Anyone who pays attention to professional golf is aware of the explosion in distance. With modern analytics, we know more than ever that increasing distance off the tee gives golfers a better chance at lowering their scores. Keeping your card on the PGA Tour often comes down to a razor-thin margin. Players adding 10-20 yards with their drivers could mean the difference of making it or not.
But this website is not about professional golf. Practical Golf is entirely focused on helping everyday golfers like yourself find real ways to lower their scores.
At the recreational level, there has been no distance explosion. Most golfers still average 220-230 yards with their drivers. As such, adding distance is even more important for “normal” golfers. If you gave an extra 10 or 20 yards to a 15 handicap, it would have more influence on their scores than a professional golfer. We need all the help we can get!
To that end, I embarked on an experiment of my own.
In the past, I have valued the precision of using a shorter driver shaft. But I keep track of trends in equipment, and I was enticed by the prospect of trying a longer than normal driver shaft – which would be 47″ or 48.” My goal was to see if I could add enough distance without sacrificing too much accuracy. Additionally, I wanted to educate myself on the topic enough to see if it was an equipment change that other golfers should pursue.
This is perhaps one of the most ambitious projects I’ve taken on since I started the site. I spent a lot of time testing and speaking to various experts. There’s a ton of information to sort through (even Physics, yikes).
As always, I’ll try my best to give you a well-rounded explanation that doesn’t confuse you too much.
I also want to give a quick thanks to all the people who took their time to share their expertise and get the right products into my hands – my dear friend Woody Lashen from Pete’s Golf, Dave Neville and Gerrit Pon from Callaway Golf, and Gawain Robertson from ACCRA Shafts.
From all of the conversations with experts and my own testing, I’ve learned that going with a longer driver shaft has many variables involved. If you want to pursue this, it is not as simple as buying a 47″ or 48″ shaft and slapping it on your driver’s head.
This is more complicated than most equipment decisions, and as such, you should work with a clubfitter who knows what they are doing.
Because there is so much information in this article, here is a quick summary of my findings:
All things being equal, a longer driver shaft should generate more clubhead speed and offer more distance off the tee. As I’ve discussed before, adding distance is an important part of increasing your odds of lowering your score. That is the main reason any golfer would pursue a longer shaft.
But it’s not that simple.
As you’ll see, some variables need to be controlled in the shaft and driver head.
Also, I’ve found that the longer shaft’s theoretical gains often don’t match up with the real world. That’s not to say it’s a concept that golfers shouldn’t pursue, but you do have to test properly and weigh your gains in distance versus any potential loss in accuracy and how you deliver the golf club at impact.
After most of my testing was done and all of my notes from conversations gathered, I woke up one morning to the USGA’s announcement that they are strongly considering limiting driver shafts to 46″. Bummer!
Many believe this is in response to Bryson DeChambeau indicating that he would put a 48″ driver into play in the 2021 season. Other pros have been testing longer shafts as well.
So my experiment might be a totally moot point. But we still don’t know exactly when the ban will take place. It could be this year or further down the line. Also, it might be in the form of a Modified Local Rule, which would only apply to elite amateurs and professionals:
It is currently being contemplated that this Modified Local Rule, like other equipment related local rules would be recommended for use only in competitions limited to highly skilled players (that is, professional and elite amateur competitions).
Either way, you can take some of this information with a grain of salt. For the most part, I think it’s an interesting exercise to make educated decisions with your equipment. I always want golfers to know that it’s not as simple as listening to a company’s marketing claims and just purchasing a club off the rack.
In my initial conversations with Woody Lashen, co-owner of Pete’s Golf (my personal fitter and go-to for all equipment knowledge), the biggest problem he was trying to solve was getting the overall weight of the club set up properly for my testing.
We wanted to use the same driver head and shaft model, so it was as close to an “apple to apples” test as we could get. But the main challenge was making sure we could add or remove weight when necessary as I went back and forth between the two shaft lengths.
ACCRA sent me two of their latest prototype driver shafts in both 44″ and 47″. Additionally, we used Callaway’s newest head, the Epic Max. I’ve been playing the Epic Flash the past few seasons, and this particular model suits my swing and has the ability for us to add and remove weight with its sliding track.
My normal driver shaft length is 44″, which is shorter than standard (usually around 45.5″). When you go with a shorter driver shaft, you typically have to add weight to the head so the club’s overall weight isn’t too light. So we added two weights on the tracks of the Epic MAX when I used the shorter shaft. This was more straightforward since we knew this setup has been working well for me for years.
The issue arose with how much weight to remove when I tested the 47″ shaft. If the head were too heavy, it would feel like I was trying to swing a sledgehammer!
Initially, Woody thought it best to remove only one of the weights and slide it towards the head’s center. However, after testing quite a bit, I found that the club still felt too heavy. I achieved my best results when removing both weights.
Going through this process myself, and speaking to various experts, showed me that getting the weight correct for a longer driver shaft is the most important element.
To learn more about longer driver shafts, I had a long conversation with Gawain Robertson from ACCRA. They are a Canadian manufacturer of premium shafts, and I’ve been using their products for almost six years now. My goal was to understand the variables involved and see longer shafts fitting in amongst recreational golfers.
Gawain’s main concern was about weight. If a golfer used a longer shaft and did nothing to remove weight, all potential benefits would disappear. He told me that most shafts weigh around 65 grams at 46 inches. But with a 47″ or 48″ shaft, he believed that going down to 50-55 grams was necessary.
Additionally, Gawain felt that counterbalancing the shaft would give fitters more options.
If you were to balance a standard 46″ shaft on your finger, it would be about 24 inches from the tip. However, by adding more weight to the “butt” of the shaft, you can further shift the balance in that direction. In his opinion, counterbalancing longer shafts provides two main benefits:
ACCRA is in the process (at the time of our conversation) of manufacturing a lower-cost, counterbalanced shaft for golfers who want to experiment going longer. He still felt longer driver shafts, in general, will be a niche product in the industry. He likened it to a concept of single-length irons.
I told him about my idea of having two drivers in my bag, and even he was considering a similar move. I view this as the likely scenario (though rare overall) for those who try adding length to their driver shaft.
Anyone who understands golf equipment and clubfitting knows that the shaft is just one part of the equation. Everything has to work together to have a playable club on the course.
To that end, I spoke with Gerrit Pon from Callaway Golf. Gerrit works at Callaway’s Performance Center in Carlsbad and is responsible for testing and building clubs for their professional staff. Players like Phil Mickelson, Xander Schauffele, and John Rahm rely on him to get their clubs dialed in. Additionally, plenty of regular golfers make their way through the facility, and they are always testing new equipment concepts to see how we mortals react.
Gerrit told me that Callaway has been testing longer shafts for about five years now, and their results have challenged some of the conventional wisdom. But of course, he noted that it’s tough to create a rule of thumb because each player can react quite differently.
Here are some of the major trends he has noticed with longer driver shafts:
If I haven’t provided you with enough information to make your head spin, there’s even more.
Dr. Sasho Mackenzie, a leading resource on clubhead speed in the golf industry, posted this great video which gives a very “laymen” explanation of the physics behind longer driver shafts. If you want extra credit, I suggest you watch it. I promise there won’t be a test at the end of the article, though!
In theory, adding 1″ of shaft length should add upwards of 2 mph of swing speed. But in reality, most players will see about a .8 to 1.6 mph increase for each inch. This will vary by the golfer.
For example, in my testing, when I went from a 44″ shaft to a 47″ shaft, I noticed about a 3 – 5 mph jump in clubhead speed in almost all of my sessions, which is consistent with that range.
However, there is even more to consider…
When you remove weight from the driver head, which is almost always necessary with a longer driver shaft, a few things happen:
I’m going to show you some of my “home run swings” from the longer driver shaft. To be honest, they were intoxicating. But the tradeoffs that Sasho MacKenzie mentions are very real. With the longer shaft, you will sacrifice a few things, which will diminish the potential gains in distance, and possibly make your errant shots a bit more penal.
Whenever I consider an equipment change, I try to do my due diligence. I’ve learned a lot about clubfitting over the years from Woody Lashen, so I can conceptually understand how making a change may or may not benefit me on the course. But most importantly, I want to test things thoroughly before I put something new into play.
For the past few seasons, I have used my fairway wood sparingly. I rarely hit it off the tee anymore when I proved that it wasn’t any more accurate than my driver. Additionally, due to my tendencies, I sometimes struggle to get the ball high enough in the air to use it enough on longer approach shots (usually a par 5). So, for the most part, I have an open spot in my bag.
I don’t want to ditch my 44″ driver because it is so valuable to me. But what if I could use a longer driver on holes that were more wide open off the tee? If I could prove that it added distance without being too inaccurate, it would surely stack the scoring odds in my favor a little more. Golf is a game of proximity, so if I can have a shorter club on approach shots, it will give me a better opportunity to score.
So while I first thought Phil Mickelson was a lunatic for putting two drivers in his bag a few years ago, the idea was growing on me since I technically have nothing to lose in my bag.
I had biases about the longer driver shaft coming into this experiment, to be completely honest with you. I played a shorter driver shaft for almost five years and felt it was one of the best equipment changes I’ve ever made. I’ve been able to tighten my dispersion, which was a real problem for me in the past off the tee. I believe it’s one of the main reasons I’ve been able to become a scratch golfer.
I have some older drivers that I have hung on to from about 10-15 years ago with 46″ shafts. When I have used them sparingly, they felt odd to me since I was so used to a shorter shaft.
But at the same time, I feel I’ve improved my technique, especially how I control my clubface at impact. So if there was ever a time to try something like this, it’s now.
After coordinating with Woody Lashen, ACCRA, and Callaway, I had two shafts to try out and a new driver head. As I mentioned earlier, when using the 44″ shaft, I added weight back into the Callaway Epic MAX. When using the 47″, I removed it.
For the past six weeks, I’ve probably hit more than a thousand drives with both shafts. I used my SkyTrak launch monitor to evaluate my ball flight (particularly spin rates, launch angle, distance, and dispersion).
On the whole, I was surprised, even from the first few shots with the 47-inch shaft. The added distance was significant on my best swings, but more surprisingly, I did not struggle as much as I thought I would, striking the center of the clubface and controlling where the clubface was pointed at impact. I believe a lot of that had to do with getting everything dialed in properly.
After my initial testing, I found that setting the Epic MAX head to 10.5 degrees with the 47″ shaft and 12.5 degrees with the 44″ shaft gave me the optimal launch conditions I was looking for. The remaining factors I wanted to figure out were the following:
OK, you’re probably at the “show me the damn results already” stage of this article. But please keep in mind that my data is only for anecdotal purposes. Your results will likely be different than mine, as is true with any experiment I do on Practical Golf. I’m merely trying to provide you with some context to educate you more on the topic.
I am not built for speed and distance. I’m 5’8″, 153 lbs, and have short arms and legs. However, I do get it out there farther than most people would assume. I’ve been working on clubhead speed more and more lately with SuperSpeed Golf. A good drive for me is usually in the neighborhood of 275-280 yards. I’ve been able to get my speed back up around 105 mph or so with the shorter shaft and plan to keep working on it.
But I’ve mostly maxed out my driving efficiency. So the only way I’m adding more distance at this point is with more clubhead speed.
Let me start with the shot that I was texting all of my friends and posting on Twitter immediately.
This was a “holy crap” moment for me. Going from flying the ball from about 255-260 yards all the way to 290 yards was more distance than I ever expected. And to be fair, this is the absolute best I can do, not a normal swing.
When I first got the 47″ shaft, I immediately hit shots farther than I ever had on my SkyTrak and generated more clubhead speed. But as I worked with the longer shaft more and more, I continued to see more gains. There was a period of adjustment where I had to get my “feels.”
I had plenty of sessions where I went back and forth between the shafts. I was keeping track of all of the parameters so I could gauge what the gains were. I feel as though I have a good baseline.
Here are some aggregate data from two sessions with each shaft that I think represents my overall results fairly well.
|Shaft Length||Swing Speed||Ball Speed||Carry Distance||Total Distance||Launch Angle||Spin Rate||Dispersion|
|44 Inches||105 mph||155 mph||258 yards||283 yards||13.4 degrees||2580 rpm||54 yards|
|47 Inches||109 mph||160 mph||268 yards||294 yards||13.6 degrees||2192 rpm||69 yards|
In some sessions, the distance disparity between the two was larger, sometimes as much as 20-30 yards. But I think on the whole, when I factor in my mishits, I’m comfortable saying that the longer shaft is adding 10-15 yards to my drives on average. I believe I can widen that range over time, though.
Occasionally, I’ll hit some massive drives where my swing speed can top 112-114 mph and drive it well over 300 yards. As I work towards increasing my swing speed, I think those are attainable speeds and distances I can reach more often.
The increase in distance was the least surprising part. I knew I would hit the 47-inch driver farther. What was interesting was that I was more accurate with the longer shaft than I initially had assumed.
I set up a relatively forgiving fairway (35 yards wide) in two tests and hit 25 shots each with each driver. With the shorter shaft, I was able to hit 76% of the fairways.
Surprisingly, I was still able to hit 64% of the fairways with the 47″ shaft. But as I’ve said before, fairways hit is not the best measuring stick for success. You also have to take into account your total distance and dispersion. If you are adding distance, is it getting you into trouble? Or are you giving yourself a playable approach shot most of the time?
That’s not to say I didn’t have some big misses with the 47″ shaft. Those occurred when I missed the center of the face and/or couldn’t control where the clubface was pointing at impact.
But on the whole, looking at my dispersion patterns, they weren’t all that different than what I’m used to. Whenever I do longer sessions on my SkyTrak with my 44″ driver, they are typically 60-70 yards.
Outside of a few outliers, which is typical for my driver, the bulk of the shots with the 47″ shaft were in a very playable spot. I see just under a 70-yard wide total dispersion window, which is definitely playable on the course.
I will note that the dispersion with my 44″ driver was tighter than it’s ever been. I don’t think I’ve ever registered a session at under 60 yards wide, and in this one, I was at 54 yards. I don’t know for sure why this is, but I have two theories:
I am encouraged by the results of the testing I’ve done over the past 6 weeks. Granted, this was done in a consequence-free environment, but that’s where all equipment decisions should start. I’ve proven to myself that I can hit the 47″ driver farther and with enough control where it should not cost me more strokes than it’s gaining me.
So I will start the season pursuing the two-driver experiment. Using my home course as an example, I believe there are eight holes where I would use the longer driver and give me an advantage. But our course is more forgiving than most off the tee. So there are other layouts where I would use it much less (if at all). You can learn more about how I plan my tee shots from this article.
I’m also excited to try them out in tournaments. I play anywhere from 8-10 events a year, and hopefully, a small advantage like this can get me into the U.S. Mid-Amateur that I’ve missed out on by a small-ish margin before.
As I stated earlier, this decision is easier for me because I don’t use my fairway wood often.
However, if for some reason I see results on the course over the long run that are too costly, then I am reserved to going back strictly to the 44″ driver only.
Based on all my testing and my conversations with experts, I believe this is a niche equipment change.
Purchasing a 47″ or 48″ driver shaft is not necessarily going to be an off-the-shelf solution. Many golfers are knowledgeable enough about club fitting to tinker and experiment with the weighting and measure on launch monitors. But on the whole, I’d say anyone who wants to pursue this will have to work with a clubfitter. Because if you get it wrong, you likely will not see any gains.
There’s no chance I could have done this experiment without the help I received.
In the near term, you might see the equipment industry embrace this concept. As I mentioned, ACCRA was currently developing longer shafts that were counterbalanced. Additionally, Callaway just announced longer driver fitting packs. Here’s an example of one for the Epic MAX that I used for my testing. The kit will allow golfers to lighten the weight of the head, reduce loft, and purchase a lighter shaft.
The other problem is that the USGA could ban drivers that are longer than 46″. I don’t know when it’s coming; it might not be until 2022 or even beyond. Also, they may allow golfers not competing in elite tournament events to use them.
But I’ll admit, it was really fun to try this out. Like many of you, I love seeing how far I can hit a golf ball. And I can’t wait to see some of the bombs on the golf course!
For nearly every golfer out there, the swing is always a work in progress. Regardless of level, there tends to be something to improve or a particular position you’re trying to hit. Even if we believe we have a decent feel for our swing, our perception is most likely quite different from reality. As they say, “feel is not real.” For this reason, a crucial part of any golf practice routine should be recording your swing on video. Such recordings are a standard part of golf lessons these days. This article will go over some basics of recording your golf swing and getting the most out of it.
Most likely, you already have the essential tool for getting a good swing video in your pocket already; a smartphone. In recent years, most smartphones have a camera more than capable of taking useful swing videos and access to apps to help the process. Besides the phone itself, it helps have a small tripod to hold the phone steady at the desired angle. There are plenty of golf-specific devices available on Amazon
Like taking any video, you’ll want to record your swing in a well-lit area and should avoid having the camera pointed at the sun or other light source. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you have enough space around you to fit your full swing within the frame. There are two critical angles for the golf swing you’ll want to be sure you can get, down-the-line and face-on.
Down-the-line video is taken directly behind you, with the camera likely six feet or more from your stance. This angle is essential for understanding your swing plane, so if the camera is not in line with the swing, you won’t get useful information from it.
Orientation is crucial, so you’ll want to make sure you are using an alignment stick for a reference point. Also, having the camera level to your hands is the recommended position.
This video can help explain more with important visuals:
Face-on swing recordings are taken with the camera parallel to you, in line with the ball. Again, you’ll likely need the camera to be at least six feet or more from you to fit everything in the frame. Face-on video will help you see hip sway, shaft lean at impact, and several other important swing characteristics.
You’ll want your camera at a right angle to the target line, and in line with the center of your body.
If you are recording your swing on your own, it will take some trial and error to learn the proper positioning and angles for your camera and surroundings, so having someone else check the setup can help.
Additionally, you’ll want to be sure to have your camera recording at the highest definition and FPS (frames-per-second) possible. For my iPhone, for example, this is 60fps. Recording at lower quality can make swings appear blurry, and you’ll miss a lot of information.
Last, while your phone’s rear camera is likely better than the front-facing camera or a tablet, you can definitely use either of these with the screen visible to you. That way, you can use them to check positions at the moment, acting like a mirror for your swing.
A key advantage to using your smartphone to record your swing instead of a traditional camera is the ability to use apps to help you evaluate your swing. These apps can either be used instead of the default camera app to record the swing or can import the video after. For iPhone users, a recommended app is Hudl Technique. This app is used by athletes and coaches in various sports, and the free version provides a lot of tools for swing analysis.
Once you have your swing recording loaded into the app, you can utilize the drawing tools to give you feedback while watching the video. For down-the-line swing recordings, here are a few lines and shapes to consider:
Here are some lines to draw for face-on recordings:
There are several other ways to utilize lines and shapes on the screen, and ideally, you can work with a teaching pro to get the best information about your swing.
While we might not like looking back on swings with poor technique and apparent flaws, the best way to measure your improvement is to save these swing videos and compare yourself to them to see the progress you’ve made. While comparing your swing to the pros is of limited value (because everyone’s swing is unique), having a library of your own swings, both good and bad, give the best reference points. The apps above allow you to compare swings side-by-side within their paid versions, and this can definitely provide a lot of value for analyzing your recordings.
In the end, these videos will be essential for you to know what you’re doing with your swing rather than just what you think is happening. While a lot of golf is based on feel, the information these recordings provide will help you develop this feel in the right way. You can trust that the tour pros are recording their swings frequently, so you definitely should too.
Have some swing video tips or recommendations? Start a conversation over at the Practical Golf Forum to share.
Cory Olson is an avid golfer and writer for Practical Golf, a website dedicated to being an honest resource for the everyday golfer who is looking to enjoy the game more, as well as improve. He is passionate about all parts of the game, from equipment to training, and especially the mental aspects of performing your best on the course.
I’m excited to debut a new podcast with my friend Adam Young. We’re going to combine our approaches to golf improvement and cover various topics that we know can help you all become better golfers.
Working on impact location:
Help with controlling your turf interaction:
Swing tempo resources:
Working with launch monitors:
Fitness/Swing speed resources:
Other relevant guides:
Please let us know if you have any feedback, or ideas for topics you want us to cover in future episodes in the comment section!
Making a successful change to your golf swing can bring your game to new levels. But it’s not without its risks or challenges. There are so many things to consider that myself and co-host Adam Young tackled this topic in our latest podcast episode.
Many golfers can be caught in a loop, wondering if the “grass is greener” with a different version of their swing. In our podcast and this accompanying article, we go through the following concepts:
I encourage you to listen to the entire episode here:
Below is a summary of some of our key thoughts.
There is more information than ever about the golf swing. In recent years, the teaching community has made huge strides in its collective knowledge with the use of modern technology. Overall, this is a great thing. But it does have a “dark side.”
You can spend hours on YouTube and social media devouring technical information about the golf swing from top instructors. However, if the information is not relevant to your golf swing, it can be detrimental.
For example, in our discussion, Adam Young mentions how a lot of teachers advocate “shallowing the shaft” in the golf swing. This can lead to great success for certain players based on their tendencies, but it can lead to complete disaster for others.
So before moving ahead with a swing change, you have to ask yourself the following question. Is the change I am making relevant to the unique matchups in my golf swing? And more importantly, will it help?
In other words, don’t make a swing change just for the sake of doing it, for aesthetics, or to keep up with recent trends.
If you are moving ahead with a swing change, there is a basic process that gives you a better chance of success.
As Adam Young suggested, it’s best to start your changes in a consequence-free environment. He discussed the metaphor of a dog trainer working in the house rather than at the dog park. The reason is that if you are going to change habits, it’s best to start slow in a comfortable setting that won’t distract you. For golfers, this could mean the following:
In the beginning, you should be able to change the pattern successfully. For example, if you were trying to go from a negative angle of attack with your driver to start hitting up on the ball, you want to be able to physically achieve that (not all the time) rather quickly. However, it would be best if you did not worry about performance (where the golf ball is going).
Over time, through practice, you can start adding more “layers” of expectations. You can start hitting shots normally on the range and pay attention to ball flight. Next, you can bring the new swing change out on the course in a practice context. Finally, your eventual goal is to execute the swing change with some success (not perfection) during the pressure of a real round of golf.
(be sure to listen to the podcast episode for more detail on this part, it’s important!)
We both felt that roughly three months was a reasonable amount of time to make a successful swing change.
It’s been almost 10 years since I went through a major swing overall, and I started the process over the winter (be sure to check out our episode on winter practice). In retrospect, I’m glad I chose the offseason because that is a great time to start experimenting with changes and also create a consequence-free environment.
If you do choose to make a swing change in season, especially if you are playing tournaments, you might lose faith in the process because you’ll be focusing too much on the outcome (your scores) rather than going through the process of training your body to move differently.
There are more ways than ever to go about a swing change on your own. And there are plenty of examples of golfers who can teach themselves to make swing changes with success.
That being said, taking lessons with a teaching professional will give you a much better chance of success. More importantly, with their guidance, you can make the changes in less time.
You have to be prepared to do the work, though. If you find a teacher you like, you can expect to be prescribed some work between lessons. If you’re not willing to do the work, then don’t expect a change to occur!
This leads me to my next point…
One of the biggest challenges of making swing changes today is the aforementioned access to information.
A couple of years ago, I was chatting with a friend of mine who is a swing instructor. A golfer he had been working with on a swing change came into the shop and showed him a video from Instagram, asking if he thought the swing tip was something he should pursue. It had nothing to do with what they were working on.
Don’t do this!
If you choose to make a change and work with a swing coach, you have to keep the blinders on. There will be moments where you feel frustrated and tempted to listen to another voice. As you know, they are only one click away on YouTube or Instagram.
Part of the process is making sure you commit and hesitate to change course.
Three months is a good rule of thumb to successfully make a swing change, as I mentioned earlier. That’s not exactly overnight, so you do need to be patient.
More importantly, managing expectations is another critical element that we discussed in our episode. Often, golfers fantasize about the future and the kind of golf they think they can play after they make the change. Unfortunately, these hopes and dreams are often misaligned with reality.
As such, words like “eliminate” are not helpful throughout the process.
Let’s say you were looking to fix a nasty slice. Essentially you have two options – work on reducing the slice or change your swing pattern (play a draw).
In the first scenario, your goal will not be to eliminate the slice. Rather, a successful swing change would reduce the left-to-right curvature of the golf ball. You’ll still hit big slices from time to time, but if you can do it less often, then you’ve succeeded.
Conversely, some golfers who suffer from excessive slices see better results trying to hit a draw. Technically, they might never hit a slice again, but a new problem might emerge – a hook. Similarly, your goal will be to make the big hooks occur less and less over time.
There are two words I seemed to repeat over and over again in our episode – framework, and functionality.
One of the benefits of making a swing change (if you do it properly) is having a framework. When a golfer is “lost” with their golf swing, they often drift from one idea to the next. Usually, this doesn’t lead to any improvement and furthers their frustration.
If you can learn more about your golf swing and the new changes are looking to accomplish, you now have a framework. That means you can show up to the course knowing your tendencies and what you can do to fix them if things get out of sync, which they always do in golf.
This is a huge advantage for any player, in my opinion. Successful golf is a series of micro-adjustments. You shouldn’t have to make major overhauls from one month to the next to feel like you are heading in the right direction.
My last thought is about functionality. The goal of any technical change is to have a functional golf swing. It doesn’t need to be perfect and certainly does not look pretty.
For example, I do several things in my swing that many would consider unorthodox. My takeaway is a bit extreme, and sometimes, I can have an excessively in-to-out club path. But what I do have is a functional relationship with the matchups in my golf swing. I know how to make adjustments in how the clubface is oriented based on how I am swinging the club because I’ve been working so long with this framework, and I trust it.
So if you are considering making a swing change, many of the concepts we discussed in our podcast episode and this article will come in handy. Ensure the change is relevant, be prepared to do the work, seek help, commit, and strive for functionality!
Since I started Practical Golf, I have tested hundreds of products in almost every category imaginable. Because my time is limited, I’ve said no to hundreds more. Most of my “no’s” are for training aid inventions that continue to flood the market. Despite the inventor’s best interests, most of them are junk and will not help you become a better golfer.
But once in a while, something comes out that grabs my full attention. Last year it was the Perfect Practice Putting Mat and the PRGR Launch Monitor. I never fully know why a product becomes a hit, but sometimes I try something and think to myself, “oh, that’s a home run.”
This year I believe that product is the Divot Board.
I first noticed the Divot Board when my podcast co-host Adam Young posted a video on Twitter, which went viral. He also called it “one of the simplest and great golf training aids ever created.” For a guy who never associates his name with products, especially training aids, I knew that I had to try the Divot Board out.
After testing the Divot Board extensively, I’ve come to a similar conclusion. This is a fantastic diagnostic tool that addresses one of the biggest problems of practicing on artificial turf. We finally have something that gives golfers crystal clear feedback on one of the most important fundamentals in the golf swing – ground contact.
In this review, I’ll take a deep dive into the Divot Board’s strengths and weaknesses. As always, my goal is to help you understand how this product works and whether or not it’s worth your investment.
How your golf club interacts with the turf is perhaps one of the most important ball-striking fundamentals. However, it is rarely spoken about in the instructional world for many reasons.
Another word that’s commonly used to describe the skill is called low-point control. To be clear, turf interaction and low point control are not the same but related.
If you think about the club traveling towards the ball on an arc, you want the lowest point of that arc to be in front of the ball. Adam Young talks about this concept a lot, and here is an image of an optimal swing low point showing ball contact first and then turf interaction.
This is where pro golfers really shine. They can strike the golf ball first (in an optimal position on the clubface), and then their club will interact with the turf. If you see the practice area of any PGA Tour professional, you’ll see a neat arrangement of divot patterns after their session is complete.
One of the everyday struggles of recreational golfers is that they have very little control of turf interaction and low point control. Some golfers are making contact with the ground too early, which results in poor “fatted” shots. Conversely, others will have the opposite issue and struggle with the “thins.”
Whatever your issue is, I consider this to be one of the low-hanging fruits of scoring. If you can improve your golf club delivery around impact, many golfers stand to gain massive jumps in scoring. As I’ve written before, iron play is how most golfers differentiate themselves from one another in scoring potential.
Most golfers don’t have access to a grass driving range. Because of the high costs of maintenance, you see more golf clubs switching to artificial turf. As such, hitting off mats is the tradeoff we all make. In my 25 years playing golf, I would say 95%+ of my range sessions are on hitting mats, and I believe it’s had a somewhat negative influence on my ground interaction on the course.
The problem with artificial turf is that it’s not providing proper feedback. You can strike the ground well before the ball and still get a desirable ball flight. However, if you were in real grass, the shot might have looked like this (and traveled about 40 yards).
Therefore, golfers will usually adjust their swing mechanics to match their environment. For example, I have a very shallow angle of attack and rarely take divots on the course. I believe it’s mostly due to hitting on mats my whole life.
Despite being a skilled iron player, turf interaction is the one part of my game that I don’t feel entirely comfortable with. While I don’t have issues with hitting heavy iron shots on the course, I still do brush the grass lightly before impact, and if I’m going to make a mistake, it’s usually a thin shot.
When I’ve had opportunities to practice on grass driving ranges for weeks at a time, I’ve noticed huge strides in my ability to get a more optimal “ball first, then ground.” And it’s because the grass is giving me the proper feedback on each shot.
This is exactly why I’m so excited about the Divot Board. For the first time, I can get unambiguous visual feedback on where my golf club is contacting the ground.
Most training aids in the golf industry are either too complicated to use, don’t provide great feedback, or are just plain old boring.
The Divot Board’s brilliance is its simplicity. All you do is place the ball on the circle, hit your shot, and you’ll get a clear visual indication of what happened. Here is a video showing some examples of striking different parts of the board.
The mat has a strong rubber base with a removable board that has sequins on it. When your club touches the surface, it clearly changes from green to white.
The rubber base is quite strong and absorbs the shock on the impact quite well without being too hard on your joints. Also, the bottom is lined with “teeth,” which helps the board stay in place.
Most training aids are swing trainers (if that makes sense). The more popular products that I’ve used, such as The Orange Whip, DST Trainer, and SuperSpeed Golf, are trying to get you to make some specific change in your golf swing with the way the product is designed.
While I believe the Divot Board can help your swing, I want people to be aware that this is a diagnostic tool. As I stated earlier, most golfers generally have no idea how their golf club interacts with the turf while they practice. Even in my testing, I was surprised at my tendencies.
The goal with this product is similar to why I advocate impact training – your first order of business is to diagnose your patterns and try and do the opposite.
But if you do purchase this product, don’t expect it to tell you the how and why of your golf swing. You’ll need to take lessons for that advice.
There are several things the Divot Board can tell you about your impact conditions:
As I stated, the Divot Board is not a swing trainer; it’s a diagnostic tool. But I believe that most golfers can see improvement simply by paying attention to their patterns and making adjustments.
When you first start using the Divot Board, your issues with ground contact should become relatively straightforward.
If you see your club initiate contact several inches behind the ball, your goal is to start moving that line closer and closer towards the ball. Some golfers might have the opposite and notice that their impact residue is far too in front of the ball.
To be clear, I don’t think everyone should expect to achieve ball first, then ground contact on every shot. Your goal should be to improve on your less-than-desirable swings gradually.
I’ve noticed that I tend to strike the ground 1-2 inches behind the ball, but because my angle of attack is so shallow, I “get away” with it on the course. But that doesn’t mean I can’t improve. I’ve noticed over the last several weeks that I have been able to achieve two things:
Additionally, you will notice whether you are striking the ball on the heel or toe of the clubface.
One of my favorite ways to practice is playing the opposite game. Or, as I call it, “fight fire with fire.”
So, in short, my overall advice is to figure out your tendencies and then consciously try and do the opposite. I know that sounds very simplistic. But I believe that you can improve your results by having the feedback and experimenting with your swing. Most golfers will see progress.
Another option is to use the Divot Board without hitting the golf ball. This might be a great option for players who can only take practice swings in their house but not hit balls.
One of the readers of my site, whose son is a very talented junior golfer, ran this drill where he tried to call out various parts of the board to strike.
New game: I call out where his impact needs to be in his backswing. pic.twitter.com/QR48LSgDjm
— GolfSpy MPR (@GolfSpyMPR) February 1, 2021
I also think the Divot Board can be a life-saver for your wedge practice. I know in my own game and in other golfers, ground contact with wedges is a big issue. I’ve put a lot of time hitting chip shots and pitch shots with the Divot Board and found it to be valuable (and eye-opening).
Most great wedge players have a more shallow angle of attack, generate crisp contact with the ball, and lightly brush the turf afterward. You can diagnose that contact by seeing a thinner, shorter white line with the Divot Board. You’ll want to avoid taking larger divots, which you would notice by seeing wider, larger divot patterns on the board.
While I absolutely love this product, and I foresee it becoming a vital part of my practice routine, there are some things you should be aware of.
The Divot Board sits roughly 3/8″ above the hitting surface. At first, I considered this a minor drawback because I’d prefer to hit off a level surface. The inventor has plans to make an integrated mat, but I created a workaround because the mat I use has a removable hitting surface.
That being said, I did not notice any major difference in my impact patterns whether I was hitting off a level surface or used the Divot Board slighting above my stance. There are a couple of potential workarounds you could create:
Any product that measures ground interaction has an unfortunate downside. It will not last forever. When you purchase the Divot Board, the included pamphlet manages your expectations for its durability.
One thing that all users will experience is that you’ll see some initial wear rather quickly. However, this is normal and will not affect the visual feedback it provides.
Here’s the tricky part. Because this product is so new, it’s tough to predict how long it will last. Based on your speed and how steep your swing is, golfers will see varying results. A good rule of thumb is to expect anywhere between 1,000 – 3,000 shots. However, some golfers are still going strong at roughly 6,000 shots, I’m told.
So if you are someone who swings hard and hits down on it quite a bit, you likely will get less longevity out of it. Conversely, those with slower swing speeds and shallower attack angles will have a longer lifespan.
When the tiny sequins start to detach from the mat, then you’ll know it’s time to replace it. The good news is that you don’t need to replace the entire board. The Divot Board has removable inserts, which you can see in this video.
As a result, I don’t think you should expect to hit all of your shots in each range session with the Divot Board. And I don’t think you need to either.
The Divot Board currently costs $119.99, which is in line with many other training aids. But one thing to consider is that you will need to purchase a replacement from time to time, depending on how often you use it and your swing speed/ground interaction. The replacement pads cost $39.99.
In my opinion, if you are looking to buy a training aid, this is perhaps one of the best investments on the market right now. Most products that golfers purchase end up collecting dust after several uses. I don’t think that will be the case for you with the Divot Board, though.
In a perfect world, it wouldn’t cost as much and would not have an ongoing fee. But it is one of the only major drawbacks of the product I can think of.
The Divot Board is not the first product to measure ground contact. Acu-Strike has been out since 2019 and did win best new product at the PGA Merchandise Show.
I purchased an Acu-Strike (beware of the cheap knockoffs on Amazon) from their website to compare the performance. Spoiler alert – I don’t think it’s as strong of a product.
For starters, the Acu-Strike sits much higher off the ground than the Divot Board.
While I felt it wasn’t a huge nuisance with the Divot Board, the Acu-Strike’s height was problematic, in my opinion. They do sell a “height equalization mat,” but that costs an extra $40.
I also noticed that the Acu-Strike’s bottom surface does not “cling” to the mat. They do offer a velcro attachment, but I felt that didn’t keep in place nearly as well as the Divot Board’s bottom.
Additionally, and most importantly, the Acu-Strike failed to deliver as clear feedback from my ground contact. The color change is minimal, and sometimes, it was barely noticeable.
Last but not least, I spoke to several people who have used the Acu-Strike over the long term. Almost all of them told me about durability issues. One golfer who had a much steeper swing told me that the Acu-Strike’s surface ripped after 100 shots.
So while the Acu-Strike is $50 cheaper upfront, it’s very likely the ongoing cost of using that product will be higher if you plan to use it for the long haul.
That’s not to say the Acu-Strike isn’t a good feedback tool; I still believe it is. However, when I factor in the clarity of feedback, height issues, and potential ongoing costs from lack of durability – I feel the Divot Board is a stronger choice.
No training aid is perfect, and a lot of them have some serious flaws. The Divot Board is no different. While I think the up-front investment and ongoing cost might be a bit steep (no pun intended), there are significant benefits to using this product. More so than 99% of the other inventions I’ve seen come and go over the years.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not often that a product grabs my attention in this category. Also, very few make it into my personal practice routine. So I guess my ultimate stamp of approval for the Divot Board is that I plan on using it for the long term. I still have some ways to improve my ground contact, and in the short time I’ve used it, I already see an improvement in my patterns.
Unfortunately, like many other products right now, there are issues with manufacturing from overseas. The Divot Board sells out fairly quickly each time a new shipment arrives. I have secured a small inventory for Practical Golf readers that you can purchase here (while supplies last).