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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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