At what point does lack of distance matter?

The other day I caught a rerun of some tourney on Golf Channel and I watched a few holes. They come to a 208y Par-3 and the club selection showed Bubba Watson hitting a 7-Iron! :open_mouth:

About a month ago I had pleasure of catching that up-coming kid Manassero on Golf Channel flipping as he was paired with Mickleson. We know Manassero is well on his way to being a top notch player and is already capable of 60’s on Euro tour at only age 17. But they had this one Par-5 (I cannot remember specifics) where I think it doglegged or something. Anyway, Manassero pulls out big driver, Phil pulls out 3-wood and STILL ended up a good 50+ yards past Manassero. The announcer then went on to say something about eventually the lack of distance will hurt Manassero and he is going to have to bulk up or something to be able to hang with rest of tour.

So I wonder about distance. How much it is marketed by companies and how much of it really is needed. I mean gosh the PGA is becoming full of long bombers and I am afraid it will get worse as all the young starters today are watching these guys plus OEM’s keep pounding “distance” into our heads.

Will anything (could anything?) be done to equipment to prevent lanky, full of fast-twitch muscles guys from taking over the PGA? It is boring already and find myself only interested for the last ‘old school’ ballstriking/control player left it seems (Tiger).

Also, I did some net searching and found that to ever be able to play scratch one must a)be able to hit driver 230+ and b)hit your 9i 130+. Any truth to this? (I can do ‘a’ but am just shy of ‘b’)

Budman…IMO it’s more a matter of how one plays the game and not being a one-trick pony.

I knew a high school golf coach that had a riot with each incoming freshman trying to make the team. He said nearly each time without exception they came to the “qualifying round” with a brand new bag filled out with all the goodies mom and dad bought them in their quest for making the team.

The coach showed up with only a 5 iron in hand. Well at that point the kids were licking their chops…but it was the coach who had the chops and showed those little ones how to play the game.

Why not be able to hit your 5 iron 130+ given the situation. But I think it all starts with knowing one’s max out distance at a given percentage of effort. :slight_smile: RR

Short game is always key…
I’m going to make a point in the coming months to intentionally miss all 18 greens, and see if what I can shoot by missing into the correct area around the green leaving the easiest chip or pitch shot. I think I’ll really learn something doing that. I am sure I can break 80 hitting zero greens.

Rats have been known to do that in outings which pay for low putts for 9 and cumulative 18. Since I can chip my way out of anything but can’t putt a lick…made sense to use what I can do well- chip to within a foot or so and hope :blush: - to win a few bucks on the side. :laughing: RR

I don’t think these numbers mean a whole lot as a significant qualifier of ability. Put it this way, if you are just shy of ‘b’ does that mean you’re a 1 handicap? Seeing as you’re a beginner, I take it you’re not, so those formulas are nothing. That’s not meant to be smartarse-ish btw.
Distance does matter, but learning to play and getting your handicap down, is about relating to the game, learning it, learning the feel of shots and an understanding of the situations you’re in in order to select and execute a shot. I would recommend you learn how to pitch the ball to specific points from 100 yards and in. Learn what an 80 yd, 60 yd, 40 yd and 20 yd shot feels like to you. That’s about learning to feel your game and understanding distances. Get some of that from those yardages and that will give you confidence when you’re inevitably in the trees because you wont have to take crazy risks, you can just look for the 100 yard post and say if I hit it around that then I know my next shot will be on the green at least. That’s not a glamorous way to play, but it’s extremely satisfying I can assure you. Lay up pars and birdies make you feel like you’re a smarter than everyone, including yourself! That confidence works backwards to the tee because you’ll then have less to worry about because you’ll know that you can basically handle whatever happens. You’ll then feel more relaxed about hitting your tee shots, which will improve them and their distance. You have to learn a game that’s your own and it doesn’t have to be anything like anyone else’s, you just need to know what YOU are actually doing.

That’s a great recommendation Bom. I still do that myself everyday in the summer just because it’s fun. Numerous times I hear people talk about having problems with their full action in one way or another with their driver, or irons, or hybrids, or whatever.

The discussion quicky turns to asking them about their short game…almost 100 % of the time they will say…“Oh my short game is good, real good…I’m just having trouble with a slice off the tee.”

They will look puzzled when I ask them to grab a wedge and come with me. I will pick out a range target that we have at oddly enough…90, 50 and 30 yards…and have them try to hit a variety of shots to it…low/high, one bounce, two bounces, ball back hooks, cuts…all kinds of stuff. Klank would be a good word to describe their results. I tell them IMO, if you can’t handle feel with a limited motion, how will you ever expect to handle it when things are flying around.

I will then hit a few for them to let them hear what proper contact sounds like…my Rat phrase is…“when you’re clicken, your ticken…now go practice and leave me alone.” :laughing: RR

I have already started to come to terms with this the hard way. I played a round over thanksgiving where I shot 104 but most importantly I was able to sit down later that night and really evaluate my play as I took more detailed notes that day. I never 3+ putted for all 18 holes. I think that is pretty decent for a beginner but obviously much room for improvement. I also took 6 penalty strokes (water hole, lost ball in bushes once, etc). Off the tee I was 240 and hit 5 fairways (Much work needed with my driver I already know). The typical stuff that eventually will improve just from playing more.

BUT where majority of my extra strokes are coming from is around the green. I could not believe how bad I was there. Once I drove a 280y green to about 35y short. Great drive and got some roll to middle of fairway. My best drive of day. Then I chipped it fat and it went 10y, thinned it into bunker next shot, took two tries to get it out of bunker onto green. So when someone says “work on your short game more” I now know how much truth there is to that as that was me pretty much all round except for a few holes.

Anyway, does Maneserro need more distance like announcer suggested? Or is that just another blanket statement that is part of the problem of the addiction of distance?

Manny has already won on the euro tour so the lack (and I use that word advisedly as he does average 272 off the tee) of distance has not prevented him from winning or from climbing into the top 64 in the world (62). However, Manny is laser accurate off the tee finishing 4th on that list at 72.7% - world #1 Lee Westwood is ranked highly for driving too though at almost 70%, the difference though is that he averages almost 295 and those 23 yards are going to make a big difference over a season.

I think Manny will have a great career but he is short and at Augusta for example, that is going to hurt him.

To answer your original question though, I think when you can’t make carrys, can’t reach all par 4s in two and are hitting 3 full shots into par 5s is when a lack of distance matters.

I have heard before that it is easier to make a long hitter straight than it is to make a straight hitter long but have no fact based evidence on that.

Budman- I wouldn’t put much stock in that especially with your own game… and mine (i.e. that of an amateur). Most courses have at least two sets of tees. Some golfers call them pro, junior, senior or ladies tees. That isn’t really a good characterization. Back, forward, middle, gold, blue, black, etc. etc. - play the tees that bring out the most clubs in your bag and give you a challenge.

The distance is a factor, but not so much for an amateur keeping a handicap. That’s all factored in with slope regardless of what tees you play.

Captain Chaos

Such a big part of your scoring is going to be related to the short game as you’re discovering. I’ve played with plenty of short hitters that were very solid scratch golfers, the keys being they hit it very straght (albeit relatively short) and they had tour quality short games. The straight was important… they weren’t going to be shooting consistently par or better being short and crooked.

I have no idea what the magic number is (230, 240 or 250)… it probably depends on the course being played. Remember, Corey Pavin won an event in 2006 and then lost an event in a playoff in 2010 to of all people… Bubba Watson!! Talk about the poster-children for the long and the short going head to head and they end up tied after 72 holes!!!

Too crazy a game to start setting boundries and limits on anything.


If Augusta is still playing relatively the same as the past as they claim, then Manny should be fine. I watched the 3rd and 4rth rounds of the 1989 Masters yesterday and Mike “Radar” Reid was leading well into the back nine. It really was an eye opener to how much golf has lost.
That Sunday had Seve leading after shooting 32 on the front nine, Greg Norman threatens by birdieing 15, 16, 17 putting him a shot back going into 18. Faldo birides 16, 17, 18 to get into the playoff. Crenshaw was draining all kinds of putts and just needed one more putt on 18 to get into the playoff. Seve, Norman, Faldo, Crenshaw, all right in there… and then Hoch’s playoff meltdown three putting from 30 feet straight uphill missing the 24 inch putt to win, keeping Faldo alive… and then his epic putt on 11 from 40 feet for the win.

Reid was driving the ball 225. Norman hitting some 285. Faldo and Crenshaw 240 to 250. All these totally different styles of play all competing successfully on the grand stage. 5 under is in the playoff, so it was playing tough.

I think a great golf course allows everyone to be in the game if they play “their game” really well. Golf has really gone wrong here.

Augusta is a lot longer than back when Faldo won for the first time.

Nowadays they even have rough there.

Did Manny get an invite to Augusta this year?

Yes—he is in … ean+O’Hair

Hi Bentshaft,

I didn’t think he was in at this point - the story in the link seems a bit all over the place as he is only at 62 in the world rankings at the mo. I think he played 2010 as an invitee through his British Amateur win in 2009. He was the only amateur to make the cut winning the silver medal and finally finished T36 and was still only 16 at the time! This time round his best chance will be to be in the World top 50 in the week before the Masters. As far as I know he is currently at 62 so has some time in early season events to climb the list. Does make you wonder whether there should be an additional category that saw automatic invites to players in the top 100 who were under 21. Be a shame if he doesn’t make it but I have a feeling that he will. Perhaps someone will put me straight if I have got this wrong.

Cheers, arnie

I reckon you are right Arnie.

As 62 in the world though, he will play some WGC events and any sort of decent finish will catapult him up the rankings so I agree that he will be playing come April.

AA and Styles—

Boy—after re reading, I don’t know what to think!! Looks like Arnie is correct…
I sure hope he can find a way in…watching these fearless kids is a true joy…


I think this is a great observation. It is so fun to watch someone like Manny be laser like accurate while ‘lacking’ distance partnered up with bomber-in-rough+short-game-wizard Mickelson. It is fun to watch Pavin be tied with Bubba after 72 holes. Golf should (and has) allow differing masters of “their game” be competitive yet distance is the sell-all currently that I hope the tour just doesn’t turn into a full onslaught of bombers with decent short games.

Of course the long hitters always seem to say (at different forums) that only the short hitters are the ones complaining the game is headed to longer oriented players. Someone posted a link to a “Smash Golf” blog in another thread and that guy at website is a perfect example of the Mike Austin mindedness of “280y only? You suck! Doesn’t matter if I hit it off fairway, I have wedges in my bag for my 350y tee shots” . That guy seems to berate every single PRO golfers technique (including Tiger for peets sake) if they don’t hit 300+.

At some point like someone said, those 23y+ difference in tee shots for young Manny will start to take a toll over a season(s) and I am sure he too most likely will be on mission to gain distance. Interested to see how he progresses in the next few years as I really like his iron swing.


I have about those distances with the driver, perhaps a little longer. Whether you use a SW or a 7 iron or something inbetween from 130 yards is of no consequence. But how long is your longest good approach? My 5 wood goes 200+ all carry and that’s a pretty high shot that can hold a lot of protected greens.

I am not a scratch player but a 6 handicapper. These distances are what I would call a typical adult male 5-10 handicapper’s distances. Scratch players usually hits it longer, but not always. A few weeks ago I played with a guy who shot a 66 - on a course that is pretty difficult and very penalizing. He was just a little longer than me. That explans perhaps 1 or 2 out of the 14 strokes he beat me with. His mistakes were smaller. He never hit two bad shots in a row. His good approaches were probably twice as close as my good approaches are. When he was within birdie range on the green he converted. And he didn’t waste strokes in the short game. I don’t think he hit a single stroke during the round that I am not able to match with something that is equally good. It’s just about overall precision and consistency. This guy is a +3 so it wasn’t a once in a lifetime display either.

I’ve also played with another guy on a couple of occations that actually were shorter off the tee than me. But he still buried me with 73 both times. Both these guys are seasoned golfers who probably had more power 20 years ago.

Most scratch golfers and close to scratch golfers are significantly longer than me. One of the reason they are longer is the quality of ball striking you need to play to scratch. I feel like I’m more than long enough to beat par on courses that are shorter than some 6800 yards. When the course get shorter than 6500 yards I get a wedge in my hand very often and I could make a bunch of birdies then if I were good enough. But I am not precise enough to fully benefit from the “dwarfing factor”.

The distance you hit the ball will have a big influence of how long course you can handle. And the more precise you are the more benefit you will have from being closer to the pin on your second shot. If you’re really good with the wedges you will get a bunch of birdies if you get inside wedge distance often. If you’re not that precise you’ll just get an easier par.

A proper golf course may favor one style of play over another, but it should NEVER require only one style of play.
A green well guarded by bunkers should have some kind of run up option into some part of the green, even if it is only
10 yards wide. It gives everyone hope, and makes for a more enjoyable round. This is one reason I am not a fan of island greens. Nowadays, there are plenty of island greens… a hole doesn’t have to have water all around it to be an island green.
I have played plenty of holes where the green is so severely guarded by pot hole bunkers, railroad ties, or other grass death pits that are simply not designed with good taste. I don’t have a problem with a green like that if you are playing a wedge shot into it… but not a long iron. The other problem is that many of these idiot architects don’t consider that there will be days where the greens are not watered properly, or they simply get wind swept in the afternoon making the hole unplayable.
I don’t think putts should have more that two breaks in then either. Some of the greens they design these days are just ridiculous. You should be somewhat rewarded for being on the green below the hole. I have played modern courses that I hit a decent mid iron into 30 feet from the hole, and I have to putt over two elephant humps and across a valley. The nice thing about most of the great classic tracks with smaller greens is that if you are on the green below the hole, you are looking down a birdie. Smaller greens require more precision iron play, which is good, and if you hit an appropriate shot, you should be rewarded not further penalized. Having to drive the ball straight should be paramount, followed by greens that are the appropriate size to accept the incoming shot from a variety of distances. Slightly bigger greens for long iron par 4’s, with the smallest greens being for the shortest holes, and par 5’s so that an approach with the second shot has the right amount of risk- reward. I don’t mind a two or three tierd green as long as they play like reasonable single green divisions with the same basic principles.