Booming Drives – A Different Stat

While watching the Women’s British Open on the weekend, I was intrigued by a comment made by Judy Rankin. It is not often that I struck by an ‘ah ha’ moment. But what she said about driving distance really resonated with me. The more I think about it, the more I agree with Judy. Her interpretation of driving distance is more accurate and valuable when playing golf.

As we watch I.K. Kim, the eventual champion, warm up on the range, the conversation turned to driving distance. The announcers indicated that the average driving distance on the LPGA Tour was about 250 yards. This is a fairly accurate assessment if you look at the stats. However, Rankin stated that this stat was miss leading because it described where the ball came to rest after the drive.

In the case of I.K. Kim, she averaged 250 yards off the tee, however she only carried the ball about 215 yards with a 35 yard roll out. According to Rankin, and I agree, the 215 yard measurement is far more valuable when playing around of golf. This determines where a player will hit the ball to avoid any trouble. Let me explain.

On my home course at Osprey Links Golf Course, the 7th hole is a dog-leg right with a pond guarding the driving area. From the tee, I am at the 100 yard marker and must carry 235 yards over the water to come to rest at or near the 100 yard marker. The total carry over the water for my shot is about 50 yards.

Now, if I.K. Kim is playing this hole, she must aim considerable left of my aim point. If she hits the ball straight and her ball rolls out to 250 yards, like mine above, she will be about 140 yards from the green. The fact that she cannot carry the ball farther than approximately 215 yards with her driver forces her to take a conservative line to avoid the water. The 40 yard difference in approach shots does make a difference if it occurs 3 or 4 times in a round.

I agree with Judy Rankin. The driving distances are a bit askew and maybe we should look at the carry distance vice the roll out distance. It is a more accurate stat that helps amateurs course manage easier. Using Rankin’s stat, I drive the ball on average of 235 yards. How about you?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

Written by Jim Burton from The Grateful Golfer golf blog.


2 thoughts on “Booming Drives – A Different Stat

  1. Hey Jim

    A pearl of wisdom from my coach some time ago:

    “Assuming there is no wind and you hit the ball with not much spin then virtually nothing can affect the ball while in the air. As soon as it hits the deck it could do anything; jump right; jump left; hit a sprinkler and go anywhere; run on 35 yards a la I.K.K ; stop dead (like most of my drives today on a soggy course) and so on.

    So the carry distance for all your clubs should be the most important one you have in your head because you just can’t be certain what happens when it lands, it is out of your control. Control what you can control and don’t worry about the rest.”

    This has come in handy more than once!

    I had the privilege of having a whole week using Trackman last October and as many may know, TM gives you all sorts of info, most of which us mere mortals would not understand properly or know what to do to fix it if we saw something untoward in the stats! From memory, the main distance TM gives you for each shot is ‘carry’ and then tells you total roll out. So even the tool that the ‘big boys’ use week in week out for their practice is set to show carry distance.

    Not knowing your average carry for the tee shot on the hole you mention Jim could be a card wrecker I would imagine.

    While talking about driving, do you mind if I ask a question? Shorter and more accurate off the tee or longer and a little more wild?

    Interested to know your view Jim (and others) on PEI. Proximity Error Index. Is it an important stat for tee shots? Example: player A hits the ball 280 yards off the tee but 28 yards right of the fairway (who knows what is out there, sand, trees, waste ground, long rough…), player B hits the fairway and rests at 250 yards. PEI for player A is 28 / 280 x 100 = 10% PEI for player B is zero as they hit the fairway, no error!

    Imagine playing a round where you were around 10% off target even just your tee shots, this would be very tiresome and stressful I think, whereas being a bit shorter but much more accurate (lower PEI) makes life easier and hitting greens in reg more likely.

    I like average PEI as a stat for all shots, helps focus you and gives you a target to keep improving on.

    Swing easy!

    Paul at Team Blind Apple


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