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Shorter vs. Longer: Understanding Golf Driver Shaft Length

Published on 06/16/2023 · 7 min readGolf Expert Jorge Arteta covers the difference between driver shaft lengths, the effect of using a shorter shaft, and why you just might want to shorten your driver.
Jorge Arteta, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Jorge Arteta

Photo courtesy of Cobra

Every golfer wants to hit their driver further. That desire is there whether you’re an amateur, or a PGA Tour player like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, or Rickie Fowler. One way to achieve this is by lengthening a driver’s shaft. Crucially, while the ball does go farther with a longer driver shaft, other details can also affect driver distance. Anything from clubhead, swing, or ball speed, to shaft material or flex, swing weight, launch angle, or even spin rate can be influential.

Generally, the length of the shaft is directly proportional to the distance the ball travels. The longer the driver shaft, the further the ball will go. That's why there is a limit on club lengths for playing recreational golf. As of 2022, that standard is set at 46 inches.

What Is the Standard Length for Drivers?

What is the standard driver length available on the rack at your local golf store these days? In previous years, driver shafts measured at about 43 inches, but today they come in at around 45 to 45.5 inches in length. So, it seems that trends have shifted and longer shafts are more the norm now. The average driver length for men is now about 45 inches, while women have shorter (but still overall longer) driver shafts that average about 44 inches. Again, the maximum limit for length is 46 inches. Bring out the ruler because driver lengths are getting closer to challenging that regulation limit.

What's the Difference Between Lengths?

I have included a chart included below to highlight a couple of interesting numbers. The first takeaway is that the difference in distance between a short and long shaft is minimal. There is maybe a yard or two of variance. One would expect that the difference would have been more significant than just a yard or so.

Chart courtesy of SwingYard

The dispersion rate from the middle of the fairway, however, is significant. There is an almost 8-yard difference from the center of the fairway. Even the low handicappers had about a 5-yard difference. Just imagine how far off-center some of those drives were hit. Increasing distance is one thing, but having the off-center hits go farther away from the center would negatively impact tee shots.

An Anecdotal Case Study

Having established that shaft length directly impacts drives, the question of whether a tee shot will hit fairways or create a dispersion chart all over the course is another story. This is because there is a trade-off between hitting the ball further and maintaining accuracy. Interestingly, the lower handicap player typically has a shorter golf club while on the other hand, amateur golfers have a longer driver shaft. As the table above shows, the shorter shaft is usually the more accurate one.

In my years as a golf teaching professional, one of the perks of the position is seeing and testing out all the new clubs that my students buy. One of my students bought the latest driver and was excited to try it out one day. He started to hit it on the range, and while the ball did go pretty far, it also went right, left, and all over the place. I could tell the student wasn’t too happy with the results, and I asked him if I could take a look at his driver. It was a 45.5-inch shaft and I couldn’t believe how long it felt. Added to that, his old driver had a stiff shaft and this one was a regular flex. I asked him, “Are you sure this is the right size shaft for you?

I was confused about why he bought the regular flex. He said he tried it at the store, saw some pretty good numbers, and liked it. The shaft still felt very whippy and incredibly long to me. It took me a while to get it around, even though it was a very light 55 grams. While my student was hitting the driver, it looked at times like his swing speed did go up, but not consistently.

The solution for this student’s dilemma reminds me of a joke that I’ll share here for a quick laugh.

“James was playing a round of golf with the club pro one day, and after 18 holes, they went into the clubhouse. James asked the pro: “What do you think of my game?” The pro replied: “You should shorten your clubs by 1 inch.” James asked if the pro thought this would help his game. To which the pro said, “No! It will help them fit in the trash can!”

While the club pro might have been joking around, I think he makes a good point—shorter is often better. Most golf pros have driver shaft lengths that average about 44.5 or so inches. My driver has never had a shaft longer than 44.5 inches. There’s a certain point with length when the driver shaft is just too long and accuracy gets compromised. I’d rather lose 10 yards and be in the fairway than be longer but in the rough somewhere. I realize you can debate this until the cows come home, but I would rather be in the fairway off a tee shot. The other side of that coin is to hit it as far as possible and then deal with whatever shot you have.

The Impact of Shortening a Driver Shaft

Three things will happen when you cut a driver shaft:

  • The shaft will get stiffer
  • The swing weight will change
  • The driver will feel different at address

Let’s dive into these changes.

Increased Shaft Stiffness

The driver shaft becoming stiffer than before it was shortened is one concern. If you’re accustomed to hitting a regular flex shaft and cut it down, it could turn into a stiff flex and cause other issues such as the ball going to the right because there’s not enough swing speed to get it going down the middle of the fairway.

Swing Weight Changes

When you cut down a driver shaft, the swing weight could also change. So, for example, if your club was at a D3 and goes down to a D1 after cutting it down, it will change the way you swing the club. As my student realized, the shaft may become too whippy, and you might not like using a shaft with such a light weight.

Different Feel at Address

Another thing to be aware of is that the driver will feel shorter at address which could be a distraction. However, with time a player can get accustomed to this new feel.

For more data and results, the YouTube video below tests what happens when you cut down a driver shaft.

Conclusion

Do longer driver shafts go further? Yes, they do. But longer shafts also go away from the center of the fairway more often. Do shorter shafts fall a bit shorter in distance? Yes, they do. But shorter shafts also go closer to the center of the fairway. So, standing at the tee box before you hit the ball, the question is whether you prefer more yardage or better accuracy. To put it another way: “Do you want a longer driver shaft and bigger distance, or do you want a shorter driver shaft that will put you closer to the center of the fairway after leaving the tee box?

Image courtesy of Pexels

Players can go through countless combinations of driver shafts and heads to discover which pairing works best. They can also go to a golf professional or club fitter to find the appropriate combination for their game. Another option is to chat with me or one of my fellow Golf Experts here on Curated for free, personalized advice on what equipment would work for your game. Most importantly, enjoy the round, and above all, have fun!

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Written by:
Jorge Arteta, Golf Expert
Jorge Arteta
Golf Expert
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