Average driving distance on PGA Tour hasn’t changed much in more than a decade

Dustin Johnson

Average driving distance on PGA Tour hasn’t changed much in more than a decade

Equipment

Average driving distance on PGA Tour hasn’t changed much in more than a decade

We assume that combining advancements in technology, more sophisticated custom-fitting methods and stronger athletes is the perfect recipe for more distance on the PGA Tour. There’s no doubt that Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day crush it, but it is interesting to note that the PGA Tour’s driving-distance average has not changed too much during the past 10 years.

Year PGA Tour avg. driving distance PGA Tour leader (yards) Players avg. over 300 yards
2015 289.7 Dustin Johnson (317.7) 26
2014 288.8 Bubba Watson (314.3) 25
2013 287.2 Luke List (306.8) 13
2012 289.1 Bubba Watson (315.5) 21
2011 290.9 J.B Holmes (318.4) 21
2010 287.3 Robert Garrigus (315.5) 12
2009 287.3 Robert Garrigus (312) 13
2008 287.3 Bubba Watson (315.1) 13
2007 288.6 Bubba Watson (315.2) 18
2006 288.9 Bubba Watson (319.6) 20
2005 288.4 Scott Hend (318.9) 26
2004 286.5 Hank Kuehne (314.4) 15
2003 285.9 Hank Kuehne (321.4) 8
2002 279.5 John Daly (306.8) 1
2001 278.8 John Daly (306.7) 1
2000 272.8 John Daly (301.4) 1

There was a jump of more than 5 yards from 2000 to 2001 as many players switched into solid-core golf balls, and then a 6.5-yard jump from 2002 to 2003 as more players started using larger-headed drivers. But as you can see, since 2005 the PGA Tour’s average driving distance has fluctuated within a 3.7-yard range, between 287.2 and 290.9. That’s about 11 feet, or, 4 feet shorter than a free throw in basketball.

So what’s really happening? While the average driving distance on the PGA Tour has not changed too much during the past decade, the number of players who are really booming it has grown.

John Daly was the only player to average more than 300 yards per drive during the four seasons spanning 1999-2002. Then, in 2003, eight players averaged 300-plus yards, including Hank Kuehne, whose 321.4 yards is still the longest for a season. In 2005, the number rose to a record-high 26, which was equaled last season.

In addition, fewer and fewer PGA Tour players can be classified as short hitters. In 2000 there were 166 players on the PGA Tour who averaged less than 280 yards per drive. In 2002, that number was down to 100, and in 2003 it was sliced to 47. By 2005, there were only 30 players who averaged less than 280 yards per drive, and it since has dropped to 25 players.

We have known that the days of the bunters and plinkers contending on the PGA Tour are over for a while, and the numbers reinforce that notion. Some players, such as Danny Lee (283.1), Zach Johnson (282.6) and Jim Furyk (281.9), can get their names to the top of the leaderboard while being a few yards shorter off the tee than the average player, but they have to be elite in other areas of the game to compensate.

In case you are wondering what the numbers look like so far during the 2015-16 wraparound season, through Dec. 21, the PGA Tour average for driving distance is 287.7. That’s 2 yards lower than last season but still within the range established during the past 11 seasons.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home