Are Shorter Driver Shafts More Accurate? – Golf Myths Unplugged

Is Accuracy One Cut Away?

The purpose of Golf Myths Unplugged is to challenge the accepted wisdom of golf, but even we have blind spots.  One of those was revealed recently when we realized that we had never tested the concept of shorter driver shafts being more accurate.  We immediately set out to fix that and discover whether golfers are helped or harmed by longer driver shafts.

The Myths

Myth #1 – Shorter driver shafts are more accurate

Myth #2 – Shorter driver shafts produce more consistent distance

Myth #3 – Longer driver shafts create more club head speed

Myth #4 – Longer driver shafts create more ball speed

Myth #5 – Longer driver shafts create longer drives

Myth #6 – Only better players can benefit from longer shafts

How We Tested

For this test, we brought together five golfers with a range of swing speeds and handicaps.  Each player hit seven drives with each of three driver shaft lengths: 44″, 45″, and 46″.  The shaft (Nippon Regio Formula B) and head were the same in each test, and the swing weight was held constant.  Each player tested the shafts in a different, random order.

All testing was done at, and with the help of, Club Champion.

The Results

Our testing found no clear link between shaft length and accuracy. 

If we look at the offline average, we see that three players did their best with the 44″ shaft.  However, two of those three were nearly as good with a different length.  If we look at Player 3, he was best at 46″ by a whopping 10 yards over 45″ and almost 23 yards better than 44″.

We also looked at dispersion, and this busted the myth wide open.  None of our players had their best dispersion at 44″.  In fact, Player 1 was, by far, the best at 46″.  Player 2 was also best with the longest shaft.  Player 3 had similar dispersion with each shaft, and Players 4 and 5 were best at 45″.

Our results showed that shorter shafts are not an automatic means for producing consistent distance.

There were two players who had one length substantially outperform the others for distance consistency – Players 1 and 4.  Player 4 was best with 44″, but Player 1 was best with 46″.  Our other testers were a mixed bag, but the differences between lengths were not substantial.

This myth falls somewhere between “Plausible” and “Confirmed.”  Each of our testers recorded their slowest average swing speed with the 44″ driver, but not all gained speed going from 45″ to 46″.  

For our fastest tester – Player 1 – the difference between 45″ and 46″ was negligible, only 0.1 MPH.  He did lose over 2 MPH with the 44″ shaft.  Player 2 had the biggest gain, raising his swing speed 3.4 MPH by switching from 44″ to 46″.  Players 4 and 5 were actually faster – by 0.3 and 0.7 MPH, respectively – with the 45″ shaft compared to the 46″.

These results were similar to those from club head speed but muddier.  No player created the most ball speed with the 44″ driver; 46″ was not universally best either.

Players 1, 2, and 5 sacrificed considerable ball speed with the 44″ driver – as much as 4.5 MPH.  Player 5 had equal ball speed at 45″ and 46″.  Player 2 was best at 46″.  Player 1 was slightly better at 45″ than at 46″.

Players 3 and 4 created the most ball speed at 45″ and the least at 46″.  At 46″, their smash factors dropped by 0.03 and 0.07, respectively, costing them significant ball speed.

Four of our five testers produced their highest total distance average with the 46″ shaft.  While some of these gains were not substantial, Player 5 gained over 7 yards by switching from 45″ to 46″.

Player 4 is the one outlier in our group.  He struggled with the 46″ shaft, hit two very poor drives with it, and posted his lowest average distance.

While our fastest swinger was clearly the best user of the 46″ driver, he was not the only one who benefited from the longer shaft.  Players 2, 3, and 5 – none of whom have elite speed or low single digit handicaps – all found improvements to their distance, club head speed, and/or accuracy with a longer shaft. 

This is not to say that everyone will benefit from a longer driver shaft.  However, the data shows that players of varying abilities and swing speeds can find benefit from longer shafts.  No one should be scared of trying a longer shaft because of their perceived lack of skill or speed.

Additional Findings

Despite the fact that we kept the swing weight the same across all shaft lengths, over half of our testers told us that the 46″ driver felt heavy.  Specifically, they said they felt they had to “work hard” to get the club around.  Interestingly, the golfers who made this observation play their drivers at 45″.  I would have expected that comment to come from one of the testers who played their driver below 45″.

We also observed that longer driver shafts tended to make our testers’ angles of attack more positive.  For some, the change was minute, but others increased their AoA by up to 1.8 degrees.

Conclusion

If you’re in search of more consistency from the tee, don’t be so quick to shorten your driver.  While it’s entirely possible that a shorter driver will help you hit it straighter, our data shows that a longer driver could also be the solution.  Whether you’re searching for distance, accuracy, or a little of both, make an appointment with a trusted club fitter to find the optimal length for your driver.

The Data

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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13 Comments

  1. Love it. Want to see more of these.

    But is 7 shots x 3 clubs statistically significant? Should be easy to calculate the min number of shots to be significant at 95% confidence and have your testers hit that many.

    Also, I would be curious to see the testers’ current driver length in the data set. My hunch is that if a player is used to playing a certain length shaft it may make it more likely that they get their optimal numbers with that length. Just grabbing a different length and hitting 7 shots could be tough to adjust to. Maybe if a player had time to get used to a different length they would get different results.

    • Matt Saternus

      We would love to have more shots, but reality imposes limits. We have testing facilities for a certain amount of time. Testers volunteer to help us for a certain amount of time. Players can only hit so many shots before fatigue becomes a major factor.

      None of our players produced their best numbers with their current gamer driver length.

      -Matt

  2. Andy LaCombe

    I am confused – in Myth #1 it is Are shorter driver shafts more accurate – you say BUSTED, but then say: “If we look at the offline average, we see that three players did their best with the 44″ shaft. However, two of those three were nearly as good with a different length. If we look at Player 3, he was best at 46″ by a whopping 10 yards over 45″ and almost 23 yards better than 44″.”

    In most studies, you throw the high and the low out to get rid of outliers, but that is hard to do with only 5 players. I would argue that Player #5 should be thrown out, because if you hit your driver 241 yards and hit it 87.1 yards offline, you are not a reliable driver of the golf ball. That is 21° offline. Player #1 on their best drive was 3.5° offline at 288 yards. I am surprised that a measuring device could even pick up a shot that far offline.

    Looking at player #5’s offline #s they are just consistently bad – I would draw no conclusion. that makes at least 60% of the time shorter is more accurate, and if #5 is thrown out, 80%. Either way I think the “Myth” is proven by your data.

    An interesting piece of information that is missing is the height of the players. I would almost venture a guess that player #3 was taller if the 44″ shaft was not more accurate for them. It would be helpful to know more about the players physical makeup. If I did this study, they would all be very similar for round #1. Then for round $2, I would change their height, then move to male/female, physical strength.

    Intuitively, you have to agree that a shorter length driver has to be more accurate with all other variables the same? If I am 4′ tall or 6’5″ tall, then the proper length shaft will vary.

    Final nitpick – if you present data it is nice if the # of decimal places is consistent. Well, and the table should have the number of shots. If they took 7 shots only 5 should be counted with high and low being thrown out, and I would like to see how much deviation was in those shots, because one big outlier can total mess with a small sample size.

    Love the idea here, but more information is needed and I would argue that Myth #1 was proven by what you presented here.

  3. STEVE DAVEY

    Since playing 44 ins i rarely miss fairways, the control is much better imo…

  4. Interesting but I did notice that all testers were longer with 45″, what does that say, and considering it is all about distance that seems to be a winner. As far as direction goes they were 2 and 2 but that is all about how the club enters the hitting area. I would say with a lesson to get the setup and swing on plane 45″ is a winner for most. But testing should be done by an individual before seeing what is best for them.

    One more thing, where all the shafts the same flex. Stiffer is straighter.

  5. ChristopherKee

    What I learned from this is A. get fit by a quality fitter B. get fit by a quality fitter and have an open mind!

  6. When I fit I always give customers the option of hitting a different length shaft. I have noticed that younger, stronger players hitting 100 mph+ have best results with standard length shafts, similar results also with those that hit stiff shafts in the 90+ mph range. Customers with R & A shafts seem to have better sweet spot hits with a 1″ shorter shaft. I also prefer to special order the drivers so the weighting is done at the factory and is correct.

  7. Gary Stacey

    Alternative driver designs are available for more distance? A web site offers light weight driver heads which would use 44″ to 48″ long super light weight graphite shafts. For example, a weaker senior golfer would possibly buy a 176 gm (lighter than usual) driver head to be installed in a 55 gm light shaft for a 47″ total club length. The grip could be a jumbo, to allow gripping lower if needed to shorten the club.
    Perhaps the alternative driver may be developed by trial and error for those who cannot afford a custom club.

  8. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for the test. I just want to share my personal experience.
    The two best things I did for my game was to switch to a 44.5″ shaft and upgrade to a Tour AD DI.
    It was like flipping a switch. I have never driven the ball so well and so consistently off the tee.
    Shorter shaft is more controllable and makes it easier to find the sweet spot on the face => better shots.

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