Is It Really About More Distance?
Let me start by telling you that today is my birthday. 59!! Wow. Where has the time gone? Oh well, I'm healthy, sane (most of the time) and EIDOLON is entering a very exciting time with new people and facilities, and a very exciting future. I'll also be getting married this fall to the most wonderful woman on the planet, and generally, I'm having more fun than ever. But let's talk golf.

I got the new issue of GOLF Magazine yesterday, and it seems like all the new irons are being sold with claims of massive distance. Just like drivers, huh? Can't the golf equipment industry get more creative than that? How about more trajectory control, distance control? Those are the things that define great iron players . . . and golfers in general actually. Who cares if you can hit a 7-iron 175, if you don’t know where it's going? Or if it goes 175 this time, 160 the next, and 190 on occasion? That isn’t going to lead to lower scores.

Last week, I wrote about the distance to body strength ratio, and I’m going to continue that mathematical analysis of golf today. Work with me here, OK?

I'm comfortable with a 7-iron at about 150 down here by the coast, a little more when I go to higher elevations. I drive the ball about 260-275, depending on roll. So, I hit my 7-iron 58% as far as my driver. If I apply that math to many of the young guns I talk with who claim to hit a 7-iron 175, then their driving distance should average 300+. Think it does? But even if so, then the only par fours that put more than about an 8-iron in their hands are longer than 460 yards. Outside of the PGA Tour, there just aren’t that many of those out there that we have to contend with.

And if that math is correct, then golfers of that length would find a very, very rare occasion to use any iron longer than a 5, right? And that would be the second shot on most par 5 holes. So, why wouldn't a very long hitter like that carry a driver and four wood, about a 21 degree hybrid, then 5 thru 9 irons and at least five wedges?

OK, so here's another challenge for you, like the short game test I offered last month. The next time you are out for a round of golf that is just practice/learning, do this. After each drive, pick up your ball and walk it 15 yards further. Whether in the fairway or rough, just move the ball 15 yards further down the same line. And play in from there. See how many strokes an extra 15 yards would mean to you.

And then, before you decide a new driver is your ticket for 2011, ask yourself this? "Do you really think any driver on today’s market is really 15 yards longer than anyone else’s competitive model?"

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[ comments ]
brian575 says:
Happy B-Day. I would like to respond to the last sentence in your article. Yes there are drivers that are 15 yards longer for me than others and it all has to do with the shaft. I have noticed that an improper fit shaft, either too stiff or too weak will rob me of 15 yards per drive easily.
ppinkert says:
Happy B-Day!! And Congrats on the pending wedding. :)) I have to say for me control is the Key to a better game. I'd love to find a way to get better distance off the Tee, but that means loft and I struggle badly with loft. My shots stay low and flat. Love to find the answer to that one.
dave1269 says:
Happy B-day Terry! Hit 'em straight!
SD Charlie says:
Happy Birthday, looks like life is roses for you right now! That's awesome. I definitely enjoy your articles. They offer a fresh perspective from all the marketing hype and macho "who's longer?" competition. I'm definitely starting to focus even more on accuracy and control vs. outright distance. When have you ever heard someone say "now that's a golf shot!" after a 170-yard 9-iron? Being an Engineer I love the creativity involved and fun that comes from moving the ball around the course, high/low, left/right etc. I enjoy the challenge of not being able to hit it a ton.

p.s. I received my wedge yesterday and it's absolutely beautiful, the grip is so sweet! I can't wait to put it into play!
DoubleDingo says:
Happy Birthday and Congrats!
I like my persimmon driver for regular play, and can hit about 220 - 250. When playing in scrambles I use the Cobra driver, I hit it about 220 - 280. Persimmon driver is more accurate for hitting from better lies; the Cobra adds a few yards and is less accurate. I decided to use this method last year, and even wrapped a piece of tape around the Cobra grip to emulate the length of the persimmon driver so I didn't swing a club that is too long. I miss the compact club heads of yesteryear.
bducharm says:
Happy Birthday Terry! More distance depends on the golf course as well. If I play on a West Texas course, open and flat, more distance is great! However, on my home course, more distance is not necessary. More accuracy IS necessary!
larrynjr says:
Happy Birthday Terry and congratulations on your upcoming wedding. Speaking of marketing hype have you seen the new TaylorMade for their white driver? Something like; "It's better cause it's white" Are they serious? I think my dog could come up with better than that.
Banker85 says:
ya control is the most improtant part of golf in my opinion. I dont get why i dont hit my driver farther. I hit my irons a good distantce about 155 with 7 iron normal swing. But my Drives are topping out avg. at 235yards. i feel i should be in the 250 range more often then not. i wonder what is causing this? Maybe i am over swinging w/ driver and losing power? not sure i guess i will use the best free tip i ever got, shorten my backswing.
Bryan K says:
My 7-iron is my 170 club. That's how I remember how far I hit all of my irons. 7-iron is 170. 6-iron is 180. 5-iron is 190. And if I need 100+, I pull out a hybrid.

But you're absolutely right on one thing, Terry. I've found that with a 170 yard 7-iron shot, I don't need a lot of "long clubs". At the end of last year, I was carrying one hybrid and no fairway woods.

But here's the deal. I know where my biggest weakness is. It's controlling my irons. I've worked hard on my chipping and my driving. I've began to work hard on my putting over the winter. But I have to say that most of my wasted strokes are from iron shots that just don't go straight. So I already know what will happen if I add an extra 15 yards to all of my drives. I might make up one or two strokes on an 18 hole course. It's the ensuing irons shots that I need to fix. In reality, I should be hitting at least half of the greens from 200 yards in. But I'm not even close.
tiger-tiger says:
happy birthday Terry!
kingwood hacker says:
I started playing often about 3 years ago and I totally bought into the hype of hitting irons farther. My playing partner was hitting his 7 iron like 175 and I felt like a total wuss because mine went 150 and I needed a 5 iron to hit it as far as his 7. It took me about 6 months of coming up short all of the time, but I finally gave up trying to hit the same club as he did all the time, and learned my distances. Guess what, I immediately started to hit more greens than he did, and I starting beating him.

I think golf companies really overestimate how much we care about distance. If I'm not buying a driver, the determining factor for purchasing a club will never be how far I hit it. I guess it would be nice to hit a 5-iron 205 yards, but I really have no need to. On most golf courses, I hit less than 4 shots a round into a green from more than 200 yards away. I hit 0 more than 220 or so. The day I dropped the ego, and tried to start playing smarter is the day that I feel I got serious about my game.
windowsurfer says:
Wow. That 58% driver:7i quotient works exactly for me (driver distance *in the air*, vs 7i distance). As long as I'm keeping the ratios about right, I shouldn't try to increase iron distances, right? Thx and happy BD!
Bryan K says:
My driver to 7i ratio works out to 68%, given that I expect my 7i to go 170 and my driver to go 250. However, it should also be noted that I play a 12* driver which might cost me some yardage (but I'm happy with my fairway percentage, so I'm not changing any time soon).
M5 says:
An extra 15 yards per club would be a disaster at the 9 hole courses I play.

64* wedge
60* wedge
56* sand wedge
53* wedge
50* W club
45* P club
clubs 6-9

No driver, no woods, no hybrids
stedar says:
Happy B'day and congrats on the pending nuptials :-)

Great article again, seems like you are shaking the cage and keeping our feet on the ground.
onedollarwed says:
I like where this is going - right into the woods!
Congrats Terry, but I'm already married to the most wonderful woman on the planet. I hope this doesn't come to blows!
I'll finally be getting in a round tomorrow, but will decline the extra 15 yds.
Got a chance to watch the Brown University Women's golfers at the range the other day... alongside some hulking meatheads tearing holes in the green mats. Cold hard crosswind, and the wedges felt great!
Owens84777 says:
Happy birthday! Great articles and solid explanations. I'm early in the game (2nd yr) and focussing on my short game. Your articles have helped me to finally get to the mid 90s! Well, thanks to a great friend and golf mentor, I have two custom fit scratch wedges, custom fitted, to help my game. My friend is training for qualifiers right now and he aha me to "caddy" for him. When I watch him and others play, I notice that distance is the least of their concerns. Mentally keeping composure, which is where my caddy experience comes in, and managing a course is key. Not how far your 9 iron hits. 15 yards sounds just enough to call for a complete restructuring of your hitting strategy.
sv677 says:
Why doesn't the golf industry just admit they think people are stupid? They advertise distance as the end all, be all. The reason irons go farther is that the manufacturers have jack up the lofts. Today's pitching wedge is an 8 or 9 iron of years gone by. I believe you have mentioned this before.
wedgeguy says:
Thanks for all the birthday greetings and congrats from you readers. And Brian, if you want those irons to go straighter, crank back on the swing power you're applying there. I just wrote about this very subject. Try to get it to 155 or so, and watch your GIR percentage go way up. That IS what you want, right?
kingwood hacker says:
I'm right on target with the 58% ratio too. 260 driver, 150 7i
knh555 says:
I'm disappointed Terry. a 58% 7-iron ratio is meaningless without specifying the loft/length of the 7 iron. I use a traditionally lofted 7 iron at 37* ;-)
pvt4211 says:
WTF does the 58% mean? Is that good? Bad? Average?
I have seen that I hit my short irons a lot longer than I do my longer clubs (except driver) and to me, it is all about ball contact. I hit my PW 130, 9i 140, 8i 150, 7i, 155, 6i, 165, 51 175....go figure.
Bryan K says:

The thing about my iron distance is that I hit it that far without cranking on it. I promise you I'm telling the truth. My most important concern when I swing the club is tempo. Tempo, tempo, tempo. I have a device that measures swing speed, and I've found that once I try to swing any harder than, say, 70%, I actually lose speed on my swing. If I swing too hard, there is no way I'm getting 170 out of my 7i. The 170 comes from a nice, easy swing with a good divot from hitting down on the ball.
gunny86 says:
wtf I hit my 7 iron 145 and only hit my drive 220.
gunny86 says:
Actually this is my yardage, am I doing something wrong with my driver?

pw 110
9i 120-125
8i 130-135
7i 140-145
6i 150-155
5i 160-165
4hy 170-175
3w 190-200
D 210-220
knh555 says:
@gunny86. This is golf. We're all doing something wrong. :)
scottland says:
Terry, I don't feel using % of 7 iron distance compared to driver distance is equal across the board; too many variables. Depending on how much(if any) the golfer delofts their irons at impact, the iron loft, the iron length, or the iron swing speed, etc, etc. I'm sorry, but 7i distance and driver distance don't follow a linear curve.

I usually drive the ball about 270-285, and I hit my 7i 165-170. That doesn't mean I swing too hard with my 7 iron though. I have quite a bit of club head lag at the bottom which delofts the club. A golfer with the same swing speed that doesn't maintain lag, might be 5-10 yards shorter with the same iron.

I agree that the OEMs are pushing distance too much. People need to focus more on gaps in their bag rather than how amazingly-far a club goes. For example I play a 2-hybrid, and a 4-hyrbid. My next iron is a 4iron. Why two 4-irons: It created even gaps in my bag. 4iron is 12-15 yards shorter than my 4hybrid, which is 12-15 yards shorter than my 2 hybrid.
wedgeguy says:
That's what I think, Scotland. It doesn't matter what the number on the club might be. The results are all that count. And gunny, your yardages are somewhat puzzling, as you seem to be proportionately longer with your short clubs than your long ones. Interesting puzzle you have there; I would suggest a golf professional might be able to figure it out through observation.
gunny86 says:
Golf professional!!?? PHsssH why waste good money on golf professionals if I can just get the newest technology driver with lightest shaft that's made out of spacecraft technology.
wedgeguy says:
That's the consumer spirit!!!!!!!

And as for that 58% thing I tossed out, that wasn't meant as some hard, fast rule, just my own experience. And it does make a lot of difference as to the specs on your irons. Some of the new ones are so jacked up it's hard to know what's what. One I saw has a P-club of 43 degrees. Sheesh, that's between my 8 and 9 in loft.
glock35ipsc says:
Gunny - Your distances are almost EXACTLY the same as mine! Actually, they are identical. But what I found interesting was that if I started at, say the 7i, and went forward and backward through the bag from there, the distances are right where they should be based on the rule of thumb of 1° of loft will yield a 3 yard difference in distance. So where my 7i is 33° and my 6i is 30°, the rule of thumb says I should hit my 6i about 9 yards farther. And I am usually 9-10 yard farther with the 6i.

As for OEM strengthening the lofts..... the 4i in Callaway's newest irons (RAZR and X-24) are both 22°. That's about a 3i in most other sets (and Cally doesn't even offer a 3i in the X-24's)!

My focus is on accuracy..... woods, irons, wedges, and yes, putter. Does me no good to drive the ball 250+ into the trees, only to waste a stroke by chipping out sideways just to get back into play. I believe that in time, through practicing and playing, my distance will take care of itself.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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