QA Finding the Proper Shaft

By Frank ThomasSeptember 26, 2006, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email
OK, I love the ads with Vijay Singh hitting that new HiBore driver. Sometimes we get to try that new club at a demo day or we're maybe lucky enough to have demo drivers and irons at our club. But when it comes time to order that new wonderful driver, fairway wood or hybrid, I'm lost when it comes to ordering a shaft to match my game.
And let's be honest, most of us 15-handicappers don't know how to judge what the best shaft is. Kick points, flex, and all the rest are beyond us. When I looked at all the possible shafts offered by Cleveland when ordering a HiBore I became confused. We all want to hit the ball 300 yards, but at 62 I'm more interested in hitting it onto the short grass. I think the proper shaft will help me do that.
Can you shed some light on what to look for in ordering the proper shaft? -- James Houle

I agree that with so many shafts available, most golfers can barely figure out what the differences are, never mind figuring out how to make a decision about them. I think that for the Cleveland Launcher Ti460 driver there are about 17 different types of shafts. Let's be Frank about this: The standard shaft works beautifully for 90% of all golfers, and Cleveland wouldn't offer it if they didn't believe it provides outstanding performance. The other options are for those relatively few golfers who know exactly what they want. The standard shaft is great and I recommend you go for it, and get the R-flex rather the Stiff unless you have a fast swing speed.
When you get your handicap down to scratch or better and would like to tweak your flight trajectory, that's the time to start getting fancy with different weights, torques, 'kick points,' etc. It's not that those other shafts aren't good, but it's like choosing between a Honda Accord and a Maserati: unless you're so highly skilled that you're looking for super-high performance, something simple and standard will get you where you want to go just fine. We've had 400 years for golfers to find out what flex and shaft bend pattern is good. Messing with this is not going to help unless we know exactly where on the face we hit the ball time after time after time, and precisely how we would like to work the ball.
Frank: I have heard several tour pros, Lee Trevino, and noted instructors talk about how spin is imparted to a golf ball. They talk about the ball 'climbing' up the face of the wedge. I worked with a major golf manufacturer in the 90s and the R & D guys told me that this is not the case, that the ball is on the face for a fraction of a second and does not climb up the face. Who is telling the truth? -- Bill in Dublin OH.
The ball stays on the face for about .0005 of a second, depending on the speed and the obliqueness of impact. The ball actually starts to slip on first contact, but not for long, and then it sticks to the club's face as its elastic core deforms along with the cover. The amount of deformation depends on the speed of impact. The cover deforms and recovers, and this is what mostly produces spin, especially off the high-lofted irons such as wedges. During the recovery phase, the ball does roll up the face very slightly, though even in ultra-slow-motion it is not obvious because of the deformation. It's probably an exaggeration to say the ball 'climbs.' Hope this resolves the issue.
l find your answers to the questions sent to you to be understandable and educational. I would like to ask you a question about shaft flex: How do you know what shaft you should have in your set?
I have heard people on the Golf Channel mention that you need to feel the head of the club through the swing. With my own set of Top Flites I have a stiff shaft. When I'm swinging these clubs I get great feel from where I hit the ball -- whether it's on the toe, heel or sweet spot -- but I really don't feel the head of the club during the swing. I have tried some of my friends' equipment with regular shafts. When I swing these clubs, the club feels like it's bending in two and the head feels like it's way behind my hands through the swing.
My question, I guess, is to ask if this is the feeling I ought to have during the swing, or does this indicate these clubs are too flexible for my shaft loading/swing speed? For some background on my swing speed, I get about 235-245 yards of carry with my driver. -- Rob Marson

In general, the shaft flex should be such that you aren't fighting the club and having to swing really hard to get it to perform. In selecting a shaft, you should start at the most flexible and move toward the stiff range rather than the other way round. Most of us use shafts that are too stiff.
On the other hand, if it's too flexible then you'll lose a little control and the ball flight will tend to turn left on you.
Feeling where impact was on the face is not what we mean when we talk about feeling the clubhead throughout the swing. That only tells you what happened at impact, and it tells you long after the ball has left and too late for you to do anything about it. A more flexible shaft will help you time your swing more effectively and provide a little feedback during the swing. The best way to find out which shaft flex suits YOU best is the old-fashioned trial and error method. Only you really know what YOU feel.
When I'm advising beginners who don't know what to expect from their swings, I tell them the rule of thumb is to start with a regular flex if you are a male or a L-flex if you are a female. Once they get things going and have a general idea of where the ball is going, then they should start experimenting with different flexes. If you're getting 235-245 yards of carry from your stiff-shafted driver, are hitting the ball reasonably straight, and feel far too much bend when you swing an R flex, I'd say you've probably got the right shaft for your swing.
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email
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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.


Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions.