18 Golf Myths Exposed: Break Par With Facts!

Golfing Focus infographic of 18 golf myths that need busting

Golf is very very hard.

Not only does it require a ball of only 1.68 inches in diameter to be put into a hole which is itself only 4.25 inches in diameter but unlike other ball sports you also don’t play in the same conditions as all your competitors.

You also don’t share the same ball as you do in all other ball sports. You don’t even play on a uniform field of competition in every tournament you play.

To help therefore we’ve put together this list of 18 golf myths, one for every hole, across all areas of the game – scoring, the golf swing, clubs, driving, approach shots, pitching, and putting – that you should stop believing in sooner rather than later if you don’t want to make an almost near impossible game any harder!

1. There is a ‘Best Way’ to Swing a Golf Club – FALSE!

The golf swing is not a natural movement.

You will find nobody else in the world, other than on a golf course, grab a stick and swing it as you would a golf club to hit a stationary object.

Yet despite the fact that the golf swing is an unnatural series of complex movements that need to be combined together and timed well repeatedly you will hear many instructors and golfers throughout the world telling other golfers that their swing has this fault or that when compared to the ‘ideal’ swing.

A quick look on YouTube at the golf swings of some of the current and past legends of the game should however convince you pretty quickly that there is no such thing as an ‘ideal golf swing’.

As 3-time major champion Nick Price puts it – “There’s no best way. You just need to be able to repeat your swing over and over again.”

Players with both strong grips and weak grips, flying elbows, flat wrists, and right and left swing paths have all won major championships so don’t believe the myth that you have to swing the club a specific way.

That does not mean that you can swing the club any way you like but never let anyone sell you the myth that there is only one way to get the job done.

2. Everyone Needs a Full Set of Clubs – FALSE!

The rules of golf say you are allowed to use 14 clubs out on the course and it is true that you are highly unlikely to find any good golfer who does not have the full complement of clubs in their bag.

But when it comes to taking up the game as a beginner there is absolutely no need to spend a lot of money to get started.

Golf is viewed as an expensive game, and it certainly can be, but misconceptions that surround how many clubs you need to take up the game do not help its cause.

The key with a set of golf clubs is that you have enough to cover the shots you will be required to play – long shots, short shots, chip shots, bunker shots, putts etc. – and when you are getting started you do not need 14 clubs to cover all those bases.

We cover in detail in another post here the number and types of clubs to get started with but in summary, beginner golfers should aim for 8-10 clubs to start with rather than a full set of 14 while junior golfers only need 5-7 clubs to begin with.

Starting with a reduced number of clubs will also make club selection easier for anyone at the start of their golfing journey and enables beginners to build up their skill level gradually by improving the quality of their practice.

Indeed research of thousands of amateur rounds by stats guru Lou Stagner has shown that one out of every ten golfers has a club in their bag that they use less than once every 20 rounds.

So even a good chunk of regular golfers it seems are using only 13 clubs for their rounds rather than the full complement of 14!

[Editor’s note – Golf doesn’t need to be as expensive as many people make it out and another way to not waste money if you’re only just taking up the game is by buying a pair of golf shoes. There are plenty of good alternatives that you more than likely already have and which you read more about here.]

3. Good Golfers Don’t Use Forgiving Clubs – FALSE!

Good players play blades rather than cavity backs while hybrids are only for golfers who struggle with their long irons.

These are just two examples relating to the misconception that once golfers reach a certain standard they don’t need help from their equipment, and indeed seek out the hardest clubs to hit because they allow them to hit the ball exactly the way they want to whenever they decide to.

Well as anyone who has played the game for any length of time knows, golf is a game of almost infinite variables, most of which we have no control over, and as a result everyone, including the best players in the world need as much help as they can get.

Despite the fact that blade irons give better feedback to players on how well they strike the ball, and allow them to shape (i.e. curve) the golf ball more easily, our detailed analysis of the clubs played by the top 100 players on the PGA Tour shows that close to 2/3 of pros use only cavity back irons.

And when you take into account Tour pros who have at least one cavity back iron in their bag that number rises to 80%.

In addition, because even the top pros find long irons hard to hit we also found that 37% of the top 100 PGA Tour pros use easier-to-hit hybrid clubs in their place.

So if the very best players in the world are taking advantage of golf club tech that makes the game easier that would seem a pretty strong argument for amateurs to follow suit and not believe in the myth around the types of clubs ‘good players should play’!

[Editor’s note – To find out how the 24/28 rule can help you answer the question about how many hybrids you should carry check out our article on this topic here.]

“I don’t understand why you’d play any other iron (than a cavity back), to be honest. I joke around, ‘I’m not good enough to play the blades,’ but in reality, I think we’re just being smarter. I think we’re just like, ‘Oh, we can actually hit every shot that a blade can hit.’ But that chance that we mishit them – and we’re going to mishit a few shots in a round – I mean, it could be the difference in a tournament.”

3-time Major Champion, Jordan Speith

4. Good Players Don’t Use Coloured Golf Balls – FALSE!

Golfers will never find themselves short of occasions when someone or another is telling them what they should be doing and what equipment they should be using, especially if they are keen to improve.

And one of the things players are often told as they start to play more is that you can’t be a good golfer if you use a coloured golf ball.

I must confess to believing this in my younger days as after all I never saw any of my golfing heroes on TV using a coloured golf ball when they hit that final putt to win the Masters, US, or British Open.

However while white golf balls are undoubtedly the choice of traditionalists there is absolutely no truth to the myth that good players don’t use coloured golf balls.

2-time Masters champion Bubba Watson is the highest profile pro to use them in recent times and has regularly played a pink golf ball to match his pink driver at events, including the Masters itself.

8-time PGA Tour winner KJ Choi has also played a yellow golf ball on occasions as did 3-time US Open Champion Hale Irwin.

Yes it is true that pros as a whole don’t use coloured golf balls because of habit, and that they tend to find white balls easier to see, but they can use any golf ball in any of the major professional golf tours provided it is on the ‘List of Conforming Golf Balls’ issued by golf’s governing bodies, the USGA and R&A.

And there are over 750 of the balls on the list that are coloured so there are plenty of options for them, and you too, should you choose!

Bubba Watson hitting a yellow coloured golf ball with a pink driver

5. Golf Club Fitting is Only for Good Players – FALSE!

There is a clear misconception amongst higher handicapped golfers and those just starting to take up the game that they are not good enough to get fitted for golf clubs and it is a comment golf club fitters probably hear the most often.

But despite the perception being a very common one that does not mean it is true.

Indeed it is arguable that beginner golfers have the most to gain from playing the right clubs for them.

Beginner golfers have a lot to contend with when they take up the game. Golf is a hard game to play, and given how unnatural a movement the golf swing is, there are a lot of thoughts running through any beginner golfer’s head when they start playing.

So why would you add to that difficulty by starting with a set of clubs that are not going to give you a better chance of hitting the golf ball better?

By just grabbing off-the-rack clubs, or simply playing with whatever clubs are given to them, beginner golfers run a significant risk of starting out playing with ill-fitted clubs that will hold them back and lead them to develop some bad habits that will become harder and harder to break as they play more and more.

And at worst it will make them give up because they get no enjoyment from the first few times they play as a result.

This is especially important also when those beginners are kids learning to play the game whom we all want to enjoy the game as much as possible to hopefully then let them spend a lifetime enjoying this great game.

“I see so many 6, 7, 8, 10-year-olds swinging these full-length clubs that are cut down, and they don’t swing the club; the club swings them.

Maverick McNealy, PGA Tour Player

Ensuring therefore beginner golfers get fitted and start off with the right clubs will reduce the risk that they don’t enjoy the game simply because they are using entirely the wrong clubs for them.

And that’s where a golf club fitting can help even from the very beginning, and better still it does not need to be an expensive exercise.

A good club fitter – the nearest one you can easily find through our searchable list of the best places to get fitted throughout the USA, Canada, and the UK here – will recommend clubs for beginners that represent great value for money and will let them hit some good shots straight away as they improve their swing.

And if you have already been given a few clubs to get started by a friend or family member a club fitter will often tell you those a just fine for you to keep playing with after they’ve tested them out with you.

They will more than likely also give you a lesson for free at the same time!

6. Fitness Does Not Matter For Golf – FALSE!

The words ‘athlete’ and ‘golfer’ have probably not found themselves in the same sentence very much over the centuries the game has been played, and I doubt there would be many people who have thought of golfers when discussions are had about who are some of the fittest sportspeople on the planet.

But that does not mean that fitness does not matter for golf because it does and at the very top of the game it is now critically important.

If you have ever wondered how pros hit the ball as far as they do one key part of that puzzle is fitness and in the modern game, you are as likely to find pro golfers in the gym as you are on the practice range as they look to use their fitness regimes to develop increased swing speed to hit the ball ever increasing distances.

And the reason they are doing that is because the stats now clearly show that distance matters a lot when it comes to scoring across all levels of the game.

Columbia Business School Professor and pioneer of the ‘strokes gained’ metrics adopted by the PGA Tour, Professor Mark Broadie, has analyzed millions of golf shots and his work has found that an extra 20 yards of distance is worth about 3/4 of a stroke per round to the pros.

That may not sound a lot but to Adam Hadwin, who finished 49th on the PGA Tour money list in 2022 with a scoring average of 70.59, that 0.75 of a stroke cost him around $4 million compared to Cameron Young who finished 10th by having a scoring average of 69.84.

When it comes to us amateur players meanwhile that same 20-yard distance gain is worth nearly 3 strokes to the typical 115-scoring golfer, 2.3 strokes to the 100-scoring player, 1.6 strokes to 90-scorers, and 1.3 strokes to 80-scoring players.

So in summary extra driving distance has an impact on every level of golfer and the most impact on the highest-scoring players.

Therefore if you are looking for a way to hit the ball further to take advantage of the scoring gains on offer as outlined by Professor Broadie one key way is to focus on improving your strength and fitness because in today’s game it definitely matters.

[Editor’s note – To find out how golf is good for your health and can help you shed a few extra pounds check out our in-depth look at golf’s health benefits here.]

7. Drive for Show Putt for Dough – FALSE!

“You drive for show but you putt for dough” is probably one of the most well-known phrases in golf and on social media you will still find it used consistently in debates about various topics.

And what it suggests is that any golfer who wants to improve should stop worrying about their drives, and by extension their long game, and prioritize getting better at their putting and short game chipping if they really want to improve and get their handicap down.

The problem with this philosophy is that when you look at the cold hard data it is simply wrong.

Picking up again on Professor Mark Broadie’s study of millions of golf shots in his pioneering book ‘Every Shot Counts’, which you can buy on Amazon here, he found that putting contributes only 15% – that’s only 3 strokes out of 20 – of the score difference between 80 and 100 scoring golfers.

And taking that further he discovered that the long game – consisting of driving and approach shots – explains two-thirds of the difference in scores between a typical 110-golfer and a typical 100-golfer, or between a typical 90-golfer and 80-golfer; the short game and putting explain the remaining one-third.

Here’s a copy of his analysis of where strokes are gained between typical amateur golfers of different skill levels.

SCORESSTROKES GAINED
FROMTODRIVINGAPPROACHSHORTPUTT
90802.54.02.11.4
100902.64.02.01.4
1101003.43.71.71.2
AVERAGE2.83.91.91.3
FRACTION OF TOTAL28%39%19%14%
Source: Every Shot Counts

Professor Broadie acknowledges these results go against almost all of golf’s conventional wisdom and will be considered close to heresy by some.

He also is at pains to point out that putting is of course important and that you can make ‘faster’ scoring gains in your short game by reducing your number of 3 putts and duffed pitches.

But eventually how much you can improve through your short game alone will get maxed out and you will find as the stats now show very clearly that you will make the most significant improvements by learning to hit the ball further off the tee and finding more greens with better iron shots.

The only problem with focusing on improving your long game over your short game is it requires a much more significant time investment to make happen which is probably part of the reason why this myth has hung around as long as it has among the time-poor amateur ranks despite all the evidence to the contrary.

8. The Priority is Hitting the Fairway Off the Tee – FALSE!

Fairway hit % is a long-serving traditional stat in golf and is also easy for all golfers of all standards to keep track of.

The problem with it is that the concept of prioritizing hitting fairways with your drives is severely overrated and costs amateurs lots of shots!

And in short the reason that the ‘fairways hit’ metric is not helpful is that it doesn’t tell a very useful story about the quality of the drives you play.

For example, a topped tee shot that went 50 yards but ended in the fairway on a 420-yard par 4 would count better for this stat than a 300-yard drive which is in the perfect position to come into the flag but only a couple of yards off the fairway in light rough.

This is of course an extreme example but if you look at the table below published by Lou Stagner – showing how many MORE strokes players will average to hole out from the rough compared to the fairway – we can see the difference is in reality small.

Lou Stagnes stats showing how many more stroked players will average to hole out from the rough compared to the fairway

As Stagner notes about half the numbers are 0.1 strokes or less and as you get farther from the hole the difference between rough and fairway gets smaller still.

Admittedly these numbers, which are based on the millions of amateur shots in the Arccos database, are a baseline for courses with typical rough height and will change slightly as rough gets very long or very short.

But they do help to make the key point that the value to the average golfer of measuring the percentage of fairways hit to help highlight how good or bad their driving is overrated and it is therefore a stat we would recommend you should not waste your time collecting. 

A much better driving measurement for the average player – and the first of the best golf stats we would suggest you keep track of if you really want to improve – is the number of ‘major driving mistakes’ you make in a round.

And this is because the drives that destroy a scorecard the most are not the ones that end up in the rough.

As we have already seen clearly through Mark Broadie’s analysis, distance and hitting the ball as far as you can, should be your priority off the tee and consistently sacrificing distance for accuracy is a poor trade.

So the next time you find yourself hitting a 3-wood off the tee ‘for accuracy’ just make sure you are absolutely sure it is going to be worth it!

9. Lots of Amateurs Drive the Ball 300 Yards – FALSE!

It is very difficult not to think a good bit about how far you drive the ball off the tee and compare the distances you are driving with your peers and others.

We take a deep dive look at the question of how far you should hit a driver broken down by various categories including handicap and age here, but for now we just want to look at one of the big myths that does the rounds in the amateur golfing world and especially on social media.

And that is that loads and loads, and probably the vast majority if Twitter users were to be surveyed, drive the ball consistently over the 300-yard mark.

Just to put that into context the average driving distance on the PGA Tour over the past number of seasons has been between 296 and 298 yards so if this myth is to be believed we are basically saying there are lots of amateurs out there who are hitting the ball further than the best players in the world.

As you can imagine though the reality is not quite the same and over the course of 3 years Arccos, golf’s first Artificial Intelligence system, has crunched the numbers of close to 30 million drives hit by amateurs and found that only 0.1% of male amateurs drive the ball over 300 yards.

Arccos graph of percent of players by driving distance

The average driving distance for male players is actually around the 220-yard mark or thereabouts and indeed almost 25% of amateurs drive the ball less than 200 yards.

Always bear in mind that just because a player drives the ball once a long distance it does NOT mean all their drives go that far. Amateur’s longest drives are very often wind or elevation assisted so we would suggest taking it with a pinch of salt the next time someone is claiming that they drive the ball 300 yards!

[Note – If you are interested in Arccos – Golf’s first artificial intelligence shot tracking platform – and getting an exact idea of how far you hit the ball so you choose the right club every time click here to get 15% off when you use our discount code – GOLFINGFOCUS15. Recognised by Golf Digest Editor’s awards 5 years running Arccos’ members improve by an average of 5 strokes in their first year of membership!]

10. More Swingspeed Always Means More Distance – FALSE!

Golf launch monitors have revolutionized our understanding of many elements of the golf swing and one of the things it has helped massively with is allowing golfers to understand why they hit the ball as far as they do.

It has also introduced terms like swingspeed – or clubhead speed as it is also known – into the discussions had about distance throughout the golfing world.

And what we now know clearly is that club/swingspeed is the key factor for determining a golfer’s ‘potential’ distance and according to Trackman, one of the leading launch monitor makers, adding 1mph of swingspeed can increase your distance by up to 3 yards with the driver.

But the key word in that last sentence is ‘potential’ because although lots of swingspeed is obviously important if you want to hit the ball a long way it is not one of the 3 key factors that determine the ‘actual’ distance you hit the ball.

You can find out in detail here what determines distance but the key high-level point to take away is that swingspeed is a ‘supporting’ element of the distance equation.

How well you ‘strike’ the ball – and therefore how well you transfer energy from the club (club/swingspeed) to the ball (ball speed) – is more important.

Indeed robot tests carried out by golf technology expert Gene Parente of Golf Laboratories with Golf.com have shown h that if you strike the ball on the lower third of the clubface, or anywhere past 1-inch off centre you will lose up to 8 yards of distance even if you increased your swingspeed from 95 to 105mph.

Therefore if you really want to start hitting the ball further it is important to understand that you will not get there simply by aiming to add more swingspeed!

11. You Should Play For the Best Angle to Attack the Flag – FALSE!

I remember when I started to play with better golfers at my home club that they kept telling me that while I was playing the 14th hole I should check a gap in the trees which let me see where the pin was set that day on the 15th.

The theory was that if it was positioned on the left-hand side of the 15th green I should be aiming to put my drive off the tee on the right side of the fairway but if the pin was on the right I should adjust my tee shot target to the left-hand side.

My playing partners meant well and I realize were simply trying to help out a young golfer but the problem unfortunately simply was that it was poor advice.

There are now close to 600 million amateur shots in the Arccos database and stats experts like Lou Stagner are consistently taking an in-depth look at all that data to help us confirm what is and isn’t true when it comes to golfing advice.

And his analysis of the question of whether playing for a ‘better’ angle was good for scoring was a pretty resounding no.

Across all skill levels he found that simply aiming for the centre of the fairway led to a better score close to 80% of the time compared to the tiny 5% of the time players hitting to the ‘best’ angle to attack the flag resulted in a lower score.

Those stats of course do mean that playing from the so-called ‘best’ angle in the fairway is sometimes better than playing from the middle of the fairway but given how infrequently this happens it is clearly not a good overall strategy.

Indeed the numbers also showed that playing from the ‘bad’ or wrong side produced a better score 17.5% of the time so in reality, for the tens of thousands of Arccos users throughout the world, hitting from a bad angle gave them a better score much more often than playing from the good side!

In all likelihood in Stagner’s view this was likely because golfers had to target areas closer to trouble (e.g. rough, bunkers, trees etc.) when playing for a ‘good’ angle and so cost themselves more strokes with mishits off the tee.

All this does not mean also of course you should simply aim for the middle of the fairway every time, because it is often more important to play away from and avoid an out-of-bounds or water, but it definitely does mean you should stop playing for ‘better angles’!

Golfing Focus golfer pitching into a green

12. Always Leave Yourself a FULL Wedge in – FALSE!

Another consistent nugget of ‘wisdom’ which does the rounds in golfing circles is that you should where possible leave yourself with a full wedge shot into the green.

You will likely hear this most often in relation to par 5’s where golfers are often faced with a decision as to how close they should lay up to a hazard, whether that be water or a big bunker stretched across the fairway, for their approach shot into the green.

Amateurs golfers are notorious for playing the ‘half wedge’ shot poorly and as a result the 40-or-50-yard wedge is often one of the most feared shots in golf for the average player.

It therefore should be avoided at all costs so goes the myth and you should therefore ‘always leave yourself a full wedge’ in where you can.

The issue with that is it is again bad advice and once more we need only lean on Lou Stagner’s detailed look at the millions of amateur golf shots in the Arccos database.

And that tells him that being closer to the green is the best play for almost all golfers.

Indeed for the majority of players the advantage is enormous!

His analysis showed that 95.8% of golfers have a better scoring average from 50 yards out vs. 100 yards and that close to 60% of regular players have a scoring average with half shots that is more than 0.25 of a shot better than it is with their full wedges.

The conclusion is a pretty straightforward one therefore and a clear myth buster that you should always leave yourself a full wedge because if you are, you are more than likely costing yourself shots.

13. Pros Hardly Ever Miss From Inside 10 feet – FALSE!

How many times have you had a 10-foot putt for net or gross birdie or par and then cursed yourself for missing it as it was clearly a golden opportunity which you should be making?

Watch golf on the TV and it seems every pro is rolling the ball in from all over the green and certainly never seen to be showing missing for short range.

But rather than keep being too hard on yourself maybe consider that what you see on TV creates a myth in your head that is not actually based on reality by taking in the following stat.

Across his professional career, Tiger Woods has 48% of his putts between 7’0″ to 8.11″.

So given arguably the greatest player of all time misses close to half of his putts from this range do regular golfers think they should never miss from inside 10 feet?

Indeed from 10 feet on the PGA Tour their one putt percentage is even worse at only 40% while from 15 feet they hole less than 1 in every 4 putts.

For a detailed look at how few putts pros actually make, and why amateur golfers are actually pretty good putters, please check out our other post here, but for now just make sure you put the myth that pros hardly ever miss from inside 10 feet to one side and go a bit easier on yourself the next time you miss one!

14. Never Up Never In = Good Putting – FALSE!

If you find yourself playing in a match play competition, or even just a bounce game alongside a friend, it usually does not take long, especially if you are faced with an important putt in the context of the game – for your playing partner to say to you just before you hit it – “And remember, never up, never in!

In other words they want to remind you that the putt will never drop unless it reaches the hole or as my best friend used to always quote to me on the course that “100% of short putts don’t go in!”

The problem with this statement and why it is a myth that you should just ignore is that it leads to worse putting.

The two fundamentals of putting which you want to get right are:

  1. Learning to putt so the ball rolls ‘end over end’ in a straight line, and
  2. Speed control which enables you to putt the ball consistently the correct distance.

And it is the second of these fundamentals that tends to be the most critical when it comes to avoiding the most dreaded scorecard killer on the greens – the 3 putt – which as we explore and prove in another one of our posts here, is the proven quickest way to shave strokes off the score of the vast majority of golfers!

Because the chances are if you always try and get the ball to the hole you will knock it 3,4 and maybe even 6 feet past the hole on many occasions and as a result end up 3-putting rather than making it.

“I wasn’t interested in making every putt … I put myself in a position so I wouldn’t three-putt”

Jack Nicklaus

Such is this issue that the average 12 handicap player is statistically more likely to 3-putt from 15 feet than to hole it!

Optimal putting, according to the stats, means leaving some putts short believe it or not and so when it comes to even relatively short putts your focus should simply be on just trying to roll it at a good speed.

Don’t hit it 6 feet past and then say to everyone – ‘well I went for it’ – because as we’ve already seen the chances of holing that return putt from that distance are not that high.

Further and you can see from Practical Golf’s graphic below the harder you hit the ball at the hole the smaller you are actually making it thereby giving yourself even less chance of holing it.

So throw this myth out the window and just try and hit a good putt at a good speed!

Practical Golf infographic showing the size of a golf hole relative to the speed of a putt

15. Always Aim to Leave Yourself an Uphill Putt – FALSE!

Given the game is so difficult golfers are naturally always trying to make it easier for themselves where they can.

As a result a misconception that has taken hold across the game is that players should always be aiming to leave themselves an uphill putt because you feel inevitably feel more confident trying to hole an uphill putt than a tricky slippery downhill one.

The problem with this approach and why it is a misconception that needs busting is two-fold.

Firstly if you move your target away from the hole to leave yourself an uphill putt that will result in you having more longer putts more often for the simple reason that your target is not the hole.

And as we have already noted above being further away from the hole is not a good recipe when it comes to one-putt percentages across all levels of the game.

But secondly, and as the stats below from Practical Golf show, there is no overwhelming statistical advantage when it comes to the make rates for uphill putts compared to downhill ones from most distances.

Source: Practical Golf

So the short answer to this one is simply forget about trying to leave yourself an uphill putt and just aim to get the ball as close to the hole as you possibly can every time.

16. Not Playing to Your Handicap is a Bad Round – FALSE!

Regular golfers are notoriously hard on themselves.

Despite not having much time to practice and often playing only every now and again they expect to be able to play pretty decent golf every time they make it to the golf course.

Or at the very least they expect to play to their handicap because after all that is the measure of their game which has been calculated based on a system painstakingly put together by the powers that be based on their actual scores and playing ability.

As a result when they don’t play to their handicap they automatically assume they have had a bad round, get frustrated, and write the day off as a poor one.

However according to the USGA handicap research team golfers should only hit their handicap 25% of the time and on average will score 3 strokes higher than their handicap.

Further the statistics show that the odds of the average golfer posting a net score lower than their handicap by only one stroke is 10:1!

And that is because a golfer’s handicap is about ‘potential’.

It reflects their ‘best’ days on the course rather than for example simply an average of all his or her recent scores. Their most recent 12 worst rounds, when things are not going so well or entirely going haywire, are entirely discarded from the handicap calculation.

So the next time you get angry with yourself for not playing to your handicap just remember it’s not actually a bad round according to the handicap rules that state you are only meant to play to it one out of every four rounds.

[Editor’s note – To find out how your handicap stacks up against your peers and what an average, good and bad handicap is across the world check out our detailed look at this topic here.]

Trackman graph showing difference in distance impact of a tailwind compared to a headwind

17. Headwinds and Tailwinds Have the Same Impact – FALSE!

There are a lot of things that can go wrong with our golf swings and the task of hitting the golf ball consistently well with good swings is hard enough challenge as it is.

At least we all have some element of control over our golf swings.

However the same cannot be said for the other key element that can severely impact our scores but over which we have absolutely no control whatsoever – the weather!

There are many elements of weather that can affect your golf from altitude to humidity to temperature but the biggest weather factor which we’ll face on the course is the wind.

And while you may have been told that the wind is the wind and the effect of playing into a headwind is the same as hitting with a tailwind at your back the reality is very different.

Headwinds affect the golf ball more than tailwinds both from a distance and dispersion perspective.

Hitting into a 30mph headwind for example reduces the carry distance of the average PGA Tour drive by 75 yards and a total distance of 91 yards. By comparison, a 30mph tailwind increases the carry distance of the same drive by 44 yards and a total of 84 yards.

And while the wind is by its nature chaotic and can vary in strength a lot even during the course of one-shot what can be said with clarity is that lift (i.e. what makes the golf ball rise) and drag (i.e. what slows the golf ball down) do not affect the golf ball in the same way and that is why a headwind hurts more than a tailwind.

[Editor’s note – To find out more about how much all aspects of the weather affect the distance you hit the ball check out our great post on this topic here.]

18. Better Scoring Means You Need to Make More Birdies – FALSE!

Once you have played golf for a bit and started to get the hang of the basics it is natural for everyone to want to get a bit better.

Although the game is far from easy, and great rounds for regular golfers seem to come about with a frustrating infrequency when they do it is a great feeling.

A key mistake players make however in their quest to improve is to focus on the wrong things and one of these relates to a myth that surrounds why better players score better than higher handicappers.

Many high handicappers assume that good players sign for lower rounds in large part because they make far more birdies than they do and as a result if they want to get their own handicap down they are going to have to do the same.

The trouble with this is that this is a false narrative and ironically can lead higher handicapped players to make decisions in the quest for more birdies that make their scores even worse rather than better.

Let’s look for example at the average number of birdies per round that a scratch handicapper has compared to a 20-handicapper.

While scratch players are 20 shots better than their fellow golfer they in reality only make 1.9 birdies more (2.2 vs. 0.3) per round.

So as we can clearly see the gulf in quality between these two players has very little to do with birdies.

The reality is that the scratch player scores much better than their higher handicapped counterpart because they have far fewer scorecard-wrecking penalty shots or drives that require them to come out sideways with a recovery shot.

Golfers across every skill level have more penalty strokes and recovery shots in their worst rounds compared to their best ones and as such if you really want to get your handicap down you should stop worrying about making more birdies and focus instead on avoiding those big numbers on holes.

Because big numbers, especially a few of them, are a guaranteed way to destroy a scorecard!

Before you Go …

One of the most misunderstood aspects of the game of golf is how much more important the long game is than the short game according to the stats.

The conventional wisdom that putting is the most important part of the game is hard to shake.

It can not be overemphasized however how much distance is key to getting your scores and handicap down in the long term. So why not read our next article to find out the key reasons why the pros hit the ball as far as they do, including how much of a role their clubs play, and how you can potentially add 20 to 30 yards to your own drives!

How Do Pros Hit the Ball So Far?

[Note – Just so you know, and we are upfront as an affiliate program participant, Golfing Focus, at no cost to you, earns from qualifying purchases made through links on this page.]

The great posts which go into more detail on these myths:

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