One of the biggest misconceptions in amateur golf is that a golf ball can fly through a tree untouched at a ridiculously high rate. We’ve all heard one of our buddies — if they were smart, it would be one who isn’t on your team that day — “trees are 90% air, go for it.”
The myth that trees are 90% air has long resonated on courses around the world, but the proof is in the data. Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” and more recently, GolfDigest.com’s Mike Johnson and Joell Beall set out to test the age-old theory and came back with some interesting results.
Here’s how Johnson and Beall went about testing.
We picked out six different species of trees (sugar maple, red cedar, spruce, oak, red maple and white pine) at Rock Ridge CC in Newtown, CT. This provided a variety of dense and sparse combinations of timber, leaves or needles. We picked a spot where a reasonable shot would be played that would have to go through the tree to reach the green. We lasered the yardage and then had our human robot, Joel Beall (a scratch golfer), hit 10 balls with only one mandate — the ball had to go through the tree and he was to try and hit the spot he felt was best to get it to the green. In other words, just as if he were playing golf. After the balls were struck, we lasered from the ball to the flagstick. Luckily, only one ball nearly hit us on the rebound.
After all the shots were recorded we broke out the good ol’ Excel spreadsheet and went to work. Here’s what we found. The overall average of the shots went only 41.54 percent of the distance to the flagstick. The median was almost identical at 40.81 percent.
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) June 8, 2017
Not every encouraging. Here’s what Mythbusters found a few years back.
MythBuster Tory Belleci teed off into the trees at Pebble Beach’s famous golf course to find out whether the tip is really a hole-in-one.
Tory went on a golf ball hitting spree alongside the MythBusters’ compressed air golf-ball launcher to see how many balls each could get past a tree that was in their way on the course. If the saying was solid, Tory and the golf ball gun could’ve each lobbed 90 out of 100 balls through the foliage for a 90 percent success rate. Tory bested the machine, landing 27 balls on the other side, compared to the golf ball launcher’s 24.
But in this battle, the myth was the real loser. By MythBusters calculations, the golf saying should be revised to state that trees are only around 25 percent air, and golf players should revise their approach: When you encounter a tree on the links, it’s probably a better bet to go around.
Whichever way you slice it, the odds of you hitting the ball through a tree are less than two in five, and if you do happen to get the ball through to the other side, GolfDigest.com suggests it travels roughly half of the intended distance.
Sorry to disappoint, but it might be time to start working on your punch and recovery shots.
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