This is the golf equivalent of asking, “Does size matter?” Of course it matters. Well, somewhat.
If you can only hit a golf ball 200 yards with your driver, a 440 yard, par 4 is usually not going to end favorably for you. The same can be said if you’re long and sloppy. Hitting the ball 320 yards is great, and it’s fun to brag to people that you can bash a golf ball into fucking orbit, but none of that terrific distance matters if you’re jacking balls out of play on every other hole. [As someone who spent a good three years jacking balls out of bounds on every other hole, take my word for it, IT BLOWS. In related news: never move to New York City, gang. This city will singlehandedly try to destroy your golf game.]
Recently, Golf.com wanted to see what mattered most to professionals. If we were talking about amateurs and we removed extremes from the equation (also assuming short game ability is equal), I’d go out on a limb and say the guy who hits it 300 and plays from the rough is going to score better than one who hits it 250 and plays from the fairway. Being able to use a wedge for your approach shot on every hole is a distinct advantage, unless you’re playing from U.S. Open-type rough.
Below are two charts of how professionals faired during the 2014 PGA Tour season and how driving distance and accuracy played into those results. I think the verdict is: Rory McIlory is just better than everyone.
That’s not it.
When I look at these charts, I don’t see a definitive answer, except that if you’re a professional and you can’t hit the ball over 275 yards, it might be time to ask the Golf Channel for a analyst gig. Aside from that, you have players who bomb their way to top 10s but you also have guys like Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar who have figured out a way to make the motion of the ocean work, too.