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Seriously, people, golf clubs are sold too long for the vast majority of us.
Of all the clubs, driver length is the worst.
The industry standard is around the 46″ mark… WTF?!
The good news is, it seems some companies are getting the idea, and have scaled back, a little. Thankfully, the USGA and R&A keep it from getting too out of hand, with a 48″ maximum, but 45-45.5 inches is still a little too long.
Tom Wishon, in his book The Right Sticks: Equipments Myths That Could Wreck Your Golf Game, states that only about 10% of all golfers can handle these extra-long clubs. Those types are the kind that swing pretty slowly and smoothly.
Look at all the different kinds of swings on the PGA Tour alone, and you can extrapolate that to the millions of us that don’t play golf for a living.
Before you start beating yourself up about a bad purchase, I have a simple solution!
All you need to do is take your club (or clubs, since it isn’t just the driver this can help) to the driving range, grab some impact labels (or sunscreen) and hit clubs.
Don’t worry about anything but making contact with the “sweet spot”. Start off how you normally hold the club; swing 3-5 times and see where you’re at. If it’s all concentrated on the “sweet spot”, you’re all set. If not…
If not, grip down a half inch. It doesn’t seem like much, but seriously, it can make a difference. Apply a new sticker (or reapply the lotion) and hit 3-5 shots, again stopping to see where you’re at.
The PGA Tour average has held pretty steady at 44.5 inches; if you bought a 46″ driver, you might be out on the range a bit, but it’s better to spend the time getting it right than continuing to wonder why you aren’t maximizing your potential.
Why only 3-5 shots? Because 10 is too many. Yes, I want you to hit 10-12 shots when it comes to figuring out your wedge distances (which you can do if you grab GLG’s Essential On-Course Field Guide), but this is different. You don’t get extra chances on the tee box, so you don’t want to take them when you’re fitting.
Three to five shots is plenty. If you take more, you start to get used to the club, and make adjustments to your swing. That’s not good; you adjust the clubs to your swing, not the swing to the clubs.
Anyway, continue gripping down by a half inch until you find the length that allows you to hit the “sweet spot” the majority of the time. It could be 45″, 44.5″, or even 43″- all that matters is getting more “sweet spot” impacts.
If you want to add an extra layer, bring along a roll of lead tape.
The reason is, when you’re gripping down, you’re taking away swing weight, or, making the head feel lighter.
The general rule of thumb is for every half inch you take away, you lose three swing weight “points”.
“Points” is kind of a misnomer. It’s not worth sweating the details over; just use it as an easy way to understand how heavier or lighter a golf club’s head feels.
Three “points” is enough for the majority of us to feel a difference. What that means is, every time you grip down on the club a half inch, you’ll most likely notice the clubhead feels a little lighter.
But that’s OK if you bring the lead tape along. Keep in mind that you can do this test without the tape, because you can still determine what length helps you find the “sweet spot” most of the time. The lead tape is just extra, so you can maintain the feeling of the clubhead at its original length. That’s it.
You might be thinking “Why the hell would I want to decrease my driver length? Wouldn’t I lose distance”?
In a vacuum, maybe. But think about this: you routine drive with your current driver length may net you 240 yards… but it always slices to the right (or left, for you lefties!) 50 or more yards. What good is that drive?
What if the driver length was shortened an inch or more, and it resulted in a 230 yard drive that found the fairway? Sure, it’s 10 yards shorter, but wouldn’t finding the fairway be a fair trade-off?
Let’s put it another way: instead of a longer shot you can’t find, or always have to finagle your way out of trouble, or “take your medicine” (as Harvey Penick would say by chipping back onto the fairway), you sacrifice a few yards to almost always have a decent second shot. Wouldn’t that make the game a little easier for you?