Welcome to Wall-to-Wall Equipment, the weekly gear wrap-up in which GOLF equipment editor Jonathan Wall takes you through the latest trends, rumors and breaking news.
Viktor Hovland’s short-game turnaround is well-documented. He went from famously proclaiming he “sucked at chipping” three years ago, following his first PGA Tour win, to winning $18 million at the Tour Championship with a short game that’s no longer his Achilles heel.
What often gets overlooked when focusing on an area of weakness that no longer exists are the consistent, reliable aspects of Hovland’s game that propelled him to the best season of his career on Sunday afternoon. Namely, a Ping G425 LST driver that’s been a certified weapon over the last few years.
Hovland will be the first to tell you driver is easily his favorite club in the bag, going all the way back to his junior golf days playing a Ping Rapture driver.
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Ping G425 LST Driver
Hovland was so enamored by “this green-looking thing,” that he used the driver in literally every possible situation.
“I would just pound it everywhere,” he told GOLF.com in 2021. “From the fairway, from the rough. It was unbelievable.”
Not much has changed since Hovland turned pro. The driver continues to be one of the most reliable clubs in his bag, but over the last few years, Hovland has unlocked a new distance gear that’s rarely been discussed. Along with The Stack System, which has allowed him to increase his clubhead speed, Hovland started testing 47- and 48-inch drivers — before the 46-inch cap on driver length went into place — to determine if a competitive edge existed.
Testing revealed that Hovland was roughly 3-5 mph faster with the 47-inch driver, when compared to his gamer, while the 48-inch generated an additional 4-6 mph. Those are nice numbers to have in your back pocket, but as we saw with many of the pros — outside of Phil Mickelson who won the 2021 PGA Championship with a 47.9-inch build — there’s a point where the additional length doesn’t translate to a noticeable edge on the course.
TheStack Swing Speed Trainer (Hardware + App Bundle)
What few noticed was Hovland was already using one of the longest drivers on Tour at that time — a 45.75-inch G425 LST that, funny enough, initially started at 44.75 inches before the Norwegian opted to increase the overall length.
With the 46-inch length limit now in place, Hovland’s driver is a mere 1/4-inch from the legal limit. For weekend golfers who’ve been told pros play shorter-length shafts to prioritize impact consistency, Hovland’s build goes against conventional wisdom. A longer shaft generally leads to more distance, but it almost always comes at a cost to accuracy.
However, Hovland hasn’t seen a dip in form off the tee. In fact, he led the field in driving accuracy the last two weeks, finding the fairway 73 percent of the time.
“When I got out of school, I was at 168, 169 ball speed,” Hovland said recently on Ping’s Proving Grounds podcast. “But I was very, very accurate. I thought there was definitely some equity there if I could hit it a little bit further. My driver length was never really something I thought much about. When you’re playing a [shorter length] driver, it’s hard to get that much physically stronger in the gym. That’s going to take time. So why not try a driver that’s longer, which I ended up doing.
“I gained 4 mph just doing that. Your brain realizes you have a longer club and you can take off the governor you have on yourself a little bit. You’ve been swinging a shorter driver, so you open up that growth and then suddenly, instead of gaining 4 mph ball speed, it got to 5, 6, 7, 8. Now I’m cruising at 177-178 mph ball speed. That’s 10 mph more than when I first came out.”
If you’re processing those numbers and considering the possibility of going to a longer-length shaft, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. If accuracy and impact consistency are two of your strong suits, it might be worth entertaining the idea of trying out a longer shaft for speed purposes. But as Hovland pointed out, it ultimately comes down to mechanics and technique. (This is where a certified club fitter becomes an asset during the testing/vetting process.)
“The problem is if you have a golf swing where the harder you hit it, the more it spins, so your numbers get all out of whack, if you start adding length on top of that, now a longer driver is going to make it spin even more and become inefficient. So your swing has to be in a certain way where it makes sense to add that extra length. Because there’s definitely a fitting process that goes into it as well.”
Looking at Hovland’s recent form (and bank account), it’s safe to say going the longer driver route has paid off.
Adam Scott is quickly turning into pro golf’s long putter whisperer. Following Lucas Glover’s resurgence on the greens with a L.A.B. Golf Mezz.1 Max long putter, Edoardo Molinari revealed Scott recently played a role in his decision to switch to the same putter build.
“I’ve been putting very poorly for the last four or five years,” said Molinari, who finished T11 at the D+D Real Czech Masters. “I tried everything, different putting coaches, putting methods, nothing worked.
“Thank god I had a good chat at the Scottish Open with Adam Scott, who I do some work with. We were having lunch and he said if I’m struggling on the greens I should try what he’s doing.”
Molinari wasn’t prepared to make the switch official, so he waited until the Barracuda Championship to make the change after speaking with an L.A.B. Golf Tour rep.
L.A.B. Golf MEZZ.1 MAX Putter
“Luckily the following week I went to Barracuda, I was 50-50 but decided to make the trip,” he said. “On Monday I was putting, I picked up the long putter. I didn’t use it at first, but on Friday I just made the cut on the number; putting horribly again with the short one. I said ‘let’s see where we go’. The weekend at Barracuda, I didn’t make many putts but they were much better and I was much more confident.
“The confidence I have in the short ones, I went from being the last putter on the Tour inside six feet to probably one of the best, which helps everything else around the game. I wouldn’t call it a small change. I remember the first hole at Barracuda, when I had a four-footer, I thought ‘this could be either really good or really bad’. It worked and today it worked again. I’m still figuring out how to use it from mid to long range, my speed isn’t great yet. But I’m much more confident with the short ones, which helps a lot.”
At this rate, Scott is going to need to start asking for a commission if more pros keep switching to his putter build.
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