Driver Dilemma | Swing Surgeon - Don Trahan Peak Performance Golf Swing

Driver Dilemma

Thu, 09/01/2011 - 21:30 -- Don Trahan

I recently gave a lesson to one of my students from the Spartanburg area who has been with me for the last fifteen years or so. He's a good player--his handicap floats between a six and a seven. Like most people, he's really infatuated with his driving distance so he hits his driver a lot. In fact, he even warms up with his driver, which isn't a bad thing as the length and weight of the club will help stretch his back muscles pretty good. So when he finished his warm up, his first real drive was a solid hit right down the middle. In and of itself that wasn't very surprising because, as I said earlier, he's a pretty good golfer. What really did surprise me, though, was what came next. Shot after shot, he either power blocked it right or hit a pull hook. At that point, he couldn't have hit a straight shot if his life depended on it.

Seeing this, I immediately suspected that he had an equipment problem. He proceeded to tell me that he had purchased a new name brand driver and a matching 3-wood and had never given a thought to the length of the shaft. As it turns out, it measured a whopping 46"! No wonder he was having so much difficulty off the tee. We also checked his 3-wood and found that it, too, was way too long. Now if you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know that this is a favorite subject of mine so I won't cover that ground again in this summary except to make two points and then give you the details of how you can easily measure the length of your own woods if you suspect that they may be too long for you.

Point #1: Never assume that the big name brands put the right length of shaft on their clubs. How could they, after all, since golfers come in all shapes and sizes?

Point #2: Have your clubs measured by a qualified club fitter who can observe your swing and evaluate whether you have a shaft that will allow you to consistently hit good shots. This shouldn't cost you and arm and a leg but it will definitely improve your game if you find that you have an equipment problem.

The one question I get whenever we focus on this topic is "How do you measure overall club length?". Take a yardstick and place one end on the ground directly behind the club head and then lean the shaft back so that it lays on the yardstick itself. Take your measurement at the end of the grip. It's that easy!

Oh, by the way, my student's story had a happy ending. After testing various club lengths by having him choke down on the grip, we found the optimum length for him. After that, it was a short trip to the club fitter to have his shaft cut down and have some "Magic Dust" (a.k.a. lead tape) added to his club head to compensate for the weight of the length of shaft that was removed. He's now back to his old form and happy that he has both distance and accuracy off the tee.

Keep it vertical!

The Surge

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Steve Smith's picture

Submitted by Steve Smith on

Doc has advised that we could tape up the club face with duct tape and start hitting balls and gradually choke down until we find the spot where we are able to consistently get center hits.
Then we have the option of choking down to that point every time or getting our club shortened.
The shortening option can be a little tricky since we have to add weight back the the club head to compensate for the weight we cut off.
Either choking down or cutting off can also change the shaft dynamics so if your shaft happened to be "perfect" for you as far as flex and kick points it may not be perfect anymore.
On the bright side most of us don't know that the shaft was perfect for us in dynamics to begin with. We just bought what was on the shelf.

The very best option is to go to a certified fitter and have a driver built. Then the length AND the shaft dynamics AND the weight will be perfect for our swing.

Steve Smith's picture

Submitted by Steve Smith on

I would guess that if you are getting close to parallel you are probably hinging your wrists, cocking or bowing your wrists, making too much turn, not keeping your lower body stable by putting slightly outward pressure on your knees, not stopping your left arm from going deeper after reaching the toe line (it should go up at that point), or some combinations of any or all of the above.

Standing in front of a mirror and going through the proper mechanics of the swing often, as Robert F often talks about will help get the right feel of where you are in the swing.

Using the tissue box drill, or the book drill, which is basically the same drill while watching that your left arm is stopping and going vertical when it gets over the toe line is a great thing to do.

Stopping at the toe line is something that is a challenge for me because it is so easy for me to let my left arm go too far even when I don't make much turn. If I take the club back to where the shaft is on the toe line in my pre-shot routine, and remember the feel of where that point is, helps me a lot.

It's getting better for me and I haven't seen a video of mine in quite a while where I was past 1 or 2 o'clock from a face on view.
I still catch myself lifting my left heel in the backswing (which allows too much turn) but there is no doubt that I'm more accurate when I don't do it. What I don't do is pay much attention to mechanics during a round. Maybe if I did I would improve a little quicker but I'm not willing to lose a round just for the sake of doing it the "right way".

I believe in practicing my swing off of the course and trusting my swing on the course.

If you use the search bar on the right column and type in such things as Book Drill, or other things you have questions about there are great videos to show the mechanics.

Jim Wile's picture

Submitted by Jim Wile (not verified) on

Hi folks.  I haven't posted in awhile, but I wanted to share with you my experience with one of the tips I got on the forum a few days ago.  My most common mis-hit is the toe-ball, especially with longer irons, and occasionally I lose my balance completely and fall back on my heels.  I can feel it happening, but can't stop the swing in time, and the result is a disastrous shot.

The tip from a few days ago concerned bending more at the waist during setup.  Since I've been trying that, my toe-balls are non-existent, as well as the off-balance shots.  Yesterday, I had my best ball-striking day ever with the purest iron shots I've ever hit.  Every iron was solid and straight, and my drives improved too.  I hit 10 fairways and 14 greens, and because my drives were on the sweet spot, my distance improved as well.

My buddy was having a rough time, consistently pulling his shots into trouble, and I noticed on the third hole that he appeared to be standing too upright with not enough bend at the waist.  I suggested that he bend over more, and I've never seen anyone respond more rapidly to a tip than my buddy.  For the next 7 or 8 holes, he didn't mis-hit a shot.  I've never seen him drive the ball so straight. 

It's a tip worth trying if you're having trouble keeping your weight centered.

Robert F's picture

Submitted by Robert F (not verified) on

Good luck this weekend.

WTF doesn't change from club to club, just from person to person. ;-) That's your Wrist-to-Floor length.

As for the shaft lengths, I believe there's usually a half-inch step between woods, with the 3 wood being between half an inch and a full inch shorter than your driver ordinarily, but it's best to have a qualified fitter work with you to figure out precisely what you need. In addition to length, there's kick point, stiffness, etc to consider.

Zeke Zietak's picture

Submitted by Zeke Zietak (not verified) on

I have been committed to Surges swing for 7 months & I do not have it mastered by any means, but I have gone from a 5 hcp to a 1.7 and have 1 win, 2 seconds, 1 third, 1 fifth & 1 ninth place finish in 6 gross 36 hole tournaments.  In the past I could not seem to get any better than a 5hcp, but this swing has improved my accuracy to the point where If I miss a fairway or green is only by a few yards and not 10+ and the pain in my back for days after are gone completley.  I still chunk one now & then or decell when between clubs from time to time, but I am amazed how a swing that goes against most of how we are all taught from instructors, books & TV can be so damn right. Lower scores, better shots & no pain.  Distance suffered at first, but I'm now back to where I was.  If you truly commit to the swing and pay attention to those crazy back porch tips you have to get better.  Surge should get the Nobel Peace Prize.

Steve Smith's picture

Submitted by Steve Smith on

Ha ha! You beat me to the punch.
At least I mentioned your "mirror" in my answer.;-)

Bill Leary's picture

Submitted by Bill Leary (not verified) on

Don, please comment on the scathing critique of you and your method by Defrancesco on the you tube sight in the same page as your lessons? Billy

T Medley's picture

Submitted by T Medley (not verified) on

Have you experimented with ball positions. If you are hitting just behind or close to the ball, have you tried moving the ball a slight amount back in your set up. Generally speaking, hitting fat and thin is often a non-steady spine, but can also be from many other faults. It's almost impossible to tell which fault you have, without seeing you swing, as Robert says below. Another factor to consider, if your practice swings are nice and just brushing the grass, but ugly when the ball is introduced, you may be swinging at the ball, rather than through the ball. Practice repeatedly just brushing the grass with every club. When the ball is introduced, forget about it, and just brush the grass under and through the ball. You must not make the ball your target. Just make a nice swing brushing the grass to a full T-Finish and allow the ball to get in the way, easier said than done however. Good luck.   

Steve Smith's picture

Submitted by Steve Smith on

Great playing Zeke!
I'm still looking for that perfect foolproof answer to the "in between clubs" problem.
So far both the usual choking down and shortening the back swing haven't been reliable for shortening the distance and I end up decelerating on some of those shots.
The best I have done is using a cut shot more often for controlling the shorter distance. I don't really like cutting the ball when it isn't necessary on a straight shot but so far that is the best answer I've found (and hitting more 60* wedges than I ever hit before). Ha ha!
Maybe someone has found a better answer than the three things I've tried and will post it.

CallumAveling's picture

Submitted by CallumAveling (not verified) on

@robertlfleck:disqus @80steve55:disqus Many thanks for both of your comments,

I think i'm starting to understand a bit more.

I'll most likely be up at the range monday/tuesday/wednesday so i'll definately let you know how i get on. For now, back to the camera :)

Thanks again

Robert F's picture

Submitted by Robert F (not verified) on

I'm pretty sure that Don won't and shouldn't comment on DeFrancesco's video. There was some discussion among regulars here about what he misunderstood (intentionally or otherwise) about Don's and DJ's swing back in January if you want to go look for it, but it's a dead issue around here.

The reason you may see it listed among "related" videos is that YouTube uses metadata to link video results, so you'll see a lot of things that aren't Don's listed as "related" to the Swing Surgeon videos. If you want to see only the Swing Surgeon videos, go to the Swing Surgeon page on YouTube by clicking the SwingSurgeon username on any of the actual videos on YouTube.

Zeke 's picture

Submitted by Zeke (not verified) on

Funny Steve I have done the same with the cut, but it doesn't work too well when the pin's left of center & the shorter the distance the harder it is for me to cut with control.  I'm working very hard on a half swing with 2 clubs more.  If I have a 120 yd shot,  I'm trying a choke down(9 O'clock to 9 O'clock) 8 Iron which I hit 153 with a full swing instead of a choke down PW (130 Full) or 9 Iron (140 Full).  I seem to still decel with the half swing PW & 9 Iron, but going two clubs more I seem to be able to fully commit to the complete half swing with good tempo.  I'm always willing to try things.  I'm playing a 54 hole event this weekend so I'll let you know how it works out, because I know I'll have 8 or 10 of these types of shots.  Thanks for your input. 

Michael's picture

Submitted by Michael on

Try a few practice swings in the garden with your back to the sun, you will see your shadow in front of you and whether the club is straight up or parallel, it worked for me as I thought I was straight up until I tried this. Michael

MikefromKy Go Bama. Go Irish's picture

Submitted by MikefromKy Go B... (not verified) on


Did you send your buddy a bill for that lesson. When I see my buddies doing something like that I wait until the last couple of holes before I say anything so I can get  enough quarters out of them to at least buy a drink after the round. We play for a quarter a hole.

I agree about the bending over from the hips. Before I came back to this site early spring I had taken 3 - 4 rotational lessons over the winter and they were trying to get me to stand taller to the ball but was not working for me and plus my back got to hurting again because of the rotational stuff.

Jim Wile's picture

Submitted by Jim Wile (not verified) on

He should have at least bought me a beer at the end of the round, but instead he said,  "How come you didn't point this out at the beginning of the season?"  Such gratitude!

Mark H's picture

Submitted by Mark H (not verified) on

I saw an add for a set of clubs that had all the same length shaft. It occurred to me that given the comments on shortening the shaft for a driver from Surge recently, that with a more vertical swing a single shaft length might be desirable?

Jack Hill's picture

Submitted by Jack Hill (not verified) on

Hugo,  in many countries it is possible to call a 1-800 number in the USA, but it will not be a free call.  You will be billed for it.

MikefromKy Go Bama. Go Irish's picture

Submitted by MikefromKy Go B... (not verified) on

Grip Dilemma or question For the Robert's or Steve or anyone really that wants to respond.
First off I fight getting the club over the forward shoulder in the follow through but I finish with my shoulders square to the target in a T postion are close to it but in the 3/4 follow through position.
Last night at the range I was messing with my grip which is normally a neutral inter locking grip and started hitting some shots with a reverse overlap grip with first finger left hand over the little finger of the right hand for some reason it allowed me to finish with the club over my forward shoulder at the top of the FUS were I could not with a interlocking grip. I cant figure out why I cant do this with the inter locking grip. The only thing that pops in my little mind might be that the inter locking grip might restricts my forearm rotation do not know would be interesting to here others thoughts on this.
I do hit straight shots either way most of the time gripping either way.

Dstansbery's picture

Submitted by Dstansbery (not verified) on

Try having someone watch you when you play. I have a tendency to take a nice practice swing, then intent on hitting the ball a mile, I may take too much back swing, or lunge at the ball, or both, all to ill effect. It was pointed out to me one day by a playing partner, It all seems to happen unconsciously.

Don B's picture

Submitted by Don B (not verified) on

My driver experiment had a new Hot driver that was quite long but I couldn't hit it well or consistantly that I shelved for my old cheapie driver that I cut down as Don said in the video. After experimentation I cut LOTS off. Results are very good so far maybe a bit less distance but way better control.

On the subject of deceleration when hitting. I noticed I could make a great swing without the ball but with it, it was more difficult. I think I have a overwelming desire to smash the ball and then end the swing at the ball ie: deceleration. What I am doing now is to take aim at a point about 2" behind the ball and swing through that spot. It has worked wonders so far and maybe it'll help others with the same caveman smash ball mentality that I have. LOL.

Don B 

Rolf K's picture

Submitted by Rolf K (not verified) on

The back porch is too dark.  the bright background closes teh F stop leaving the speaker in the dark and hard to see.  You need some lights for tsping.

Rolf K

Jon Essam in Lincolnshire's picture

Submitted by Jon Essam in Li... (not verified) on

Do you know of other WTF lengths ?I cut my driver down to 44.25 and hitting it best I ever have (longer and straighter, hitting most fairways :) ). All irons were custom fitted 2 years ago (2 degree upright) and hit all very well. Problem clubs are 3, 5 woods and 4 hybrid , i can hit them well but no where near the consistancy of all the irons so dont trust them. Following Surges logic it is probably the clubs and not me(& the 6 " between the ears)
If you do have lengths 4 these clubs be very gratefull.
Last medal of summer saturday, fairways & greens I hope !

Callum Aveling's picture

Submitted by Callum Aveling (not verified) on

One thing i quite like that a friend of mine once said, "Hit all clubs exactly the same. The club shaft and face angle will do the rest."  I found this helped out straight away, quite noticeably too

Zeke's picture

Submitted by Zeke (not verified) on

Don't give up on the swing.  Change only comes after fully leaving your comfort zone. You can't half ass this swing as I did for 2 months or you'll just end up going back to you old swing and old problems.  I was where you are, but I had tried other adjustments & they only worked for a short time & my back issues never went away.  At 55 I went from a 5.3 to a 1.7  and have posted 5 sub par rounds in the last 4 months with 3 being in tournaments. Haven't shot over 79 in over 45 rounds.  I finally believe I'm going to play well every time out.  I don't hit every shot perfect & I have some real screw up holes once in a while due to the 6" between my ears, but they are far & few. This swing gives me the confidence that I'm going to stick a few so I can now forget the bad holes knowing it wasn't the swing it was me trying to be too cute.  I went from anti Surge to Pro Surge in 7 months and I'll never go back. As you know the lower your hcp the harder it is to reduce it. A 20 hcp can improve 10 strokes pretty quick with a few key changes, but we can't do that so it takes a little longer for a change to pay off. You won't regret the time & effort and next spring you'll be posting more rounds in the 70's than you ever thought possible.  Accept that you'll get frustrated from time to time, don't modify the Surge Swing, experiment with ball position, practice, practice, practice, commit to the change & enjoy this great game a lot more for the rest of your life no matter how old you are now. 

densemech's picture

Submitted by densemech on

Bob Dense
I've been fitted with clubs by Lynn.  But I tend to hit all clubs, except the driver, behind or close to behind the ball.  This removes distance and adds frustration.  I've tried many things:
Don't sink down too far on the back swing, don't weight too heavy right, bump (a mystry), don't let your head move forward, keep head behind the ball, etc.etc.
Anyone have anymore ideas?

Randolph's picture

Submitted by Randolph on

Bought a $40 course last year, not too impressed (I'm a 6/7 handicpr.)  but this driver length info IS very interesting, and I'm going to seriously look into length.

Calluma11's picture

Submitted by Calluma11 (not verified) on

One thing i quite like that a friend of mine once said, "Hit all clubs
exactly the same. The club shaft and face angle will do the rest."  I
found this helped out straight away, quite noticeably too

Robert F's picture

Submitted by Robert F (not verified) on

Having never played with any grip but an overlap, I am confounded. Clearly it's changing something in the action of your left arm, though. In video of your swing, does your left arm have a tendency to block and chicken wing?

Charmo1's picture

Submitted by Charmo1 (not verified) on

Was wondering how you get to the weightless vertical position in the BUS or the FUS without a wrist cock?  C

Robert F's picture

Submitted by Robert F (not verified) on

The Surgism for that is that the ball doesn't know which club you're holding and the club doesn't know who's holding it. That's one reason why having properly fitted clubs is so important, so you only need one swing for every club (aside from the putter), rather than having to adjust your swing to suit the club you have in your hand.

Hugo Garcia's picture

Submitted by Hugo Garcia (not verified) on

This has nothing to do with the current video but I don't know how to contact "the powers that be" within the Surge's organisation. Maybe this will filter thru to somebody that would do something.
On the 22 of August I purchased the combo pack of Working the Ball and Situational Shots On The Course. This purchase is registered in My Purchase History.
However, after 11 days and several complaints to Support I'm still waiting for "Working the Ball" to be fixed (most of the time it cannot be watched) and "Situational Shots..." to be included in my Videos.
Does anybody know how to contact anybody other than Support?  I cannot call the toll free number because it only works in the USA and I live in Australia.
I would really appreciate your help.
Hugo - Melbourne

Robert F's picture

Submitted by Robert F (not verified) on

Without video of your swing, giving advice on a problem like this is difficult, but here's something you can try. On the range, jam a tee into the ground about two inches in front of the ball and keep looking at that tee until after you strike the ball.

Alternately, when you set up, close your left eye and focus on the ball with only your right eye.

Steve Smith's picture

Submitted by Steve Smith on

There is an angle between the forearms and the shaft at address. That angle is maintained to the top of the back swing.
If you rotate your arms as you go back into the mitt and up the tree with the palms staying perpendicular to the ground the higher you are able to raise your arms the more that original angle will take the shaft to vertical or beyond from a face on view.
Most people with pretty good flexibility will be able to get the shaft to 1 or 2 o'clock as viewed face on with only that original angle. Some less flexible people may only get the shaft to 12 o'clock or true vertical.
Remember that "vertical", as in "light club" vertical, is talking about a view of the club from a down the line view. From face on it will be past vertical.

I am fairly inconsistent at taking the same swing every time so the face on view of the shaft can vary from 12 o'clock to at least 2 o'clock. I see no difference in power from the shorter swings to the longer ones.
It seems, for me at least, that the length of back swing has little or nothing to do with power. Power comes from timing and speed through the ball.

It has been argued by many that Don and/or DJ are intentionally hinging  their wrist in the swing while still keeping the left wrist flat.
All I can say is that they say they are not and the only "hinging" that is taking place is the involuntary hinging or flexing that is bound to happen from the force of the change of direction at the top.
I will take them at their word that no hinging is intentional.

In my own swing I assure you that I don't flex, cock, or hinge the wrists in any way intentionally and yet my swing looks similar to theirs (if you want to overlook a handful of mistakes, or maybe a double handful, ha ha!)

Calluma11's picture

Submitted by Calluma11 (not verified) on

Now i've figured out how to use the blog, i may be annoying you all with my frequent posts, but one question I have for you is,

after a terrible round yesterday, i took some video footage in my back garden. I was swinging frighteningly close to parallel at the top of my backswing.

Does anyone have any tips or drills that can help me? - i found it difficult to not swing that far.


Robert F's picture

Submitted by Robert F (not verified) on

In addition to Steve's comment, the recommended starting points (adjust as necessary in the method Steve mentions) from Doc and Tom Wishon and other true professional club fitters is:

WTF.......Driver length

MikefromKy Go Bama. Go Irish's picture

Submitted by MikefromKy Go B... (not verified) on


Back in the early spring everyonce in a while I would catch on video the left forward elbow would pull straight back not really a chicken wing. With the reverse overlap grip last night it felt like my forearms had more range of motion rotating through impact releasing the club. I could swing as hard as I wanted and still finish with it over my forward shoulder and in balance were with the interlock grip I cant get it up over my forward shoulder and might fight balance issues a little everyonce in a while.

This has peaked my curiosity and am going to try it out on the cousre tomorrow with some iron shots I dont think the course we are playing tomorrow has a range its going to be interesting to see if this continues to work though.

I am going to talk with my buddy that works at this new driving range and see if he has time to tape me hitting shots with both grips and get it on computer and email the video to me some how.  

Jpbeauchamp's picture

Submitted by Jpbeauchamp (not verified) on

I agree with the driver/fariway wood lenght of shaft concept. Is there a standard way of customizing the lenght of the shaft to an individual or is it trial and error?

Open for sugestions. 


Robert F's picture

Submitted by Robert F (not verified) on

First, I have found that practicing the swing positions in front of a mirror on a regular basis helps to get the correct movement and feel fixed in our minds and bodies. Second, practice trying to take a severely shortened back swing with your driver (like barely getting your hands to shoulder height). If you look at those on video, you'll see that your hands actually get higher than that, as the momentum of the moving club will drag your arms further than you think. You'll find that way the feel of where you can transition the club to keep in the 3/4 back swing with the club getting somewhere between 1 and 2 o'clock, rather than all the way to 3.

I still struggle with the back swing getting a bit long myself, particularly because the old rotational mindset of "reaching back for a little more" slips in when I really want to lay into a ball. It takes time and practice but "hold the legs steadier and swing the arms through faster at the target" is a much more accurate and useful way of gaining power for those times you really want to hit it a long way.

Imeubu's picture

Submitted by Imeubu (not verified) on

I'm not sure this will translate but the key to hitting "feel" shots... which is what you are really talking about lies in the transition move. Decel is always related to losing the momemtum and timing in transition. The best putters for example will have a momentum transition that is pronounced and real. Waiting for the "child on the swing" to "stop" and then "start down" before you "join the parade" is the key in all "half shot" or "finesse" shots. Practice hitting any shot with your club pre-loaded at the "top" (whereever that is for that shot)... you might even hold it there for a second or two... more if you have to... to get the feel that before you "join the parade" the club has had a chance to settle and begin to fall before you "assist" it to the appropriate acceleratied move through the ball feeling required to propel it the correct distance and with the required flight and spin. NOTE: This does not mean you start your down swing from the top... waiting for the club can and must be done while the swing itself transistions from the bottom up. Also it's especially important to "target" or keep in mind... the through part of your swing rather than the contact part of your swing... finish position is the goal... not contact. It's a very "pro-active" feel and move... when you get it... decel just cannot happen.

Robert F's picture

Submitted by Robert F (not verified) on

Interesting. The interlocking grip must be tensing up your upper left arm a bit, restricting the forward rotation. That happens to me sometimes when I don't let the left upper arm ease up and droop a little (like when I really want to take a whack at the ball I'll get too tense from the elbow to the shoulder on the left).