Golf Statistics – Driving on Professional Tours


For amateurs, one of the most impressive parts of the professional game is the distance they can hit their driver.

Over the past 30 years, driving distances have increased across the board in the professional ranks due to a combination of equipment, agronomy and fitness.

Previous studies have shown that driving distance doesn’t necessarily lead to success, however. The results from the 2021 season seem to bear this out.

Note: I’ve updated this with statistics from the 22-23 season.

Statistics - Driving

Driving Distance 2021

Here you can see a list of the top 10 drivers from six major professional tours for the season-ending in 2021. At first glance, the Champions Tour seems to have the greatest correlation between being a long driver and finishing near the top of the money list. Although if we take the average finishing position (mean) then the Asian Tour is quite close to the Champions Tour.

From a statistical standpoint, this is admittedly a small population but this has already been shown by people with much better statistical skills than I have.

If we sort this in order of driving distance then we see some patterns emerging.

The fact that the ladies and seniors take up the bottom 20 positions is unlikely to be a surprise to experienced golfers but what might be is the fact that the Korn Ferry Tour seems to be home to a new generation of big hitters.

But again this is probably not that much of a surprise given how much work is now put into maximizing a player’s potential in terms of fitness, biomechanics and club fitting.

Long Driving Championships

Bryson Dechambeau’s recent foray into the long-driving competition has probably increased their exposure somewhat but it also highlighted the difference between a tour pro who needs to have a rounded game and someone who is concentrating solely on smashing the ball as far as possible. Even Bryson couldn’t compete with the big hitters who managed 422 yards and 418 yards in the final!

Bomb and Gouge

Traditionally golf had been a game of accuracy as much as brute strength but over the last 20 years or so the thinking changed somewhat in the professional ranks. The idea was to smash the ball as far as possible leaving such a short shot to the green that it didn’t matter whether or not you are in the rough. At the majority of professional events, this can be a good strategy as there may not be that much deep rough. Given the fact that many holes will be lined with spectators or grandstands then it’s quite possible that even a very crooked shot could still find a reasonable lie.

Diving Distance Increases

Looking at data from the PGA Tour you can see how much further the pros now hit it.

The average for the whole tour is now almost 25 yards further than the longest hitter back in 1980!

Dan Pohl managed an average of 274.3 yards compared with the whole PGA Tour now averaging 296.2. Now back in 1980 most pros were likely to be using persimmon drivers with steel shafts. A large percentage would have been using a 3 piece wound balata ball as well. Dan’s figures for 1980 would have put him in 196th place on the 2021 list! To be honest I would love to hit it 274 yards though!

During the 90s the move to metal-headed drivers and graphite shafts saw an increase for both the leader and the tour as a whole. It was the new millennium where the greatest leap took place though with the introduction of the Pro V1.

With the increasing use of ball-tracking technology maximizing distance is now much better understood. Combined with better fitness and agronomy standards it’s not all that surprising that distances have increased so much.

Driving Accuracy

Looking at the PGA Tour Data from 1980-2021 it does show a significant drop-off in accuracy off the tee from the early 2000s. During the 1980s and 90s there was a definite upward trend peaking at an average of 69% of fairways hit in 1999. Over the following two decades there’s a been a sharp drop. In fact, since 2011 all but one year has been worse than the lowest average between 1980 and 2010. To me, this clearly shows the lack of interest in hitting fairways anymore.

If we look at the finishing positions of the top 10 in the driving accuracy statistics though maybe we can see why pros are favoring the bomb and gouge approach. 5 of the top 10 didn’t even make the top 100 on the money list and only 3 made the top 25.

NameFairways HitOOM Position
Brendon Todd75.2593
Chez Reavie74.11115
Brian Stuard73.3197
Ryan Armour72.79128
Abraham Ancer71.0510
Brice Garnett70.72133
Corey Conners70.1525
David Hearn69.96174
Satoshi Kodaira69.64147
Collin Morikawa69.64
Top 10 Fairways Hit PGA Tour 2021

Here are the figures for the 2022-23 season. This year there might be slightly more tie-up between driving accuracy and where you finished on the money list but not by much!

Player NameFairways HitOOM Position
Russell Henley71.74%23
Collin Morikawa69.55%24
Ryan Moore69.33%153
Aaron Rai69.11%71
Ryan Armour68.95%159
Brendon Todd67.85%46
Zac Blair67.39%67
Si Woo Kim67.33%30
Lucas Glover67.32%21
Tom Kim67.31%22
Top 10 Fairways Hit PGA Tour 2022-2023

In the table below we have the top 20 on the money list for the season 22-23. To this simple observer it would appear being long is more important than being straight and putting well is more important than either.

RankPlayer NameSeason WinningsWinsTop 10sTop 25sStartsDriving Accuracy PositionDriving Distance PositionPutting Average Position (Putts per GIR)Putting Average Overall
1Scottie Scheffler$21,014,3422162023532435103
2Jon Rahm$16,522,60841012201128635
3Viktor Hovland$14,112,23428172331421120
4Rory McIlroy$13,921,008212121815712733
5Wyndham Clark$10,757,489271328143102233
6Max Homa$10,506,36621116248355311
7Patrick Cantlay$10,372,99809152118351835
8Brian Harman$9,151,022171227121404723
9Keegan Bradley$8,897,3302592395553075
10Xander Schauffele$8,422,856010172210972635
11Tyrrell Hatton$8,336,91307122191461323
12Matt Fitzpatrick$8,144,543151023128594316
13Rickie Fowler$7,848,43618172593401032
14Jordan Spieth$7,240,044071022123704627
15Sam Burns$7,139,049151226128171914
16Jason Day$6,922,75818132460553816
17Kurt Kitayama$6,706,102146241675313494
18Tommy Fleetwood$6,510,6410812215677810
19Sungjae Im$6,487,421091730381094142
20Denny McCarthy$6,449,211071429721283322
Top 20 on Money List 2022-23

Conclusion: Golf Statistics – Driving

There’s a lot of truth in the old adage “Drive for show and putt for dough” but at the tour level, you really need to be good at all aspects of the game.

Here are some more fun golfing facts and figures.


PGA Tour Website

DP World Tour Website

Asian Tour Website

LPGA Tour Website

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