BY JiM hopkins

Finding the right driver


Custom fitting a player for golf equipment can be
a time-consuming and challenging task
especially when it comes to the driver. The goal
is to find the longest, lightest, most flexible club
with the right amount of loft that the golfer can control,
and still get a good amount of distance.

One of the first challenges clubfitters face is that the
customer hears long, light, flexible and loft but loses

control. This is especially true with the driver.
Control doesn't just mean keeping the ball in play.
The real question is, can the golfer control the
clubhead enough to hit the ball solidly?

Clubmakers know that missing the center of the
clubface by an inch or more will result in a much
shorter, more off-line shot, even with today's larger
clubheads. Virtually every golfer is looking for more
distance off of the tee, but unless he or she has the
recovery skills and short game of a pro, the inability to
control the driver will most likely lead to higher scores.
Lighter shafts can generate higher clubhead speeds for
many golfers, but they can also lead to swing problems -
like hitting from the top and loss of clubhead control.

Every golfer is different, but there are general
guidelines to help all golfers find success off of the tee.
The first tip: most beginners who swing the club less
than 80mph really have no business hitting a driver.
Players should stick with a 3-wood or even a 5-wood
until they develop a more consistent swing. For those
who feel they must use a driver, find one that has 11
to 15 degrees of loft so that it has the forgiveness of a
3-wood to generate longer and straighter shots.

The slower-swinging plaver's golf shaft should also be
lighter in weight (65 grams or less) to compensate for
the lack of speed. Also, a graphite shaft that features a
soft or flexible tip can help launch the ball with greater
ease. If the plaver desires a lower ball flight, decrease the
loft and/or choose a sriffer-tipped shaft.

Most of the golfers that attend the Harvey Penick
Golf Academy swing the driver 80mph to 95mph. There
are a variety of fitting options for those who fall in the
"average" category, but basic principals apply to all of
these golfers. First, the loft of the driver should be in the

11-degree to 13-degree range, depending on the shot
trajectory the golfer desires.

Select graphite shafts that weigh between 65 and 75
grams. Also, keep the length of the club between 44 inches
and 45 inches, whatever feels comfortable and produces
solid contact. If the golfer wants to hit the ball farther, a
45- inch driver that features a clubhead with 11 degrees of
loft and a 65-gram shaft is a good choice. If more shot
control is the goal, a clubhead with 12 degrees of loft and a
44-inch shaft that weighs ~5 grams may be a better fit.

Many better golfers swing the driver 95mph to 1 lOmph.
The loft of the driver still needs to be between 9.5 and 11
degrees, but the shaft should be srifter (especially the tip
section) for these players. Additionally, heavier shafts (75
grams and higher) usually help stronger golfers better

The goal (in driver fitting) is to find the longest,
lightest, most flexible club with the least amount

of loft that the golfer can control.

control the club at the top of their swing and at impact.
Caution: avoid over-length clubs because a 44-inch or
44.5-inch driver will be much easier to control since
distance is less of a concern tor stronger players.

What about the players 'especially professionals or top
amateurs) with swing speeds ;n [he 110 mph ranger At this
speed, the loft of the clubhead has less to do with distance
and more to do with control. The lott of clubhead may
remain in the 9.5-degree to 10.5-degree range, but these
players typically prefer heavier shafts (85 grams or more)
with a stiff tip section. Many touring pros will tell you they
still prefer a driver that is 44 inches in length. They simply
want to have control over the speedy swing.

No matter the swing speed, fitting a player with a driver
is tricky. Think of it this way. What would happen if a pro
and a golfer with a 75-mph swing speed switched drivers?
The pro would hit the "new" club a country mile, but with
less control because of the sky-high trajectory resulting
from the increased loft. The amateur's shot with the pro's
club would be very straight, but low and extremely short.

The point is, the pro could adjust his speed and put the
ball in play, but the amateur will never swing fast enough
to hit the pro's driver. All players dream of crushing a great
drive down the middle of the fairway. A properly-fit golf
club can make this dream come true. 3|w