Sadly, with golf courses getting longer and agronomy improving, gone are the days of golf courses with fairways that play firm and fast. Players prefer to see lush green grass, which requires a high density of grass and a lot of water. That makes firm conditions a rarity.
These changes have made it very important for average golfers to increase their distance off the tee. The issue now becomes choosing between carry and roll.
In order to achieve more distance, should golfers:
Carry the ball farther?
Hit drives with a more penetrating trajectory that will roll out more?
Let’s look at two drives I hit on Trackman — one low-launching, and one high-launching drive.
Height: 46 feet
Carry: 179.7 yards
Total Distance: 218.7 yards
Swing Speed: 92.9 mph
Height: 98 feet
Carry: 205.3 yards
Total Distance: 220.2 yards
Swing Speed: 91.4 yards
For the low shot, I swung the club 92.9 mph. For the higher shot, I actually swung slower (91.4 mph), but I carried the shot 25.6 yards farther. Notice, however, that both shots rolled out to nearly the same distance — roughly 220 yards. Those total distance results are from Trackman, which simulates roll on a PGA Tour fairway.
Most of us don’t play on PGA Tour fairways; our course conditions change from day to day. If that describes you, here are three things for to remember about driver trajectory.
Higher ball flights are best when you wants to CARRY the ball as far as possible.
Medium ball flights are best when you want to carry the ball farther, but still have it roll out nicely.
Low ball flights are never the best option in softer conditions, as they tend to land well short of higher-flying drive and stop quicker.
From my experience, most average players tend to hit the ball TOO LOW, relying on roll to make up for their lack of carry.
Lower ball flights are OK when the conditions are faster, the wind is blowing, or you have a tendency to spin the ball too much with the driver. Most of the time, however, a higher ball flight will provide the best results.
If you want to carry the ball farther, and most golfers do, you MUST contact the ball in the high center of the club face with your driver. If you don’t, your drives will spin too much and that will reduce carry distance.
By contacting your drives high on the face, you are using what is called “Gear Effect” to your advantage. On shots hit above the a club’s sweet spot, gear effect causes the ball to launch higher and with less spin, one of the main keys to hitting longer drives.
I encourage you to experiment with various trajectories until you find the one’e that optimal for the course conditions you play most often.