Mental Mondays: Know Your Carry and Roll


The Five Inch CourseRelated to two previous entries about knowing your distances and knowing your tendencies is the notion of knowing the difference between your carry and roll.  Carry is of course the distance your ball travels through the air, while roll is the forward progress it makes once it has landed. Having a good idea about your carry and roll can save you critical strokes when facing a hazard, rough or waste area.

Suppose that you are standing on a tee, needing a 200 yard carry to negotiate a large swamp (a typical shot here in Southeastern Michigan). The reflect response is to pull out the driver and have a go. But that may not be wise. If you hit your driver 240 yards, of which 200 is carry and 40 roll, you’re likely to catch the edge of the hazard—and may even bounce back in. A ball struck off the driver will come in low those last several yards, perhaps even bringing the tops of cattails into play.

For this task, you might want to consider a higher-lofted club—one with less overall distance, but more carry. In my case, a five wood that goes 210, of which virtually all is carry, is the better choice. The overall distance is much less, but there’s no chance of catching the tops of the cattails or the swamp bank, and losing strokes.

It also helps to know your carry and roll when making an approach shot over a trap or similar greenside hazard. In those instances, you need to ensure not only that you’ve got the correct distance, but also the correct carry. Roll doesn’t do any good when your ball is stymied by a steep walled trap.

Figuring your carry and roll is a bit more difficult than figuring your overall distance.  The best advice is to take a good look at the ball in flight and try to get a fix on the landing spot. Then, when measuring the overall distance, use that as an intermediate point. After collecting this data, record the final results on the same notecard that you’re using to record overall distances and shot shapes.

Finally, there’s the usual bit of warning: none of these tips will do any good at all if you don’t put them into play.

About This Series:

In 1960, the average golf score was 100. Forty years later, in spite of all the innovations in clubs, balls and instruction, the average golf score is … still 100. In fact, only 20 percent of all golfers will ever break that mark.

Here’s the problem: Even with all the improvements, the one thing we haven’t been able to improve is the golf intelligence of the players. Most hackers—and more than a few better players—just play dumb golf. So here’s part one of a series on playing smarter golf. I’ve been collecting mental game golf tips for years in a series of notebooks, on my palm pilot and in various computer files. They’ve helped my game. I know they’ll help yours

This tip is an excerpt from The Five Inch Course: Thinking Your Way To Better Golf. The complete book is available in Kindle format at


2 thoughts on “Mental Mondays: Know Your Carry and Roll”

  1. Great post!  I know the one thing I need to improve on is knowing my club distances and certainly how much of it is carry.  Great tip and reminder to help me get back into it.

  2. Great post for this time of year.  It is always interesting to me to watch this during the Open.  An announcer will say “‘golfer’ has 240 to the flag.  He can’t decide between a 7 or an 8.”  We are all amazed at how far said golfer hit his ball, but what really happens is that the golfer has his his 8 iron 160 (still impressive) onto a down slope and watched the ball run onto the green from there.  It is really impressive to watch them play the roll during the Open!


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