Is Accuracy More Important Than Distance?

Fergus Bisset and Jeremy Ellwood debate which facet is more important in the game.

Fergus Bisset and Jeremy Ellwood debate which facet is more important in the game.

Is Accuracy More Important Than Distance?

Yes Says Jeremy Ellwood

Golf is ultimately about getting a small ball into a marginally bigger hole anything up to 600 yards away in as few strokes as possible – not that easy if you’re 300+ yards off the tee, but 50 yards wide in the jungle.

With one or two exceptions, relatively few of the tour’s bombers are also straight enough to take full advantage. There will be similar types at your club, usually talking very loudly about how little club they had in, but a little more quietly about the score they posted.

The season-long stats on tour paint a slightly different picture to the ‘power is everything’ refrain we hear so often. On the European Tour in 2018, four of the ten longest hitters lost their cards, as did four of the most accurate drivers.

But when you add in greens in regulation – golf’s other telling accuracy stat – things look a little different. Of the top ten here, the lowest finisher on the 2018 Race to Dubai was Nicolas Colsaerts in 80th place, with the average position 44th.

Accuracy is so important from tee to green that its role should never be downplayed. If you are on the fairway, you have more chance of finding the green and exercising some control over your ball; you’re then putting which makes par easier to achieve and, if you do the ‘fairways and greens’ thing often enough, you will inevitably convert some of the birdie chances you generate.

The golfer who regularly finds the short, then even shorter grass will frequently prevail over the erratic bomber, especially at club level where powers of recovery from the rough and green-side are less advanced than on tour.

No Says Fergus Bisset

The upper echelons of the modern professional game are largely populated by players who hit the golf ball prodigious distances.

The likes of Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are capable of drives that carry over 300 yards and towering iron shots that land softly on distant greens.

Consider Francesco Molinari.

He was one of the most accurate players in world golf for a number of years, but it wasn’t until he found extra distance that he became a real contender.

And the importance of distance runs right through the game. If any player can generate good distance, then their timing and the basic mechanics of their swing must be efficient – they have the potential to improve.

A player who hits the ball 250 yards off the tee without having to force it, even if a little inaccurate, can be instructed to achieve a more consistently straight flight. They have the potential to reach almost every par 4 and the occasional par 5, meaning they can make pars and birdies with relative ease.

A player who hits it unerringly straight but can only shift it 150 yards, no matter how hard they swing, will not make many easy pars and very few birdies. If they can’t reach greens in regulation, bogey is the more reasonable target. They may never lose a ball, but they will never play off single figures.

Those who generate good distance can also learn to play within themselves – they can play a shorter club from the tee for safety and position. But, when the hole demands it, they can open the taps and send one out there. Distance gives options, presents possibilities and the potential for improvement and success.

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Sam Tremlett
Senior Staff Writer

A golfer for most of his life, Sam is a Senior Staff Writer for Golf Monthly. 

Working with golf gear and equipment over the last five years, Sam has quickly built outstanding knowledge and expertise on golf products ranging from drivers, to balls, to shoes. 

He also loves to test golf apparel especially if it a piece that can be used just about anywhere!

As a result he has always been the one family and friends come to for buying advice and tips.

He is a graduate of Swansea University where he studied History and American Studies, and he has been a part of the Golf Monthly team since December 2017. He also previously worked for World Soccer and Rugby World magazines.

Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website. He also oversees all Tour player content as well. 

Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five.