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Driver off the deck: Leave this shot to the pros!

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A driver is singularly designed to do one thing really well: hit the golf ball off a tee as far a possible. Lucky for us golfers, thanks to its size and forgiveness, a driver is one of the easiest clubs to hit, too, except in one scenario—off the deck.

When it comes to attempting heroic shots in golf, I’ve covered how “a lob wedge is a dangerous club for amateur golfers and after the open-face lob wedge, the next most difficult shot to execute is a driver off the deck. It requires a great lie, unique dynamics, and a lot of speed, and for that reason its best to leave it up to the pros.

The why

Like a lot of things in golf, the main reason hitting a driver off the deck has become so hard is the same reason so many other shots have become easier; modern-day equipment. Drivers today are all over 440cc’s and multilayer golfballs are not designed to spin when hit at high speeds and with little loft – perfect for hitting bombs off the tee but not from the short grass.

It wasn’t always this way. In the era of persimmon and transitioning into metal woods when a 300cc driver was considered enormous, hitting a driver off the deck, even for average golfers, was easier because the smaller heads with more loft allowed for more mass lower relative to the hight of the face.

When you add higher-launching, higher-spinning balata golf balls into the equation, it’s easy to see why the shot seemed much more attainable. Even the most spinny modern golf balls come nowhere close to creating the same spin numbers as wound balata golf balls off of metal woods.

The how

If the shot is to be attempted, the preferred shape is a low fade hit with an open face relative to the golfer’s swing path, this helps add loft to generally lower lofted clubs, and by the nature of the contact and the shot, it also helps add spin.

Not only that, but when you consider most drivers have 45-inch shafts compared to 43 inches for a 3-wood, trying to hit it off the deck makes the club play effectively more upright and if the heel catches even just a fraction before contact, the face will close and deloft which could take the driver loft down to the loft of your putter—not a good thing.

This low heel cut is exactly the shot we saw Tiger Woods hit this past weekend at the Northern Trust when attempting to get to a par 5 in two.

Now that we’ve explained why a fade is the “easier” shot to hit off the deck, the shot below from eventual Women British Open Champion Sophia Popov is even more outrageously impressive.

They can’t all be winners though

So after seeing Tiger and Sophia make hitting driver off the deck look pretty easy, let us swing the success pendulum the other direction to watch multi-time world number one Justin Thomas toe-slice an attempted driver off the deck at the Valspar Championship. He did go on to make a birdie but only because the ball got a very friendly bounce off a spectator—sorry but there is no way I’m taking that shot off the rib cage for the chance to take home a signed glove.

To see more great and less-than-great shots, the European Tour added to its great “Challenge” series by getting some of its professionals to participate in trying to hit the green and get a ball within 8 feet on the 18th hole at Wentworth from 300 yards!

The winning shot is quite spectacular, but the real gold is in some of the even more spectacular misses.

Side by side – The real numbers

Last but not least, if you are curious to see the real side by side numbers in a controlled environment, our friends at TXG did a great comparison conducted at tour-level speeds.

The results speak for themselves—probably best to leave this shot up to the pros.

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Rich

    Aug 29, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    Several years ago I pulled my 3-wood out of the bag, replacing it with the TM “Mini-driver.” I’ve updated that selection with TM’s latest version of it.

    It’s like hitting a 2-wood. Good enough off the turf for those few times it’s necessary, and great as an alternative to the driver when faced with a short or narrow tee shot. I’ve got the loft dialed up to 13 degrees, and it’s the same length as a modern 3-wood (or, the same length as an old-school driver). I see no reason to go back to a traditional 3-wood, nor do I ever have the need to hit the driver off the deck.

  2. T$

    Aug 28, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    I can’t even hit 3 wood off the deck. I’m proud of myself when I can with a 5 wood.

  3. the Masqued Wedger

    Aug 27, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    When it comes to conversations like this – or the lob wedge – the authors seem to overlook one very obvious fact.

    The majority of golfers are not playing golf for a living – or even competetively. They’re playing it as a hobby, for enjoyment.

    If a hobbyist aspires to be hitting driver off the fairway, or lob wedge flop shots, these are not “dangerous shots”… that implies their score counts for anything, which it does not. But pulling this off, even on rare occasion, might be the thrill they seek.

    The same applies to playing muscleback irons, or any number of “tour” type clubs.

    It is a certain mindset that dictates the only enjoyment in golf being shooting the lowest score possible. Perhaps this is related to the idea that the only point of work is to make as much money as possible? Either way, there are other facets of the game that many people enjoy – such as taking on a challenge that is beyond their reach. It might be argued that is an much in the spirit of the game as “low score wins”.

  4. Paul

    Aug 27, 2020 at 8:55 pm

    Not to mention you’re just begging for a broken driver shaft. Most stock driver shafts are in the 50g range with some 40g and lower, they’re not designed to withstand impact with the turf.

  5. Greg V

    Aug 27, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    Best shot I ever saw in my life was Tom Watson hitting driver off the deck for his second shot on the 8th hole at Augusta National, final round, on his way to winning the Masters in 1981.

    When I got up around the green, I was talking to a patron who said that Tom was the only player that he saw hit the green in two, all day.

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Equipment

Zozo Championship Tour Truck Report: Phil’s new driver and 2-wood, Tiger testing a new 3-wood

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Slower week than most at Sherwood but still a couple of nuggets—and who doesn’t love a Tiger/Phil equipment update?

Callaway

Phil Mickelson: After his (two drivers in the bag) win on the PGA Tour Champions, Lefty went full gearhead and continued to test not only the new Apex MB ’21 irons (6-PW) but also put a 47.5-inch Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero in the bag. The (low-lofted) 9-degree head, set now at 8 degrees (swing weight at D7) will be equipped with either a Project X HZURDUS Smoke Green 60 6.5 or a KBS TD 60G C5 TX.

In addition, Phil is bringing back the 2-wood having put a 43.5-inch, 12.5-degree “old school” X Hot 3 Deep. The idea with both is distance gain (non-shocker) for example on Tour there are a number of bunkers, forced carries at the 300+ clip and to be able to fly by those on command is a huge advantage. Dispersion will suffer a bit in this scenario, but that’s what the 2-wood is for. The new driver set up got Phil about 8 mph of additional ball speed and on avg a 310 carry. The 2 wood is to fill the larger gap created by the driver—this new fairway metal gives Phil about 280-285 carry.

Ping 

Tony Finau: Ping G425 LST (9 @7.5 Big-) with Diamana D+ 70TX tipped 1.5

Andrew Landry: Ping G425 LST (9 @8.75, flat) with Fujikura Ventus Blue 6X (46 Inches)

Joaquin Niemann: New Ping G425 7-wood (20.5 @20) in the bag with Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8X (20.5, 40.5 inches).

Titleist

Slow week, no major updates to report beyond Aaron Dill making 9,000 wedges for the players in early Augusta prep…

TaylorMade

Tiger Woods is testing a SIM Ti 3-wood with a Mitsubishi Chemical Diamana D+ 70 TX shaft. The 15-degree 3-wood is set at 14.25 and is on the upright setting. (42.5, D4, Golf Pride BCT 58R). Won’t know if it goes in play until tomorrow tee off…

 

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Whats in the Bag

Tiger Woods WITB 2020 Zozo Championship (new 3-wood?)

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  • We spotted Woods with a TaylorMade SIM 3-wood in his bag, along with the TaylorMade M5 he’s had in play for more than two years. We’re told it will be a game-time decision as to which one he puts in play.

Driver: TaylorMade SIM (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 60 TX

tiger woods witb

3-wood: TaylorMade M5 (15  @14.25 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 70 TX

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM Titanium (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 70 TX

5-wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 @18.25 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 80 TX

Irons: TaylorMade P7TW (3-PW)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 TW/MT Grind (56-12, 60-11)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron GSS Newport 2
Grip: Lamkin Deep-Etched cord

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord 58R

Ball: Bridgestone Tour B XS

 

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Equipment

GolfWRX Classifieds (10/21/20): Cameron cover, Ping Hoofer tour bag, SIM Rocket 3-wood

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member Tourseeking – Rare Cameron Maiden America cover

There are rare, and then there are really rare covers and this falls squarely in the really rare category. It’s priced according but would make a great addition to any collection.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Rare Cameron cover

Member slalomdude – Ping Hoofer Tour bag

Were used to seeing rare and hard to find, but it’s not often Ping releases something that captures attention like this. The bag is new with tags and is being offered at a great deal!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Hoofer Tour 

Member awtryau89 – TaylorMade SIM Rocket 3-wood

This is truly one of the fastest little “rocket ship” fairway woods on the market, and this is your chance to get your hands on one for a great deal with a Graphite Design BB.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Rocket 3 wood 

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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