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Old Jan 12, 2012, 10:44 AM   #1
in2house
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Default Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

Thought this was interesting considering I recently tried a Taylormade Superfast 2.0 and couldn't hit it. I felt so far from the ball. Enjoy the read...

MGS Labs – Is Longer Really Longer?


Getting more distance of the tee is easy right?

Getting more distance off the tee is easy right? Well, golf companies sure would like you to believe that…they have us feeling as if the equation is as simple as…longer drivers = longer drives. Not so fast cowboy! As recently as the early-90s, most standard off-the-rack drivers were 43″ – 43.5″. That number has since jumped up to around 46″. But, remember humans don’t evolve that quickly…we aren’t getting taller but clubs sure are getting longer. So the question we wanted to answer for everyone …”Is Longer Really Longer?”
A Sanity Check

(Written By: GolfSpy T) If you’ve ever read anything Tom Wishon has written about driver length, or spoken to your local fitter about the topic, there’s a curious statistic that you’ve probably encountered.
Since the mid 2000′s, the average driver length on the PGA Tour has held steady at 44˝”.
Think about that for a second. The very best players in the world, guys who hit the sweet spot on their driver as easily as most of us would hit water after falling from a cruise ship, guys who routinely drive the ball to distances that some reading this would need two swings to achieve are playing drivers upwards of 1.5″ shorter than what most of the rest of us have in our bags right now.
Last season (2010) the majority of drivers we received for testing were outfitted stock with 46″ shafts. While there were exceptions, only one driver we’ve ever received for testing was shorter than 45.5″ (Titleist), and that was more than countered by another that actually measured in at 46.5″!
Somewhat surprising considering the distance race the big OEMs are engaged in; for 2011 – and from what we’ve seen from the 2012 lineups – many OEMs have backed off driver length every so slightly (we’re seeing more 45.75″ than 46″ shafts), but I think most would agree overall shaft lengths are at historic highs. As you’ll see below, many golfers custom order clubs well above stock lengths. What they probably haven’t considered is that in all likelihood, their games are suffering for it.
All of this begs the question; Are the Pros shorting themselves distance by playing shorter drivers, or have the rest of us, driven by the compulsive need to gain the fabled 10-15 More Yards, completely lost our minds?
How Did We Get Here…and Who Can We Blame

While it would be easy to blame the OEMs for the never-ending demand for more distance, the reality is, while the golf companies perhaps give us tools we don’t need, they do so only because we asked for them. It’s our prevailing willingness to accept the flawed equation that shaft length = clubhead speed = ball speed = distanceALWAYS that has most of us hitting out of the rough much more often than we should be.
To get a better idea of how pervasive the “longer than the Pros play” driver phenomenon actually is, we asked TaylorMade to provide us with some details about their custom orders from the last several years. While it’s not surprising that the most popular order, even among custom orders, is for standard length (45.75″-46″) drivers, what I found most shocking is that TaylorMade receives orders for drivers 2″ longer than standard at a rate of 2 to 1 over drivers 2″ shorter than standard.
And while their most popular non-standard order is for drivers cut 1″ below standard length, TaylorMade still ships 2 drivers at 1″ above spec for ever 3 1″ below. In fact, over the last 3-4 years, TaylorMade has received nearly as many orders for drivers longer than standard length as they have for drivers shorter than standard.
When you examine these orders, what you find isn’t a case of the OEMs pushing longer drivers on consumers; you can make the argument that it’s the consumer demanding longer shafts from the golf companies.

To get some perspective on the madness, we asked seasoned club-fitter and Director of the New York Golf Center’s Custom Shop, Josh Chervokas what he generally recommends to his customers. Here’s what he had to say:
“I rarely fit anyone into a driver over 45″ and often I build them shorter, I just did a 43″ build. People want to hit it farther but what we see in fittings is that clubspeed is useless if it cannot be turned into ballspeed. People have a harder time centering the ball in the middle of the club and so they get lower and lower smashfactors as the club gets longer”.
The suggestion is that the average golfer would actually benefit more from playing a shorter driver. We’ve heard this same sentiment echoed time and time again from basically every fitter we’ve ever come in contact with. And yet despite a chorus of respected professionals telling us otherwise, the overwhelming majority of golfers are still bagging drivers longer than most club fitters would recommend.
While golfers should probably shoulder the bulk of the responsibility, the OEM’s aren’t completely without blame. When you look at current product lineups, it’s actually the high-MOI, ultra-forgiving clubs…the ones designed for high handicap golfers (guys who struggle to produce consistent swings) that come stock with the longer (46″ shafts). High handicap golfers have basically been conditioned to believe that longer drivers provide more distance, and ultimately fit them better. Clubs designed for better players often come stock with slightly to significantly shorter shafts. What’s up with that?
On the off chance that Tom Wishon, Josh Chervokas, and basically everyone else who earns a living fitting golfers for their clubs might be wrong, we decided to put together our own little test to determine how much is gained (accuracy), and how much is lost (distance) when golfers are willing to trim a couple of inches off the big dog.
The Test Equipment

Shafts

To provide the shafts for our tests we contacted UST-Mamiya. They agreed to provided us with 4 of their new Proforce VTS Shafts (2 – 65 regular flex, 2 – 75 Stiff flex). Though we didn’t undergo a full shaft fitting for this test, we were very interested to get our hands on the new VTS, which introduces what UST-Mamiya calls 3D Fitting.
While shaft torque has largely been an after-thought the Proforce VTS lineup includes torque as a key part of the fitting equation. Every weight/flex combination in the VTS lineup is offered with 3 distinct torque options. No longer does heavier and stiffer necessarily mean lower torque.
As it turns out, the pearly white color scheme of the VTS also looks positively sick with the head we chose for this test.

HEADS

To provide the heads for our testing we reached out to TaylorMade to see if they’d be interested in participating. Since our test involves multiple shafts (multiple flexes, multiple lengths) it was important for the sake of consistency, simplicity, and expedience that we were able to quickly swap out shafts while using the same head for every shaft. TaylorMade’s R11 heads coupled with their Flight Control Tips matched that need perfectly.
While we sometimes find the marketing a bit over the top, TaylorMade’s implementation of adjustability is almost without argument the most complete and user friendly on the market today. The simple fact that TaylorMade makes its FCT tips available for purchase by the consumer was a substantial factor in why we chose to approach TaylorMade first. Quite frankly we think every OEM should make their adapters available to the consumer. As it stands right now, TaylorMade is the only big OEM that actually does.
We had planned to have our resident club builder help us out with shaft assembly, but when the team at TaylorMade volunteered their Tour Department to handle the assembly, we were happy to take them up on the offer.
At our requests, shafts in each flex were cut to 43.75″ and 45.75″ inches. We asked that each pair be frequency matched, and that the neutral bend point of each shaft be aligned to the standard/neutral position of the Flight Control tip.

The Testing Process

To test distance and accuracy, each of 6 testers was asked to hit a series of 12 shots with both the 43.75″ and 45.75″ drivers. In a perfect world testing would have been blind to eliminate any possibility of the placebo effect, however; let’s be honest…you’d have to be some special kind of oblivious not to notice a 2″ difference in driver length.
To balance things out as much as we possibly could, half of testers hit the longer driver first, the other half hit the shorter first.
After the 12 shot sequence was completed, impact tape was placed on the driver face, and testers were asked to hit an additional 5 shots with each shaft so we could observe quality of impact.
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Old Jan 12, 2012, 10:45 AM   #2
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

Calculating Averages

To calculate our averages and develop other conclusions we selected the best 10 of 12 shots from each tester at both driver lengths. Best was determined by calculating a total point value based on a simple formula of total distance minus yardage from the center line. This is the same equation we use to determine driver performance within our standard review process.
The Data



As we do with all of our reviews, we’ve provided all the pertinent details of our tests. The “Group Performance” tab contains the Virtual Driving Range which shows the details for each of the 10 shots we recorded for each tester at each length.
  • Solid circles represent shots taken with the 45.75″ driver.
  • Hollow circles represent shots taken with the 43.75″ driver.
  • Each shot is color coded by golfer.
  • We have provided the capability for you to filter shots by both driver length and golfer.
  • Hovering over any point on the Virtual Range reveals every detail about that shot.
  • The Group Performance tab also shows group averages for Distance and Accuracy, Clubhead* and Ball speed, Spin, and Launch Conditions.
  • Clicking on the Individual Performance Tab reveals similar information similar to the graphs on the Performance tab. Sortable by golfer and shaft length, this tab provides a head to head comparison of key shot data at the individual tester level.
Powered by Tableau


*The version of aboutGolf technology used for this test does not directly measure, but rather calculates swing speed. While ball speed and overall distance is accurate, in our experience, actual clubhead speeds are generally slower than what is reported by the software.


Interpreting the Data

>> Carry Distance

With the 45.75″ shaft, our testers averaged 233.75 yards of carry compared to 232.35 yards with the 43.75″ shaft. That’s a difference of only 1.4 yards.

Examining the data on an individual level shows that 5 of 6 testers, as one might expect, produced more carry with the longer driver. However, of those 5, only 2 were more than 4 yards longer with the 45.75″ driver. Each of the remaining 3 produced less than 2 yards more carry on average. Our senior tester carried the ball an average of 4.9 yards farther with the shorter club.

>> Total Distance

With the 45.75″ shaft our testers averaged 247.65 yards compared to 247.15 yards with the 43.75″ shaft, leaving a total distance gap of only ˝ yard.

Looking at the data on an individual level reveals some interesting details.
Two of our testers proved to be longer with the 45.75″ driver (3.9 and 5.7 yards). One tester achieved an identical average with both clubs. The remaining 3 testers actually produced greater average total distances with the shorter (43.75″) shaft.

Our senior tester showed the greatest discrepancy; his distance actually increased by 5.7 yards with the shorter driver. The other 2 testers posted more modest gains of .1 and .8 yards.

To better understand how distance numbers can remain relatively consistent despite a 2″ discrepency in shaft length we need to examine the key factor in determining distance; ball speed.

As it turns out, some testers produced better ball speeds with the shorter driver, while others maintained higher numbers with the longer driver. Looking at the averages, our testers as a whole produced a relatively insignificant .55 MPH more ball speed with the longer driver.
Those 2 testers that showed higher ball speed with the longer driver produced greater clubhead speed. Most importantly, they were able to be efficient enough in doing so. Individually their ball speed with the 45.75″ driver was 2.8 and 3.0 MPH faster than what they produced with the shorter driver.
For each of our other 4 golfers, however; the greatest average ball speeds were achieved using the shorter driver. In each case the speed gains were more modest (1.8 MPH, 1.1 MPH, .5 MPH, and .1 MPH), but they are increases none the less.
“People who do not have the benefit of launch monitor data usually assume that more clubspeed equals more ballspeed. Additionally, with people who swing under 100 we often see a longer club actually slows their ss down instead of increasing it”. – Josh Chervokas, Director New York Golf Center Custom Shop
The argument for playing a shorter driver has never been about distance. The suggestion as I’ve always interpreted it is that a shorter driver will be more accurate, and because you’re better able to control the club, and find the sweet spot, more often, average total distance could actually increase. For us, the argument for a shorter driver is really an argument for accuracy, and that’s information we were most interested in obtaining.

>> ACCURACY

As a group our testers were 4.63 yards (28% closer) to the target line with the 43.75″ driver. With the longer shaft, our testers averaged 16.6 yards offline, compared to only 11.97 yards offline with the 43.75″ driver. Looking at testers individually reveals more detail. Our senior tester actually showed the smallest accuracy gain (.1 yards). This isn’t altogether surprising considering that his total yardage was significantly shorter than any other tester.
While a 2nd tester showed a relatively most improvement of 1.5 yards, the remaining testers showed accuracy improvements of between 4.9 and 10.4 yards or (63% more accurate)!

As expected, the 43.75″ driver proved to be substantially more accurate. And while I wouldn’t expect that most golfers would see a 63% improvement, moving the ball an average of nearly 5 yards closer to the center line is almost certainly going to save a couple of strokes over the course of an average round.
So…Should You Cut 2″ Off Your Driver?

Well, our data (and the years of experience from reputable club fitters all over the globe) suggest that the majority of golfers (yes you too) would absolutely benefit from playing a shorter-shafted driver. Not only will accuracy increase (our tests show by a whopping 28%), our numbers also suggest that any distance loss would be very minimal, and there’s a chance you could actually increase your total distance as well.
Whether cutting 2″ is the optimal number for you is impossible to say. Maybe for you it’s .5″, maybe it’s 2.5″. Maybe stock is perfect. These are questions that a knowledgeable club fitter can help you answer and is yet another example of why it’s absolutely imperative that every golfer serious about improving his game be custom fit for his equipment.

Now, before you decide, make sure you’re fully aware of the effect the change will have on your driver’s swing weight. Cutting 2″ off the shaft will dramatically lower the swing weight of your driver (with our sample head, the difference was about 7 swing weight points). Some golfers will actually find they prefer the lighter feel, some may find the club harder to control, and many probably won’t care one way or the other(especially if you become 28% more accurate). If you have a head like the TaylorMade R11 you can easily change the moveable weights to bring your driver back up to a comfortable level. Clubs like Titleist’s 910 have weight ports that can also be adjusted (by the factory). And of course, there’s always good old fashioned lead tape. Be advised, adding additional weight to the head will soften the flex (~1 CPM per gram of weight added).

Swing Weight issues aside, the raw data says you probably should cut some length of your driver, but few things in this game are absolute, and there are certainly some mitigating factors. Not surprisingly, it was largely our mid-to-high handicap golfers who showed the most improvement with the shorter shaft. Though not true of our lowest handicap golfer, 2 of our single (or near single) digit handicappers actually lost upwards of 5 yards with the shorter shaft. We also observed that golfers with a flatter swing plane also showed less benefit from the shorter shaft.
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Old Jan 12, 2012, 11:00 AM   #3
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

I actually used to play 45" religiously. And dabbled longer before that even toyed with LD stuff.

Last season I picked up in a trade a 44" driver.

I thought OK, let's try it and if I like it let's extend it to 45" like I usually play.

Much to my surprise I found myself swinging better, and slightly more aggressive at the ball, but also much more confident.

Kinda had that PW vs 7 iron type of difference in feel oddly enough.

What I saw was about same distance or longer, mainly from less sidespin or curve on the ball. What could be a hook was a draw and vice versa. My FIR went up and ball consumption down.

I am sticking with the 44", threw a Shotmaker in it and now swear by my combo.

I think most amateurs would benefit from a well fitted loft and shaft at a length built for their stance, not optimal distance.

I think the more the clubs play like a 3 wood or an iron, the more you will step into it and smash it. The longer it gets the more awkward it makes the swing.

I gave up an inch last year and the distance gains I saw were welcomed as a result on an increase in actual fairways hit. It instilled confidence on the tee block.
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Old Jan 13, 2012, 02:12 AM   #4
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

At our requests, shafts in each flex were cut to 43.75″ and 45.75″ inches. We asked that each pair be frequency matched, and that the neutral bend point of each shaft be aligned to the standard/neutral position of the Flight Control tip.

Does this mean TM supports FLO?
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Old Jan 13, 2012, 04:46 AM   #5
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

I've was previously playing with a 44.5" driver, 41.5" 3w, and 39.5" 19* hybrid all 1" shorter than standard.

I really like the shorter hybrid, which is now the same length as a standard 2-iron. When it was 40.5" it was a bit more difficult to hit down on it.

Conversely, I sweep my driver and 3-woods off the tee, and the shorter lengths didn't feel right. I went back to standard lengths and find myself being relatively as accurate as with the shorter shafts. There wasn't too much extra difference from the impact tape.

So I think you should use the longest shafts that you can hit consistently and accurately.
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Old Apr 13, 2012, 03:11 PM   #6
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

I don't think this thread got enough attention ... one thing they failed to mention to bring the swingweight back up (or some of it anyway, as 2" is a lot to lose) is to fit a lighter grip (25g as opposed to 50g). I just did this today ... took my 45.75in to the range & with tape on the butt/grip figured that I should bring it down 1.25in to 44.5in. Took it to GT & had them cut & then fit the WinnLite 25g grip on it ... according to a good swingweight calculator that was all that was needed to bring it right back in line. I will go out again tomorrow or Sunday & see what's what ... I know it has to be better!!!

Thanks Randall
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Old Apr 13, 2012, 04:43 PM   #7
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dekker View Post
At our requests, shafts in each flex were cut to 43.75″ and 45.75″ inches. We asked that each pair be frequency matched, and that the neutral bend point of each shaft be aligned to the standard/neutral position of the Flight Control tip.

Does this mean TM supports FLO?
I can promise you that TM did not set this up for them... I'm thinking Josh did.
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Old Apr 13, 2012, 04:46 PM   #8
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Harmoneeek View Post
I don't think this thread got enough attention ... one thing they failed to mention to bring the swingweight back up (or some of it anyway, as 2" is a lot to lose) is to fit a lighter grip (25g as opposed to 50g). I just did this today ... took my 45.75in to the range & with tape on the butt/grip figured that I should bring it down 1.25in to 44.5in. Took it to GT & had them cut & then fit the WinnLite 25g grip on it ... according to a good swingweight calculator that was all that was needed to bring it right back in line. I will go out again tomorrow or Sunday & see what's what ... I know it has to be better!!!

Thanks Randall
If Josh (or any club fitter)set these heads up for the testers, the swing weight would have matched.
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Old Apr 13, 2012, 05:27 PM   #9
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

This is a very confusing article, I really wish the facts were portrayed a little more accurately and I wish they had found more conclusive results.
They should have included shaft (overall) weight as a variable to really show what they were hoping to achieve.
let me explain....
Facts....
90's 43" driver shafts were due to wooden heads and tiny metal heads, once Titanium hit (GBB), lengths began to get longer. 460cc/high MOI heads allow golfer to swing harder and get better results, enabling OEM's and golfers to experiment with longer shafts.
Not sure how many Tour players TW has fit, but the vast majority of Tour players use 45" drivers.
Here is where this thesis fails to produce the results. They tested only 65 and 75 gram shafts. The fact is that the OEM's are trying to get consumers to buy into the philosophy that lighter and longer is better. let me propose something to all of you reading this......
Grab a hammer and imagine if it was dramatically longer and very light!
How would you do hammering nails and how would your thumb look??
This is where the problem lies..... All testing we have done, results in very obvious results.... laws tell us that there is an optimal speed and mass combination to create the best results.
If this test had used 50 gram 46"+ shafts, results would have deteriorated and more golfers would understand what the author is attempting to prove.
having said all this, there is certainly a place for super light shafts and very long shafts, more so than ever it is really important to find out what length/weight works best with your swing! new technology is truly amazing, but only if fit to your swing
As I am on a rant..... I'll continue...... what is club fitting?

4 different guys told me they were "FIT" for a driver today....

Player #1 was given 4 different drivers to try, a Titliest, a TM, a Cally and an Adams..... he hit the Cally best, so he tried a R flex and a S flex and bought the Cally with S flex.
Player #2 was fitted with a Titleist fitting cart and tried 2 different lofts, 3 different head settings, 2 different Titty heads and 3 different shafts.
Player #3 was fit by club fitter that has several different component driver heads, each one meticulously measured, and choice of dozens of shafts that have all been profiled so the fitter can explain what you can expect from each profile. He hits dozens of balls with different combinations and found the best.
Player #4 found a club fitter that had all the major brands of OEM heads and dozens of shafts with adapters for all the OEM heads. he tested dozens of combinations of heads and aftermarket shafts to find the combination that produced the best results. This fitter also had great knowledge of all shafts and heads.

here is the issue, all these guys were 'fit" and all achieved their goal of finding a club that out performed their current driver. But I am sure that the last 2 have a far greater understanding of equipment and how it relates to their swing.
There are many different combinations of the examples above, but all fitting is not created equal..... just a thought.
Rant over..... I apologize in advance.

PS. If you are ever in NYC, stop in and meet Josh Chervokas, one of the most knowledgeable, passionate, skilled and interesting dudes I have ever met and I am proud to consider him a great friend and it is cool to see him get some props..... well deserved.
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Old Apr 13, 2012, 06:51 PM   #10
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

So if I cut my G20 down from 45.75 to 45 what could happen?

1. D3 Swingweight will drop approx 4.5pts? Can I recover this by moving to a lighter grip or adding 9 grams of weight to the head?
2. Even though the .75 is coming off the butt end of the club, will it have a noticeable effect on flex?
3. Will the overall weight of the club be noticeably reduced?
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Old Apr 14, 2012, 09:41 AM   #11
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pingeye2_fan View Post
So if I cut my G20 down from 45.75 to 45 what could happen?

1. D3 Swingweight will drop approx 4.5pts? Can I recover this by moving to a lighter grip or adding 9 grams of weight to the head?
2. Even though the .75 is coming off the butt end of the club, will it have a noticeable effect on flex?
3. Will the overall weight of the club be noticeably reduced?

Hi Pingeye 2_fan ... I am just getting into this ... read alot about it / lots of reaserch & from what I read ...

1. You will gain back 5 pts with a 25g grip as opposed to a 50g (1 pt for every 5g's). If you wanted to be "perfect" you would need to add .5 (or slightly more, see below) of a gram, maybe some extra tape under the grip (also your "raw shaft length has change which will also bring the swingweight back up ever so slightly, please try out the swingweight calculator link below)

2. There will be no noticeable effect on flex ... raw shafts are always cut from the butt for the various woods (1/3/5) & tip cut according to manufacture specs (eg. raw shaft cut from butt for 1 wood / 3 wood needs to be tip cut .5 inch then butt cut to size / 5 wood tipped 1 inch ... etc). This is different for diff shafts but the theory is there.

3. I just had my shaft cut yesterday by 1.25 in & I kept the cut piece for curiosity ... it didn't even register 1 gram on my accurate kitchen scale, so 1 gram out of 315g average total weight ... But if you go with the Winnlite grip then you are taking off another 25 grams.

Here is a link to a really good .xls swingweight calculator, I have compared this to others I have found & it seems to be the best!?!

www.myostrichgolf.com/resources/swing.xls

I have not yet had a chance to swing my newly cut club (with the Winnlite grip) but it feeeeels really gooooood!!!

Thanks Randall
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Old Apr 23, 2012, 07:20 AM   #12
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

I just shortened my G10 to 44.25" and i hit 71% of my fairways on the front 9 of my very first round with it (without even trying it out at a range or anything!)

it makes a HUGE difference, you feel like you're way more in control and can swing more whiting your limits. Definitely saw an improvement even in distance because contact was much more solid.

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Old Apr 23, 2012, 07:59 AM   #13
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

I took 1/2" off my driver recently. I plan to put a new sized weight in it as well, I'm curious to see how the weight feels.
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Old Apr 23, 2012, 08:13 AM   #14
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

Huge noob question, but where do you measure from to get your shaft length? Top of club head, end of hozzel or tip of shaft?
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Old Apr 23, 2012, 08:16 AM   #15
Bern
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kessly Snipes View Post
Huge noob question, but where do you measure from to get your shaft length? Top of club head, end of hozzel or tip of shaft?
Here you go.
http://www.golf-components.com/usupprreleof.html
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Old Apr 23, 2012, 08:19 AM   #16
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Default Re: Interesting Article on Shaft Length & Distance - Is Longer Really Longer?

Time to get my protractor out!
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