What Is the 'Cover Number' in Golf?

Do you know what your "cover number" is? If you're a golfer, you should. Because "cover number" is one term golfers use for the specific yardage, or general yardage range, needed to play a shot over a hazard or onto the green.

The term cover number is an offshoot of the phrase "yards to cover," and both those terms are, in a sense, alternate terms for "carry." In golf, carry refers either to the distance a golf shot travels in the air, or to the yards that a shot needs to travel in the air to clear an obstacle or reach a specific target.

If you need to hit a shot 155 yards to get over a creek, then your cover number is 155. If your drive needs to fly 240 yards to get over a series of bunkers, then your cover number is 240.

The September-October 2022 issue of Golf magazine explained the tour golfers employ a more specific meaning for "cover number": Among tour players, cover number is used to mean the yards needed to reach the front of the green.

The magazine explained: "Pros pay special attention to their cover numbers, not just because it lets them know the minimum distance required to hit the green. When paired with the distance to the back edge (of the green), it illustrates how big the zone they are aiming for is."

Most recreational golfers aren't good enough to play to a specific number like 155 or 240. But the fact that such a number represents the minimum required carry, as noted in that Golf excerpt, is important. Leaving approach shots short — both because of a fear of hitting over the green and because overestimating how far we hit the ball is common — is a very common miss for recreational golfers. So figuring out that required minimum yardage, your cover number, is the first step in getting it there.

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