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How Far Should You Hit Your Golf Clubs?

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How Far Should You Hit Your Golf Clubs

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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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the co-creator of "Sterling Irons" single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27. He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also holds the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs. The Swing Man Golf website has more than 8,000 members and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s website members and amateur and tour player clients will pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training. You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons here: Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com; Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons; Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf; Instagram - Instagram.com/JaacobBowden YouTube – YouTube.com/SwingManGolf – More than 2.8 million video views

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94 Comments

94 Comments

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  2. Tom

    Apr 23, 2016 at 8:39 am

    I disagree with the second chart. It’s way off. Using traditional loft of a 6 iron I have an average recorded speed of 76mph and an average carry distance of 140 yards. I would consider my trackman recorded data as more accurate vs the equation based chart you use.
    Other than that great read, says a lot about distance and what you should expect. A lot of people over exaggerate what their average is.

  3. terry Langaard

    Apr 19, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    I had to change my swing because i have 2 blown discs in my back. so this year i changed my swing with a draw on it.maybe. maybe 1oomph, how far should my clubs go. driver 3wood 7 wood 4 hybrid 5 6 7 8 9 p 52 56 60. just something to go on. thanks terry l

  4. Other Paul

    Feb 12, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Hi Jaacob. I spent some time with your exercises. And it helped. I went from 97mph to 107. Then i read Kelvin miyahiras work and swing at 115-120. I found your exercies made me more explosive. I also deloft more now so ball speed is up. Swinging my 7 iron about 97MPH and hitting it 190-210 depending on shot shape. Golf is a different game knowing any hole under 340 is reachable with a good bounce or two.

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  7. Ron

    Apr 22, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Jaacob – Great article! Lots of information in both the article itself and the detailed responses to questions and comments. A lot to digest here. I’m a 75 year old 4-handicap with a measured driver clubhead speed of 92-94 mph – and your distance chart scales pretty well throughout the bag. Specific distances will vary with lofts, attack angles, conditions, type of shot (draw, cut, knock-down, etc.) and all the rest – but at first blush, when you go to pick a club for a particular shot, that’s a good place to start. (And most of the time, we would be pretty happy with a ±5-10 yard variation in distance to a tight pin!) Nice work.

  8. John Doefield Jr.

    Jan 19, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    I would be interested to see what the yardages were on the shorter clubs: Gap, 56, and 60. Other than the driver I have about the same distances as those listed yet my 60deg is about 65 yards and my 56deg is about 95 yards. I could have sworn I hear on TV pros using 60deg from 100 yards out. I wonder why my distance falls off so much more…?

  9. Felipe

    Nov 21, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Hey guys

    just curiosity.
    As soon as the SLDR came out i bought it and i was driving it 280-85 total.
    67 gram stiff shaft 9.5
    Today im playing with the Cobra bio cell + and im driving it 290-300 when very solid. Stiff 9.5 65 gram

    Is it suppose to change so much distance ?
    Sorry if any miss spelling haha im not american

    Thank you

  10. Ryan

    Nov 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    My swing speed is 95-98 mph and I drive the ball 225-250 yards. I hit my 7 iron 145 ish. My father has a swing speed of 70 mph but he hits a club further than me. Is this just all in my timing or is he an exeprion?

    • alex

      Apr 2, 2015 at 10:22 am

      i bet you are casting. and hitting shots off the toe/heel. smash factor is the number everyone need to look at

  11. larrybud

    Nov 14, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    I realize this is old, but distances are not linear to swing speed because the ball is not hit in a vacuum.

    A 150mph ball speed is going to go more than twice as far as a ball with a 75mph ball speed.

    • truth

      Jul 17, 2017 at 5:11 pm

      Air resistance actually hinders the faster ball proportionately more… in a vacuum, the 150mph ball would travel much further, proportionately, than the 75mph ball.

      The reason distances are not linear to swing speed, then, is because kinetic energy equals half of mass times velocity _squared_.

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  13. J. T. Parker

    Sep 1, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    My ball speed is about 142 with driver and 2000 spin. How far should my drive carry at 11 degree launch

    • Jeff

      Nov 10, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      Depends on your smash factor, how close to the center of the face you hit it and on what path, with that low spin your distance will be quite a bit more than just your carry

      • larrybud

        Nov 14, 2014 at 2:29 pm

        Jeff, his smash factor and face contact is irrelevant, since JT is going you ball speed, not clubhead speed.

    • MHendon

      Nov 16, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      just a guess J.T. but I’d say your carry should be around 240yds. Roll depends on surface conditions.

  14. mistermann

    Aug 18, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Jaacob,

    I’m 47, and can hit 7 iron about 155-160 consistently. My driver is a Ping 8.5 loft. My distance with it is not good at all, in fact it’s about on par with my 3wood distance. Do you think a shorter driver shaft and higher loft would help? The trajectory looks decent, not excessively low or high, but the distance isn’t there. Also, any ball recommendation? harder or softer for best distance?

    • GolfWRX2

      Aug 20, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      Yea . I suggest lofting up and trying a light weight shaft, with a high kick point for low spin, which wouldn’t the height because of the new loft you would be trying out. But it could mean you have a steep swing, rember to hit up on the ball
      And yes I’m not a pro but have lots of experience.

    • LeoLeo

      Nov 8, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      I’d recommend you check out a lower spin driver. Get your back spin down to 2200 rpm with the driver and see how that works for you. Don’t concern yourself with loft or shaft length. The Ping I series should have less spin than the G series but don’t be afraid to try other manufacturers. Personally, I tried a lot of drivers and shafts and lofts until I fooled around with some low spin drivers in a launch monitor. My driving distance has gone way up. A 10.5° loft low spin driver goes lower and further for me compared to a 9° higher spin driver which goes higher and shorter.

    • Bob Pegram

      Dec 23, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      Get a driver with more loft. Woods uses a driver with 11.25 degrees of loft and he hits it a lot harder than you (or I) do. The newer balls (not wound) don’t spin as much and so need to be hit higher to start. They start losing trajectory right from the tee – an arcing trajectory, not like the older balls that would go in a straight line or even rise until the apex of the shot.

      • Derek

        Sep 8, 2016 at 6:12 am

        I also was using a driver with around 8 deg as i play links in Scotland and thought that was the ideal for low flying drives but after learning alot from trackman and local pro’s im now up at 11 deg and have learned to hit it low if required, i had huge spin numbers before this change, i suspect you have the same.

  15. tlmck

    Aug 1, 2014 at 3:35 am

    The driver/wood/hybrid numbers appear to be about right, but I must be insanely efficient with my irons. At 78 mph, my Titleist AP2 6 iron carries 150 according to GC2 hitting indoors off a mat(actually 155 on the course). The remaining irons are approx. 10 yards apart. All are stock loft/length/lie. I also strike the ball very well which may be the difference.

  16. FlagHi

    Jul 14, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Hi. There is a really useful piece of technology that exists that can help you understand how your stock carry numbers change with different playing conditions. It definitely compliments launch monitor technology and its outputs.

    FlagHi app calculates the effects of the playing conditions on the carry number for each of your clubs.

    You guys (and ladies) have known forever that the ball goes farther when it’s hotter. Or that when playing at higher elevation it goes farther. Or when it’s dry, less far. But did you know the effect? To the number?

    With FlagHi you dial in all your carry numbers then before you play you just enter the weather forecast for your round and the elevation above sea-level of the course. Take the app with you in a recreational round and swipe to see all your clubs’ updated numbers. Or just write down the adjusted numbers if it’s a tournament and you can’t bring your phone. That’s what our touring pros do.

    The FlagHi PRO app does the club-centric calculations but it also does something even cooler. If you enter the distances of a shot, it tells you the distance that the shot “actually plays”. Meaning if I’m from San Diego playing in Denver and I’ve got a 189 yard shot – FlagHi can tell me that the shot “actually plays” 170. Meaning I hit my 7 iron, which is my San Diego 170 club. Because of Denver’s thinner air the ball will sail an additional 19 yards and land – you guessed it – FlagHi.

    Without FlagHi telling me this I would be totally guessing when I play in Denver. Hence why college teams and pros are dialing in their numbers with the app.

    It’s on the apple app store and android is coming shortly. We normally price it for $4.99 but we like to play with the #’s and even right now FlagHi is only $0.99.

    Our users tell us they love the app. There are no ads and it’s super easy to use. Used by touring pros, college teams, amateurs.

    Hope this helps – thanks. And we’re golfers first (and last) and just a couple of guys who came up with this app idea so pardon the “commercial” tone here but honestly and humbly we think you all might find value in knowing how conditions affect how you flight the ball.

    Thanks,

    – The FlagHi Guys

  17. Ronney

    May 19, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    My driver SS dropped from 115 in my mid-to-late 30’s to 80 in at age 42. The weird thing is that I am in far better shape now than I was then. My core is stronger and I’m more flexible. I’ve gained a bit of it back, but my best swings are no more than 90-95 if I really go after it now. I’m still looking for the answer. I hit the ball straight and high and I have a good short game, so I still play well, but lack of distance sometimes gets me. I am a sweeper.

    • MHendon

      Jun 26, 2014 at 12:53 am

      That is strange why you would have lost 35 mph of club head speed makes no sense to me. I’m 44 and in about the worse shape of my life but still swing just as fast and hit the ball just as far as my early 30s. Did you quit playing for several years then recently pick the game back up? If not I might consult with a doctor.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jun 29, 2014 at 8:09 am

      Being stronger or fit doesn’t mean you will be fast.

      For example, when I competed in the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championships and was doing more explosive swing speed training exercises, I maxed my SSR out at 155 mph, which is probably around 139-143 mph on a Trackman.

      However, when I started doing little to no swing speed training and more endurance running, which was required to finish 5th at the Speedgolf World Championships, my SSR speeds dropped down to 118 on the SSR (110’ish on a Trackman). Arguably I was more “fit”, but I wasn’t near as fast.

      So it’s conceivable that something like this could have happened to you.

      Have a look at the swing speed training programs at Swing Man Golf. With a bit of swing speed training, there’s no reason you couldn’t get your speed back up again.

      • Matt

        Sep 28, 2015 at 1:37 am

        Jaacob,
        I’m a 24 year old, athletically built male who just took up the game 6 months ago. I took a few lessons and have gotten my average scores down to the high 80’s from the 100’s since I began. Based on your chart, my club head speed is somewhere between 100 and 110. My distances are as follows:
        Driver – 270
        3 wood – 255
        5 wood – 240
        4 hybrid – 210
        6 iron -180
        7 iron – 165
        8 iron – 155
        9 iron 145
        PW – 135
        My question is this, much like other posters, I my distances were much lower when I first started out, and as a result I purchased all regular shafted clubs. Should I now be considering stuff shafts for my driver and fairway woods? I’ve never been fitted and don’t know exactly what that entails…is there any cost/obligation to purchase that comes with getting fitted? I’m in the military and play on a pretty tight budget right now but want to be hitting the right clubs…and advice is much appreciated!

        • Sam Carson

          Nov 21, 2015 at 4:39 pm

          I think you are kidding yourself on with those yardages unless you have the worst short game around you would be in the low seventies with those distances.

          • Bob Pegram

            Dec 23, 2015 at 8:24 pm

            Sam – He didn’t say he hit them all straight. He said he hit them that far. Hitting a crooked shot far acually would get him in more trouble, not less.

            • Jack

              Jan 17, 2016 at 4:13 am

              Also there is a difference between an average shot versus a perfect shot. Pointless to list perfect shot distances. That’s a recipe to missing the green every time. Unless as a mid handicapper he is a great ball striker.

    • Jeff

      Aug 12, 2014 at 12:20 am

      How tense is your grip, do you release the clubhead? You must be doing something really inefficient

    • GolfWRX2

      Aug 20, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      Hey Ronney you could just be loading the club to fast causing over hip rotation just like in the commercial. Just take up smooth then create power with your legs coming done and crush it.

  18. joseph

    Apr 24, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    thanks. well written article, very helpful.

    my swing speed is just about a 100 and the numbers are perfectly accurate on your chart for me. i play on a course with practically no roll and a 250 drive for me is good.

    the one thing that puzzles me is that i hit my wedges really far. my 60 degree is my 100 yard club, my PW is about 135. these aren’t exaggerated. these are carries on the course. sometimes i think i just have so much more confidence with the wedges that it frees me up. i hit them really high too, which is weird given the distances.

    any thoughts as why that would be the case? who carries his driver 240 but hits hits his gap wedge 125?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jun 29, 2014 at 8:14 am

      Hi Joseph,

      It’s difficult to tell without seeing you in person, but a scenario like this where short irons go longer…and longer irons, hybrids, and drivers go shorter…is possible if your clubs are de-lofted quite a bit or you perhaps have an excessively downward angle of attack.

      With the driver in particular, catching it on the upswing could in all likelihood net you some more carry and total distance more along the lines of what you might expect.

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  20. JCorona

    Jan 10, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    would love to watch someone swing a PW 140 mph…. and crack a rib or 4 in the process 😉

    • momo

      Jul 9, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      The 140 swing speed number is driver only. He isn’t swing his PW 140.

      You know that right?

  21. jc

    Jan 2, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    question…if I use teh 80 mph swing speed as my driver guide..the numbers appear to be very close…but if I were to adjust my 10.5 driver to 10.0 or 11.0 or go to a 12.0 driver, same shaft, would I get less or more yardage?
    I have been playing with adjustments on my 10.5 and can’t quite figure which is the most beneficial, initial trajectory or roll, etc.

    • Joel

      Jan 22, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      If your swing speed is 80 MPH, you would most likely get more yardage with more loft.

      • Jaacob Bowden

        Jun 29, 2014 at 8:20 am

        Hi jc, Joel is right. You would more likely get more distance with more loft.

        At 80 mph, for maximum carry I would target you for about an 18 degree launch angle and 2600’ish on your spin.

        For maximum total distance, I would say around 15 and 2000 would be the goal.

        What I would recommend would depend on the type of course(s) you play. For tighter courses, soft fairways, when you have to carry trouble, or where there are doglegs you don’t want to run through…I would say to favor the carry side of things. For more open courses with harder fairways and the like, going for total distance might be better.

  22. Gary Jones

    Dec 21, 2013 at 12:14 am

    How does the Foresight GC2 compare against Trackman and the SSR?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jun 29, 2014 at 7:54 am

      I forget off the top of my head about the GC2, however, in my experience an SSR generally reads slightly faster than a Trackman. Both have Dopplar radar but the Trackman has an additional algorithm built in to it to calculate speed at the center of the face whereas an SSR will pick up the fastest moving part of the club head (usually the toe).

      It varies from person to person depending on how that person moves the club through impact. Last I checked, I was around 8% faster on an SSR. Most people I’ve measured are between 5-10% faster. Once you know your personal difference (from hitting with an SSR and a Trackman at the same time), you can get a really accurate idea of your Trackman speeds using an SSR.

      Making sure you have the SSR placed correctly also can make a difference.

  23. RoddyM

    Dec 18, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Great article Jaacob and thanks for sharing the stats against swing speed and carry distance. I have a swing speed close to 110mph and I can see some very close comparisons to my measured yardage with my MP59’s (which don’t have too strong a loft)and your figures. I believe the C-taper shafts give me a few extra yards due to lowering the ball spin. You mentioned today’s stronger lofts, but do you see much variance in the type of shafts used?
    I have seen some inconsistency in my carry yardage across my short irons.
    Sometimes when using short iron, I have gone up a club thinking I’ll swing it “softer” and it will go a bit shorter, but have over hit my target. I must be swinging at the same speed and still getting the same yardage.
    This also answers part of the question why I hit an occasional drive or 3 wood 20 or 30 yards longer than my standard yardage. I know I get a faster swing speed on my driver and 3 wood, but I always saw it as clean tempo or a centered impact, I wasn’t thinking about swing speed.

  24. Billy

    Dec 17, 2013 at 12:46 am

    Does the extra 20 yards carry due to the course conditions? More roll than a public course.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jun 29, 2014 at 7:49 am

      Driving distances vary quite a bit depending on the course conditions.

      For example, the Tour average for the last 10 years generally has ran between 285-290. However, at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the average driving distance was 268 yards. At the Wachovia Championship, it was 297 yards.

  25. Ronnie

    Dec 16, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    I find my distances are pretty close to the 80mph swing. when i hit it good its usually 280 right down the middle

    • Jack

      Dec 16, 2013 at 10:04 pm

      So you normally hit driver 206 and when you hit it solidly you hit it 280? Or your irons are shorter but driver longer distance?

  26. melrosegod

    Dec 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Great article! Interesting that my short irons play to the pga distances but I start to fall off around the 6i, probably has to do with contact.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jun 29, 2014 at 7:45 am

      It’s difficult to tell without seeing you in-person, but it’s possible you could have an excessive amount of shaft lean with your clubs. That scenario could make shorter irons go farther and longer irons, hybrids, and woods, fly less than expected.

      • GZ

        Jul 2, 2014 at 5:19 am

        Great article! So more shaft lean in woods creates less distance?
        Why is that?

        I have been tinkering with my swing and have created quite a bit more shaft lean then I had previously. I have noticed that all my irons have increased in distance by about ten to fifteen yards. but my driver & 3 wood have kind of stayed the same, or in a lot of cases I’ve actually lost distance.

        So should I go back to less shaft lean for driver & 3 wood?
        But keep it for the irons?

        I have noticed more consistency with my irons regarding target lines, but I am struggling more with the woods for that consistency now.

        Appreciate your feedback, and thanks again for the article, very informative.

  27. Geoff

    Apr 25, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    I need to figure out why my irons are consistently matched to the 105mph swing speed i.e. 4i = 190y & 9i = 140y, but my driver carries 220ish. With especially good contact, I have carried to 240, but it’s rare. I think I just have a lot more misses with my driver, maybe ???

    • Geoff

      Apr 25, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      PS Great article.

      • Jaacob Bowden

        Apr 26, 2013 at 4:17 am

        Thanks, Geoff.

        Hmmm, what you mentioned about more misses could certainly be part of the shorter driver carry distances. Get some impact tape and/or foot powder for your driver face so you can make sure you’re hitting it consistently on a good spot on the face.

        Also, by chance do you know your average launch angle and spin rate with your driver?

        It’s possible you could be launching it too low and/or with too much spin to carry it that far.

        At 105 mph, my target for you would be about 13.4 degree launch and 2445 rpm spin.

  28. Paddy

    Mar 15, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Hey Jaacob,

    Would you mind sharing your math? I want to customize based on my avg iron distances.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 17, 2013 at 8:46 am

      Sure thing, Paddy.

      The chart is based off the PGA Tour average carry distances that were reported by Trackman (see the first chart in the top of the article), the average total driving distance from the PGATour.com website (about 289 yards), and the average PGA Tour swing speed (about 112 mph).

      Using all that data, I calculated the percent difference from the Tour average swing speed (about 112 mph) to whatever swing speed I wanted. For example, a 90 mph driver swing speed is 80.4% of a 112 mph (90 / 112 = 0.804) driver swing speed.

      Once I knew the percent difference, I went down for each club from the Tour distances and multiplied each one by 0.804 to get the 90 mph distances.

      For example, 80.4% of a 289-yard total drive at 112 mph is 232 yards (0.804 * 289 yards = 232 yards), 80.4% of a 269-yard carry at 112 mph is 216 yards (0.804 * 269 yards = 216 yards), etc.

      Then it was simply a matter of repeating all that for the different swing speeds.

      I made the original chart in Excel and just copied and pasted the formulas to each cell.

      Make sense?

      • Paddy

        Mar 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm

        Yep, using your logic, I could do the same math off of the average distance of my 7 iron vs. the PGA pro 7 iron distance. I’ll try this, thanks!

  29. jason

    Mar 7, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    For swing speed training, what do you suggest/recommend?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 8, 2013 at 3:54 am

      Hi Jason, have a look at my Swing Man Golf website. If you have any further questions after that, just send me an email through the contact form and I’ll be glad to help however I can.

  30. Kyle

    Feb 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Ryan Wither has been clocked at 167. which is the fastest ever. I know cuz I gave him lessons and watch alot of his swings.

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Feb 17, 2013 at 5:59 am

      Hi Kyle, do you know what type of radar was being used?

      Speeds vary depending on the radar.

      For example, although they are accurate, Sports Sensors swing speed radars usually read 5-12% faster (depends on the person and how they move the club through impact) than a Trackman because they measure the fastest moving part of the club head…which is normally the toe. Conversely, a Trackman or Flightscope X2 have algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face…and thus read slower than an SSR.

      If I remember correctly, the last time I heard from Ryan, the fastest he has posted on a Trackman was at the PGA Show…156 mph. The fastest that was recorded for him on Trackman at the 2012 World Championships was 149.4 mph.

  31. cody

    Feb 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    this is a weird article becasue i recently got fitted for irons and they said i swing 72 mph with my irons but i hit my 7 iron like 130 average

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Feb 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm

      Cody, the speeds above are based on driver swing speeds…not iron swing speeds. Do you know what your driver swing speed is?

      • cody

        Feb 8, 2013 at 2:08 pm

        not really sure , i hit a taylormade r7 superquad with a stiff shaft, i dont swing fast at all i think i get like 230 consitent off my drives

  32. Pingback: Golf Swing Speed and Distance

  33. Augustine

    Jan 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Great article and very imformative! I’ve had those PGA and LPGA charts for a while and most recreational golfers (single handicap and above) should be looking at LPGA numbers for each given iron rather than PGA, even if they swing faster than the LPGA averages beacuse most amatures have low smash factors so even if they are able to swing close in swing speed to the PGA averages, the lower smash will result in lower ball speeds and carry distances of the LPGA.

    Basically my numbers are exactly one club more than the PGA pros, given my swing speed and smash factors are not as optimal as theirs.

    I think your chart (estimated potential swing speed and carry distance projected from the PGA average) is also a good indication of what our potentials are. That is, if you swing 100mph driver with 255 carry but the rest of your clubs fall more into the range projected down from the 90mph driver swing speed then you know you work on those clubs and tighten the yardage gaps….

  34. Nick

    Jan 19, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Jaacob, thanks for posting this; I’ve been looking for a comparison chart with different speeds like the one you posted. My distances appear to match up quite closely with the 100 mph, just slightly less, with my 7 iron going 150, 8 140, 9 130, etc, but I think my irons are a bit strong. However, I hit my 4 iron 180 (as I should if the chart is right), but sometimes use it to hit 190-200 (probably because I never actually swing 100% when hitting my irons because I’m afraid of blading etc) since I do not have a 3 iron. My main concern is that for some reason I only hit my driver about 200. I’m not sure why, I must never be hitting the center of my driver, because I should be 240 carry. Every shot feels good, and when I hit a really good one, it still maybe will reach 220. I’m not sure what to do, any tips?
    Thanks,
    -Nick

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jan 19, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      Sure thing, Nick.

      To answer your question, can you get on a Trackman or Flightscope X2 and hit a few drives?

      I’m curious to verify your swing speed…and also know your launch angle, spin rate, and smash factor.

  35. Tom Allinder

    Jan 19, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Jaacob, I enjoyed your article and received some significant insight regarding measurement of swing speed given the number of sensors on the market.

    One area I am particularly concerned with is those of us over 50 years of age. Many of my golfing buddies feel that loss of distance is a natural result of aging. I disagree to an extent with that attitude. We seniors can hit the ball plenty long if we work out, stretch, do some yoga etc. I think a good diet is part of it too.

    While it is inevitable that we lose speed with aging, we don’t have to give in completely. A little work, proper fitting and improved technique can get a lot of yards back and get longer than we ever were in our youth!

    Another thing we seniors benefit from in competition is we are now playing competitive rounds on courses at 6400-6600 yards. Wow, golf is fun again because I don’t need to hit driver on many of the par 4s and still have only a wedge left to the pin! The par 5’s are reachable again too!

    Again, great article and I will be a regular reader from now on…

  36. G

    Jan 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Awesome Data stuff, Mr Bowden!

    Would it be possible to expand this article to full size analysis of everything mentioned so far, in much much more detail with proper tables and graphs and charts, just as everybody wants, with all the big tours’ averages and modern club loft standards, etc? Then it would be the perfect bible.

    Awesome, nonetheless, and helps me illustrate my points to students and friends alike who just cannot believe the scientific numbers of averages out there, who all still believe that more than most Tour guys bomb it past 300 with their drivers and hit their 6 irons to 240 yards LOL

  37. Chris Wehring

    Jan 16, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    This article is pretty interesting! I found some things that don’t match up with my swing. It could just be my weird swing. As of last year, my swing speed was around 95 but I carry my 8 iron almost 150 on a good strike. Maybe my course’s markers are just off. I don’t know. Haha maybe my swing is similar to the LPGA swings in being more efficient with my swing speed. I really liked the article though.

  38. Frank

    Jan 16, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Great article, thanks! Would also be great to know LPGA and Champions averages, just for comparison…

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jan 16, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it, Frank.

      Here are the LPGA Trackman numbers (in yards). Unfortunately, I don’t have the club lofts…which would be useful. Although, like I mentioned in my comment reply to Andy and David, a rough estimate of those could be calculated similar to how I did it above.

      Driver (total) – 246
      Driver (carry) – 220
      3W – 195
      5W – 185
      7W – 174
      4-Iron – 170
      5-Iron – 161
      6-Iron – 152
      7-Iron – 141
      8-Iron – 130
      9-Iron – 119
      PW – 107

      Let me check on the Champions Tour numbers…

      • Jaacob Bowden

        Jan 16, 2013 at 4:16 pm

        I didn’t find anything for the Champions Tour, but let’s see what we can come up with.

        The mean driving distance on the Champions Tour for the 2012 season was 273.4 yards. Assuming that Champions Tour players have the same driving efficiency as regular PGA Tour players at 2.58 yards per mph of swing speed, that would mean the average swing speed for a Champions Tour player is about 106 mph.

        Using the same algebra that I did in the article, here would be the carry estimates in yards:

        Driver (Total) – 274
        Driver (Carry) – 255
        3-Wood – 230
        5-Wood – 218
        Hybrid – 213
        3-Iron – 201
        4-Iron – 192
        5-Iron – 184
        6-Iron – 173
        7-Iron – 163
        8-Iron – 151
        9-Iron – 140
        PW – 129

        • Paddy

          Mar 12, 2013 at 6:35 pm

          Hey Jacob,

          My numbers are a BIT different. Any chance you’re willing to share your math so I can apply this to my average distances for certain clubs? Thanks!

          Paddy

      • dave

        Mar 4, 2013 at 8:01 am

        Jacob,

        Great article…good to see some hard #s to compare. I personally am coming off double hip replacement surgeries in 2012 and watched a lot of LPGA golf last year during recovery/rehab…I personally found that I now relate more to the yardages the top women players have than the elite men college or pro level. Also, the women have impeccable tempo and always seem to swing “within” themselves.

  39. Brian Cass

    Jan 16, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Important for folks to also realize the PGA Tour and Nationwide follow the sun AKA usually playing in optimal conditions with super tight fairways affording 20 plus yards of roll. Buddy of mine who is a caddy who knows web.com guys said their distances went up immediately upon playing more manicure courses in 70-80 degree weather. Yeah they still hit it great/far/better than us!

  40. Martin Signer

    Jan 16, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Jacoob

    interesting good article.

    Have a nice day,

    Martin

  41. Andy Cook

    Jan 15, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Instead of listing the club name how about listing the name and the loft? My 9i is 41*. Does that map to the 9i on the chart or one of the other clubs? Thanks. -Andy

    • David McElroy

      Jan 16, 2013 at 9:13 am

      I agree, it would be nice to see loft along with those figures.

      • Jaacob Bowden

        Jan 16, 2013 at 2:24 pm

        You guys are both right. This data is much more useful with the lofts.

        I was actually curious about this as well so I looked up what 30 PGA Tour players “say” they are playing on their websites, from “What’s in the Bag” videos and articles, etc…and then looked up the specs from the company’s websites for each of those club models.

        It’s only a small data sample and perhaps there is a difference from each player’s actual club specs versus what is listed in the places I looked, but here are the averages I came up with:

        Driver – 9.0
        3-Wood – 14.4
        5-Wood/Hybrid/Long Iron – 19.2
        4-Iron – 23.9
        5-Iron – 27.0
        6-Iron – 30.5
        7-Iron – 34.3
        8-Iron – 38.3
        9-Iron – 42.4
        PW – 47.1
        GW/SW – 53.9
        LW – 59.7

        • Jaacob Bowden

          Jan 16, 2013 at 2:31 pm

          Oh, regarding the chart with the PGA Tour Trackman averages…it says 15-18* for hybrid.

        • nik d

          Dec 21, 2013 at 4:49 pm

          its funny how strong lofts are on modern irons. I have a set of circa 1980 titleist tour models, and the stamped loft on the pw is 49 degrees and 9 iron at 45 degrees. I bent them strong to the modern lofts much similar to the loft chart you posted. the only problem? the stronger they are bent, the more offset they are and the higher they seem to fly and the more they hook.

          • jc

            Jan 2, 2014 at 4:01 pm

            in the dave pelz short game bible, what was a pitching wedge of 50 is now a gap wedge on almost all sets..

  42. Troy Vayanos

    Jan 15, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    They are interesting numbers Jacob. I’ve no doubt the touring professionals have these tested to the very inch. At their level getting the right distances are absolutely vital and often the difference between winning and losing.

    I only wish we had this sort of technology available in Australia. Hitting at the golf driving range is fine but it doesn’t really give you exact carry distances as the target is too far away and no way of seeing where the golf ball actually lands.

    Would you know of how the average golfer can work out these numbers?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jan 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      Troy, I’m not sure what part of Australia you live…but the locator tool on the Trackman website shows there are some Trackmans in basically all the major cities like Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, and Brisbane.

      As for the SSRs, unfortunately Sports Sensors doesn’t presently have a frequency license for the radar in Australia and thus they won’t ship there. However, sometimes you can find someone on eBay that is willing to sell and ship to Oz.

      You might also check your local golf shop or golf course. Often times, they will have a launch monitor of some sorts. If you can find out the name of the launch monitor brand, there are usually articles out and around on Google comparing and contrasting different brands and how they measure swing speed versus.

      As for working out the numbers without a radar or someone to help you see where the ball lands…hmmm, there’s a number of ways to do it. Here’s a couple.

      If you have a range finder, laser the distance to a flag within short iron distance from the fairway. Choose a club that you think will get you close to the flag with a full swing, hit a shot (or a few if you aren’t holding anyone up), and then add or subtract how many paces the pitch marks are relative to the flag from the distance you lasered in the fairway.

      Without a range finder…find an open hole, drop a few balls, and step them off by foot to get a rough average distance. From there you can estimate the other clubs.

      • Jason

        Jan 27, 2013 at 11:15 pm

        Just a quick question, probably not an easy or quick answer… If my yardages are way off of that, say out to 165 for a pitching wedge… Say out to 190 some days with a 7… Only swing speed I know is my driver @ 114-115 consistently… Am I swinging too hard or
        possibly delofting my irons at impact?

        • Jaacob Bowden

          Jan 29, 2013 at 7:48 am

          Hmmm, well distances can vary based on the conditions. That’s one possibility. Check out my other article for more on that aspect -> http://www.golfwrx.com/54875/understanding-distance-variance/

          Delofting, like you mentioned, could be another possibility. More specifically, you may be decreasing your spin loft…which is the difference between your angle of attack and the dynamic loft of the club.

          So say your friend hits down 2 degrees on the ball and the dynamic loft is 30 degrees…then you take the club, swing at the same speed, and hit down 2 degrees but have a dynamic loft that is 26 degrees from having your hands further forward at impact…your ball would probably have less spin, a greater smash factor, and go farther. Depending on the person and other specifics of their game, this scenario could be good or bad.

          As for swinging too hard, that would depend on if you feel like you can control your shots. If you feel under control hitting those distances, I’d say it’s no problem.

          • momo

            Jul 9, 2014 at 9:37 pm

            Love this kind of information. Great article.

            how can i get faster swing speed. I am in the 100 category give.

            Would you advise switching to REGULAR flex?

  43. Kris

    Jan 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Good article. Curiously, where my SS of 98-100 (as measured at GolfTown-who knows if accurate, though their flight numbers are close to what I see on course-don’t trust their roll #s as they have my wedges rolling 10+ lol) seems to fit your long club carry numbers pretty well, it’s not close with my scoring clubs. My irons from 8i down to my 64° get very little roll. My 58° goes at least 100, my PW 140, and 8i 160. even my 8i rarely rolls more than 10 ft from it’s landing spot. And I only hit my mid-irons/wedges with an abbreviated swing, I’m not trying to kill them. As you can see, if a green involves a hazard carry of >170, I lay up.

    My distances are (including roll I play on average, amount of roll given)~:
    D-270(30), 3w-240(25), 5w-215(20), 4i-200(20), 5i-190(15), 6i-180(10), 7i-170(10), 8i-160(<5), 9i-150(<5), PW-140, 52°-120, 58°-100, 64°-80

    • Kccheadpro

      Jan 20, 2013 at 11:37 pm

      I’m a big hitter with a fast swing speed and I also carry a 64* wedge. I used to hit about 85-90 yards max, which gave me something to brag about, but I believe hitting a 64* wedge 80 yards is not ideal. I changed my approach of wedges about two years ago and I lost 25 yards off my 64* wedge, but my accuracy and pinpoint placement has improved. Also I feel that instead of just launching the ball high and having it land with 4′ of check! I can play my 64* with a much better angle of approach.
      Glad to hear you’re swingin’ a 64* though, not too many people carrying them around.

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Opinion & Analysis

The numbers behind “full scholarships” in NCAA men’s college golf

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If you are in the world of junior golf, you’ve probably heard about a young man you know who’s getting that coveted full ride to college, maybe even to a Power-5 school. With all the talk in junior golf about full scholarships, and a lot of rumors about how many are available, we decided to poll coaches and gather some real data about “full scholarships.”

So, what did we find out? In total, we got responses to a voluntary online survey from 61 men’s D1 coaches, 19 men’s D2 coaches and 3 NAIA coaches (83 total). On average, the coaches in the survey had 11.8 years of coaching experience. Of the coaches that responded, 58 of the 83 coaches reported having zero players on full ride. Another 15 coaches surveyed reported having one player on full ride. This means that 69 percent of the coaches surveyed reported zero players on full scholarship and 18 percent reported one player on full scholarship, while another four coaches reported that 20 percent of their team was on full ride and six coaches reported between 2-3 players on full ride.

We then asked coaches, “what percent of golfers in Division 1 do you think have full scholarships based on your best guess?” Here’s what the responses looked like: 25 coaches said 5 percent and 36 coaches said 10 percent. This means that 73 percent of respondents suggested that, in their opinion, in men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA, there are less than 10 percent of players on full ride.

Next, we asked coaches, “what was a fair scholarship percentage to offer a player likely to play in your top 5?” The average of the 83 responses was 62.5 percent scholarship with 38 coaches (46 percent) suggesting they would give 30-50 percent and 43 coaches (52 percent) suggesting 50-75 percent. Only two coaches mentioned full scholarship.

The last question we asked coaches, was “what would you need to do to earn a full scholarship?”

  • Top-100 in NJGS/Top-250 in WAGR – 41 coaches (49 percent)
  • 250-700 in WAGR – 19 coaches (23 percent)
  • Most interesting, 17 coaches (20 percent) noted that they either did not give full rides or did not have the funding to give full rides.

The findings demonstrate that full rides among players at the men’s Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA levels are rare, likely making up less than 10 percent of total players. It also suggests that if you are a junior player looking for a full ride, you need to be exceptional; among the very best in your class.

Please note that the survey has limitations because it does not differentiate between athletic and academic money. The fact is several institutions have a distinct advantage of being able to “stack” academic and athletic aid to create the best financial packages. My intuition suggests that the coaches who responded suggesting they have several players on “full rides” are likely at places where they are easily able to package money. For example, a private institution like Mercer might give a student $12,000 for a certain GPA and SAT. This might amount to approximately 25 percent, but under the NCAA rules it does not count toward the coach’s 4.5 scholarships. Now for 75 percent athletic, the coach can give a player a full ride.

Maybe the most interesting finding of the data collection is the idea that many programs are not funded enough to offer full rides. The NCAA allows fully funded men’s Division 1 programs to have 4.5 scholarships, while Division 2 programs are allowed 3.6. My best guess suggests that a little more than 60 percent of men’s Division 1 programs have this full allotment of scholarship. In Division 2, my guess is that this number is a lot closer to 30 percent.

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Opinion & Analysis

Oh, To Be An (Oregon) Duck

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A few weeks ago I flew into Eugene, Oregon on a mission. I’d come to work with one my students who is a member of the Duck’s varsity golf team. I had never been further south than Seattle or further north than Monterey, so this part of the world was new to me.

What I did know was that the Bandon Dunes area had become a destination for some of the greatest golf in the world, rivaling other famed resorts around the country. The resort is just outside the quaint town of Bandon, which is a good two-hour drive from Eugene. The resort’s four courses — Bandon Dunes, Bandon Trails, Pacific Dunes, and Old McDonald — each have their own personality, but at the same time they have one thing in common: the four architects that designed them took full advantage of the natural topography, deftly weaving holes in and out along the Oregon coastline.

I was looking forward to playing two of the courses before leaving: Pacific Dunes and Old McDonald. You may find this hard to believe, but those two rounds would be my first and second of the year after a busy summer season on the lesson tee. And for that very reason, I had no expectations other than to make a few pars and enjoy the scenery.

After retrieving my luggage from the turnstile, I made my way toward the exit with luggage in tow. My rental car was just across the street in an open-air lot and as I pushed through the airport doors, I was greeted by a gust of wind and a spray of rain. “Welcome to Eugene,” I thought to myself.

The sudden burst reminded me of playing in Scotland, where the rain gives way to sun only on occasion. I surmised that the weather in the Eugene would be similar. “Don’t forget your rain suit,” a fellow professional reminded me when I told him about my trip. As it turned out, that was good advice. He had been there before around the same time of year. “You’ll be lucky if you get one good day out of three,” he said.

As I drove through the area to my hotel, what struck me the most were the large hills that commanded the landscape and the thick white clouds that seemed to cling to them like giant cotton balls.  I found a comfortable hotel just outside Eugene in the small but quaint town of Cottage Grove. In charitable terms, you could characterize my hotel as “a tribute to the past.”

I woke up at 6 a.m. the next morning, dressed and made my way downstairs to the lobby. The rain had continued through the night and as I prepared to leave the hotel,  it started to come down even harder. I stood in the lobby, waiting, while listening to the rain drops pounding on the roof,  a steady beat at first, then rising and falling like a conga drum.

I’d agreed to meet my student at 10 a.m. for a practice session and then he was slated to play nine holes with the team later in the afternoon. Based on the weather, I was concerned that the day might be a total rain-out. What I didn’t know at the time was that the school has a portable canopy that allowed the team, rain or shine, to practice on natural grass. I ran to my car ducking rain drops. The forecast called for a chance of sun in the afternoon. And this time the weather man was  right.

That afternoon I was invited to watch my student and the rest of Casey Martin’s boys play a quick nine holes at Eugene Country Club, the team’s home course. The layout is one of the most unusual that I’ve ever seen with giant trees bordering every fairway. The tips seemed to stretch up and up into the sky, piecing the low-hanging clouds above, as if they were marshmallows on a stick.

The Ducks have fielded a strong team the past two years, winning the NCAA Division 1 Championship in 2016 and then finishing second this year. A good deal of credit for that accomplishment goes to Casey Martin, who has coached the Ducks since 2006. For those who are too young to remember, Casey Martian was a teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford University. He later competed on the Nike Tour. Casey earned his PGA Tour card in 1999 by finishing 14th on the Nike Tour, but his earnings through the 2000 season were not enough for him to retain his card, relegating him to once again to playing on the development tour. He played sporadically up through 2006. The following year, Casey assumed the job of Head Coach, which brought him back to his native Eugene.

In earlier years, Martin’s play career as a professional was hindered by the fact that he could not play 18 holes without a golf cart due to a birth defect in his right leg. The PGA Tour Board ruled against his use of a cart, maintaining that the physical act of walking was considered an integral part of the competition. Believing that he was in the right, Casey filed a suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. His case made its way to the Supreme Court where he won. As for his competitive record, by his own admonition, he is disappointed that he didn’t play better as a professional. A primary focus of his coaching then, as he conceded, is to teach his players not to make the same mistakes he did in his own career. What struck me as unique was the passion and intensity with which he coached. I would venture that it’s the same level of intensity that he brought to the golf course when he competed.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a closed-door, defensive-team practice at Duke University with Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) on the floor. He had divided the team into two groups with one at either end of the court competing against each other. His legs straddled the center line as if he were Colossus with his head swiveling back and forth as if on a stick. The impression was that he saw everything and be never missed anything. And then when he saw a player make a mistake, he would blow his whistle sharply. The players would immediately stop moving as if they were frozen in place. And then, in peg-leg style, he would hobble across the floor favoring one leg over the other. He was clearly in need of a hip replacement at the time.

I’ve had both of my hips replaced, so I could easily imagine the pain that he was experiencing as he peg-legged it from the center of the court to either end. I suspected that he had decided that surgery would have to wait. The season was just a few weeks away, and given that his team was largely composed of freshman, he could not afford to miss a day. Casey Martin doesn’t blow a whistle, nor does he run a defense practice, but as he climbs out of his cart, deftly working his way to a vantage point where he can see his players from every angle, I’m reminded of the halting walk of Coach K.

There is something else that these two man share in common — an intense desire to win. They settle for nothing less than great. And when you look into their eyes, you can see that there is an intensity that burns from within that is vastly different from the man on the street.

As you might remember, I was scheduled to play a round on Pacific Dunes and another on Old McDonald. The two courses are both spectacular layouts with ocean views. And the weather… I drew two perfect days, defying the odds my friend had laid down. It was sunny and 65 degrees with just a hint of wind. How did I play? Let’s just say that I made a few pars. What I found was that striking the ball well is no guarantee that you will score low on these courses. The green complexes are diabolical. The best advice I can give you is to throw you scorecard away. You’ll enjoy yourself more.

The next morning, I was on an early morning flight back to Minneapolis only to discover that we were experiencing Indian Summer with temperatures 20 degrees warmer than usual. But as Minnesotans, we all know what is waiting for us just around the corner.

I’ll leave you with this thought. After watching Casey Martin and the players on his team play and practice, I’m sure of one thing. And that’s when next year’s NCAA Championship comes around, Casey Martin will have all of his Ducks in a row.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Kids Are Alright: Spike in Junior Golf Participation a Good Sign for Game’s Future

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This week, eight 10-player All-Star teams representing regions from across the country will converge upon Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., to compete in the 6th PGA Junior League Championship.

The teams – New Hampshire (Northeast), California (West), Georgia (Southeast), Ohio (Mideast), Illinois (Midwest), New Jersey (Mid-Atlantic), Arkansas (Mississippi Valley), and Texas (Southwest) – will be divided into two divisions where they will face off in round-robin, 9-hole matches using a two-person, scramble format of play. Teams are captained by PGA/LPGA Professionals.

Since the PGA of America launched PGA Junior League in 2012, participation has skyrocketed from about 1,800 players the first year to a record-setting 42,000 boys and girls age 13 and under participating on 3,400 teams across the country this year.

“Junior golf is a key priority of the PGA of America and we recognize that increasing youth participation in the game is essential to the future of our industry and sport,” said Suzy Whaley, PGA of America Vice President and PGA Director of Instruction at Suzy Whaley Golf in Connecticut.

“PGA Jr. League is a fun and welcoming opportunity for boys and girls of all backgrounds and skill levels to learn, play, and love golf under the expert instruction and guidance of PGA and LPGA Professionals. It’s team-oriented and kids wear numbered jerseys. It’s transforming traditional junior golf and the numbers prove it.”

Whaley believes the team concept and scramble format are major factors in PGA Jr. League’s rapid growth over the last five years. In fact, she says, the program is re-shaping the golf industry’s view of the way junior golf is typically learned and played.

“Other youth sports have been utilizing the team format for years and it’s a natural fit for golf,” said Whaley, who has taken three teams to the Jr. League Championships. “The scramble format provides for a low-pressure environment. We’ve created a team atmosphere that has broad appeal. Parents and kids enjoy being a part of the community that PGA/LPGA Professional Captains create. In this team setting, older, more experienced players mentor the younger, beginner golfers. There’s no pressure on any one player, and it’s great to see kids pull for one another versus the individual focus generally associated with golf.”

“It is a program that creates a family-centered atmosphere that encourages mom, dad, brothers, sisters, and grandparents to become involved, as well. During PGA Jr. League matches, the parents are part of the match keeping score, posting photos on social media and encouraging all players. PGA Jr. League grows lifetime interest in the game across multiple generations.”

Matthew Doyle of the Connecticut team gathers for a photo with team captain, Suzy Whaley during session three for the 2016 PGA jr. League Golf Championship presented by National Rental Car held at Grayhawk Golf Club on November 20, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Traci Edwards/PGA of America)

Fourteen-year-old Cullen Laberge from Farmington, Conn., is a student in the Suzy Whaley Golf program and has competed at the PGA Jr. League Championships for Team Connecticut. Laberge has been playing for four years and says his Jr. League experience really sparked his interest in the game and his desire to become a better player and ultimately a golf teacher one day.

“It has taught me so much about golf, while keeping it fun and interesting,” Laberge said. “The thing I enjoy the most is playing competitive golf without the stress that tournament golf can sometimes bring. No matter age or skill level, Jr. League keeps it fun and no matter how a player is playing there is another player to pick them up. That national championship was the best experience of my life. It was like I was playing on the PGA Tour. I loved the amazing competition; those players were good.”

And it’s not just golf’s executives and Jr. League participants who have taken notice of the program’s growth and the ultimate importance that growth represents for the future of the game. PGA and LPGA professionals including Rory McIlroy, Ricky Fowler, Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie have all joined as ambassadors for the program.

“I want to do everything I can to be a positive influence on kids who are interested in the game and serving as an ambassador for PGA Jr. League is a great fit,” said Wie. “There are so many lessons that kids can learn and that adults can reinforce through the game of golf – good sportsmanship, honesty, integrity, work ethic. Golf can help you learn how to react when things don’t go your way which I think is a really important skill to have in life.”

“Golf can definitely mirror life. You can work incredibly hard and still fall short, but how do you bounce back? How do you overcome a mistake or a bad break and still succeed? It’s important for kids to grow up with a good work ethic and the right attitude to face challenges. Golf is a great game to teach those lessons.”

Copyright Picture : Mark Pain / IMG (www.markpain.com)

Wie says the more inclusive and welcoming the golf community in general can be, the better.

“Especially as a young female, I have experienced plenty of times where I did not feel welcome or felt like I had to prove myself more than the guys did,” Wie said. “Golf is a game that should be available to everyone and I think it’s important to make it accessible to kids whether they are a future tour pro or a future 20-handicapper.”

The folks over at the USGA know a thing or two about growing the game and making it more accessible and they should, they’ve been doing it since the association’s founding in 1894.

The inaugural three USGA championships – the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1895 – did not have age limits, each simply aiming to identify the champion golfer. In 1948, the USGA held the first United States Junior Amateur solely open to players under the age of 18 and just one year later the association conducted the first United States Girls’ Junior Championship.

In addition to helping fund The First Tee, LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championships, the USGA recently introduced its “For the Good of the Game” grant program to promote a more welcoming and accessible game at the local level with millions of dollars offered to local communities to build programs.

“The greatest misperception is accessibility,” says Beth Major, Director of Community Outreach at the USGA. “Two-thirds of all golf courses in America are open to the public. Kids and parents still believe it is a country club sport and we need to change that.”

Founded in 2013 as a joint initiative between the USGA, the Masters Tournament, and the PGA of America, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free nationwide junior golf competition for boys and girls ages 7-15 aimed at growing the game. Participants who advance through local, sub-regional and regional qualifying earn a place in the National Finals, which is conducted the Sunday before The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Drive, Chip and Putt qualifying is offered in all 50 states and participation in the event has increased each year.

“We have a great partnership with our friends at the PGA of America and the Masters Tournament,” Major said. “Our leaders realized that by pooling our resources at the national level while activating at the local level, we could quickly scale the program and get more kids involved.”

“Going into our sixth year, it is amazing to see how far the program has grown and the entry point we’ve created together to keep our youth engaged. We look forward to continuing to evolve the program to welcome more youth to the sport.”

The USGA, in partnership with the LPGA, the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America, and the PGA TOUR, founded The First Tee in 1997 specifically to answer the call for diversity and inclusion. The program has welcomed millions of new players to the game in the past 20 years by focusing not only on teaching golf skills but life and social skills such as etiquette, honesty, respect, confidence and responsibility.

Founded in 1989, the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program is aimed at girls ages 6-17 and has played a critical role in not only welcoming girls and women to the game, but perhaps equally importantly keeping them in the game.

“Statistics continually show us that the social aspects of the game drive girls and women to play golf,” Major said. “That sense of camaraderie and building friends greatly outweighs their need to compete at the entry level. LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, quite simply, has made it fun and cool for girls to play – and play together. And the results are astounding. We have traced more than 100 girls who started in an LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program that played in a USGA championship last year. They have not only introduced the game to girls and young women, they kept them in the game, and that is very exciting and inspiring.”

One company is tackling growth of the game from another angle – the equipment side.

Since its very beginning back in 1997, U.S. Kids Golf has been focused on its mission, “To help kids have fun learning the lifelong game of golf and to encourage family interaction that builds lasting memories.

To that end, the company began developing youth clubs starting out with just three sizes and one product line initially.

“Over time, through watching youth golfers, we came to realize that we were not serving them as well as we would like,” said Dan Van Horn, U.S. Kids Golf founder. “Looking at how the best players in the world – LPGA and PGA Tour – are fit for clubs, we discovered the proportion of their drive length to height was from 60-70 percent. From that we created what we term the ‘2/3 solution.’ Simply put, for every 3 inches a player grows, we offer a set that has a driver that is 2 inches longer.”

Importantly, it is not just the length of the clubs that increase as the player grows but also the overall club weight, grip size and shaft stiffness. At the same time, the loft on woods decreases providing additional distance.

“One of the key benefits of correctly fit clubs that are lightweight is the ability for players to learn a correct and powerful swing at a young age,” Van Horn said. “Clubs that are too long and/or heavy slows the golf swing itself and creates bad habits that are difficult to change later in life.”

Beyond the importance of young golfers needing properly fit equipment, Van Horn believes strongly in the need for juniors to compete in tournament play to facilitate aspirational goals and to measure progress. Going hand in hand with this is proper instruction from coaches who understand how young players learn and develop.

“After a few years of producing equipment, we realized more needed to be done to serve our market so we formed a nonprofit foundation,” Van Horn said. “Immediately we created our World Championship in 2000 so that young golfers would have an aspirational goal, much like the Little League World Series is to baseball players. We also realized that golf professionals and coaches lacked an organized incentive-based learning program to truly engage players in the game so we created one that same year.”

A longtime proponent of having players play from appropriate yardages, U.S. Kids Golf developed the Longleaf Tee System which uses a mathematical formula to “scale” any golf course for up to eight different tee locations per hole so all players have options based upon how far they carry the ball with a driver. Yardages start at 3,200 yards for 18 holes and increase up to Tour distances of 7,400 yards.

“What we need is a focus by all golf facilities and coaches to provide quality, enjoyable experiences to our youth,” Van Horn said. “This means incorporating game-based learning with a measurable, learning program so that players and their parents know how they are progressing. And, of course, shorter tees need to be available so we can get kids on a ‘field’ that fits them like other sports. There’s no question it can be done.”

The National Golf Foundation’s annual report for 2016 revealed that participation in junior golf programs remained steady at 2.9 million likely due in part to the success of the programs mentioned above and others just like them. Importantly, the number of female junior golfers has increased to a third of all participants and the number of non-Caucasion players has risen to a quarter, four times what it was a couple of decades ago.

While time will ultimately judge whether these programs and offerings serve not only to retain current players but continue to attract new ones, the state of junior golf in the country appears strong and on the right track for now. 

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