Long Driver

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Hello Frank,
I was wondering if you could answer a question which has been of some concern to me recently.

I'm a Scottish pro and I give a lot of golf lessons. I noticed that many amateurs and even pros struggle with the driver compared to the likes of a 4 or 5-wood. Could it be that drivers are too long for many people to handle?

Yesteryear the driver was around 43.5 inches for a man and now some are 46 inches long.

Is there a maximum or minimum length that you would recommend for the average golfer?

All the best

– Iain

Iain,
Driver length, has also been of some concern to me for some time only because it is being introduced for the sole purpose of increasing distance – the most powerful words in marketing golf equipment. To see more on driver distance, click here.

With today’s light weight and high strength materials; high MOI (Moment of Inertia), increased COR (Coefficient of Restitution), and advanced face design the is driver more efficient than it was ten years ago, and significantly more efficient than  the clubs which were available to Jack Nicklaus in the 1960’s– his driver length was 42 ¾ inches long.  

This efficiency is good for the game and golfers but if the length of the driver is increased one loses the benefits of the advances made in applying high-tech materials etc.

Iain, you are right and recognize what many teachers have experienced, i.e. that because of the increased length of a driver  up to 46 ½ inches long – almost three inches longer than the 3-wood 43 ½ inches – it is difficult to control in spite of the all the advances in design.

We have learned, after many generations of club makers and millions upon millions of rounds played, that for every three degrees change in head loft, the length between successive clubs is approximately ½ inch – i.e. from drivers, to fairway woods and long irons.

Drivers used to fit this model for many years.

Yes, we are going to get increased distance but at the expense of accuracy and control.

My strong recommendation for the average golfer is to take advantage of the new technology along with being able to control your drives, score better and have more fun.

Jack Nicklaus had the opportunity to have a longer driver but as mentioned he selected a 42 ¾ inches. When Tiger did his best he had a 43 ½ inch driver. The average length driver on tour is about 44 ¾ inches.

So take your lead from the best in the world if you want to enjoy your game more and score better using the 'Big Gun'.

Iain, thanks for the question. I think it is going to help a number of golfers and may even have some influence on some manufacturers who are now negating some of the fine scientific work they are doing for the average golfer.

– Frank


Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com