Distance in golf is more desirable than ever. Amateurs need it, professionals have it but want even more, and courses are stretching longer and longer to cope with it all.
And there’s no denying it’s incredibly important. Just look at this recent tweet from Richie Hunt, a golf statistician who works with a number of PGA Tour players. In his recent analysis of Trackman and USGA handicap data, he found a solid correlation between the two. In short: The faster you swing the club, the more likely you are to have a lower handicap.
Which makes Keegan Bradley’s comments all the more interesting.
Bradley, fresh of his first victory since the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone and playing in the Tour Championship this week, explained how he arrived back in the winner’s circle.
Putting has been a constant thorn in his side — he’s a lowly 174th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting this season — but he has improved his results not by focusing on distance off the tee. Instead, he’s been prioritizing hitting fairways.
Speaking earlier in the week:
“I don’t care necessarily about my driving distance. I feel like I hit it plenty far enough. I’m not one of the longest players by any means, but I’m above average for sure. But I take pride in hitting fairways. For me, that’s my whole game, hitting fairways and greens.”
“For me, I’ve always been big on hitting the fairways.The smash and gouge is not my game. That works for a lot of guys, but if I’m missing fairways, I’m not going to be up on the leaderboard. I just feel my swing, and technically I’m at a level now where I’m very accurate off the tee and with my irons. When the putting matches up like it did at BMW, I can contend.”
The stats bear it out, too. His driving distance has been on a slight decline in the six years since his last win:
But his Driving Accuracy rank has been ticking up nicely:
The lesson for all of us at home? Take a page from Bradley’s book. Yes, distance is important, but it’s useless if you can’t control your ball. If your game is hitting a wall, focus on dialing it back and hitting fairways. Prioritize accuracy. We’ve got lots of tips to help you do just that.