The reason your set’s clubs vary in length is a lot more complex than “just because.”
There was rhyme and reason to why our golf forefathers mixed and matched their measurements. To get the most obvious answer out of the way: distance. Along with a club’s loft, its length is a top contributing factor to distance.
The longer a club is, the faster it can be swung (to a point). While same-length clubs have caught fire over the last few years, the majority of golfers still fit into varying length shafts. When length is increased up the bag, each club has greater leverage and speed to hit the ball further if solid contact is made.
So why isn’t everyone swinging 50-inch drivers? It boils down to too much of a good thing. Studies have shown that you can pick up about 1 mph for every additional inch, and more speed tends to yield most distance. If 1 mph = two additional yards of carry, there’s a basis for the theory that longer = better.
However, not all golfers have identical swings, so the rule of thumb has its caveats. You’re looking to produce solid, repeatable contact with your clubs, and the longer the shaft, the more variables there are working on the shaft as you bring it around your body. Sure, you might find a few extra yards every couple of shots but if all the intermediate swings are smash factor disasters, you’ve played yourself.
Conversely, shorter clubs are designed for more precision. The closer you are to the hole, the more precise you want to be with your shots. Makes sense, right? It’s like tightening the bolts on a toy car vs a real car. For a bigger car, you’re going to need more leverage and a larger wrench. For a toy car, you’re going to want more precision and thus, a smaller wrench to get the job done.
Golf isn’t usually touted as a game of averages but golf equipment manufacturing can be. This is another reason we have varied lengths in the bag — it’s as if Reebok didn’t offer Shaq’s shoe in your size or Reebok told Shaq he’s out of luck because they don’t make shoes big enough for him. A lot of products are made based on averages and golf shafts are no different. The average male and female heights in the United States are 5’10” and 5’5”, respectively. Although most people can use an average shaft made to suit those heights, “most” is not all. And frankly, “use” is not the same thing as “wield like a weapon of scorecard destruction at every hole.” As a custom club fitter, we prefer to lean into the latter.
We’ve mentioned before that the shafts we use in our fittings are made from higher quality materials and aren’t cut down for length until your measurements are assessed. To drive home the point: any shaft can help bring the clubhead around and into the ball, but you may be sacrificing distance, accuracy, repeatability and more, or even risking injury, by sticking with something that doesn’t suit you. Variety is the spice of life but it’s also the secret to an optimized golf game.
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