124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

How do you compare?

Stats reveal the humbling truth about driving distance—what golfers should know

August 10, 2023

Every now and again we here at Golf Digest share some driving distance stats for average golfers. And whenever we do, the reaction is always the same.

That can't be right!

Well, I’m here to tell you that it is. And the fact that you can't quite believe it is sort of the point.

Recently, we undertook a big initiative and compiled a bunch of stats from our partners over at Arccos, who have charted more than 750 million shots hit from more than 16 million rounds across the world. Then, we put those stats into a new interactive that allows golfers to compare themselves with other golfers (you can check out the full version right here).

Anyway, this week, I wanted to take a quick look at the driving distance stats comparisons across handicaps … and what we can learn from.

Why golfers think they hit the ball longer than they do

As you can see, the average tour player knocks it about 300 yards. The average scratch? 260. The average 10 handicap? Just 232 yards.

It's at that point when golfers start doubting the statistics. On some levels I do understand why. It's pretty humbling. But I'm here to tell you it is not the numbers that are incorrect. It is you, in fact, who is incorrect.

I'll use my own data as proof. I'm a former college golfer, 34 years old, and am currently hovering around a 2 handicap. I've been tracking my driving distances throughout the summer.

The first number of mine you’ll see below is my Arccos "Smart Distance." That is, basically, the average of my good and average drives, not the bad ones. As you can see, when I hit it solid, I hit it about 280.

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Yet the second number you'll see below is my actual average, which includes all my drives. That number is just about 260 yards. Therein lies the humbling truth.

Amateur golfers are generally pretty good at knowing how far they hit the ball when they hit one good, but also pretty bad at knowing how far they hit the ball when they hit one poorly.

Hit a drive a little off the heel? That extra spin may cost you 40 yards from your average.

Duck hook a drive low and left? Or slice one out to right field? That could be a 60-yard difference.

Into wind, and hit a good drive into the rough or fairway bunker? There goes 20 yards of roll.

The fact is that your driver doesn't just go the longest of any club in your bag. It also has the biggest front-to-back variance. It’s a strange and uncomfortable truth to accept, but on any given hole, you may be just as capable of hitting a drive 285 yards as you are 225 yards.

1 thing to remember

The speed you swing the club is important, obviously, but it also underlines an important truth: That one of the best things you can do for your distance is hitting the ball more consistently solid. More shots on the sweet spot, even at a slightly slower speed, may be your best chance for more distance.

Once again, you can check out our full interactive right here.