Knowing your golf club distances is essential to consistent golf. Do you know how far do you hit your 7-iron? If you’re like most golfers you either: a) Have no clue –or– b) You launch into some fable about the one time you hit your 7-iron 190 yards, so naturally, that’s the club you always pull when you’re 190 out and (BIG SURPRISE!) you come up short every time.
GolfSpy did a little research and found that the golfers in their test group hit their 7-iron 7 yards less than they they thought they did, their 5-iron 18 yards less, and their driver 30 yards less. If that’s even remotely accurate, then you NEED to figure out your actual (not fantasy) distances with each club.
Think about this scenario: You’re in the some light rough about 130 yards from the pin, and the ball is sitting up well. You have a good lie. There’s a slight breeze in your face, and you have a downhill approach into the green. All of these factors will require you to either add or subtract yardage from where your ball lies. But if you don’t have a baseline of what club to use from 130 yards, how can you possibly begin to weigh the other factors that determine the adjustments you’ll need to make?
The key is figuring out the baseline yardage for every club in your bag, so you can make a confident decision about the club and the kind of shot required for each scenario you’ll face.
What if you took the time and effort to figure out your actual distances for each club in your bag? Not only will you hit more GIRs and card lower scores, you will experience the tremendous confidence boost that comes with knowing the perfect club for the shot at hand. Feels pretty good, don’t it?!
The Striving FORE! Scratch Method to Figuring Out Your Golf Club Distances:
Do not, I repeat, do not try to do figure out your golf club distances on the driving range. Most of you already know that range balls are grossly inaccurate, so trying to judge distance at a driving range is a total waste of time.
Grab your clubs, a rangefinder or GPS, 5-10 balls (*tip*: use balls that you normally play with, not a noodle you found last week in the woods), and head out to the course alone. This time of year – late winter/early spring – is ideal if the weather cooperates. You should do this on a mild, calm weather day to get an accurate distance figure for each club.
The course doesn’t need to be desolate. You just need an extra 10 minute cushion here and there. Play a normal round until you get to the first hole with a level green. Start with your 9-iron. If you think you hit your 9 iron 130 yards, pick a good, flat lie 130 yards from the middle of the green. Hit several balls.
Where did most of your shots land? Short, long, or right on it? If you came up short on most of the accurate shots by 5-10 yards, note that the distance on your 9-iron is probably more like 120.
Head to the green, pick up your balls, fix your ball marks, and head to the next hole. The important thing when you’re figuring out your distances on the course is to keep moving. You don’t want the group behind you to catch up when you have 5-10 balls on and around the green.
Shortcut the process by measuring distances with every other club. For example, let’s say you figure out that your distance with your 9-iron is 130 yards and the distance with your 7-iron is 150 yards. Your 8-iron distance is likely to be close to 140 yards.
When you come to the next hole that has a level approach into the green, pull out your 7-iron and hit 5-10 balls from the spot you guesstimate is the correct distance for that club. Let’s say it’s 150 yards. Hit your balls and record your average. Let’s say it’s close to 150. Great! Now move on to your 5-iron and hit balls with every other club in your bag, ending with your driver.
Create a club distance cheat sheet
It may take a little while and a few more rounds before you really hone in on your distances with each club. That’s fine.
Keep a note card in your bag with all your distances so you can refer to it when in doubt. If you notice that you keep hitting one of your clubs longer or shorter than what you wrote down, you may need to adjust the distance for that club.
Your note card should also include choke up and choke down distances for each club. Did you know that you can add or subtract about 5 yards on each club just by choking down (subtract 5) or choking up (add 5)? Experimenting with choking up and down will give you many more options and tighten the yardage intervals between each club.
- Measure your carry distance. The total distance with roll can often be misleading, so try to figure out your carry-only distance.
- You’re going to hit the ball much farther in the summer at high altitude than you will in the winter at sea level. Adjust accordingly.
- Figure out your golf club distances every year. Our bodies change and we age a little every year. You may not hit the ball as far as you did 3-5 years ago, so it’s important to place your ego aside and go through this process every year.
Quick fix for the lazy golfer:
Golfers are people, and people are lazy. By answering a few simple questions (honestly!) you can establish a good baseline with this Golf Club Distance Calculator. When I did it, I found it to be fairly close (within 5 yards) on most clubs. So if you’re sittin’ there saying to yourself “I’m never going to take the time to figure out my distances club-by-club, then click on the link above, create a little note card with the distances it gives you, and tweak it as needed.
It takes a little time and effort to figure out your golf club distances, but if you take the time to do so, it will pay big dividends when you know exactly what club to use on every shot! Next week, we’ll talk about how to fine tune your golf club distances with your wedges.