Banging longer drives has been the holy grail of golf since the days of hickory shafts. Today's grip it and rip it mentality is the result of recent advancements in swing instruction, training methods and equipment (such as longer, lighter graphite shafts).
There's no denying that the farther you beat it off the tee, the shorter your next one in would be. PGA Tour players live by that mantra every day. They're perfectly content blasting drives and hitting short irons out of rough into greens. And that's fine because their misses with a driver don't go off the lot.
I've wondered, though, if that same approach is best for rank amateurs. We know longer shafts can contribute to faster swing speeds—and more distance. But the tradeoff is less control (even with 460cc heads). At what length is your driver shaft too long? When does a longer shaft produce diminishing returns?
At our request, Wishon Golf built four 949 MC drivers43 1/2-inches (the old standard), 45 inches (the new standard), 46 1/2-inches and 48 inches (the maximum length allowed by the Rules of Golf). Four handpicked testers hit these 460cc clubs and Golf Laboratories recorded their efforts. You can learn more about these tests by picking up the July issue of GOLF MAGAZINE.
I conducted my own test with different shaft parameters. I whacked the 430cc Indio driver from SMT Golf at 44 inches, 45 inches, 46 inches and 48 inches. A stable of professional Long Drive guys use SMT Golf heads with Accuflex shafts, so I figured I'd give this combo a whirl. Just to give a little background, I run very hot or very cold with a driver in my hands. Some days I look like Fred Funk while other times, well, I'm just in a funk. Here's what I found:
48-incher I hit it the farthest (no surprise) but only marginally so. I normally make a quick transition from back to downswing and lash at the ball (just in case I catch it). That fast tempo led to some control issues. I had to slow down to time it through the hitting zone. More rhythmic swingers than I would likely see a greater upside.
46-incher Didn't experience the benefit of this length. It was neither the longest nor the most accurate one of the bunch.
45-incher Obviously, this length was the most comfortable to swing. I popped my share of good ones but still hit the occasional loud foul ball.
44-incher This club matched up best with my jumpy swing. Sure, I had to catch it on the screws to keep up with the big dogs. But it's easier to flush it with a shorter club. I drove it in the short grass more often and lost fewer shots way right or left. My main concession: I didn't hit any big bombs.
Ultimately, the decision is yours to go with a longer-, shorter-, or standard-length driver. Determining your optimal length can be a fun and easy process given the abundance of custom fitting options available. Enjoy the ride.