Which Driver Shaft Length?

testshaft
testshaft

When I tested my old college driver a few weeks ago my interest was piqued by how close my swing speed with the 43.5 inch club was to my current 45 inch driver. I have heard that altering the shaft length of your driver by an inch can/should alter the club speed by up to 4 mph. This called for a test.....

Using TrackMan my idea was to test the same golfer, clubhead and golf ball, but change the shaft length. I took my current driver, which is the Titleist D3 8.5 degree (B1) with a 45" Motore F3 70 gram stiff shaft and tested it alongside the same head (B1) with a 43" Project X 82 gram stiff shaft. Essentially a driver shaft versus a 3 wood shaft. I had recently came across a 42.5" well kept old Wilson Staff JP persimmon driver with a steel shaft and decided to include that in the testing.

persimmon
persimmon

I hit 11 shots with each club and eliminated the data for the poorest shot with each club. I was using fresh Titleist NXT Tour golf balls and it was a perfect 80 degree day with little wind. The results were astounding!

With all three clubs my tendency was to hit up on the ball with a slight in to out club path. My swing plane was very consistent from shot to shot (which surprised me a little actually) and the clubface was almost always slightly open at impact. This path and face relationship led to an average shot shape of a slight draw. Here are the numbers:

45" Driver Shaft

  • Club Speed 101.3 mph
  • Ball Speed 151.6 mph
  • Spin Rate 2697 rpm
  • Launch Angle 11.3 degrees
  • Carry 245 yards
  • Total 272.2 yards
  • Height 76 feet

43" Three Wood Shaft

  • Club Speed 101.1 mph
  • Ball Speed 150.0 mph
  • Spin Rate 2100 rpm
  • Launch Angle 14.0 degrees
  • Carry 249 yards
  • Total 278.7 yards
  • Height 84.3 feet

42.5" Persimmon Driver with Steel Shaft

  • Club Speed 93.4 mph
  • Ball Speed 141.2 mph
  • Spin Rate 2115 rpm
  • Launch Angle 10.3 degrees
  • Carry 206.4 yards
  • Total 246.4 yards
  • Height 48 feet
shafttestavg
shafttestavg

I couldn't believe it! I hit my driver with a 3 wood shaft further, higher, with less spin and above all else - straighter. Take a look at how much straighter: (yellow - driver shaft/purple - 3 wood shaft/ white - persimmon)

dispersion
dispersion

I also totaled the distance (after roll) the ten shots with each club finished from the center line:

  • Persimmon - 182 feet (average 18" off line)
  • Three wood shaft - 234 feet (average 23" feet off line)
  • Driver shaft - 315 feet (average 31" off line)

On my Andrew Rice Golf Facebook page I asked readers if they had any experience with shortening the shaft of their driver and here are a few of their responses:

"I just went to a 44" and am loving it! Longer then my 45.5" and straighter too!" GT

"Went to 44" and more consistent with no loss in distance" AvS

"44" Callaway...more fairways AND more distance!!!" CL

"Went to 44" and I hit it more solid further and straighter" PW

"44" this year. I agree it is far better. Middle of the face more often." SF

"I found it made me less steep through attack so I have lowered my spin rate and launched it about a degree higher" AB

By the way - most of the above quotes are from full-time professional golf instructors. So what can we learn from this research?

Having tested a few golfers with shorter shafts it seems to me that each golfer has a 'threshold' length - an ideal length that gives them the optimal combination of speed and accuracy. For some that threshold could be 46"  while for others they perform best with a 42" driver. The only way to find out is to get yourself with a teacher or fitter that has access to Trackman and various shafts.

Another point to note is that while the 3 wood shaft had a slightly slower club and ball speed the shots were longer...why? Notice how the launch angle was higher while the spin rate was lower. A perfect illustration of the term 'high launch low spin'. Launch the ball higher to get more out of your tee shots.

persimmon1
persimmon1

What can we learn from the 'persimmon' data? While that shaft was even shorter than the 3 wood shaft it was substantially heavier. I believe the 3 wood graphite shaft was almost 50 grams lighter than it's steel counterpart which would explain the almost 7 mph difference in club speed. The size, or lack there of, of the head was intimidating in the beginning, but as I went through the shots I became more comfortable. I believe that practicing with a smaller clubhead like this can only be beneficial in the long term for any serious golfer.

My feeling standing over the shorter club was better and almost every golfer I tested reported the same sense. The club feels easier to control and many golfers have reported a feel that they can 'get through' the shot better. I really felt like I could smash it without it going off line - a nice feeling!

Physics says that longer shaft + lighter shaft = faster club speed = more distance. On paper that might be true, but when the human element is involved everything changes. The next time I tee it up it will be with a substantially shorter shaft in my driver...but that's just me!

Compress the Golf Ball

One of the most important aspects of great ball striking is compressing the golf ball. Now, we've all heard that statement and we know the feel of a purely struck shot, but what really is compression and how can we do a better job with it? Let's start by understanding the photograph below. This is a simulated shot where the clubface is just about to reach the back of the golf ball. The red line indicates where the loft or upward face angle is at impact and the blue line indicates the direction the clubhead is travelling during impact. The white line connecting the two represents the amount of compression "experienced" by the golf ball.

The narrower the gap or closer the two lines are the more compression will be exerted onto the golf ball and assuming a decent strike and appropriate launch, the ball will travel further. TrackMan refers to this gap as spin loft and without being too detailed it is the difference between where the face points at impact and where the clubhead travels at impact.

Fredrik Tuxen - one of the founders of TrackMan refers to spin loft as compression itself. To get a better understanding of how the numbers work let me give you a few examples: Jack hits a 5 iron with the face pointing at 16 degrees and the clubhead moving 2 degrees down. Bob swings at the same speed as Jack with his 5 iron and he gets the face pointing 15 degrees up and the clubhead moving 6 degrees down. Jack has a spin loft of 18 and Bob has a spin loft of 21. Both shots are hit well, so which goes further? Jack's does because he has a narrower spin loft gap and thus compresses the ball more than Bob. What spin loft would create the maximum compression? Zero! However, as we will learn spin loft is in large part responsible for the amount of spin imparted on any shot and a golf ball needs some spin to keep it flying in the air. I have found that a spin loft of 11 is very good for a driver.

Some interesting points about compression or spin loft:

  • Hitting down will not increase your compression of the golf ball or the spin on the shot. Invariably this only leads to a shot where the face angle and the clubhead direction both move downward - there is no change in spin or increase in distance.
  • A higher spin loft increases spin and generally slows down ball speed.
  • If you have similar swing speed, but hit your shots far shorter than your playing partners - this is due to a lack of compression on your shots.
  • Shots with a lower spin loft will curve in the air more easily than shots with less compression. That's why it's easier to keep a 7 iron straighter than a driver.
  • Custom club fitting can help to improve your spin loft simply by delofting either your irons or driver.

Now that we really understand what true compression is we can start to look at methods to help us improve our own ball striking. There are two ways we can compress the ball better - deloft the face angle more at impact without hitting down any more or hit down less without increasing the the loft of the face during impact. Ideally we need to deloft the face without hitting down any more. Notice how in the Jack and Bob example I used above - Bob's face was delofted more than Jack's, yet he hit down more and this limited his ability to compress the ball.

To get a good sense of what is required:

  • Get in front of a mirror with a 7 iron.
  • Grip the club and facing the mirror get the clubhead about 3" off the ground two feet back from where the ball would be.
  • Now slowly glide the clubhead through impact while maintaining the 3" space between the clubhead and the ground noticing that as you go beyond impact how much your hands need to stay in front.
  • When you start hitting balls - start small and hit soft shots off of a tee.
  • There should be no ground contact, try to leave the tee in the ground and see how low you can hit these little 7 iron shots.

This is the feel you want! Delofting the face without slamming the club into the ground. And believe it or not this applies to the driver as well. I know it may sound strange and it took me a while to wrap my brain around this, but it is entirely possible to hit up on the ball with the handle/hands in front of the clubhead.

If you have gained something from this article please share it with a friend. Let's be honest, they could most probably do with the help....

Optimal Strike Point for Longer Drives

We've all heard the saying 'high launch and low spin'.  With the help of TrackMan I have been able to learn which part of the clubface to strike the ball with in order the get the ball to launch higher, spin less and ultimately travel further. Watch the following video...

optimal strike point
optimal strike point

Here are the factors that make a slightly high and toe sided hit optimal:

Launch Angle

  • Due to the roll/curvature of the face there is more loft above the center line than below.  The static loft of the club is measured in the center of the face, so if a club has 9.5 degrees of loft that is only in the one central location.  Half an inch above the center line the loft increases by around 2 degrees and vice versa for below the center line.
  • A strike above the center line will always lead to a higher launch angle and can often be achieved quite easily by teeing the ball higher.

Spin Rate

  • Due to vertical gear effect a strike that occurs below the center line will have a substantially higher spin rate than one higher on the face.
  • I have seen increases of almost 1400 rpm with low strike points - in addition to distance sapping lower launch angles.

Gear Effect

  • Most of the golfers that I teach need to hit draws.  A golf ball that is struck on the toe side of the clubface will tend to have a greater inclination to draw than one struck towards the heel of the club.

Clubhead Speed

  • If a shot is hit out of the center of the face with a swing speed of 100mph a spot on the face 3/4" out side of that will be travelling at almost 103mph and a spot the same distance inside that will only be travelling at 97mph.
  • The ball will travel faster and most often further with higher club speed.

If you'd like to get a feel for where you are striking the ball on the face try dry erase marker or Dr. Scholl's Odor X - they both work like a charm and give instant feedback.

Which Golf Ball?

Golfers often ask what ball is best for their game or swing speed and my answer is always the same: "How much are you prepared to spend?"  And it really is that simple folks.

As with anything in life you get what you pay for and if price is no object, then the ball for you is the Titleist ProV1 or ProV1x.   For every man, woman and child this is the best ball out there!  Just check the PGA Tour ball count each week.  A dozen will run you in the range of $48 - so no, they are not "giving them away".  If your swing speed is under 105mph with the driver then you should more than likely be using the ProV1 - if above, then the ProV1x. The balls have a slightly different dimple pattern with the ProV1x encouraging a higher and later peak trajectory and the ProV1 pattern being for a more penetrating trajectory in the wind.

To learn more go to titleist.com

If price is a concern, then you could do a whole lot worse than the Bridgestone E6. A dozen of these beauties cost in the range of $27.  This is a Surlyn covered, three-piece ball with a dimple pattern that's designed to generate high initial velocity and a shallow landing angle. The soft mantle works to reduce spin, particularly on driver shots, and thus is often described as the softest multilayer ball on the market.  This is an inexpensive multilayer distance ball that has good feel on and around the greens.

To learn more go to bridgestone.com

Hitting Up or Down? Here's How to Set Up

Correct Set Up for a Descending Hit
Shots struck off the ground need to be hit with a descending blow and shots struck off an elevated tee are better when hit with an upward blow - fact! While TrackMan stats for the PGA Tour may show that on average Tour players hit down on their driver (1.3 degrees), as mere mortal golfers, we need to make sure we are efficient and get the most distance we can out of the driver by hitting up on the ball.  If you need some more convincing how about this: Golfer A swings at 90mph and hits 5 degrees down on the ball (-5 attack angle). Their average well struck tee ball goes 234 yards. Now, golfer B swings at 90mph and hits 5 degrees up on the ball (+5 attack angle). Their average well struck tee shot travels 256 yards - a gain of 22 yards while swinging the same speed!  Ready to listen now....?
I have recently started noticing that many golfers actually set up to hit their irons in the same manner as their woods or vice versa. Ever wondered why so many of your playing partners are either good with the woods and not the irons or no good off the turf and solid with the driver?  The answer is, is that there are two different types of swings. One that suits shots hit off the ground or close proximity to it and a swing that suits the upward, efficient hit of a driver off a high tee.
The picture above is an excellent illustration of what I have been seeing.  Here, I have a student setting up to a driver and an iron. Notice any similarities? In case you're wondering the seven iron stance is on the right.  They look decidedly alike don't they? The good news is that this was taken at  the beginning of the lesson, she made the necessary changes and gained 14 yards with her driver while maintaining a solid descending impact with the irons.
It should stand to reason that if there are two swings then there should be two different set up positions.  Here are the important differences...
Setting up for shots off the ground:
  • As in the picture at the top of the page the weight should be anywhere from a 50/50 split to favoring the front foot slightly
  • Your head should be centered between the heels
  • There should be very little spine tilt away from the target and as a result the shoulders will be fairly level

Setting up for shots off a high tee:

  • As in the picture below the feet are fairly far apart and there should actually be a little more weight on the back foot than the front foot
  • The ball is positioned inside the left heel and teed high
  • The spine should be tilting away from the target a little as you prepare to "swing uphill" 

Set Up for an Upward Strike

The best teacher you have available to you to help with this is a mirror. You are now aware as to what it should look like, but you don't quite have the feel yet. Get in front of a mirror, set up so that it looks correct (your feel might have something else to say about it!) and take that with you to practice or play.

Can You Get Better in 20 Minutes?

I recently ran an interesting promotion where I offered golfers an opportunity to gain 10 yards if they participated in a twenty minute TrackMan session. The cost was $50 and if they didn't gain the yardage their session was free. This meant I had to be on my game and I had to make simple and effective upgrades to get paid...it's not often a golfer can take a lesson and only have to pay for the lesson if they see immediate results!

My reason for running the promotion was primarily to create interest and excitement in the new TrackMan unit and to give the Berkeley Hall membership a peek at what this technology can do for them.

I had eighteen golfers, eleven men and seven ladies sign up and I encouraged each of the participants to focus on the driver. In case a participant wanted to work with an iron I had them each bring their driver and a seven iron along.

When hitting the driver I try to get my students to have an attack angle of somewhere from 1 - 5 degrees up along with a club path of somewhere from 1 - 5 degrees from in to out.  I prefer that most golfers hit out and up on the ball creating a high launch, low spin trajectory with the driver. We all could benefit from a few extra yards, no?

Here is a compilation of points of interest from the day:

  • The average swing speed for the men with the driver was 83.9mph. The top speed achieved was 96.1mph while the slowest was 70.1mph. Keep in mind that this event was promoted as a "distance" event and as a result the golfers who came out tended not be the longest of hitters.
  • The average speed for the ladies with the driver was 65.6mph with the top speed being 73.4mph and the slowest being 60.3mph.
  • Before any changes were made 11 out of the 18 golfers hit down on the ball at an average of 1.6 degrees with the driver.  After the changes had been made the same 11 golfers averaged 0.6 degrees up on the ball. Not bad...
  • Before any changes were made 7 golfers (a surprisingly low number in my opinion!) hit from out to in at an average of 3.3 degrees with the big stick. This means that their club path was travelling 3.3 degrees left (for a right hander) of the target at impact. After adjusting, the same 7 golfers averaged 0.8 degrees from in to out - a very positive change.
  • Prior to any changes 4 golfers hit too much (in my opinion) from in to out at an average of 6.6 degrees. After the changes they averaged 2.2 degrees in to out - a far more respectable number.
  • Not every golfer gained yardage, although the majority did.  A few golfers actually lost some clubhead speed while they were working on the changes which were primarily in the address position.  It was interesting to note how some golfers adapted and changed easily while others had a tough time.
  • The golfers with slower swing speeds tended to be more efficient, something I had already noted from the PGA Tour stat on Total Driving Efficiency and as a result it was quite difficult to get them make the "required" yardage gains. They were quite close to optimal already...
  • Similarly, I found the ladies to generally be more efficient in transferring the energy they created to the ball than the men. I've also noticed that LPGA golfers also tend to be more efficient than their PGA Tour counterparts, particularly with the driver. The mantra seems to be "the more energy you create, the more likely you are to waste it!" It does not have to be that way though.
  • Every golfer who attended the event improved in an important area regarding how they deliver the club to the back of the ball. Quite a few golfers did not gain 10 yards, but they all left feeling like they had the knowledge and feel they needed in order to realize longer tee shots.
  • One lady had a fantastic golf swing with very efficient numbers, but, primarily due to her petite size, she was unable to generate much clubhead speed. She had an older, heavy driver with a 70 gram shaft and so I spent most of our time talking to her about what equipment (lighter = faster) suited her best and what exercises (Momentus woosh) she could do to increase her speed with the driver.  I'll be interested to see how she does with the new club.
  • Almost all the participants commented that while the "numbers overload" from TrackMan was overwhelming at first, once we had isolated a particular problem (attack angle, club path, spin axis etc.) it seemed very simple. They were able to key in on one area and get a feel for how much change was required in order to reach their goal - all without much in the way of complicated, positional swing changes.
  • The twenty minute time format worked well for the students and for me. They did not get overloaded with information and I had be concise and clear (for a change!) in what they needed to upgrade.

So, back to the question, "Can you get better in twenty minutes?" I would have to say an emphatic yes. With the right feedback mechanism, which TrackMan certainly is, and a simple approach, you can make fairly substantial changes in a short period of time. The important thing moving forward is that you practice the changes in order to gain a measure of comfort and confidence in them - and as we know, that takes more than twenty minutes.

Thanks for reading.

How to Hit it Longer Than Ever

Here are a few clues - do not swing harder or get a new driver or change your shafts!  Although all of those ideas might help, the best, and simplest, way to hit longer shots is to strike the ball better.  Plain and simple!

Here is the heads up from Trackman, the premier radar technology for swing and ball flight analysis:
Generally speaking, to maximize ball speed (which translates directly into distance) it is more important to improve centerdness of impact than to increase club speed.  An off-center impact is less efficient in transferring energy from the club to the ball, thus some of the power of the club speed is lost, resulting in a lower initial ball speed and consequently less carry distance.
While increasing the velocity of the clubhead would increase distance, I'm sure we are all well aware what happens when we swing harder - perhaps increased speed, but far less control and very often a less centered hit.  This is where smash factor comes in.  Smash factor is a measurement where the ball speed is divided by the clubhead speed and essentially is the efficiency of the hit - how well was the energy of the swing transferred into the golf ball to make it go.  The more centered, or solid, the hit, the further it will go.  And, being aware that most of us do not have the ability to measure the smash factor of our shots it is important to be aware that if you want to hit it longer (and I've only ever met one person who didn't!) the direction one should take should be in search of a better hit and not necessarily a faster clubhead.
A few good drills and articles to improve the quality of your ball striking:

Impact Drill: How to Stop Scooping | Andrew Rice Golf

Hip SlideGood or Bad? | Andrew Rice Golf

Hands Forward at Impact | Andrew Rice Golf

The moral of the story - focus on hitting it better and you'll hit it longer.  Now get to work.......

TrackMan: Definitive Answers at Impact and More

Here are a few very interesting facts that I have learned with the help of TrackMan. TrackMan is a radar unit that measures both club delivery and the full trajectory of any golf shot – essentially it measures almost everything pertaining to a golf club striking a ball. This might shed some light on, or dispel, a few of golf’s oldest myths:

For PGA Tour golfers (please note that these are averages):

  • All clubs, on average are struck with a descending blow from a PW (-5.0 degrees) to a driver (-1.3 degrees).
  • Every club in the bag hits the ball at the same height 30 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with the Driver is 112 mph; ball speed is 165 mph and carry distance is 269 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with an 8-iron is 87 mph; ball speed is 115 mph and carry distance is 160 yards.
  • Clubhead speed increased by 2 mph from club to club.
  • In conditions that eliminated any roll, an average PGA Tour player would hit a driver and a 5-wood 500 yards; a driver and a 7- iron 441 yards; and a driver and a PW 405 yards.
  • The Carry distance difference between each iron is 12 yards (8-iron 160 yards and 7-iron 172 yards).

For LPGA Tour golfers (please note these are averages):

 

  • All clubs are on average struck with a descending blow other than the driver which is 3.0 degrees upward.
  • Every club in the bag hits the ball the same height25 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with the driver is 94 mph; ball speed is 139 mph and carry distance is 220 yards.
  • The average clubhead speed with an 8-iron is 74 mph; ball speed is 100 mph and carry distance is 130 yards.
  • Clubhead speed increased by 2 mph from club to club.
  • In conditions that eliminated any roll, an average LPGA Tour player would hit a driver and a 5-wood 405 yards; a driver and a 7- iron 361 yards; and a driver and a PW 327 yards.
  • The carry distance difference between each iron is 11 yards (8-iron 130 yards and 7-iron 141 yards).

General information:

 

  • Shot accuracy is primarily determined by a combination of face angle, club path and point of contact.
  • The ball launches PRIMARILY in the direction of the club face - approximately 75-85% on full shots.
  • For putting, shot accuracy is determined primarily by the face angle - the softer the hit (as in chipping and putting) the greater the effect of clubface. In putting the face accounts for 95+% of where the ball goes.
  • Face angle (largely) determines the launch direction while shot curvature/shape is mostly determined by the club path relative to the face angle – the opposite of what has been taught for years. Think of it this way: when a ball is struck with a descending blow, i.e. ball first, divot second, the attack angle is down, yet the ball goes up. The ball goes up due to the angle/loft of the face!
  • The initial ball direction falls between the club face angle and club path - remember that it greatly favors the face angle.
  • The further apart the club face and club path diverge from each other (basically - point in different directions) the more the ball's spin axis tilts and the more curvature exists on the shot.
  • By the way - THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SIDE SPIN - it is merely back spin on an axis and the more the axis tilts, the more the ball flight curves.
  • The only way to hit the outside of the ball is to have the face closed relative to the target line and to hit the inside of the ball the face must be open relative to the target line. Path plays very little role in what part of the ball we hit.
  • The highest recorded clubhead speed on the PGA Tour in 2009 was Bubba Watson at 128 mph while the World Long Drive Champion, Jamie Sadlowski used a clubhead speed of 145 mph (418 yards!) to win. The average male golfer swings a driver somewhere between 82 and 90 mph.

  • A carry distance of 100 yards for ladies is equivalent to a carry distance of 130 yards for men; 200 yards for ladies is equivalent to 250 yards for men.
  • A par four of 350 yards for ladies is equivalent to a par four of 430 yards for the men.
  • The most important factor in increasing carry distance is clubhead speed. For every 1 mph you can add to your swing speed you stand to gain almost 3 yards.
  • An increase of 1” in the length of a club can increase the clubhead speed by as much as 4 mph.
  • The quality of the hit is very important as it relays clubhead speed into ball speed. Smash factor is calculated by dividing the ball speed by the clubhead speed. The maximum smash factor is just above 1.5 (e.g. 100 mph clubhead speed divided into 152 mph ball speed) and indicates an ideal transfer of energy to the ball. A smash factor of 1.5 is most often only attainable with a driver.
  • The ball spends 1/2000th of a second on the clubface. That means it would take a scratch handicap golfer almost 28 rounds of even par golf to have the ball be on the clubface for one second!

Something to keep in mind is that no golfer should discard accuracy in search of distance as there should always be a balance between the two. It is, however, possible for just about any golfer to significantly increase their distance with only a marginal decrease in accuracy as a result of a sound, long-term plan coupled with commitment and discipline.

Interesting stuff - any thoughts or questions?

To hit it like a Tour player check THIS out!