Your Driver: Is It Your First Scoring Club?
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I take great issue with the industry's extreme, and almost complete focus on distance – not just with the driver, but with the irons as well. Without picking on anyone, some new irons have pitching wedges with as little as 43-44 degrees of loft (which was an 8-iron when I was younger). Does that really help your game? Is a 6-iron easier to hit if you put an "8" on the bottom? No.

But where this quest for distance is abused the most is on drivers. We see the average driver in the store at 46-47" in length now, when the old standard was 43", then 44" up to about 6-8 years ago. And average golfers are buying them like hotcakes. But do you realize that very few tour players are using a driver over 45" in length? Why? Because they know they cannot be reasonably accurate with longer drivers! So, if the tour players know they can't control a driver that is 46-47" long, what the heck makes amateurs thing they can?

A few years ago, Golfsmith did an extensive live golfer test at their huge facility in Austin, Texas, where they had hundreds of golfers hit drivers of all sizes, shapes and lengths. They found that almost every golfer achieved his best average driving distance with drivers that were 43-1/2" long! Now, that was when 45" was the new "standard", but the point remains clear to me:
Your driver is probably too long for you to hit efficiently!
The fact is, no matter what the technology, a ball hit squarely and solidly will be longer than one hit around the perimeter of the face. And you'll hit more solid shots if your driver was shorter. You can prove this to yourself. In your next round of golf, choke up on your driver a full inch every time you hit it. I'll bet you'll find that you hit more solid long drives than you have in some time.

In my own case, I did this with three different drivers, and found that with each one, my best performance came when I was gripping the driver to effectively make it 44-1/4" long. I've been a scratch or low-handicap player my whole life and historically am a very good driver of the ball. As I began to take advantage of the new technology I found my driving accuracy failing, and I didn't like it. So, I just began to choke up on these long drivers and my accuracy came right back, without a loss of distance! And I don't care what golf course you play, it's easier from the fairway.

Oh, and there's another significant side benefit to this alteration to your driver. When you shorten it, you can use lead tape to bring the swingweight back up to where it should be. By positioning those few grams of lead tape strategically on the clubhead, you can bias your driver for a draw (weight in the toe) or fade (weight in the heel). You can also place the lead tape in the back of the head for a higher ball flight if you need it, or right on top of the crown behind the face for a lower ball flight.

It's fun to tinker, and I trust you will find this driver tuning to be interesting and beneficial. And about that title of this article? If you don't think the driver is your first scoring club, review your last round and count the penalty shots from the tee, and those holes where you took yourself out of play with your tee shot.
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[ comments ]
jasonfish11 says:
I completly agree about how important driving the ball straight is. I have been fighting to hit more fairways recently.

Last round I hit 7 of 14 fairways. The holes that I hit the fairway I played at 3 over par (which included a double bogy 3 putt). The holes that I missed the fairway I played at 9 over par.

It seems to matter less about what club I was hitting into the green than where I'm hitting it from. I hit all clubs 6i-PW pretty well from a nice flat clean lie.

I'm to the point that I'd give up 10 yards on my drives to add 10% more fairways per round. Unfortunatly I've been hitting my 3w worse than my driver recently. I need to fix my tee ball.
1slander1970 says:
Question for the group...

I have a TaylorMade R11s. It is too long and I choke way up on it even at 6' 4". Where can I go (e.g. Golf Galaxy, Golfsmith???) to try different shaft lengths to see which one is right for me?

I struggle with consistent fairway shots and like some of the other comments my scores go way down the closer I am to the hole after my drive.

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

larrynjr says:
@1slander, go to Tom Wishon's website and look up clubmaker / fitters in your area. There is a link at bottom center of the page when it first opens up to "find a clubfitter" They can make your R11s into your best club! I went to a local fitter last fall and had a club made from scratch and my driver is now one of my most reliable clubs. I know any mishits are due to my issues and not the club itself.
1slander1970 says:
@larrynjr...thanks for the tip. Let me take a look...Rich
GBogey says:
@Jasonfish - to commiserate I went through a long phase where my 3W was worse off the tee than the driver even though 3W from the fairway was quite good. I've been able to fix it with practice and now look to hit 3W instead of Driver whenever I can. With the rain we've had this year the rough is quite deep so hitting fairways is a huge premium over distance right now.
I still have some "tee-itis" with my irons - I go through phases where my irons are worse on par 3's than from the fairway. My current theory is that the tee makes me want to hit up instead of down. My current fix is to tee the ball high enough to take out the risk of hitting it fat but low enough to encourage a downward strike. Let's hope it works.
mjaber says:
No wait a minute. In this article ( you said you were "skeptical of how much effect on ball flight you can have by moving just a few grams around."

And in this article, you are saying "By positioning those few grams of lead tape strategically on the clubhead, you can bias your driver for a draw (weight in the toe) or fade (weight in the heel). You can also place the lead tape in the back of the head for a higher ball flight if you need it, or right on top of the crown behind the face for a lower ball flight."

I'd like some clarification, please.
Werepuppie says:
I have been saying this forever.The Drive is by far the most important shot in the game.The penalties for bad drives are severe.
Shallowface says:
I thought added weight in the heel made a club draw biased.
onedollarwed says:
I see a few people get away without using a driver - and they might come back to the driver if it was wieldy enough. Let's face it - driving the ball deep down the fairway is one of life's great pleasures.
By improving your driving accuracy - by the method Terry espouses - your confidence will soar. This will help many facets of your game - the confidence alone. You'll find yourself working the drive bit and cutting corners when necessary. This means that even drives that aren't in the fairway will probably be not only playable, but on the correct side/position.
meddle says:
Seems like this would work in concept, but when I have put it into practice multiple times in my golf game, it just has not worked for me. When I hit a driver with length 44' or shorter I loose 20-30 yards without much gain in accuracy (except hitting it shorter minimizes how far you are in the rough on bad shots). Plus, hitting a 4 hybrid instead of a 7 iron on a second shot to the green is a big deal, since it's hard for me to hold a green with that low loft of a club.

Glad it works for some people, just not me.
jrbizzle says:
There are a lot of good points in here. Years back there was an interview with a top coach (Harmon maybe?) in a golf magazine and he said one of the biggest faults of amateurs is complete lack of knowledge of drivers. He said most can't hit them straight consistently, and even fewer know how far they hit them. It's one of the few clubs that amateurs grab and just try to hit as far as possible. Would we do that with any other club in our bag? Probably not.

It's all great points. For a club you would ideally use 9-11 times per round, we really should understand it more, give ourselves the best chance to swing it properly and know what will happen when we do.
Ianinho says:
@Shallowface I thought the same...
jwygo says:
I took my driver, 3 and 5 woods out of the bag for my last two 9-hole rounds. I drove with a 3-hybrid (190 yds). My driver is 225-240. Both rounds were 5 strokes better than many previous 9 hole averages. These 5 strokes come directly from being in the fairway more often (our club has very heavy first cut). An interesting experiment! I think I'll keep doing this until I get better control of my driver and woods.
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