Column: Driving distance matters more than you think

In her latest column, Jennifer Greggain tackles the idea that the short game is most important.

Have you ever heard the age-old words of golf wisdom “Drive for show, but putt for dough?”

This is a statement that refers to how important the short game, especially putting, is to your score in golf. And as we all know, the short game and putting contributes to at least 60 per cent of a golfer’s shots in an average round, right?

But what if I told you that research over the last 10 years points to a very different conclusion as to what factors are most relevant to overall scoring in a round of golf.

And in fact, overall driving distance is one of the highest contributors to predicting handicap, as well as victories on the PGA tour.

This all stems from research by Mark Broadie from Columbia University. He analyzed over eight million shots on the PGA tour from 2003-2010. His research concluded that the long game contributes approximately two thirds to the variability in score for PGA Tour professionals.

This research has also led to a revolution in how analytics and statistics are tracked and discussed on the PGA tours.

So what does this mean for the amateur world of golf? It means that we were wrong, for a long time.

Although variables such as greens in regulation, scrambling percentage, and putting stats are all still very important to overall score, its just not as important as we thought. Long game distance is, in fact, the highest contributor to scoring in an average round of golf.

Furthermore, additional studies have shown high correlations between handicap and club head speed. Lower handicap golfers, on average, have higher club head speed than higher handicap golfers.

What should the average golfer do with this information?

Simple. Improve your overall club head speed, specifically with your driver. If you can generate more distance, specifically with your tee shots, statistics would say that you will out-score your golfing buddies more often then not.

A few tips on improving driving distance—number one, invest in getting a properly fit driver. Technology has come a long way, but even more important than that, is how precise a driver fitting experience is.

Next, invest in the time and start a golf-specific golf training program. Improving your overall mobility, stability, and strength has also shown strong correlations in the research in increasing club head speed and driving distance.

And finally, work on improving the sequencing of the downswing.

Like many athletic movements in other sports, generating power from the ground up, utilizing large and powerful lower body muscles is the most efficient way to generate power and speed in the golf swing. This includes a properly timed weight-shift in the downswing sequence.

If you’re looking to improve your handicap, analytics would say that improving your club head speed is the best way to accomplish this. So better to “Grip it, and rip it!”

Jennifer teaches golf to adults and juniors at the Chilliwack Golf Academy. She played professionally on tour for over 10 years, won the 2016 LPGA Western Section Teacher of the Year award, and most recently has been named the 2018 PGA of Canada Junior Leader of the Year. She can be contacted at 604-798-9805 or at Jennifer@chilliwackgolf.com.

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