This article will focus on the first of those questions. To answer it, we'll be breaking down how far each golf club can be hit depending on skill level and swing speed.
Before we get there, we should offer a disclaimer: This question is inherently dangerous. While golf skill absolutely does correlate with distance, the power you have is far from the only skill that determines your score. You can be a relatively short hitter of the ball and be a great player, just like 320-yard drives don't help much if they are landing 80 yards from the fairway.
But at the end of the day, we all want to know to know where we stand. It's a little bit like knowing how much you weigh. Maybe you are going to do something with the information or maybe you aren't, but either way, you are curious.
Knowing how far we hit the ball relative to others can offer some tangible goals. This is especially true for beginners going through the many checkpoints of golf performance. Distance also matters from the perspective of knowing how far you can hit a club and being able to plan accordingly.
So keeping this mentality, we can go forward inspecting distance benchmarks.
Being the club the goes the farthest, the driver is an easy choice for golfers when it comes to hitting range balls or bragging about their impressive distances.
But if there is one thing you should know about golfers and drivers, it's that most of us inflate our abilities. The average male amateur golfer only hits a drive of 219 yards. That's it. Your friend may be bragging about his 280-yard drives, but it's almost never the case where his average would come out close to that. Keep in mind that the average PGA Tour player averages around 295 yards per drive, and that is someone who plays the game for a living. A lot of times golfers are shocked to learn that their average is far less than what they think it is.
Consider this: the average 5-10 handicap male player, which is a pretty good golfer, only averages about 231 yards per drive. And the average 0-5 male handicap is only around 250 yards. High-handicappers average around 177 yards off the tee. As you can see, the score discrepancy between better players and high-handicappers is made up more with precision, short game and course management more so than pure distance.
Having said this, what would be a good goal to have for your average driver distance?
A good starting goal is 230 yards. This means that you are at or above 90 mph in clubhead speed — check out our article about how clubhead speed and ball speed affects distance — which is a reasonable and attainable swing speed.
If you have the ability to swing faster than that while still staying in control, it is absolutely possible to exceed this by a long shot (literally).
Of course, it's not always possible. There are many factors, including strength and age. Those in their 20s, average about 238 yards off the tee. That dips down by roughly 10 yards every decade, so those in their 30s only average about 230 yards and then it goes down to about 220 yards for those in their 40s. It falls off even more from that point.
And you can argue that having consistent distance control with other clubs is more valuable than smashing a driver as far as you can.
In this chart, you can see how far the average shot travels relative to swing speed data.
One of the main things to keep in mind here is that the average male amateur swings the club at 93 mph, which is roughly about not quite at the halfway point of this chart. The average scratch golfer, meaning a player with a 0.0 handicap, swing the club at 106 mph.
Take some time to process that. There really isn't that big of a distance gap when you think about it. The average golfer might hit their 8-iron about 132 yards, while the average scratch player is around 150 yards. And yet, the scratch player is shooting much lower scores than the average player. The typical golfer averages around 91 for an 18-hole round on a regulation course.
That right there should say a lot about the role distance plays. It certainly helps greatly, but it's not even close to being the sole reason why someone is a far better golfer than someone else.
Here are two more things to consider when viewing this chart:
The first is that longer clubs generate more clubhead speed. You will not be able to consistently produce the same clubhead speed with a 7-iron as you can with a 4-iron, assuming you are hitting a full shot. Golfers absolutely do not just have one single clubhead speed. For example, a pitching wedge is often in the 70s for mph and a 6-iron is often in the 90s.
And the second item, which is related to the first:
Swinging at a slower speed is generally easier to control.
Yes, we would all love to hit our pitching wedge 170 yards while being able to control it, but that's a bit of a pipe dream.
Many times, it is best to swing slower than normal in order to control each shot with the appropriate distance. Nobody is impressed when you crush a 9-iron 20 yards over the green. So yes, it is definitely possible to be hitting clubs "too well". Golf is a game of control, and that always has to come first ahead of distance.
You may have heard a lot about how distance is the most important skill in professional golf. Well, amateur golf is not professional golf. For the vast majority of golfers, just getting the ball in play with an opportunity for their next shot is the most important thing. Far more shots are lost due to hitting into penalty areas, the trees and encountering other hazards rather than not hitting the ball far enough.
So take all of these numbers with a grain of salt. It's nice to know where you stand, but it's not the end all be all.