Whether you’re new to golfing or not, a lot of players often find themselves wondering about how far they should be hitting with the various different golf clubs.
Many players often start out on short courses or pitch and putts that only require a small selection of clubs, while others may not understand how much difference the weather, club selection, and technique can affect distance and accuracy.
The truth is that while your range may vary according to all these different factors, there are definitely average distances you should either be targeting or breaking through as you develop your understanding and skill.
There are also a few things you can do to improve the distances you can hit, and we’ve touched on some of these to help you learn how to start adding serious yardage to your tee shot.
Beginners will naturally not be hitting their shots particularly far, due to their less refined technique.
To give you some idea of how much difference there can be we’ll first take a look at the average distances for beginner men and beginner women when using the driver.
The driver is the biggest and most powerful club in any golf bag and it’s one of the most important tools in your arsenal.
Not only does a strong drive look and sound impressive, but it will also put you in the best position to start improving your handicap.
The average distance in yards for a male beginner is around 190, with the very longest beginner drives reaching out to 278 yards.
The average distance in yards for a female beginner is around 138 yards, with a longest distance of around 217 yards.
Without taking any other factors into consideration, you will notice the huge disparity between the average and longest drives for both men and women, indicating just how wide-ranging the range of this club can be.
Other factors such as weather conditions, strength, and flexibility, as well as the type of golf ball and golf club.
Professional golfers and scratch players are going to be very different from beginners.
They will be using the very best equipment available, be highly experienced, and often will only be playing in fairly favorable conditions and environments.
The average drive for male professional players hovers around 300 yards consistently, but some players such as Bryson Dechambeau and Rory McIlroy regularly hit drives of 350 yards.
This increase in distance is also seen in professional female golfers as you’d expect, with the average drive being 250 yards, and some players regularly striking beyond that.
What does this mean?
It means that if you’re hitting anywhere near these distances with consistency and relative accuracy as an amateur, you’re a very lucky and rare individual.
Now that you can see the difference between amateur and professional golfers, let’s talk a little more about the different clubs for a moment.
As mentioned above, drivers are used to take the longest shots in the sport and are the most physically demanding clubs to use. They need to be swung with confidence, speed, and precision in order to get both distance and accuracy.
Drivers are the longest clubs with the biggest heads and the flattest faces, to enable the golf ball to travel as far as possible.
Woods are a step down from drivers, but can still pack an incredible amount of power. The faces of woods are slightly less flat and can achieve a higher trajectory than drivers to clear obstacles.
When using a 3-wood, male golfers typically hit shots of around 2010 yards, while females average around 180 yards.
The 5-wood is a step lower down from the 3-wood, so there is a corresponding drop in range of around 15 to 20 yards for both men and women.
Irons are the clubs you’ll most often be using on the fairway and are very versatile due to their various lengths and the gradually increasing steepness of their faces.
They range all the way from the 2-iron, down to the 9-iron, and there is a very large performance difference between these two ends of the spectrum.
For example, the male average distance for a 2-iron is around 190 yards, and the female average is around 170 yards. In contrast, the average distances with a 9-iron are 120 yards for male players and 100 yards for female players.
This difference in range is due to the fact that higher irons focus much more on loft and trajectory.
The key thing to remember with irons is that your swing should be consistent, and this is something that a lot of new players don’t understand.
The 10 to 20-yard gap in range between each of the irons is achieved by the steepness of the face and the length of the club. You don’t need to swing especially hard with a 2-iron to achieve the distance you need.
The club is designed to achieve this with a fairly comparable swing to your higher irons.
This is where a lot of players go wrong. Trying to squeeze every yard out of your iron will often result in a worse shot than staying relatively consistent with your technique and changing to a different club depending on the range you need to hit.
This is precisely why there are such a wide range of irons, to ensure you are able to gauge what iron you in particular need to make the next shot.
Distance is a lot less important when it comes to irons when compared to consistency, however working on your grip, swing speed and stance will help you add several yards to your range and improve your accuracy.
Wedges are one of the most important and satisfying clubs to use in our opinion. They offer a supreme amount of control over the ball, can get you out of bad situations, and will put you in a great position to sink your putts.
Accuracy is also a lot more important than range when it comes to wedges, and you should be focusing more on your placement and control than squeezing extra yards out of your pitching wedge.
That being said, the average ranges for men are around 100 to 100 yards, while it’s around 90 to a hundred yards for women.
Sand wedges can make around 10 yards less than a pitching wedge, and the lob wedge is really only useful for around 60 to 65 yards for both men and women.
While it is possible to hit balls much further than this with wedges, there are better clubs for ranges beyond this that will take the strain off you and your body.
Needless to say, putters are all about accuracy instead of power. You won’t be using these babies for anything other than hitting pinpoint targets, focusing on the ground, and learning how to steer the ball where you need it to go.
How to tell your yardage?
One thing that can be hard for beginners to gauge is exactly how far their shots are reaching.
One of the most simple and effective ways to gauge distance in any scenario is to simply compare the range you are trying to guess with something you might be familiar with.
For example, you may know the length of a football field is 100 yards. You can use this knowledge to make fairly accurate estimations.
Another great thing to do is to head to the local driving range and imagine you’re playing on a course. Work your way through a driver, an iron, a wedge, and then repeat.
Most driving ranges will have distance indicators on the range, allowing you to quickly get an idea of how far most of your shots are going with each different club.
You will naturally be able to feel if you’re a long or short hitter, even without being able to do either of these things.
If you find yourself taking several shots to reach the green or its approach, and struggling to get close to par, it just means you need to keep practicing and developing your technique.
What is loft?
Loft is simply how high the ball travels on its trajectory. How quickly and steeply a shot lifts and drops depends on the club used, where drivers and woods have flatter, longer trajectories, woods, and irons tend to give loft much more easily.
Loft can be used to avoid obstacles such as trees as well as other traps and water.
What is swing speed and how important is it?
Swing speed is how quickly you swing your golf club. Quite simply, a faster swing speed means more power and a longer shot, regardless of the club you’re using.
It's often said that increasing your swing speed by an extra mph will add around a yard of distance to your shot.
With that being said, wildly hacking at your ball will more likely end up sending your ball into the boundaries unless you’ve gradually trained yourself to increase your speed and your technique along with it.
Do weather conditions affect distance?
Yes, weather conditions can have a serious effect on the distance of your strokes.
Wet weather conditions can do anything from help your ball skid and slide further along the fairway to getting embedded in the mud and not carrying at all.
The prevailing wind may help your ball on its way on one hole, and then hold it up or drag it away on the next.
A still, sunny day on the other hand will mean you have no one to blame for your rubbish, shot other than yourself!
Being mindful of the conditions and doing your best to account for them will help you to keep you hitting the fairway.
Can different types of golf balls affect my distance?
There are many different types of golf balls and the advanced material and construction of them have led to a variety of performance differences depending on your preference.
Generally speaking, low-compression golf balls are softer than other types of golf balls and thus compress far more easily.
This enables beginners and high handicap players to create distance, despite their slower swing speeds and worse technique.
High compression golf balls are much harder and are used by experienced players whose faster swing speeds and skill enables them to achieve a comparable range to the low compression golf balls while offering far more control over the ball.
Should you practice at your local golf range, you should also be aware that range balls may be a mix of different balls and this can affect the consistency of your range.
Typically range balls will travel a little bit shorter due to their well-used nature, but there are other factors such as tee height, shooting platform, and stance that can have a much bigger effect on your range.
How to improve your distances?
We’ve talked a lot about the different ranges that can be achieved and the different clubs, but you may now be wondering what you can do to improve. Luckily there are a lot of things you can do.
Work on core strength and flexibility - The stronger your core and the more easily you can twist and maneuver your body, the more force you’ll be able to generate. As we mentioned before, swing speed can have a large impact on your distance.
One of the best ways to improve your swing speed is to ensure your body is looked after. A lot of the stability and leverage required to generate a good golf swing comes from the core, back, and legs.
While it looks like the arms are doing all the work, they are mostly just guiding the club as these larger compound muscle groups work together to generate the power you need.
Good flexibility also reduces the chance of injury, enabling you to perform at your best as often as possible.
Stop decelerating - Again, ensuring you keep your swing speed up is key. Slowing your stroke down as you approach the ball will cause you to lose yards off your shot, and this sort of second-guessing will often also make your shot less accurate.
Finding a consistent movement and committing to your stroke will help you develop the kinesthesis and proprioception (fancy sport science words for how we ‘feel’ the right amount of power we need to generate) required to control your shots and extend them.
Use training aids - There are a lot of training aids that exist, and they can really help you work out your bad habits and eliminate them from your game.
Whether it’s working on your swing profile, your stance, your speed, or your grip, there are training aids to help tweak all these aspects of your game.
This is something that will particularly benefit experienced amateurs who may have picked up bad habits from friends or hit a plateau in their performance.
Tee the ball higher up - This may be something that total beginners don’t understand, so it’s definitely worth highlighting how important tee height is when it comes to achieving a long drive.
When it’s positioned correctly, the tee will help you to connect with the ball at the optimum angle, helping you to get the most efficient trajectory possible while also reducing backspin, which can severely dampen your performance.
Just make sure to not place the tee too high, as this will have the opposite effect, causing your shots to spin or fall far short of the mark.
Finding what works for you and sticking to it will help you develop a sort of ritual approach when it comes to driving, which is something you’ll notice in a lot of pro players, who have often developed their own particular way of setting up to drive.
Is accuracy more important than distance?
Whether accuracy or distance is more important depends on the shot that needs to be taken.
Statistically speaking, distance trumps accuracy when it comes to tee-shots and even strokes from the fairway.
Almost all professional players are striving to improve the power and range of their drives, as this allows them to avoid obstacles and position themselves perfectly to gain an advantage over the competition and the course itself.
The only place this may be disputed is on the actual approach to the green. Approaching or getting onto the green is all about calculation and control, as well as knowing the course.
Placing the ball as close to the pin as possible will make putting the ball much easier, and will help you avoid the traps that often surround the green.
Some players would say it’s the power and distance of good drivers that make the short game that much easier, while other players define themselves by their superior command of the short game.
If you’re serious about improving as a golfer, your best bet is to work on both aspects of the game.
Learning to harness the power of your drive and developing your short game will help you knock serious numbers off your handicap, whatever your experience level.