When the topic of distance comes up in golf it is usually only about how far a golfer can hit their driver. Even when talking about the driver it is mostly about how far the total distance is.
It is fine to hit the driver far but most of the time a golfer only looks at that total distance and doesn't take into consideration how far the golf ball rolled. This happens often when watching a professional event on tv as well. You can watch the camera follow the golf ball as it rolls 75 to 100 yards down the fairway and all they talk about is how the golfer hit it 350 yards when In actuality, that golfer only hit the golf ball 275 yards. That is still a big drive but the conditions of the turf dictate how the ball bounces and where the ball finishes.
The importance of this has been on my mind for the past two months. I have had some eye issues going on that have resulted in days with foggy or slightly blurred vision. With my depth perception not at its best, I need to trust my swing by knowing how far I carry each club in my bag. This is especially the case for shots inside 100-yards where I usually like to play by feel. Every swing, whether it is a chip, half shot, or full swing it is important for me to know how far the golf ball will be in the air before it hits the ground.
Although I believe every golfer should know their carry distance for not just every club from their driver to their most lofted wedge, they should know it for three swings with every iron as well. Those three would be a full, three-quarters, and half swing. I personally use the Dave Pelz clock system. I did a video and blog post talking a bit about this earlier in the year with a Golf Tip: Improve Your Wedge Game.
Why is knowing your carry distance so important?
Although there are a few reasons why carry distance is important the main reason is consistency. No matter what golf course you play or what the conditions are the one constant is how far you carry each shot. Yes, this will vary a bit depending on the wind, temperature, or elevation but those are factors that change every round of golf you play. Those types of calculations have to be made for every round of golf. However, when you know your carry distance it makes those calculations much easier.
If you do not know the carry distance of each golf club then you are basically guessing on every shot. If a golf course is properly marked with yardages to the front, middle, and back of every green and you know your carry distance for each club you have a better chance of using the proper club to give you the best chance to score well. If you guess you can hit your 7-iron 175 yards but it only carries 160-yards you will not get the ball to the hole if the front edge of the green is 170-yards. This is especially true if there is a bunker short of the green you need to carry the golf ball over. This is also important is the golf course is playing soft to a back pin. If you know the yardage to the middle and back of the green then you can hit the club that carries at minimum to the center. Anything shorter than that and you will be on the front of the green.
I know most golf courses only have yardages to the center of the greens and sometimes knowing the numbers you need can be a challenge, even with a good rangefinder. I would love to see more golf courses go back to a pin location sheet that shows the yardages to the front of the green, the back of the green, the depth of the green, and how far the hole location is from the front and the left or right edge. A good rangefinder can help you but this does not tell you how far the hole location may be onto the green. If you have a front pin that is only 4ft off the front edge you have to basically carry the ball all the way to the hole or past it. For most golfers, if you play to the center of the green regardless of the hole location you can score better.
Knowing your carry distance with your driver is also very important. Some golf courses have forced carries off the tee. If you know you can hit the golf ball 275-yards with your driver but do not know it only carries 235-yards then you wouldn't clear a forced carry of 240-yards. The same for a fairway bunker. If you know the back edge of a fairway bunker is 250-yards and you carry your driver 260-then you know you can hit it past that bunker. This can be an advantage on a dogleg where hitting it over the bunker can shorten the hole.
The best way to find your carry distances is to get on a simulator or during a lesson where they use a launch monitor. I can attest the simulators at Loft 18 are very accurate to my on-course yardages. If you want a combination of launch monitor and simulator schedule a club fitting at Club Champion. You can get your carry yardages and have your clubs checked all at once. You can do this on a driving range but it is a bit harder. You need a rangefinder and multiple fixed points. Laser one of the flags or post and hit a few different clubs at that target. After each shot laser the distance as close as possible to where the golf ball landed then add or subtract that from the distance of your target, the fixed point.