Recently, I found myself reading Tom Wishon’s book, “The Right Sticks“, where he topples a mountain of long-standing golf equipment myths. It’s a great book that I’ll be reviewing shortly, but one of the myths stuck out to me.
Wishon tackled the myth about longer drivers producing more distance. Myth #18 (out of 37!) is: “The longer the length of a club, the farther you’ll hit the ball.“ That’s right, it’s a myth. Well, to be fair, it’s a partial myth. It’s true that physics dictate that a longer shaft can allow the club head be swung faster, but Wishon holds that only a small number of players possess the right combination of swing fundamentals and athleticism to do it. The rest of us suffer with lessened control and diminished contact.
He also pointed out a stunning fact. While we’re buying 45 and 46 inch drivers off the rack, the average driver length on the PGA Tour from 2005-2007, according to Wishon, was 44.5 inches. Remember that small number of players able to hit longer drivers effectively? Well, it seems many Tour pros don’t count themselves among that group. Why? Because they can’t control the longer drivers as well.
If a Tour pro can’t control a 46 inch driver effectively, how can I hope to do it?
After reading that, I had to give a smaller driver a shot. I went out to the driving range prior to playing 9-holes (my first post-knee injury round this fall) and after warning up, I broke out the driver and started hitting drives while choking up well over an inch.
To my amazement, I was hitting much better drives. They were more on-target and I felt like I hadn’t sacrificed much distance, if any.
I took my experiment out to the course and found that I was driving better than usual. Keep in mind that I hadn’t played much since August because of my knee trouble. I had practiced on the range a few times, but that’s it.
My swing felt much more in control and I felt like I could take a rip at the ball and not worry as much about hitting it off the property. I noticed an immediate boost in confidence, too. I hit one drive up the left side of a tight hole with out of bounds on the left, straight as a laser beam and out to about 300 yards.
A few weeks later, I started to read the December issue of Golf Magazine and I was surprised to see a feature on Anthony Kim that pointed out that he chokes up about two inches on his driver! His rationale is that it gives him much greater accuracy and control and only costs a handful of yards. However, he’s 159th on Tour in driving accuracy, so I’m not sure where he’d be without the added control. His total driving stat is somewhat better, but not stellar.
(Update: the day after writing this post, I found that Golf Digest also featured AK this month, and also talked about his driver. In that article, AK indicates that he has a 44.5 inch driver that he plays at about 42 inches after choking up.)
Playing with a shorter driver is something I’m going to continue to do. In the long run, I’ll probably actually gain some distance because I’ll be able to be put the sweet spot on the ball more often. But as my game improves, I may sacrifice a few yards, but the added control will be well worth it.
I recommend giving it a try. It’s hard to find men’s drivers that are shorter than 46 inches so just try choking up an inch or two at the range like Anthony Kim does to see how it feels. I think you’ll find that you have a little more control and you might even add distance with more consistent contact. Tom Wishon would probably recommend getting a driver fitted properly instead of simply choking up, which is something you can certainly look at doing, as well.