Fully Equipped mailbag: What’s the average driver shaft length on the PGA Tour?

December 18, 2019
If a shorter driver works for Rickie Fowler, chances are it could benefit your game as well.

Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped mailbag, an interactive GOLF.com series in which our resident dimplehead (a.k.a. Jonathan Wall, GOLF’s managing editor of equipment) fields your hard-hitting gear questions.

Is there an average driver shaft length on the PGA Tour? And if so, how does it compare to what I might find at retail? — Luis Restrepo

The average driver shaft length on Tour is roughly 44.75 inches, give or take a half-inch in either direction depending on preference. Contrary to what some might think, there isn’t a run on longer shafts as a way to chase more distance. Drivers are optimized to where every possible yard is being squeezed out of the head and shaft.

Of course, there are outliers. Rickie Fowler is a notable name who uses something well under 44.75 inches. Back in 2017, Fowler chose to cut down his Cobra driver to 43.5 inches to pick up some accuracy; he went on to win the Honda Classic that season, which pretty much validated the gear tweak.

I don’t think it’s necessary to completely copy Fowler if you’re struggling off the tee, but there are some benefits to be had by going shorter. For starters, you’ll likely find more fairways by eliminating the wild misses that tend to come with longer shafts. The general rule of thumb is you trade accuracy for a slight dip in distance when giving a shaft a haircut.

But don’t think that means you’re going to go from hitting it 275 yards to 250 yards. In some cases, players have seen an increase in distance by going shorter. Earlier last season, Tony Finau, at the suggestion of Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates, went from 45.25 inches to 44.75 inches and produced a higher ball speed — 182-183 mph versus 180-182 mph — with more consistent center face contact. That’s the best of both worlds.

Even if you don’t have Finau speed, there’s no reason to think those results are impossible to attain. What it comes to giving shorter a shot, it’s necessary that you eliminate the preconceived notion that a shorter shaft means short drives.

With regards to how the Tour’s average shaft length stacks up against what’s commonly found at retail, the driver currently in your bag is likely longer by about one inch. Standard retail length is around 45.5 inches, but with so many custom options available, it’s very possible to get the shaft cut down before you walk out the door.

Some manufacturers have even started adding special shaft lengths as retail offerings. Cobra recently added a 44.5-inch “Tour length” offering based specifically on Fowler’s move into a shorter shaft a few years back.

And if you’re considering going down in length, just remember that altering the overall swing weight can significantly effect how the club is delivered.

“If you chop an inch off your driver, it’s going to change the swing weight,” said Tim Briand, True Spec’s senior vice president, on a recent episode of Fully Equipped. “That’s the balance of the club. Why is that important? Your ability to hit the ball in the center of the face, with a square face, has to do with your perception of where the club head is when you’re swinging it. And swing weight is a feature that’s directly tied to your perception of that head.”

In other words, you’ll need to figure out a way to add the lost weight back to get close to your original swing weight. That could be with a heavier shaft, lead tape or the more common Tour practice of adding RAT glue to the head.

To hear more gear insights from Jonathan Wall and True Spec’s Tim Briand, subscribe and listen each week to GOLF’s Fully Equipped podcast: iTunes | SoundCloud | Spotify | Stitcher