QA The Truth About Shafts

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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
 
Frank,
After reading your September 26, 2006 feature on finding the proper shaft, I'm still a little confused. I'm looking at the Titleist 905R driver, which has four standard shafts offered, Aldila NV 65, Speeder by Fujikura, UST Proforce V2 75 and graphite Design YS-6+. You stated in the feature that 90% of all golfers, which would include me, would be okay with the standard shafts offered by the manufacturer. Being a 12 handicap and currently using a R-flex shaft in the 50-60 grams level on my current Titleist 585D, I am looking for a higher launch with low spin. Some of the standard shafts above mention high or medium spin. Should I then rule out those standard shaft options?
 
Can I get a very lightweight shaft that can indeed help me with the higher launch and low spin? Should I get a higher loft, say 12 degrees rather than the 10.5 that I currently have? At 56 years old, I'm not only looking for more distance, but more carry and accuracy. I know how important finding the right shaft is and I'm sure that others have the same questions.
Jim Fujioka, HI

 
Jim,
First you are right about the four different shafts offered as available 'stock' shafts. Some of these are better suited to the better golfer and are not what I would call a 'standard shaft', so let me try to guide you through this maze of shaft options if I can.
 
The weight of the shaft will not affect the launch angle but the shaft flex and face loft will. There are high and low kick points in a shaft which will also affect ball flight and spin. The low kick point (same flex shaft) on an otherwise similar lofted head will tend to increase the launch angle and increase the spin. The high kick point will generally do the opposite, i.e. lower the flight and decrease the spin. These are relatively small increments compared to the effect of changing the overall shaft flex and club loft.
 
So if you need to change your ball trajectory and you are not a low single-digit handicap golfer, and hitting the ball consistently, the first suggestion is to work with club loft. The higher loft will launch the ball higher and add more spin.
 
Next, and seeing you are a Titleist man, I would suggest you skip the four 'stock' shaft options and go for the 'standard' Titleist 4560 which is very good for 90% of us. Look at the different flexes of the standard Titleist 4560 shafts offered. Most important is to select a flex X, S, R, or other, which will best suit your swing speed and swing type. For example; if your swing speed is about 85 - 90 then an R-flex should be your first choice. But it must also feel comfortable for you and only you can make this determination.
 
If these options don't seem to do the trick then, and only then, start a search for a specialized shaft. You may also want to try a different ball type, which has different launch conditions and acts in concert with the club head type.
 
Titleist offers 54 different shafts so the 'Techies' can do their thing.
 
The reason why so many shafts are being offered is to allow a golfer who loves to tinker or believes that, 'a different shaft will work wonders' or that 'If the pros are using them then they must work for me' to have fun doing his thing. If, however, you have a swing like the pros then you can work with the fine-tuning that some of the exotic shafts may have to offer.
 
For most of us, messing with these (sometimes very expensive) shafts may make us feel good but might not have any real effect on our game.
 
The only golfers who are in a position to really take advantage of the various options are the very good single-digit handicap golfers or those who hit the ball very consistently and need to tweak their trajectory. These golfers hit the ball regularly on the sweet spot and are looking for a ball flight, which the combination of club loft, c.g. location and overall shaft flex will not provide.
 
So, Jim, I recommend that you select a head design that looks good to you with the appropriate loft followed by the correct shaft flex X,S, or R standard shaft (in the case of Titleist the 4560 is very good).
 
As a last resort only, go to a shaft with a different flex point, weight and torsional properties. When you get to this point you had better be hitting the ball consistently otherwise the journey to fine tuning the club would have been a waste of time.
 
This doesn't mean that the final product you come up with, working all the variables, will not perform as well as a standard shaft but it does mean that the odds that it will be better than a standard shaft of the correct flex are slim and also you will spend a lot of time and money getting there.
 
Specialized customizing has done wonders for a number of people who have gone through the process and therefore believe that they have the perfect fit. Knowing that our equipment is right for us and having this belief is very important and does wonders for our game.
 
I play golf about once a week. I am about an 8 handicap. My average score is in the 70's. I hit my 45 degree PW about 125-130, with the mid 120's being ptimal. In this set I hit my 9 iron (full) in the mid 140's.
 
My driver carry is approx. 250+. I can hit it 290 on some holes, less on others depending on the hole design. My irons have stiff shafts.
 
Here is my question. I can hit my three iron and four iron. BUT, I find that after I play more and more holes, my swing gets more and more tired, and late in the day it is much, much, harder to hit those two clubs. I hit them better off the tee than the ground. This is not the case with any other club.
 
Would it be smart, to change out the Stiff flex in the three and four iron to a regular flex? Would this allow me to swing in a more controlled fashion and still benefit from the clubs?
 
Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks,
Mike Dugger

 
Mike,
If you get tired toward the end of the round, then this probably means that some strength and flexibility exercises are in order and will probably help. You may also need to work on increasing your stamina. Walking three or more miles a day at a reasonable speed will soon get you in good shape for your golf and your general quality of life will also improve. Check with your doctor before you get into any exercise regimen.
 
The three iron is the first to go wrong when you get tired. But you may find you have a rogue club in your set, so check the frequencies. If these are not all progressing evenly throughout the set then this may be another problem. As the shafts (clubs) get shorter the frequency should increase from club to club.
 
Also you should recognize that even the pros are going to hybrids replacing the long irons. So don't feel bad about dumping the long irons for hybrids.
 
More flexible shafts in your irons as well as converting to graphite is not a bad idea but I would suggest the exercise thing as a good first step followed by the hybrid substitution for the three and four iron.
 
Frank, you're the best. I've developed a fade that's driving me crazy. I just hate that ball flight. Is my shaft too stiff or vice versa? I hit the same shot with several different drivers, all stiff, 8.5 to 9.5 loft. I just can't figure it out.
Thanks.
Henry Carnes

 
Henry,
The slice can be due to a couple of things. Yes, one reason could be the stiff shaft but generally this would result in more of a push fade than a bad slice. Second and most probably the cause is in your swing: I would get a good teacher to look at your swing and correct the error if this is the cause, which should be reasonably evident.
 
A more flexible shaft will tend to hit the ball a little higher and farther left than a stiff shaft which will tend to hit the ball a little lower and right. A bad slice is almost always a swing that has gone wrong so find a good teacher to look at what you are doing and make the corrections if this is the problem. It will generally be a lot less expensive than messing with equipment to correct the flaw.
 
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