The Quest for a More Accurate Driver
Everyone wants to find out how to have a more accurate driver (including me). After a comprehensive overview of my stats last year I came to the conclusion that if I want to get to the next level as a golfer, I am going to have to hit more greens, and that all starts with how I position myself off the tee with my driver.
I’ve been trying to figure out ways to keep my driver in play more, and to become more accurate. One thing I came across that I am going to explore in this article was playing with a significantly shorter shaft.
I found a few studies that showed promising results, and wanted to find out if making this change to my equipment could help me in my quest for more accuracy.
I never kid myself about equipment changes, and want to make sure that I am being realistic with all of you. My ability to hit quality golf shots mostly has to do with my swing. I consider making changes to your golf clubs a refinement. If you can’t make quality golf swings, it’s going to be very difficult to keep the ball in play no matter what kinds of clubs you are playing.
That being said, I want to do everything I can to give myself the best chance for success. So I went to my friends at Pete’s Golf Shop to find out if using a driver with a shorter shaft could actually make a difference.
Can I squeeze a little bit more with my equipment?
I’ve written a few articles about the benefits of getting fit for the right golf clubs, and I believe it’s an extremely important topic when you are talking about game improvement. You do not want to be playing clubs that are wrong for your swing. It makes a difficult game infinitely harder.
The more research I’ve done on the topic, and through my own experience with equipment changes, I can confidently tell you that while playing the right equipment is a refinement, it can make a noticeable difference on the golf course.
I’ve been going through my bag piece-by-piece over the last 18 months, and trying to sort out if each club is correct for me. I’ve gotten new wedges with the right lie angles and bounces for my swing. I’ve also replaced my irons with PXGs after seeing eye-popping results through testing.
Performance matters to me, and I view this as an investment in my game. The last set of irons I had were in my bag for over 10 years, so this is not something I do often.
As a result of the changes I made, I have more control over my golf ball on the course. I’ve added some distance with my irons while maintaining control, and more importantly I have the psychological benefit of feeling confident over the ball, knowing that my clubs are not working against me any more (my old irons turned out to have a completely wrong lie angle).
I said it before, but it’s worth mentioning one more time. I still have to put a good swing on the ball! I believe the benefits I have seen with equipment changes have been making my bad shots not as bad, and my best shots a little bit better.
Like I said, it’s a refinement.
Is shorter better?
The question I’ve had in the back of my head is what can I do to make my driver just a bit more accurate. A lot of the research I have done has centered on shaft length.
This article from My Golf Spy got me thinking about it initially.
Over the years manufacturers have increased the length of driver shafts considerably. The reason they have done this is to play the distance game. Consumers are demanding clubs that will help them hit the ball farther, and the club companies are more than happy to give them what they want.
All things being equal, having a longer driver shaft will enable you to swing faster and hit the ball farther. It’s a simple law of physics that can’t be denied.
There are no standards in the golf industry for just about anything, so each manufacturer will have a different length shaft on their clubs. What used to be in the 42-44” region has now gotten as long as 46.”
The interesting thing is that many professional golfers still play shafts in the 44” region. I recently had a conversation with a former touring pro, and I was talking to him about what I could do to be more accurate with my driver. The conversation was mostly focused on swing technique, but without me even mentioning shaft length he interjected and said, “you have to get a shaft that is 44″ or shorter.”
You’re about to find out why…
Longer is not necessarily longer
All things being equal, a longer shaft should enable you to hit the golf ball further.
However, in golf all things are never equal.
If you can’t consistently hit the ball on the center of the clubface, especially with the driver, you will not hit the ball as far or as accurately. There is ample evidence to suggest that having too long of a driver shaft will prevent you from doing that.
Having a longer shaft might be actually making it harder for you to hit the sweet spot, and it is affecting your ability to hit the ball where you are aimed. I’m going to refer to two different tests here that were done with a mix of golfers.
The first is by Tom Wishon, who is considered by many to be one of the leading authorities on club fitting in the world. In his book 12 Myths That Could Wreck Your Golf Game he suggests that almost no golfer should be playing a driver shaft longer than 44 inches. Simply put, he believes the longest length shaft a golfer should play “is the longest length that a golfer can hit SOLID AND ON-CENTER the highest percentage of the time.”
Again, we are talking about strike efficiency, or the ability to hit the ball on the center of the clubface. When you don’t do that with the driver, your distance and accuracy are affected greatly.
Check out this study Wishon did with 50 golfers with varying handicap levels:
As the driver length got shorter most of the golfers actually gained distance, with the exception of the last group of low single-digit handicaps. Overall, the change in distance was almost negligible, and it clearly showed that a longer driver shaft does not do much to increase your distance. It actually might make you hit the ball not as far in most cases.
What was more interesting was the misdirection of the player’s shots, or how accurate they were on average. There was a tremendous drop in the dispersion of their shots as the driver shaft was shortened. This was the part that I was most interested in since my main goal was to become more accurate.
My Golf Spy did a similar test, and the results were almost exactly the same. They tested drivers with 45.75” shafts versus 43.75.” The distance the players hit the ball was also negligible between the two shaft lengths, with an average of less than 1.4 yards.
More importantly that test showed a 28% increase in accuracy with the shorter shaft.
Every golfer is different, and this doesn’t conclusively say that all golfers would benefit from a shorter shaft, but it certainly is enough to raise your eyebrows (and mine).
Time for a change
The current driver I have is a Callaway Razr Fit Tour that has a 45.75” Project X 6.5 shaft. About a year ago I had done a fitting at Pete’s Golf shop with Kirk Oguri. I ran the idea by him of shortening my shaft to make a more accurate driver, but he didn’t think it was a good idea to cut it down because it would affect the weight too much. This is something you have to consider if you decide you want to go this route.
We tried to look for the same Project X shaft that was made in 44”, but not surprisingly it didn’t seem to exist. So I put it on the back burner for a while because I wasn’t prepared to build a new driver from scratch at that point.
A few weeks ago I decided it was time to make the change since the golf season was approaching. I booked a session with Woody Lashen, the co-owner of Pete’s Golf Shop in Long Island, NY. Woody has collaborated with me on numerous articles, and I’m lucky to have Pete’s Golf shop near me because they have been recognized as some of the best club fitters in the industry for a long time.
As I stated earlier, every golfer is different, and it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that shortening my driver shaft would work for my swing.
Any experienced club fitter takes into account multiple variables when they are evaluating a client, and then matches a shaft and a driver head to their particular swing. It would take a whole book to explain all of those variables, so for sake of this article we will keep it simple.
Woody picked a 44” shaft and a few driver heads that he felt best suited me. We experimented with a few different versions of each shaft and driver head until we zoned in on the best combination.
Here’s what we found out
Across the board the results were pretty similar. The shorter shaft only resulted in me losing about 1 – 1.5 mph in my swing speed, which was not a tremendous amount.
Here’s the kicker: I didn’t lose any distance, and with some drivers I actually gained distance. More importantly the dispersion of my shots was much tighter than with my Callaway that had the 45.75” shaft.
So the results from the Wishon and My Golf Spy tests did hold true with me. I was able to consistently strike the ball more efficiently with the shorter shaft. This resulted in shots that were less off the target line, which was my number one priority by doing this test.
Not losing any distance, and gaining it in some cases was just icing on the cake!
This whole exercise was only possible because I worked with an expert who was using state of the art launch monitors that could track everything. We didn’t have to try out 20 different clubs and shafts because Woody was able to process all of his knowledge and select the 3 to 4 that he already knew fit my swing profile.
This is why working with an expert club fitter is worth it if you really want to make sure you are playing the right clubs. Most golfers assume club fitting is for pros, but if you have a conversation with any experienced fitter they will tell you that higher-handicap golfers are actually the ones who have seen the most performance gains in their experience.
So what club won?
This was not a formal club test because players will have different results with different manufacturers, but it is worth noting that two products performed significantly better for me than the rest. These are the kinds of things you find out during a session (rather than just watching TV commercials!).
The driver head was from Parsons Xtreme Golf, which has been taking the golf industry by storm lately. The feedback off the clubface was absolutely excellent for me, and more importantly it offered me the best combination of accuracy and distance. I was hitting drivers farther with the PXG than my Callaway with the longer shaft. We simply couldn’t ignore the performance gain when evaluating which club head was the right one for me.
Additionally, the ACCRA Tour Z was the shaft that worked out best. It’s one of the premium models out there, and it lived up to its reputation. The folks at ACCRA were even nice to put my website name on the shaft for me, so that was a nice touch…
This is just the beginning
Getting the right equipment during a club fitting session is the first step, but ultimately the proof is what is going to happen on the course. Luckily I have a solution for that too.
I have been tracking my stats with GAME GOLF over the last year, and have detailed information on how my Callaway performed during my rounds on the course. I know my average distances, how many fairways I hit, and more importantly how off line my bad drives were.
Over the next few months I will see how the PXG driver performs with the ACCRA shaft versus my old setup. My hope is that my fairway percentage goes up, but more importantly that my shots that miss the fairway aren’t that far off.
If I’m going to use my driver more during a round I need to make sure I’m not stuck behind trees or out of bounds.
What can you take away from this whole thing, and find a more accurate driver?
Here’s a couple of takeaways to wrap things up:
- You may not know it, but the shaft on your driver might be way too long for you. There is ample evidence to suggest that using a shorter shaft could actually help you hit the ball farther, but more importantly keep it in play more.
- You would never know if that was true or not until you met with an experienced club fitter who was able to evaluate your swing and match you with the right driver for you. Every golf swing is unique, and not all golf clubs perform the same. There’s an optimal combination of the two for every player.
- The real proof is on the golf course. All of the equipment changes in the world will not fix your swing. Getting things right with equipment is a refinement, and it could help lower your scores, but most of that burden will always fall on the player’s shoulders.
I hope this opens your eyes up to a few things about equipment. There are no standards in the golf industry, and if you are serious about improving your performance on the golf course it might be worth it to take things a step further.