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Total distance vs carry distance and how do you calculate which club to use?


Gerr
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For 30+ years, I  have used total distance to calculate which club to use.  If I needed to carry a certain yardage, I just took off 5% of my total distance(after distance modifiers) as my estimated carry distance.   This method rarely failed me.  However, my golf coach as well as 99% of those online insist that using your carry distance is MUCH better.  I just got new irons, so trying to figure out my carry distances at the moment.  However, it seems like a lot more work to calculate which club is needed based off carry distances.  Am I doing it wrong?

 

I want to list a few example scenario's and how I used to calculate which iron vs how I "think" it should be done.  First off, let me list iron distances we can use in the calculations...

4i-195

5i-185

6i-175

7i-165

8i-155

9i-145

PW-135

GW-125

 

Scenario #1 - middle of fairway, 180y to flag in middle of the green, bunker in front of green, no wind.

Total:  Initial calculations...no change to stock yardages.  180y falls in between my 5i & 6i, so ether shot will leave me with a 15' putt.  However, I want to make sure I fly the bunker, so I knock 5% off my 6i distance to give me an estimated carry of ~166y.  I now have to decide is 166y is enough to fly the bunker, mainly based on size of green.  If yes, then either club will do, but if no, then 5i only.

Carry:  Initial calculations...no change to stock yardages.  180y falls just short of my 6i carry of 175y.  However, I now have to factor in a 2nd calculation in how much roll can I expect.  Too much roll will take me off the green, very possible hard desert courses I normally play.  But if I hit my 7i, will the 165y carry be enough.  If yes, then it's back to how much expected roll out and which iron will be closer.

 

Scenario #2 - Par 3, island green(150y to carry water, 175y to end of island), 170y to back flag, 1/2 club down wind.

Total:  Initial calculations...1/2 club down wind, so approx -5y adjustment.  Since this plays 165y, I would hit my 7i.  Just need to make sure it can carry the water, so 5% off is ~157y, plenty to carry water, so obvious 7i.

Carry:  Initial calculations...1/2 club down wind, so approx -5y adjustment.  Since this plays 165y, i have to make a 2nd calculation on if I think my 7i will hold the green or not.  Since downwind might give it extra roll, better to hit an 8i, which still clears the water easily.

 

In both of these scenario's, either style would work.  However, the carry style requires additional calculations and knowledge of rollout per club.  So if the carry style really better?

 

I am not against the carry style as I do think it would be more precise, but it seems to requires additional knowledge(roll per club) and more complicated calculations.  As a weekend bogie ball player that just wants to have fun, not sure I want to take the time/effort for the carry style.  Yes, if I get better and approach a single digit handicap, I will of course switch, but that's not really in my game plan at the moment.

 

So, am I doing the carry style wrong or does it just require additional knowledge and calculations?  How would you do those scenario's?

 

And before an argument starts, no, I am not saying total distance is better as it's not.  But my total distance method of just taking 5% off for an estimated carry distance works well enough for a bogie ball player to where I am not sure it's worth switching.  More looking into how people use the carry distance method to determine which club to use and if I am doing it wrong.

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33 minutes ago, Gerr said:

And before an argument starts, no, I am not saying total distance is better as it's not.  But my total distance method of just taking 5% off for an estimated carry distance works well enough for a bogie ball player to where I am not sure it's worth switching.  More looking into how people use the carry distance method to determine which club to use and if I am doing it wrong.

 

Using carry distance is pretty simple.

 

Pick the club that will carry whatever obstacle/hazard you are trying to avoid. Depending on the club you know that some will have almost no roll (wedges/short irons) and others will release (mid-long irons) so modify your selection based on that.

 

For example. Middle flag that's 130 yards out. Assuming that's your PW distance you hit that since it should stop where it lands. If it's 180 yards out then you hit whatever club will carry onto the front of the green, say 6i or 5i, because you assume you're going to get some roll out.

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Figuring carry distances per club, in many cases, can be demoralizing to some people.  Most people take their furthest distance they hit a given club and assume that's the club yardage.  They'd be wrong too, but can't tell them that, as many are rather fragile about the subject.  Furthermore, strong lofted clubs, in many cases, adds spin and height which makes distances problematic.  Most people need more SS to make strong lofts work properly.

 

Anyway, my carry yardages were calculated years back, been pretty much the same, since.  As an old school golfer, in my head, each club has 3 approximate yardages, 8-12 short, standard carry, 8-12 long.  Course my joints have a say in the matter too... 😛  Also, my irons have more traditional lofts. 

 

IMO carry distance of each club is far more important than how far I can hit that given club.  If I want to swing a club as hard as I am capable of I smack the ball harder, which imparts more spin on the ball.  If I go after my 5i hard, it reaches near 180+yds.  What's reliable and straight is an average swing = 168yds+.  Knowing carry yardages also ties into good course management and conditions.

 

The other day I played a Par 3, 165yds, into a breeze.  Against my better judgment, decided to use 5i and hit it rather well.  The ball landing in the back, pin high, but bounced off the back of the green, 2-3', I was chipping down hill, ended up taking bogie.  This is where 6i struck really well would have been the better club, it wouldn't have went off the back of the green.

A few weeks back was on a Par 3 tee, slight left/right cross breeze, yardage to back pin was 178yrds, edge was 184yds.  My 4i =178-180yd club.  Full cover over the ravine to front apron was 168yds.  A medium 4i landed the ball in the middle plus run out, leave was 4' for birdie, made the putt, yippee.  If I had hit a hard 4i, ball would have flown the green.  The only time I want max distance from a given iron is when being long on the green is better, so the extra spin stops the ball, and when fairways are firm and running, so I use 2 iron or 3 iron to tee off.
 

 

 

 

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Carry distance is the only one you can rely on.  Rollout is highly dependent on ground conditions. 

Ground is soft = no rollout.  Ground hard = lots of rollout (depending on the loft)

Terrain being uphill or downhill in the landing area also affects rollout.

 It's not a one size fits all scenario.  Know your game and tendencies and know the conditions you find on the course. 

 

And then you have to judge how well you are striking it that day. 

"A man's got to know his limitations."  Clint Eastwood
 

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6 minutes ago, Socrates said:

Carry distance is the only one you can rely on.  Rollout is highly dependent on ground conditions. 

Ground is soft = no rollout.  Ground hard = lots of rollout (depending on the loft)

Terrain being uphill or downhill in the landing area also affects rollout.

 It's not a one size fits all scenario.  Know your game and tendencies and know the conditions you find on the course. 

And then you have to judge how well you are striking it that day. 

How would the same not apply to a total distance calculation?

Soft conditions means shorter total distance.  Firmer conditions means longer total distance.  Same for up vs down hill, lie condition, wind, etc.

It would seem that total is easier as I have to do a single, overall calculation based on multiple variables, where carry would require one calculation for flight and another for rollout.

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Again, you can only control one item - the carry.  The rest is a variable.  The more experience you have the better you are at judging the variables.  More often than not, you need to know the carry distance to a front edge or distance to cover a bunker or water.  Knowing your total distance does absolutely nothing for you in those cases.  Give me a number I have to carry it and knowing how far I hit a particular club is the basis of figuring out all the rest.
 

I can see your point of view, but that is one of the differences in the game between a low hcp player and a higher hcp player.  Same goes for a low hcp player and and a plus player.  The game is often viewed and processed differently. 

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1 hour ago, Gerr said:

So you only ballpark roll out based on club?  How is that any more precise than total distance and ballpark carry?

 

Yep. There are lots of variables when it comes to rollout.

 

- Is the landing area hard/soft?

- Are you landing into an upslope/downslope?

- Are you playing a high/spinny shot or a low/flighted shot?

 

Carry distance is more straightforward, other than accounting for wind/temperature/elevation of course. That's why golf is such a crazy game.

 

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@Gerr, @Socratees has a good point about good players.

 

For approach shots if you listen to PGA Tour player/caddy discussions the first distance they worry about is ALWAYS carry. Then they worry about total distance.

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4 hours ago, Gerr said:

For 30+ years, I  have used total distance to calculate which club to use.  If I needed to carry a certain yardage, I just took off 5% of my total distance(after distance modifiers) as my estimated carry distance.   This method rarely failed me.  However, my golf coach as well as 99% of those online insist that using your carry distance is MUCH better.  I just got new irons, so trying to figure out my carry distances at the moment.  However, it seems like a lot more work to calculate which club is needed based off carry distances.  Am I doing it wrong?

No. I've been judging which club to pull the same way for almost 50 years. I take the yardage I want to reach, account for wind, elevation, hazards I need to clear or hazards I need to stay short of, and the turf conditions (dry, wet, soft, hard). Based on said nearly 50 years of experience I go up or down with the club selection to account for those variables. One key to being able to do so without holding up play is to scope out the variables while walking up to the ball. Then I figure in the final variables, which are the lie and the turf.

 

I can see newbies who've only been playing ten or fifteen years not having yet developed the ability to do all these mental calculations on the fly without a second thought, but given time they can figure it out. 😏

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As wet as it gets here, you might get a bounce, but 5 feet is the most you are getting except a driver or fairway wood. Those might get you 5 yards of roll.

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Carry is always the first thing I figure, especially if there's something I have to CARRY. If the front of the green is open and a run-up shot is possible, then other options become available. In the OP's scenarios:

 

1. The play is the stock 6i which on his list will land 5y short of the pin and most likely release a bit for a reasonable putt at birdie.

 

2. It depends on the green. Soft is a 7i and firm is an 8i (and hope for some check-up).

 

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I think what's NOT considered here is the course fairway and area around the greens and the green itself - namely how SOFT or HARD it is.

 

Last Saturday on my course, the carry was spot on WITH an anticipation of at least a bounce or 2. NOPE. It was a foggy morning so all the greens were soft so my carry was a minimum distance, zero roll, literally drop & stop.

 

Now, I admit, I am not a low ball hitter but even my foursome who hits it low, got almost nothing.

 

So, all the math and carry is fine. But you need to factor in the course softness(humid, wet rain) or hardness(baking summer) to have a better "gauge"

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41 minutes ago, SwingBlues said:

I think what's NOT considered here is the course fairway and area around the greens and the green itself - namely how SOFT or HARD it is.

 

Last Saturday on my course, the carry was spot on WITH an anticipation of at least a bounce or 2. NOPE. It was a foggy morning so all the greens were soft so my carry was a minimum distance, zero roll, literally drop & stop.

 

Now, I admit, I am not a low ball hitter but even my foursome who hits it low, got almost nothing.

 

So, all the math and carry is fine. But you need to factor in the course softness(humid, wet rain) or hardness(baking summer) to have a better "gauge"

That’s exactly why carry is the first number you want. Because, sometimes the carry is the final number.   If you don’t know your carry, you are going to be chipping from in front of the green all day.   

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On 11/19/2021 at 1:23 PM, Socrates said:

Again, you can only control one item - the carry.  The rest is a variable. 

 

Definitely not true for everyone and not how I've played the game forever (Not at all saying my way is the "right way," by the way).

 

I have a "stop it fast" shot and a "chase it a bit" shot.

 

Examples would be:

 

1) 105 yards to a front-right pin with a firm green: Perfect "full" GW for me that flies 102 to 105. Hit it good and I stop it quickly and have an easy birdie putt.

 

2) 105 yards to a middle-left or back-left pin with a firm green: This is a 92 - 95-yard carry low-draw 56 for me with a 6 - 10 yard skip and then a left turn and a sit-down by the hole. I love this shot and has been a true weapon for me over the years. I would not hit that shot to a front-right pin with firms greens in a million years.

 

Bottom line: I can definitely control whether a ball comes in low and releases or comes in high and stops more quickly (assuming I'm healthy and can fully release).

 

Another benefit of playing golf that way: Much more creative and fun -- for me. 🙂

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2 hours ago, Socrates said:

That’s exactly why carry is the first number you want. Because, sometimes the carry is the final number.   If you don’t know your carry, you are going to be chipping from in front of the green all day.   

 

Definitely true. 🙂

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This is the second thread started by this same returning MID-handicapper.

 

He asks for advice and then argues his way is better.

 

OP, if you take your TOTAL distance you are averaging all your strikes, more than half of which are mishits so you don't know how far you actually CARRY the ball.

 

CARRY is the more important number. From CARRY, for a GOOD strike, you can then use ground surface, etc., to calculate rollout, if any.

 

Has anyone ever seen a tour player and his caddie discussing "Well, you hit your 7 iron 210 total so since the green is soft let's subtract 5%" ? No, they pick a landing spot and figure it out from there.

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1 hour ago, Obee said:

 

Definitely not true for everyone and not how I've played the game forever (Not at all saying my way is the "right way," by the way).

 

I have a "stop it fast" shot and a "chase it a bit" shot.

 

Examples would be:

 

1) 105 yards to a front-right pin with a firm green: Perfect "full" GW for me that flies 102 to 105. Hit it good and I stop it quickly and have an easy birdie putt.

 

2) 105 yards to a middle-left or back-left pin with a firm green: This is a 92 - 95-yard carry low-draw 56 for me with a 6 - 10 yard skip and then a left turn and a sit-down by the hole. I love this shot and has been a true weapon for me over the years. I would not hit that shot to a front-right pin with firms greens in a million years.

 

Bottom line: I can definitely control whether a ball comes in low and releases or comes in high and stops more quickly (assuming I'm healthy and can fully release).

 

Another benefit of playing golf that way: Much more creative and fun -- for me. 🙂

Actually, you are just affirming what I said.  In both your instances, you know how far you going to carry it.  One you know will stop and one you know will release and your experience tells you how much it will release.  No way you play the second shot without knowing your carry for that shot.

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6 minutes ago, nsxguy said:

This is the second thread started by this same returning MID-handicapper.

 

He asks for advice and then argues his way is better.

 

OP, if you take your TOTAL distance you are averaging all your strikes, more than half of which are mishits so you don't know how far you actually CARRY the ball.

 

CARRY is the more important number. From CARRY, for a GOOD strike, you can then use ground surface, etc., to calculate rollout, if any.

 

Has anyone ever seen a tour player and his caddie discussing "Well, you hit your 7 iron 210 total so since the green is soft let's subtract 5%" ? No, they pick a landing spot and figure it out from there.

Actually, when he didn't get the response he wanted, he tried a different tact.

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I start with total distance first. I don't know how you don't start with the number the range finder/ sprinkler head/course marker gives you.  Then I decide how much I want to cheat away from hazards or to the fat part of the green.  I then think about where it will land and rollout based on course conditions.  

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8 hours ago, EddieEdwards said:

I start with total distance first. I don't know how you don't start with the number the range finder/ sprinkler head/course marker gives you.  Then I decide how much I want to cheat away from hazards or to the fat part of the green.  I then think about where it will land and rollout based on course conditions.  

That's a very confusing statement.  You seem to contradict yourself.

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1 hour ago, Socrates said:

That's a very confusing statement.  You seem to contradict yourself.

 

I get what he's saying, because I do it that way myself. The first number I always get is the flag number. Then I dig into my tool belt and determine how I'm going to get the ball to arrive at the final target -- which may or may not be that final number.

 

I may laser the pin at 153 to a back-right pin with water right, but my final target is 147, four paces left of the pin, with the ball landing at 140. But I do always factor in the final number to the pin first and then everything flows from there.

 

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On 11/22/2021 at 7:53 PM, nsxguy said:

This is the second thread started by this same returning MID-handicapper.

 

He asks for advice and then argues his way is better.

 

OP, if you take your TOTAL distance you are averaging all your strikes, more than half of which are mishits so you don't know how far you actually CARRY the ball.

 

CARRY is the more important number. From CARRY, for a GOOD strike, you can then use ground surface, etc., to calculate rollout, if any.

 

Has anyone ever seen a tour player and his caddie discussing "Well, you hit your 7 iron 210 total so since the green is soft let's subtract 5%" ? No, they pick a landing spot and figure it out from there.

My 1st post was about gapping, but turned into a carry vs total, so wanted to start a proper carry vs total and tried to get the original post back on topic.

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It's common sense to me to know your carry numbers when hitting approach shots, particularly with trouble in front. It also pays to know how your ball reacts based on the club you're hitting and general conditions. But it hasn't been until the past few years that I've more carefully monitored and understood my carry numbers with driver and three wood.

 

I had to learn my carry number with the driver when I could no longer carry a bunker on one hole on my course. Dogleg left with a bunker on the inner elbow. As a younger and stronger player, I used it as an aiming point and cut off a nice chunk of the hole. A few years ago, the ball started landing in the bunker. Now I hit my hybrid on that hole more often than not.

 

That hole continues to be a measuring stick for driver carry because now, when I do hit driver there and miss left, it bounces in the bunker rather than lands in it!

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When I was a lot younger and a little better, I'd sometimes play casual rounds without referring to yardages at all.  For approach shots I'd first get a feel for the distance and have a club in mind, adjusting for the wind, elevation and terrain.  For example, if an uphill slightly into the wind shot looked to be covered with an 8 iron, I'd visualize the flight trajectory I wanted and make mental adjustments up or down with the 8.  If in my mind I couldn't make that shot, I'd pick the club that could.  Played off 3 then.  I think that practice made me a better iron player as I learned to be more creative, especially taking something off the shot.

Edited by Short Bucket
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So how much does player skill factor into the equation about what method to use? It's been mentioned that pros start with carry distance but pros also have an extremely good idea of where the ball is going most of the time. They are very consistent and their margin of error is much smaller. So it makes sense to me that they would do so.

 

As a high cap I use my total distance. Arrcos does whatever it does to weed out the real good and real bad shots for me. I have a bunch of variability in my shots though and I don't know how much good carry distance would help me if I knew it. I use total distance and a heavy dose of caution because the spread of where my ball might land is too large.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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17 minutes ago, bortass said:

So how much does player skill factor into the equation about what method to use?

Interesting question. I would think that the least amount of thought needed to hit the shot is beneficial for the less skilled. Knowing your PW carry and adding 12 yards for every club is probably enough for most people. Then club selection really is way easier than the long descriptions people are writing here.

 

150 yards to the pin soft green, obvious club.

150 yards to the pin, hard green, front bunker, 130 front. Obvious club.

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