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The Lengths That We Drive To

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Driver shaft lengths are way way too long – there I’ve said it. It’s a comment that is unlikely to win me many friends among the OEMs but over the last few years driver shafts have become so long that they have begun to work against the guy swinging the club. Despite all the technology the we now see in driver heads – and more recently in the shafts – the madness seems to have gotten so far that we have passed a tipping point and we’ve started to lose the benefits that all these technological breakthroughs brought us.

With all these amazing advances we’ve probably forgotten that even just a few year ago the driver was the hardest club in the bag to hit. For most golfers the driver was a low lofted nightmare of a club that rarely made an appearance on the course. Players like Greg Norman were rightly seen as gods for the fearless way they smashed the ball off the tee even down the tightest fairways.

It was the introduction of steel headed drivers by the likes of Gary Adams and Ely Callaway that suddenly made the driver not only longer but far more forgiving. Suddenly bringing out the Big Dog was a real option rather than a statement of machismo. When graphite shafts were added to the mix suddenly the driver become practically the safest club in the bag and certainly consistently the longest.

Before graphite shafts started to replace steel ones, the average length of a driver was 43.5 inches. With the new graphite shafts being lighter than steel the manufacturers took the chance to lengthen the shaft without increasing the swing-weight.

The very reason the driver is in the bag is that we want to hit the ball a long way. We are forever talking about getting that extra 20-30 yards from a new driver because that is what we are all looking for and the manufacturers know it. The driver lengths quickly moved from 43.5" to 45" and a quick glance at current lengths sees that they have grown to as high as 46.25". So what’s the reason behind this relentless increase in shaft length. Well it’s pretty simple and it’s all to to with two things: robotic club testing and the way we demo drivers.

Glancing at the adverts for the current crop of drivers, almost everyone emphasizes how far you can how them – ‘Maximize Distance’, ‘Optimize distance’, ‘Take it Deep’ are just some of the straplines you’ll find. Even with the recent emphasis on adjustibility, there is still an overwhelming emphasis on distance. The one thing above all else that a driver manufacturer wants to be able to say about their driver is that it is longer than their previous generation and longer than their current rivals. Ideally they want to be able to say that it is the longest driver going. They take a robotic swing device like ‘Iron Byron’ as a using a bunch of golfers (even good ones) would be far too inconsistent. With the hotness of the face limited by R&A and USGA restrictions, how else can the manufacturers increase distance with a robot swinging the club at the same speed apart from lengthen the shafts.

The other part of the problem is when we test drivers (that is if we ever do test them rather than being persuaded by the advertising!) we almost exclusively do it at the driving range. On a 300 yard wide driving range it’s almost impossible to care whether the ball goes in a straight line. It’s natural enough for everyone to focus on length. Who cares if half the balls we hit would have ended up OB if we were on the course we say, did you not see how far I was hitting this beast past my old thing! The longer and lighter shafts play to our desire to hit the ball longer rather than to play the game better as we sacrifice accuracy for distance. And when a driver with a shaft that is an extra inch longer hits the ball approximately 8 yards further, it isn’t hard to guess which one is going to be sold.

Unfortunately this means that the driver has become an unruly beast. We can now hit it further than at any time but we stand less chance of keeping it on the short stuff, despite all the MOI, head geometry, COG placement, multi-material construction and shaft design that requires a PhD to understand.

It doesn’t appear to be only me either as a number of golf professionals I’ve spoken to agree with me and have talked about the difficulty of selling drivers with 46" and longer shafts that they know are going to be almost uncontrollable for the average golfer. And it’s not like you have to have long driver to hit it a long way. The average driver length on Tour is about 44.5" to 45". Sergio Garcia and Camilo Villegas both use 44" drivers and given how much Anthony Kim grips down his 45" driver plays around 42.5" and none of them are exactly short hitters. Even the world number one has struggled with his fairways hit average since moving to a longer shafted driver even though he is still an artist with a 3 wood.

OEM’s have done an amazing job with new drivers. They are streets ahead of clubs from even just a few years ago and the shafts now available are light-years ahead of the old steel shafts, it’s just this triumph of marketing over usability helps no one. Unless you are hitting the ball less than 200 yards you really don’t need a 46" driver. Every golfer I know that has shortened their drivers down to 44" to 45" have seen their fairways hit stats up with no drop off in distance from more consistantly hitting the sweetspot. So if you have the opportunity, try a ‘cut down’ driver and see how you get on, you might make friends with your driver again.

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Robbie Camacho

    May 27, 2009 at 1:26 am

    I agree with the “shorter driver.” I am of course talking about the shaft length. My driver Length is 44.5, however, I grip down about a half-inch. I have increased both distance and accuracy.

  2. Simon C

    May 23, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    If you cut down your driver (eg. to 43.5″) you will be lowering your swingweight but also the MOI. In an MOI matched set the swingweight of the driver would commonly C5-C6. The idea is you swing the driver with the same effort you would swing your 7 iron. This is A) more controllable and B) INCREASES swingspeed.

    It depends on your approach, if you want to kill every shot you may want to stay with longer length/high SW but if you want to control your shots and hit fairways give it a try. I have recently done this on my 3 wood (lighter shaft and slightly lighter head) and believe me the difference is incredible. It also stiffens the shaft (frequency and torque) so do not do it if you already find the shaft stiff.

    I believe it is a good option for those who struggle to square the clubface because the lower MOI means your wrists and hands don’t have to work as hard. You will also find yourself less tired come the 15th hole.

  3. Rich B

    May 18, 2009 at 10:28 am

    My favoured fairway finder is 43″ but it’s called a 3 wood. If I’m hitting driver I need at 25 to 40 yards of extra distance otherwise there is no point taking the risk…hence why my V2 Rapture is staying at 45.75″ and I love it….

  4. Patrick

    May 17, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    I hope the technology in golf starts going backwards and we start seeing 460cc going back down to at least 300 cc, I know it would probably destroy the golf industry and not as many people would be playing because of the skill that would be required to hit it pure, but to me that is what golf is all about is hitting the ball pure and crisp with the most extreme focus. The secret has been laying out behind my house for years and just now realized what that secret is.

  5. David

    May 15, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    I agree with the article in therory that in days of old the driver was hard to hit. The typical steel shafted driver of old was 180 to 225cc’s and NOT very forgiving. My 45 inch driver (Titleist D2) is the most forgiving club in my bag. I find it easier to hit than my fairway wood and just about as accurate. With that said, I guess if you had a head with adjustable weighting you could cut the club down to 43.5 – 44.0 icnhes and use the the weight kit to bring the swingweight back up but to make the club feel right you would probably need to install a 75 to 85 gram shaft so that the club would have a balanced feel. I have an old Hogan driver that has been cut down to 43 inches and it is sooo light I can’t control it…

  6. Pat

    May 14, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Now remember if you do play a longer shaft it’s going to make you swing a little flatter so as long as the swingweight isn’t so light it causes you to go left on release. I have a TP R7 superquad 460 and installed a prolaunch red x stiff tipped .5 inch at 47 inches and have 2 four gram weight up front with the 2 one grams in the back and OMG it’s a beast. Also, the feel to me is alot better when the shaft is longer you get a better kick. I never did understand why someone would want to chop 3 inches off an expensive shaft to make it 44 inches. I honestly think the reason why most touring pros don’t hit 46 and higher length shafts is because they would be riducously long and most courses you don’t want that.

  7. Doogie

    May 13, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    and even though I’m a senior
    (55) I agree completely with Randall’s comment.
    If you’re serious have your shaft put in by someone who knows what they’re doing and have it done right and pay for the right shaft.
    The Ozik shaft that Adams puts in their A4 is NOT the one the pros
    would be playing believe me.

  8. Doogie

    May 13, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    oh and even though theses shafts like the Motore, Ozik Matrix, and Diamana Blue/Whiteboard are exceptional shafts they still should be Pured.

  9. Doogie

    May 13, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I am a 2 handicap and I love hitting a 46 inch driver
    It’s got to be the right shaft though and most likely you’re gonna
    pay a lot more than 80 bucs for it

  10. Randall

    May 13, 2009 at 8:17 am

    I couldn’t disagree more.

    I recently switched all three of my drivers to 48″ and my accuracy has improved by 4 or more fairways per 18. I previously played a 44″ 907D2 and it was absolutely erratic… The much higher swingweight of the longer club keeps everything in control and even at XX 48″ there is more ‘feel’ than a single X at 44″. I’ve also gained more than 15% avg. distance with a smoother swing to boot.

    Further, OEM shafts are pure garbage. They play softer than stated flex and torqe more than 4* with very low kick points… all in the effort to get Gramps off the tee in style and his money out of his pension/retirement account. The average ‘better’ player stands no chance of being properly fit with off the shelf product. Combine all that with longer length and you do have a nightmare. The cause, however, is not the added length… its because the OEM’s don’t think you are good enough to play your appropriate specs.

  11. tim glennon

    May 12, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    I’m 5’7″ 155 lbs. and I’ve been hitting a 47′.25″ driver for over 25 years. I’m typically a 7 handicap. I believe this is the easiest length driver for me to hit, as well as longest, because it requires tempo and focus. I can’t hit a std. driver to save my life.

  12. Jim

    May 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I play a Titleist 907D2 and had the shaft cut to 43.5″, I am only 5’7″. I actually gained about 10 yds because the sweet spot was getting met more often and the control was excellent. Give it a try all you have to do is swallow some pride.

  13. Mark Strain

    May 9, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    I just cut down my driver the other day 1 inch to 44 and i hit it so much better and even a little farther believe it or not. i am a 1 handicap college player and i hit it reasonably long as it is, but i was looking for a more accurate driver, and i think i found it with this small change.

  14. marco righetti

    May 9, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    i agree with pat, i’m 52 years old and i’ve been playing golf for 2 years now and am a 28 handicapper and i have fallen in love with longdriving!
    i love playing golf on the course but equally love going to the range and use the driver until i become tired!..i feel as if ive had a workout!
    i have a callalway 8 deg diablo neut driver on a ust v2 longdrive 50 inch LDA shaft and a cleveland hi-bore xl 9.5 deg on a 46 inch aldila dvs shaft…i agree that the 46 inch shaft driver is harder to use than a 44 inch shaft driver..but..once you get used to the 50 inch the 46 inch becomes easy and a 44 inch would be extremely easy to use..and..i can honestly say that if hit in the sweetspot a 50 inch driver will send the ball further than a 46 inch etc……
    so my main point is once a person gets older and they begin to loose ditance off the tee with the driver…… then…trying to get used to a longer shafted driver can help to get more distance back!

  15. Pat

    May 7, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I’ve been playing a 47 inch driver for the past 5 years and I hit it dead solid perfect everytime, the trick is to have the stiffest shaft possible at that length with the swingweight being just the right amount that it’s not to heavy and actually lose distance because of the weight. It takes lots and lots of practice and alot of hand eye coordination, but after you get to hitting it solid with that lenght and you try to go back to say a 44 inch driver it feels like a dang 5 wood.

  16. Mike M.

    May 7, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Great story, Richie A. I find it comical how some players feel as if others are “cheating” if they actually have clubs that fit their swings & game – as if we’re all somehow obligated to accept what the OEMs give us off the rack and ajust our swing to their rigid standards. Sounds to me like your friend had a difficult time coping with the fact that you were outdriving him by 20 – 30 yards with a club that’s 3″ shorter. I’m a really slow swinger (85 mph) & play with a 44″ driver, regular flex, 13.5 degrees of loft. Some have said to me “that’s not really even a driver – it’s a strong 3-wood with a big head.” Well, whatever – I’d rather play my second shot from the fairway after hittng a “strong 3-wood” than scramble out of the trees after hitting a wild shot with something that meets somebody else’s definition of the word “driver.”

  17. Scott

    May 6, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Where does the driver shaft length for the pros get posted? I have looked everywhere for it. I think it would be really enlightening to see.

  18. Richie A

    May 6, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    I played a scramble the other day with a guy who was using the exact same driver I was — G10 9* Draw, Stiff. I was hitting the ball 250-265 consistently, compared to his 230-235 (I’m bigger and I do swing harder). I was also in the fairway 70% of the time, and he was in the fairway two or three times. His index is 12; mine is 14. (he is a much better iron player than me).

    He mentioned our identical drivers at one point, and I handed mine to him. He set it next to his and was shocked that mine was a full 3″ shorter (mine is 43″, with about 10g of tape on the head). He was dumbfounded and rambled on about “too short…makes it too light…can’t hit far with this thing…ruined the club…it’s a 3 wood…” I just shrugged and hit another fairway so our scramble team could keep having shots at birdies. We used my drive 10 of 14 times. (we shot a 58 and I won a $100 gift card to Golfsmith!).

    If I could hit irons, I’d be dangerous. 😉

  19. Mike Crozier

    May 6, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Great article, I think the author could have included one more thing about testing now. The driving range is on the way out most new drivers are tested on SIMULATORS, in which everyone looks at the final distance as a benchmark of how good the driver is!

  20. Mike M.

    May 6, 2009 at 11:32 am

    This article is dead on. The top pros in the world won’t play with a 46″ driver because they want something they can control, yet Average Joe Weekend Golfer is supposed to able to hit fairways with these unwieldy things? Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think the OEMs are in bed with shaft manufacturers and clubmakers – they purposely make drivers longer than any player can hope to control so people will get them cut down or reshafted with shorter shafts to make them playable.

    I don’t agree with the statement that “unless you hit the ball less than 200 yards, you don’t really need a 46″ driver.” The opposite is true – If you’re hitting the ball less than 200 yards, then there’s no earthly way possible you have the skill to control a 46″ driver, and you’re worse off with one than anybody else. Maybe you hit the sweep spot 1 in 10 times and it goes 210-215 yards, and the other 90% or your shots are 180-yard wild things than end up in the trees. Or play with a 44″ driver and have 80% of your drives go 195-200 yards down the middle of the fairway. The second scenario is better for the weak hitter than the first. Players with slow swing speeds are the LAST people on earth who need to be messing around with a 46″ driver. Fact.

  21. Dom C.

    May 6, 2009 at 12:27 am

    This is a great article. Whenever I get a new driver, I immediately cut it down to 43.5″. It’s easier to drive the ball, it’s a lot more consistent. I’m no single digit handicapper, but a 14 instead. Not a long hitter, but not short either, consistently in the 265 yards range. With the “shorter” driver by today’s standards, I have not lost yardage that has hurt me, so I would rather have the consistency. I have persuaded my golfing partner to cut down to the same length with great results as well.

    In regards to machismo, I actually get more satisfactions letting the other 3 players know that I’ve been out-driving them all day with a 43.5″ driver.

  22. gabbo

    May 6, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Very true article. One additional point is longer shafted drivers often come with light heads to keep the swingweights reasonable. If someone wants to shorten the driver, they’ll either need to add weight to the head or get a heavier shaft to compensate.

    As a golfer who prefers a 44 or 44.5 inch driver, I rarely demo drivers anymore. The shafts are so long, the club doesn’t feel right…even when I choke down. And trying to figure out how it will play shorter is just a in the dark.

    So I just play my old two year old driver with a shaft I like and call it a day.

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2020 Ryder Cup officially postponed

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On Wednesday, it was officially announced that the 2020 Ryder Cup had been postponed and rescheduled for September 21-26, 2021.

Subsequently, the next Presidents Cup which was initially scheduled for September 30-October 3, 2021 will now be played in September 2022.

Per the announcement on the Ryder Cup website, the decision to postpone “was based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Speaking on the postponement, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh stated

“Unlike other major sporting events that are played in existing stadiums, we had to make a decision now about building facilities to host the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. It became clear that as of today, our medical experts and the public authorities in Wisconsin could not give us certainty that conducting an event responsibly with thousands of spectators in September would be possible. Given that uncertainty, we knew rescheduling was the right call. We are grateful to PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan and our partners at the TOUR for their flexibility and generosity in the complex task of shifting the global golf calendar.

As disappointing as this is, our mandate to do all we can to safeguard public health is what matters most. The spectators who support both the U.S. and European sides are what make the Ryder Cup such a unique and compelling event and playing without them was not a realistic option. We stand united with our partners from Ryder Cup Europe, the NBC Sports Group, Sky and our other broadcast partners around the world. We look forward to delivering the Ryder Cup’s renowned pageantry, emotion and competitive drama to a global audience in 2021.”

Going forward, all future Ryder Cups will now switch to odd years, while future Presidents Cup events will be played in even years.

Per today’s announcement, both the United States and European teams will revisit their respective selection processes for the 2021 Ryder Cup with a decision expected in the near future.

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The DailyWRX (7/8/2020): Find me Ed Fiori

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If anyone knows where I can find Ed Fiori…

Anyway, let’s see what’s happening on social media.

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Bryson DeChambeau storms back to claim 7th professional title at Rocket Mortgage

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Golf writers rub their hands when Bryson DeChambeau enters tournament contention. #TheBigBangTheory moves the dip needle like no other of his generation. Ponder this for a moment: when Dustin Johnson joins the fray, the main topic is his repose. The man just might fall asleep while walking. Not much to write about there. When Brooks Koepka emerges, others fight for his spotlight, while he flat-out punishes the course. Bryson DeChambeau is different, in so many ways. His mind races so far ahead of his mouth, that when words do come out, they are scintillating. How else to explain his encounter with a camera operator, mid-round on Saturday, to discuss the impact of videography on a golfer’s brand? What other way to define a golfer who apologizes to a long-dead golf course architect, for dismantling the bunkering scheme of the layout? Bryson’s span of attention and interests is horizontally vast; he also does a pretty good vertical.

Make no mistake: BBT must continue to win, for his opinions to matter. Who isn’t looking ahead to a Bryson-Brooks collision? It’s like something out of the Marvel universe, with all of humanity at stake. Problem is, there’s no bad guy in the mix. Both are champion golfers, striving to make a mark on the game by collecting important titles and changing the way the game is played. With luck, we’ll see them do battle at three major championships this year. On to the week just ended.

Matthew Wolff entered round four with a three-shot advantage over DeChambeau and Ryan Armour. Philosophers, expound on whether it was good or bad for Wolff to not be paired with #Bang in round four; in the end, it will all be conjecture. What we know is, Bryson got off to the hot start (three-under through four, four-deep through seven) that Wolff wanted. DeChambeau seized control on the back nine, and finished with authority, making birdie on each of the final three holes. He would need them.

Wolff on this day was Rocky, and we mean neither the boxer nor the squirrel. He began each nine with a bogey, and if that isn’t a buzz-kill, momentum stopper for a professional, tell me what it is. If he is anything, though, Wolff is a fighter. Knowing that he owned the back nine all week, his eyes were set on victory, even after the 10th-hole bogey. After a great up-and-down for par at 11, Wolff made consecutive birdies, and reached the par-five 14th in regulation. Then, he missed a six-feet putt for birdie, a shot he could not afford to lose. Birdies at 15 and 17 brought him to 20-under par, but a second short birdie effort (eight feet at the 16th) missed the mark, as did a 10-feet putt for three at the last.

Wolff might not have expected to make birdie from hole 12 through hole 18, but he had the opportunity. On this day, when DeChambeau was in complete control of all his skills, Wolff needed to do so. The young man from Oklahoma State is not yet comfortable with the spotlight. He played meh golf in the Seminole exhibition in April, and played erratically on Sunday’s front nine (four bogies and two birdies.) He might have been forgiven, at plus-three on the day, staring at plus-four at the 11th, for walking it in and accepting a 10th-place-tomorrow-is-another-day condolence. That he fought back is testament to what lies within.

Back to Bryson. Physics guy, remember? There was a funny number thing with him and Wolff, all week. Bryson was three shots better than Wolff on Thursday. Wolff was three shots better than Bryson on both Friday and Saturday, and each shot the same number both days (64-64 and 67-67, respectively.) On Sunday, Bryson was six shots better than Wolff, and won by three shots. Something about the number three this week…oh, and it was Bryson’s sixth PGA Tour victory.

Does the PGA Tour still average a pair of drives each day, to establish the driving distance number? If so, that needs to change. If you’re telling me that Bryson averaged 360 yards on all driving holes, that’s offensive to my sense of distance. For the week, by the way, he was at 350. That put him 20 yards beyond Wolff on Sunday, and 25 yards ahead on the week. Thanks to technology, both can keep the ball on the course. What made the difference for the champion on Sunday, was the flat stick.

#Theory took one putt on each of the first five greens. The first putt that he missed came at the sixth, an 11-feet effort for his fourth birdie of the round. BD has 13 putts on the outward nine, his best work of the week. Coming home, he took 14 putts on the green, for 27 on the day. His most-visible struggle came at the par-five 14th, where he had posted eagle-birdie-birdie the first three days. Sunday was different. A drive to the upside-down forced a penalty stroke, a few slashes, and a cringeworthy bogey. Just for a moment, he gave Wolff hope. In another moment, he took stole that hope back.

Is DeChambeau’s faith in his game different from all the other great champions? It appears different, on the surface. His confidence is grounded in the science of his equipment, his swing, and his physique. He and his caddie still make the occasional poor strategic move, but those are infrequent. In the end, what will define his place in golf’s history book is his grit, his tenacity. Down the stretch, every great champion wins major titles not because of preparation and knowledge, but because she and he handled the moment. We’re rubbing our hands for those moments.

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