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Is your 7-iron the key to speeding up golf?

USGA research reveals the length you hit your mid-iron should determine the tees you play from – and help the time it takes you to get round

 

Forget the rare birdies, the occasional pars, the frequent bogeys and, well, let’s just not talk about the others.

While the numbers on my scorecard can resemble a bingo card, there has always been one constant in my golfing life. How far I hit a 7-iron.

According to USGA research, that golf club distance (141 carry, 151 total) reveals not only which tee I should be playing from, but might also be the secret to unlocking one of the sport’s biggest frustrations – how long it takes to get round.

In their members’ magazine, Golf Journal, USGA research revealed 57 per cent of players pick tees to play that are too long and, though it may surprise you given the stereotypes we always hear, 20 per cent choose tees that are too short.

So how do you choose the right tees? That’s where your 7-iron comes in Why this club? Let USGA chief executive Mike Whan explain. He told Golf Journal: “With driver, I am probably plus or minus 20 yards.

“If I say I hit it 240, I know that I can hit it 260. And I know that there’s plenty of 220s in my bag. So, if you ask me how far someone hits their driver, you get the 220 answer, you get the 240 answer, you get the 260 answer.

“Now, ask how far I hit my 7-iron, and I’m going to say 160. You ask any player, and they will give you a definitive answer.”

Right, got that. How does that translate into the tees?

Golf club distances: Check out this 7-iron distance chart

golf club distances

Pic: USGA

The USGA say if you hit your 7-iron 155 yards, you’re most ideally suited to a course between 6,400 and 6,600 yards.

If you strike it 125 yards, then it’s 5,400 yards to 5,600 yards. If it’s 80 yards or less, then your best course length comes out at 3,500 to 3,700 yards.

What’s this got to do with playing times? The USA surveyed more than 20,000 golfers, and Matt Pringle, the USGA Green Section’s managing director, told Golf Journal: “The fascinating thing about the research was when we asked them ‘What’s too short, what’s too long, and what’s just right for you?’.

“We found consistently, within a pretty narrow range for most of those 20,000 players, that if you divide those distances by their 7-iron, you keep coming up with the same answer.

“People will say – no matter whether they hit their 7-iron 100 yards or 180 yards – the most enjoyable holes are medium par fours where they hit driver, then 7-iron.”

The USGA said at a Florida club the pace of play quickened by 15 minutes when a tee-based selection based on 7-iron distances was brought in.

What’s behind it? With the yardage differences between back and front tees sometimes significant, there’s less walking. The time it takes to physically get round the course is shorter.

There are some other logical things that stem from playing a shorter course, if you think about it. You’re generally going to have shorter approaches than you might from tees further back. Those shots may prove easier to hit. You might spend less time looking for golf balls.

It all adds up to the bottom line of overall round time. So next time you find yourself in a traffic jam, just think. The answer may be sitting idly in your golf bag.

Now have your say

What do you think? Is the secret to pace of play really all about golf club distances and a 7-iron? Does the research make sense and will you try it at your club? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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