather, the first time I realized it could be an issue was in my Junior year of high school. I grew up in rural Illinois and the winters could be brutal. Sure, there was cold and wind and snow and all that jazz, but the real problem for me was the prolonged period in which I couldn’t play golf. On one sunny, crisp January morning, however, all that changed. I woke up and just knew I had to get out on the golf course, so that’s exactly what I was going to do. I wiped the dust from my clubs and snuck them into my trunk. I left at my normal time so as not to arouse any suspicion, but instead of turning into the school parking lot I drove right by. I. Drove. Right. By.

The feeling that consumed me was indescribable. I felt the shackles of society breaking away. I felt like a bird flying for the first time. I felt like nothing could stop me as I was the master of my own fate, even the entire universe for that matter, but in all of my excitement, I wasn’t watching my speed…I got pulled over about a half of a mile from my local course. So with the added weight of a speeding ticket in hand, I was escorted back to school and sentenced to the brutality of watching the rare semi-warm day fade away. Since that moment in time, my life has basically been a Groundhog’s Day version of the same day over and over again. Sometimes I am successful in my endeavor to sneak away and play eighteen and sometimes I am forced into the shackles that keep me indoors. One thing never changes though, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check the weather.

Back to the present day. No s***, there I was, standing on the precipice of glory, taking it all in. I was about to step foot in the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando for the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show. I would love to be able to tell you how it felt, walking into The Promised Land for the first time, but I’ll be honest, I blacked-out for a bit. The only thing I can really compare it to is that one time I rattled off an eagle and two birdies in a row before falling off the wagon and shooting a forty-nine on the back. I am sure it was a moment of greatness, but I just can’t recall. When I finally came to I was standing in front of the Holy Grail.

I lost all composure at this point and time. I started to kneel. I didn’t know what else to do in the presence of such greatness. Luckily, there was a Mizuno Rep. nearby. He graciously helped me to my feet, handed me a bottle of water, and assured me this wasn’t the first time this had happened today. I didn’t get his name, but wherever you are, sir, thank you. You may have saved my life because if not for your swift intervention I may still be kneeling there today.

I started to feel self-conscious that I was ill-prepared, that my thirty-five years on this planet training for this very moment weren’t enough, and perhaps I should’ve waited until I was seventy to attend “The Show”. A pattern appeared that caused me more anxiety than a twenty-yard pitch over a bunker with water deep. I approached a booth, got more twitchy than Kevin Na in 2012, then backed-off to the relative safety of the center aisle. This happened again and again. I was wandering aimlessly, too scared to enter a booth, too ashamed to make eye contact with my fellow patrons, and too stubborn to call it quits. And that’s when the Golf Gods intervened.

After years of being cursed by those vile creatures, trust me, I was as floored as anyone when the skies opened up and the spotlight shown on the most comforting sign at the PGA Show. It was at this moment, that I knew I was right where I belonged. It was at this moment that I knew I was amongst my people. It was at this moment that I finally achieved acceptance, and therefore the true zen of that most heinous four-letter word, G O L F.

With my new-found calmness, I resumed something of a normal temperament, albeit, with much more elevated awe and shock, I continued perusing the booths. One by one, going around and around the show again. Every time I revisited a booth, I saw something new, a new Scotty Cameron headcover, a new version of the Callaway Mavrik, a new hybrid that promised I could land it softly from two hundred and thirty yards. I went from paralysis to eagerness, greed even. I was hungry for every shiny thing that caught my eye.

At some point, my step counter started smoking and quit, but it didn’t even phase me. I simply undid the strap and let it fall to the floor, next to some schmuck kneeling in front of a blue and white staff bag. I muttered “rookie” under my breath, and continued on. After all, this was thirty-five years in the making.

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Podcasts

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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Podcasts

On Spec: Blades vs cavity backs | Classic gear vs. modern equipment

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In this episode, host Ryan talks about a recent experience of playing poor golf and what it took from an equipment perspective to get his game back on track.

The talk is wide-ranging and offers an inside look at what equipment tweaks or experiments might help you play better golf—or get you out of a rut.

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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