By HOT STIX GOLF
Ben Hogan famously declared, “The shaft is the engine of the golf club.”
While that statement is true, many golfers don’t pay close attention to their shaft choices when purchasing ‘off-the-rack’ equipment. Most manufacturers advertise that longer and lighter shafts in stock clubs increase swing speed and distance. Because shafts react differently to particular swings, however, a one-size-fits-all solution rarely meets a golfer’s specific needs.
Determining the proper match crucial to enhance consistent ball striking, and it is a complicated process that should be performed with assistance from a certified club fitter. In breaking down swing factors and auditioning multiple shaft/club head combinations, finding a shaft that consistently delivers the clubhead to the ball in a repeatable fashion, while transferring the maximum amount of energy possible through impact, can be achieved.
Even something seemingly straightforward like flex isn’t as simple as regular, stiff and extra stiff. Flexes are not universal and one company’s stiff may be what another considers regular. Each shaft also has a unique bend profile, designating which sections are more or less stiff.
A certified club fitter can identify ideal shaft flex and bend profile based on how a player transitions from backswing to downswing.
Basically explained, force exerted on the shaft during the downswing causes it to bend. This is known as loading. Once the shaft is loaded, it will unload and ideally bring the clubface square to the golf ball. This has an impact on how the shaft bends, which can lead to different feel and trajectory. Often if a shaft does not feel right to the golfer, it’s because it is not unloading properly.
To visualize this, imagine the swings of Rickie Fowler and Fred Couples. They have very similar clubhead speeds, but dramatically different transitions from backswing to downswing. Because of this the shafts that feel and perform the best for them will be very different.
After testing, fitters sometimes find players are actually between flexes. Custom shafts can be built using a process called tipping in this case, where fitters remove a portion of the tip to stiffen the overall flex.
Testing different options with a certified club fitter is the only way to ultimately determine what shaft is best suited for a particular individual. Elements like flex, length, weight and torque can all be modified to suit an individual. Ultimately, the golfer still needs to determine which shaft option feels the best, while club fitters provide the hard data to back up that choice.