“The woods are full of long hitters/drivers” is a golf saying; golfers who can hit long often can’t hit straight and send the ball off the course and into the woods. The saying has usually been credited to golf coach Harvey Penick (1904-1995), but it’s also been credited to golfer Bob Goalby (born in 1929) in 1969 and golfer Jerry Barber (1916-1994) in 2012.
An Associated Press story popularized the saying in many newspapers in 1953:
“‘It isn’t the length, it’s keeping them straight,’ another guy commented. ‘These short hitters who keep the ball right down the middle, they’re the ones who give you fits. The woods are full of long hitters.’”
18 July 1953, Springfield (MA) Union, “The Sports Trail” by Whitney Martin (AP), pg. 23, col. 1:
“It isn’t the length, it’s keeping them straight,” another guy commented. “These short hitters who keep the ball right down the middle, they’re the ones who give you fits. The woods are full of long hitters.”
“You can say that again,” another observed sourly. He was a big, strong gent who could hit a ball six miles, and if there were any woods in sight, the ball would find them. He didn’t need a caddy; he needed a guide.
11 May 1969, San Diego (CA) Union, “Par-a-graphs” by Howard Hagen, pg. H14, col. 1:
It’s Bob Goalby’s line: “The woods are full of long hitters.”
July 02, 1990
The Nifty 50
Reasons to feel good about golf
4) “The woods are full of long hitters.”
B) Harvey Penick
The PGA Manual of Golf:
The Professional’s Way to Play Better Golf
By Gary Wiren
New York, NY: Macmillan Pub. Co.
“The woods are full of long hitters.” — Harvey Penick
New York (NY) Times
GOLF; Daly Made Long Drives, Against Long Odds
By JAIME DIAZ
Published: August 13, 1991
But while sheer power is a formidable sword, it is definitely a double-edged one. One of the oldest cliches in the game is that the woods are full of long hitters.
The woods are full of long drivers.
10:26 PM - May 25, 2011
1,001 Pearls of Golfers’ Wisdom:
Advice and Knowledge, from Tee to Green
By Jim Apfelbaum
New York, NY: Skyhorse Pub. Co., Inc.
The woods are full of long hitters. —Jerry Barber
March 13, 2013
A Lesson Learned: Hitting it longer off the tee
By Chan Freeman
Everyone loves the long ball. And without a doubt, those that hit it farther off the tee mean shorter (and presumably more accurate) approach shots. But it’s important to note, as famed instructor Harvey Penick once wrote, “the woods are full of long hitters.” So my first thought is, longer tee shots don’t automatically mean lower scores. I hope everyone understands that up front.