When it comes to golf club distances, how far should you hit your clubs?
Here's an all-too-common scenario for most golfers, especially if you're just getting started with golf. We’ve all been there, watching your drive (that you just crushed btw) sail down the fairway of a par-4. You’re feeling great as you saunter up to your ball and try to estimate the yardage left to the pin. One sixty-five, no wait, one seventy! Either way, you’re pretty sure you’re going drop that puppy on the green, roll your putt in, and walk to the next tee while marking a birdie on your scorecard.
You walk over to your bag and look for the perfect club. Panic starts to set in a bit. Which club is my one seventy club? You don’t want to come up short because there are traps everywhere, but if you fly it past the green, it’s getting wet. You start an inner monologue, “If I hit my 6-iron perfect, I should be fine, but it’s early, and the fairway is still a bit damp. I don’t want to come up short. OK, maybe my 5-iron; that’s probably the right club. But wait, the last time I hit that, it only went about 160. You know what? My 4-hybrid is the perfect club for this. It’s damp, and I’m dealing with a bit of elevation... Yup, that’s what I’ll use.”
It’s settled. You feel like you have the perfect club to reach the green. I mean, you took all the factors into consideration. You line it up, swing, and watch your ball sail about twenty yards over the green and into the pond. Now you’re frustrated because you wasted silly unnecessary strokes because you weren't confident in your distances.
I get asked this question all the time: How far are you supposed to hit each of your golf clubs? Let’s walk through the importance of knowing your personal golf club distances and picking the right club.
Before I get into club selection, you need to take a few other factors into consideration. If you remember our tortured golfer earlier in the story, he actually accounted for a few different factors before selecting his club, like turf conditions and elevation. That is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more, including: Is it breezy or calm? Are you playing at a higher elevation? How solidly are you connecting with the ball that day? The list can go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
The thing to keep in mind when talking about distance is to focus on your distance. Your true distance, right now. Not the distance you hope to be in 6 months because you plan on getting better, but the distance you are playing with right that second (honestly). Playing any distance but your own will blow up your scorecard, but playing within yourself will shave those unwanted strokes. Also, don’t compare yourself to other golfers. One person’s 5-iron is another person’s 3-iron or even 3-wood. There is no shame in clubbing up if it means birdie or par. Let the other guy try and muscle it and watch him search for his ball in the woods. Your swing is all about confidence, consistency, and balance, which in turn will keep you shooting lower scores.
I know I told you to only worry about your own distance, but here's a point of reference. According to the USGA, the average amateur golfer is only around 216 yards with their driver.
How do I find my distances?
Unlike other articles you may find on the internet or in golf magazines, I won’t be giving you a complicated math equation or chart to figure out your yardage per club. Instead, I recommend heading to the driving range and going through your bag one club at a time, noting the conditions. Keep your swing smooth and consistent, and write your distances down. Put them in the notes on your phone if you have to. But have them handy and update them regularly because as your game improves, so will your yardages per club. Only then will you have your very own cheat sheet tailored to your game that will guide you through picking the right club at every yardage. Once you have mastered your distances, you will start to see a guaranteed dip in your score.