Driver Shafts, Part 2
Let's continue this dialog about driver shafts. Many of you have chimed in with your thoughts and ideas on this, and that's what makes writing this column each week interesting and fun for me. You guys provide the input I need to keep on going.

Tuesday's column focused mostly on the shaft's spine, and many comments revolved around the question of why this isn't done for us by the shaft and/or club manufacturers. I suspect it's a matter of cost. In today's marketplace, where new product life cycles are a year or less for most brands, marketing sells more clubs than performance. Companies that will not let a new product "simmer" for a few years cannot rely on performance and resulting word-of-mouth get the numbers they want. So they turn new products faster and invest more heavily in marketing than product production. If you didn't like this one, maybe the next one will be the answer. Some may take me to task for that opinion, but it's what I've seen over my 30 years in the business.

But besides the spine location, the other aspects of the shaft you have to consider are its overall flex, weight, and maybe most importantly, its length.
  • Flex: Personally, I think this could be the least important of the criteria. If you have a club that is a little too stiff or too soft – technically speaking – but otherwise a good club, you'll figure out how to get the most out of it. And fitting flex is an art as much as science. One clubfitter I know was having great success fitting mid- to high-handicap players with very stiff shafts and higher loft heads to get the desired ball flight. His rationale is that these amateurs make very different swings from drive to drive in actual play – there are 12-14 driver swings over a 4-5 hour round, and each is affected by the mental state of the golfer at the time. We all know water right or left affects us, as does the just-missed three-footer or gunched-up hole immediately prior. The stiffer shaft compensates for these variances. Pretty interesting, and I saw it with my own eyes in the tee shots of my business partner after this fitting illustration.

  • Weight: There was some dialog on this and I'm a believer that driver shafts have gotten too light. Nicklaus was brutally long with a driver that weighed 13-1/2 ounces back in the 1960-70s – today's drivers are 25-30% lighter than that, even though the athletes are bigger and stronger. It takes great skill to wield a driver that light with consistency and proper sequencing of your big muscles. Go try out a heavier driver sometime and see what happens – even pull an old one out of your closet and go side-by-side. You might be surprised.

  • Length: "sv677" hit the nail on the head. If you want to hit your driver longer and straighter, grip down on the shaft at least two inches. The "proof" that a longer shaft delivers more distance is based on results from "Iron Byron" machines that hit it dead in the sweet spot every single time. You don't! But you'll come closer to doing so if you play your driver at an effective length of 43-44" than the 46-47" they are selling these days. The facts are this: a 1/2" miss of the sweet spot will cost you 7-9% of your distance, 3/4" increases that to 12-15%. That's HUGE! Try this technique for a round or two and watch what happens.
So there's my treatise on driver shafts for now. You guys send me questions about what topics you'd like "The Wedge Guy" to address next. I'm always listening.
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[ comments ]
Matt McGee says:
"Companies that will not let a new product "simmer" for a few years cannot rely on performance and resulting word-of-mouth get the numbers they want."
This makes a lot of sense. It's hard to convince someone to buy the new, "improved" model for $400 if you're still selling a two-year-old design as a technologically equal option (which it is, in most cases). Thus, the money that it would cost to align the shaft spine in every club is better spent marketing next year's model.
12/7/12
 
mjaber says:
My 2 cents- Buy the driver you demo... not the model, the actual one that is in your hands. If the driver you want isn't doing what you want, ask to try another of the same model... or buy used. Pickup 2 or 3 used drivers for the same money you would spend on that shiny, brand new, just released piece of technological perfection that will be obsolete faster than an iPhone, and experiment. Maybe pull the shafts, and try them all in the different heads. See if a different combination works better.
12/7/12
 
windowsurfer says:
Another interesting article. I agree with your points. Another thing I've noticed about drivers is that a lot of golfers - especially bigger guys and seniors - prefer midsize or jumbo grips. At the same time, I suspect that top players are more inclined to regular sizes. I personally prefer thick, cushiony grips because I play a lot and have some arthritis issues. But I've grown to prefer the feel and think it promotes a looser grip on the club. Some say bigger grips make your swing less "handsy".
12/7/12
 
frankteo714 says:
The only problem I have with choking down on a driver is I'm already using a stiff shaft and I would just be making the shaft stiffer wouldn't I? My swing speed is around 100mph.
12/7/12
 
Matt F says:
frank,

No you wouldn't. To stiffen a shaft you cut it at the tip, not the butt. So choking down will have no effect on shaft stiffness.

Terry,

What sort of weight would you suggest for a driver shaft? 75g or so? I play 115g shafts in my irons and hybrids and your older steel in my Eidolon wedges.
12/8/12
 
onedollarwed says:
Perhaps it's time for Terry to design a driver. I really like the idea of the extra-stiff higher lofted driver. And from what I see out there, most people cannot hit the drivers they buy. Often when under a tree and still a max distance from the green I wish I had a 9-iron length club that was basically a 3-wood. So here's the design:

Safe-Tee club: Length of a 6 iron, huge head, 4-wood loft. Right on the head will be printed in a diagram of some basic alignment and swing mechanics. Also there will be printed instructions on the shaft to read Ben Hogan's famous book, and to watch a video on the real ball flight laws. Would this help or what?
12/9/12
 
Tim Horan says:
You can get a stiff tipped shaft with a softer butt end so that you can feel what the head is doing. You can also graduate shaft weights D, 3w, Hy and then vary swingweights as well. I have settled on Graphite Design AD YSQ Tour shafts 65g, 75g and 85g but if you want an even stiffer tip without losing the feel try the YSQ ST range (ST = Stabilised Tip). I found the ST gave me too low a tradjectory -great if you are playing dry conditions all the time.
12/10/12
 
Virtuaframax says:
Just switched from a "made for xxx" shaft in a Cleveland Hibore XL tour (9.5* stiff) to a X-Stiff 44.5" UST Proforce V2 86g on an old Titleist 905R 10.5*. Still thinkering with the ball flight, but I gained a ton of control and removed torubles from the tee. Increased carry distance by 20%... Swing speed around 108-110mph
12/12/12
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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