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February 2015

How much distance is lost with age?
Jaacob Bowden   (Senior Writer I)   |   January 5, 2015

There seems to be a steady progression of lost driving distance that comes with age, but I don’t recall ever seeing much actual information on the topic. My curiosity got the best of me, so one day I sat down and tried to figure it out.

I started by looking up the ages and driving distances of 440 players on the PGA Tour, Web.com Tour, Champions Tour, European Tour and European Senior Tour.

Here’s a breakdown of the averages I found in five-year increments, along with a calculation of their estimated average swing speeds based on the average Tour players driving distance efficiency being about 2.57 yard/mph.

If I break down the numbers in 10-year increments to decades, here’s what I found.

As expected, we see a decline in distance and club head speed over time. Below are a few points of interest.

  • Pros in their 20’s, and more specifically in their late 20’s, hit the longest drives and swing the fastest.
  • Pros on the main tours (i.e. non-senior tours) in their 30’s are around the tour average in both categories, meaning the guys in their 20s boost both averages and guys in their 40′s bring down the averages.
  • There’s a really sharp decline in speed and distance around age 50. I wonder if there is something psychological at play here. As soon as golfers turn 50 and start playing the “senior” tours, they could start thinking of themselves as older and it could manifest in their play. Who knows.

Since the lowest club head speed for a competitive player on a tour for a player under 50 years old is usually around 104 mph, it makes sense that we don’t see as many guys in their 50s or 60s being competitive on the main tours. But does it have to be like that?

Trackman research shows that when a golfer goes from a 15 handicap to a +5 handicap, there is a correlation of about 1:1 of club head speed to handicap. That means that for every 1 mph increase in clubhead speed, you’ll see about a 1-shot drop in handicap. I suppose that it’s not too far of a stretch to say that as tour players lose club head speed and distance, it becomes more difficult for them to shoot lower scores and be competitive at the highest levels.

Still, there is only about a 10 mph club head speed difference between the guys in the 60-to-69 age category and the main tour average of about 113 mph. In my work as a Swing Speed Trainer, I can definitely tell you it’s possible to add 10 mph of speed to swing through swing speed training. Furthermore, I believe that age is largely a state of mind and if you are willing to put in some work, a great deal of physical capability can be maintained and even increased well in to the latter parts of life. As the saying goes, “use it or lose it.”

The video below of Sam Bright, Jr. is a fine example. It stands to reason that if a senior tour player in his 50s or 60s is still motivated and interested in playing one of the main tours, he could certainly do so with Swing Speed Training.

Assuming the same regression happens at the amateur level, here’s what those numbers might look like for 14-to-15 handicappers who swing 93.4 mph and hit drives 214 yards when they’re 30-to-39. It could then be said that maintaining this handicap level could also become difficult with age.

To help combat potential distance and handicap loss with age, I refer you to another article I wrote called “Three ways to longer drives.” As George Bernard Shaw once said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.”

I say to you, get out there and play!

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