The Engine of the Golf Club
"A golf club is 90% shaft, and 10% how it goes through the dirt."

That's how Mr. Ben Hogan saw it anyway. Of course he never envisioned what technology would do to clubhead design in both irons and woods. And would the guy most famous for that one-iron shot ever have believed what we've done with hybrids?

But even with all today's head technology, Mr. Hogan's principle was much more right than wrong. When you are bringing a clubhead from the top of the backswing to the ball, at speeds on either side of 100 miles per hour, there is a lot going on, and small variances can mean a lot. The shaft is loading, unloading, reloading, unloading . . . . an rotating around its center all the way down to the ball. Watching slo-mo video, it's a wonder we ever hit a ball!

Essentially, there are two parts of the shaft equation: what the shaft does in that 100 mph environment, and how consistently the shafts in your bag from driver to 9-iron do the same thing. And there are three key elements to a shaft's design – its weight, flex profile and overall stiffness. Most quality shafts have a torque factor that coordinates with those three things, so I'm leaving that out of this dialog today.

In weight, we've seen a move to ever lighter and lighter shafts, in an attempt to squeeze a few more miles per hour of clubhead speed for you. But I strongly suggest you approach the lighter shafts with caution, unless you are a senior, lady or other less-strong player. To me, there is some measure of weight that is essential to give you “motion feedback” – a sensation of where the club is in your swing and what it is doing. That applies from the driver all the way down to the irons. In my opinion, the only golfers that can handle very light shafts are those who hold the club very lightly, too.

Then there's the flex profile. Shafts are sold that are tip soft to tip stiff. Understand that this is a relatively subtle differentiation, but generally tip softer shafts will give you higher launch angles and tip-stiff profiles will keep trajectories down more. Since shafts are not usually marked as to what they are, only trial will show you how a particular shaft will perform for you. And a shaft that works well in one clubhead might not produce desirable results in another.

In overall flex, there are two contradictory rules that we can hear:
1. Play the stiffest shaft that you can handle, or
2. Play the softest shaft that you can still control.
Hmmm, what are we supposed to do with that advice? My suggestion is to go through a thorough fitting with a qualified clubfitter. Not one that is not just zeroing in on one brand of shaft or heads, but someone who is focused on matching the shaft to the head to YOU. Most good golf shops have fitting carts from one or more major brands, but don't overlook the network of independent clubfitters/builders out there. They have access to great product lines and usually have attended many schools and courses about golf club performance and fitting.

But here's a word on fitting. If you get a “prescription” that looks a little too "weird," don't be afraid to get a “second opinion” from another fitter. This is as much art as science and all are not equal. My opinion has always been that 95% of all adult golfers will fall not far from either side of industry standards for lie and length. The tour pros don't and they come in all shapes and sizes. I've always been leery of clubs over 1” long and 2* upright, but I sure see a lot of golfers getting fit that way. Another hmmmmmm.

The last element of shafts, and the one most overlooked is the matching throughout the set. In fact, very few talk about this at all, because most golfers have a mishmash of clubs in their bags that they've picked up along the way – driver here, fairway woods there, hybrids, irons, wedges . . . all bought at different times and all with different shafts. Hmmmmm, again. How hard do we want to make this game? I know my consistency got a lot better years ago, when I began to weight blend and frequency-match my set from driver to wedges. Any good independent clubfitter can do an analysis of your set and open your eyes as to why those one or two clubs give you trouble, and why that one is just your favorite.

So, that's the Cliff's Notes story on shafts. Let's get those questions, comments and experiences coming.


photo source
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[ comments ]
Banker85 says:
I have the same shafts in my Dr - HY4, S-flex different weights, sflex in irons, and TrueTemper S400 in wedges. This is my first season with these clubs and i have been striking the ball much more consistently by being consistent. From making sure setup etc. is the same before each shot and if i feel awkward i step back and readjust. I also have consistent gaps in loft and same grips on all clubs and similar shafts on all clubs. JUST CANT PUTT WORTH NOTHING! but all your tips are starting to come to fruition, Thanks!
5/14/10
 
falcon50driver says:
Quote from article .........."I know my consistency got a lot better years ago, when I began to weight blend and frequency-match my set from driver to wedges."
Please post some scores......................
5/14/10
 
TWUES17 says:
2" long and 2* upright golfers unite!
5/14/10
 
eventHorizon says:
Terry, could you please go into more detail? In the design of a shaft what are they varying to make one shaft different from another? What varies in the materials that shaft companies use? Is it the resin that binds the carbon fibers? What about in steel shafts?

Also, please talk about torque. I believe many golfers disregard torque and confuse it with stiffness of the shaft however the torque is a very substantial parameter into the golf swing. If the torque doesn't match your swing the club is not performing optimally.

I truly believe the shaft is the engine of the golf club. By switching multiple shafts into and out of the same golf club one can feel dramatically what the different shaft specifications mean to your swing.
5/14/10
 
Swingem says:
Two questions;
(1) What is the influence of tip diameter, .335 vs .350, on the performance of a driver / 3w shaft?
(2) Is shaft "spining / PUREing" hype or substance? I've read arguments on both sides.
5/14/10
 
Swingem says:
I have Taylormade FCT in my Dr, 3w and hybrid. One of the best things about this feature is the ability to experiment with shafts. the FCT shaft sleeves are available seperately so you can build interchangable shafts with different characteristics.
5/14/10
 
Shallowface says:
I'm the engine.
The shaft is the transmission.
But even if that terminology was used, the importance would still be the same, particularly in graphite.
I can play with anything from L to X in steel and make it work.
But give me something too light and too stiff in graphite and my timing will be destroyed.
It's one reason, for me at least, that experimenting with woods isn't as much fun as it was in the steel shaft/persimmon days.
5/14/10
 
elevine4 says:
When it comes to shaft consistancy...check out PURE.
5/15/10
 
onedollarwed says:
Thanks again Wedgy. I used to scoff at this topic, because I couldn't imagine what all these troubles were that you were talking about. The truth is, I didn't have those troubles because everything in my set matched really well, right down to the "off the rack" heavy wedge shafts.
As with most advice, you need experience it to enter the discussion. I also used to scoff at grip (hands) advice until this winter I went back to something more conventional for the first time. Very weird at first (but wouldn't you know, not a single duck hook).
Well this spring I am going hybrid for the first time. I never had a problem with hitting low irons and couldn't understand the rage. The problem was wanting 3-P, gap, sand, lob, Driver, putter, 3w, 7w, all in the bag. So I started trying hybrids and since there was nothing matched to my set, hitting them right was very difficult. If you don't want to change your swing around for one club, you better find the one that fits!
5/16/10
 
Matt Otskey says:
This is unusual, but I'm going to have to strongly disagree with most of this article. I have a Taylormade driver, a callaway 3-wood, an adam's 3 hybrid, and Nike Forged blades 2-PW in my bag. It definitely can't hurt if all the shafts of all your clubs are the same, but I believe if your swing is good enough and fundamentally sound, the shaft of the club shouldn't matter after you have hit it a couple times.

I feel like nowadays, everybody makes golf all about the equipment being used...But when all the smoke clears, if your swing sucks, no $500 driver is gonna make you hit the ball straight.
5/16/10
 
wedgeguy says:
All this input is great. Matt, you are right that no club can fix a bad swing, no matter how much we spend. But having clubs that don't all perform the same in the swing requires you to learn a very slightly different timing with each of them --isn't this game hard enough already? Swingem, shaft puring is one more way to take out some of the inconsistency that might be there. In my experience and opinion, it is splitting hairs on most top-grade shafts, but can make a huge difference on some others. Eventhorizon, torque is a factor that is usually not a variable, but coordinated by the maker to the flex pattern of a particular shaft. If the torque is wrong for you, then the whole shaft is, too.
5/17/10
 
wedgeguy says:
Regarding tip diameter, most woods are .335, and most irons are either .355 taper tip or .370 parallel. Other diameters have been introduced over the years, but they don't seem to stick, so . . . . As to the old question of parallel vs. taper tip in irons, many iron shafts are made parallel then swaged to taper tip, so there really isn't a difference just on that small alteration. I could do a whole post on that subject . . . should I? Pretty boring stuff to most I would assume, but you guys tell me.
5/17/10
 
pheasantdog says:
Hi Terry,
Do rusty wedges help at all? Every manufacturer makes them and I've heard they can help add spin but do they really? Besides looking cool, is there an advantage to rusty wedges?

Thanks,

Ron Lentz
5/17/10
 
pheasantdog says:
meant to post this in the question part...
5/17/10
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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