Know Your Average Yardage

After 10+ years of informal case studies I have come to the conclusion that we all overestimate how far our averages shots go. I’m not even talking about the egotistical golfer who hits a once in a life time 150 yard 7 iron and tells everyone he hits his 7 iron 150 yards. I’m talking about you, me and even the best golfers you see on television.


Here is why everyone tends to overestimate how far their average golf shot travels. We tend to only pay attention to our better golf shots. “Wow! That was a nice drive,” we think to ourselves, “I think I’ll see how far that one went.” We calculate that it went 230 yards. Not our best like the 240 yard smash we had the week before, but good none the less. Then on the next hole we shank one into the woods 140 yards off the tee. But of course we do not measure that one. So our “average” drives tend to be the average of our “best 50% of all our drives”. This is deep psychological stuff here. I know. Are you still with me?


Now let’s get more specific and see how knowing the true average flight distance of your iron shots effects your score.


Here is a typical example. The golfer has a 145 yard shot to the center of the green. The green is 30 yards deep (average depth of greens) The flag is 5 yards short of center and on the left side (10 yards from the front 8 yards from the left edge and 140 yards total to the flag). The green slopes back to front and left to right. There is a bunker short left and long right.


The golfer hits a 7 iron 130 yards in the air and gets 10 yards of roll on average. Two balls out of ten are hit 140 yards in the air and about 150 yards total distance. Five out of ten balls go about average and three out of ten balls go between 110 and 130 carry. With an 8 iron this golfer has the same general averages minus 8 yards. With a 6 iron this golfer has the same general averages plus 7 yards.


What club does this golfer select?  If this golfer is playing on memory and emotions of their good shot averages the club selection will be an 8 iron. Why? Because this golfer is only thinking of the 2 best 8 irons that carry 132 yards in the air and 140 total distance (distance of the flag). This golfer will also not take into account the total depth of the green to discover that the back of the green is 160 yards.


So what club should the golfer choose?


The six iron! 


The six iron would produce an average of two balls out of ten 147 yards in the air and about 157 yards total distance. Five out of ten balls about 137 in the air and 147 total yardage and three out of ten balls go between 117 and 137 carry.


Assuming the right direction, the eight iron selection would put the golfer on the green 2 out of 10 times. The 7 iron selection 7 out of 10 times and the 6 iron selection 8 out of 10 times.


Here is the other factor. The golfer, making decisions on emotion, will typically go for the flag with an 8 iron and will typically pull it by trying to hit it hard. This will leave them in the bunker short left or flag high left. This would leave them a shot sloping away with very little green to work with.


If however, the golfer would make decisions based on factual averages, they would shoot to the right of the flag with an average tempo swing, leaving themselves a putt back up to the left side of the green.


It is good to have a plan based on trends and facts, not emotion and the average of your best shots. Rather boring isn’t it!


The fact based plan allows you to play shots you are capable of pulling off more consistently. Allowing you to play more to your strengths and away from you weaknesses.


Here is how the conversation might go between your Emotional Good Shot Self and your Factual True Average Shot Self.


“It’s definitely the 8 iron”


“Mr. Emotion, to go at the flag with your 8 iron, it would require a 130 yard carry over the bunker on the left, but there’s nothing to carry on the right – it’s a wide open approach to the right side of the green. So aim right and make a smooth swing with your 6 iron.”


Now this isn’t to say that you need to create an alter ego to converse with on every shot. You may find yourself to be a lonely golfer. This is to say that you should practice becoming your own best emotionless accountant. Step away from your emotions and find out your true averages.


You need to understand the yardage you can consistently hit your clubs (carry distance and roll distance) as opposed to the yardage you can hit the golf ball when you hit it your best. 9 out of 10 golfers I have met are basing their yardages on their best shots — “I hit my 7 iron 155 yards.”


Yet, how many times out of 10 will that golfer actually hit it 155 yards? If it’s 155 yards 2 times out of 10 it is most likely 125 to 150 yards on the other 8. So basically, 80% of the time the golfer will be between 5 and 30 yards short of their target. Which means rough, sand, water, etc – or in other words bogey, double bogey, triple bogey.



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