Optimal Driver Shaft Length: 45" vs. 47"
Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship with an almost 48" driver and again and again the question came up among tour pros: What shaft length should I play? Bryson DeChambeau also experimented with long shafts, but has not played longer than 46" on Tour. Players like Brooks Koepka, on the other hand, stick with 44.5". Tour players, however, change their driver setup quite often and experiment a lot. Time enough to get to the bottom of this question. We want to find out how big the difference is between a 45" and a 47" driver shaft - all other factors unchanged.
At least we try to do this as best we can. 2" is an enormous difference that you can't easily compensate for. This means one thing above all: the swing weight cannot be completely compensated. Our 47" driver has a swing weight of D7, the 45" has D4 despite the weighting. The long shaft therefore swings much heavier and D7 is no longer a comfortable swing weight for our test player. However, it was important to us to balance this factor as well as possible and also to play with identical club heads and shafts, namely the Ventus Blue 6X.
Let's first look at the club data. Here you can see a clear difference of over 3mph in club head speed. This is actually not surprising, because a longer shaft is easier to accelerate and has greater leverage. So, no surprise there.
In terms of dynamic loft, however, we see that it is significantly higher by 1° with the long shaft. This is simply because the lead deflection is greater with a longer shaft. The shaft "bends" more towards the target and thus generates more dynamic loft.
We see correspondingly higher ball speeds with the long shaft and also a little more backspin - 2059 vs. 2334. This difference is not surprising because of the 1° more loft.
We achieved 7m more carry and total length with the longer shaft. The dispersion was also absolutely within limits with the 47" which was simply due to the fact that our player himself plays 46" in the driver and has good control with a longer shaft. This may be completely different for another player. The result would be lower efficiency, less ball speed, yet more spin and possibly not much distance gain at all. Which brings us to the conclusion...
In short, the shaft length is very individual, but we can still draw a few general results from the test:
- A longer shaft basically produces more club head speed.
- A longer shaft produces more "lead deflection" and thus dynamic loft and spin.
- Efficiency and dispersion depend mainly on the player and how well he can control the clubface.
- The swing weight is already hard to control at 47". Don't get the idea of building a driver with 47" yourself.
The latter is a particularly important point. If you want to play beyond 46" you need a light driver head, possibly a lighter but still stiffer shaft and a grip that keeps the swing weight in check. Or everything in combination. This is the only way to build a driver with overlength that does not make the swing weight too heavy and minimises lead deflection so as not to generate too much dynamic loft. For our player, the swingweight of D7 would definitely not be suitable for the daily round. D7 is rather too heavy even for the strongest tour players, even more so for amateurs. Even if the results would justify it, you would have to think carefully if you want to do that to yourself.
Our recommendation is therefore clear: It is basically worth a try because it is possible to gain significant length with the right setup. However, the driver really has to be built by a professional. In particular, the right shaft should be determined by a fitting.