Are trees really 90% air?

In our ‘golf’s biggest questions answered’ series, we decided to put the myth to the test – are trees really 90% air?

Let’s face it, you probably know the answer. And we had a pretty good idea, too. But that didn’t stop us from finding six different types of trees at Burghley Park Golf Club in Lincolnshire and firing a bunch of golf balls into them!

We roped in our resident single-figure golfer, Michael Catling, to hit 10 balls at a time with two conditions – every shot must be struck from 30 yards behind the tree and go through it.

We then lasered the distance from the spot where the ball finished and calculated the percentage difference versus Michael’s average 7-iron yardage of 183 yards. This is where our GCSE in maths came in handy and confirmed (unsurprisingly) that trees are not 90 per cent air.

Only five of the 60 balls got within 10 yards of Michael’s ball-park figure – that’s a measly one in 12. Maybe bear that in mind next time you try to hit that ‘worldie’ in a medal competition and take the bail out instead. 

Tree: Oak


Furthest distance: 163 yards
Shortest distance: 40 yards
Total average distance: 86.6 Yards / 47.3%

Tall, imposing and not very kind. Only five shots travelled more than 100 yards, while one managed to leave a nasty imprint on our tester’s ankle.

Tree: Copper beech

Copper beech

Furthest distance: 164 yards
Shortest distance: 1 yard
Total average distance: 64.4 Yards / 35.2%

They may look lightweight, but so is Conor McGregor and you wouldn’t want to pick a fight with him. All but two shots were scattered around in every direction but straight, including two which went backwards.

Tree: Rowan/mountain ash


Furthest distance: 150 yards
Shortest distance: 18 yards
Total average distance: 67.8 Yards / 37%

The prettiest of the trees tested, but this delivered some of the ugliest results. Six shots dropped straight down once they made contact with the tree. On the plus side, it did make them easy to find!

Tree: Silver birch

Silver birch

Furthest distance: 170 yards
Shortest distance: 0 yards
Total average distance: 95.1 yards / 52%

Our tester is highly allergic to silver birch, so this was a chance to get his own back. Not that it panned out that way. Only one ball managed to find a clear route through. The rest took a pretty big beating.

Tree: Evergreen


Furthest distance: 155 yards
Shortest distance: 8 yards
Total average distance: 41.8 Yards / 22.8%

A bit like hitting a ball into a brick wall. More than half the shots bounced around like a ping pong ball before ricocheting backwards or sideways. Our advice? Steer clear!

Tree: Pine

pine tree

Furthest distance: 181 yards
Shortest distance: 75 yards
Total average distance: 137.2 yards / 74.9%

The flimsiest (and kindest) of the bunch. Most balls managed to muscle their way through, with six of them carrying 150 yards plus. If you find yourself behind one of these, don’t be scared to chance your luck.

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