How Important is Good Driving?


“Drive for show, putt for dough.”

Sam Snead’s maxim is so well known that it’s practically tattooed on the inside of every golfer’s eyelids.  Unfortunately, for the average golfer, it’s not exactly true.  Modern statistical analysis tells us that, particularly for the amateur golfer, no club matches the driver in importance.

DJ vs Faxon

This Tip Is For You If:

You want to shoot lower scores

You’re stuck on a scoring plateau and you want to know how to get off of it


A Better Maxim

In light of what we now know, let’s forget Slammin’ Sammy (sorry, Mr. Snead) and imprint this new bit of wisdom:

“If you can’t putt, you can’t score.  If you can’t drive, you can’t play.”*  

What this means is that yes, putting is critical to shooting low scores – you can’t go low with 36 putts – but you shouldn’t even worry about your putting until your driving is at a minimum level of competency.

*My apologies to whoever came up with this.  I read it somewhere, but I don’t remember where.

Importance of Driving

“What’s My Problem?”

So, is your driving what’s holding you back?  Figuring that out is pretty easy.  The next time you play, try this:

Play two balls.  The first ball should be played normally: hit your tee shot and play it into the hole.  For the second ball, drop it in a spot where a good, average distance drive would land and play it into the hole.  Compare the two scores.  If your driving is what’s holding you back, the score on your first ball will be substantially higher.  In fact, you probably won’t even need to look at the scores: if there’s a substantial difference between the location of the two balls on more than a couple holes, your driving probably needs work.

“How Do I Fix It?’

If your driving is your problem, fixing it should be priority #1.

Since there are many possible problems that a golfer could have with their driver, I won’t try to answer them all here.  Instead, let me suggest some possible fixes for various problems:

Slicing: Fix Your Takeaway

Swinging out of your shoes and general inconsistency: Find Your Swing’s Top Gear

Ball never goes where you “aim” it: Alignment Fundamentals

General understanding of ball flight: Ball Flight Laws Series

Watch the Video

Matt Saternus


  1. This article rings very true! If the putter is on I’m going to score well, but if the driver is off it’s time to get in the cart and start drinking.

    • Matt Saternus

      Haha, very true. There’s no question that both are important, but bad driving inflates the score more than any other club in the bag. It’s also the most demoralizing thing in golf, at least to me.


  2. While driving is critical to scoring, if you cannot putt you will never shoot low scores. You could split every fairway, but if you cannot sink a putt (3 or 4 putt) you will start drinking very soon after that round. Just look at two of the most talked about players on the planet, T & P both spray it all over the course yet they win more than the other top 20 players combined. I’ll take great putting and marginal (45-50%) driving any time.

    • Matt Saternus


      It’s all a matter of degree. If you hit 18 GIRs and 3 putt everything, you will shoot 90. If you start driving the ball out of bounds, that score adds up much more quickly.

      As I said, it’s a matter of having a minimum level of competency with the driver. 50% fairways is fine as long as the other 50% are in play and can be advanced towards the green. If it’s 50% fairways and 50% OB, I’ll be happy to play you for all the money in your pockets.

      When talking about Tiger and Phil, you have to consider that both are very long which helps to negate some of their inaccuracy.

      Thanks for the comment.


  3. My only comment is, well, I have two actually.

    First, great thread Matt, and spot on.

    My second, and what I base my agreement off of, well, there are two parts to this. When I’ve played my best, I’ve driven my best, especially directionally, though usually when my difection’s right, my distance is good because I’m usually striking the ball center face or there abouts.

    Yes, a hot putter just adds to that. Icing on the cake if you will, though if my drives are in the fairways and in my normal distance range, I’m shooting at the greens visualizing nothing more than my normal swing amd the shot to follow, not manufacturing a swing or shot from the sh!t.

    If I hit fairways, I hit greens. If I make putts, it’s a hell if a day. If I don’t, I get pars. I’ll take em.

    Plus, missing fairways and HAVING to make putts is very mentally taxing for me. To fight the driver and HAVE to make putts is my nightmare, LMAO.

    Second, a friend if mine who plays the Tour, and has been on and off the Tour for the past 23 years, and he has a victory, says that his driving determines whether he keeps his card. Whatever formula he uses, and we’ve never gone into it, though 94% of the time when his driving performance was where he felt it should be, he kept his card. It was great in 2012, he won $1.8M and got it back for ’13, and last year it took a dive last year and he’s playin the and the Tour when he gets in.

    Nah, as usual, Matt’s spot on

    Fairways & Greens My Friend,

  4. Cedric Theofanous

    This is really good advice. I think rule number 1 rule for scoring well is no penalty strokes. (In bounds and out of hazards). I believe Hogan said that the driver was the most important club in the bag as well.

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