The R&A and USGA have been researching hitting distance in golf for years now. They believe that longer driving distances – particularly on tour – are making some golf courses obsolete and the subsequent necessary changes result in the sport being more expensive.
In a surprise move, the governing bodies responded to criticism that the modern game relies too much on power and not enough on skill, by announcing that they plan to rein back equipment at the highest level, while allowing club golfers to continue hit the ball as far as they can.
There is logic to this. Average driving distances for amateurs have barely changed over the last few decades. In fact, most golfers are playing a golf course that is too long for them.
The governing bodies have said they wish to investigate “whether the adoption of these potential Model Local Rules could also allow the elimination of the MOI limit for recreational golfers, which could facilitate greater innovation and provide modest distance increases at this level of the game.”
So what is the benchmark for these modest distance increases?
We’ve teamed up with data analysts Shot Scope to look at the average driver distance for amateur golfers to see if we can make sense of it all…
Average driving distance by handicap
Shot Scope data shows average driver distance actually varies quite significantly by handicap.
In fact, scratch golfers gain as much as 68 yards on average over a 25-handicapper. Below you can see how far you hit the ball has a direct correlation to your scoring.
Scratch golfers: 260 yards
5-handicap: 236 yards
10-handicap: 229 yards
15-handicap: 212 yards
20-handicap: 204 yards
25-handicap: 191 yards
It is perhaps surprising that it is only those in the scratch golfer category that averages more than 250 yards off the tee. But do remember this is the overall average with driver and not the maximum length these players can hit the ball. This data also shows a combination of driving distance for male and female golfers.
If you hit it past the 300-yard mark, you are in the minority of just 2% of golfers.
So what can we learn from these numbers?
Well, you can significantly improve your handicap by increasing your swing speed and, with it, your carry distances.
But is there a distance issue in golf? Certainly not among amateur golfers, according to the stats.
Now, how do us club players stack up against the world’s best?
In 2021 the average driving distance on the PGA Tour was 297.3 yards – and increase of 12 yards since 2003.
You won’t be surprised, Bryson DeChambeau was the longest driver in the 2021 season, averaging a whopping 323.7 yards off the tee.
That means DeChambeau hits it nearly 100 yards further than an amateur that regularly shoots in the low 80s.
We see a similar trend on the DP World Tour, where the average driving distance was 296.2 yards in 2021, a 10-yards improvement since 2003.
A scratch golfer would, on average, be 37 yards behind a tour pro off the tee. That’s a big advantage you wouldn’t want to give away to such a skilled player…
More information: ShotScope website
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