Driver Fitting - Let the Big Dog Eat

Let us start our fitting discussions with one of the top 4 or 5 most important and often fitted or replaced clubs in the bag – the driver. While the previous chapters provided a solid foundation, here we are going to tie everything together that will be specific to the driver. Please make sure to review the Clubhead Geometry in Pictures (Drivers, Fairways and Hybrids) before starting.

More times than not, the driver will be the single most expensive golf club a player will invest their hard earned money into. Except in exceedingly rare occasions, golfers are likely to only carry one in their bag, although they may have several sitting idle in their garage or basement. On a typical 18-hole course, the driver may be used as much as 14 times, and it is the only club designed specifically to be struck off a tee. You should consider the driver to be a specialty club where the length may not be predicated solely on the player’s height as it is their athletic ability and hand and eye coordination. So let us begin and let the big dog eat!

Beginning the Process of Driver Fitting

Fitting for the driver could be as simply as basic resizing such as cutting length off an existing driver or adding an extension to one. In some cases you may be working with an existing driver and merely retrofitting it with different components (shaft and/or grip) or weighting it to make it perform better for the player. Yet in other cases you are going through every aspect from head selection to all the other fitting parameters. As we mentioned earlier on in this text, you will not find a single procedural outline that goes from step A down to step Z when it comes to fitting that will work every time. Be flexible and concentrate on the weaknesses of the golfer first.

Where will you be conducting the fitting?

Every shop is different. Some shops will operate in a retail environment where the customer is only able to hit the ball into a net with the aid of a launch monitor, swing analyzer or simulator. Conversely the fitting may be conducted outdoors at a range with or without the assistance of computerized equipment. Lastly, the fitting could be all done over the phone or internet as an on-line transaction or surprise gift for someone. In all these situations, how the fitting is performed will vary.

Personal Interview and Specification Check

Except for golfers brand new to the game, I would highly suggest the customer bring their current driver with them so you can gather information on all the specifications as well as use it as a benchmark to compare to the demo clubs you might have the customer hit. If you are able to fit them with a driver that outperforms what they are using now, it will become an instant sale and not to mention a happy customer; hopefully one for a years to come. Long before the customer starts hitting balls is the time to conduct the personal interview. For a review of the personal interview process and a list of possible questions, please refer to Chapter 3.

It should be obvious if the player comes to you with a right handed driver that they will need a right handed model. For a golfer brand new to the game, you may need to ask or assess them for handiness by having them hit a few balls. The main reason for asking for handiness first is if they are left-handed, there will be far fewer options to choose from and certain parameters such as loft, you might not be able to fit as broadly as if they were right-handed. In those cases, you may have to concentrate more on other parameter such as shaft selection if you are trying to alter the ball trajectory.

Make certain to ask about their tendencies or where or how the ball travels as that should start the wheels turning in the back of your mind on which type of components you want to suggest first. This will help streamline the fitting process. Not only is your time valuable, but your customer’s as well.

If they do have preferences, such as “I want one of those new white drivers like I have seen on TV,” that will narrow down some of the selections and again make you focus more on other fitting factors if the customer insists on a particular head or style. Take good notes, both written and mental to begin.

How Drivers are Fit Today

Golfers today have much greater luxury when it comes to a driver fitting. Name brand manufacturers have somewhat simplified the process by using adapter systems, which can interchange various gripped shafts that can screwed onto driver heads of various lofts, and the customer can see and feel the interactions whether hitting into a net or outdoors out on the range. With advancement with technology, computer software can simulate the results and provide detailed analysis on which driver/shaft combination produces the best result.

Clubmakers have these same capabilities of interchanging heads and shafts as the major manufacturers with the advent of adapter systems. However, the independent club fitter can offer much more variety of components that is seen in an array of OEM fitting carts, but in some of the other fitting parameters as well. Let us tackle each of those in the most logical sequence.

Length – “Ground Zero” when it comes to fitting

How long should your driver be? Fitting for driver length will be universal regardless of if you are fitting a brand new golfer or a golfer who has played their entire life. Remember, if the player is in your shop looking for a new driver, there is a good chance they are not hitting it as well as they think they should. One reason could very well be the length there are currently using.

Have the player hit balls after they have had a chance to warm up. Here you may want to place impact labels or impact spray on the face to show where they are striking the ball on the face. Also observe any wear patterns on the face and even the sole of the club as that can give you a clue to how they are striking the ball and the reason why the ball is flying offline.

If they start miss-hitting right away, you could take this opportunity to have them grip down on the club and repeat hitting and observing impacts, ball flight and ask them about comfort. If all the sudden he or she hits the ball markedly better, your fitting could be as simple as removing the grip, cutting it down and installing a new grip. For other lengths though, you may have to revert back to you demo clubs.

One important thing to understand about length, anytime the golfer misses the center of percussion on the driver (especially low) they will be losing potential distance and accuracy no matter how forgiving clubs are today.

Determine Length in a Static Fitting Situation

You will have to make a judgment call based on their height and any information they provided during the personal interview process. This may require a quick trip to the internet to find what the manufacturer originally built their golf club driver length too as the range could be 1 or 3 inches for today’s so called standards based on how old their driver is. The reason for this is most end consumers do not know the proper technique to measure the length of their own clubs.

Driver Length by Height Chart

 Height Height (inches) Height (centimeters) Length Relative to Men's Standard
4' 7" 55" 140 cm 2 1/2" under standard
4' 10" 58" 147 cm 2" under standard
5' 1" 61" 155 cm 1 1/2" under standard
5' 4" 64" 163 cm 1" under standard
5' 7" 67" 170 cm 1/2" under standard
5' 10" 70" 178 cm Standard
6' 1" 73" 185 cm 1/2" over standard
6' 4" 76" 193 cm 1" over standard
6' 7" 79" 201 cm 1 1/2" over standard
6' 10" 82" 208 cm 2" over standard
7' 1" 85" 216 cm 2 1/2" over standard


If you are working with a heavier or lighter head than normal, then you want to base the assembled length relative to the length the manufacturer designed it for. For instance, Hireko has a specialty driver (called a Thriver) that weighs 215g and is designed for men’s standard length of 43.5” (rather than 45”). If you have a 5’ 8” golfer and the chart suggests ½” under standard men’s length you might consider a 43” driver.

Determine Component Weights

If the player is struggling making solid contact with a standard length driver, you may want to consider a Thriver or a driver that you could add enough sufficient weight to. Possibly the player is regularly hitting the fairway (and their own) and needs additional distance off the tee. Here you should be looking at lighter weight shafts and/or heads, especially if you fitted them for a longer length. In either case, you may be restricted to the component options at hand. Remember length and weight go hand in hand.

To your advantage, length and weight can be fitted at the same time instead of two separate processes. That is at least if you have an interchangeable head and shaft fitting system. If you have three different weight drivers, you have shafts set up at three different lengths (and maybe weights too) so the swing weight will fall into a normal range. However you might not have three different weight shafts for each of those lengths. Remember you could add weight onto the shaft to simulate what a heavier weight shaft would feel like at a particular length and head weight.

The same holds true for head weight. While you cannot simulate a lighter head weight, you can reduce the overall weight of the club using your lightest shafts. To simulate a heavier head, add lead tape or any other product that will stick to the surface. You are looking to find that range of weight and length that seems to give the player more consistency. Once back in the shop you can weigh the club, so you are able to duplicate it once it is time to build. You can fine tune the other parameters after this.

Determine Weight in a Static Fitting Situation

Here is where you need to understand the cause and effect relationships between what the player is currently using, their swing characteristics (tempo) and where the miss-hits tend to go. If the customer complains of playing army golf (left, right, left right…) then that should give you a strong feeling the club is much too light to control. Weight can be considered overall weight and/or the weight distribution of the club. The ball going in one direction or another on a consistent basis may be remedied by other factors besides weight too. A few grams one way or the other will not matter much. It might take shaft or grip weight changes about 10g or more to notice any difference. Luckily shaft manufacturers offer series of shafts that are often available in 50, 60 and 70 gram range and you have access to a selection of lighter weight grip options. Realize that few driver heads are available in multiple weight options or have screws which make it convenient to adjust weight.

Clubhead Selection

The next logical step in a golf driver fitting must include the clubhead design, except if the club is being re-shafted, then we already know what we have to work with before shaft selection.  If you are building a new driver from scratch, club head selection may come at the same time you select your shaft as we will explain later. It is now a foregone conclusion when selecting a brand new driver head it will be at the maximum volume (460cc) allowable by the USGA as few heads are produced much smaller and those that are only nominally smaller. This also saves us one less step in club fitting process which was commonplace two decades ago.

Non-Conforming Drivers

Another option for recreational players who do not carry a handicap and play for the fun of it (which is nearly 4 out of every 5 golfers) is the possibility of using a non-conforming driver, specifically one with a C.O.R. / C.T. above the USGA legal limit. While there are not many commercially available non-conforming drivers on the market, it is an option for certain players who want bragging rights with their playing partners or are distance challenged and need all they help they can muster. In some cases, not only will the C.T. be higher than allowed by the Rules of Golf, but the head size may be larger than 460cc to offer additional forgiveness on off-center shots. This may provide your customer with more confidence off the tee too.

Fitting for Driver Loft

Here is where the personal interview session is very important to see what goals the golfer has by obtaining a newly fitted driver. For instance, if the golfer is relatively straight off the tee, we want to start looking at what loft will optimize their overall distance based on their angle of approach or attack coming into the ball. This is where launch monitors are invaluable to give much more empirical data than is possibly by simply looking at ball flight out on the range.

Two decades ago, launch monitors were exclusive to only a handful of major OEM’s R&D departments. Today, clubmaking shops have the same technology at their disposal. While it is not required to have a launch monitor to fit drivers, it will be harder to see the small difference between two clubs or set of specifications. Realize how driver fitting is conducted by your competitors in the area. Yes, launch monitors are expensive and hopefully in the coming years the cost will continue to be lower so more clubmakers have access to better information.

To cut down on cost and inventory you may only possess 10.5° drivers in your fitting system, which is perfectly fine and here is the reason why. If your customer is hitting the ball too high or too low, at least you have a starting point on which to suggest the proper driver loft. Of course, if you have more loft options in your fitting system, this will only reinforce to the customer why a higher or lower loft is best suited to their game.

On the other hand, if the golfer has a habitual slice, then face angle and club head bias are going to be a priority over someone else that hits the ball relatively straight but just too high (or low). Most drivers on the market are designed to fit the most golfers possible so they will be mostly neutral biased. Golfers that habitually slice would be better off looking at an offset or at least draw biased design and then they can further narrow down the selection from the loft options (if any) for that driver model.

diagrams of three driver situations at impact, 4° descending, 4° ascending and a level angle of attackdiagrams of three driver situations at impact, 4° descending, 4° ascending and a level angle of attack

Optimizing Driver Loft at Impact

Earlier in the text, we showed how the loft of a driver is measured by putting the club in a specification gauge and placing it in the proper or natural soled position. The loft measured in this manner may be completely different than what happens at impact. We have several factors to consider. One is the player’s angle of approach or attack coming into the ball. The options are a level swing where no change in loft occurs, angle of approach where the player is swinging the club on the upswing and increasing the dynamic loft at impact or an angle of attack where the player is striking the ball on a descending blow and decreasing the dynamic loft at impact.

This chart shows various scenarios for clubhead speed and angle of approach (or attack if it is a negative number) factoring in a square face angle and square path using a trajectory software program. Lofts were chosen based on what you may typically see players use that are representative of their speed; that is the slower the speed the higher the suggested loft. We shall use computer data to demonstrate the effects by keeping all other factors the same. Using human testing would prove too difficult a task of obtaining accurate results, but the information can be applied when we do our actual fitting.


Swing Speed (mph) Loft (degrees) Angle of Approach Launch Angle (degrees) Carry (yards) Loss or Gain (yards)
60 mph 14°  -4° 70.2  -19.9
60 mph 14° 12° 90.1 0.0
60 mph 14° 16° 104.3 14.2
65 mph 13.5° -4° 7.7° 84.8 -22.0
65 mph 13.5° 11.7° 106.8 0.0
65 mph 13.5° 15.7° 121.8 15.0
70 mph 13° -4° 7.3° 99.9 -23.7
70 mph 13° 11.3° 123.6 0.0
70 mph 13° 15.3° 139.2 15.6
75 mph 12.5° -4° 6.9° 116.2 -25.0
75 mph 12.5° 10.9° 141.2 0.0
75 mph 12.5° 14.9° 156.9 15.7
80 mph 12° -4° 6.5° 133.2 -25.7
80 mph 12° 10.5° 158.9 0.0
80 mph 12° 14.5° 174.4 15.5
85 mph 11.5° -4° 6.1° 150.5 -26.0
85 mph 11.5° 10.1° 176.5 0.0
85 mph 11.5° 14.1° 191.7 15.2
90 mph 11° -4° 5.7° 167.9 -25.8
90 mph 11° 9.7° 193.7 0.0
90 mph 11° 13.7° 208.5 14.8
95 mph 10.5° -4° 5.3° 185.0 -25.6
95 mph 10.5° 9.3° 210.6 0.0
95 mph 10.5° 13.3° 224.8 14.2
100 mph 10° -4° 4.9° 201.9 -25.2
100 mph 10° 8.9° 227.1 0.0
100 mph 10° 12.9° 240.8 13.7
105 mph 9.5° -4° 4.5° 217.9 -24.8
105 mph 9.5° 8.5° 242.7 0.0
105 mph 9.5° 12.5° 246.1 13.4
110 mph -4° 4.1° 233.3 -24.7
110 mph 8.1° 258.0 0.0
110 mph 12.1° 271.0 13.0
115 mph 8.5° -4° 3.6° 247.1 -25.0
115 mph 8.5° 7.6° 272.1 0.0
115 mph 8.5° 11.6° 285.2 13.1
120 mph -4° 3.2° 260.0 -26.1
120 mph 7.2° 286.1 0.0
120 mph 11.2° 299.2 13.1


What you find quickly by examining the chart is too little loft at impact cuts down on potential distance. Look at how a particular swing speed did not change, but amazingly distance does by whopping 30+ yards and all we did was alter the angle of approach. It is safe to say golfers that continue to hit down on the ball would be better off starting out with more loft and those golfers able to strike the ball off the tee on the upswing and adding loft and could very well use a lower loft. Here is why.

Let us say you want to toss a ball underhand, but wanted the ball to fly outward as far as possible, what angle would it have to leave your hand? If we do not include air resistance, the optimum angle would be 45°. If we tossed at a greater angle than this, the ball would reach a higher apex but would not travel outward as far. Tossing the ball at a shallow angle and it too will fall short.

diagram of traject and distance of tossing a ball underhand a 30, 45 and 60 degreesdiagram of traject and distance of tossing a ball underhand a 30, 45 and 60 degrees

Selecting the optimum trajectory for a golf ball is a little different because the ball has dimples which create lift. But let us look at all the forces involved. First, the ball does not leave the clubface at the same angle as the loft of the face. The momentum of the ball is divided into two components as we have the friction of the face due to the loft to contend with. As mentioned, the dimples of the ball generate lift while the aerodynamic drag (or air resistance) and the gravitational force are working against the ball.

diagram of forces of golf ball at impact such as friction, drag and gravitydiagram of forces of golf ball at impact such as friction, drag and gravity

The chart below shows what happens when loft alone is changed, and all other factors remain the same. As loft increases the launch angle of the ball increases as well, but not at the exact same ratio. That is adding a degree in loft does not equate to a 1° increase in trajectory, but slightly less. Ball velocity also reduces with the increase of loft as we have more of an oblique collision between the face of the club and the ball. As you can expect, the higher the loft, the more back spin is generated.


 Swing Speed Loft Angle of Approach Lanch Angle Carry Spin Ball Velocity
90 mph 9.0° 8.1° 177.8 yards 2253 rpm 132.3 mph
90 mph 10.0° 8.9° 186.8 yards 2500 rpm 131.9 mph
90 mph 11.0° 9.7° 193.7 yards 2748 rpm 131.5 mph
90 mph 12.0° 10.5° 198.4 yards 2994 rpm 131.0 mph
90 mph 13.0° 11.3° 201.0 yards 3239 rpm 130.5 mph
90 mph 14.0° 12.0° 201.7 yards 3484 rpm 130.0 mph
90 mph 15.0° 12.8° 200.7 yards 3728 rpm 129.4 mph


Look closely at the carry yardage. As loft increases, the carry yardage improves until we achieve a certain loft, and it begins to decrease. For each swing speed and set of conditions (loft, angle of attack, etc.) there is an optimum result. This is why fitting for loft is so important. By selecting a 9.0° loft as opposed to a 14° loft in this example, nearly 24 yards is given up as the ball does not have enough spin to sustain the flight. By using a 15° loft, excessive spin takes hold and reduces the carry distance in this example.

As you can see, this is why I avoid the player’s swing speed to guide me in suggesting what loft the player should use. I have found too often a stronger golfer who hits down on the ball and de-lofts the driver at impact and a slower swinging golfer who is able to hit on the upswing and generate additional loft despite their reduced swing speed. Base your loft suggestion on an individual basis.

There are a number of conditions that can occur for a player to launch the ball at the same initial trajectory. The following chart shows combinations of loft and angle of approach to obtain an approximate 15.4° launch angle. If the golfer is able to “hit up” on the ball, we stated the golfer could select a lower lofted head.  Using a 10.5° driver and a 6° angle of approach (yes that is extremely high), the back spin remains low, yet we achieve an optimal launch angle. Compare the carry yardage to our previous chart showing the changes in loft and you can clearly see why golfers are encouraged to swing the driver this way. However, not every golfer is capable or even comfortable hitting on the upswing; even a number of touring players will hit the ball on the downswing but can overcome the distance loss by their strength.


Swing Speed Loft Angle of Approach Lanch Angle Carry Spin Angle of Decent
90 mph 10.5° 15.3° 212.6 yards 2624 rpm 35.9°
90 mph 12.0° 15.4° 211.5 yards 2994 rpm 38.3°
90 mph 13.0° 15.3° 209.3 yards 3239 rpm 39.5°
90 mph 14.5° 15.4° 205.1 yards 3606 rpm 41.9°
90 mph 16.0° 15.5° 199.2 yards 3969 rpm 44.3°


Carry distance is an important factor, but so too is overall distance. How do you tell how far a ball will roll when it lands? There are all sorts of factors such as how soft or firm the landing area is and the slope whether it is uphill, downhill, or level. Launch monitors will calculate roll out using “normal” or dry conditions. One of those factors is the angle of descent. If a ball is dropped straight from the sky, this would be an example of a steep (90 degree) angle of descent and a likelihood of no roll. A ball rolling perfectly across the ground would be an example of a shallow (0°) angle of descent.

A shallower angle of descent will create more roll out than a steeper angle of descent. Finding a combination that yields the maximum carry with the shallowest angle of descent would result in the greatest total distance. This is the type of data launch monitors will often provide.

Driver Speed Landing Angle
60 mph 25°
70 mph 27°
80 mph 30°
90 mph 32°
100 mph 35°
110 mph 37°
120 mph 40°
diagram of a golf ball landing at a 40 and 45 degree landing anglediagram of a golf ball landing at a 40 and 45 degree landing angle

One thing I might add is to avoid the use of impact decals when you are testing for launch and spin as it will skew the results. Use impact spray if you want to check where the shots are struck on the face as part of your fitting. Most black PVD finishes will show where the impact is made without anything.

Additional Factors That Influence Driver Loft at Impact

There are other factors other than angle of approach which alters the effective loft at impact. If the face closes due to swing path, wrist rotation or the contribution from the shaft torque, the loft at impact will be lower than if the face angle was more open. Just imagine the effect of opening or closing the face of a wedge to the loft. The shaft is also bowing forward and downward depending upon the player’s speed, acceleration, stiffness, and bend profile of the shaft as well as the center of gravity changes from the clubhead. You also have the impact position on the face when you factor in vertical face roll. An impact made higher up the face and there is more loft, but less backspin occurs. Shots hit low on the face are the opposite and will generate a lower launch angle with a greater amount of spin.

On a driver with a 10” vertical face roll, you can see a change of 1.5° in loft for every 0.27” above or below the vertical center of the face. That is about the equivalent of one score line. Flatter faces will exhibit less of a change, albeit still a change. Routinely hitting higher on the face effectively has the player using a higher lofted driver.

diagrams of loft changes due to vertical roll on the club face of a driverdiagrams of loft changes due to vertical roll on the club face of a driver

If the goal is to hit the ball with as high a launch and low as spin as possible, there is something to consider. While too much back spin can limit distance, too little spin could influence control. Years ago when I was looking at stats for this chapter, one of the longest drivers on the tour was Bubba Watson. He had an incredibly high launch angle and extremely low spin, which is one of the reasons why he is so long. On the other hand, he was ranked one of the last in terms of driver accuracy. Granted, he hit the ball so far, the fairways might narrow, or any slight deviation is magnified. If the ball has less spin, there is less control especially in windy conditions.

As you can see, this is complex if you look at the complete picture from all the components not to mention the inconsistency of tee heights, ball position and the golfer from swing to swing. That is why it is important to focus on the loft (as well as face angle) based on the tendencies you see the golfer have the most and not from their last or best shot.


Roll +0.8" +0.6" +0.4" +0.2" -0.2" -0.4" -0.6" -0.8"
8 inches +5.5° +4.3° +2.9° +1.4° -1.4° -2.9° -4.3° -5.5°
10 inches +4.6° +3.4° +2.3° +1.1° -1.1° -2.3 -3.4° -4.6°
12 inches +3.8° +2.9° +1.9° +1.0° -1.0° -1.9° -2.9° -3.8°
14 inches +3.3° +2.5° +1.6° +0.8° -0.8° -1.6° -2.5° -3.3°


Launch Angle Due to the Driver’s Geometry

Let us revisit driver geometry for a second. You can find 460cc drivers in all sorts of shapes and dimensions. Certain models are deep and narrow. In other cases you can find heads which are shallower and wider. The center of gravity generally follows the geometry of the head. That is, a shallower faced driver will have a lower center of gravity than a deeper faced driver. If two drivers have the same given loft and construction will all else equal, then the driver with the lower center of gravity will launch the ball higher of the two.

In addition, as shown in the diagram, as the breadth of the driver is stretched it will likely pull the center of gravity back with it. As we shift the center of gravity rearward from the face, that also increases the dynamic loft at impact as we will see when we discuss shafts. Loft will still have the greatest influence of the clubhead parameters on trajectory, but do not forget to factor in the club head’s height as well. This is why a higher lofted and shallower face combination is suggested for slower swinging golfers, while deeper and narrower models are geared toward stronger players.

diagram of the center of gravity location of a driver relative the shapediagram of the center of gravity location of a driver relative the shape

The face height can be compensated for by using a lower tee height, so the impact is made slightly above the geometric center of the face. One of the byproducts of the lateral (front-to-back) shift in the center of gravity is that it can alter the spin rate of the ball as well. Again, this is something that a launch monitor will be able to detect, but watching ball flight out on the range simply cannot.

Determine Driver Loft in a Static Fitting Situation

When you are unable to see a player hit the ball, it makes it difficult without any certainty to fit accurately for loft. I hesitate to ask if the player hits the ball too high or too low because 9 times out of 10 the player will think they are hitting the ball too high when in fact they are not. Instead I will ask then how high or low they hit the ball compared to their playing partners.


Swing Speed High Ball Hitter Range Average Range Low Ball Hitter Range
60 mph 15.1° 16.3° 16.4° 17.8° 18.0° 19.5°
65 mph 13.9° 15.0° 15.1° 16.5° 16.6° 18.0°
70 mph 12.9° 14.0° 14.1° 15.3° 15.4° 16.7°
75 mph 12.1° 13.0° 13.1° 14.3° 14.4° 15.6°
80 mph 11.3° 12.2° 12.3° 13.4° 13.5° 14.6°
85 mph 10.7° 11.5° 11.6° 12.6° 12.7° 13.7°
90 mph 10.1° 10.8° 10.9° 11.9° 12.0° 13.0°
95 mph 9.5° 10.3° 10.4° 11.2° 11.3° 12.3°
100 mph 9.1° 9.7° 9.8° 10.7° 10.8° 11.7°
105 mph 8.6° 9.3° 9.4° 10.2° 10.3° 11.1°
110 mph 8.2° 8.9° 9.0° 9.7° 9.8° 10.6°
115 mph 7.9° 8.5° 8.6° 9.3° 9.4° 10.2°
120 mph 7.5° 8.1° 8.2° 8.9° 9.0° 9.7°


Make sure to ask what loft their current driver is or at least what is engraved on it. Remember that may not be what the actual loft is due to manufacturing tolerances or whether the manufacturer is using vanity lofts. However, you must have a starting point. Using trajectory software, we can at least provide you with a chart based on a players swing speed as to what lofts might be suitable. In some cases the suggested loft will fall outside the normal range of driver lofts that are available. In those cases you can choose the highest loft available or discuss with your customer if they need a driver and instead use a fairway wood to tee up with. Also factor in the height of the driver as well. A shallower head is likely to produce a higher launch angle given all else being equal.

Check for Proper Tee Height

Here is a topic that you do not see discussed – tee height. A golfer that generally tees the ball low will do one of two things. Impact will be made low on the club face and the other is possibly encourages a player to hit down on the ball. Conversely, teeing the ball high might cause the player to hit high on the face. One consequence is if the ball is teed up too high, the player may get under the ball altogether. So there is a fine line to which is the best height to tee the ball up on. Take this time to show the golfer how different height golf tees can work to their advantage by having them hit slightly above the geographic center of the club face.

impact position on the face of three drivers, one too high, one good height, and one a bit too lowimpact position on the face of three drivers, one too high, one good height, and one a bit too low

This is where impact spray or impact decals come into play. Even black PVD finished drivers will clearly show impact position without the use of any additional props.

In this diagram you will see on the left a clubhead and ball as if there were hit at the bottom of the swing arc. To the right would be the position of the clubhead and ball swinging upward by 4°. Note that the golf tee would be required to be moved 2.4” forward in the stance to be able to do so. The impact, without changing the tee height, causes the ball to strike lower on the clubface. 

diagram of driver  impact position on face with level swing and one with a 4 degree angle of approachdiagram of driver  impact position on face with level swing and one with a 4 degree angle of approach

The farther an impact is made lower on the face, there is lesser loft and as a result the more backspin occurs. Luckily in this position, the golfer has added loft by swinging upwards at the ball. Shots hit high on the face are the opposite and will generate a higher launch angle and reduced spin. The player can remedy this situation by teeing the ball slightly higher. Using the correct tee height can provide the player’s with a definite distance advantage.

Fitting for Driver Face Angle and Clubhead Bias

So far, we have examined how length and weight are fitted to help establish solidness of contact while loft is what controls trajectory and distance. To gain the complete picture, there is one other piece of the puzzle – direction. The golfer can change their stance and swing path (often without trying) and ultimately their direction. But golfers in general are consistently inconsistent. That is they tend to miss it one way or another.

Face Angle

We saw in Chapter 8: Wood Head Geometry in Pictures how face angle is designed to affect the direction the face is relative to the target line. As a recap, if the clubhead has a square face angle, the clubface is aligned directly toward the target. One that is pointing right of the target (assuming a right handed clubhead) is considered to have an open face angle. Conversely, a clubhead that is pointing left of the target (again assuming a right handed clubhead) is considered to have a closed (sometimes called hooked) face angle.

diagram of 3 driver heads, one with an open, square and closed face anglediagram of 3 driver heads, one with an open, square and closed face angle

In general, drivers are made to limited ranges in face angle because the manufacturers do not want to offend anyone by having drivers that look excessively closed or open. The most popular range is square to 1° closed with more closed than square. Plus the modern driver is not easily adjustable (if at all) like an iron or wedge with a lie/loft machine. If the clubmaker inventories several of the same driver head, it is possible with the manufacturing tolerances they could see variations of +/-1° in their face angle from which to select from. However, most clubmaking shops today do not stock much (if any) product as they usually are made to order and rely on the component supplier to deliver the goods quickly, effectively selecting from a driver pool that is 2° closed to 1° open when taking in account manufacturing tolerances.

The majority of all golfers will fade, push or slice the ball off of the tee. So those players would be better off with a face angle on the more closed side of the tolerance. Golfers that routinely draw or pull the ball off the tee are better off with more of a square to open face angles unless they prefer their current ball flight.

If we examine the diagram with a bird’s eye view of a fairway, we can see how face angle is directly related to ball flight. It will be nearly impossible or at least take too long to show every possible scenario that could occur, so we will show the effective of face angle using a square path. The obvious situation is if the path is perfectly square and the face is square to the target, then the result will be a straight ball flight. However any time the face angle is not square with a square path, then some type of hook or slice spin will occur.

To begin, let us assume that the average fairway is 32 yards wide. This means we have only 16 yards or 48 feet on either side if we bisect a fairway in half. I hope you are not claustrophobic now!

Let us start with the good news. If you are a slow swinger (60 mph), the small amount of error caused by a 2 degree error in face angle is only amount to 4 yards off-line plus any roll. Granted, carry yardage may only be 90 yards with a 10.5° driver. As we increase the swing speed, the margin for error and still stay in the fairway soon diminishes.

At 80 mph and 150 yards carry, with a face angle 2° closed the ball will land only 11 yards further left than if it were a straight shot and likely to still be in the fairway even after the ball rolls out. At 90 mph, no longer will the ball with a 2° closed face angle and square path land on the fly in an average width fairway. You will miss it by a yard.

At swing speeds of 110 mph, a 1° face angle error is 16 yards right or left of the target. As you can see, fitting for face angle is more critical for stronger players.

The major problem for the average 90 mph golfer that routinely slices the ball 40 yards, is that player is going to need a face angle 3 degree more closed than what they have to find their own fairway unless they play on a course with generous fairways. If the model they have is already closed 1° (close to an industry average), finding a driver with an acceptable face angle will prove to be difficult to find.

diagram looking down from a birdseye view of a fairway and where the ball would landof the face were open or closed by swing speeddiagram looking down from a birdseye view of a fairway and where the ball would landof the face were open or closed by swing speed

How Golf Shaft Adapters Work

There are certain heads on the market that come equipped with adjustable adapters, which are bored at an off angle to be able to enable altering face angle along with lie and effective loft. Here is a diagram to show how the golf shaft adapter sleeves work.

In this example, the adapter can be inserted into any of 8 possible positions. Some adapters have fewer options, while others may have more.

diagram with 8 different lie and face angle settings in a driver golf shaft adapter sleevediagram with 8 different lie and face angle settings in a driver golf shaft adapter sleeve

This adapter is bored with a 2° off angle meaning every 90 degrees, the lie or face angle can change 2°. By rotating the adapter 180 degrees, there is a total of 4° of change. Therefore we can extrapolate that a rotation of 45° (or to the next position) will change face angle by 1° as well as the lie 1°. Some manufacturers call the change in face angle loft as there is a relationship between face angle and loft called effective loft.

If the hosel was bored at an off angle of 1.5° instead of 2°, then you would only see a change of 0.75° per 45 degrees.

Each position has a unique set of specifications in which to alter the ball flight. These were developed to be able to use one clubhead and fine tune the face angle to the player’s tendencies as well as account for manufacturer’s tolerances. With the use of a wrench, the adapter can be repositioned as the player’s swing changes.

side diagram of a golf shaft adapter sleve and the hosel bored at a 2 degree off angleside diagram of a golf shaft adapter sleve and the hosel bored at a 2 degree off angle

When I initially wrote text in 2015, the number of these adjustable type drivers was limited on the market because of numerous reasons. For one, it added cost to the driver. Secondly, the adapter, screw and housing for the adapter all add weight when every valuable gram of weight is important. In some cases, the volume of the clubhead must be reduced to meet the typical 200g driver requirement. Lastly, few golfers take advantage of the additional settings and play with the driver as is came from the factory. For clubmakers though, it is an added element to help properly fit an individual golfer. Today, nearly every OEM driver is offered with an adjustable shaft sleeve.

Driver Head Bias

Each clubhead in your fitting system should bring a little to the table rather than having several models that exhibit the same ball flight but with different cosmetics. We showed earlier how the shape of the head along with the specifications can tell you more about the function of a product. Some technology or game improvement features may not be visible with the naked eye. One such occurrence you may not be aware of is whether or not the manufacturer positioned weight within the head to specifically alter ball flight, unless you were able to measure it yourself or the manufacturer stated it in their marketing materials.

CG Bias Due to the Driver’s Geometry

Let us start first with what we can see and how it relates to head bias. A driver shaped more elongated from heel-to-toe (like pictured in the diagram with the gray dotted line) is most likely to have a center of gravity position not only further out from the centerline axis of the shaft, but also closer to the face effectively reducing the gravity angle. Again the CG icons are embellished slightly as they would likely overlap more than shown.

The closer the CG is to the hosel, the more rapidly the face will close, much like when a spinning figure skater pulls their arms close to their body. When the arms move back out, the skater spins more slowly.

CG offset and face angle will have the greatest impact on direction, but remember most manufacturers are hesitant to offer a driver that is severely closed or open to avoid rocking the boat. Therefore manufacturers have two options other than face angle to further assist in face closure.

diagram depicting the center of gravity location based on the driver clubhead geometrydiagram depicting the center of gravity location based on the driver clubhead geometry

Offset Drivers

In the Wood Head Geometry in Pictures (Chapter 8), there are diagrams and explanations for an offset wood. The offset is designed to shift the CG of the head further behind the centerline axis of the shaft.

This does a number of things, but one of the most important contributions is the gravity angle increases allowing the clubhead to rotate freely around about the shaft more so than without the offset as the shaft wants to align itself with the center of gravity of the head. You can easily check gravity angle by laying the club on a workbench with the clubhead overhanging.

diagram of the heel view of two drivers (standard and offset) and the center of gravity locationdiagram of the heel view of two drivers (standard and offset) and the center of gravity location

An offset driver features a gooseneck hosel that repositions the centerline axis of the hosel as much as 10mm (0.4”) forward. While this does not sound that much, this changes the gravity angle approximately 5°. This is much more effective method than any other form altering the gravity angle. We saw how making the breadth wider can do that, but there are USGA regulations regarding how broad the club can be. Plus it takes a considerable amount of weight and expense in the club head’s construction to save the amount of weight necessary to redistribute it farther back within the head.

diagram of the gravity angle of two drivers (standard and offset) with the offset driver possessing a greater anglediagram of the gravity angle of two drivers (standard and offset) with the offset driver possessing a greater angle

Changing the gravity angle 5° is nearly the equivalent in direction that a 1° face angle or slightly more would make, not to mention most offset drivers on the market tend to be more closed faced than non-offset models. One important consideration, the number of offset drivers will be limited. So much so, that several manufacturers do not even offer one.

Is it cheating when you use an offset driver?

I am surprised sometimes by the comments from customers when you try to help their game. For instance, I was speaking with a customer who was a habitual slicer of the ball. He self-admitted that he was not going to spend the money or devote time to take lessons or practice because of family obligations. “Fine,” I said, “I completely understand.” But he still enjoyed playing golf but wanted some assistance to make it a little more fun. I suggested an offset driver might very well help and explained the differences between the two models we offered. Then came those four little words; “Wouldn’t that be cheating?”

I was taken back for a moment but assured him he was not cheating at all. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in the Rules of Golf that would make it non-conforming. I went on to ask him what kind of irons he had. He mentioned the manufacturer and model he was playing, and I played devil’s advocate with him. “Those irons are offset, aren’t they?”  He responded by saying “Yes.”  I went on to ask him if he felt he was cheating by using those because they were offset. He replied back, “H E double hockey sticks NO, because everyone uses offset irons, even most of the pros.

The fact that professional golfers did not use offset drivers made him think that they were illegal for play or like so many other people say are a “crutch” for those do not want to get better through practicing.  Offset drivers (and fairway woods) are perfectly legal and can help assist those golfers the same as those who have found by using offset irons. The only cheating that was going on was cheating oneself by not understanding the rules and worrying about what others might think of them.

Draw, Neutral and Fade Bias Drivers

If your customer needs a driver with a face angles beyond the typical 1° closed to square to help reduce a slice, fade, pull or hook, we have shown a few other options. One is driver heads with an interchangeable adapter with an off center bore. You also have offset (at least for faders and slicers) if you can get past the stigma the golfer might have in the back of their mind. We also have the subtle difference in the driver’s CG location of the driver by virtue of its geometry. But there is one other avenue to explore and that is any internal weighting within the head.

You may have heard the terms "draw, neutral or fade bias" to describe a particular clubhead model. Golfers who struggle with direction should be aware of this terminology and how it could very well help them to hit the ball straighter and further. Even for those that hit the ball relatively straight may find draw biased or as I like to put it “draw enhancing” to their liking. Contrary to common belief these will not make what would normally be a straight ball flight and turn into a hook. But a draw flight will often provide more roll and overall more distance.

Draw Biased Versus a Closed Faced Driver

One thing I should first start out by addressing is that one should not confuse the difference between a closed face angle and a draw bias clubhead. Face angle is the direction the face points relative to the target. Yes, a closed face club can help start the ball far enough left (assuming a RH golfer) to correct for when the ball fades or slices. This of course assumes that the player does not compensate and opens up the face at address to make it look square as I’ll discuss later.

Draw bias deals with creating a draw spin or at least encouraging the ball to produce a draw ball flight. A fade bias is the opposite and there are very few products that are marketed that truly are. Where a golf ball ultimately lands is caused by a few factors such as how open or closed the face is at impact and the swing path of the golfer. Normally when a golf ball impacts the center of the face a draw is created by an inside/out path. For example, a 2° inside/out path with a 2° closed face angle would create draw spin (like the arrow labeled #3 in the diagram). But with a draw biased club it is possible to create a draw spin with a center impact and a square face angle and straight path toward the target line. The latter would normally produce a straight ball flight only.

diagram of a birdseye view of a fairway and 4 different draw ball flights that land in different positions of the fairwaydiagram of a birdseye view of a fairway and 4 different draw ball flights that land in different positions of the fairway

How Screw Weighted Drivers Work

There are driver heads on the market which offer weight ports and various weight screws or sliding weights to alter the CG location within the head. The head may have two, three or possibly four ports located around the outermost perimeter of the head. The further out, the more effective any change of weight will be. In our example, we have a driver with three weight ports with one located at the toe of the club, one in the heel and one in the rear center of the sole.

In order to account for the weight of the screws, the head has to be made lighter than normal.  For instance, if we want our final driver weight to be 200g with 3 weight ports with each weight being 6g, then the head itself would have to be 182g.

diagram of the soleplate of a driver head with three screw locationsdiagram of the soleplate of a driver head with three screw locations

If we balance the head to find the CG coordinates it may very well be located in the position, we have labeled as “balanced”.  To create bias we need to offset or have imbalances in the weight distribution of the screws such as the pairing of 2g, 2g and a 14g screw. The total weight is 18g or the same as three 6g weights.

By placing the heaviest weight out in the toe port and substituting the 6g screws for 2g screws in the other two ports, our overall clubhead weight remains the same. The center of gravity will now shift toward the heaviest weight. How much? Depending on the size of our driver, it could be as much as 2.5mm (0.10”). Now that does not sound like much, at least yet.

If we interchange the 14g screw from the toe and the 2g screw from the heel, we are shifting a total of 12g of mass closer to the heel. This weight redistribution may shift the center of mass the same 2.5mm from the balanced position for a total shift of 5mm.

Lastly, we can reposition the 14g screw to the rear. In this case we will not create any draw or fade bias as the screw is aligned directly behind the original CG or close enough there is not a noticeable shift. We have only shifted the CG rearward.


Head Weight Toe Weight Heel Weight Rear Weight Total Weight Flight Bias
182 g 6 g 6 g 6 g 200 g Neutral
182 g 14 g 2 g 2 g 200 g Fade
182 g 2 g 14 g 2 g 200 g Draw
182 g 2 g 2 g 14 g 200 g Rear


Reviewing what we have learned so far, each time the CG is shifted it creates a new set of coordinates that will have an influence on direction and even height. The 5mm CG shift when the heaviest weight was in the toe and heel ports will change our gravity angle as much as 5° or the equivalent of changing face angle approximately 1° or slightly more.

There is not enough weight to offset a large change or to take a golfer who slices the ball and all the sudden make them draw the ball but changing the screw weight and position (or even adding lead foil tape in the same magnitude) can fine tune ball flight along with some of the other options we discussed.

Forward Center of Gravity Driver

Not shown is the situation where a weight port is located close to the face. You will find this option more often as a means of moving the center of forward. A byproduct of the CG change is it creates a low spin driver. These were initially introduced for those golfers with higher swing speeds who were seeking to boost their ball speed and distance. It is another option in the arsenal for club fitters to alter ball flight.

However, a club head with a forward center of gravity location can benefit any golfer who desires a lower spin rate of the ball coming off the club face. Part of the reason is the shaft will not bow as far forward at impact producing a slightly lower launch angle and increased roll out for greater overall distance.

A Lesson in Fitting in the Real World

Even without a launch monitor to guide you, observing ball flight outdoors should be more than suffice to see what type of change in direction can occur when altering face angle, introducing offset or clubhead bias. If the player typically hits fades, they will be naturally high fades. Having the player use an offset, more closed faced or draw biased driver given the same loft should (at least on paper) automatically correct for the direction and help to lower the ball flight. I said on paper because fitting golfers do not go according to Hoyle.

Look at the following diagram representing the head on view of a golfer’s set up at address. In the first drawing labeled example A, the triangle that forms the shoulders are level to the ground. The dotted line represents the golfer line of sight looking down on the ball. The solid arrow points to the clubface looking square to the target.

In example B, the only change is the clubface has a more closed faced at address. The golfer sees that the clubface is now pointing left of the target. If the golfer were to take their normal swing and trust the position of the club face the ball may start to travel left. OR…the golfer will now make some changes because visually it does not fit their eye.

diagram of 4 golfers all adjusting the club at address depending how it looks to their eyesdiagram of 4 golfers all adjusting the club at address depending how it looks to their eyes

In example C, the golfer compensates by pushing their hands forward therefore opening the clubface at address. By doing so, the clubface now appears more squared to the target. Why even adjust? It is natural a person may try to aim at their final target even though their ball flight is generally not straight. In addition, the shoulders may tilt with the shoulder closest to the target being slightly higher than the other, possibly causing the player to swing more inside/out than they normally would. In most cases, the golfer is not even aware they are doing this negating the potential benefit of the clubface being closed to compensate for their slice.

Example D is yet another possibility the golfer may do to visualize that the club is pointed toward their target. That is the clubhead is positioned back further in the stance rather than pressing the hands forward as example C. To focus on the ball the head might be rotated back slightly. One byproduct of moving the club back in the stance as the player may end up hitting with a descending angle of attack and the club may be further de-lofted resulting into low ball flight. Ironically, they may slice the ball even more than before with a clubhead that was less closed faced.

Professional golfers are highly skilled. They can hit clubs that may not be right for them and make the ball in the direction that want. Using a driver with an off center shaft adapter sleeve to alter face angle, the pro could literally place the adapter inside the head in any of the possible positions. Within a handful of shots, the pro will eventually figure out how to hit the ball straight and most likely at a specific height. The average golfer is not so fortunate. You might hear that a professional golfer may like an open faced driver at address because “it looks good to his eyes.” They want to avoid any manipulation at address so they can just trust their natural swing.

By changing how something looks can very easily change how someone may set up and ultimately swing the golf club. After all, this is part of custom fitting; making the clubs suit the player’s natural swing rather than the player adjusting to the club. Just because a right-handed golfer swings a more closed clubface, it does not necessarily mean that you will see the ball travelling more to the left. Only by experimenting with the customer using your demo clubs are you able to see first-hand how face angle and even offset can affect their set up and eventually the ball’s direction and height. A more closed clubface may be just the cure for a slice, but they must trust the club and try not to make any adjustments.

Determine Face Angle, Offset and Clubhead Bias in a Static Fitting Situation

If the player slices the ball, then you should be able to factor in which of the heads you have in your demo program or readily available to you might help your customer. I would strongly encourage you to try them yourself so you confidently and accurately suggest a model that may complement the player’s tendencies.

You have several options available; face angle, offset and club head bias to select from and even combinations of these. But remember, if you find a driver to help alleviate a slice, then the ball flight should naturally come down as the face will not be as open at impact so factoring in loft will take some special consideration.

How Adjusting Lie Angle Effect Ball Impact Position on the Face

We mentioned this much earlier in the text that altering the lie of a driver is extremely limited. This could be due to the fact the hosel is too short or the insertion depth is too deep to effectively alter the lie. Or the clubmaker does not have access to a lie/loft machine that is capable to clamping the club head safely and securely.

There are few drivers that lie can be altered, are those that use an off angle adapter system. At the same time they are also altering the face angle and effective loft which will have a more profound effect as the driver loft is generally low and an incorrect lie will not have nearly the same influence on direction as it might a mid-iron or higher lofted club head.

This picture clearly shows the lie incorrect, yet the ball flew straight. This driver was hit off a mat with a rubber tee and you can see the impact mark from the ball. Using the score lines and the side of the rubber tee as guides, the clubhead was 10° upright at impact. Using a driver with an off angle adapter system, you may find two positions that offer the same face angle but one lie flatter than the other.

extremely upright driver at impact with the club face showing impact markings of the ball and rubber tee mark extremely upright driver at impact with the club face showing impact markings of the ball and rubber tee mark

In this diagram you can see simulated impact marking on the face. The one on the left shows a lie that might be perhaps too flat. By moving the adapter to the more upright setting, the player may align the driver closer to them and that might be enough to move the impacts with the ball closer to the center of the face and toward a more solid and longer tee shot.

diagram of two drivers with impacts made on the toe of one and impacts on the heel of the otherdiagram of two drivers with impacts made on the toe of one and impacts on the heel of the other

The opposite would occur on the image on the left. By flattening the lie the club may be pushed further away from the golfer and now allow impact to be made closer to the center of the face. That is the beauty of these adapters is to immediately find out if this is the case. If so, the adjustment can be made quickly, efficiently, and inexpensively.

Driver Shaft Fitting

Shaft Flex and Flex Distribution

If might be best to have thoroughly read through Chapter Ten: Shaft Fitting to gain an understanding of each of the shaft fitting parameters. For example when we mean shaft flex, it is more than the generic letter designations such as L, A, R, S and X with which we are concerned. It will be the frequency of the shaft along with the material and weight that give a much truer sense of the stiffness of a shaft.

We had already introduced driver shaft weight earlier when testing for length and head weight so hopefully you have an idea on what weight to use. If not, it can easily be fit for at this time. Since this is the Driver Fitting chapter, 99% of the shafts you fit for will be graphite and a weight below 80g. The most efficient way to test for flex and flex distribution is to use an interchangeable head and shaft system. If you rely on using the same (or even different) driver heads assembled onto various shafts, it can become extremely costly. Plus with an interchangeable head and shaft system, you are able to test not only what head or shaft the person might need, but more importantly how they react together.

We mentioned earlier that some heads are draw biased or designed to hit the ball with less of a fade or push by virtue of their face angle, hosel configuration or weight bias. Shafts too can not only affect direction, but ball flight and distance too. There could potentially be situations where a head and shaft cancels out each benefit. There is the possibility the two in unison provide too much of a correction factor. After all, you are fitting a club which is a system of the head + the shaft (and grip too). The shaft is no more important than the head than it is the length and weight.

Measure swing speed and observe tempo and length of swing

To begin our fitting on flex, we need to have some sort of starting point. In this case it is the golfer’s swing speed. Avoid driver distance as it is often embellished, or the golfer does not make solid enough contact with the ball to get an accurate correlation to the speed that a better ball striker can provide.

display of a portable launch monitor with swing speed, ball speeds and distancedisplay of a portable launch monitor with swing speed, ball speeds and distance

Flexes are presented in generic nomenclature. For example, L or Ladies flex is the most flexible of the five flexes and traditionally these are designed for golfers with driver swing speeds of 60 mph or less. A-flex or what is referred to as Senior or Amateur and where the A comes from, is designed for driver swing speeds between 60-75 mph.

Flex       Traditional

L              Up to 60 mph
A             60 –75 mph
R             75 – 90 mph
S              90 – 110 mph
X             110 mph and up

R or regular flex is for the average male golfer whose driver speed is between 75 and 90 mph. S or stiff flex is designed for golfers with a faster swing speed, usually between 90 and 110 mph. The stiffest of the shafts is X or extra stiff and designed for those who can swing their drivers above 110 mph.

While these make good generalities for shaft fitting, it is nowhere exact for a couple of reasons. After from spending the past 30+ years measuring thousands of shafts that have been available to clubmakers and fitters, I can say that there is no standardization when it comes to shaft flex. However, if you have done your homework, you can obtain valuable information straight from the shaft manufacturers or material such as the Dynamic Shaft Fitting Index (DSFI) to help set up your demo shaft program.

Remember to also look at the player’s tempo or transition starting with the downswing. You can spot out a quick tempo by examining the initial part of the downswing. The reversal from the top of the takeaway to the initial downswing is harder to visualize as compared to the smooth tempo. The smooth tempo, there is a gradual buildup of speed throughout the downswing.

digram illustration the difference between a fast, moderate and slow tempo golferdigram illustration the difference between a fast, moderate and slow tempo golfer

The fast tempo has the greatest acceleration at the top of the swing; thus this swing type may need a heavier shaft and stiffer shaft as well for control. If you cannot distinguish between the smooth and fast tempo swing, this is referred to as a moderate tempo.

Length of swing plays a factor as well. Typically, a golfer with a longer swing arc will use a more flexible driver shaft than someone with the same tempo and swing speed, but with a shorter swing arc. The reason for this is due to the rate of recovery. With a shorter swing arc (where the shaft is less than parallel to the ground) there is less time to allow for the golf driver shaft to load and then return to a square position. Thus the stiffer shaft with the shorter swing will yield more accuracy. As golfers become older, there can be less flexibility that can restrict the length of the swing arc. Even though the golfer’s swing speed may decrease, it does not necessarily mean that the shaft flex needs to be decreased for these reasons.

A golfer with a short backswing and no wrist cock (an all arm swing), may need a much stiffer shaft than you would consider based upon their swing speed. Many newcomers to the game, as well as many women golfers, have this swing tendency. Not having a wrist cock greatly reduces clubhead speed. But as this golfer develops a wrist cock with lessons, their swing speed will automatically increase, thus it is best to recommend a stiffer shaft for them to grow into.

diagram of two golfers, one with a 3/4 backswing and the other with a full back swingdiagram of two golfers, one with a 3/4 backswing and the other with a full back swing

For a more complete discussion on how much adjustment to make based on the player’s tempo and length of swing, please review the Shaft Fitting Chapter.

Performance Based Shaft Fitting

If you are using your demo shaft program to fit the golfers, you will be less worrisome of the details as much as you are how the interaction of the shaft helps or hinders the golfer’s accuracy, trajectory, distance and feel. After all, this is why you have invested into a shaft demo program. But you should have at least a general knowledge as what specification can and cannot do and why. During the personal interview portion you should have an idea of what the player was using by measuring the specifications yourself or find that information.

Cause and Effect of Shaft Flex and Flex Distribution

When it comes to golfers, there is not one rule of thumb that applies to all. For instance, certain golfers who use too flexible of a shaft will fade or slice the ball. Others will pull, draw, or just have a general inconsistency problem. Why? It comes down to your brain reacting to what it feels. If the golfer feels the shaft flexes too much on the downswing, they start decelerating their hands or upper body too soon and get ahead of the club. While measuring their swing speed may give you a starting range, it is their tempo and length of their swing which also factors into the equation.

By using your demo shafts, you can identify in a hurry which set of specifications, such as stiffness and stiffness distribution, work best for your customer. To ensure you do, you need to have a varied system of shafts. That means you do not want a whole bunch of 65g, low torque, stiff tip shafts in your arsenal. All you will be doing at that time is have the golfer choose between color and brand. By selecting the right mix of shafts takes planning but will pay off in a hurry. If a player does request a certain brand or color, you can search for a shaft similar to one you ended up fitting the customer for.

Back to our discussion on shaft’s ability to alter ball flight, here is a diagram of flight patterns amongst four shafts of the same weight and butt frequency. The only parameters different were stiffness distribution and torque. Believe me, it took me a long time to find shafts to meet this criteria.

Each of our four shafts was set up in an interchangeable head and shaft system to limit the clubhead variables. Using actual golfers, the trend was for the four shafts to exhibit the following ball flight patterns (for a right hand golfer).

diagram of ball flight directions when changing tip stiffness and shaft torquediagram of ball flight directions when changing tip stiffness and shaft torque

The shaft with the stiffest tip and lowest torque caused more of a block or pushed shot compared to the rest. The shaft with a similar tip stiffness yet a slightly higher torque still showed a block or push tendency, but the ball flight was not as pronounced as it was with the lower torque shaft.

The two softer tipped shafts showed the ball going more left for these right handed golfers than the two stiffer tipped shafts. The shaft with the softest tip section and higher torque hit the ball the most left of the group. Let us find out why.

Remember at the end of the Clubhead Geometry in Pictures (Drivers, Fairways and Hybrids) we had mentioned that changes in the club head’s CG affect the ball flight. Since the head’s CG is not aligned with the shaft’s axis, the centrifugal forces try to align the CG of the head with the shaft as we show in the following diagrams. By stiffening the tip or increasing the torque resistance, it requires more force to bend and twist.

diagram of golf shaft drooping during the swingdiagram of golf shaft drooping during the swing
diagram of a golf club bowing forward at impact and trying to align with the club head;s center of gravitydiagram of a golf club bowing forward at impact and trying to align with the club head;s center of gravity

It should come as no surprise that the stock shafts manufacturers put into their drivers are geared to help against fading or slicing the ball. They are most often softer tipped and higher torque and not just because it is less expensive to manufacturer either. Shafts you see the tour player use are usually stiffer tipped, lower torque or both.

Shafts Have Evolved as Driver Clubheads Did

Shaft manufacturers have generally been behind the technology curve. When we look back at the year 2000, drivers have changed the most from any of the clubhead categories. We could still find stainless steel drivers being sold as new measuring a little as 200cc and the largest titanium model was only 350cc. Today, no modern driver released will be as small excluding a few aluminum drivers designed specifically for junior golfers and Taylor Made’s specialty BRNR Mini Driver (304cc).

diagram of center of gravity location of a driver in the face plane and the rear planediagram of center of gravity location of a driver in the face plane and the rear plane

When we look back at the shafts available at the same time, not one graphite shaft can be found today. Shafts in that generation where much heavier (as the standard length of drivers were shorter), stiffer overall and in the tip section and lower torque as well. This might be very well due to the smaller driver sizes had much smaller CG offsets than we find today.

The same demise of iron shafts cannot be said. Many, including the most popular recognized shaft (Dynamic Gold), still exist unchanged. When we discuss irons and wedges (especially for better players), the sizes and CG offset have gone relatively unchanged and have not made certain shafts obsolete.

Driver shafts today are geared to launch the ball higher and with reduced spin. Over the years, shaft manufacturers have found ways to manipulate parallel tip sections and geometries along with advances in materials and material layup to get the most out of today’s 460cc titanium drivers. Until the USGA relaxes the rules they set forth in the 2000’s, do not expect massive changes to the shafts rather better optimization.

Determine the Shaft in a Static Fitting Situation

One way to fit for shafts when a player is not capable of hitting various shafts and evaluating the results such as an online driver fitting or surprise gift is to use the fitting charts by the shaft manufacturers. Remember to account for the player’s length of swing and their tempo as outlined in the Shaft Fitting Chapter. Lastly, narrow down the list of shaft choices based on ball trajectory, brand, cost, color, etc.

Grip and Grip Size

Take the time to fit your customer not only for grip style and brand that may be their favorite or chosen from your grip display, but also check they have the proper size. For a complete discussion of grips and grip sizing, please refer to the Grip Fitting Chapter.

Remember the cause and effect of grip weight as some jumbo grips can be considerably heavier than others, plus you have lighter weight models available that can reduce the overall weight of the club and increase the heft of the club at the same time. Demo clubs are really the only way to test for this.

Determine the Grip in a Static Fitting Situation

In cases when a player is not in your shop to demonstrate the different type of grips and sizing or capable of hitting various clubs and evaluating the results such as an internet fitting or surprise gift, use the grip sizing charts. Make sure to ask if the player has a favorite grip (or size) too. If the player’s hands sweat a lot or play in hot and humid conditions on a regular basis, know what types of grips you stock that would be the most beneficial.

Weight Distribution and Final Adjustments

If you are using an interchangeable club head and shaft system to fit your customer, you can add weight to the driver head using smaller amounts lead foil tape or tungsten weights to fine tune swing weight. If your demo clubs have holes cut into the butt ends of grip, you use any counterweighting system to see if alternative weighting may stimulate a difference in the comfort level and performance at the given length and shaft weight you fit for. It should only take a few swings by the golfer to see if counterweighting has any positive response. If not, you can rule it out and at least your customer had experimented with something few golfers ever do. For habitual slicers, I would strongly encourage them to consider this.

If you are not using an interchangeable club head and shaft system, you most likely will be fitting based on a myriad of demo clubs where you are isolating one parameter at a time (or none at all like in a static fitting situation). If that were the case, few of the components specifications will be all on one club where you can fine tune to optimize swing weight or any alternative weighting for best results.

Driver Fitting Summary

Once you have completed your driver fitting, it may off to the next club category to fit your customer or to begin to order and build the club to those specifications. The total time to fit your customer will vary depending on how involved you want to get or just how poorly they were fit before. It may be as simple as a new style grip and size or an alteration of length to an existing driver. On the other hand you might have a customer with a unique set of challenges that you have to go through every aspect of the fitting until you settle on what will help them perform their best off the tee.

  • Test the player for the length that allows them to make the most repeatable swing as well as solid impact on the face.
  • At the same time, test the player for the right weight head and shaft that will complement their strength and tempo.
  • Make sure to choose a loft that will produce the greatest carry distance and roll based on their angle of approach (or attack).
  • Since golfers are generally consistently inconsistent, select the face angle, clubhead geometry and bias that will best direct the ball toward their intended target line based on their swing path and face attitude at impact. This may require you to hand select the head to account for manufacturing tolerances, change the screw weighting or reposition the shaft adapter sleeve if one is present.
  • Make sure as well to select a head that the player will be comfortable looking at address.
  • Understand the relationships between the CG offsets of the head and certain shaft parameters and treat them as a system rather than independently.
  • Make sure to select a grip and grip size that will feel most comfortable to the player, which they will not have to re-grip the club during the swing.
  • Understand the swing weights may not always match the other clubs in the set as the driver may have a completely different shaft weight or a non-proportional length to possibly gain extra distance. It is also possible that alternative weighting such as counterweighting or adding a mid-weight can help optimize an existing driver as well as a brand new one.
  • Test the player to make sure they have the correct length tees and tee height so they can make impact just above the vertical center of the face.

Modern Guide to Golf Clubmaking

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