This Tour pro is ripping driver when others aren’t. Here’s why it’s working

Joel Dahmen hit driver 13 times Thursday at Harbour Town.

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Hilton Head, S.C. — Joel Dahmen knows he’s not going to win a long-drive contest with Jon Rahm or Scottie Scheffler, but this week, he doesn’t think he needs to.

After opening the RBC Heritage Thursday with a five-under 66, his best round since early February and best opening round since October, Dahmen said he feels like he’s got an advantage at Harbour Town owing to the fact he’s well below average on Tour (159th) in driving distance (290.7 yards).

“Out here, a lot of guys I played with were hitting 3-woods or 2-irons off the tee, and I hit my driver anyway,” he said. “So they’re having 8-irons in, which are scoring clubs, and I’m having gap wedges and sand wedges in. If I can keep that up and drive it that way, I think I can hang around.”

Historically, Pete Dye’s exacting design at Harbour Town has favored shorter hitters and forced driver out of most players’ hands. In the last six years, the course has seen average distance on all drives rank in the bottom six of PGA Tour venues.

While hitting driver 13 times, Dahmen averaged more than 293 yards off the tee in the opening round, good for sixth in the field when play was suspended shortly before 3 p.m. local time due to thunderstorms.

While players longer than Dahmen were gearing back, the 35-year-old believed he hit it just short enough to stay out of trouble.

“I also have this very low driver shot that only flies like 250 so it can’t get in that much trouble,” Dahmen said after his round. “It never goes that far off line, but it still runs out there to 300. A lot of the trouble is, if you’re flying a driver 300 or 300-plus, those trees kind of go into play where I can just kind of run them out there. It’s hard to get it off line when you’re hitting that low as well. So I just kind of stuck to that today.”

Current Master's champion, Jon Rahm of Spain, takes the time to chat and pose with Jimmy Williams from Make-A-Wish after his press conference and prior to RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on April 12, 2023 in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
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There was one hole when Dahmen didn’t stick to the strategy. On the narrow, 585-yard par-5 15th, Dahmen said he got “greedy” and went for a little extra. The result was messy, a block into the right trees that keep rolling farther off line on the compacted sand. He knew it was a mistake right away.

“That’s just not my game,” Dahmen said.

Lucky for him, though, the ball had chased so far through the sand, he actually had an opening through the trees to get up near the green, which is guarded by trees and a pond to the left of the fairway. He was in a spot where he said laying up would have actually been more difficult because he would be bringing more of the pond into play.

Dahmen’s recovery landed 20 yards from the pin, and he nearly made birdie.

While it worked out in the end, it’s safe to say Dahmen probably won’t be thinking about going for the green Friday.

“Length is not my game,” he said. “If you want to get in a bombing contest, I’m not going to beat you.”

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at