The Mini Driver

If you’re thinking about using a shorter length driver, you’ll want to weigh several options. For example, how far do you currently hit a 45-inch driver and how much distance will you lose? Consider that both Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler — who are using shorter length shafts in their drivers now — can move the ball pretty well. You should also consider that Rickie Fowler is 5’9″ in height.

What about your misses with a driver? Are they miss-hits off the toe or the heel? If so, a shorter length driver may actually increase your distance by helping you find the sweet spot more often.

Now, you can’t just go out and cut down the shaft on an existing driver without changing it. Chances are that the swing weight and overall weight will change depending on how much shaft is cut. And the kick point will be altered, too. However, if you’re not removing too much shaft, the change may be too little to notice.

Don’t just go to the garage and take a hacksaw to a graphite shaft. Jimmy Walker probably had access to a bandsaw and to additional shafts that he could experiment with. The best way to make this change is to talk to someone who really knows clubs…this doesn’t always mean your PGA professional. The guys who build clubs for a living are the experts when it comes to this type of change.

Once you decide on the shaft-length you’ll be using, order a new shaft made for that length with the correct weight and kick-point. Adjustable heads and shaft sleeves will make the next step  easier.

Once you get the shaft, attach it and hit it. If you want to experiment first, adjustable clubheads make it possible to try a 3-wood shaft on a driver head. However, this isn’t an ideally weighted shaft and it may not give you the best feel: 3-wood shafts can outweigh a driver shaft by 10 to 20 grams. Remember that a 3-wood shaft is typically heavier than a driver shaft for good reason: with a 3-wood, you’re hitting off the turf with a slightly downward motion. With a driver, you’re hitting off a tee with an upward motion.

Personally, I’m always hoping to learn more about shafts and trends in the club market. It’s fun to find out what new materials are available and what the latest clubhead designs are all about.

— Billy

FYI: Years ago, drivers came standard with 43-inch shafts. Jack Nicklaus reportedly used a 42.5-inch shaft in his driver.


Jimmy Walker

Jimmy Walker sat down with PGA TOUR stats guru Mark Broadie at the end of 2016 and asked where he could improve on his major winning season. The most obvious answers were driving accuracy and putting.

And the reigning PGA Champion decided to take some drastic action with the longest club in his bag…by cutting it down to 42 inches. With the shorter stick, Walker hit 11 of 15 fairways or 73.3 percent Thursday on the way to his field-leading 8-under-par 65.

Granted, Kapalua’s Plantation course has wide fairways. But the Texas resident has hit just 52 percent or less of his fairways over the last five seasons. He hit 48 percent last year to rank 183rd on TOUR. And in his two events of the new season prior to Maui he ranked 279th at just 42.86 percent.

“Last year I didn’t drive it as well as I would have liked to have. So I just kind of got to thinking. It was just kind of an experiment. I decided to cut one down and threw some tape on it and I liked it.

“It looks weird and sometimes it feels a little weird on the golf course, but I’ve been playing with it for about three weeks at home. I’ve since had Titleist make me a new one at that length and I’ve been enjoying hitting it.”

Walker admitted that he has lost a little speed on the ball but countered that the spin rates remain great. He has given up between 5-20 yards of distance but gained more accuracy.

“I just feel like I’ve got more control. I feel like the golf swing is better at that length for me and that’s where I’ve always struggled, the longer the club got. So that’s the thinking. More fairways is what I’m looking for.”