QA How Long is Too Long

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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@franklygolf.com
 
Hi Frank:
Would you mind addressing the 48' golf shaft compared to the 43-44' shaft? I currently use a 50' shaft, and I think that the new maximum length is 48'. I read an article in one of the golf magazines that indicated that the 48' shafts actually hit the ball farther and had better dispersion. I know that I'm 20-30 yards longer with my shaft than any standard-length shafts that Ive tried on the driving range.
 
Charlie

 
Charlie,
I don't know how far you hit your drives now, but Im sure that when you really time your 50-inch shafted driver correctly, hit the sweet spot, and have the face pointing in the right direction, you get that 20 yards youre talking about. My guess, however, is that this is probably not a very common occurrence. If there wasnt such a sizable tradeoff between distance and accuracy in the longer shafts, then every driver sold today would be 48' (which is the maximum length allowed under the current Rules of Golf).
 
I believe that a 44 inch shaft is close to optimum for distance and accuracy. Tiger Woods used a 43 -inch driver for a long time, and the average on the PGA TOUR is a little over 44 inches long. Some golfers who have very slow swings and excellent timing may benefit from using a longer shaft, but most of us have to choose between bragging rights from the occasional long drive and having to buy the beer after each round.
 
Greater consistency with a shorter driver will build more confidence and in turn lead to a better swing and generally longer and straighter drives.
 
Too long is not good for drivers.
--Frank
 
Hello Frank:
I have been using hybrid clubs for quite some time. I currently have a 19,- 21-, & 24 degree hybrid, and just purchased a 28 degree Hibore from GolfSmith. The catalogue advertised the club as a 28 degree 6I. When I received the club it was marked as a 28 degree 5I instead.
 
Apparently I am not the only one confused with this situation. In doing research to purchase the right club, I noticed a great deal of difference in how the companies are correlating the hybrids loft to the equivalent iron it is replacing. I was looking for a club to hit in the 160-to-170 range. This 28 degree hits the mark, even though it is, according to Cleveland, a 5 iron replacement.
 
What makes for these differences in how companies manufacture and market these clubs? All this drives home the idea that it does not matter what distance anyone else hits their 5 iron; its how far I hit it that counts. Same for each club in my bag, except the putter.
 
Best regards,
Lynn

 
Lynn,
The hybrids are still finding their rightful place in the set. Manufacturers are a little reluctant to replace the irons with hybrids for the standard set, either because they dont know how this will be received or because they want to sell you more clubs by making you buy the regular set and then add the hybrids. Generally the hybrid numbered club has a loft similar to the same numbered iron it is intended to replace. The problem with lofts is that these could vary as much as five degrees --from 23 degrees to 28 -- for different models of 5-irons even from the same manufacturer.
 
The numbers on the hybrids are just a guideline. I would consider a 19 degree hybrid as a replacement for my 3-iron, with a 24 degree club replacing my 4-iron. If this holds up, then your club with 28 degrees of loft would be a 5 hybrid, even though the average cavity back 5-iron is about 25 degree in loft.
 
Really, though, what youve discovered is exactly correct: it doesnt matter what the number is on the club, whats important is that you know what that number means for you as far as distance is concerned. The numbering system and the lofts associated with it made up an unwritten rule or code for years, but that changed in the early 70s, when manufacturers started strengthening the clubs to make golfers think they were hitting the ball farther with the same numbered club. Today the numbers are just a personal convenience. Everybody should get out and test how far they hit each club before playing any serious game with a new set.
 
As far hybrids are concerned, choose the ones that will fill the gap between your woods and the longest iron you hit comfortably and consistently. For more on hybrids please click here.
 
--Frank
 
Mr. Thomas,
Are the Callaway Fusion irons more forgiving than the Callaway X-18 irons? I am a 5 handicapper and have used the X-14's for 5 years with a regular Rifle shaft. I have been pleased with the X-14's, but, like all golfers, I am always wondering if there is something better. Should I switch to the Fusions? If yes, what shaft should I get?
 
Thanks,
Alan

 
Alan,
If you are pleased with the X-14s, dont change. Iron technology is not changing very much; its the fashion side thats alive and well. The laws of physics dont change as rapidly as the marketing people would like. The technology of metal woods has made significant advances in the last 10 years, but this too is slowing down. Fashion is starting to take the leading role there as well.
 
We are close to peaking in terms of performance improvement from equipment; significant advances in equipment performance are fewer and farther between. We all believe in magic, which is fun, but when it comes to a real improvement in performance youll be better off in doing some stretching exercises and spending some of those dollars on a lesson or two. Dont give up on a good old friend. This doesnt mean you cant look around, but dont let your faithful X-14s know youre looking.
 
Stay with a good thing for as long as you can. Confidence is worth more than any new set of clubs.
--Frank
 

Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank 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@franklygolf.com