Lets be Frank


Straight Talk on Shafts

Frank, Your column is the bomb! Love it. Here's the question.
Is the high end shaft used in an OEM club the same as the high end shaft sold at the component companies? Why do I have to pay almost $200.00 for a shaft as a component when I can get the complete club for not much more? Are they cutting corners on the high end shafts used in OEM clubs or is the volume of shafts that they sell to the big OEM companies so great that they can use an expensive shaft without driving the price through the roof?
I cannot tell any difference in performance between an expensive shaft pulled from an OEM club and the component version of the same expensive shaft and I am in the clubfitting business
I appreciate any light you can shed on this problem

Thank you for the kind comments about the column.
Your question turned into three questions very quickly and I will try to answer them all together.
Many golfers believe that, the more they pay for something the better it is. This may be the case in other walks of life but not necessarily in golf. If the performance differences between a really expensive shaft and the high'end standard, provided by the OEM are not noticeable then it doesnt make too much sense to go for the very expensive component unless it feeds your ego.
None of the major manufacturers would assemble their high'end clubs with a shaft, which did not compliment the club. After many years of experience, reputable manufacturers have found that certain shaft properties work well for the majority of golfers. As a club maker, you of all people should be able to detect minor differences in performance between shafts. Trust what you know and feel because in this case you are right.
For some very picky golfers, there are a variety of shaft types, offered by the manufacturer, from which he or she can choose when ordering their new set. When I say picky I mean a golfer who knows the differences in performance ' or thinks he knows the difference. Manufacturers do get volume discounts but nowhere near the difference between what they pay for a good shaft and what the expensive components cost
The very best golfers can detect very small differences in shaft properties, which may affect their performance but these golfers play golf for a living and need to tweak their equipment every now and again. In some cases they tweak for the sake of tweaking or use bad days as an excuse to make changes.
Most of us are unable to tell the difference between a $30 shaft and a $300 shaft other than by looking at the price tag. However, buying the most expensive product often makes us feel good and feeling good always helps the psyche. If you believe strongly that something new will help then it probably will as long as it is not too far from the norm ' the placebo effect.
It has taken us about 400 years ' through the evolutionary process ' to arrive at a point where the combination of shaft flex, length and head weight really work well. New materials dont change this much and the standard equipment is very good for 90% of us, however it is important to select the correct shaft flex.
Dont get suckered into buying distance because there is not much more of it available, no matter what some ads claim. Steve I hope this helps

More Distance From Your Irons

Like so many others I have truly enjoyed Just Hit It and always look forward to your weekly e'mail. I appreciate your contributions to the game.
The question I have is this:
While I usually get pretty good distance from my driver and woods (230 yards average for the driver and about 200 for my three wood), my iron distance is, proportionally, not as good, say 135'140 for a 7 iron. At the age of 65 and playing for only six years I feel I need every advantage I can get. So I lengthened my irons by about an inch and now find Ive added some distance to them and also have the option to choke down for more control when needed.
It seems to work, but I wonder if I should have been satisfied with the shorter distance. Lengthening the irons almost works like having an extra club or two in the bag.
What do you think?
' Bill

Thanks for the kind comments and I am pleased you enjoyed the book Just Hit It.
In lengthening your irons, about an inch you have done several things:
First, you will be getting a little increase in head speed, which will give you at least 5 to 10 more yards. You have also increased the swing weight about six points, which will make the club feel a little heavier and slow your swing a little as the MOI (Moment of Inertia) of the club as a whole ' when swinging about the grip axis ' has increased. All of this assumes you used the same heads and did not remove any weight by grinding them down or drilling holes in the head ' not recommended but you dont know what to expect when a GET (Golf'Equipment'Tweaker) gets a drill in his hands or has access to a grinding wheel.
Second, you have decreased the stiffness of the shaft, assuming you used the same shaft type. The combination of this and the fact that the shaft is one inch longer than the original club will make the club feel different.
Normally the manufacturer would make a six iron about 37.5 inches long, with a loft of about 30 degrees and a swing weight about D0 to D2. You, however, now have a 38.5'inch six'iron with a loft of 30 degrees and a swing weight of D6 or so, and a shaft stiffness approaching an R'flex if the original was an S'flex.
The lie angle ' assuming no adjustment is made ' will be a little more upright than the new length calls for and so you will be tending to draw the ball slightly more than usual. If you choke down an inch then you will have the original specs and it should perform in a similar manner to the original.
Yes, you do have the flexibility of choking down but I dont think that it is worth the effort to install an extra length shaft, because when you grip it properly, everything gets a little out of whack and you have in essence a dysfunctional club. Manufacturers have ' in the most part ' taken care of the variables of length, lie, effective stiffness, and weight for the clubs in your set.
So, my advice is, if you are not getting the distance you like out of your six'iron then; a) go to the gym and become more flexible and/or b) take out you five and then Just Hit It.
Hope this helps

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Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to helping golfers. Frank is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. 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
Frank Thomas