Interchangable Driver Shafts

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Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from GOLF CHANNEL's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank,
This spring a couple of manufacturers are introducing drivers that you can change shafts for different conditions. First, is this going to be allowed by the USGA? Secondly, if it is legal, would I be able to use Conex shaft adapters to do the same thing?
 
Thanks,
-- Steve

 
Steve,
 
The USGA is making some changes to the equipment rules with regard to adjustability but not telling us what they are. They say that some forms of adjustability, in irons and woods -- a few of which are already allowed in putters -- will be permitted but to find out what these are you need to submit the product to the USGA and they will deal with each submission on a case-by-case basis.
 
Some interchangeable shaft mechanisms have already been approved and Nickent, Callaway and others will have these in the line soon.
 
In a forum discussing 'adjustability' at the PGA Show last week, the USGA haughtily opened the discussion justifying the seemingly popular move, by stating that this will help the average golfer and is a win/win situation for all. Some manufacturers in the forum then lauded the change and suggested that this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in that grip changes, loft changes, lie changes, and bounce changes are all things that will now be possible. At every new suggestion, the USGA representatives became visibly more uncomfortable. The USGA is opening a can of worms that will soon get out of hand and be difficult to monitor.
 
There are some problems associated with this apparent windfall, which is perceived to be a needed stimulus, in an environment, where coming up with something new and meaningful to sell equipment has become a real challenge.
 
First, manufacturers are going to charge more for a set of clubs or just a single club with adjustable features, which allow for interchangable component parts. However, there are not going to be any interchangeable standards so your ZOO-Zoo club heads will only fit with ZOO-zoo shafts and ZOO-zoo grips etc.
 
The USGA also has some 'tiger-by-the-tail' problems. When training grips and non-conforming shafts and heads with unacceptable moving parts are able to be interchanged with other conforming parts making the final assembly either non-conforming or conforming, things start getting sticky. The number of permutations are enormous and an absolute nightmare for a tournament director to make a call on the first tee or to keep track of and help advise the players as to the conformity of their equipment. We do need rules, but not silly rules or those which have the potential to complicate interpretation.
 
Another downside is that the consumer will become even more confused than they now are about equipment. How can new equipment suddenly lose its ability to perform as promised soon after the introduction of a new model? What components need to be included with every new purchase? How am I going to cope with the changing conditions that my swing presents during a season or a round? It is somewhat like buying multiple sets of tires -- one for each season or weather condition-- for your Ford only to find the weather changed soon after you put them on but more worrisome is that they will not fit your new Chevy.
 
Yes, some manufacturers are already thinking about developing adapters which will soon become as complex as finding a set of adapters to get your electric razor to work in every country in your round the world trip.
 
Steve, there are some, benefits for the pro who is fitting clubs, but for the rest of us, don't get caught up in the this mess. You may be tempted to start changing things without knowing the effects or just because you can -- being your own doctor -- or even in the middle of a round because your swing seems to be off kilter and you have the specially designed wrench to make this change in your bag and a few extra shafts in your bag. You may not know or just decide to ignore the fact that this is a violation of the rules.
 
I don't think the USGA has thought this out to the extent it should have and instead jumped on something, which in the short term is going to please the manufacturers who are looking for something to stimulate their lagging sales. There are some manufacturers who have decided not to enter this arena and instead offer a sound product customized to your needs without the interchangeable bells and whistles which are not going to improve your game but rather confuse you.
 
Steve, choose whatever segments of this answer fit together and/or interchange them until you feel it works well for you.
-- Frank
 
Frank,
 
I really enjoy your Q&A. I think it is some of the best information available. Thanks for providing it. My question is about high-priced graphite wood shafts. As an 18 handicapper, will I really be able to tell the difference between a $80-$120 shaft as opposed to a $20-$50 dollar shaft, assuming I get fitted for the correct length, flex, etc? I'm sure there is more technology in the higher-priced models, but, as a weekend hacker, will I be able to appreciate the difference? Will it be worth it to me to spend the extra money?
 
Thanks,
--Tom

 
Tom,
 
This is definitely a case where you have been lead to believe that very expensive shafts must be better (much better) than the affordable ones, only because they are so expensive.
 
There is no doubt that as long as the shaft actually suits your swing it will probably be more consistent in flex and twisting properties than the less expensive models. Does this really make a difference to your game as an 18 handicapper? The answer is probably NOT.
 
If you are going to drive in the Indie 500 at 250 mph then the super high speed balance is a must, but if you are driving back and forth to work you really don't need to get the wheels tuned to 250 speed levels.
 
Most manufacturers provide very good shafts in their standard sets.
 
I suggest that you spend your savings on a lesson or two.
 
Glad you are enjoying the column and be sure to sign up as a Frankly Friend by clicking here.
-- Frank
 
Frank Thomas new imageFrank 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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com