TL;DR: You're driver's too goddam long for you, and you should think long and hard about a cut down driver shaft, which will decrease its overall length but increase your control.
Are you one of the 80+ percent still slicing the golf ball?
If you're here, it's a good bet that it's a problem for you. I mean, it's understandable; you have a job, probably kids, too... when does one have time to really get in there and practice?
Is there something you could do to help you? Not a "cheat" or a "hack"... just something to give you a little nudge in the right direction?
You bet- it's cutting down your driver's overall length.
Should you even consider it? Hell, yes... keep reading to find out why!
So you wanna cut down your driver shaft.
First of all, good for you! It’s no secret- well, it shouldn’t be by now- that nearly every OEM makes their drivers too long for the majority of golfers.
But should just get in there with your chop saw and start hacking away?
Let’s start with the “why”, and work our way towards the “how”.
Why would you wanna cut down driver shaft length?
For one reason, more control.
The PGA Tour has averaged 44.5″ drivers for many years now, and with good reason. They are what makes the swing speed, but having control over the club’s face gives them accuracy.
But what happens when you don’t hit the “sweet spot”?
You lose distance.
The OEMs are trying to keep that from happening, but it’ll never be fully fixed. Any time you don’t hit the sweet spot, you’re giving up yardage. Take a look at this:
The percentages here may be a little high, now that the OEMs are trying to rectify this problem, but rest assured there will still be distance loss. Why even risk it?
You lose accuracy.
Now, this is a rare unicorn, but still possible. When the path is true and the face angle is square, you get a straight shot. But when the face angle’s not square, you get this:
For a right-handed golfer, you get a slice. The jankier your swing path, the worse it gets.
The Effect of Gear Effect
Any time you hit the ball away from the sweet spot, the club head’s gonna twist. Hit it out near the toe and it’ll twist open. Hit it near the heel and it’ll twist closed. Gear Effect (and the new trend, “canted bulge“) works to try to help get the ball spinning back towards the fairway, but it isn’t foolproof.
They call it “Gear Effect” because the club face and ball literally work like gears do:
Pretend the big gear is the club face; if it’s hit near the “toe”, it’ll rotate clockwise. That, in turn, will make the ball (the small gear) turn counter-clockwise. The ball will want to start right, and the “side spin” (not literally… use it for visualization purposes) will try to bring the ball back left, towards the fairway.
Unfortunately, it isn’t foolproof, and will most likely still end up missing the fairway.
So, the solution is to give you something that will allow you more control over the clubface. That means, cutting down your driver.
Don’t assume you’re losing distance.
If you were to go by the OEM’s “longer equals more speed”, yeah, you might lose distance. But think about this: there’s more to distance than pure speed.
Ever hear of “smash factor”? It’s the result of dividing your ball speed by clubhead speed. The closer you can get to 1.5, the better. You can only reach it if your ball speed is 150 and your clubhead speed is 100; otherwise, something closer to the high 1.4’s (1.45, 1.47, etc.) is more realistic.
Anyway, the more efficient your impact, the more distance you’ll get because you’re maximizing your ball speed.
Ask yourself: what’s better, 260 in the trees or 250 in the fairway? And that’s only assuming you’re going to lose swing speed! A more efficient impact and more confidence could even lead to more swing speed!
What happens when you cut down your driver
It’s not that difficult. I mean, seriously, you just remove the grip, measure how much you want to cut off and get to work, right?
There’s more to it than that. First, I think it’d be a good idea to at least try to fit yourself for length before just guessing.
Consider what the new length does to the other specs
Sure, you could cut off 1.5″ and leave it at that… but there are other forces at play. There are “rules of thumb” you need to be aware of:
- For every .5″ of length lost, the swing weight decreases 3 “points”
- The shaft will feel less flexible
- The overall weight will feel lighter
In all honesty, these changes might actually be an improvement. It’s hard to say, considering these need to be taken on a case-by-case basis.
The good news
Don’t fret, though, because this isn’t the end of the world. Most drivers today come with weights, and heavier aftermarket versions can be had for a reasonable price. Failing that, all you need is some lead tape.
I’m a big proponent of going against what the big OEMs try to sell us. Personally, I haven’t gamed a driver longer than 44.5″ in over a decade, and I’m more than satisfied with my typical results.
As you can see in the above pic, on this older driver I had to use strips of lead tape to bring the swing weight back up. Typically, a 4″ strip is equal to 2 grams… but I’m getting ahead of myself; there are some standards you can go by to help you out:
- 2 grams in the head equals one swing weight “point”
- 27 grams in the shaft equals one swing weight “point”
- 5 grams in the grip equals one swing weight “point”
I tend to use heavier shafts, so I only needed 4 “points” to get my swing weight back to where I like it. YMMV, but don’t be afraid to experiment.
Keeping in mind that you aren’t swapping out shafts, you have two options available: add weight to the head end, or remove weight from the grip end.
Personally, I prefer to add weight to the head. If you had, say, a 50-gram grip, and you needed to add two “points” back to your swing weight, you could get a 40-gram grip and it’d accomplish the same thing. But that’s only statically; it would read right on a swing weight scale, but you would make the club feel even lighter and the shaft flex would still feel less flexible.
Since we’re trying to recreate the original feels, adding weight to the head, in my opinion, should be the way to go.
Don’t be so hung up on where you’re putting the weight; there isn’t going to be enough to really make a difference. Remember, it takes at least 16 grams, all located in the exact same spot, to create a change in the club head’s Center of Gravity (CG) enough to cause it to have an altered ball flight (“draw-weighting”, for example).
In the example above, I just put the strips right around the middle of the sole, parallel to the face, because it was the easiest. You don’t need to get fancy here.
How to cut down your driver shaft length
First, you gotta get that grip off.
If you have to cut it off, use a hook-bladed knife (like this one, available in the Green Lantern Golf Store). The reason is, with a straight-blade, you risk cutting into the graphite fibers, which will weaken the shaft and cause premature (and painful) failure. Safety first!
Second, remove the old tape. An electric heat gun, hell, even your SO’s hair dryer, will loosen the sticky stuff enough to let you peel the old tape off. Afterwards, clean the remaining residue off with GooGone, Goof Off, or something similar.
Now it’s time to cut.
Measure how much you wanna remove- remember the old adage: measure twice, cut once!- then get to work.
Don’t use a blade designed for cutting wood, though. A metal or masonry cut-off wheel is best. If you have a Dremel tool, something like this. If you have nothing to cut with, you might wanna rectify that before you get started or this project’s gonna end pretty quick. Something like a simple 4.5″ angle grinder (like this one) will do the trick.
Install the new grip.
I won’t go into too much detail here. Check this post out for a more detailed walkthrough. I have some 2″ grip tape, as well as 3/4″ tape, available in the Store. I also have some grip options, though admittedly it isn’t a large selection.
Experiment to find your ideal swing weight.
Now, you can just go tit-for-tat on this if you want. Every 1/2″ of length removed eliminates 3 swing weight “points”. If you remove 1″ from the shaft, that means you’ve lost 6 “points” in your swing weight. You’re going to need to add 12 grams (2 grams = 1 “point”) to the head to get it back to where you had it before.
But that’s why you experiment!
Take a roll of lead tape (or these strips) and go hit some balls. Hit some without the tape; if it feels good, leave it alone. But if it doesn’t, add tape until it does. Since this is more of a DIY project, you don’t really need to know what the specific swing weight is (D1, D5, etc.); just that it feels good to you.
That’s it- you’re done!
Congrats on your first modification! It wasn’t so bad, was it?
Retrofitting golf clubs isn’t much different than something like changing the oil in your car. You can either take it to a shop and have it done or learn to do it yourself. Some prefer the former, for various reasons (time savings, lack of knowledge, etc.), while others prefer a more hands-on approach.
If you’ve cut your driver down before, or do it after reading this article, let me know how it went in the comments!