You're a hundred and fifty yards away from the pin on a challenging par 5, and your golf buddy is just a couple of feet behind you. Unsure of which club should be your next choice to hit the green, you carefully watch as your partner pulls out his 6-iron. One swift swing of your buddy's club and presto, he's on the green. That's it then, you think to yourself, deciding to use your own 6-iron for your next shot.
You line up your golf ball with your stance, do your signature foot shuffle and CRACK! The ball goes sailing straight toward the green. But wait, something's not quite right. Your ball is falling short, very short, and doesn't even look like it's going to clear the creek right in front of the ... and you're in the drink.
What happened? You chose the exact same club your golf buddy used for his shot that was lying right next to yours, yet you came up a good ten yards short, so what gives?
The truth is that a lot of factors come into play when determining distance for golf clubs. Not only can distances vary greatly from one player to the next, but different golf club components can have a drastic effect on how far your golf ball flies. That's why it's important to know what determines golf club distance - from the club to the player.
Golf Club Loft
The primary factor in the distance a golfer can expect their ball to travel is the golf club loft. Club loft refers to the angle of the clubface in relation to the club shaft. The higher the club loft - which is indicated by the numbers on the club - the higher the flight trajectory it will produce.
A higher trajectory also correlates with shorter distance, which is why high numbered clubs like 9-irons, pitching wedges and sand wedges are perfect for high-flight, short distance plays around the green, whereas lower numbered clubs like drivers, 3-woods and 3-irons are the go-to sticks for long and straight shots off the tees and fairways. The rest fall somewhere in between, which we'll discuss in a bit.
Golf Club Components For Distance
The angle of the clubface plays a huge role in golf club distance, but there are also many other golf club components that are key to achieving the distance you're looking for.
- Golf club type - There are many types of golf clubs on the market today, and most of them fall into one of five categories: Woods, hybrids, irons, wedges, and putters. Each golf club type affords players differing distance benefits, which are determined by their lofts as well as their clubhead compositions and shaft lengths.
- Clubhead composition - What clubheads are made out of and how they are constructed also plays a role in golf club distance. Drivers and other woods, for example, have large bulbous heads. Their hollow construction using lightweight metals allows players to swing at full speed, hurtling golf balls down the fairway. Irons, on the other hand, are typically solid clubs, although some modern versions have hollow cavities that create a hinge effect when contact with the ball is made.
- Shaft length - Golf club shafts have more to do with distance than you may think. Steel shaft clubs have little to no flex, creating a more solid impact with golf balls, whereas graphite shaft clubs have a flexing effect that snaps toward the ball at impact. Graphite shafts are also rated by stiffness, and when the right amount of stiffness coincides with a particular golfer's swing, a whole lot of distance can be generated.
Average Golf Club Distances
We've already covered what gives golf clubs their distance, so you may be wondering by now what the average distance for golf clubs is. Unfortunately, that's a rather tough question to answer. While a whole lot of research and development goes into creating golf clubs with optimal performance for each club type, it's still almost impossible to determine just by looking at a club how much distance a particular player can get out of it.
The truth is that golf club distance depends a great deal on who is swinging the stick. A pro, an amateur, a high handicapper and a scratch player can all hit a 5-iron and all come up with very different results. Still, we can give a rough estimation for average distances per club, so you'll at least have a starting point before you head to the range to hone in your numbers.
In the following list, the lower numbers pertain to average female golfers that are mid-level handicappers, while the higher numbers pertain to mid-level male players.
- Driver - 185 to 245 yards
- 3-Wood - 175 to 215 yards
- 5-Wood - 145 to 185 yards
- 3-Iron - 155 to 185 yards
- 4-Iron - 145 to 175 yards
- 5-Iron - 135 to 165 yards
- 6-Iron - 125 to 155 yards
- 7-Iron - 115 to 145 yards
- 6-Iron - 125 to 155 yards
- 7-Iron - 115 to 145 yards
- 8-Iron - 105 to 135 yards
- 9-Iron - 95 to 125 yards
- Pitching Wedge - 85 to 115 yards
- Sand Wedge - 65 to 85 yards
- Lob Wedge - 35 to 45 yards
The features that determine golf club distance consist of varying lofts, golf club components, and shaft types that all come together to provide golfers with the tools they need to make the most accurate shots possible. Different combinations of these key elements can yield varying results in each individual club, such as the added distance that may arise from a 6-iron with a graphite shaft as opposed to a steel one. Knowing how different features affect different club types is an important part of choosing clubs that will provide you with the distance you're looking for.