If there is one constant in golf equipment design it is change.
New clubhead shapes, adjustable weighting, rescue clubs that replace long irons, finely balanced putters and high-tech golf balls that fly farther and straighter help make the game more enjoyable and approachable for a wide array of players.
While clubhead design gets much of the attention from the media and players, the shafts that power our new sticks have also seen their fair share of change in recent years.
“With the expansion of composites into aerospace industry the materials have become more consistent and higher quality,” says Tim Gillis, vice president sales and marketing for Graphite Design International, Inc., a major shaft manufacturer. “This combined with manufacturing technologies have made golf shafts more consistent and better performing.”
Gillis adds, the shaft is “by far” the most important part of the club. The head has to be delivered to the ball to make it perform. Without the shaft, specially the correct shaft, the head cannot achieve its best performance.
Says Ray Stuart, brand marketing and public relations for UST Mamiya, another major shaft maker, “Shaft engineers today have access to improved high modulus materials, such as AXIV, a four-axis weave material found in our Proforce AXIV Series. And we have better design techniques using computer aided software.”
He continues, “At UST Mamiya, we have a software system called CASA that was developed in-house to help designers get a sense of how the shaft will perform even before the prototyping phase.”
Better manufacturing capabilities have ensured tighter tolerances in shaft manufacturing for “consistent symmetry.”
As has been duly noted, the shaft is the engine of the club.
Says Stuart, “The shaft transfers the energy produced by the golfer to the club and eventually to the ball. The overall goal is to produce a high performance golf shaft that optimizes an efficient release of energy without sacrificing control.
Greg Cavill, manager of the steel design for True Temper Sports, a venerable player in the shaft marketplace, concurs and says that just as players can now tweak their clubheads to match their swing characteristics, dialing in the right shaft is crucial to a good golf game.
“If the shaft was not deemed important, True Temper, along with all the OEM’s, would not be spending millions of dollars a year in supporting the professional tours around the world. Tour players are constantly trying new shaft designs to help optimize their irons and woods.”
He continues, “The player must match his or her load profile to the appropriate flex to ensure good launch conditions, control and feedback. Just because a particular shaft works in one head does not mean that it will respond the same way in a new head. This is why we work closely with all of the OEM’s to ensure that True Temper proprietary designs meet all of the requirements requested by our customers.”
He says it is essential to be fitted to the correct shaft and flex by a knowledgeable PGA professional to make sure you receive maximum benefit from your purchase.
New manufacturing processes have allowed True Temper to produce shafts, such as the GS Series, that “rewrite the rules of lightweight steel golf shafts, offering a cushioned feel once the preserve of graphite shafts, while enhancing overall distance,” says Gavill.
So where are we heading in shaft design?
“We are working on several new wedge shaft designs to compliment the new groove regulations that will be enforced next year on Tour,” relates Cavill.
Says Gillis, “The shaft will continue to advance technologically. We work constantly with new materials and other forms of research and development to improve performance.”
Stuart sees lighter shafts with more stability and improved feel.
“As materials continue to improve, I believe we will see shafts in the 45 to 55 gram weights as standard for the average player. With the popularity and availability of launch monitors, golfers will have a better understanding of what weights and flexes work best for their swings. Optimizing shaft technology is more personal than ever before.”
|Tips on Choosing a Driver Shaft
When getting fit it is imperative that a launch monitor be used. This will give you imperical data on the performance of the shaft. Pay more attention to ball speed, spin rate and launch angle than clubhead speed on the launch monitor.
The shaft flex is the indication of how much swing force is necessary to make the shaft perform properly. Flexes range from light, regular, stiff and extra stiff. Players with slower swing speeds will likely be better served using light or regular flexes for extra distance, while better players prefer stiff or extra stiff for control and shaping ability. Most players are using a shaft that is too stiff for their swing.
This is one of the most important aspects of a shaft to consider. Most golfers will get more benefit from lighter shafts, as they will be able to generate more power assuming on-center contact. Most golfers are not strong enough to swing a shaft in the high 70 or 80-gram range. Too heavy of a shaft will sacrifice feel and performance for most golfers.
Shaft Bend (Kickpoint)
The bend point, i.e. the spot on the shaft that bends when it is swung, determines the ball’s trajectory. A lower bend, or kickpoint as it is sometimes referred to as, will generate a higher ball flight, while a high bend point will create a low shot trajectory. If you are looking for something in between, go with a mid rating bend point for the best of both worlds. Don’t be overly concerned here, as the difference between high and low kickpoint is nominal to most golfers.
The longer the length the less accurate you will be with your driver. Most touring professionals use drivers 45 inches or under in length because they are able to make center contact, be more accurate and do not sacrifice distance.
With interchangeable shafts and heads on fitting carts, experiment everything you can get your hands on and work with a fitting professional to find the optimal shaft for your swing.