The Truth About Driving Distance


Frankly GolfEditor's Note: This is the latest in a new weekly feature from Golf Channel Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email
Mr Thomas,
On the Golf Channel you made a statement that the average drive is 194 yards long. Curious as to where this number comes from and how it was calculated. I must admit that most weekend golfers do not hit it 250+ despite what they say. The ability I feel to over estimate drives is in epidemic proportion. -- John Keenan

I think I said 192 yards for the average golfer. This individual normally shoots between 90 and 95. Yes, he thinks he hits it 30 to 40 yards further. This data came from a pilot study we performed at Pinehurst and was confirmed by thousands of golfers' driving data which was collected by a major manufacturer. This study was followed by a fully fledged survey answered by 18,400 respondents. I would like to refer you to to read the final report of the first phase of this study.
I have a question concerning cold weather play and golf ball manufacturing. Rumor has it that you should play with RED numbered balls in colder weather, and BLACK numbered golf balls on the hotter days. Is there any truth to this? Please advise if the golf balls with the red numbers remain softer and play better in colder climates. -- Ken, St. Louis
This used to be the case many years ago but not today. The color of the numbers used to be an indication of the compression of the ball with Black being the 100s and Red being 90s this is no longer the case.
Some of the best balls for slower swings (about 85 mph and slower) no matter what the temperature are in the 60-70 compression range -- balls such as the Callaway HX Pearl, the Titleist NXT tour, the Maxfli Noodle, the Precept Laddie and others. Not only are these good balls, but they will cost considerably less than the premium balls.
I want to hit more fairways. So I want to follow your advice about shortening my driver to 44-inch rule. I have a standard regular Flex shaft in my driver. How will shortening the shaft from its now 45.5 length to 44 affect the flex and feel of the club head? -- John Stith

There are a couple of things you should be aware of when shortening the shaft by 1.5 inches. First the swing weight will decrease by about 8 or 9 points. This is enough to detect but to compensate you need to add some weight to the head at the back center and slightly toward the heel. This can be in the form of lead tape OR if you have a driver with adjustable weight ports then use these to increase the weight.
Because the shaft is shortened, it will feel a little stiffer, but the increase in head weight may take care of this. You will get a feel for what the shorter shaft will feel like by just choking down on the grip by 1.5 inches and hit some balls on the range. If you think you are moving in the right direction then shorten the shaft and make the adjustments as suggested. In choking down, the grip will feel a little smaller but again, this may not be a problem-- some golfers always choke down on their driver. Enjoy your time in the fairway.
I know that getting a proper fitting with a launch monitor is the best way to determine my best driver specs. But do you have a rule-of-thumb on how high a driver shot should be (at its apex)? Im just looking for a range to tell me if Im way off. I have a swing speed of 95-100 mph with my driver and I carry it ~230 yds on average (normal conditions). -- Paul Tilley, Sammamish, WA

The height of a drive, which goes 230 yards on the carry, would be about 120 to 150 feet at the apex of its trajectory. This will depend on a number of things such as launch angle and spin rate but this is a ballpark figure and thats all you asked for.
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email