Are Driving Distance and Number of Birdies Related in Golf?

I am not really a stats guy, but minor analysis shows that these two factors are not related because of a missing data set. I recently asked two polls about driving distance and making birdies and I was not really surprised with the answers. It was straight on par with what I was thinking and as such does not expose any revelations that might help focus some players to concentrate their training efforts in one direction. Regardless, it is worth the discussion because individually, they are important topics.<!--more-->

First, driving distances:

I am not surprised that over 50% of golfers, who answered this poll, fall into the 201 to 250 yard average for driving distance. I think that most readers are generally avid players and thus mid a mid handicap index (10 to 15). I am lower handicap player and play to the upper end of this category (I hover around the 250 range). However, I can tell you from my experience that this stat does not directly equate to more birdies. As a matter a fact, at least for my game, hitting the ball longish off the tee offers other advantages, but being in play 80% of the time is more valuable for my game. Hence, hitting straight with my driver is as if not more important shooting lower golf scores.

Next is birdies:

My first mistake was asking a question that gather different birdie information. Something like: “On average, how many birdies do you shoot in a round?” However, even that question makes it difficult to correlate the two data sets. Personally, the most birdies I have shot in a row is three. I have had as many as four in a nine hole span, but three is my best ever. As a matter of fact, shooting two birdies in a row is a rare enough thing, let alone a larger number. For interest sake, I expect to shoot at least two birdies in 18 holes and that happens around 50% of the time…..maybe. 😉

The missing data set is greens in regulation. Here is how all three of these skills tie together (at least in my mind). Hitting the ball longer off the tee allows for a short club used during approach shots. A short iron on approach shots offers a greater chance to hit the greens in regulation. The more greens in regulation, the great number of birdie opportunities. The more opportunities for birdie, the more birdies you will make. Whew! It is all one big intertwined mess of ‘if this, then that’.

Just a note, I played the Mattawa Golf And Ski Resort on Sunday. It was a wet, warm day and I had not hit a ball for three days. Since this course is close, I decided to give it go. Well, I scored my best round of the year. I hit every fairway and 61% of the greens in regulation. I had 30 putts with 4 bogeys and 3 birdies. The result was a one over 75. I attribute my great score to the combination of all three data sets, however 61% GIR was the most important.

Although my data does not really support my hypothesis for the day, I think we can agree that nothing is simple when it comes to applying statistical analysis to golf. There are so many factors, that on any given day I might shoot thee birdies in a row, but the probability that I will not is greater. Golf is a fun game and regardless of the stats, anything can happen on any given day.

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


10 thoughts on “Are Driving Distance and Number of Birdies Related in Golf?

  1. Thank you for sharing this. It is such a commonly asked question which most people donot know the answer to.
    Why don’t you do an article on golfing accessories? Apologies, if you have already. Would love to read one of those from you!
    For my game, I prefer professional golf gloves from Discount Golf but would love to know the best and worst ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Iron/wedge play and putting prowess on the day are certainly key factors, and I would argue the course layout is just as important when considering how many birdies in a row you can reasonably expect on a really good day. East Bay is a prime example of a course whose layout makes 5 birds in a row more than just possible if you’re on your game right from the start. Par 5’s on the 1st and 5th, with 2 short par 4’s (under 350) and a 150 yard par 3 in between can give you 5 birdies in a row when you come out firing on all cylinders. The back 9’s first 5 holes were also getable if a tad tougher to do. And of course there’s my new home course. 5 in a row here is doable starting anywhere on the course since it’s so short.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin, you make a great point. Course layout does make a tremendous difference. I have played courses like that and feel a birdie run could start at anytime. Osprey Links has a run of holes like that as well. Now I just have to hit the ball consistently to make it happen.

      Cheers Jim


  3. Jim, a lot to unpack here. I’ll ask you a question: Would you rather hit 6-iron in from 165 yards from the fairway, or gap wedge from 100 yards in the rough? Give me the 100 yard shot and I think I’ll make more birdies.

    Yes, length matters but only if you can get a scoring club in your hands. The human science lab, Bryson DeChambeau is the living proof of what length can do. Sure he has his moments of stupidity, but constantly knocking it way past everyone will pay out in the long run.



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  4. My opinion is that GIR correlates much better than driving distance for most of us mid handicap golfers. And I would go further that GIR is highly correlated on drives being in the fairway.

    I see so many players with new drivers in pursuit of greater length. Most end up a little longer but frequently more off line. If you are playing the proper tees, length should not be an issue, accuracy is.

    As a player in 10-12 index range, I make birdies at an average just over 1 per round. Almost 50% are on par fives, not surprising, 30% on par threes. Accurate approach shots yield the best chances for birdies or pars for that matter which gets back to GIR.

    Whether I am playing my modern clubs or hickory clubs, fairways hit and GIR yield more birdies and pars. Give me an approach shot in the short stuff and I like my chances. I play with lots of long hitters that end up in the rough or trees. I choose to work on my accuracy which gives me the best chance of scoring well.

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