You’re here because you want to know how far you should hit each golf club.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to cover.
First though, a warning:
Lots of golf club distance guides are wary of offending the reader. They’ll tell you it doesn’t matter how far you hit the ball.
The truth is, in terms of scoring, it does. Sorry.
But now for the good news:
That doesn’t mean you’ll need to hit everything longer. In fact, in some cases, you may even be hitting certain clubs too far.
But let’s start with the club where distance is king.
How far should you hit your driver?
Short answer: as far as you can.
Longer answer (which I’ll explain in detail below): 250 yards is a good target. Here’s why.
What the data says about distance v accuracy
If someone tells you that accuracy matters more than distance when it comes to the driver, you can tell them they’re wrong. Assuming you’re not slicing it off the planet, the data tells us that distance trumps accuracy when it comes to strokes gained.
Bryson De Chambeau didn’t rip it up on the PGA tour after the Covid shutdown because he was hitting more fairways. He was simply overpowering golf courses with his distance.
And going back further, Tiger’s distance when he first burst onto the scene was a weapon, which lead to the “Tiger proofing” of the early 2000s.
If you can squeeze another 10 yards out of your driver, you’re going to lower your scores, even if you lose a slight bit of accuracy.
More distance = a better swing (most of the time)
Again, with the caveat that you’re able to keep it in play, to hit the ball a long way with your driver you have to have a level of proficiency in your swing.
In simple terms, the further you hit the ball, the better your swing is likely to be.
And as you’re Googling golf articles, it’s safe to assume your goal is to improve your swing and lower your scores.
So distance should be your goal with your driver, but now for some good news.
You don’t need to hit your driver 300 yards
“I average about 300 yards off the tee”.
We’ve all got a golf buddy that’s claimed this. And while it is of course possible, most of the time you can assume it’s bravado. Their “average” probably relates to one wind assisted drive that took a lucky bounce off a sprinkler head and bounced 50 yards down the fairway.
Because the thing is most PGA pros don’t even “average” 300 yards. In fact, in 2019, the average drive on the PGA tour was 293.8 yards. Close but no three bills cigar.
So how far do you need to hit it?
Ultimately it depends on your goals. But if you want to get to scratch, then 250 yards is going to be a decent target.
At that distance you’ll be able to hit pretty much any par 4 on the planet in two shots. In fact, the USGA define a scratch golfer as:
A male scratch golfer, for rating purposes, can hit tee shots an average of 250 yards and can reach a 470-yard hole in two shots at sea level.
How do you hit your driver 250 yards? Let’s look at a swing speed / distance chart.
Driver Swing Speed & Distance Chart
|Swing Speed (mph)||Driver Carry||Driver Total|
So to hit your driver 250 yards, you’ll need to swing at around 100mph.
And if your current driver distance is maxing out at 217 yards, you’re going to need to increase your swing speed by around 15mph to get there.
Why did I choose 217 yards? Because according to the latest USGA distance insight report, that’s the average driving distance for an amateur golfer.
You can see the clear correlation with distance and handicap. Again, more distance = lower scores.
So how do you get that extra speed?
How to improve driver swing speed (3 tips)
1. Stop decelerating with your driver!
You might think we’re crazy for saying this, but there’s a good chance you’re decelerating with your driver.
That deceleration often comes from an attempt to steer the ball, rather than trusting your swing, and accelerating through impact.
And 9 times out of 10 the result of that attempt to steer the ball will be you fail to release the club, leave it open at impact, and end up slicing it wildly to the right.
The thing is, the driver is built for speed. Golf manufacturers spend millions of dollars every year making them more aerodynamic and faster. You should be swinging it as fast as you physically can while maintaining good balance.
If your golf buddy tells you to slow down your driver swing, politely inform him of a great place he can stick his driver. Hint: the sun doesn’t shine there.
The driver is designed to be swung hard and fast.
2. Work on your core strength and flexibility
At the end of the day, strength and flexibility is a big part of generating speed.
If you’re stronger you’ll be able to control the club at higher speeds. And if you’re more flexible you’ll be able to create a bigger turn.
In terms of specific exercises, we’d recommend squats for lower body stability and core strength, and pull ups to build up strength in your lats/back. If you can’t manage pull ups, dumbbell rows would be a good alternative.
Here’s Rory demonstrating his form on the squat rack.
For flexibility, yoga is great for golfers.
And if you’re looking for a specific golf fitness plan, check out Golf Forever.
3. Use an overspeed training aid
I mentioned above that you should swing as fast as you can while retaining your balance.
So what you need to do is up the speed where your balance starts to go. And to do that you need to get used to swinging fast.
Overspeed training works by starting out with a light club which will be easier to generate speed with (i.e. faster than your current driver speed), getting your body used to that speed, then increasing the weight of the training club until you’re eventually swinging a club that’s heavier than your driver.
Driver distance in summary:
Your goal should be to hit your driver as far as you can by building your strength and swing speed. It’s a club that’s designed for distance. And distance correlates with lower scores.
For most amateur golfers without physical limitations, 250 yards is a realistic and achievable target.
How far should you hit your irons?
So driver is all about distance. But what about irons?
Well, as you increase your driver swing speed, your iron distance should also increase.
Distance isn’t quite as important with irons. But knowing your numbers (to the yard) and aiming to hit them consistently is critical.
With that being said though, let’s look at a complete distance chart for all clubs.
As we know the average driving distance (217 yards, which would be a swing speed around 85mph) we can extrapolate the following averages:
- 4 iron: 154 yards
- 5 iron: 147 yards
- 6 iron: 139 yards
- 7 iron: 131 yards
- 8 iron: 121 yards
- 9 iron: 113 yards
Despite what we said above about distance not being as important with irons, these numbers do seem a little on the short side. After all, the longer the club, the harder it is to hit, so a 5 iron from 150 yards is not ideal.
If you manage to increase your driver swing speed to 100mph, and you’re in line with this chart, then your 150 yard club will be a 7 iron. Which is bound to lower your scores.
So again, working on your swing speed is recommended.
Why you need to put the same swing on every iron
While distance isn’t the be all and end all with irons (although it helps), something that’s extremely important is that your swing remains relatively consistent between clubs.
Why? Because you want to maintain the gapping (in terms of yardages) between your irons.
If you hit your 8 iron 140 yards, don’t try and squeeze 170 out of your 7 iron.
Generally there should be an 8-10 yard gap between each iron. And that difference in yardage between irons is due to the loft on the club and the length of the shaft.
You don’t need to put more effort in with a 6 iron than you do with a 9 iron. The lower loft of the club and the wider arc (and higher speed) created by the longer shaft will send the ball the distance it needs to go.
And actually, a good tip if you’re struggling with your longer irons is to try imagining that you’re swinging a 9 iron. You might be surprised at the results.
What causes you to hit your irons short?
Clearly swing speed is a major factor. A faster swing should result in more distance across the bag.
But another reason for hitting irons short can be presenting too much loft at impact. You want to hit slightly down on your irons, which will deloft the club a little and lead to a lower launch.
If you’re hitting your irons short, video your swing from face-on in slow motion and make sure your hands are leading the club through impact.
Hands level with the club is ok, but not ideal.
And if they’re behind (i.e. the clubface wins the race to the ball), then you’re probably flipping (possibly in an effort to lift the ball into the air). So work on getting your hands ahead of the ball at impact with your irons.
As a band aid, you could move the ball back in your stance a touch. But be careful here as this will tend to steepen your downswing and can lead to other problems.
And somewhat unintuitively, flipping (or casting) can actually be caused by trying to hold onto the angle for too long. So if you’re struggling to get your hands forward with your irons it may actually be the case that you need to release the club earlier.
If that sounds like you, then give this drill from Monte Scheinblum a try.
How far should you hit your wedges?
We mentioned at the start of this guide, that sometimes you might actually want to hit the ball shorter.
And in case you didn’t guess, the golf clubs where control trumps distance every time are wedges.
Wedges are designed for accuracy and scoring. And while telling your buddies that you hit your pitching wedge 145 sounds impressive, it’s just not what the club is in your bag for.
Going back to our USGA average driving distance (217 yards), the average golfer should probably be hitting their pitching wedge about 100 yards. And those averaging 250 off the tee should be hitting it around 121.
But even then, that assumes a full swing.
And if you watch the PGA tour, you’ll notice that most pros very rarely take a full swing with their wedges.
Sure Rory might be able to nuke a lob wedge 120. But you’re more likely to see him take a half pitching wedge from that range.
In fact, the most common wedge shot you’ll see on tour is the low flighted spinner. The pros will play that shot much more frequently than trying to fly a full wedge straight to the hole (although they do of course have that shot in the bag for when it’s required).
So when it comes to wedges, prioritize control over distance.
Swing shorter with your wedges, not “slower”
A good tip is not to think about swinging slower with your wedges (which can lead to deceleration). Instead think about swinging shorter while maintaining the same tempo as your full swing. If your full swing takes 2 seconds, take a half swing at the same tempo.
The ball will launch lower, and should check up nicely on the green. And you won’t lose as much distance as you might think (perhaps around 10% versus your full swing yardage).
And if you video your “half swing”, you’ll probably find it’s actually a three-quarter swing. Feel ain’t real.
Final thoughts on distance
If you want to shoot the best scores you can, then hitting the ball further is going to be a big part of that.
And if your ultimate goal is to get to scratch, then you should be looking to get your driver average up to 250 yards and your iron distances in line with that 100mph swing speed.
But we all have different goals.
And being a short hitter shouldn’t stop you from enjoying golf. While going truly low might be tough, particularly on longer courses, you’ll be able to shoot perfectly respectable scores without maxing out your distance.
And we’ve all played with that guy that hits it 180 off the tee, but then knocks everything inside 100 yards to 2 feet. He tends to win the money.
So we’ll finish by saying that while we believe that most golfers should be able to up their swing speed and squeeze out some extra yards, if you’re happy with your swing (and your game) then don’t worry about how far some chart says you should hit the golf ball.
Make sure you know your own distances with each club (that really is important), then play your own game.