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Driver Shafts
I've written several times about the driver being your first scoring club. If you are keeping your drives in the fairway, and only reasonably "out there", your scores will drop measurably. It's no secret that approach shots are just easier to hit from the short grass, with no obstacles in your way. This is as true on the PGA Tour as it is for each of us.

So, what is the key to hitting more fairways? I think there are several, but it all starts with the equipment in your hands. Finding that driver that is just right is like finding a needle in a haystack, unfortunately, but it can be done. To understand why it's so hard, you have to stop to think about the odds you are fighting.

The major brands are making several hundred thousand drivers each year. They design their clubhead, then select a shaft vendor that gives them the best price for their specifications. Those two components begin rolling into the factory by the tens of thousands, and the assembly line workers begin gluing them together, following the "graphics standard". That means that the shaft graphics go on top, on the rear side, or underside . . . on every driver.

The unavoidable problem with this is that all shafts are not the same. Graphite shafts have a spine—they are NOT symmetrical. Somewhere running down the length of the shaft is a stiffer cross-section, and when the driver is put under loading and unloading, the location of this can dramatically affect the way the shaft reacts. If you pull a dozen drivers off the rack, you will find that this spine is in a dozen different specific locations. Those drivers will not perform exactly the same in a golf swing@!

Compounding this matter, almost all modern drivers are now adjustable, meaning you can rotate the shaft in the head to change the loft and face angle. But that also moves the spine around the shaft, so that the shaft itself will not perform the same at each of these options.

Think of your driver like a tire and wheel on your car. You can buy a $125,000 Mercedes, with the best wheels and tires money can buy ... but they still have to balance each tire with the wheel it is mounted on. If it's not balanced, your new car will shake like crazy when you get to highway speed. But the proper placement of as little as an ounce or two can totally change the performance of that 50-75 pound tire/wheel combination.

So, when you realize that your 10-11 ounce driver is going to accelerate from zero to 100+ miles per hour in the 8-10 feet from the top of backswing to impact, and the shaft is going to load and unload while flexing in multiple orientations, the very slightest little blip in that shaft/head match-up can have serious implications.

Understanding this is the first piece of the puzzle. On Friday I'll finish up this examination of driver shafts.
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[ comments ]
Matt McGee says:
What I don't understand is this: If the spine orientation makes that much difference, why don't the club manufacturers align them? If it were the Mercedes you mentioned, it would be expected that the auto maker balanced the wheels before you bought it. Also, it's not a big deal to fix a wheel that's out of balance. By comparison, it's a rather big deal to re-align a shaft in a golf club once it's been installed. Considering the amount of money that club makers spend to sell their stuff, and on new technology, I would think that a process for aligning the shafts in their clubs would be cheap and simple, provided that they thought it would improve the overall performance of the club.
12/4/12
 
larrynjr says:
I was recently fitted for a new driver and discovered that my existing off the rack driver. Had too soft a flex for my swing speed and transition. With this new club, I feel confident of hitting most fairways. When I don't I know it's me (and usually why). Being confident with your driver is an amazing feeling!
12/4/12
 
legitimatebeef says:
Every club has an impact on the score IMO.
12/4/12
 
windowsurfer says:
Here's some heresy: I have used a Dynamic Gold S300 sensicore STEEL shaft for the last 16 games. 43.5" 9.5* driver. Better accuracy, by a lot. Apart from the wet fairways now, distance is close to the same as graphite. I wanted to TRY to duplicate the feel of my DG S flex steel sensicore hybrids (19* and 22*), which I hit reliably. That heavy-headed feel has wonderful effects on my tempo. So far so good. I put it in a lively, 207g head: Ashton MS-5 HW, which helps - but it's still a heavier swingweight than most guys use cuz that shaft is 2X or 3X what superlite graphite wands weigh! Build cost = $47 bucks.
12/4/12
 
bkuehn1952 says:
I am with Matt McGee - if spine orientation is so crucial with graphite shafts, one would think the shaft manufacturer as well as the club manufacturer would solve the problem. It would seem to be a relatively simple fix. Considering how expensive some shafts can be, any manufacturer that does not mark the spine and any club maker that ignores the marked spine should deservedly receive harsh criticism. With all the competition among the manufacturers, surely one of them would begin aligning the spine and point out that their competitors don't.
12/4/12
 
windowsurfer says:
Some high end shafts are spine aligned or Pur'd or wotevs, but not all. A marketing stone that has not been turned over by the big boys -- more of a club-builder thing. But if-one-paints-em-white-they-all-paints-em-white mentality prevails, it would just take one brand to successfully sell that benefit and we'd all be yakin about how TM spines were better than Callaways, etc. Back to steel - I don't know if steel "need" spine alignment, or if they even have a spine. Also - align to target or align up; to address position? - lots of forum chatter on that.
12/4/12
 
bkuehn1952 says:
@windowsurfer - you are right on the opinions related to orientation of the spine. I have to wonder how important it can it be if no one agrees on which way to align the darn thing.
12/4/12
 
dooboo says:
I think the reason that the manufacturers don't spine the shaft is that average golfers (97%) of them out there won't notice the difference. With cars, anyone would know that something is wrong with the car when it start shaking. not necessarily that the tires are out of balance, but know something is wrong.

With drivers, one would think it is the fault of the player, not the equipment, therefore you start believing the hype of the next new driver. The shaft I buy is already spine marked so that I don't have to spend extra money to do so when assembling my driver/wood/hybrid. Shaft I use is made by arthursports. You should look them up.
12/4/12
 
windowsurfer says:
arthursports.com/about.php Interesting. Thx dooboo. Makes me wonder if that is the company that makes white label shafts for Golfworks under their "DistanceMaster" house brand. I have put three of those $20 DM shafts into drivers for friends. V positive results (the driver stays in their golf bag). How can a golf shaft be worth $1000? If it is packed tight with a mixture of gold dust, heroin and ground-up Lamborghinis.
12/4/12
 
Andre112 says:
Yes shaft has spines. Some shafts have bigger spine than others but that's not the most important aspect of a shaft. OEM doesn't do it because shaft manufacturer doesn't want to admit there is a spine plus they don't want to put in an extra process to align the spine with graphics.

Read this two articles about shaft fitting, you will have a much higher than of finding the "needle" in the haystack:
www.golfwrx.com/40557/taking-the-guesswork-out-o
www.golfwrx.com/44239/wishon-taking-shaft-fittin
12/4/12
 
onedollarwed says:
No wonder it takes so long to really groove with a driver. I've only bought two drivers this millennium. Each time it takes a while to marry my setup and ball positions with one or two swings. Then I can start to see how the club responds to working the ball when necessary. All the while I have to check back to both my conservative swing/setup/placement and my crush swing/setup/placement to verify adjustments.

When things come together for long stretches, precise aim becomes possible during good rounds. At least during off-days or crazy conditions, I can keep it in play. What I'm saying is that I'm largely adapting to the club - and that there was a good deal of trial and error in the selection process.

Now to the point: if I had to replace the driver shaft, it would invariably lead to a different feel/performance. This is very similar to mass-produced guitars off the rack. When the money's down, a duplicate is going to be just a little different than expected.
12/4/12
 
Tim Horan says:
@windowsurfer - with a shaft of circa 115g I doubt that you will get a head heavy feel. It is more likely to be the overall physical weight that you are feeling. That extra weight is going to slow down your tempo and most likely you will notice a better strike as a consequence. Grafalloy have started marking their shafts at source but it does not necessarily mean that Callaway, Titleist or any of the other club manufactureres will take the time to align them it just slows production as they would need to put in a quality check before gripping as the markings are butt end.
12/5/12
 
Matt McGee says:
"...it just slows production as they would need to put in a quality check before gripping as the markings are butt end."
So, the time and money spent to do this is worse spent than the tens of millions of dollars to promote the products?
I have to think that either the club manufacturers don't think spine alignment is important, or there's a really good opportunity for one of them to create a better product at very little expense.
12/5/12
 
onedollarwed says:
For the general consumer: They buy one club! They don't buy a dozen, so there's no way to compare. They learn to hit their club. Why align the shafts to make the clubs consistent across the line? Anyone who knows better will go a different route. Most people are happy buying jeans off the rack. Do they really fit? Do you rip out the seams and tailor them? A few people do. Like cars, most people buy just one at a time. Unless you're a race driver, or somebody who is constantly changing and adjusting clubs on game day, you deal with the one you have. I'm not saying that is right. Could I be 1% more consistent? I do play with the clubs a good deal before settling on them.
The driver is such a "gross" tool. Yes, fitting flex characteristics to your best swing may help a good deal - so that you can use your most efficient swing most of the time - but who's to say minute fluctuation might unintentionally mitigate a swing flaw for the better?
I guess I'm just not ready to start swapping shafts a lot yet.
12/5/12
 
sv677 says:
Frankly, I seriously doubt it makes much difference for typical 90+ golfer. One thing that would make a big difference is shaft length. Most shafts are 45"-46" long. Most tour pros are in the 44"-44.5" range. Who do you think could handle the longer club, but don't because it is not in their best interest?
Everyone wants more distance, which is the reason for longer shafts. The fact the ball can't be kept on the planet seems to be immaterial. A shorter shaft will help accuracy and keeping the ball in the fairway results in longer tee shots. Who knew?
12/5/12
 
onedollarwed says:
On the planet, hah!

And I too am a lover of steel - I absolutely love my stiff steel-shafted Mizuno f-way metals, and I even had a steel-shafted Mizuno hybrid for a while. Thanks to you guys for your links. The more I read the more I realize that 1) The off the rack stuff is a good fit for me (lucky), and 2) that I have by feel and trial and error found the right type of shaft, stiff with stiff tip. I have one of those short/fast heavily loaded swings (on video I clearly am starting the downswing before the backswing is finished).
But the question remains: How come it took 20 or more years to figure this out? And the truth is that nobody I knew really knew anything. I remember hearing lots of talk about keeping your head down when I first started, but little else.

Retail people might be getting smarter, but it's hit or miss. They tend to know a lot about the latest propaganda, and little else.
12/5/12
 
windowsurfer says:
Yeh, Tim Horan - "heavy-headed" is a misnomer with a shaft cut wt of 115g or so, like u say, + 64g grip + 207g head - the club is a heavy weight (for a driver) and at 43.5" not overly long by common standards. I get the *sense* that I can feel the club head, and with the stiff flex, it just seems like less can happen on the way down to the ball. If I take a full turn and have my fav swing thought workin - something about hitting a line drive over P. Creamer who is playing 2nd base (it's complicated) - I get good results.
12/5/12
 
Tim Horan says:
Buying off the rack should always be accompanied by hitting a good few balls but then if you buy buy the one that you have in your hand not one that is ordered in for you. Manufacturing tolerances in the head, shaft, assembly could all add up to a good feel like the one you just tried or a bad feel the one they order in for you. The key to clubfitting and club building is the balance these anomolies to get the best out of a club. There is not a club defect that will compensate for bad technigue.
12/6/12
 
onedollarwed says:
Golfer's Warehouse let's you use any purchase for up to 90 days and then you can roll the full value into anything else. So you buy the actual club you try and then work with it for a while under actual conditions. You can then exchange with anything else as you go. This replaces their previous demo policy where you could pay for anything, a set of irons say, and then get refunded when you bring them back in a few days. Not exactly buying off the rack, or an order. But great point - if you can't demo your actual club - eesh!
12/6/12
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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