The Search for The Perfect Golf Club (excerpt)
From Chapter 1 - Getting a Head
The loft, lie and lengths of your clubs all interact with one another and your swing speed to give you the direction, distance and trajectory of your ball flight. In terms of accuracy, the most important of these three is club length, followed by lie and loft. Let's look particularly at length.
Length and accuracy is a no brainer. Think about it. If I put a club head at the end of a 10 inch shaft and ask you hit a golf ball straight down the fairway, it would be a pretty easy task. OK, so you'd only get to put one hand on the club, you'd be on your knees to address the ball, and the ball wouldn't go very far. But, it would be easy to make solid contact and to hit the ball straight. Now, let's say I switch you from a 10 inch to a 10 foot club and ask you to do the same thing. What do you think's going to happen?
Right. The 10 foot long club would be almost completely uncontrollable.
I remember when long drive competitions had just started, and golfers were in awe of the humongous long drivers these gorillas used. All of a sudden there was so much interest among regular golfers in super-long drivers that many shaft companies began to manufacture specially designed super-long shafts to meet the demand.
One day I built a 60" long driver with a graphite shaft finished in a bright fire engine red. My wife Mary-Ellen happened to work with LPGA Tour player Tammie Green's brother at the time. We were headed out for a picnic at the Green family farm outside the quaint little town of Somerset, Ohio that weekend. I knew Tod would just love to get his hands on that club, what with all the talk at the time in golf about super long drivers, so I shoehorned all 60 inches of it into the car.
The 9-hole golf course where all the Greens learned to play bordered the family's farmland so as soon as I pulled this 60" driver out of the car, Tod and Tammie got this gleam in their eyes and said, "let's go over to the club." In a flash the three of us hopped on the family John Deere, headed out across the fields and over to the Perry County 'Country Club'. Some vehicle to head into a golf course parking lot with, eh!
As soon as we rolled in, Tod hopped off the tractor, took the 60 inch driver and strolled into the "clubhouse." Conspicuously waggling the driver in front of him, Tod hollered out, "Tammie'n me got us a new driver here and we're a'wonderin' if any of you boys want to give it a whack." Sure enough, the "boys" all jumped up and insisted on heading outside the front door to the 1st tee to try it out. Once there Tod posed a little proposition–you know, a group of guys hanging out drinkin' beers in the shop can't possibly do anything golf-related without "putting something on it"!
Tod said, "OK, you guys give me a buck for each swing you take with this driver and I'll give you two bucks if you hit it over the ditch out there in the fairway." I took a look and figured the ditch that crossed the first fairway was out there about 210 yards, and probably a hazard most of these guys feared with their "mini-drivers." With visions of massive drives from this 60" driver, tongues were hanging out and hands were reaching into back pockets before Tod could finish uttering the challenge. Of course, Tod's "shill" was sister Tammie. After several of the "boys" paid the buck and topped, heeled, or dropkicked the driver, Tammie would step in and say, "Tod, you sure there ain't nothing wrong with that driver that's causin' the boys to hit it so short"? At which point Tod promptly handed the club to his tour player sister Tammie who blew the ball WELL over the ditch on the fly.
Well that just stirred things up even more with the boys of Perry County C.C. To make a long story short, Tod and Tammie walked away with over $100 that day! And the guys all left with a lesson about long drivers, on-center hits and accuracy. The most heard phrase that day? "Gimme that damn thing again, I know I can fly the ditch." So Tod, Tammie and I all headed to the Somerset butcher shop and grilled steak at the picnic instead of burgers and dogs!
What all this means is this. Somewhere between 10 inches and 10 feet is the correct length for a golf club to hit the ball solid with distance and accuracy. But, I'll guarantee the right length for you is far closer to 10 inches than 10 feet! Do NOT assume that the "standard" length found on the clubs in the golf shop, especially the woods, will be right for you. 98% of the men's drivers these days are built to a "standard" length of 45 or 45.5 inches; and I am here to tell you that a 45 inch driver will not fit 90% of all golfers and will never allow them to achieve their best combination of distance AND accuracy.
Let me put it another way. Tiger Woods has swung a 43.5 inch driver most of his career on tour. If he could hit the ball straight with a 45 inch club–he would. He can't; so he doesn't. And he knows if he did use a longer driver, he'd have even more trouble keeping it in play. The average driver length for all the other pros on the PGA Tour today is 44.5 inches. Now if Tiger and the rest of his pals know they can't control a 45 inch long stick, what are the chances that you can?