Know Your Distances!

How Far Does Your 9I Go?

Do you know how far each of your clubs goes?  A reader asked for a tip to address this question, so I’ve come up with three different ways that you can find your distances. The options are listed from the easiest, least expensive, and least accurate to the most expensive and accurate.  Try one, two, or all three of these methods to learn more about your game and shoot lower scores.

Stonewall Orchard Golf (3)

Method One: The Range

Most people learn their club’s distances on the range, and this is a perfectly fine way to get a ball park idea of how far each club goes.  Every golfer has access to a driving range, and they’re inepensive.

Problems

The number one problem with finding your distaces at the range is that you’re going to be using range balls.  Range balls are built to be durable; they are not built to perform like a Pro V1 or whatever ball you pay on the course.  As such, you could see significant distance differences when using a range ball vs. your gamer.

The other major problem is that you can’t see exactly where your golf ball lands or ends up.  The range is great for zeroing in certain distances, but anything in between the flags is nothing more than a rough estimate.

Accuracy Boost

Here are two things you can do to make the range a more accurate reflection of your actual distances.

1) Use a laser.  Yes, I know that the range has distances listed to each flag where are they measured from?  A laser rangefinder can give you the precise distance from where you’re standing to the flag.

2) Use your “gamer” balls.  Obviously this can get expensive in a hurry, especially if you play a tour-caliber ball, but it’s a guaranteed way to know how far your ball will fly on the course.  If you’re a stickler for playing only perfect, unscuffed balls on the course, keep the balls that you’ve cut with your wedges for this purpose.

Stonewall Orchard Golf (26)

Method Two: On the Course

If you can get out on the course and hit multiple shots into the green from various distances, you can get a very accurate gauge of how far each club goes.  Not only will you be hitting to a specific target, you’ll also be using your gamer ball.

Problems

While it can be accurate, there are a number of problems with this method.

First, you need to be able to get on the course when it’s relatively empty.  If people are stacked up on the tee box, they’re not going to be thrilled with you hitting ten 7 irons into the green.

Second, you need a laser rangefinder or a good GPS, or else you’ll be limited to using the 150 marker and pacing off other distances.

Third, you’ll need to retrieve all your balls.  This may not be a problem for the accomplished golfer, but high handicappers may want to go out with a buddy to help round up all their ammo.

Accuracy Boost

Have a friend stand near the green to give you measurements on where each shot lands and where it ends up.  This is important information: carry and total distances can be very different things!

FlightScope

Method Three: Launch Monitors

The most accurate way to determine how far each club goes is to use a high quality launch monitor.  Radar-based units like FlightScope and Trackman measure the ball until it hits the ground, providing detailed information about its flight.  Camera-based units like Foresight are great alternatives for indoor facilities with limited ball flight.

Problems

Cost and access.  Not every course, range, or teaching professional has a high quality launch monitor.  They are growing in prevalence every year, but they are not yet commonplace, so some golfers may have a tough time tracking one down.  The other issue is cost.  With these machines costing $10,000 and up, you should not expect to get on one for free.  Even in retail stores, there can be a fee for using the machines if you’re not being fit for clubs.

Accuracy Boost

Use the golf ball that you will use on the course.

Keep Records!

No matter which method you choose, it’s important to keep accurate notes on your shots and their distances (if you’re using a launch monitor, you should be able to get a printout of each shot you hit).

A Final Piece of Advice

The average distance that you hit a club is NOT the same as the longest possible distance you have ever hit that club.  Thinking that they are the same only hurts you ability to manage the course and score well.

I hope this helps.  Please feel free to post any questions or comments below.

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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11 Comments

  1. Great tips Matt, I’ll add one more as an option, but requires a gps or laser. Find an empty field, or empty range and hit 10 shots with a club on a specific target line. Leave your bag standing where you hit from, then walk out the approximate center of your ball grouping. Then just laser back to your bag and see the average of how far you are hitting. This method works much better if you are capable of hitting a relatively small grouping. If using a GPS just use the shot tracking feature. Most smartphones have an app available that will let you measure shot distance.

    • Matt Saternus

      That’s an excellent idea! Thanks for sharing.

      • Ernest Poirier

        I’d recommend taking this one step further.
        Hit 11 shots to a specific target. Ignore the 5 shortest. Ignore the 5 longest. The remaining ball is your yardage.
        If you want more data, hit any “odd” number of balls to a target. Hit – maybe – 25 balls. Ignore the shortest 12, and longest 12. Now laser the remaining ball. (12 shortest + 12 longest + 1 = 25 balls)

  2. Thanks for the tips Matt!

  3. Hi Matt,

    This has been a great site to discover… I suppose I should know my distances better than I do… Now at 68, is it more advantageous to know your carry distance instead of total distance?

    As far as golf balls (and playing from 5500 yards) I use 2014-2015 prov1
    as well as titleist nxt tour

    Thank you

    David

    • Matt Saternus

      David,

      Thank you, I’m glad you like the site.

      To answer your question, I think both are important. The question I would ask is: how much difference is there between carry and total with your various clubs? Obviously the woods roll out a lot, but how much roll do you see with your irons? If the gap is big, knowing both is important. If it’s a yard or two, I would just think about the carry.

      Best,

      Matt

  4. Damin rock

    you have described a perfect idea about Distances of golf playing here. thanks a lot for giving this necessary idea

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