Over the past few years, there has been a distance revolution on Tour. At the center of that revolution is Bryson DeChambeau who is hyper focused on hitting each shot as straight and long as possible. DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson have been very vocal lately about their desire to use a 48-inch shaft on their drivers. The reason, the longer the shaft, the faster the clubhead speed; the faster the clubhead speed, the more distance your ball will travel. Amateaur golfers hear about this desire for more distance and longer shafts, and it has caused many golfers to use a shaft that is too long for their swing and too advanced for their game. The following article will look at the standard length of a driver and what length will best fit your swing.
Basics of Standard Driver Length
Golf equipment technology continues to improve in almost every way, and driver shafts are no different. The technology that goes into weight placement, flex, material, and other things have made driver shafts an important aspect of the club, and the length of those shafts have a lot to do with how they perform.
If you think of your swing plane as an arc, then you know that the larger the arc, the more speed you can generate. You can increase the size of your swing arc in 2 ways: you can either get taller or you can get a longer driver. For most golfers over the age of 18, your only shot is the latter.
There is also the age-old debate in golf of accuracy vs distance. Is it more important for golfers, especially amateurs, to hit more fairways and setup well for a second shot or to hit the ball longer so that even if you are hitting out of the rough it is a shorter shot? While distance and accuracy are not necessarily inversely related, for most golfers they usually are. The harder you hit the ball, the more spin you put on the ball, and a slight mishit turns into a much bigger issue when the ball is traveling a long way. This will be further discussed later in the article.
With all of that said, golfers must determine if they are more interested in hitting longer drives or hitting more fairways. Golf manufacturers, for their part, have mostly moved from the old standard of 45-inches for a shaft to a slightly longer 45.5 or 45.75. These manufacturers know that golfers are more likely to buy their product if they can show that their driver hits the ball longer, with no thought of whether or not the average golfer needs a longer or shorter driver shaft.
When it is time to find the ideal shaft length for your drive, a few different variables should be taken into consideration, and 5 of the most important are as follows:
If you are 5’3 and hitting with a 45-inch driver shaft, you will probably struggle to control your drive. Make sure to get a shaft length that does not put you too far away from the ball at address.
- Swing Speed
Generally, the faster you swing your club the farther the ball goes, but that is not always true. What is true is that your swing speed can affect the flex of your driver shaft and what type of shaft you need. If you swing the ball less than 95mph and you have a regular flex shaft, you actually get the action of a stiff flex shaft. If you have high swing speed, you do not need a longer shaft, but if your swing speed is low, then a longer shaft may help you.
Usually, the younger you are, the harder you swing. Many seniors need a little extra distance and flex in their shaft, so a slightly longer shaft might help. At the same time, younger golfers may want additional control which means a shorter shaft.
- Ball Speed
When your ball speed is higher, your mishits go farther. We would suggest that the higher your ball speed, the shorter driver shaft you can afford to have.
- Skill Level
All of the above variables are all contingent on your skill level. The higher your skill level, the more you know your own swing and the more comfortable you probably are at a specific shaft length. If you hit the ball long and straight already, just keep doing what you are doing.
What is the ideal shaft length?
As you can probably tell, the ideal shaft length is different for different people and their different swings. In general, you want your driver shaft to be between 43 and 47 inches depending on the variables listed above and others. The truth is, the majority of golfers use a shaft that is too long for their swing and skill level in the pursuit of distance and because of convenience. We would suggest getting fitted for a driver and swinging drivers with different shaft lengths to sense the feel and control difference in each.
Distance VS Accuracy
What is more important from your drive, distance or accuracy? If we had to answer, we would say “both,” but the truth is every golfer has to make a decision about when to be more aggressive for extra distance and when to be content with your length off the tee as long as that length is accurate. If you have played golf more than once, then you have had one of those days where you just could not get your drive into the fairway. You end up scrambling from behind one tree to the rough before you ever get to take another real swing. As your game improves, those bad days end up with your ball in the rough or out of position so that you leave yourself with difficult second shots rather than behind a tree with an impossible one.
Players like DeChambeau have clearly chosen distance over accuracy. In their minds, a 100-yard second shot out of the deep rough is a better position than a 150-yard shot from the fairway, and many golfers are moving toward that train of thought. The problem is, for amateur golfers, we usually do not drive the ball far enough on our best shots to warrant choosing yards over fairways, and it is generally better to go with the shorter and more controllable shaft.
Standard Driver Length FAQs
- Should I shorten my driver shaft?
Probably, but it is complicated. Making your driver shorter is not as simple as cutting a couple of inches off the shaft and then heading out to the course. There are weighting issues, straightness issues, the potential of losing some of your shaft flex. We would suggest, instead, purchasing a new driver or waiting until it is time and getting your driver fitted to the length you want to begin with. In the early 1990s, the standard length of a men’s driver was 43.5 inches. Today, that number has increased to 45 inches all in the name of distance. Distance sells clubs, and testing is an important aspect of driver sales. The longer a club tests, the more likely someone is to at least test it out when in the market for a driver. Distance also means less accuracy and more spin on mishits, and for most amateurs, hitting the ball straight off the tee is more important than hitting it a long way.
- Does a longer shaft mean more distance?
In theory, a longer shaft means more distance, and if all things are equal then you get more distance with a longer shaft. The problem is that all things are not equal. A longer shaft is harder to hit and it is especially harder to hit straight. Most club experts believe an extra inch on a driver shaft can increase your distance by about 10 to 15 yards. If you are generating more swing speed with the longer shaft, however, and you slightly mishit the ball, that extra speed gives you extra spin. If the longer driver shaft hits the ball 12 yards longer but also gives you 25 extra shards of slice, then the shorter shaft actually increases your distance off the tee. The key is to practice with a few different shaft lengths and see which is the longest you can go while still hitting the ball straight and feeling comfortable with your swing.
- Is there a limit for driver length?
Back in October of 2021, golf’s ruling body decreased the maximum legal length of the shaft from 48-inches to 46-inches. So, the direct answer is that “yes” there is a limit for driver length. So far, the 46 inch rule is simply a suggestion and not yet a rule in golf. It is called a “Model Local Rule” which gives tournament creators the ability to limit driver length or not.