Golf By The Numbers
I’ve written several times about how the numbers on irons don’t mean much, because there are no standards for what loft and length a 9-iron should be, or what the specs on a 5-iron should be, etc. And it seems that the entire industry is advertising their new irons this year as longer than the other guys’. Then yesterday we were working with a customer on their irons’ specs and distances, followed by an afternoon session with one of our younger players at the club who was insistent on hitting the shortest iron possible into every green.

All of that boiled around in my head, and I came up with an idea for all of you to think about. I’ll call it “Golf By The Numbers”. So here’s the premise.

No matter how long or short you are, the game can be dissected down to a series of shots of a given distance in order to hit fairways and greens. Regardless of what club you might have in your hand from 135, let’s say, you need to know how to hit the ball precisely that distance, right? And there are no “bonus points” for doing it with a club that has a “P” on the bottom, rather than one with an “9”. And no penalty if it had an “8” or even “7”. If you can hit it the prescribed distance, you can play pretty good golf.

As I was explaining to the customer, you can build your optimum set of clubs by first creating your own “Personal Distance Chart”. In any round of golf, you will find yourself with no less than 18 approach shots, and all will be a different distance to the desired landing area, whether that is the flag or a spot on the green where you have more room for error.

And to play your best golf, you need to know how which club to pull to hit the ball any of those given distances. My premise is that you need a club in your bag to produce . . . with a normal full swing . . . the following carry distance:
75-80 yards
85-90 yards
95-100 yards
105-110 yards
120-125 yards
135-140 yards
150-155 yards
165-170 yards
180-185 yards
200-205 yards
220-225 yards
225+ yards (DRIVER)
That would give you 13 clubs, plus your putter, and fill out your bag.

You’ll notice that I have suggested 10 yard gaps in the shorter ranges, 15 yards in the middle, and 20 yard gaps at the longer end of the set. The reason for that is simple. When you are 85 yards from the hole, your target is smaller. You want the ball close to the hole to save par or make birdie. The ten-yard gap only leaves you 15 feet long or short, which is a makeable putt. At the long end of the set, however, when you find yourself over 180 yards to the target, you generally have a bigger target area and relaxed expectation for distance precision. Being 30-35 feet long or short of the target is generally quite good. And in the middle, 15-20 feet long or short is totally workable. Besides, by simply gripping down on the club by ½ to ¾ inch, you’ll cut those distance gaps in half, giving you all the precision you need.

I’ll grant you that you can tweak these numbers a bit, maybe 5 yards this way or that, to suit your own game, but if you have big gaps at the short end, and small gaps at the long end, maybe you should look into tweaking your iron specs, removing/adding a club or two, to get the precision better golf requires.

This will give you all something to think about . . . and sound off about. I’m looking forward to that, as I always do.
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[ comments ]
Kickntrue says:
The crazy thing is- I pretty much agree with your numbers- but when I assess that to my game- it would mean carrying "6 wedges" or at least clubs that major OEM's would call wedges.
Agustin says:
75-80: 64° check
85-90: missing
95-100: missing
105-100: 58° check
120-125: 52° check
135-140: missing
150-155: PW/9i check
165-170: 8i check
180-185: 7i check
200-205: 5i check
220-225: 3H check
225+: Driver.

So I guess I should sell my 6i, 4i and 3W and buy a 62°, 60° and 50° wedges... and hope I never have to play a course of 7000+ yds or go down to sea level ;)
Backquak says:
I count 12 numbers, so my bag fits this pretty good, I have a big gap between my 61*(70 yd) and 56*(95 yd) that I need to tweak and the 190-225 clubs are less consistent than I would like.... thats the one missing the 190-200 club, one of these days I'm going to try a hybrid.
RyanJ says:
Any suggestions on how to index distances, the driving ranges I frequent usually have a 100, 150, 200, 250 yard markers, and not always in a line which makes it even more difficult to guess distance. One of the ranges I visit infrequently has old cars on the range with distances painted on them, they are loads of fun to hit and get 'dialed' into.
aaronm04 says:
@RyanJ: I always find the driving range to be a terrible place to figure out your distances. The condition of the golf balls are usually not great and they are built for durability and not performance like the one you play on the course.

When I was figuring out my distances, I used the course. I'm playing a real ball and have more accurate distances. It took a few weeks to get comfortable with those distances and once I got one done, the others get easier to gauge. If I hit a poor shot with a club I was trying to "measure," I'd just drop a ball and hit a second just for measurement purposes. Before you even start, you probably know your Driver, PW, and probably one other club at minimum. Build off of those. Hope this helps.
birdieXris says:
Sound reasoning. I'm nowhere near that though, could be why i'm not playing well.

DR: 270-300
3w: 230-255
hy: 205-220
4I: 195-200
5I: 185-190
6I: 175-180
7I: 165-170
8I: 155-160
9I: 140-150
pw: 125-135
50: 110-120
54: 95-100
58: 85-90
Banker85 says:
75-80 yards LW
85-90 yards SW
95-100 yards GW
105-110 yards PW
120-125 yards 9I
135-140 yards 8I
150-155 yards 7I
165-170 yards 6I
175-180 yards 5I
195-205 yards 4hy
210-215 yards 3hy
220-225 yards 3W
235+ yards (DRIVER)

Wow thanks for dialing in all my distances Terry, besides my hybrids (which are only about a 5-10 yardage gap) everything is spot on with an 10increase in driver.
larrynjr says:
Wow, all you guys are long hitters. If I count my very best possible shots I might have yardage that far but consistantly? I'm closer to 15 yds. shorter on almost all my clubs. BUT, I'm ok with that because I know what clubs will get what distances. I'm still a high handicapper but I plan to be at least 10 strokes better at the end of this season!
onedollarwed says:
@Ryan: Besides playing on well marked courses, there are a couple of options which I have stumbled into. Our local Golfer's Warehouse has one of those computer ranges (which can be used for lessons/fitting) which is cool to try in the dead of winter. If you pretend to buy a club you can usually use it - depends on the person helping you. Also, a local "academy" has a device which can measure distances through sound waves when the ball lands or something like that. Then there is roll, wind, and all the other factors - like the caffiene factor.
wedgeguy says:
Kickntrue, It could mean that you are trying to hit the ball too dang far, and you need to learn how to throttle back to a control swing that produces about 15 yards less per iron. I'd recommend the same thing for Augustin. On the other hand, what difference does it make what you carry, as long as you get the consistent distance gaps so that you can score. P.S. Kickntrue, that 180 yard 8-iron from the bunker will haunt you the rest of your life!!! ;-)
Matt F says:
I'm hitting mine pretty much the same as all I need is consistancy.

Bryan K says:

I definitely have larger gaps on my wedges, but the reason for that is because I feel as if I have more control over the distances I hit them based on my swing. The gaps tend to get tighter around my middle irons, say from 7 to pitch. My 5 and 6 irons, I don't hit consistently enough to really know how far I can hit them, but my 4h is my 200+ club when I can't use my driver.
Dusty23 says:
i will use a variety of clubs from various distances, it depends on my lie, wind, my target, hazards and mostly how i am swinging that day. i also will change my grip, choking up on the club to take some off of it. i also see with these yardage gaps where my club can be either or on club selection, i have what i would use based on your numbers and how i have actually been playing them on the right
75-80 SW 54*/GW 50* / 85 and less - SW/GW
85-90 GW 50* / 85-100 - GW
95-100 GW / PW 46* / 100-115 - PW
105-110 PW / 115-125 - 9
120-125 9 / 125-140 - 8
135-140 8/7 / 140-155 - 7
150-155 7/6 / 155-170 - 6
165-170 6/5 / 170-185 - 5
180-185 5/24*Hybrid / 185-200 - 24*H
200-205 24*H/5W / 200-210 - 5W
220-225 3W/DRV / 210 + - 3W
225+ DRV / 225+ - DRV
dpoimboeuf says:
I find that I struggle with full swings and getting the 80-100 yards with my 56 and 60 degree wedges. If I try to make a full swing with those two clubs, I tend to flip the release and the ball balloons on me. I solve this by choking up on my 52 and using my higher lofted wedges for piches and lobs closer to the green.
lcgolfer64 says:
75-80 yards 58
85-90 yards 53
95-110 yards 50
105-120 yards PW
120-135 yards 9I
130-145 yards 8I
145-160 yards 7I
160-175 yards 6I
175-185 yards 5I
185-210 yards 4Hy
210-225 yards 5W
230-250 yards 3W
240+ yards (DRIVER)

I'm with Dusty23, but I need to work on consistencies in my distances, and mainly my swing... I've had variation in low wedges of at least +10 yards (ball flight) and the same in mid-low irons, on calm days. I hit a 5W on Saturday from 242 to middle (had a good lie) on a par 5 that reached the fringe and hopped on to about 15 feet. my plan was to play shorter due to a drop-off on the back of the green.
stedar says:
The tools for achieving the distance are ok, the consistent connection leaves me pondering sometimes.

Wind is a huge factor but more so is hitting the ground before the ball, or worse, hitting the ball 1/2 way up and watch it burn the grass as it travels forward.
Then there's the hook, slice (and dare I say - shank).
For theoretical reasons, if I could control the flight of the 60*, 56* and PW better, then the only thing that is an issue is the flag position and the grain on the green :-)

Must admit, watching the Masters made me feel like I can do that too!
While on the Masters - Tiger was by far the better player, his approach shots (particularly on the par 5's) were on the money - shame his putting is not there, must be that new putter :-)
His yardage control showed one thing, it was more about where he wanted the ball to land and choosing a club that would "stop" or "run" upon landing.
Distance seemed to be controlled by his set up more than club selection alone.
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