QA The Truth About Shafts

By Frank ThomasOctober 25, 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
After reading your September 26, 2006 feature on finding the proper shaft, I'm still a little confused. I'm looking at the Titleist 905R driver, which has four standard shafts offered, Aldila NV 65, Speeder by Fujikura, UST Proforce V2 75 and graphite Design YS-6+. You stated in the feature that 90% of all golfers, which would include me, would be okay with the standard shafts offered by the manufacturer. Being a 12 handicap and currently using a R-flex shaft in the 50-60 grams level on my current Titleist 585D, I am looking for a higher launch with low spin. Some of the standard shafts above mention high or medium spin. Should I then rule out those standard shaft options?
Can I get a very lightweight shaft that can indeed help me with the higher launch and low spin? Should I get a higher loft, say 12 degrees rather than the 10.5 that I currently have? At 56 years old, I'm not only looking for more distance, but more carry and accuracy. I know how important finding the right shaft is and I'm sure that others have the same questions.
Jim Fujioka, HI

First you are right about the four different shafts offered as available 'stock' shafts. Some of these are better suited to the better golfer and are not what I would call a 'standard shaft', so let me try to guide you through this maze of shaft options if I can.
The weight of the shaft will not affect the launch angle but the shaft flex and face loft will. There are high and low kick points in a shaft which will also affect ball flight and spin. The low kick point (same flex shaft) on an otherwise similar lofted head will tend to increase the launch angle and increase the spin. The high kick point will generally do the opposite, i.e. lower the flight and decrease the spin. These are relatively small increments compared to the effect of changing the overall shaft flex and club loft.
So if you need to change your ball trajectory and you are not a low single-digit handicap golfer, and hitting the ball consistently, the first suggestion is to work with club loft. The higher loft will launch the ball higher and add more spin.
Next, and seeing you are a Titleist man, I would suggest you skip the four 'stock' shaft options and go for the 'standard' Titleist 4560 which is very good for 90% of us. Look at the different flexes of the standard Titleist 4560 shafts offered. Most important is to select a flex X, S, R, or other, which will best suit your swing speed and swing type. For example; if your swing speed is about 85 - 90 then an R-flex should be your first choice. But it must also feel comfortable for you and only you can make this determination.
If these options don't seem to do the trick then, and only then, start a search for a specialized shaft. You may also want to try a different ball type, which has different launch conditions and acts in concert with the club head type.
Titleist offers 54 different shafts so the 'Techies' can do their thing.
The reason why so many shafts are being offered is to allow a golfer who loves to tinker or believes that, 'a different shaft will work wonders' or that 'If the pros are using them then they must work for me' to have fun doing his thing. If, however, you have a swing like the pros then you can work with the fine-tuning that some of the exotic shafts may have to offer.
For most of us, messing with these (sometimes very expensive) shafts may make us feel good but might not have any real effect on our game.
The only golfers who are in a position to really take advantage of the various options are the very good single-digit handicap golfers or those who hit the ball very consistently and need to tweak their trajectory. These golfers hit the ball regularly on the sweet spot and are looking for a ball flight, which the combination of club loft, c.g. location and overall shaft flex will not provide.
So, Jim, I recommend that you select a head design that looks good to you with the appropriate loft followed by the correct shaft flex X,S, or R standard shaft (in the case of Titleist the 4560 is very good).
As a last resort only, go to a shaft with a different flex point, weight and torsional properties. When you get to this point you had better be hitting the ball consistently otherwise the journey to fine tuning the club would have been a waste of time.
This doesn't mean that the final product you come up with, working all the variables, will not perform as well as a standard shaft but it does mean that the odds that it will be better than a standard shaft of the correct flex are slim and also you will spend a lot of time and money getting there.
Specialized customizing has done wonders for a number of people who have gone through the process and therefore believe that they have the perfect fit. Knowing that our equipment is right for us and having this belief is very important and does wonders for our game.
I play golf about once a week. I am about an 8 handicap. My average score is in the 70's. I hit my 45 degree PW about 125-130, with the mid 120's being ptimal. In this set I hit my 9 iron (full) in the mid 140's.
My driver carry is approx. 250+. I can hit it 290 on some holes, less on others depending on the hole design. My irons have stiff shafts.
Here is my question. I can hit my three iron and four iron. BUT, I find that after I play more and more holes, my swing gets more and more tired, and late in the day it is much, much, harder to hit those two clubs. I hit them better off the tee than the ground. This is not the case with any other club.
Would it be smart, to change out the Stiff flex in the three and four iron to a regular flex? Would this allow me to swing in a more controlled fashion and still benefit from the clubs?
Any help would be appreciated.
Mike Dugger

If you get tired toward the end of the round, then this probably means that some strength and flexibility exercises are in order and will probably help. You may also need to work on increasing your stamina. Walking three or more miles a day at a reasonable speed will soon get you in good shape for your golf and your general quality of life will also improve. Check with your doctor before you get into any exercise regimen.
The three iron is the first to go wrong when you get tired. But you may find you have a rogue club in your set, so check the frequencies. If these are not all progressing evenly throughout the set then this may be another problem. As the shafts (clubs) get shorter the frequency should increase from club to club.
Also you should recognize that even the pros are going to hybrids replacing the long irons. So don't feel bad about dumping the long irons for hybrids.
More flexible shafts in your irons as well as converting to graphite is not a bad idea but I would suggest the exercise thing as a good first step followed by the hybrid substitution for the three and four iron.
Frank, you're the best. I've developed a fade that's driving me crazy. I just hate that ball flight. Is my shaft too stiff or vice versa? I hit the same shot with several different drivers, all stiff, 8.5 to 9.5 loft. I just can't figure it out.
Henry Carnes

The slice can be due to a couple of things. Yes, one reason could be the stiff shaft but generally this would result in more of a push fade than a bad slice. Second and most probably the cause is in your swing: I would get a good teacher to look at your swing and correct the error if this is the cause, which should be reasonably evident.
A more flexible shaft will tend to hit the ball a little higher and farther left than a stiff shaft which will tend to hit the ball a little lower and right. A bad slice is almost always a swing that has gone wrong so find a good teacher to look at what you are doing and make the corrections if this is the problem. It will generally be a lot less expensive than messing with equipment to correct the flaw.
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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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

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That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”