Surely we have all gone into a retail shop at one time or another just drooling over the newest and hottest drivers that have just been released; Just standing there in amazement of the technological innovation that we’ve read about in the most recent golf magazines. Glancing over the price tag does the damage at times, however nonetheless we are once again distracted by the thought of ripping this new driver 30 yards past all of our friends and gloating about how you can now hit a wedge into that long par 4 on the back nine. So you buy it.
Your first day out on the course and you’re excited as can be! The first round, second round and maybe even third you are full of confidence with your new weapon of choice. Ofcourse…you kinda have to be after dropping the pretty penny you did on it. But soon, you start to realize that you’re shots never really got any straighter. You really launched a couple when you caught it solid but think to yourself that it seldomly happens and the rest of your mis-hits are no better than before, if not worse. For some reason, you’re playing your approach shot from under the same tree you did last month and now you’re wondering, why and how?
Your new driver may have all of the awesome added distance benefits through clubhead technology, however without solid contact you will never fully maximize the performance of the club. The issue with clubs and manufacturing today is, much of what they do is geared towards distance marketing. However, for the most part, clubheads are maxed out under USGA regulations. They can’t get any bigger, and ball speeds from COR are maxed out. The next best thing to influence dispersion, spin ratios and launch angles would be the shaft of the club. Going back to the manufacturers pitch for distance, this means longer and lighter shafts. Unfortunately, both a longer and lighter shaft in a driver spell disaster for control purposes. Let’s weigh the net gain of the new stock driver.
Generally, for every 1 mph of clubhead speed created with the driver there is a gain of 2.5 yards. According to PGA Tour fitting experts, an increase in shaft length from 42 1/2 inches to 46 inches creates about a 2 m.p.h increase in clubhead speed. Doing the math, you gain approxamately 5 yards for the additional 3 1/2 inches put onto your shaft. However, with the ball now being almost 3 1/2 inches farther from you, along with the feeling of swinging a telephone pole, you can bet your last dollar that solid contact will become increasingly difficult. Adding a lighter shaft to this situation is simply adding to the fire. Now you’ve paired an extremely long club, with very little weight available to feel the swinging motion of the club. Potential distance created, potential control absolutely diminished. Thus, the tradeoff is created.
With this longer and lighter shaft a total of up to 12 yards can be created. However, this does not mean that 12 yards will be added to every shot that you hit. In fact, it may actually decrease your total driving distance average. The only time you will actually add the full 12 yards onto your shot is when you contact the ball on the center of the clubface with the proper angle of approach. Any where else on the clubface will create a significant loss. For every half inch away the ball is from the sweet spot, about 5% of your total carry distance is lost. With a 46 inch shaft, about 1 inch is a good assumption for a mishit, due to the difficulty of maintaining proper angles with such a long shaft. If you have an average carry of 220 yards and hit the ball solidly on the sweet spot, with the longer and lighter shaft, you can carry your ball up to 232 yards with this new shaft. However, with a mis-hit an inch off center you would lose 22 yards of carry distance, creating a 198 yard carry. Making contact with the ball on the center of the clubface is something that troubles many amateur golfers as it is; By putting a 46 inch driver in their hands, it is safe to say that center of the face contact will be made no more than 5 out of the 14 times they pull the driver out of the bag. With those numbers, the carry average comes out to 210.14 yards, a loss of 10 yards on average. In order to achieve a total net gain, the player must hit 10 out of 14 drives on the center of the clubface and even this would only show to be a 2 yard increase to 222.28 carry average.
Playing with a shaft of the proper length allows the best opportunity to make solid contact with the golf ball, and is critical in maintaining consistency in your game. Getting fit for the correct shaft length will increase your ability to control the club, have much more consistent distances even on mis-hits, and tighten the dispersion of your shots. By keeping that 46inch driver in your bag, you could be the guy that’s 10 yards shorter than your buddies on the course. For a simple shaft adjustment, your shots will be farther, straighter and done with less effort!