Golf coaching is fascinating. As a golf coach of over 16 years, I’ve seen a lot of different golf swings. Some common themes occur regularly with players. This week I’ve had a lot of players who could definitely benefit from increasing their swing speed. Some of those players realised the importance of increasing their swing speed, others took a bit of convincing on trackman, but I think we got there in the end! This week has inspired me to try to explain the importance of developing speed in your golf swing.
Drive for show, putt for dough? Maybe not…
As we all know, every shot counts, and working on each aspect of the game is critical to a player's success. However, there has always been a debate about whether driving distance or putting is more important. Interestingly, the old saying “drive for show, putt for dough” may not be as true as you think when you look at data from the PGA Tour.
While both are vital, the data suggests that driving distance plays a more significant role in determining a player's success on tour.
Kelly Kraft Example
Kelly Kraft is a prime example of a PGA Tour player who excels in putting but struggles with driving distance, ultimately leading to some poor results. Here are some specific stats to illustrate this:
During the current 22/23 PGA Tour season, Kraft is ranked 8th in strokes gained putting, gaining an average of 0.85 strokes per round on the greens. However, he is ranked 190th in driving distance, with an average of 284 yards per drive. (This might sound long to us mortals, but by today's standards on tour, it's fairly short!). This lack of length puts him at a significant disadvantage on longer courses where he is unable to keep up with the big hitters on tour.
Kraft's lack of distance off the tee has also impacted his ability to hit greens in regulation. He is ranked 211th in greens in regulation percentage, hitting just 57.9% of greens in regulation for the season.
Despite his excellent putting, Kraft is unable to consistently make enough birdies to stay competitive, leading to him to miss 6 cuts in the 8 tournaments he's played so far this season.
Strokes Gained - Mark Broadie
Mark Broadie, a professor at Columbia Business School, has conducted extensive research into golf statistics. He has shown that driving distance is the most crucial factor in determining a player's success on the PGA Tour. In his book "Every Shot Counts," Broadie explains that for a professional golfer, driving distance is more than just hitting the ball far. It's about hitting it far and accurately to give the player the best chance of scoring well.
Broadie analysed millions of shots hit by professional golfers and found that driving distance has a significant impact on a player's score. He found that on average, a player who drives the ball ten yards farther than their peers can expect to earn about 0.6 more strokes per round. This means that over the course of a four-round tournament, a player who can hit the ball ten yards farther can expect to gain a 2.4 stroke advantage over their competitors.
In contrast, Broadie found that putting contributes only a small percentage to a player's overall score. He found that on average, a player who putts one stroke better than the field per round can expect to earn about 0.15 strokes per round. This means that over the course of a 4 round tournament, a player who putts one stroke better can expect to gain a 0.6-stroke advantage over their competitors.
To further support the importance of driving distance, we can look at players like Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson. DeChambeau ranked first in strokes gained off the tee in the 2020-2021 season, while Johnson ranked fourth. Both players have had tremendous success on the PGA Tour, with multiple wins and major championships. They can both putt pretty well too, but they definitely gain more strokes off the tee than on the green.
While putting is still an essential part of the game, driving distance plays a more significant role in determining a player's success on the PGA Tour. Players who can hit the ball longer off the tee have a significant advantage over their competitors, as it allows them to hit shorter clubs into greens, giving them better birdie opportunities. The research conducted by Mark Broadie supports this conclusion, showing that driving distance has a more significant impact on a player's score than putting.
So, if you’re looking to improve your game, you should focus on both aspects, but maybe give slightly more priority to maximising the speed and efficiency of your swing (within the confines of your physical ability).
To check your swing speed, and make a long term plan to increase it, it might be time to think about joining G60. Click the button below to apply for membership.