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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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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. gticlay

    Jun 11, 2020 at 2:36 am

    I remember when this first came out. I’ve never really had my driver go as far as these charts say it should, based on my iron distances. I’ve had my ball plug many, many times 280 out for years and years with all kinds of different drivers while my irons are pretty much exactly between the 120 and 130 boxes for carry distance. I’ve been shopping and playing only older irons with “mid school” and “old school” lofts so that I can play a PW between 47-50*. Ideally, I think, I want a set of irons with one less club 3-PW and slightly larger gaps between them, with more wedges going from 50* to 64*. But to do that, I think I’ll need some sort of costly custom set. Am I the only one that absolutely does not like the new jacked lofts in the newer sets? Must be, or someone would make clubs with normal lofting.

  2. Imafitter

    Jun 6, 2020 at 12:40 pm

    What I’ve learned as a fitter is that you MUST hit the club with the specific shafts you are interested in before making a purchase. Like tires, a 500 wear rating in one brand is for that brand’s comparisons only, and a tire with the same wear rating in another brand may wear differently. In shafts, a particular flex in one brand may not be the same flex or feel in another! That goes for all shaft characteristics. There are no USGA/R&A rules for shafts, except for length.

    • kelly

      Jun 18, 2020 at 2:40 am

      how is this relevant to the takeaway from this article at all besides the fact that we get you’re a club fitter

  3. Peter

    Jun 2, 2020 at 4:52 am

    Hard to compare myself with the pro tour when half the year I’m playing in near freezing temps with Antarctic blasts with zero run on the fairways. I’m always longing for the next spring and summer thinking I will get my old distances back… sadly each summer, I’m also another year older… and slower

  4. Pelling

    Jun 1, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    Does it really matter if my 6 iron is 15 feet from the cup while your 8 iron is 15 feet from the cup? Just wondering…

    • Mr Physics

      Jun 1, 2020 at 4:14 pm

      No, but it’s easier to hit an 8-iron to 15 feet than it is a 6-iron, just as it’s easier to hit a PW close than it is a 3-iron. So over the long run, someone hitting 8-iron is going to hit it closer than you are with your 6-iron.

  5. Dill Pickelson

    Jun 1, 2020 at 10:52 am

    They should use DEGREES not the # on the head…….my 2i equates to today’s 4i.

    • Adam

      Jun 11, 2020 at 8:56 am

      Very true. My 2 iron is 19.5 degrees which is a modern 3 or 4

  6. Reid Thompson

    Jun 1, 2020 at 10:04 am

    I imagine the less efficient PGA tour numbers are from choice. fairway finders?

  7. JARNO

    Jun 1, 2020 at 12:37 am

    What is the formula for these distances and can it be based off of 6i SS I recently did a fitting for irons and now know that number. But I want to change wedges and I am trying to decide on distances, without having to buy wedge after wedge?

    • Funkaholic

      Jun 1, 2020 at 10:48 am

      Wedges are not determined by distance, you should be more concerned with grind and bounce and then loft. Wedges are not use at full swing usually. Your angle of attack, desired spin characteristics and turf conditions will determine what grinds and lofts you should be playing.

  8. Rich Douglas

    May 31, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    My driver speed is 105. I don’t quite get the carry for the driver that is on the chart (between 240 and 264). 240 seems right, though, which accompanies the 100 mph column. But….

    My irons are longer than that, consistent with the 110 mph column.

    Sigh, confusion….

    • The real Dude

      May 31, 2020 at 8:19 pm

      Feel your confusion, my avg driver speed is 93-95, distance is about right for the chart,,,,, but irons? they are closer to the 110, wedge 130, 9-140, 8- 150 and so on,,,,,,,,,,

    • Larry

      May 31, 2020 at 9:35 pm

      “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.”

    • T Spuhler

      Jun 1, 2020 at 8:26 am

      You missed the approximate part, but there’s a lot more that goes in to how far you hit a golf ball. As a master fitter in Salem Oregon his numbers are spot on but you must kee in mind, things like do you hit up or down on the ball? Then we have to look at smash factor (Trackman) dynamic loft, spin rate, shaft, ball, etc… As you can see there’s a lot that goes into max distance. Hopefully this helps you

    • Don

      Jun 1, 2020 at 3:00 pm

      My driver ss is also in the 110-115 range by my AOA (angle of attack) is very descending (5-8 degrees some swings). I get 150s ball speed but am routinely in the 260 total distance range. On the rare occasions I hit up on the ball (or more just ‘less down’), I get it over 300 and last month drove a 317 yard par 4. I’m focused on AOA for this season to see if I can improve.

      Conversely, I hit my irons very long. 9i was my 150 club but now is 157 to even 160 after some lessons. Does anyone think -AOA would actually be helpful for distance with irons? I play stock Callaway Apex 16s fwiw.

      • Cc

        Jun 1, 2020 at 3:18 pm

        Need to swing that driver up a few degrees and swing down with your irons a few degrees

        • Benny

          Jun 1, 2020 at 6:57 pm

          C C is correct and if you can have your irons checked and even de-lofted. Otherwise you need 5 wedges and that doesn’thelp anyone.
          But all and all that is awesome speed Don and hope you can translate into some low rounds!
          Good luck!

  9. Haloha

    May 31, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    I love this article and I have had it saved from a while back lol. Pretty accurate.

  10. willie

    May 31, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    I would love to see how loft effects these differences. my Driver SS is 110 and those expected iron distances are within a yard or two of my yardages. BUT, I’ve been taking lessons and now my clubs are atleast a club longer than before. I’m thinking I need to weaken my lofts because right now from my standard distances I am air mailing greens. time to get gapped again!

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As I was thinking about some “gremlins” that have snuck into my own game the past few weeks, I recalled a visit I had with Dr. Bob Rotella some 10 years ago. That morning was one of the standout days of my 30-year golf industry career, getting to spend several hours with one of golf’s pre-eminent sports psychologists.

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Over the past few decades, the mower heights on fairways have been moved closer and closer, so that the pros play tighter and tighter lies all the time. Back then I had just read where the fairway height at Merion, for example, was at one inch when David Graham won the U.S. Open there in 1981 but was increased from one quarter to on half inch for the 2013 U.S. Open. That’s a huge difference. Because the ball is sitting tighter, shots are hit lower on the clubface, which robotic testing reveals, produces lower and hotter flight with more spin. And it makes short range pitch and chip shots scary even for the pros. That’s because they play low bounce wedges to deal with the bunkers on tour. (Which I’m getting to in just a moment.) Watch TV and you’ll see tour pros putting from off the green more often than you used to, and now we know why. There’s a tip in there for all of us.

Those tour bunkers.

Did you know the PGA Tour had a standard for bunker sand. They like them firm and moist, so the players can hit those miraculous bunker shots with lots of spin, and they very rarely get a “down” or plugged lie. As I’ve written before, the PGA Tour appreciates that their “customer” is the television viewer – over 50% of which don’t even play golf – and they like to see these things. But I have a problem with the best players in the world enjoying bunkers that are not nearly as tough as the ones we all play every week. For most all of us, any bunker shot that gets out and leaves a putt of even 20 to 30 feet is not bad.

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