Golf IQ

It's a number pros are about to start caring a lot more about—these are the basics

The Old Course at St Andrews

(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The week-in, week-out experience for most tour players is a dart-throwing contest. They see the target, calculate the number they want to hit, and try to land it as close to that number as possible. With the soft fairways and greens on tour, drivers may not roll out more than 10 yards; irons, maybe only a yard or two.

But starting on the firm-and-fast turf at the U.S. Open, and extending through the Open Championship, run-out numbers start becoming hugely important. As Sean Zak, a writer at Golf Magazine and author of the new book Searching In St. Andrews, explained on the most recent episode of the Golf IQ podcast.

Zak caddied for PGA Tour player Joel Dahmen at the Genesis Scottish Open during his first visit to Scotland, and found that in the extremely dry conditions that hit Scotland in 2022, the ball could roll upwards of 80 yards with a driver.

It's something Bryson DeChambeau spoke about last week during the U.S. Open:

"We track on practice days how far the golf ball is rolling. We'll see on the Foresight how far it lands and then how far it actually goes. So we'll take those two numbers and say that it's a 33-yard run-out right now in these conditions, because if it's downwind it can go to 45 yards. If it's into the wind, it can go to five yards. It's a bit based on the conditions at hand and what slopes you land on and where it is in the fairways. You've got to just try to make sure you're hitting it into the correct areas in spots with those types of conditions. That's really what it is."

So to help you navigate whatever dry conditions you may face, here are some land-and-roll basics.

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Run out number basics

The ball will roll more if...

...the ground is firm and dry

Because obviously.

...the weather is warm

Because the ball flies, and lands, with more speed.

...you're playing golf at higher altitude

Because the ball flies through the thinner air for longer, which means it arrives back to earth on a flatter landing angle and with more speed.

...the ball approaches the ground at a lower, shallower landing angle

Because it's like bowling, in that the best way to roll the ball isn't to drop it directly down at your feet.

...you're hitting your ball to an elevated target

Because if you're hitting to an elevated green, the ball comes into that elevated ground at a shallower angle.

Once again, you can listen to the full Golf IQ episode with Sean below (and subscribe here!)