A Magic Shaft


Dear Frank,

Perhaps you can help me. I recently played in a tournament with two senior golfers my age who carry the same handicap as I do (3.0 index). They both had a new stiff shaft (for purposes here, let's call them XYZ) in their drivers and were constantly hitting their drives 30 to 40 yards farther than me. Last year we all hit our drives within 10 yards of each other.

Do shafts really make that much of a difference? Are there any other shafts on today's market that have the same driving performance as the XYZ, but don't cost the $300 to $350 that the these shafts do? 

Thanks for your help.     

– Bob
If you believe in magic, and that a new shaft is going to help, it probably will. The question is how long will the magic last? The pros have access to the XYZ shafts – and don’t even have to pay for these very expensive, quality shafts – but we have not seen any significant difference in driving distance because of differences in shaft properties.

An expensive shaft may be more consistent in its bending and twisting properties, but selecting one which is made to these rigid specifications is like tuning your car’s suspension and balancing your tires for a 300 mph ride when the engine can only push it to 90 mph. Even the pros find it difficult to decipher any difference in performance in these high quality shafts. Surely, there must be a difference if the shaft is so expensive?

There is nothing inherent in the basic properties of a shaft – the characteristics of which have taken us nearly 400 years to perfect and are now made of advanced materials – which will make any significant difference in performance. The wrong shaft flex or other properties in combination with the wrong head for a specific golfer –i.e., incorrectly fitted – will be a problem, but the right shaft does not have to cost very much and in most cases is included in a standard or even ‘customized/standard’ set.

Bob, I believe that your friends – if the increase in their distance is real and lasting – may be launching the ball more efficiently than you are, assuming you all have the same swing speed. These differences in launch conditions may have nothing to do with the XYZ shaft itself, but purely a more efficient fit, which has nothing to do with any magic properties of a very expensive shaft.

I suggest that you find a reliable launch monitor to check your swing speed and launch conditions and use standard shafts – there are many brands which in almost all cases have a wide range of specific bending and twisting properties – to optimize your launch angle and spin rate.

Frank Thomas logo Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas 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 email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
Frank Thomas