Want to Drive the Ball Farther as You Get Older? Then You Need to Up-level Your Entire Game
Just ask Phil Mickelson, age 50, or Fred Couples, now 61 years old, if they’re short off the tee.
Go ahead. We dare you.
Lefty still gets it out there with the young guys, averaging just over 300 yards on his drives. And “Boom Boom” trails him by only five yards. As if we didn’t have enough reasons already to be envious of the smooth-swinging Couples.
How about Ernie Els at 51 and Retief Goosen at 52? Try 295 yards and 299 yards, respectively. South Africa, we see you.
With the advances in driver technology over the past 20 years, it’s not entirely shocking that these silver foxes are bombing even farther than they did in their primes.
But still, 295 to 300 yards is long enough to rank these household names of the early 2000s in the 60-70 range on the PGA TOUR, much less the Champions TOUR.
How do they do it? Sure, they all have regular fitness routines and performance-focused diets (just Google Mickelson’s coffee smoothie).
But the variable with the greatest influence on their driving distance is hidden in plain sight: their overall skill level.
As My Golf Spy recently reported, the Arccos 2020 Distance Data report concluded that skill, not age, has the most impact on driving distance. In fact, a golfer’s handicap is 2X as impactful as his or her change in age.
“Father Time is Undefeated,” notes My Golf Spy, but golfers who dedicate themselves to getting better will invariably pick-up some big wins along the way.
For example, over a statistically significant number of rounds (usually five or more, which Arccos requires for full activation of the Caddie App features), a zero handicap 70-year-old male will hit the ball farther than a 20-year-old 20 handicap.
Factor in that the 70-year-old is likely playing from a set of forward tees in the 5,500 to 6,000-yard range, and game improvement begins to look like the fountain of youth.
The Arccos Distance Data report concluded that there’s not much difference in distance between 25 and 35-year-old men of similar skill levels, but the gaps increase as golfers grow older.
For example, a scratch 45-year-old Arccos member drives the ball 260 yards, while a 55-year-old drives it 250. Ten years later, the gap widens to 13 yards, with 65-year-olds driving it 237 yards.
Women tend to lose more distance with age than men, especially from age 40 to 50. As far as the rate of decrease, scratch men versus scratch women, by age 60 women are nearly 50% shorter off the tee than men. Raise the benchmark to a 10 handicap and women are 65% shorter at age 60.
While Arccos has notably less data for women compared to men (grow the game!), the launch of Arccos Caddie Link sparked a 300% increase in female Arccos members in 2020 compared to 2019. So we expect the 2021 distance report next year to be even more insightful for our lady golfers!
Notes Arccos Ambassador Ryan Crysler, Senior Instructor at Butch Harmon Floridian, “We’ve always preached [swing] speed is a skill in addition to short game, driving, etc. Speed is primarily developed off the course in other sports and training although it’s possible to add incremental speed with SuperSpeed and other training aids.”
Crysler adds: “Nothing beats hitting the ball in the center every time. I’m not surprised that lower handicaps do it more often regardless of how their swing looks and ages over time.”
Arccos Ambassador Trillium Rose, Director of Instruction at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. Says golf is one of the few sports people can get better at with age.
“I've seen it over and over – 60-year-olds say they are playing the best golf of their life. Experience and time out on the golf course certainly helps, but in these cases and so many others that I've seen it's their technique that improves. Technical improvements are obtainable at any age.”
Check out the full report here: 2020 Arccos Distance Report