Shot dispersion in golf is one of the least discussed parts of the game but something you need to understand. Because when you do understand this concept, it can lead to lower scores, fast!
Here’s a good example…
Did you know that when Jason Day was the number one player in the world he had a 74-wide shot dispersion with his driver? That’s right, the best golfer on the planet and he missed shots left and right with a 70+ yard wide range.
Why does it matter?
Because when you understand your misses you can aim better and develop a better golf strategy… which should lead to less trouble shots and more scoring opportunities. Keep reading to learn more about different shot patterns and how to together your dispersion to hopefully shoot lower scores.
Shot Dispersion 101
So, what is shot dispersion in golf?
Think of each golf shot like a shotgun pattern.
There’s a range of shots that can occur with every shot you hit. Some shots are dead straight, some right, and some left – the problem is we don’t know which one is going to happen with every swing. That’s the beauty of golf.
For example, you might hit a perfect tee shot dead straight on the first hole. On the next hole you might also push your tee shot but draw it back to the fairway. On another hole you hit a pull draw that starts left and goes left.
Unfortunately, we don’t know what the ball will do when it comes off the face after impact.
It’s an educated guessing game at best. Higher handicappers and beginner golfers have a much larger shot dispersion than experienced golfers. But there are a lot of factors when it comes to what impacts your spread which we’ll cover today.
- Shot dispersion is an important metric in your game that can help you pick better targets.
- Golfers have a wider shot dispersion with longer clubs than with shorter clubs. For example, your driver produces a wider range of misses than a mid-iron.
- When you tighten shot dispersion you can shoot lower scores by having less short sided shots. And hopefully easier birdie putts too.
Keep reading to learn more about shot dispersion in golf to start lowering your handicap fast.
What Contributes to Shot Dispersion
As noted in Golf Digest, your misses are bigger than you think. Lou Stagner, a golf stat pro from Arccos Golf measured a 3, 5, and 7 handicap over five days using a Foresight GCQuad launch monitor.
The results were astounding,
“After discounting the occasional off-the-planet outlier drive, that these golfers had a side-to-size dispersion of 70 yards. Meaning that their shots routinely missed up to 35 yards on either side of their intended target.”
Needless to say, shot dispersion for any golf shot changes for a number of reasons. Let’s get into what are the main contributing factors for each shot.
One of the first factors that impacts shot dispersion is your experience level. New golfers who are just understanding the basics of the golf swing (like grip, stance, posture, etc.) have a much wider shot dispersion.
Even though they don’t hit the ball with the same swing speed as lower handicap golfers, the face and path have more issues. This impacts the ball flight laws of golf and can lead to some big misses off the tee and from the fairway.
More advanced golfers have a more consistent swing and tend to hit straighter shots. But they also swing faster which can impact where the ball goes as well. Case in point, the Jason Day example referenced earlier.
While newer golfers might spray it more on the golf course, more advanced golfers can miss big too. Because better golfers swing the club faster and if the club is open/closed with the wrong swing path, it can lead to some big misses.
This isn’t a big deal with professional golf as they have a gallery of people and spotters. But for everyday scratch golfers who swing 105+ mph with a driver, this can lead to some lost balls and difficult spots on the course.
The faster you swing the golf club, the wider your shot dispersion.
Golf Club Used
The golf club itself also plays a big role in shot dispersion.
For example, PGA Tour golfers swing their driver 110 mph or more. But they only swing their pitching wedge on average at 83 mph according to Trackman Golf. This is why they have much bigger misses with a driver vs. an iron wedge.
The shorter the club, the smaller the shot dispersion (in general). This is because there is more loft, shorter shafts, and the club isn’t swung as hard as fairway woods or drivers.
Finally, there are some factors that are out of your control including wind and weather. Not to mention thick rough and hilly course conditions can also lead to larger shot dispersion patterns.
How to Improve Shot Dispersion
As you can tell, improving your shot dispersion is key to shooting lower scores. Here are the best strategies to improve it so you can set yourself up for success.
Aim for Misses
Most everyday golfers aim assuming they’re going to hit it perfectly. But as you know, golf is a game of misses which are far more frequent than perfect shots.
Instead, you should change your aim to account for a less than perfect swing. As noted in the same Golf Digest article, “You should be aiming not just so your good shots end up ok, but that you’re average ones and bad ones do, too. Remember, you could miss your ball 35 yards right or left, so you’ll need to account for it.”
Shot dispersion is a mix of a clubhead speed, swing path, loft, and face angle at impact. To hit it straighter (or even hit a straight shot in golf) you need to dial in the fundamentals. Otherwise, you will continue to have big misses that result in a wider dispersion.
To work on your technique, we suggest creating a regular practice routine, hiring a coach, and/or using training aids.
Play the Right Clubheads
Using the right equipment is half the battle when it comes to playing golf at a high level. Your club heads must match your skill level and swing speed.
For example, higher handicappers need larger, more forgiving clubs. These include anti-slice drivers and forgiving cavity back irons. These clubs are much more forgiving and don’t penalize mishits like a set of blade irons or smaller woods.
Use the Right Shafts
While the clubhead itself is important, a lot of club fitters argue that the shaft is nearly as important. This is why we recommend getting a custom club fitting appointment so you can test out different shaft flexes and weights to see what suits your swing the best.
Steel shafts tend to have a tighter shot dispersion as they’re usually heavier. But they can also limit distance and aren’t ideal for newer golfers or those who don’t have enough swing speed.
When comparing steel to graphite shafts, graphite tend to lead to a larger dispersion as they are lighter. This makes them easier to swing faster but as mentioned earlier, more speed can create a bigger miss too.
Finally, the flex of the shaft can play a big role in your shot patterns too. Clubs with more flex tend to go straighter as they are less “whippy” and the face gets square at impact. While lighter flexes can lead to bigger misses at higher swings.
This is why scratch golfers and professionals tend to play extra-stiff shafts (or even TX which is Tour extra-stiff). Faster club head speeds need less flex to optimize spin rates and minimize big misses that can happen at higher speeds.
Play One Shot Shape
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my golf journey is the need to focus on one shot shape. Too many golfers try to hit a draw, then a cut, then a straight shot. Sure, it’s fun to shape shots in both directions but it’s not the most consistent strategy.
This is a concept I learned from Decade Golf (more on that below). Playing one shot shape minimizes your shot pattern because you won’t have the two-way miss as often.
For example, let’s say a fade is your natural shot shape. But on a certain hole you decide to hit a draw… sometimes it works out perfectly. Other times it goes straight and sometimes you have a push cut – which is similar to your natural shot.
A two-way miss is one of the biggest factors to a wider shot pattern. You’re much more likely to have a smaller shot distribution pattern by playing one shot shape most of the time.
Commit to Block Practice
To get better, you need to upgrade your practice routine. To get more consistent with one shot shape, spend more time at the driving range doing block practice. This is a type of practice where you hit the same club and the same shot over and over again. While it’s not a great representation of golf on the course, it grooves your swing for the same repeatable motion.
Create a Pre-Shot Routine
The final tip to improve your shot dispersion is to create a consistent pre-shot routine. It’s one of the few things that all elite amateurs and professionals have in common.
Because a pre-shot routine will help you pick a target and commit to a specific shot. Not to mention it acts as a trigger for the shot. As Dave Pelz said, “A good pre-shot ritual gives your subconscious a countdown which lets every part of your body know when things are going to happen.”
Too many everyday golfers skip a routine, never commit to a target, and never get aligned properly. This leads to big misses and a much wider range of shots.
To play your best golf, shrink your shot pattern, and overcome nerves you need a set of rituals before the shot. Create one in practice and work on it regularly so it becomes automatic on the golf course.
Do you have more questions about understanding shot dispersion in golf? If so, keep reading to learn the most frequently asked questions and answers now.
What does shot dispersion mean?
Shot dispersion refers to how wide of a pattern you have with different clubs in your golf game. The wider or bigger shot dispersion means you have bigger misses which can happen for a variety of reasons.
What does tight dispersion mean in golf?
A tight dispersion means you have better accuracy and a smaller shot distribution pattern. A smaller or tighter dispersion happens with shorter clubs and more advanced golfers. This makes it easier to pick targets, hit more greens, and more fairways.
How can I improve my golf dispersion?
Use the tips above – with an emphasis on using the right equipment. Having the wrong shaft/club head combo can lead to some big misses and make scoring nearly impossible. Don’t make this challenging game even harder by using clubs that aren’t right for your swing.
I first learned about shot dispersion after enrolling in Decade Golf. This is a game management system used by top professional and amateur golfers.
Here’s how they describe it on their website:
“The DECADE Course Management System, created by Scott Fawcett, has solved golf strategy by combining shot distribution patterns and PGA Tour scoring statistics. When Scott combined those two data sets he created a simple way to optimize target selection. Good players know if a pin is closely guarded by a lake to favor the center of the green – but how much?
DECADE quickly generates the optimal target that will produce the lowest score based on distance, hazards, and hole location.”
This system can help you learn a “decade” of knowledge in a few hours to immediately improve your game by making better decisions. Once I went through this system, understood shot patterns, and applied it to my game, my scores dropped dramatically – without swing changes.
While I highly recommend trying out Decade, even if you don’t enroll, think about shot distribution on the course. Try to aim for fewer tucked pins with irons and favor the middle of the green – especially with mid to long irons. Paired with the tips above, you’ll have less big misses and hopefully, lower scores.
The game of golf is becoming more of a math equation thanks to advanced shot tracking from Decade, Arccos Golf Smart Sensors, and launch monitors. When you start to study this data and apply it to your game, it can have a massive impact on your total scores.
Make sure to factor in shot dispersion patterns when you’re on the course for better aiming and strategies. Paired with the tips above, you should be able to improve dispersion and hopefully, lower your handicap in the process.