We don’t play same game as the pros

The game’s elite players definitely play a different game than we do. They regularly drive the ball over 300 yards and average over 290 yards off the tee. So despite playing golf courses that can be stretched to 7,400+ yards, they have no trouble hitting short irons into most par 4s, except maybe when playing into the wind or the occasional 500+ par 4. They can get home in two on most of the par 5s, too.

The last stats that I saw showed Bubba Watson leading the PGA Tour in driving distance at 315.5. On the LPGA side, Brittany LIniciome led at 296.

Meanwhile, it seems most men amateur golfers have an inflated sense of just how far they actually hit their drives. I’ve played with young guys who exclaim, “I hit my drives 270.” Unless it happens to be down wind or the fairways are as hard as rocks, it just doesn’t hold true for the most part. Using ShoLink technology, I’ve read that stats gained by research by Dave Pelz show that scratch amateurs average 235, 10-handicappers 214 and 30-handicappers 166.

I have a guaranteed suggestion that will assist you gain a lot of yardage. No, it’s not one of the new drivers, although finding the one best fitted for your game might help. It’s not one of the “hotter” golf balls either. All you have to do is leave your ego at home and move up to one of the forward tees.

It appears that the professionals have another advantage also—their prowess at getting up and down from 30 yards. Pelz indicates the pros do this almost 50 per cent of the time while a 10-handicapper like myself is only successful one time in 10 tries. This partial swing wedge shot has to be the toughest shot in golf for higher handicap golfers, especially when they do not take the time to practice or play regularly. Many either hit it fat or skull the ball over the green. I know that I am better off laying up between 75 and 110 yards on par 5s rather than using my fairway wood to get closer.

Since we usually only get to see the leaders each week on television, it seems that the pros stick it inside 10 feet every time they get a wedge in their hands. However, stats reveal this isn’t true as the average is 20 feet. I do know that most of my birdies come when I have a wedge in my hands and have a green light to go flag hunting.

Even with more emphasis on distance, it’s interesting that the drive for show and putt for dough theory seems to still hold true on the PGA Tour. In the past seven years, only 11 winners led the field in driving distance that week while 47 led the field in shots gained by putting.

The pros also have an edge on the greens, thanks in part to all the time they spend on the practice greens. While the guys who are winning are making putts from all over as Phil Mickelson did at Pebble Beach last month, stats show the pros only make a little over half of their six-footers. Based on this stat, why should we be so hard on ourselves when we miss more of these length putts than we make? From three feet, the pros make more than 8 of 10. I’ve seen many golfers, including Ray Mullins, who seem to come close to that number themselves, especially when playing against me.

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ABOUT: James McAfee

James McAfee is a freelance golf and travel writer based in Garland, TX, who has extensive experience both as a writer and editor plus as a golf administrator. He worked for various newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma early in his career before becoming an editor with Golf Shop Operations and Golf Digest in the 1970s.

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