During my single length irons journey, I was watching Henrik Stenson on the Golf Channel nail shot after shot with his 3-wood off the tee — sometimes further than his playing partner’s drives.
When he pulled out his driver on a particularly long par-5, the announcers made sure to point out how rare it was for him to hit driver. The result? Fooooore — way right!
I thought to myself that Stenson probably wishes that he left his driver in the bag — and then it hit me — why don’t I leave my 460cc driver in the bag to see what happens. Unfortunately, my will power for these sorts of experiments is low, so I had to actually leave my driver at home during the next few rounds.
More fairways hit? Yes please!
The result of ditching my driver? I went from hitting around 30% of fairways to hitting around 66% of fairways over the next few rounds and my overall score dropped by 5-7 strokes. Yes, I was giving up distance — my driver = 250-270 yards and my 3-wood = 225-245 yards — but I wasn’t hitting out of the woods or dropping from a water hazard or looking for my ball while the group behind waits (impatiently).
And let’s face it, at 41 I’m not exactly hitting from the tips, so 225 from the white tees in the fairway usually results in a nice mid- to short-iron into the green on my local courses.
What are you hitting?
During my second driverless round, I ended up playing with a couple of random guys since my usual playing partners were unavailable that day. While I did notice them looking at me sideways as I was using my 3-wood off the tee, they didn’t say anything to me until around the 5th or 6th hole.
They were shocked to find out that I was hitting a stock 14 degree Callaway 3-wood farther than they were hitting their drivers — one of them was even using the Callaway driver that was made during the same year as my 3-wood. Yes, there was a skill factor involved, but after playing with them for a round, I would guess that one of them typically shoots in the 90s and the other in the 100s.
The reality is that it is harder to control a 460cc driver head that’s sitting on a 2 inch longer shaft (vs. my 150cc 3-wood).
Strokes saved = lower scores
Consider that driving your ball into water, woods, tall weeds, or out of bounds costs you at least one stroke per hole due to either penalty or having to “punch out” back into the fairway. Since you’re typically using your driver on 14 holes a round, you can save anywhere from 1 to 14 strokes a round depending on how often you typically hit your driver in the bad stuff.
That means that you could easily move from the 110s to the 100s, from the 100s to the 90s, or even from the 90s to the 80s, not by taking lots of lessons, but by simply leaving your driver at home.
And if you’re worried about your buddies giving you grief, you’ll only have to wait a hole or two to prove yourself as you’re helping them find your ball while your ball waits for you in the fairway.
Why stop there?
The next stop on my single length irons journey was to try to find a replacement for my driver with a mini driver or some other club in a 150cc form factor that had less loft than my 14 degree 3-wood, which you can read in Kicking My Driver to the Curb.