Question: How far do you hit the ball (on average) with your driver?  Think about that for a second and then say that number out loud or write it down.

Question #2: Ok...now...how far do you really hit your driver?  Now write that number down.  Do they look the same?

If so...you're most likely lying to yourself.  Yes you. I'm sure we all know some other guy (or quite a few) that lies through his teeth about how far he hits the big stick.  But question is...are you lying too?

Well...from what we found in our latest "MyGolfSpy Labs" research...you might be surprised how many people are lying about how far they hit the ball and by how much.  These aren't your average "little white lie" we're talking about.  These numbers for many were shocking!

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Are Your Pants On Fire?

Golfers are liars.  Yup, I said it.  This game, which is supposed to be all about honor and integrity, is filled with liars.

Let’s back up a bit.  When we here at MyGolfSpy were kicking around ideas for our next MGS Labs article, we came upon the question, “How far does the average guy think he hits it (vs) how far does he really hit it?"  Through my experience as a club fitter and golf instructor, I felt that I had a pretty darned good idea what the answer was, but, being the data-driven types, we went out to get the numbers.

Testing Procedure

Our study looked like this: We asked 10 golfers of varying ability levels how far they hit their driver (total distance), 5 iron, 7 iron, and pitching wedge (carry only).  Then we had each golfer hit 5 shots with each of those clubs on a launch monitor.  Testers included: (Pat 15 Handicap) (Dave 23 Handicap) (Michael 13 Handicap) (Tom 5 Handicap) (Rich 18 Handicap) (Mike 30 Handicap) (Joel 13 Handicap) (Dan 17 Handicap) (Danny 8 Handicap) (Meredith 7 Handicap)

The data appears below.

Interesting Observations:

  • 100%...yes ALL testers lied about how far they hit the ball (vs) how far they really hit the driver.
  • The longer the club the bigger the lie was.
  • 90% of the testers lied about how far they hit the 5-iron.
  • Out of 200 shots, 116 (58%) were hit outside of 5 yards within their estimate .
  • There is a definite correlation between handicap and knowing/hitting your distances.  Our lowest handicap test subject hit 18/20 shots within 5 yards of his estimate.  Our highest handicapper missed his driver estimate by an astounding 86 yards!
  • There were 11 sets out of 40 where a test subject hit zero shots within 5 yards of their estimate.  Surprisingly, the driver had as many as the PW and 7I: two each.  The 5I saw five subjects achieve this “feat.”
  • Our test subjects averaged almost as many shots within 5 yards of their estimate with the 5 iron as with the driver (1.4 vs. 1.3)

So...What Does All This Data Tell Us?

Your Average - Is Not Your Longest Drive

First of all, the average golfer has no concept of what “average” means.  Ask a golfer how far they hit their driver “on average,” and you’re going to be told how far their best drives go.  Golfers seem to have no recollection of all the drives that sail high and right, only the ones that go long and straight.  While Bob Rotella may approve of this from a golf psychology perspective, I think that this self-delusion ultimately does the golfer a disservice.

If you don’t have an honest assessment of how far (and what direction) your ball goes, how can you expect to improve?

For 7-Iron & PW, Golfers Are Pretty Accurate

Second, most golfers were quite successful with their 7 iron and PW.  If we look at the pitching wedge data, we see that 8 of our 10 testers hit at least 3 shots within 5 yards of their estimate.  In fact, if we remove Dan and Danny, our testers, as a group, underestimated their pitching wedge yardage.  If we turn to the 7 iron and remove Dan and Danny again (sorry, guys), the difference between the estimates and actual distances shrinks to a mere four yards.  That’s good golf.

Shocking 5-Iron Numbers

Third, the average golfer needs to get rid of his long irons, which seems to include the 5 iron.  (Mini rant: Big thanks to the OEMs for the jacked up lofts.  You’re really helping the average guy enjoy the game more.  (And yes, that’s sarcasm, folks.)  Only our 4 lowest handicap players had an average within 10 yards of their estimate, the other 6 hit a COMBINED TOTAL of 1 shot within 5 yards of their estimate.   Even if we exclude the two…characters…who missed their estimates by an average of 46 and 47 yards, we’re looking at an average miss of 16.5 yards.  That can be the difference between being on the green and giving your ball a bath.  You can attribute it to bad technique, lack of club head speed, too-strong lofts, or all of the above, but your average golfer does not hit their 5 iron with enough consistency to take it to the course.  What’s worse, the super strong lofts let these guys hit the ball a mile, once in a blue moon, and create the expectation that a 5 iron should always go that far.

Course Management

Fourth, given all that we’ve said above, the average golfer needs to think long and hard about their tee box selection.  If we accept the that the average drive is roughly 216 yards and the average 5 iron is 160 (both numbers that are driven up by our low handicappers, but we’ll leave that be), then the average golfer probably should not be choosing tee boxes that put them more than 370 yards away for the average par 4.  Similarly, you should be looking at the par 3 lengths.  If they’re much longer than 160, what are you going to hit?  200+ yard par 3’s are increasingly common, but that doesn’t mean that they make sense.  Is hitting 3W into a par 3 fun?

This information also has a lot of implications for course management.  If I know that I’m going to hit my 7 iron the right distance over half the time, and my pitching wedge the right distance almost 75% of the time, I want to play to my short irons.  Now, I know it’s not manly to lay up.  Top Flite even had an ad campaign ridiculing it.  But if the object of the game is to get the ball in the hole with fewer strokes, we have to consider that hitting a long iron into a well-protected green is not a great play for most golfers.

Moral: Be Honest With Yourself

Ultimately, what we’d like you to take away from this "Lab" report is the following: be honest with yourself.  Go to the range, or, even better, get on a launch monitor, and find out how far your clubs actually go.  Not “how far they went that one time when it was downhill, downwind during the drought of ’89,” but how far you hit an AVERAGE shot.  And build your game around that.  Or get some professional instruction so that you can hit it better.  Or get your clubs fit.  Just don’t be a liar.

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