by Dominic Choma, Club Fitter
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A topic that almost always provokes debate is the importance of finding the correct shaft when choosing a golf club. This debate is caused by the multitude of differing opinions and theories on the shafts relationship with the flight of a golf ball. Because of this, there are many misconceptions that are out there on the importance of the shaft and how it can affect performance. Unfortunately, these misconceptions lead to golfers making poor choices when purchasing new clubs without being properly fit for those clubs.
The main misconception that I hear from many golfers is that the shaft is the “most important” part of the golf club when it comes to determining the launch angle and spin rate of a golf ball. A big reason for this is that most shafts are labeled as producing a certain launch angle and spin rate, and while this can be helpful, it can also be misleading.
Now I don’t want it to sound like I am saying that the shaft is not an important piece of the puzzle when choosing the correct golf club for a player, because it is very important. In some cases, the correct shaft can transform a club from a mediocre to poor fit into a great fit for the player. What I want to do is discuss what I personally look for when I am trying to determine the correct shaft for a customer, and how launch angle and spin rate fall on the list of variables that I am looking at. To help prove this point, I also have hit a few shots with 5 different shafts that are on different ends of the spectrum of launch angle and spin rate.
The shafts that I used for this test are the Ping Alta CB Graphite Soft Regular Flex, the True Temper XP 95 r300 (Regular) and s300 (Stiff Flex), and the True Temper Dynamic Gold R300 (Regular) and x100 (Extra Stiff). I chose these 5 shafts as they allow us to take a look as different flexes, weights, and profiles and to see how each of these factors might affect the ball flight. The Alta CB Soft Regular is a 66-gram graphite shaft, making it the lightest and softest shaft in our test. It is labeled as a mid/high launching shaft and a mid/high spinning shaft. The XP 95 shaft from True Temper is a lightweight steel shaft that is designed to produce a high launch angle and overall ball fight. The r300 flex weights 93 grams, and the s300 flex weighs 95 grams which puts this shaft in the middle of our test. Based on the flex and weight of this shaft it in theory should produce a ball flight in the middle of our other 2 options. Finally, we have the Dynamic Gold from True Temper, which is a heavy weight steel shaft. The r300 flex weighs 127 grams while the x100 weighs 130 grams. This shaft is significantly heavier than the other 2 shafts being tested, and in theory it should provide us with the lowest ball flight in terms of launch angle and spin rate. I used the Ping iBlade clubhead for this test, which has a loft of 34 degrees. Results are below:
|Club Speed||Ball Speed||Launch Angle||Spin Rate||Peak Height||Landing Angle||Carry|
|XP 95 S300||93.6||127.1||14.1||7962||93||46.9||175.3|
|XP 95 R300||94||129.7||14.5||7820||100||48.3||179.6|
|Alta CB SR||93.9||129.4||14.2||7566||98||47.6||179.9|
Looking at the numbers as a whole, we see that changing the shaft did not make a significant difference in terms of launch angle and spin rate. Despite the fact that the shafts chosen for this test are all different in flex, weight, and bend profiles we can see that there was only a .9 degree difference between the highest and lowest launching shaft, and there was only a 445 rpm difference between the highest and lowest spinning shaft. Generally, if I am looking to make a significant change to either one of those numbers, I am looking for a bigger change than what is shown in this data sample. Another interesting note is that there is not a major correlation between shaft flex and launch characteristics. Conventional wisdom would say that the softer the shaft, the higher it will launch and spin. What my test shows is the softest and lightest shaft, the Alta CB Soft Regular, was one of the lowest launching and spinning shafts in this test, providing the 2nd lowest peak height of the 5 shafts that we tested. There are a few factors that are causing this, with the main reason being that this shaft is easily the worst fit of the 5 for my swing. The weight of the Alta CB was way too light for my swing, and the shaft had way too much flex which caused me to be more inconsistent with the Alta CB. My miss with this shaft tended to be left, which caused the launch angle and spin rate to come down slightly. Essentially what we are seeing here is that despite using shafts that, in theory, should produce significantly different launch conditions, there was not a major difference in launch angle and spin rate between the different shafts used for this test. There are other factors that one should be looking at when choosing a shaft.
So, if launch angle and spin rate are not the biggest factors in determining the correct shaft for your swing, what is? We like to say that the shaft is a delivery mechanism for the player, as the shaft is your connection to the clubhead. Having the proper shaft will allow the player to make solid contact more often, which will aid in consistency. I have found that the weight of the shaft tends to be the most important factor in my fittings, followed by the flex of the shaft, and finally the bend profile tends to be the 3rd factor that I look at. This can all be player dependent of course, but this is typically the order that I use. Finding the proper weight and flex for a golfer’s swing and tempo will allow the shaft to load and unload properly without the player having to make compensations in their golf swing. Any time a player is making compensations due to their equipment, they will be leaving something on the table in terms of performance. Once we find the right weight and flex for the player, adjusting the profile of the shaft can help to make minor tweaks to the ball flight, and also to the feel of the shaft to the player. Fitting for shaft can be complicated because there are many factors involved, some that can be quantified and some that are subjective. I believe fitting for shaft is as much of an art as it is a science, and going to qualified fitter is the best way to make sure that you get the right shaft for your game.
The shaft of a golf club can be a controversial topic, being that there are many differing theories and ideas. Because of this there is a lot of confusion on what the shaft does in the golf swing, and what factors are most important when choosing the right shaft for your game. The goal of this post was to help clarify what factors are important when picking a shaft, with the hope of helping golfers to think about the factors that will have the biggest impact on their scores. If there are any questions after reading this, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.