Are Driver Shafts Too Long

Every company wants to have the longest driver on the market. Can you blame them? Of course not, despite how we all know that accuracy is the key to lowering scores, each year millions of clubs are sold because people want a little more length off the tee. In recent years, the length of drivers has gone up considerably and The Hackers Paradise wanted to do a little testing and find out if the benefits of added distance were true and if they outweighed the possible negatives of accuracy lost. The THP Forum has quite a few threads discussing this very thing as readers seem to really want to get down to the bottom of what is marketing and hype and what is the truth.
The History
To get some overview on shaft lengths we went right to the source. Taylormade Golf and Graphite Design were both kind enough to take some time out and answer our questions as it relates to driver size and more importantly shaft length.
First up is Taylormade :
THP – What was the average shaft length in a driver in 2000?
TM – Drivers have been many lengths in the past. Most driver were 43″ until the early 1990s. With the introduction of larger ‘midsize heads’ and graphite shafts driver were made 44″. With the introduction of oversize titanium heads (230-250 cc) in 1994-1995, lengths were increased to 45″. A larger headed driver looks proportional at the se longer lengths and also gives more forgiveness, to make up for some slight accuracy loss.
THP – What is it now?
TM – Most titanium drivers have averaged around 45″ for a number of years in the market with a few notable exceptions. In 1998 both Taylormade and Callaway launched 46″. 1999-2000 were the Ping TiSi at 45.75 and the TM 360 at 46″. In 2007, we launched Burner driver at 46″.
THP – How long will it get and is their a standard?
TM – Lately the average has moved to 46″ for many average players, while tour players have moved to 45″. Tour players have always averaged slightly shorter than the market.

Next up is Graphite Design:
THP – Why have shafts lengthened in stock OEM equipment over the last 5 years?
GD – 1. The shaft lengths have increased for a few reasons but most of it happened more than 5 years ago.
A. Larger heads made of titanium are typically lighter in weight thus 45.5
to 46 became standard and have been for a while. Heads now can be weighted to appropriate weight but the increased length is already established.
B. Length is all any amateur talks about so 46 or longer helps gain club head speed and ultimately distance is they can make good impact.
C. Aesthetically the club head looks “normal” with the added length. A shorter length with make the head look really big.
THP – Will shorter shafts help the average golfer?
GD – Shorter shafts could in many cases be better. The average golfer, on average for the round, hit the ball farther because they would hit it more square with a shorter club thus increasing confidence and swing consistency. However in our testing, it does not always hold true.
THP – What does the future hold for shaft length?
GD – I think most companies have settled in the 46″ range. The USGA limits length to 48″. I do think however that many companies will put shafts in their custom fitting options at 47″ or even 48″ for consumers to try and then purchase. It all comes back to fitting and that most players need to have it done.

Tour Thoughts
We got the chance to speak with two tour players one of PGA fame and one on the LPGA. We asked them the same question. “What are your thoughts on shaft length”? “I was one of the last players to drop into the larger club head for drivers category. Once I did, the look of the club with the shorter shaft looked more like a metal detector than it did a driver. I have gone as long as 46″ with mine and as short as 43″ but generally go with 45.5″. I had to go longer because of the look and when I did, I gained some needed distance. Height also plays a large role in it and when they look at averages on tour, it is not really fair, because there are a whole lot of short golfers on tour”, said John Huston.
LPGA’s Marcy Hart had a similar thought. “I went with what fit my eye. It has to look right first. I did not really notice a distance or accuracy differing. Then when I got fitted by the van it confirmed my initial choice. Right now I am using 45.25 inches. It is all about what feels comfy with your swing.”
THP wants to thank both players for taking the time to speak with us for this article.

The Setup
We asked one of the companies we work with to provide two drivers for us for testing. Taylormade golf sent us two drivers with identical heads, lofts, and shaft type. The only difference is one is 45.25 inches long and one is 44 inches long. Neither club had ever been hit before the testing and both had the same stock grip. Since the Taylormade R9 is adjustable, we set both drivers to neutral for each tester to work with. No adjustments were made during the testing.

We assembled 24 golfers to help us out in our NON-SCIENTIFIC testing to find out what golfers of all skill levels noticed with the different drivers.
Low Handicaps – Scratch to 4 — 6 golfers
Low/Mid Handicaps – 5-12 — 6 golfers
Mid/High Handicaps – 13-21— 6 golfers
High Handicaps 21+ — 6 golfers

We marked a fairway at a local course with a line down the middle and were measuring two things, Distance and Accuracy. Each golfer was given 18 swings, 9 with the each driver and the high and low were not taken into the averages for distance and accuracy. We put the statistics together for group averages and those results are below. However this is THP and real course testing is what matters as well. So each of the 24 players used both drivers for an entire round hitting two balls on each hole in groups of 2.

The Results
Low Handicaps
Driver Distance with 45.25 – 271 yards
Driver Distance with 44 – 258 yards
Driver accuracy with 45.25 – 7 yards
Driver accuracy with 44 – 8 yards
With the low handicaps they increased their length by 13 yards with the longer driver on average and in accuracy, they were actually closer to the center of the fairway with the longer shaft.

Low/Mid Handicaps
Driver Distance with 45.25 – 262 yards
Driver Distance with 44 – 253 yards
Driver accuracy with 45.25 – 11 yards
Driver accuracy with 44 – 9 yards
With the low to mid group of players we saw a distance increase in 9 yards with the longer driver and in accuracy we saw that the shorter driver helped the players get closer to the middle by 2 yards.

Mid/High Handicaps
Driver Distance with 45.25 – 256 yards
Driver Distance with 44 – 248 yards
Driver accuracy with 45.25 – 16 yards
Driver accuracy with 44 – 15 yards
The Mid/High group saw the longer driver give them a distance increase of 8 yards while the accuracy was 1 yard better with the shorter driver.

High Handicaps
Driver Distance with 45.25 – 243 yards
Driver Distance with 44 – 227 yards
Driver accuracy with 45.25 – 19 yards
Driver accuracy with 44 – 17 yards
The high handicap group saw a 16 yard distance increase with the longer driver and only a 2 yard decrease in accuracy.

The on course testing showed much of the same as the driving test shown above. 22 of the 24 players said that they experienced virtually the same distance gain on the course as they did in our previous testing. The accuracy fell right in line as well. It is a rarity in our testing when on course and off course testing work in harmony, but it was a nice surprise. The two players that did not have the same results were two of our low handicap players that experienced a little more accuracy with the shorter driver than they experienced on the driving drills. Participants were told to keep a chart with them on distance and accuracy and what we found was that as explained above the on course testing simply mirrors the original setup of hitting balls. One by one each golfer explained that they got more distance with the longer shaft and lost very little accuracy. Something none of us expected.

The Conclusion
What does all this mean? Absolutely nothing. But what it showed us during this testing is that it is crucial to get fitted for the right length for each individual. Players seemed to adjust to the longer shaft after a couple of swings and in the end, for our testing, the distance gained outweighed the loss of accuracy. Do longer shafts equal greater distance? They did in our testing. Do longer shafts equal less accuracy? In our testing they did in most groups, but not by much. Accuracy was not lost as much as we expected and in our initial research we expected distance to go up in the shorter driver in the higher handicap groups due to better ball striking. However that really was not the case. The high handicaps experienced significant distance gains with the longer shaft. Shaft technology has come a long way and with proper fitting can really help every single golfer out there.

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  • Thanks for the interesting article JB. My current driver had a 46″ stock shaft, but I reshafted it with a little heavier and better quality shaft and had it trimmed to 44″. It’s the best driver I’ve ever had, but after reading your article I don’t know if it’s the best for me because I cut shaft down 2″ or because I have a better-than-stock shaft. At the end of the day, I’ve got a combo I’m comfortable with like the looks of.

  • Surprising results. When I bought a driver online last year I actually went a little shorter than they suggested (and I talked on the phone with them at length about it for a while. they actually talked me out of shortening it even more, which after hitting it, I am glad they did). I’ve since gone to a different driver most of the time and it’s got a longer shaft. What I notice is that usually I am about the same on my decent shots with both drivers. When I am REALLY off directionwise is when the ball either goes straight when it’s supposed to fade or when I get a double cross. Those tend to happen at the same rate with either driver. I have noticed that most of my mis-hits of the previously mentioned straight instead of fade shots and double-crosses are a ball position issue.

  • Great article. I was at Hot Stix and got to demo drivers and came up with the same results as you did here. Accuracy was not effected by the longer shaft.

  • I agree with the results as well. In my last review of the 09 Ladies TM Burner I was so worried about the longer shaft but I found that loss of accuracy wasn’t an issue at all, and being a high handicap player, I saw a HUGE increase in distance. Great article!

  • Great stuff…but you’d get fired from the marketing department ! 🙂

  • Good article, JB. Interesting results as well, definitely not what I’d have expected. I’m curious if the results would have stayed similar if you compared the 44″ to a 46″ shaft. Would the extra inch make more of a difference in both distance and accuracy, or would it just add length with similar accuracy results?

  • […] The Hackers Paradise » Are Driver Shafts Too Long Share and […]

  • As so many clubs come with 46″ today, not testing a 45″ makes little since as the R9 come with 45 but most are longer. the R9 460 is 45.75 and the ’09 Burner is 46.25

    A length compaison between the two R9’s would be interesting as it combine both shaft lenght and head size for distance and accuracy. The 09 Burner brings head shape into the mix, I played them all and the Burner is the best toe hitter out there with little loss of distance on a mishit.

    Thanks as always for such great work

  • Great article. It is a topic I have been thinking about this year after trying a longer length driver. I am not surprised by the results, in that 44″ is pretty darn short for a driver and 45.25″ is about average for a driver. It is easy to sit back and play armchair quarterback, but I would have been interested to see you add a 46″ long driver, and one even longer, as well. To me, it is lengths longer than 45.5″ where accuracy might begin to suffer for the vast majority of golfers. Thus, accuracy differences between 44″ and 45.25″ are not great because I don’t believe your average golfer will experience accuracy problems with a 45.25″ shaft. However, I do think your average golfer will start to experience accuracy problems with shafts in excess of 45.5 or so. So for me, it would be most interesting to find that length where you get diminshing returns. Apparently, 45.25″ is not that length.

    Great website (best I have found to date) and terrific articles.

  • I’m planning on re-gripping my Cleveland HiBore XL and trimming it 2″ shorter. I find it to be too long for me, and I usually choke up on the grip. So I guess the 2″ I am shortening will be perfect.

  • There IS always the Anthony Kim solution – choke down.

  • How bout an article on shaft weights/torque, perhaps the biggest variable affectig performance!

  • This is why THP shines.You give us unbiased real world comparisons (albiet small test group) that don’t sugar coat the outcome.

  • I have an old-school metal driver (Toney Penna) with an old Aldila stiff shaft. I hit it on the range cuz it’s got a tiny sweetspot and i find the feedback helps me groove a good swing plane. I tried cutting it down 1.5″ and un-empirically, I can say – no diff. Still wicked haad to nut it, distance bout the same when i do.

    I find my stock Hi-bore too-long feeling, but wonder if cuttin it down will help. It *feels* like a stiffer shaft cud help more.

  • This test if you asked me was a bit a silly. Why would you use identical shafts, heads, etc. The shaft should have been slightly heavier and you should have used heavier weight screws in the shorter 44″ driver. This would have made the swingweights similar. That 44″ thing had to of been in the mid C’s on a swingweight scale. I would have been all over the MAP with the 44″er. It’s no wonder the results were the way they were. If the swingweights were the same I’d like to see the test done again. I reckon the results would be different. Correct me if I’m wrong. I’m enjoyin the reveiws. I’m new to site. And keep up the good work. Us golf freaks need sites like this.

  • I’ve played 44.5″ drivers ever since I started building clubs. Never thought about club length (always played my driver at 45″ cuz that was the norm), but now i play everything 1/2″ short. I’m opposite of the test…I lost no distance (never gained any when I would tinker with 45″ drivers after I started playing 44.5″), but accuracy has greatly improved since switching to 44.5″. My previous driver was a 9.5* 400cc with a 75g x-stiff cut to 44.5″. Currently, I play an 8.5* 410cc driver with an 85g stiff shaft cut to 44.25″. This combo works well for me. Even tho my ball flight is lower, which is what I wanted, I still haven’t lost any distance, altho my carry is not as far but the roll is greater, and this allows me to play a softer, higher spinning ball for more control into the greens. There’s so many factors involved to find the right combo. As far as the test, I’ve never had much luck with Taylormade drivers as far as distance, but they rank right along with everything else in forgiveness, for me at least.

  • Hi I’m from the UK (Wales) and new. Grate site for golf nuts all over the world. I’ve always cut my driver shafts down, basically for comfort reasons. Longer 45 ish shafts feel out of control, I don’t really feel any distance lose. Give me the fairway vs rough any day! I’m 5’8 and my mate is 6’7 and we had the same length shafts in our drivers, that can’t be right can it?
    Keep up the grate work, I can’t stop reding!

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