QA Graphite Shafts Ball Quality

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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 letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank:
Ive heard that some players on tour use graphite shafts in their irons. Do they also use them in their wedges for a uniform feel, or do they use steel in the wedges? If they do use graphite, with people going to four wedges, do they use them in all four wedges or leave steel in their sand and lob wedges?
Thanks in advance,
P.S.

 
Dear PS:
There are a few pros on Tour using graphite in their irons, and I think this will gradually increase in number as the graphite shafts come to feel more like steel at their high swing speeds. For those of us with slower swing speeds than the pros, many companies offer graphite in their irons and wedges. If youre going to have graphite in your irons, then theres no reason not to have them in your wedges as well. Even though the wedges -- especially the sand wedge -- may be considered utility clubs, you want them to feel the same as the rest of your set unless you do something very different in your swing with this wedge. If you ever use your sand wedge for an approach shot from the fairway or rough, you dont want that swing to feel different from your other irons, do you? Theres enough to be concerned about in golf without adding that kind of complication. As long as you have the option, put similar shafts into your wedges as you do in the rest of your iron set. To find out more about wedges, click here
 
Hi, Frank ' I enjoy your column and never miss it!
I play to a seven handicap and Ive dabbled in golf clubmaking for fun and enjoyment. Ive assembled many clubs, from wedges to drivers, and understand the basics about shaft flex, torque, and flex point.
 
I have had my swing speed measured numerous times with numerous different devices, and I consistently register between 103 and 107 mph with a normal driver swing. As a result, for as long as I can remember, I assembled all of my clubs to stiff shaft specifications.
 
Recently, I went to my local golf store and tested the Nike SQ driver. I took two 10.5-degree drivers to my local driving range -- one with a regular shaft and one with a stiff shaft. Both were the stock Diamana shaft. At the driving range, I disguised the two clubs and tried to test them to see which one I hit better, without knowing which club was which. To my surprise, while both clubs launched the ball higher than Im used to, the regular-shafted club felt a little better and I tended to hit it straighter. In addition, judging from what I could see, the three longest drives also came from the club with the R flex.
 
Now to my question: Have I been playing the wrong shaft flex all these years? Is it possible the specifications that shaft manufacturers publish do not apply to my swing? I am considering spending $50 to go to a shaft lab at my local golf shop to get fitted ' is that money well spent?
 
Sincerely
Jim

 
Jim,
I think you have already done the lab thing for yourself, so you dont need to spend the $50.
 
If youre getting better distance with more control -- and most of all, it feels better than the stiff flex shaft -- then the R-flex is for you. At your skill level you are the real judge, so dont worry about what the guidelines are.
 
You are right, however, about flex standards: There arent any. There are general flex guidelines as defined by each manufacturer, and these are fairly close but are not necessarily the same. So one companys Stiff may be anothers Regular.
 
Shafts with lower flex points will feel different to those with higher flex points, even though theyre considered the same flex and they bend the same amount when measured at the end where the weight is positioned. This is an element of advanced club-fitting, but most of us should first try the standard shafts offered, changing only the shaft flex. As a guideline (and only that), the faster you load the shaft the stiffer it should be. An established manufacturer would not install the standard shaft if it wasnt going to make the club perform well for most of us as long as we are using the correct general flex.
 
A more detailed fitting process can be good, but will only confirm what you feel. Dont chase distance if it means forgoing comfort and feel. If the club feels good you will develop confidence and in most cases make a better swing. This will lead to better performance and then all will be well ' at least until you start listening to those little voices that try to tell you what to avoid doing while addressing the ball or on our backswing. Go with what you feel, not what someone tells you what you feel.
 
Hi Frank,
 
I received a gadget for Xmas that's supposed to find the sweet spot on the ball. It spins the ball around at high speed, and you mark the equator. Hitting or putting the ball along the equator is supposed to make it go straighter. It also claims Ill get more distance on tee shots. Do you have any thoughts about this product and/or any research?
 
Thanks,
Mark

 
Mark,
Many years ago, when the manufacturers quality control for balls was not as good as it is today, it was a good idea to sort the balls by floating them in a cup of salt water (add enough salt to be sure the ball floats enough to have a little of it above the water level), marking the spot that was exposed above the water. This would be the point underneath the heavy side of the ball, which goes to the bottom as the ball floats. Youd then give the ball a spin and let it settle again; if you found the same spot rising above the surface quickly every time, you knew the ball was of balance. To compensate for this, you were supposed to make sure that when you putted the ball, this spot was pointing vertically upward. Otherwise, the ball would veer off line because of the inconsistencies in the ball's balance. You could actually see this slight swerve if you positioned the marked point to the side of the ball and then putted on a billiard table, which was sometimes used to demonstrate this phenomenon.
 
Today, however, the major well-known balls you buy from any pro shop are of much better quality, and you wont see any swerving no matter how you position the ball, so you don't have to worry about this any more.
 
If, however, you want to be perfectly sure that its you who is making the mistakes on the green and not the manufacturers of an unbalanced ball, no matter how slight the imperfection, then do your thing and putt it as instructed.
 
But before you do this kind of marking, consider the psychological effect it will have on you if you look down at the ball in the fairway and find that the spot is not sitting on top. Are you going to try to factor this supposed weight difference into your aim and swing, while also calculating distance, wind, and lie? You might have to close your eyes and hit it, or maybe violate a rule or two. The extent to which this will bother you is much larger than the margin of imperfection youre going to find in todays golf balls.
 
Frankly speaking, I wouldnt lose too much sleep over this potential problem unless youre buying some really inexpensive balls on special from the grocery store.
 
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank 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