Longer Drivers and Distance

I have taken on board Frank’s comments about driver shaft length, and note with interest a recent article which states that Adam Scott uses a driver with shaft length of 44.75 in. Can you please define just how a shaft is measured? Is the length measured to the upper surface of the club, or to the lower surface?

I enjoy your Q and A, and thank you for the service.


John, Australia


The length measurement you refer to is almost always the length of the club not the length of the shaft alone.

Unfortunately when the USGA decided to adopt the questionable rule placing a maximum limit on the length of a club – except for a putter — to 48-inches (1.219 meters), it was necessary to describe how to make this measurement as outlined below.

As is the case with Adam Scott the touring professionals, who have access to any length of driver they wish – up to 48-inches – have selected the most efficient length, which is on average about 44 ¾ inches.

In Jack Nicklaus’ day – the early 60s to the mid 70s — the standard length for a driver was 43 ½ inches. Jack’s driver was 42 5/8 – inches long, and Tiger played some of his best golf with a 43 ½ inch driver.

The justification, for limiting the maximum length of a club – except for a putter — in 2003 was never provided so remains a mystery. If this rule was to limit the length of the putter and not the driver or any other club, the playing rules, regarding anchoring, would be less complicated as most golfers would find it very difficult to anchor the shortest club in the bag to the belly or chest and use it effectively.

The thought process behind the club length limit was presumably because of the potential increase in distance that tour and elite players would be able to hit the ball with long drivers. Now ten years later the average length of a driver has not increased measurably on the tour but it has increased in the catalogs of some manufacturers trying to sell clubs that hit the ball father, no matter how many balls we may lose in trying for the real long and straight one.

To this end, John, here it is:

Appendix II 1. Clubs,  c. Length     

 The overall length of the club must be at least 18 inches (0.457 m) and, except for putters, must not exceed 48 inches (1.219 m).


For woods and irons, the measurement of length is taken when the club is lying on a horizontal plane and the sole is set against a 60 degree plane as shown in Fig. I. The length is defined as the distance from the point of the intersection between the two planes to the top of the grip. For putters, the measurement of length is taken from the top of the grip along the axis of the shaft or a straight line extension of it to the sole of the club.

The simple answer to your question — “Is the length measured to the upper surface of the club, or to the lower surface?” – is, the lower surface or simply the  ground level at the heel of the driver when it is in the normal address position.

I hope this helps and remember that most of us would be better off with a driver 44-inches long rather than the 47 ½ inch drivers now available with an option to include a snake-bite-kit.


7 thoughts on “Longer Drivers and Distance

  1. A few years ago I walked between the ropes with senior golfer Rocky Thompson. He was using a 55 inch driver. He hit a drive in a hazard and took a drop using two club lengths of his driver. The rules official just shook his head. All legal. I wonder if situations like this one had any impact in changing the rule.

    • There is nothing stopping you from cutting a driver down. I have often cut an inch off the butt end of a driver I bought “off the rack”. Whenever I buy a new club I immediately regrip it to mid-size, so it is easy enough then to cut it down.

  2. Dear Frank as always your comments are very concise and clear I agree entirely with you regarding driver distance accuracy is always better than length.
    Keep up the good work.

  3. Hi Frank,
    I have used 47″ to 54″ drivers from 1977 until the drastic 48″ limit was imposed. While I my handicap was 2 shots lower with drivers in the 47″ to 48″ range, I enjoyed being able to play any tees on any course with the longer clubs. About 80% of a persons handicap is determined by performance under 100 yards, so driver length is not a big factor. Now that I am 65 years old I really wish I had those longer driver yards back again. I held my club distance until I was 58. Since then I have lost 30 yards off the tee and 20 yards with the irons and woods. I have moved from the back tees to the men’s regular and today shot from the senior tees (located a respectful 10 paces behind the ladies tees). Longer drivers are easier on the back. As our shrinking golfing population ages I question the wisdom of a rule that is harder on our bodies and our egos. Keep up the good work. Don

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