Industry Exec – Equipment/Ball Doesn’t Help Avg Golfer Drive It Longer

This should send a chill down the spine of all the club manufacturers, and I bet they’re hoping no one reads the quote connected to this title post.

To make it short and sweet, modern equipment hasn’t helped the average golfer drive it longer – in fact, the average drive distance of the average golfer has fallen from 2015 to 2018 (and I can’t believe how short the average golfer drives stats, to be honest).

The numbers are absolutely brutal in the GolfDigest piece by Mike Stachura, entitled:

Are average golfers gaining distance? New study says not by a long shot

According to the study of Arccos users’ driving habits since 2015, driving distance across all age groups and all handicaps is at best flat and in many cases declining. In short, and perhaps not surprisingly, the data suggests that the only distance problem for the more than 99 percent of golfers who are not getting paid to play is a lack of it.

Arccos recently examined driving-distance data from 2015-2018 and the trend showed no real increases in driving distance for average golfers over that timeline. The Arccos data shows the average drive for the average golfer so far is 217.1 yards in 2018, down from the 220.6 yards in 2015. At best the number is flat when you compare full-year data: The average for 2017 was 220.0 yards.

That is bad enough although I’m gob-smacked at the numbers in general – until I remember how proud I was my first summer “playing” golf, when I smacked my first 250-yarder – in 1995, a 250 yard drive was nothing to sneeze at, so I’m sure that many of my drives that year were likely closer to 220 than 250.

“Wow!” I remember saying after teeing off from the 400 yard marker on the tee box and then seeing my ball in the middle of the fairway a couple of yards to the side of the white marker denoting 150 yards remaining.

That was my first summer with the sticks however.

In the summer of 1997, the first year in which I took lessons and bought a range membership, I reached a 550 yard par 5 green with a 330 yard drive (titanium-headed driver borrowed from my instructor at the time to try it out) and 200-odd yard 5 iron, so it’s been a while since I had to contemplate driving it in the 220’s.

Moving on from Memory Lane, I will give you the money quote in the article from Nick Clearwater:

… who is the vice president of instruction for Golftec, the chain of nearly 200 worldwide golf instruction and club-fitting studios that has provided more than seven million lessons.

Although he concedes that the average golfer is using equipment not fitted to their swing and that swinging like a Tour player isn’t easy (and I agree – even the Tour players have trouble swinging like Tour players if they’re doing it with the Modern Golf Swing method), it’s this statement of his that raised my eyebrows when I read it:

“There is not much equipment/ball can help with…”

And there, in that simple little quote, you have the reason for why you have to build a sound and mechanically-correct golf swing if you really enjoy the game (or want to) and can’t seem to ever get any pop out of your Driver or other clubs.

The the equipment simply won’t help you, despite the dollars you throw down that hole chasing distance and power (and usually consistency & accuracy).

There is a great difference between someone like Jordan Spieth being able to compete on a golf course with an iffy swing move and the average golfer thinking they can do the same, and it comes down to talent.

Without a swing change, Mr. Spieth would have a hard time competing on a high-level pro circuit with less forgiving equipment – but he also possesses far more golf talent and ability (and time to practice) than the average golfer.

If you gave him persimmon clubs and spinny balls, he’d still take the average golfer with the most modern equipment to the cleaners, which is why, although I critique his swing negatively, I wouldn’t play him for money – I’m a swing researcher and not a pro golfer.

If you gave Spieth 80’s era equipment however, I would bet you that any top-50 player from that era would be salivating at the chance to tee it up against him for money.

The difference, again, is talent – the 80’s era players were far better ball-strikers than today’s, and with far less forgiving equipment, so if you put both era players at their primes on a course with the old equipment, it would be a massacre.

The is no club, and there is no ball, that will help the average player who struggles to get a club impact speed over 100 mph with the driver, and even if they do, their technique is so flawed and unreliable that most would have more success putting the golf ball in a sling shot to send it down the fairway.

What got me from a “Wow!” drive of 250 yards to a 330 yard pop two short years later (and perhaps more impressively, I drove through a 325 yard hole later that summer with a generic brand 3-metalwood off the tee, making the total distance a good deal more than the drive on the par 5)?

It was the range membership and working on my swing technique, not better equipment:

DJ – 1998

Sure, I can drive it longer today than I did 20 years ago, and the equipment likely has something to do with that, but I would bet dollars to donuts that, given the same equipment today as 20 years ago, I would still be out-driving my 20-yrs-younger 20-something-self by a good margin, because of superior technique:

DJ – 2017


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“E = MCS” The Swing Video

5 thoughts on “Industry Exec – Equipment/Ball Doesn’t Help Avg Golfer Drive It Longer

  1. Jeff

    No surprise, DJ.

    IIRC, the USGA limits the amount of spring effect on the driver, so once you stop the equipment from imparting more than a certain amount of energy to the golf ball, all the rest of the equipment hype is just that – hype.

    Distance really comes from how much energy goes to the golf ball, if you cap that then it all comes down to swing speed. If you have a poor swing, you are limited regardless of equipment. Not that the manufacture’s will ever tell you that.

    The latest and greatest equipment is more forgiving, so amateurs probably get some benefit in accuracy/control, but even then there is only so much that can be done to overcome the laws of physics. Cavity back irons were a big breakthrough for amateurs and control, but there is only so far you can push that perimeter weighting.

    Now, club fitting can certain add distance for even a high handicapper, but that is more about matching shafts and such. Different discussion.

    1. D Watts Post author

      Great points, Jeff – I am always reminding people that the newest driver can’t be “longer” because of the restrictions you’ve just mentioned.

      Agreed in full – distance comes from club speed and a more forgiving club will only be more forgiving on bad strikes, without increasing your actual driving distance, and if you have a poor swing, it’s not going to make much difference, in the end.

      I couldn’t quote everything in the article, but the point is made that you’ve made, better fitted equipment will help the average golfer improve, but that’s not the equipment doing the work, just better-suited equipment getting the most out of the swing one has at the moment.

      Enjoyed our email discussion, have a great weekend – looks like I might be back out there in the coming week! 🙂


      1. Jeff

        Fingers crossed the courses in MN will open next week. 18″ of snow last weekend here in the Twin Cities but temps are getting into the high 50s-low 60s much of next week so hoping to get out soon. Looking forward to reports on how things go for you.

  2. Michael Harris

    If average golfers can’t drive any farther with the new equipment because their swings are as crappy as they ever were, then why are the pros gaining so much distance with the new equipment when they’ve adopted a worse (modern) swing model than they used to have?

    1. D Watts Post author

      Hi Michael!

      Good question – short answer is that the better you are, the more you will get out of the modern equipment.

      The pros are the best in the world and even a middling amateur would love a swing like say Jordan Spieth’s. So, where I think Spieth has a terrible swing, that’s only compared to what it could be and in comparison to the best swings.

      The modern ball actually gives an advantage to the longer hitters. The faster the club speed, the more you get out of it. Someone with 95 mph club speed might not hit the Pro V any longer than the old ball but the swingers above 115 mph will get more yardage with the modern and by a good deal.

      Right now the ball is the problem. But if you reduced head size… you would see slower swing speeds due to having to swing easier to find the center of the face.

      I don’t have any love for the modern gear but I began my swing research with 90s era clubs…so I’ll hit anything you hand me, including a persimmon.

      At the end of the day, the best bikers don’t race with training wheels and I don’t believe the pros should get to play with the golf equivalent.

      Smaller heads and wound balls…if they’re so good, they’ll find a way. Let the amateurs play with whatever.

      Problem is, the equipment companies are running the show. Their ad money, their rules. The governing bodies haven’t protected the game and now it’s a mess.

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