This has long been a topic that’s been greatly debated in the world of golf. Is it better to be able to hit the ball farther or straighter?
While everyone wants to keep the ball in play and be able to take their next shot from the short stuff, there’s no getting away from the primal feeling you get when you strike the ball a long distance. A lot of golfers enjoy the bravado of seeing who can hit the ball the furthest, but you will rarely, if ever, see golfers competing to see who can hit the ball the straightest.
As with any argument, there are two different sides to consider.
Is hitting the ball further is more important?
On the one hand, you have those people in the “hit the ball further” camp. This means that you will be closer to the hole after your tee shot if you are playing a par 4 or 5, which means that you have a shorter yardage into the pin.
Your shorter clubs are naturally going to be more accurate, as the club face allows for a greater margin of error. Therefore, if you have bombed the ball down the fairway, you may have to only hit a 9 iron for your next shot, while someone who is not as long off the tee may have to hit a 5 iron, which is not nearly as accurate.
On the flip side, a lot of people who hit the ball long distances will not always be the most accurate. This means that they will find themselves in trouble a lot more often than those straight hitters. They might have a shorter distance to a flag, but they may be stuck behind a tree or have a bad lie in the rough.
Is hitting the ball straighter is more important?
When it comes to the “hit it straighter” camp, you may not hit the ball as far off the tee, but you will be able to consistently keep the ball in play by knocking it down the fairway. This allows you to take your next shot from a good lie, allowing you to make better contact with the ball than if you were hitting out of the rough.
While you may have a bit further to go into the flag, your approach shot will be straighter, even if you are using your longer irons.
How relevant is the long game when it comes to performance?
Most people believe that it’s the short game that is the be-all and end-all when it comes to getting a good score. While there is no doubting the fact that your putting and scrambling skills are vitally important, if you are not getting the ball in a good position off the tee or you take too many strokes to get the ball near the green, then your scoring ability is going to be severely affected.
So, is there a concrete conclusion as to which is more important?
These days, you have access to dozens of different types of statistics when it comes to the professional golf tours. These can tell you all you need to know about different facets of the game. However, complex statistics do not always tell the full story.
Therefore, as a way to settle this argument, let’s draw a comparison between the earnings of the top five most accurate drivers on the PGA Tour and the top five longest hitters off the tee. The results are conclusive.
Using the 2015 season as the sample data, the top five most accurate drivers of the ball finished the year with a combined earnings of $4.6 million, while the top five longest hitters had total earnings of $27.2 million. That is quite the difference! None of those players who were the top five longest hitters on tour were within the top 100 when it came to the driving accuracy rankings.
While this shows us that hitting the ball further is better than being straighter for professionals, is this also the case for amateurs?
Well, the jury is still out on that one. A lot of amateurs generally struggle to keep the ball in play the majority of the time. This means that they will be hitting the ball out of bounds or into hazards off the tee. They will also struggle to successfully hit decent shots out of the rough.
Therefore, it appears that for your average amateur, it is more important to be able to hit the ball straighter to avoid ending up in tricky spots that they don’t have the ability to consistently get out of.
— Andrew O’Malley