QA Little White Lies about Lofts

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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@thegolfchannel.com
 
Mr. Thomas;
I have heard that the stated loft on a driver will play 1 1/2 degrees weaker. Is this true and would you please elaborate?
Thank you,
John

 
John,
In general, how a club will play depends on the golfer and his/her swing; your angle of approach to the ball can influence the effective loft. But I suspect you're asking about something more specific.
 
It is true that, five or more years ago, the lofts on some drivers were at least 1 degree more than what was stamped on the sole. This was done only on the higher lofted drivers, e.g. 11 degrees or so. The reason was that even though a large number of golfers would benefit from a 12-degree lofted driver, they wouldn't buy one, believing that 'real golfers don't use 12-degree lofted drivers.'
 
To help these golfers get past their ego problem and improve their performance, some manufacturers put a little white lie on their clubs, building in 12 degrees of loft but stamping them with 11. I am pleased to say that this is rarely the case today, because we've gotten smarter as golfers and have come to accept that loft is one of our best friends. We have at last recognized that lofts on driving clubs can be as much as 15 degrees to approach optimum launch condition for slower swing speeds. As a result, manufacturers don't have to be as naughty when stamping the lofts on the sole of clubs.
 

Hi Frank,
I am in the process of custom fitting my clubs and was wondering about shafts. If I find a shaft that is well suited to me for my driver, should I use this for my woods and hybrids as well? Or should every club be fitted individually?
Thanks,
Michael, Canada

 
Michael,
Finding the right shaft, if that is your mission, can be quite a chore. I suggest that you go with standard shafts and change only the flex rating. Rather than fiddling with the shaft for every single club, for the sake of consistency (which is reasonably important) you should group them by type. Put the same shaft in all your woods; you may find that these also work for the hybrids, but try it out first.
 
The irons (what is left of them after you've substituted with your hybrids) also need to be checked separately, but there's no reason you'd need a different shaft for your six-iron as opposed to a nine-iron.
 
You may well find that the same shaft flex and material will work for you on all types of clubs; I'm only suggesting you check to make sure.
 
Today's wood shafts are usually graphite, hybrids are either graphite or steel and irons are steel. The golfer in need of a little help could go with graphite for the entire set.
 

Hi Frank,
I'm having a problem getting around on my new TaylorMade R7 425 driver, and I don't have this problem with other clubs. Sometimes I hit a hybrid off the tee and can get up to 200 yards using that club, but when I put the driver in my hands it feels uncomfortable. Would it be OK to cut it down to 44 inches, or would that change the performance of the club?
Thanks,
Tom

 
Tom,
I hope I understand what you mean by 'having a problem getting around.' I assume this means bringing the club from the top of the backswing to impact, rather than closing the face at impact.
 
If it is the former, then you can test the feel of a shorter club by choking down on the driver grip by about 1 inch or more and hitting a number of balls on the driving range. The grip in this lower gripping position will be a little smaller, but you'll get a general feeling of how the shorter club will work.
 
If you're talking about having a problem closing the face into impact, then I recommend you try moving as much weight as possible to the heel weight ports by inserting the heavier weight plugs. This is an advantage of this type of club design.
 
If my first assumption is correct and you like what you feel, then cut the inch off the club and go for it. If that doesn't solve the problem, you can try adding the heel weights next. Good luck.
 
Frank 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@thegolfchannel.com