Yes, seniors can learn to hit a long driver accurately for extra distance on the golf course.
By Bernie Baymiller
Note-Every day I get many requests from senior golfers looking for a way to get more distance from their driver. I run an email discussion group through my web site, clubmaker-online.com, called Shoptalk. Bernie has been touting the virtues of long, lightweight drivers for senior and women golfers as long as I've known him so I asked him to write this article to help in choosing the right equipment for a long driver and also instruction on getting the most out of it.
The last page of the article lists recommended components to build your own longdriver (or to have one built), click here.
When you’re over 50, the golf course suddenly begins to get longer. Even scratch players in their 30s will lose distance as a senior. I was a 2 handicap in my 30s, but didn’t play much when work and college kids crowded out my golf later on. I took up fishing and hiking, which I could do whenever I had a few hours on a weekend. So, it was a real shock when the kids were out of school and I could get serious about golf again…at 59, I discovered that I couldn’t hit my old steel-shafted, 43” laminated maple driver any farther than 220 yards. I just couldn’t hit many greens in regulation at that distance and my handicap was 11 in no time. I played 3 times a week for several months, felt my swing was doing OK, but the ball didn’t go very much farther. I knew that I had to hit the ball at least 250 yards to get within 150 yards of most par-4s…a 7-iron when I was hitting that old driver 250 yards. And, I knew I could hit the green at least 85% of the time from a 7-iron on in. I had to get that driver distance back to break 80 consistently. I found out I had to make a longer and lighter driver to increase my swing speed if I wanted some distance back…at least that was the consensus on the Shoptalk discussion group.
I knew a little about building clubs, since my dad had been Director of Golf Research at A.G. Spalding in the 1930s, when Spalding was probably the premier golf club manufacturer in the world. Building clubs doesn’t necessarily require a lot of equipment…mostly it requires a knowledge of how to assemble a club correctly and the sources for components. Clubmaker On-Line’s Shoptalk forum was where I learned a lot. FGI is another good DIY forum.
First, I simply tried a 45” driver with an 85 gram graphite shaft and was surprised to find I gained about 15 yards, though the club was not much lighter than my original. There weren’t many really lightweight components then, but Golfsmith had a driver head they called the Grand Ti…really an aluminum alloy head at 195 grams…and Grafalloy came out with the 60 gram ProLite 35 graphite shaft. I next built a driver 46” long with a C9 swingweight. Wow! I gained another 10 yards…but made a major mistake. The club was so light I could really swing it fast and the swingweight was so light, I couldn’t feel the head anywhere in my swing. I never knew where the ball was going.
Now, some golf gurus would say, “Your club is too long.” But, I knew it wasn’t the length. The heck with it…a few years back a little component company called Mars Golf had a CVP-150 S, 49” shaft that weighed 74 grams and clubmakers on Shoptalk were praising the Chicago 966SD 250cc stainless driver head. Winn just introduced the Classic wrap.
I asked Chicago Golf to pick me a 195 gram head and with those components made a 48” driver with an E6 swingweight. It took me two hours on the range to learn to hit it straight, but that was a great shaft…I could feel it load even with a smooth transition and knew almost intuitively where the head was all the way to impact. I began by hitting high slices, because at first I couldn’t get the face square at impact. I adjusted to a slightly smoother swing and earlier release…too early, and I began to swing over the top…and got pull hooks. Finally, I got it right and my drives were going about 260 yards.
On the course, my scores got lower, but after a couple of months I found the E6 sweingweight was just too much for me to handle. When the weather was hot, my arms and particularly wrists would tire after about 14 holes and I’d hit a big slice OB, or a closed-face worm burner. Aldila introduced the 57 gram Longwood 50/50R about that time, so I reshafted the 966 with the 50/50R, added a new Winn and got an E0 swingweight. I could make it around 18 holes with no loss of control and my best drives were now going 270 yards. Hey, that worked. I was getting about 10 yards for every extra inch of club length. So, I did the same with my irons…and extra inch and light components made irons with a normal swingweight…about D3. Had to bend them 2° flat for the correct lie, but added 10 yards to all my iron shots.
At age 65, my GHIN handicap index was back to a 1.5, the lowest in my life. Of course, all my friends wanted to try a long driver. So, I’ve built well over a hundred for seniors and even a few juniors. Most of those who stuck with the “learning curve” are still playing a longer driver and wouldn’t change. But, some just couldn’t get the hang of a long driver, or heard too many times, “That club is too long for you to control.” I’ve heard a lot of strange excuses to drop the long driver…one customer couldn’t stand the idea of not playing the hottest OEM clubs of the time…the inexpensive long driver I built for him wasn’t up to his image. His long driver took him from an 11 to a 7 handicap, but when he put the “hot image” Big Bertha driver back in his bag, he went right back to 11 and more.
Next-Where to Start if you want a longer driver and more distance >