Does Distance Off the Tee Really Matter?

Apr 25, 2020 Yard signs in driving range

One of the most enduring debates in golf is the importance of the long game versus the short game. Does distance off the tee really matter? What should you focus on to lower your score by the biggest amount?

The answer to this is, as you might expect, more complicated than it seems. After all, we wouldn’t still be having this debate if it were easy to answer!

Here, we’re going to look into the arguments for both sides and weigh in with our own opinion on the matter.

The Advantages of Hitting It Long

If you just look at the statistics for professionals, it does seem to prove that longer distance off the tee means a better round overall. Data from the 2017 PGA tour1 shows that while the average drive for all competitors was just a shade over 292 yards, hitting it consistently over 300 improved your chances at big prize money.

In fact, three of the four top earners on the tour averaged over 300 yards. The 43 players who averaged 300 yards or more off the tee earned just over $2.5 million in prize money, on average, while the other 147 who didn’t hit that far only earned around $1.4 million. Quite a big difference!

At a pro-level, at least, there’s no doubt that distance off the tee is a big factor in success.

Newer Players

Big drives are often a focus for newer or amateur players, too, and it’s easy to see why. Although it might not necessarily translate into a lower scorecard, there’s nothing that quite matches the beauty of a huge shot well hit and watching your ball rapidly disappear down the fairway.

Yardage off the tee is also a very easy way to judge your improvement when you’re just starting out. If you don’t have a way of analyzing your stroke—like with a launch monitor—or you visit the range more often than the course, then distance is often all you have to go by. When the numbers go up, you’re clearly getting better!

That, in itself, can be a great way to encourage practice and learning. Not only that but, by skipping over hazards and decreasing reliance on approach shots, a long drive can get you out of a lot of trouble—but should you be focusing entirely on boosting your distance off the tee?

The Disadvantages of Hitting It Long

Unfortunately, unless you’re incredibly lucky, you’re going to need more than one shot for each hole. While long drives reduce the amount of short work you have to do, they don’t eliminate it entirely. You’ll still have to have good approach shots and putting skills to take advantage of any benefits a long drive will give you and, if you’re focusing exclusively on smashing it off the tee, you’re probably neglecting these other aspects of your game.

Not only that, but accuracy is still vital. A big swing off the tee might be able to get you out of trouble but, if you don’t have the perfect swing (or near-perfect swing) to begin with, it can also easily get you into much more trouble. The farther (and harder) you hit it, the more any errors in the swing will be magnified.

Playing to Your Strengths

white golf ball on red tee with driver club on green course

There’s no doubt that distance off the tee matters to your score. If you’ve got a weak shot, to begin with, you’re going to have a much harder time getting a good score.

On the other hand, bulking up and driving long off the tee isn’t magically going to help your game if you’re starting out. By all means, have some fun with your swing and enjoy the satisfaction of watching those numbers go up, but don’t lose sight of the rest of your skills!

In our opinion, the best way to get a better score is to play to your strengths. If you don’t hit huge off the tee, then don’t worry too much because you’ll find the better parts of your game will more than compensate. If you do have a fearsome drive, just learn how to harness it with some golf swing tips, and you can smooth over any shortcomings in your other shots!

Either way, having the perfect golf swing is going to help you out. Reading our perfect swing tips in another of our blogs is a great place to get started! With incredible accuracy and in-depth feedback, our world-class launch monitors are also a wonderful tool for teaching you how to perfect your golf swing. Contact us online to learn more about the range!