Q A 44 vs 45 Driver Shafts

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Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com
 
Dear Mr. Thomas,
I am 20 years old, 6 feet tall, have a 12 handicap and a swing speed of 120MPH. My driver is 45 inches in length and I hit the golf ball all over the course. However, during my last round I decided to choke down on the driver about an inch and started to hit more fairways. Do you recommend I cut the shaft to 44 inches, or keep it at 45 because I know I am capable of hitting it when my game is on? -- Robbie L.S.


Robbie,
I dont think you have an option but to shorten your driver. I have been suggesting this move, from 45 to 44, to many golfers if they want to enjoy visiting the fairway more often.
 
I am pleased to say that I am seeing a trend to do this by golfers like you. Golfers can be told what to do only for a certain amount of time. After a while they will find that the game is not as much fun being in the rough. Manufacturers have been making drivers longer in an attempt to get a few extra yards out of that perfect shot. This has, however, decreased the efficiency of the use of the driver. Golfers are not able to keep a 45 inch driver in the fairway as well as the 44 inch driver.
 
Well done and YES, shorten your driver and you will not be tempted to try to rip it. On average you will have longer drives because the ball doesnt roll much in the rough. Also you will make a better friend of this shorter club.
 
Frank,
I own a set of 1977 Wilson Staff irons and was wondering if today's shaft technology would help improve them. I currently play Tommy Armour 845 V 31 RO EVOs, and though they are a game improvement iron the difference in my scores has not been that dramatic. I have always liked the Wilsons and plan only to do PW to 7-iron. Also, which would be better, steel or graphite. I am a 16 handicap who hits driver about 245 and 5 iron about 160. Look forward to your advice. -- Kevin.

 
Kevin,
I too have a set of Wilson blades from the mid 70s. These were blades even though cavity backs were being introduced in this time frame. Wilson didnt have a cavity back and did what every manufacturer did prior to this date i.e. change models every 4 to 5 years with some very subtle changes which most consumers wouldnt even recognize and certainly not considered radical enough to buy a new set for. We changed when clubs wore out.
 
Your Tommy Armour set are listed on our Maltby Playability Factor listing as Conventional (see www.franklygolf.com/MPF/index.asp for club listings for club playability factor comparisons).
 
This list identifies clubs in the Ultra Game improvement, Super game improvement, Game improvement, Conventional, Classic and Player Classic categories. So you can select which set type will suit you best.
 
If you want to change shafts from your originals in your Wilson set then there are some very good light weight steel shafts. I note you want to keep only your Wilson 7-iron through the PW and re-shaft these. This is OK but be careful to make sure the lofts in your new set makeup are progressing such that there is about 4 degrees difference in loft between the consecutive numbered short irons and three degrees in your long irons.
 
Using the blade style in short irons is not a problem if you like them as there is not very much difference in the actual forgiveness between club sets in the Super Game Improvement, all the way to the Classic categories for the wedges and short irons. What this means is that average to high handicap player can use Tigers wedge and 9-iron but dont try to use his 3-iron.
 
This is where hybrids, to replace the long irons have made significant inroads.

Frank,
I have scuffmarks at the top of my driver. Its obvious that I am not striking the ball on the face of the club, is it my swing plane? How do I correct the swing? -- Michael


Michael,
I am not in a position to give you advice on your swing as this is not my area of expertise but even if it was it would not be very smart of me to do so without seeing what you were doing. I would suggest two things: first tee the ball a little lower to see if this works then if it doesnt find a good teacher to look at your swing.
 
Frank,
I learned to play and practiced in my back yard as a kid, and if I took a divot my Dad would have had my hide-therefore I learned to 'pick' the ball cleanly and I do OK. I hear you should 'hit down on the ball' ad nauseum. Could you explain the benefits/logic behind this and maybe suggest a drill that I might use to overcome 35 years of ingrained muscle memory.
 
Every time I try to contact the ball on the downward swing and take a divot I hit I hit it so fat the divot is big enough to carpet the golf cart and the ball goes 12 feet. -- Blake A. Boardman

 
Blake,
Dont change because someone says you are doing it incorrectly certainly if the results are good. What would you think of telling Jim Furyk that he needed to change his swing because it didnt look like a good swing.
 
For a ball to be struck well you must not have any outside interference between the ball and the club for a distance of travel of about of an inch during impact which is the distance the club and the ball are in contact.
 
Obviously also you dont want any outside interference from the ground before impact. Ideally the divot should start in line with where the front edge of the ball was prior to impact. To do this with a descending blow is not easy and takes a lot of practice. Good golfers do it today whereas many golfers of the old school didnt take much of a divot at all. It was more of a sweeping stroke like the one you were brought up with.
 
The odds that there will be interference between the club and the ball (fat shot) are greater with a descending blow than a sweeping one. This is when the club head path is not traveling parallel to the ground surface just before and during impact. A sweeping stroke by not taking a divot or a very small divot minimizes the chances for the error associated with a descending blow. The sweeping stroke was most popular until the mid 50s and some of the greatest golfers we know performed reasonably well using it. Now that we have softer turf and what is considered more of a power game technique we seem to be taking larger divots. The bad side of this is that we also hit more fat shots and there is greater potential for this to happen.
 
So dont get too concerned as even some of the greatest shots performed today dont result in having to replace a divot after the shot.
 
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com