Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thoughts On Driver Lengths

The most common question I get asked from golfers when I put together clubs for them is undoubtedly ‘how long should my driver be?

Here’s a list of the things that I think are affected by the length of a driver:

1. Clubhead Speed
2. Consistency of Centeredness of Contact
3. Swing Mechanics


According to Tom Wishon (pictured above), he states that since 2006 the average length of a driver on the PGA Tour is 44.5 inches long. I tend to believe him because when I was fitted by Avery Reed, a former Tour Van employee of Taylor Made, he told me that he never fitted a Tour player for a driver longer than 45-inches long in his time on Tour.

Wishon has also stated that when it comes to clubhead speed, there is just no discernible difference in clubhead speed on clubs that are ½-inch or less in length. I know I used to think that ½-inch of shaft length would make a difference. Now we know that’s not true.

That being said, I don’t quite agree with the wrist-to-floor methodology that Wishon uses when it comes to driver length fitting. I have found that the problem is that it usually fits the golfer for too short of a shaft.

For instance, I used the wrist-to-floor methodology and came up with a 43.5-inch driver length. That’s because I have very short legs and long arms for somebody my height (6’3” tall with a 28.5 inch inseam).

Now, while ½-inch in driver length won’t make a difference with clubhead speed, 1-inch or more will. I had a golfer come to me saying that they were fitted for a 43-3/4 inch driver that they hit very consistently and accurate. But the way I fitted them was different and they were using a 44-3/4 inch shaft. We had to order the same shaft again, this time make it longer. The result was their clubhead speed went from about 102 mph to 110 mph. I know that we were doing it with different driver heads (going from an Adams driver to a Wishon 919THI), but I found the difference in clubhead speed rather astonishing.


Another thing most golfers don’t consider is how the length of the shaft will affect their swing mechanics. One of the key parts starts at address with the waist bend. Simply put, you must have some waist bend at address. That’s one of the big things that separates a golf swing from a baseball swing…the bend of the waist at address. There are plenty of other differences, but waist bend is an integral part of the swing. Without it, you can make it difficult to control your clubface, path and low point while losing clubhead speed.

That’s why it’s ridiculous to see a golfer who is using a 45-3/4 inch driver when they stand 5’8” tall. My driver is 45-inches long and I’m 6’3” tall. Masters Champion Bubba Watson is 6’4” tall and has been usinga 44-3/4 inch driver until recently when a PING rep told me he’s down to 44-1/2 inch driver.

So if you’re using too long of a driver, your mechanics could be off at address and never give you much of a chance in the rest of the swing.


The longer the shaft, it almost inherently becomes more difficult to consistently hit the ball on the sweetspot. This is understandable given the added length to the club.

Recently, Miles of Golf Driving range in Michigan did a study where they had different golfers swing the same driver head with the same shaft and swingweight…but with different shaft lengths. One being a 44.5 inch length and the other at 45.5 inches.

The results showed that there was almost no rhyme or reason to what golfers hit what driver better. Some hit the longer driver better in all facets…distance, accuracy, centeredness of contact and consistency. Others hit the shorter driver better. And it didn’t matter what the golfer’s clubhead speed was.

As I posted here, I believe what happened was the club’s MOI was very different (the entire club, not the MOI of the clubhead).

So the shorter club, which most likely had a lower MOI may have fit certain golfers swing and the longer club probably had a higher MOI that fit the other golfer’s swing.

I know I’ve trimmed of ¼-inch off the butt end of a shaft before and it altered the MOI by 60 kg/cm2 less than it was before. Of course, that may vary with different shafts because much of MOI matching has to do with how the weight is distributed throughout the club. But, 60 kg/cm2 is a LARGE difference.

Where drivers are so different from the rest of the club is that drivers are pretty much based on golfers trying to find the club they hit the longest, most accurately and with the most consistency. With irons, distance control tends to play a bigger factor as well as trajectory.

So while finding the right shaft model is often the golfer’s main consideration, they should probably look at driver shaft length FIRST and then consider the model second. And if they can understand the ramifications of going with a longer or shorter shaft, they are now pointed in the right direction of finding the best driver for them.


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