Your Driver: Is It Your First Scoring Club?
[NOTE: TheWedgeGuy is somewhat under the weather today, so we’re re-running a popular post from way back in 2007. He’ll see you Tuesday.]

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 iron sets 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 ? No.
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 think 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 is 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 ]
golfersdelight says:
Thanks for these interesting thoughts. I don't even own a driver, but I regularly find my 3wood around the lengths of my golf buddies, so length is not the issue. I tried all kinds of drivers, but didn't experience the accuracy that I have with my other woods and long irons.

Last season I played irons only and my handicap dropped dramatically as the better accuracy made the difference for me. That, and the purchase of a lobwedge that helps me a lot around the green.
noisemaker says:
I agree completely. Large and long seem to be the latest craze. My drives are on when my head is on. Most of my errant drives are rhythm and tempo problems. Perhaps choking up will improve my percentage of qulity contacts.
bcjohn says:
Can you tell me how lead tape can bias a driver? My initial thought would be that lead tape in the toe would result in a fade and lead tape in the heel would result in a draw. Thanks.
wedgeguy says:
Hey everyone, I apologize for being tardy in responding. I was at the Titleist Performance Institute World Golf Fitness Conference and internet access in that hotel was awful. But this question is a good one. The reason you place tape on a driver to bias for fade or draw is due to the physics of what is happening to the shaft during the downswing. As you build downswing power, the shaft loads, or flexes backwards. As you near impact, the centrifugal force of the clubhead causes the shaft to "unload" so that the head can catch back up with the hands. This rapid unloading produces much power, but also torques the shaft, since the head is attached in the heel. If you put lead tape on the toe, it causes the head to torque the shaft more in the clockwise axis, giving the toe stored energy, and therefore unload faster. Conversely, if you place tape on the heel, it decreases clockwise rotational torque in that direction, causing the clubhead to square slightly slower. Realize that all these things are happening in microseconds, and with very minimal amounts of variation. I hope that answers your question.
DeepRough says:
Nice post, as usual Terry. Someone here mentioned using a 3 wood instead of a Driver off the tee. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the enormous 3 woods these days...Callaway X-Hot (44" shaft), TEE CB2 (43" shaft/170cc), TM Burner (43" shaft, 181 cc), etc...
wedgeguy says:
Sean, Hard to believe, but I do not visit golf shops all that often, so I am not familiar with the "enormous 3 -woods" you refer to. But my take is that if the ball is not sitting on a tee, an ovesized head is more difficult to handle. Remember we went through the "experiment" where the equipment companies shoved oversized irons at us? However, if a golfer is going to make one of these his "driver", it makes a lot of sense. We should all realize that the golf club industry is a lot like the fashion industry. They have to do whatever it takes to drive us to the cash register with great regularity, and convincing us that our current clubs are "out of style" is one way of doing that. We've been taken through many fads over the years. We'll see if oversize 3-woods are still here five years from now, OK?
RS232 says:
Terry, your weight position method to bias a driver is seem to be opposite to what R7's instruction. Are they wrong or I miss something?
Gipper46 says:
Terry-- your right on the money. I started choking down on my 45 inch driver and I am definitely keeping it on the short grass more often with no loss in distance.
wedgeguy says:
Let me address my comments about using lead tape to bias a driver, or any other club, for fade or draw. My recommendation was exactly opposite of the weighting TaylorMade recommends in their r7 drivers, so I may stand corrected. But this is one of those things I'm not that sure of, as I think it depends on the golfer and the way he/she develops swing speed, the performance of the shaft, and other factors. The method I described I learned from Joe Powell, who was a maestro at building persimmon woods and carefully matched irons when I got into the equipment business in the early 1980s. All I know is that the method I described had always worked for me, though it is opposite the TaylorMade method. But I'm experienting with a new driver and now you've got me wondering, so I'll do some more testing and report back what I find out.
Chris S. says:
Overall, I completely agree with Terry about the driver being a scoring club. With regard to the lead weight technique, I've been building clubs for a few years and also place lead weights to help bias a draw. My buddies and I never build a driver longer than 44". Typically 43".
I use Golfsmith / SnakeEyes components and they too have clubheads with weight ports to bias draw/fade, and like TaylorMade, also instruct to place more weight at the hosel to bias a draw and more weight at the toe to bias a fade. Per Golfsmith website:
"Placing the heavier weights in the heel ports produces a draw flight pattern while moving weights to the toe create a fade flight pattern. "

Here is the physics behind this phenomena, as I understand it. Terry I think the idea behind your analysis is correct, just opposite to reality.
Clubheads are designed to have their CG (center of gravity) as close to the center line of the club as is possible (a line through the middle of the club face) so the club face is square at impact.
Depending on the torque stiffness of the shaft, placing more weight at the toe you will delay the closing of the club face because the CG and the center of rotation of the club has been offset towards the toe. The torque built up in the shaft now has to resist a larger rotational moment (weight out at the toe) about the axis of the shaft, and the clubface will be slightly open at impact. The weight at the toe fights the dynamic torque of the shaft to square the club on the down swing. Conversely, if you place weight at the heel you bias the CG of the club toward the hosel and now the clubface will prematurely close at impact because in this case, the added weight dynamically helps "over release" the torque in the shaft to close the club face.
A few added notes:
All the work the club makers are doing these days to increase the MOI (rotational moment of inertia) will work against this biasing technique because these clubs are desgned to be less prone to twisting (from offcenter impacts but also from strategically placed weights). In addition, the stiffer your shaft is to torque flex (not bend flex) the less this weighting trick will help because the offset CG has to fight the torque stiffness of the shaft. A soft flex graphite shaft will see more draw/fade biasing than will a steel shaft.
wedgeguy says:
This is great stuff, and thanks, Chris, for your excellent explanation. To be honest, I am quite puzzled by this as I find a little weight in the heel helps me hit a fade, but your explanation is no doubt technically correct. What we might all take from this is that we can greatly benefit by experimenting! One thing I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that dead center hits product astoundingly greater distance than missed by even a half inch. A very knowledgeable friend of mine in the business is a firm proponent of impact tape to learn where the ball was struck. In his research, misses by a half inch -- even on the biggest high-MOI drivers -- results in a distance loss of 7-9%. That's 15-20 yards or more for average golfers. Misses by an inch, which you can get away with on these monsters, results in distance loss of 12-15%! In other words, if your dead center hits can go 240, a miss by an inch will cost you 30-35 yards. I know for a fact that the typical golfer will hit his drives 15-20 yards further on average if he will grip down on his or her driver to enough so that he/she can make solid contact most of the time. The only way to know this is with impact tape, and I am a huge proponent of this stuff. It's cheap and simple to use.

falcon50driver says:
Short shaft, long shaft, more loft, less loft, big head, tight lies head, smooth swing, Jim Furyk swing. Lead tape in the toe, lead tape in the heel. If aviation was as screwed up as golf, it'd be raining aluminum every day.
glenrich says:
I didn't start playing golf until late 2009 so I am glad to see this article from way back in '07.
I've received a few 'remarks' from people I have played with when they notice that I always choke up on my club, especially my driver.
My brother in law also does this (that's where I got the idea).
I tell them that I have to do that to keep my shots consistent and that's just what works for me until I can become a better player.
Lately I've tried to practice not choking up so much hoping that the extra length will give me more distance but its just given me trouble.
So I am happy to see some validation that choking up on the club may just be the right way for me and many others.
windowsurfer says:
Anthony Kim, who chokes-up on his driver (or at least used to) is also an advocate of laying your bottom thumb on top of, rather than over, the grip. Tried yesterday with driver and it seemed to hold up.,28242,203364
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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