How Far Do You Drive the Ball?

Our Growing the Game* survey of 18,400 golfers shows that most golfers over-estimate the actual distance they hit the ball by more than 30 yards.

We asked golfers to estimate their driving distance as part of the survey. We also conducted field testing of golfers to develop actual average driving distances for each handicap group and verified this with a major manufacturer.

Here is what we found:

Women with a handicap between 10 and 19 estimate their drives are 170 to 230 yards (female golfers scoring 95-100 have an actual average driving distance of 145 yards).

Men with handicaps between 10 and 19 estimate their drives are between 210-250 yards (male golfers scoring between 90-94 have an actual driving distance of 192 yards).


Based on analysis of the survey responses:

The golf course should be approximately 6490 yards long for the average male respondent, but probably less than 6200 yards long for the national average male golfer.

The golf course should be approximately 5500 yards long for the average female respondent, but probably less than 5000 yards for the national average female golfer.

“Golfers want to be challenged, but the challenge must be an appropriate one. The ability to shoot par must be achievable. Having a facility that caters to and is defined by what a golfer ‘aspires to be’, or once was, only leads to frustration and disappointment. It reduces the potential satisfaction and enjoyment that golfers could realize from participating in the game.”

Frankly Golf, Growing the Game Survey*.

(NOTE 1: This survey was conducted in 2005, however there is no evidence that average driving distance or average handicap for golfers has changed significantly. )

(NOTE 2: We should recognize that women shooting the same score as men from the same tee will have a handicap of approximately 5 strokes lower than men. This is due to the difference in the calculation of the respective handicaps.)


4 thoughts on “How Far Do You Drive the Ball?

  1. I finally figured out that the scorecard only records how many, not how far or how costly the clubs, nor are there style points for clothing labels. Picking the tees that fit your game and practicing the short game is what wins waters. There are lots of long drives in the woods.

  2. I have noticed the same estimations with people I play with. I totally concur with scaling down the yardages most people play from – but, it seems to be a never ending battle. Guys let ego and pride get in the way of having an enjoyable golf experience. This guy loves his “senior tees.”

  3. I think it would be interesting to see how the questions are worded. For example, the true “average drive” of a mid-handicapper would almost certainly be shorter than their average drive that they actually played (and fondly remember). Most golfers wouldn’t automatically take into consideration the distances of topped drives that wound up short of the forward tees, or drives that they duck-hooked into somebody’s back yard. Instead, they can probably very accurately estimate where in the fairway on their favorite hole on their home course when things go more closely to plan. Even if 1 in 10 drives ends up in disaster, it could get close to the 30 yard distance gap you’ve uncovered.

    I think many golfers would interpret the question, “how far is your average drive?” as, “how far is your average drive, excluding the totally botched tee shots that you’d like us to ignore.”

    Not trying to be critical of your study, and I do find it interesting. Nevertheless, the finding that golfers are somewhat delusional about their yardages might not be accurate, as much as the fact that there’s a natural tendency to estimate distance based data that doesn’t include total disasters.

    Keep up the good work. I enjoy learning from your articles.

  4. I’m 70 years old and play to about a 3.5 hcp. In my younger days, playing with mostly balata or wound surlyn balls and steel shafted wooden driver, I could hit my drives on average about 250 yards, and on a good day could get one or two a round out about 270. By the time I was in my 50s, graphite shafts and titanium heads, combined with the Pro V1 type ball had taken over. Interestingly, I gained a few yards off the tee from my younger days. Even now, I can sometimes hit my drives out nearly 250, but unless its downhill and with the wind (big wind) there aren’t any 270 yarders anymore. However, my handicap is up from the 1.0 or so that I maintained for about 40 years. Getting old is a bitch!

    We hear much about modern equipment allowing the ball to go too far. Except for those at the highest levels of the game, that’s mostly crap. I play in league with all younger guys and some of them hit it a ton. (That used to be me back in the day.) On the other hand, their scores mostly aren’t any better than mine. Sure, there are always a few really good, strong players, but even though they may hit it significantly longer than I ever did, they don’t score any better today than I did 40 years ago.

    Changes in equipment technology for most of us “normal” people has been a boon to golf. It increases enjoyment of the game because I can still compete and have fun. I’ve tried my old clubs and compared them to what I can do with newer equipment. With a new titanium driver, I have not “gained” anything over the wooden one, I just lost less – about 10 yards instead of 40+ yards! Irons are about 1 to 1 1/2 clubs different, but I put part of that in the fact that my old 1960s era 7 iron has similar loft to my new 9 iron.

    Play well, all.

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