Shortening Your Driver for Added Control

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.

Comments

  1. I recently recommended this tip in a post that I published about reducing a golf slice. It definitely helps you to keep control. I am surprised that Anthony Kim is shown as being 159th in driving accuracy. I need to do some research to see how long his driver shaft really is. It may be longer in the first place and so when he chokes down it is closer to the length of other Tour Players. I’m not sure, though. But if his overall shaft length is equal to everybody else and then he chokes down, he needs some more practice off the tee. But it also proves that driving is not the most important aspect of the game, because he is ranked near the top overall. His mid and short game is what saves him.

  2. bobby says:

    I could not agree more on driver length…As a high handicapper (coming down steadily) I built my 10.5 degree with a 43 inch length and couldnt be happier. As I get better I may add a half inch at a time and see what happens!

  3. Double Eagle says:

    Nick, by sheer coincidence I found out this morning that Golf Digest also featured AK this month, and they also covered his choking up with the driver. They actually say that he has a 44.5 inch driver that he chokes up to an effective length of about 42 inches!

    Also, with respect to the 159th stat, I just pulled that from PGATour.com. That’s his stat for 2008.

  4. Greg B. says:

    The Wedge Guy had a similar post. I just got that book Mike and I’m actually considering a professional fitting for my sticks, even though I’ve been pretty vocal against it.

    I have tried the choke down on driver thing too with similar results. The problem for me is that after a few solid shots I think I can ease it back out. I think I need to actually have the shaft chopped a couple of inches. Problem there is that I paid $40 to have a new shaft installed with the spine allignment and all that good stuff.

    In both cases, I’ll likely continue on without doing either… :/

  5. Double Eagle says:

    I’m hoping to do a professional fitting this winter, Greg. I might wait, though, because I feel the rust starting to build as the days are shorter and colder. I’d prefer to have it done when I’m playing regularly.

    Wishon talks about chopping the shaft down and he recommends against it, because it affects the swing weight of the club (not to be confused with the mass of the club).

  6. You see alot of players doing the long shaft thing (I’ve seen some with 50″ shafts) and all it does for most players is lessen their accuracy…sometimes gives them LESS distance! You have to be awfully good to benefit distance-wise for going longer.

    Stay to a medium length and work on your game. Too many get caught up in gear.

  7. HP says:

    This is something that I just started and it works great, I still hit a 1 iron on down and I am going to shorten them all about a inch or so. I feel like I can hit it long and straight no problem. I wish all golfers would leave the ego at home and play the game to be consistent. You guys here are on the right track. Thanks

  8. Double Eagle says:

    Good points, HP. Golf is one of those games where you need ego, and then you need to be able to leave it in the cart too. It requires confidence and a little fearlessness that come from a healthy ego. At the same time, like you said, a player needs to be able to check it and make logical decisions, not decisions based on hitting it long or trying impossible shots.

  9. Joe says:

    I have been gripping down on my driver the past four or five rounds I ahev played and have had good success utilzing this method. My driver is over 45 inches and that is just a little too lengthy for me to control effectively without doing so.

  10. Jerry Combs says:

    Shortening up, ie choking up, on the club drastically changes the swing weight of the club, and in my opinion, causes a really strange, unbalanced feel. Do not be aftaid to experiment by cutting that 46″ driver down an inch or 2 and just regripping it. You can always lengthen it again if you desire for very little cost (or no cost except a new grip if you can cut the club abd lengthen it again if needed yourself). I think you will find that the shorter driver WILL in fact work wonders for your accuracy, as it has for me, with little or no loss in distance. Infact, maybe MORE distance because you can go at the ball that much more agressively with the shorter shaft.

  11. Double Eagle says:

    Jerry, unfortunately, that is not correct. Swing weight is the measurement of the distribution of weight in the club, specifically, the ratio in the first 14 inches of the shaft to the rest. Choking down does not change that, though it may give a slightly different feel of the club head. Maybe a slight change in the “effective” swing weight, if you will.

    On the other hand, cutting two inches off the shaft actually alters the swing weight of the club, and also the total weight, which will give a much more drastic change in the feel of the club. And that change is also permanent, at least until a new shaft is installed.

    One thing that might contribute to feel that is not as good when choking down is that we’re holding the grip in a spot where it is much thinner. I personally don’t find it to be a problem, but I can see where someone might.

    On the other hand, any changes in effective swing weight that occur by choking down are minor and will be offset by improved contact. The club might not feel perfect, but the player will see an immediate improvement in distance and accuracy if poor contact has been a problem.

    I hope we can both agree, however, that the proper course of action, once a player determines that a shorter driver is more effective, is to have a shorter shaft fitted by a club fitter and installed in the driver. Choking down can be a temporary fix for someone to get the feel of a shorter driver, but re-shafting should be the permanent solution. I would not recommend cutting down a shaft under any circumstance unless a club fitter has determined that the new length, new swing weight, and new total weight would then be proper for the player.

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