Editors' BlogNovember 19, 2008

Driver Length and Composition

Robert Barber Jr. of Phoenix took the time to write a long, well-thought-out letter on the issue of driver length and accuracy. I excerpt here, for while Robert recommends against length in drivers he has no such bias in letters. Good stuff, though:

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__     I must admit that I get a little perverse pleasure reading about the trouble professional golfers such as Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim have with the driver. Last I heard, Phil was sounding like a hacker, using a draw-bias driver to hit a cut off the tee---and Kim is choking up his 44 and 1/2 inch driver to 42 inches and taking a three quarter swing to keep the ball in play. __

__For Phil: How about using a fade biased driver, teeing it up from the right edge of the tee box and hitting it up the right side or middle--and letting the club do the fading. >

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__And for Anthony Kim and Phil and Bubba and John Daly, etc: Ever hear of STEEL shafts?   If you've got to go through all that just to keep the ball in the fairway--and you're already willing to give up some distance----why not eat some humble pie and go back to the old 43-inch steel shaft, and settle for 285 yards, but in the fairway?    >

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Now, generally, almost all drivers have a perceptable "draw bias" that is annoying to look at at address, being that it screams "hook."   This draw bias is because club makers know that with 45 and 46 inch shafts, many if not most golfers can't turn the club over through impact and get the face square. I don't have that problem, and I get sick of hitting straight drives that drift left because of the closed face.  >

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Most men are shorter than 6 feet tall and miss the look and feel of the old clubs.  I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering if the long-shafted graphite craze is just an expensive con by clubmakers and that we'd all be much happier if we played from the middle tees and used a 42 or 43 inch steel shafted driver and saved some money and strokes doing it. >

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Anyway, in one of my wife's bags was an old Hollis Stacy driver, steel shafted.  I decided to use it one day when we were out playing our short course on the longest par 4, which was 360 yards.   The shaft felt manageable, the face set up square with no "draw bias" and instantly, I felt confident.  I hit a nice, high ball that started down the right side and drew back into the middle of the fairway, 240 yards, maybe as much as 250 yards.  Now doesn't that tell you something?  If I could hit an old, ladies steel-shafted wood driver that far and well, do really long hitters such as Kim and Mickelson, not to mention bombers such as Daly or Bubba Watson, really need to fight with long, graphite shafts as opposed to shorter, sturdier, more accurate steel-shafted drivers?    If I were Phil Mickelson playing the 2009 British Open----what do I have to lose by putting a steel shafted 43-inch driver in my bag?  __

We asked Mike Johnson, Golf World's equipment editor, to comment on reader Barber's letter:


__I agree with half of Mr. Barber's point. Players would benefit by going shorter. We did a test at the Hot List this year that pretty much proved that point and we're publishing the results in the Feb. issue. But I think players can accomplish that by going shorter in graphite. Steel in a driver is a full 40 grams heavier than most graphite driver shafts, more in some instances. That's giving up way too much in distance. Graphite is fine, it's the length that's hurting. __

I also like his comments about playing the back tees and how people insist on going back when they don't have the game for it. It reminds me of when someone complained to Pete Dye that his courses were too hard and Dye simply replied, "I can't help you if you insist on playing from the wrong set of tees."

__Oh, and Phil did use a fade-biased driver. And he won the AT&T and Masters with it in back-to-back weeks in 2006. __

I'll add one comment. As Bob Toski said a long time ago, "Golf is a game of how near, not how far." Robert, I think he'd be in your camp on this one.

--Bob Carney

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