Should you "Shape" Your Driver?

Lou Stagner's Newsletter #3

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Today we are going to discuss working the ball with driver. Should you work the ball, or stick with one shape?

I co-host the Hack it Out Golf Podcast. Last year we had two guests that spoke favorably about working the ball with driver. (Find Hack it Out on Apple or Spotify)The first guest was Viktor Hovland. Viktor is very good with driver in a left-to-right wind (players tend to underperform with a wind at their back).

I asked Viktor how he was able to be so good in a left-to-right wind. His response was that he got better in that wind after learning to hold a draw into it (he normally plays a fade). That was not the response I expected. The second was Dr. Sasho MacKenzie. He said he can hit draws as good as he hits fades. If you are familiar with Dr. MacKenzie you will know this comment was not off the cuff. He is one of the smartest minds in golf and has the data to back everything up.

After hearing this, I decided to run a study to compare stock shot shape to non-stock shape. I put out the call on Twitter and had a lot of responses. I ended up with 204 participants. I eliminated 34 for not following instructions.

Below are the number of participants by skill level.

Test Details

Each participant needed access to a launch monitor. Minimum "quality" was SkyTrak or better. 65% of participants used Trackman or GC Quad.The instructions:

  • Hit 60 shots total. 20 per day over three days

  • Make sure sessions are over three days!

  • Alternate shot shape with each driver swing

  • First swing is stock shape (e.g. draw), 2nd swing is opposite shape (e.g. fade)

  • After EVERY driver swing, hit a 30-yard pitch shot

  • Go through your full routine on every driver swing

  • Target for each shot is the "center"

  • Provide the following data points for each swing:

    • Yards offline

    • Carry Yards

    • Total Yards

    • Did the ball curve the intended shape? (Y or N)


I thought most players would be better with their stock shape. While stock was the winner, it was not the landslide I expected.I evaluated performance by looking at several items, including strokes gained. I mocked up several "digital" holes. I calculated the strokes each drive would have gained/lost on these holes.Key takeaways:

  • 64% had a tighter left/right dispersion with stock shape (STDEV was smaller with stock shape)

    • 45% of these players had a STDEV that was smaller by 2.9 yards or less

  • 62% had a higher average strokes gained per shot with stock shape

  • 69% had a longer average distance per drive with stock shape

    • 40% of these players were longer by 5 yards or less

  • 52% of players had a higher percentage of shots that were more than 30 yards offline with stock shape

Below are three dispersion examples. The dotted vertical lines are 35-yards from center.

What Does This Mean For You?

I had several players reach out to me and tell me nearly the same thing.

It went something like this:

"I always believed good players had to hit a draw, so that is what I did. I never knew I was better with a fade. Thank you for having this test. I would still be hitting a draw without it."

I have kept in touch with most of these players. They all continue to hit fades and their driver has improved for it. To be clear, I am NOT advocating you hit a fade. I am advocating you hit the right shape for you.

Every player would benefit from this test. There are some that decided on a stock shape for the wrong reasons (e.g. the myth that "good players are supposed to hit draws").Test. Measure. See what works best for you.

Players like Hovland and Dr. MacKenzie are proficient with both shapes. Test. Measure. See if this applies to you. If you can work it both ways, this can be an asset.

This is something you need to test. Do not guess.

I still believe that most players should hit a single stock shape, but based on this study, that is not set in stone.

Thanks again for following along!

If there are topics you would like me to cover in future newsletters, please feel free to reply to this email with your idea.

Have a great week!

— Lou