Club-fitting series: Longer, lighter driver shafts

The Bobby Jones Superlight.

There are two opposing schools of thought on driver length. One maintains that drivers should be shorter for accuracy, the other says drivers should be longer for distance.

Standard length for modern drivers with graphite shafts has settled at 45 inches.

The average length of drivers on the PGA Tour appears to be slightly shorter than 45 inches, with many pros playing drivers in the 44.25- to 44.5-inch range.

Touting more distance, some golf club manufacturers sell drivers that are longer – a few at 45.5 inches, a few more at 46 inches. Bobby Jones Golf even has a stock 47-inch Super-Lite Workshop Edition driver in its inventory.

Don Trahan, father of Tour player D.J. Trahan and promoter of what he calls the Peak Performance Golf Swing, has emerged as a leading spokesman for shorter drivers. Trahan fits some of his students in 43-inch drivers.

When Sergio Garcia began experimenting with a 42.25-inch driver, Trahan must have been applauding.

“To get distance, you have to make solid contact, and most golfers can’t do that consistently with long drivers,” Trahan said.

On the other hand, Erik Boysen, promotions and tour manager at Graphite Design, a leading graphite shaft manufacturer, wholeheartedly advocates longer drivers.

“I’m for whatever allows people to have fun when they play golf,” Boysen said. “For most people, hitting the ball a long way is fun. So longer drivers make sense to me, especially because the weight of the shafts has come down so much.”

In the days of heavy steel and graphite shafts, longer meant heavier. Not so anymore. The weight of premium graphite shafts has dipped as low as the 40-gram range, and many stock shafts available at retail are in the 60-gram range. By contrast, the weight of a steel driver shaft could be as high as 140 grams.

There was a time when graphite shafts this light were not durable and would fracture easily, but today’s shafts are much improved.

Graphite Design (www.gdintl.com) supplies a 45-gram shaft for the 47-inch Bobby Jones driver. Advances in design allow for modern long drivers such as the BJ Super-Lite, which has an overall weight of about 285 grams.

“One inch in length can produce as much as five or seven (extra) miles per hour in ball speed,” Boysen said.

All the leading graphite shaft manufacturers have durable lightweight shafts that would work well in long drivers. The Mitsubishi Rayon 43-gram shaft has been sold in the United States for more than two years. Miyazaki, owned by Sumitomo Rubber, has a new shaft that weighs 39 grams.

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