When I started my eight-year run as an editor for the now-defunct Golf For Women magazine in 2000, I quickly learned that the most successful stories we could produce were the ones that helped women gain extra distance, especially off the tee. If we had an article that allowed us to slap a "25 More Yards" cover line on the cover, we were golden. Men are generally more interested in stories that help them fix a slice and keep the ball in the fairway, but for women, distance is king (or queen, depending on how you look at it.) It's pure physics: the average woman's swing speed is roughly 30 percent slower than the average man's, which means they hit it a lot shorter. In fact, women hit the ball shorter than even they realize. We conducted studies at GFW that showed the average woman golfer hits a driver about 145 yards, and she thinks she hits it at least 170.
I'm guilty of this myself. I used to be a decent junior player and still harbor illusions that I average about 200 yards off the tee. The truth is, my average is more like 180 yards these days (I've hit enough balls on a launch monitor to know this for a fact). But last week, at the Golf Digest Hot List summit in Mesquite, Nev., I found myself striping drives that routinely measured 210 to 220 yards day in and day out. I acted cool about it but secretly couldn't believe what I was seeing. I know the air is thin out there in desert, but I've played golf at serious altitude before (my favorite golf destinations in the U.S. are Aspen and Vail, Colo.) and know that at my clubhead speed, it doesn't add that much to the total yardage. This was strictly a result of hitting some of the next-generation drivers that were included in our testing.
I didn't get these numbers from one specific club, but several. And when I thought my mind was playing tricks on me, I'd pull out my own driver -- a 2007 high-end composite model from a major manufacturer, which was considered top-notch technology two years ago -- to compare. Every time, I came up a good 25 yards longer with the new clubs. On the surface, the latest drivers don't look all that different than mine, but under the hood, there are some real improvements that obviously work. They're also lighter and longer than they used to be, which helps increase clubhead speed -- especially if, like most women, you're on the slower end of the scale to begin with.
Any woman golfer who thinks this game is all about the operator and not the equipment is doing herself a huge disservice. You want 25 more yards? Then go buy yourself a new driver. I sure plan to.