Distance Debate: Does hitting farther improve scoring?

Changing Distances Off the Tee

Bryson DeChambeau famously crunched the Strokes Gained numbers and came to the conclusion that the best way to edge out the competition was to hit farther off the tee. Thanks to the expert data collected by the PGA Tour and ShotLink, Bryson focused his training on a faster swing speed among other tweaks to beef up his driving distance to a whopping 342 yard average from 323.7 yards in 2021 and 322.1 yards in 2020. 

Adding distance to your tee shots isn’t going to be the only factor to help you win a US Open (...the famous ‘Mathacre at Winged Foot). But what does changing distances off the tee mean for the average golfer?

Thanks to the millions of rounds of golf and billions of on course data points from Arccos members, we have some answers. Looking at players who increased their driving distance by 10 yards or more as well as players who decreased their driving distance by 10 yards are more, we compared just how they stacked up with the power of Strokes Gained.

Related: GolfMonthly published a detailed piece explaining the findings.

Changed Distances on Strokes GainedAdding 10 yards or more off the tee helped 81% of those players gain strokes. In comparison, 65% of the players who lost 10 yards or more off the tee lost strokes. So assessing the numbers, players who add distance are more likely to improve their scores. 

As we learned when we detailed the 2020 Distance Report last year, skill is more critical to maintaining distance as we age. Players are less likely to lose as much distance when evaluating lower handicaps. While the graph above does not take into consideration the age of players, it’s safe to assume that most players will lose distance over time. (We don’t all have the backs of a 23 year old…) 

But where this graph does provide some hope–even if players begin to lose distance it doesn’t swing the pendulum from success to failure. Loss of distance is relatively less likely to negatively affect scoring than increasing your distance will positively improve it. But it just means we all have to plan for retiring with a short game practice area in the backyard…just to be sure.