QA Finding the Proper Shaft

By Frank ThomasSeptember 26, 2006, 4:00 pm
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
 
OK, I love the ads with Vijay Singh hitting that new HiBore driver. Sometimes we get to try that new club at a demo day or we're maybe lucky enough to have demo drivers and irons at our club. But when it comes time to order that new wonderful driver, fairway wood or hybrid, I'm lost when it comes to ordering a shaft to match my game.
 
And let's be honest, most of us 15-handicappers don't know how to judge what the best shaft is. Kick points, flex, and all the rest are beyond us. When I looked at all the possible shafts offered by Cleveland when ordering a HiBore I became confused. We all want to hit the ball 300 yards, but at 62 I'm more interested in hitting it onto the short grass. I think the proper shaft will help me do that.
 
Can you shed some light on what to look for in ordering the proper shaft? -- James Houle

 
James,
I agree that with so many shafts available, most golfers can barely figure out what the differences are, never mind figuring out how to make a decision about them. I think that for the Cleveland Launcher Ti460 driver there are about 17 different types of shafts. Let's be Frank about this: The standard shaft works beautifully for 90% of all golfers, and Cleveland wouldn't offer it if they didn't believe it provides outstanding performance. The other options are for those relatively few golfers who know exactly what they want. The standard shaft is great and I recommend you go for it, and get the R-flex rather the Stiff unless you have a fast swing speed.
 
When you get your handicap down to scratch or better and would like to tweak your flight trajectory, that's the time to start getting fancy with different weights, torques, 'kick points,' etc. It's not that those other shafts aren't good, but it's like choosing between a Honda Accord and a Maserati: unless you're so highly skilled that you're looking for super-high performance, something simple and standard will get you where you want to go just fine. We've had 400 years for golfers to find out what flex and shaft bend pattern is good. Messing with this is not going to help unless we know exactly where on the face we hit the ball time after time after time, and precisely how we would like to work the ball.
 
Frank: I have heard several tour pros, Lee Trevino, and noted instructors talk about how spin is imparted to a golf ball. They talk about the ball 'climbing' up the face of the wedge. I worked with a major golf manufacturer in the 90s and the R & D guys told me that this is not the case, that the ball is on the face for a fraction of a second and does not climb up the face. Who is telling the truth? -- Bill in Dublin OH.
 
Bill,
The ball stays on the face for about .0005 of a second, depending on the speed and the obliqueness of impact. The ball actually starts to slip on first contact, but not for long, and then it sticks to the club's face as its elastic core deforms along with the cover. The amount of deformation depends on the speed of impact. The cover deforms and recovers, and this is what mostly produces spin, especially off the high-lofted irons such as wedges. During the recovery phase, the ball does roll up the face very slightly, though even in ultra-slow-motion it is not obvious because of the deformation. It's probably an exaggeration to say the ball 'climbs.' Hope this resolves the issue.
 
Frank,
l find your answers to the questions sent to you to be understandable and educational. I would like to ask you a question about shaft flex: How do you know what shaft you should have in your set?
 
I have heard people on the Golf Channel mention that you need to feel the head of the club through the swing. With my own set of Top Flites I have a stiff shaft. When I'm swinging these clubs I get great feel from where I hit the ball -- whether it's on the toe, heel or sweet spot -- but I really don't feel the head of the club during the swing. I have tried some of my friends' equipment with regular shafts. When I swing these clubs, the club feels like it's bending in two and the head feels like it's way behind my hands through the swing.
 
My question, I guess, is to ask if this is the feeling I ought to have during the swing, or does this indicate these clubs are too flexible for my shaft loading/swing speed? For some background on my swing speed, I get about 235-245 yards of carry with my driver. -- Rob Marson

 
Rob,
In general, the shaft flex should be such that you aren't fighting the club and having to swing really hard to get it to perform. In selecting a shaft, you should start at the most flexible and move toward the stiff range rather than the other way round. Most of us use shafts that are too stiff.
 
On the other hand, if it's too flexible then you'll lose a little control and the ball flight will tend to turn left on you.
 
Feeling where impact was on the face is not what we mean when we talk about feeling the clubhead throughout the swing. That only tells you what happened at impact, and it tells you long after the ball has left and too late for you to do anything about it. A more flexible shaft will help you time your swing more effectively and provide a little feedback during the swing. The best way to find out which shaft flex suits YOU best is the old-fashioned trial and error method. Only you really know what YOU feel.
 
When I'm advising beginners who don't know what to expect from their swings, I tell them the rule of thumb is to start with a regular flex if you are a male or a L-flex if you are a female. Once they get things going and have a general idea of where the ball is going, then they should start experimenting with different flexes. If you're getting 235-245 yards of carry from your stiff-shafted driver, are hitting the ball reasonably straight, and feel far too much bend when you swing an R flex, I'd say you've probably got the right shaft for your swing.
 
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
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Casey (62) opens up four-shot lead at Travelers

By Nick MentaJune 23, 2018, 9:48 pm

On the strength of an 8-under 62, Paul Casey will take a four-shot lead into the final round of the Travelers Championship. Here’s where things stand through three rounds outside Hartford.

Leaderboard: Casey (-16), Russell Henley (-12), J.B. Holmes (-11), Anirban Lahiri (-11), Brian Harman (-11)

What it means: Casey is hunting his third PGA Tour victory and his second this season. The Englishman went nine years between Tour titles and racked up a number of near-misses after dedicating himself to a full-time U.S. schedule in 2015. He finally broke through earlier this year at the Valspar, edging a resurgent Tiger Woods, and now looks to further kick down a finally open door. TPC River Highlands is a gettable golf course, and notable names like Day, Watson and DeChambeau lurk at 10 under, but the field may need some help from Casey, who has separated himself through 54 holes.  

Round of the day: Casey fired the round of the week with six birdies and an eagle at the short par-4 15th. He leads the tournament in birdies made with six in each round for 18 total. He has hit each of his last 23 greens in regulation.

Best of the rest: Jaime Lovemark signed for a 6-under 64 highlighted by an eagle at 15. He enters Sunday tied for 11th, hunting his fourth top-10 finish of the season.

Biggest disappointment: While Casey was ripping up the course, four of the top seven players in the Official World Golf Ranking - Rory McIlroy (69), Brooks Koepka (69), Justin Thomas (70) and Jordan Spieth (71) - combined to shoot 1 under par Saturday. .

Shot of the day: James Hahn’s slam-dunk ace from 154 yards at the par-3 11th.

After a 3-over front nine, Hahn closed in 29 on the back for a ho-hum 67.

Quote of the day: "That's something I rarely see from me, 18 greens in regulation. So whatever he told me worked" - Casey on his work with his swing coach, Peter Kostis

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Watch: Hahn slam-dunks ace on 11th hole

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:20 pm

There are aces, and there are slam-dunk aces. No question which one this one by James Hahn on the 154-yard 11th hole was.

It was Hahn's first ace on the PGA Tour.

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Els' nephew Rebula wins Amateur Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:05 pm

Ernie Els is one proud uncle.

His nephew, Jovan Rebula, won the Amateur Championship on Saturday at Royal Aberdeen to become the first South African to capture the title since Bobby Cole in 1966.

Rebula, a junior at Auburn, will join his famous uncle in Carnoustie next month for The Open. He also will get invites to the 2019 Masters and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Rebula defeated Ireland's Robin Dawson, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole final.

"It’s unreal," Rebula said. "It’s really something that is hard to describe. I feel like many have been in this position before but it’s an unreal feeling. It hasn’t sunk in quite yet but hopefully tomorrow morning I can wake up and I will feel a little different."

Rebula received plenty of texts from Els throughout the week, and the encouragement paid off. Rebula opened a 1-up lead after 18 holes, and he extended his advantage by winning the 26th and 27th holes. He was 5 up with six to play before finally closing out Dawson on the 16th hole with an up-and-down from the bunker.

"It’s been a long week and especially today," Rebula said. "I should have finished maybe a couple of holes earlier, but it’s been awesome. A very tiring week. I’m standing here right now and there’s so much adrenaline pumping through me."

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Squirrel gets Rory's round off to a rocky start

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 6:42 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy’s third round at the Travelers Championship got off to a peculiar start before he even hit a shot.

McIlroy had just been introduced on the first tee at TPC River Highlands and was ready to unload on his opening drive of the day when a squirrel ran across the tee box a few feet in front of him.

McIlroy stopped his swing and laughed it off, but the squirrel continued to linger for several seconds, criss-crossing from one side of the packed tee box to the other. And while this was no black cat, the pump-fake to start his round didn’t exactly help the Ulsterman.

McIlroy ultimately blocked his drive into the right rough after enduring his brief rodent delay en route to an opening bogey, and amid soft conditions at TPC River Highlands he played his first five holes in 2 over. McIlroy started the day at 7 under, three shots behind leader Brian Harman.