Friday, December 14, 2012

PGA driving distance and accuracy in the past 10 years

One would think there have been vast improvements in both these areas due to the equipment improvements/advancements we constantly hear on TV or read in Golf Publications. The big 3 golf companies promise us 10 more yards and more fairways hit every year it seems. However, if you look at the graph below, you will see the top ten longest hitting players on the PGA Tour have only gained 3.79 yards compared to the top 10 players from 10 years ago.
Driving accuracy has went the other way. 10 years ago, the top 10 most accurate golfers on the PGA Tour were hitting 4.78% more fairways then the top 10 players in 2012. This certainly doesn't seem right with all the adjustable drivers on the market today which allows for face angle adjustments which should help the golfer keep the ball on the fairway.
So why no big improvements in these areas contrary to what we are constantly promised by the Big 3 Marketing Departments? Because the rule-making bodies intentionally intended to limit golf club performance in these specific areas. The COR limits (how lively the face can be) were implimented 1/1/2003 and the 460cc rule went into effect 1/1/2004. So no driver since these dates can have a COR higher then .830 or be larger then 460cc. In other words, the actual driver heads themselves for 2013 can't possibly hit the ball any farther because the faces on these new driver heads can only be so "hot"....830 COR. But if a golfer does acquire a new driver that out performs their old driver, it has nothing to do with actual technology of the head itself (remember all that can be done has been done). The new driver performs better because it is a better "FIT" compared to their old driver's specs regarding loft, length, face angle, total weight, swing weight/MOI, shaft flex and shaft bend profile for that particular golfer's size, strength, athletic ability, and swing characteristics. So if you are looking to hit the ball longer and straighter, providing your current driver clubhead has the correct loft and face angle for your swing characteristics, a properly fit shaft may be all that is needed. Til next time...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Swing Type Plays a Huge Role in Club Fitting

From the desk of Tom Wishon: I feel like the quick answer to this question has to start by saying. . . . DUH!! Clubfitting is and always will be about tailoring the specifications of each golf club so they best match the various swing characteristics of each different golfer. Next time you head to the driving range when most of the hitting stations are in use, stop and look at the differences in how all the different golfers swing at the ball. Inside-out/square/outside-in swing path – fast/medium/slow swing speed – hitting down/swinging level/hitting up on the ball – forceful, aggressive to average to smooth, slower swing tempo – slice/straight/hook the ball – push/straight/pull the ball – early/midway and late release . . . And on and on. The vast differences in how golfers swing at the ball all translate into a requirement for different Clubfitting specifications for the golfers. This is precisely why the golf industry’s typical business model to build their golf clubs to one series of standard specifications for most of the fitting specifications is so utterly flawed. It is why so many golfers buy golf clubs off the rack and never achieve all they can be as a golfer. Now don’t get me wrong. Proper fitting is not likely to put you or me on the first tee of next year’s US Open. But it darn well can make the difference in whether a golfer plays to the best of his/her ability as well as how quickly a golfer can adapt to swing changes when they take lessons. Improperly fit clubs do get in the way of golfers being able to play their best. And not just a little. Let me tell you a few of the relationships between specific swing characteristics and proper fitting specifications: 1) Clubhead Speed: The clubhead speed is a critical part of shaft flex fitting. It is also an important element in determining what spacing of club lofts will deliver what amount of distance difference between clubs. Clubhead speed also affects the amount of backspin any golfer will achieve with any clubhead or shaft design. 2) Downswing Transition Force and Downswing Tempo: Golfers differ in how aggressively they start the downswing from very sudden/abrupt/forceful to very smooth/passive/gradual and all places in between. They also vary in their swing tempo from smooth/rhythmic to aggressive and in between. Downswing Transition force and the Tempo are major factors in choosing the right length, shaft weight, total weight, swingweight, shaft flex, shaft torque. 3) Point of Wrist-Cock Release: Golfers differ in when they start to unhinge the wrist cock angle from immediately after the downswing starts (early) to very late in the downswing (late) to also many different positions in between. The point of release is a big factor in choosing the right length, shaft flex, shaft bend profile, loft. 4) Swing Path: Again, you see golfers with swing path variations from very outside-in to square to very inside-out and paths in between. The swing path is a critical factor in determining the golfer’s best lengths and face angle for the woods and hybrids. 5) Angle of Attack: Whether the golfer swings downward, level or upward to the ball, the Angle of Attack is a key swing element in determining the best loft, best clubhead center of gravity design and clubhead sole design as well. So the next time you encounter a golfer who thinks he or she is not good enough to benefit from custom fitting, clue them into the fact that the more differences they have in their swing characteristics, the more fitting can step up to help them play better golf. And as always, to get the best clubs for your swing, work with a good, competent custom clubfitter – -Tom

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How Much Does Shaft Torque Affect Performance?

Shaft torque affects performance a little bit, but not nearly as much as does the shaft’s weight, overall stiffness design and bend profile design. And here’s why. The term “torque” is used to convey the relative, comparative amount that a shaft is designed to resist twisting in response to a specific force. If the Rules of Golf were to allow clubheads to be designed so that the shaft would attach directly in line with the clubhead’s center of gravity, shaft torque would be a non-issue. The reason is because what causes a shaft to twist is, 1) the downswing force of the golfer, 2) the fact that the shaft attaches on the very heel end of the clubhead, which means all the weight of the head sticks out in front of the shaft. With all the head’s weight sticking out there, under the force of the downswing that weight will elicit a twisting force on the shaft. The golf industry’s first experience with shaft torque came way back before the early 1900s when the predominant shaft material was hickory. Wooden shafts had very little resistance to twisting. In fact, a completely different swing technique was required to prevent wooden shafts from twisting too much during the swing. Golfers who are used to seeing torque measurements on today’s shafts between 2 and 5 degrees would be interested to hear that a typical hickory shaft has a torque of more than 20 degrees!! In fact, the biggest reason that steel shafts took over in the 1920s and wiped the hickory shaft off the face of the golf industry was their MUCH lower torque, which resulted in far more accuracy and control of the shot. The first steel shafts were much heavier than hickory shafts, but golfers were willing to deal with the downside of heavier golf clubs to get the far superior resistance to twisting that steel shafts brought with them. Next came the introduction of graphite and fiberglass shafts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Heralded as a huge break through because they were much lighter in weight than steel shafts, early graphite shafts failed to gain much of a foothold because their torques were over 10 degrees. The companies that introduced the first graphite shafts really did not know how to make their shafts with a lower degree of torque. As a result, the first graphite shafts could only be used by golfers with a smooth, passive, totally non-aggressive swing tempo. And this realization is what led to the industry learning just how shaft torque works, and what had to be done before graphite shafts could gain a much larger following. Because most of the weight of the clubhead protrudes out there well in front of the shaft, the moment the golfer begins the downswing, that force causes the clubhead to exert a twisting influence on the shaft. The greater the golfer’s downswing force, meaning the more abruptly and more aggressively the golfer starts the club down, the more of a twisting force the clubhead will exert on the shaft. At its worst, a very strong, aggressive swinging golfer using a shaft with a torque of 6 degrees and higher can see the ball fly with a severe, low hook. This is because that much torque does not provide enough resistance to the twisting force that a golfer with a strong transition move and aggressive downswing tempo will generate. The reason that torque is not much of a fitting factor today is because the shaft makers all design the torque of their shafts to fall in line with the flex. Shaft makers know that the faster the swing speed of the player, not always but quite often with that higher swing speed comes more twisting force on the shaft. Hence you rarely ever see S and X flex shafts with a torque higher than 4 degrees. And typically for the R, A and certainly L flex shafts, the shaft makers design the shafts with a higher degree of torque. This is because the slower swinger puts less twisting force on the shaft and thus the shaft does not need to have a lower torque.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Does the Price of the Shaft Ensure Better Shaft Performance?

In a word? No, the price of the shaft does not ensure that anything about the shaft will be better, whether you are talking the fit, the performance or the quality. Sad, but it is true. Over the past several years, a number of shaft companies have chosen to develop and market graphite shafts for woods which are VERY expensive. From the early 1980s when graphite shafts were first introduced until the mid 2000s, the most expensive graphite shafts cost in the area of $50 to $60. In almost every case, these were shafts which were manufactured to be very light in weight and with a very low torque measurement. Making a graphite shaft that weighs 65 grams or less and with under 3 degrees of torque costs more money because more expensive higher strength/higher modulus graphite fiber materials are required to get to that light of a weight with that low of a torque. But today, there are many shafts selling for $100, $200, $300 and even more which are of “normal weight” with a torque measurement in excess of 3 or 4 degrees. Why are there a number of shafts today being sold for such high prices? If you pay hundreds of dollars for a shaft, does that mean you will hit the ball farther, straighter or more consistently? There are FIVE elements in the design of a golf shaft which ordain every bit of its performance. Those elements are the, 1) Flex or overall stiffness of the shaft, 2) Bend Profile, otherwise known as how the stiffness is distributed over the length of the shaft, 3) Weight, which is important because the shaft’s weight controls the total weight of the whole club, 4) Torque, also known as the shaft’s resistance to twisting during the swing, and 5) the Weight Distribution, which is also referred to as the balance point of the shaft. At Bob Sailer Golf, I maintain a data base of shaft measurements for more than 2,000 different shafts. This data base is the core of the TWGT Shaft Bend Profile Software, a program which allows me to be able to make quantitative comparisons of shafts for the purpose of making better shaft fitting decisions for my customers. With this software program, it is possible to compare the design and production specifications of any shaft in the data base to any other shaft. In a nutshell, it is completely possible to find shafts which cost hundreds of dollars for which all of the performance elements are identical or so close to be considered identical in performance to shafts which cost less than $50. In all of Wishon's research, they simply cannot find any performance justification for the very high price charged for some shafts today. What makes a GOOD shaft is whether that shaft’s flex, bend profile, weight, torque and balance point are well matched to the golfer’s swing speed, point of wrist cock release and downswing force. There really is no such thing as a “bad shaft”; there are only poorly fit shafts and properly fit shafts. A properly fit shaft has no price guidelines or cost requirements attached to it. In order to find the right shaft for you, your clubhead/swing speed, downswing transition/tempo and point of wrist cock release has to be known. Then and only then will your shaft fitting needs be properly met.

Should I Use Graphite Shafts for Hybrids and Steel Shafts for Irons?

From the desk of Tom Wishon: Absolutely, and it is done all the time by tons of golfers. Industry statistics say that over 90% of all hybrids are sold with a graphite shaft, while only 30% of all irons are sold with graphite shafts. These trends most definitely say graphite is by the shaft of choice in hybrids while steel is the material of choice for iron shafts. But is that right? Since few hybrids are even offered by companies with steel shafts, if they were, would that make hybrids a better match to a set of steel shaft irons and thus offer a golfer a higher level of shotmaking consistency from hybrid to iron? As always with matters concerning the WEIGHT of golf clubs, it might and it might not – it depends on the golfer and his sense of feel for the weighting of his clubs. When we talk about the overall weight feel of a golf club, we are talking about both the total weight and the swingweight. Total weight is the weight of the parts – the weight of the shaft, head, grip all added up together. Swingweight is an expression of how much the golfer feels the presence of weight out there on the end of the shaft while the club is being swung. There is no question that a BIG part of each golfer’s shot consistency has to do with whether the total weight, swingweight or both together match well to the golfer’s strength, transition force, downswing aggressiveness and overall swing timing. Put a strong golfer with a fast, aggressive swing into a club with a light total weight and/or a low swingweight and the results can be a disaster of miss hits and terrible shot consistency. Likewise put a weaker golfer with a smooth, passive swing into a club with a heavy total weight and high swingweight and the golfer will lose distance and shot consistency. So if the hybrids have light graphite shafts and the irons have heavier steel shafts, won’t that mess up most golfers’ tempo and timing? No, it won’t as long as the headweight feel in both parts of the set is made so that it matches the golfer’s strength, transition force, downswing aggressiveness and overall swing timing. Depending on the actual weight of the graphite shaft in the hybrids, it may mean that the lighter the graphite shaft, the higher the swingweight may need to be in relation to the swingweight of the steel shaft irons in order to give them both a similar headweight feel. However, most graphite hybrid shafts are heavier (80g average) than graphite shafts used in drivers and fairway woods (65g avg). Thus when a heavier graphite shaft is used in a hybrid, its swingweight likely will not have to be more than 2 points higher than the golfer’s preferred swingweight in the steel shafted irons to produce a similar headweight feel. In the end, this and many other fitting decisions are best determined from working with a good, experienced Clubmaker. To find a Clubmaker in your area, head to our Find a Clubfitter locator here – Until next time, TOM

Monday, May 7, 2012

Please explain Tom Wishon's 919THi driver clubhead cup-face design and how it affects performance.

All driver heads as well as some fairway wood and hybrid heads are manufactured from a number of separate pieces which are welded together to complete the final construction of the clubhead. Most common are driver heads which are manufactured from 4 separate pieces, as shown by this illustration below.
Of the separate pieces which make up the complete clubhead, one is always the clubface. Within such types of driver, fairway wood and hybrid head construction, the face can be formed to be welded to the body in two different ways, one called an EDGE WELDED face and the other referred to as a CUP FACE CONSTRUCTION. The above illustration shows the more common of the two, an edge welded face. In the edge welded face clubhead, the face is made so that as the term states, the welding line to secure the face piece to the head body is on the very edge of the face. To contrast, the cup face is formed in a manner so the face piece is more like a cup, meaning it could hold water because the edges are angled around the face surface. In a cup face construction, the welding line to secure the cup face to the head body is not on the edge of the face, but is rather some distance back from the edge of the face. Below is an illustration of a cup face construction to contrast against the above edge welded face design.
The purpose of a cup face construction is to improve the amount of face flexing for areas off the center of the face to achieve better distance, performance and feel from off center hits. In modern clubface performance, the more the face flexes inward, the higher the speed of the ball will be coming off the face. With an edge welded face, a portion of the actual welding bead that secures the face to the body is extends past the actual seam onto the rear surface of the face. This welding bead can extend ¼” onto the back of the face, all 360* around the face. It can act as an additional “stiffener” or “brace” to prevent the face from flexing as much inward for shots hit off the center of the face. Since the welding line on a cup face construction is well back from any portion of the face, this means the welding bead is nowhere near any portion of the face. In addition, the inside edge of the face is more curved so there is no additional agent causing resistance to the face flexing inward. Below is a photo showing an actual cup face 4-piece driver head on which the pieces of the head and the cup face have just been initially tack welded to position the pieces for full robotic welding.
There is no question maximum ball speed comes only from impact in the center or slightly above the center of the face. But with a cup face construction, and with a variable thickness cup face construction, in contrast with a uniform thickness edge welded face, the off center hit performance can be improved remarkably.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It seems the big OEM's are truly becoming marketing companies first and club manufacturers second. Are they?

Good call there for sure. If you follow the golf industry closely from a business standpoint, you could see this starting to happen back in the 1990s when several of the leading OEM companies decided to do an IPO and get on the stock market. Once you do that, the financial side puts more pressure on the company to keep pushing their sales and profit. And from that come product development decisions that are made much more on the basis of "what can that do for our sales" compared to what can that really do for the golfers.

PING could be the exception. Not only have PING remained a privately held company and chosen not to go public, but they have always operated their company with an engineer as the leader of the company, and not people from marketing, sales or finance.

Back in the 1980s before any of the golf companies went public, it seemed that the CEO or Pres of every golf company was a person who worked their way up through the engineering or product development side of the company. Then when all this heavy competition for sales and profit hit the industry, all the CEO's came from sales/mktg/finance.

Anyway, it really would be a dream if the majority of regular consumer golfers could know all this as well as know the facts of life about custom fitting versus standard off the rack. Maybe someday that will happen.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What type of shafts to OEM's put in their clubs?

From Tom Wishon:
I'll just chime in with some info on the shafts that the OEM companies use in their standard off the rack clubs because I have a good deal of experience to know about that.

When an OEM goes to work to come up with a shaft that is going to be installed in the millions of clubs they will make to be shipped to all the retail stores and pro shops to be sold off the rack, they have two primary requirements.

1) It cannot cost them much more than $10 because they want to keep their profit per club up as high as possible. With clubhead prices rising quite a bit over the past 2 yrs, the OEMs definitely do not want to spend much money on their stock shafts.

2) It has to be of a weight, flex and bend profile that would fit as wide of a range of golfers as possible. That means most stock shafts for drivers and woods are going to be in the area of 65 grams in weight, and will not be too stiff in the butt or tip section for each flex letter. Some OEMS are taking the additional approach to create their S flex stock shafts to be stiffer in the tip section for its flex than will be the R flex stock shaft. In other words, they make the S for a better player but the R for a very much average swinger.

Basically, as the golfer has a more and more aggressive swing speed, with a later and later release, the chances of most OEM stock shafts fitting them properly gets smaller and smaller - thus the need for better than avg to much better players having to spend even more money to get their standard off the rack club fit with a different shaft.

All this once again adds up to say that a golfer who buys off the rack and does not go find an experienced clubmaker to be fit for his/her clubs is unfortunately exhibiting behavior that is not very smart.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Is there anything to the stand alone wedge shafts that promise more spin and lower flight?

Most companies that make a separate, standalone wedge shaft such as the Spinner will design such shafts so they have the same overall stiffness as a shaft that would be installed in an 8 iron in the set. So they are in essence made to be 2 clubs softer in their overall flex. Thus if you have the DGS3 taper tip, you would use the 8 iron shaft in the wedge. If you had a parallel tip version, you would use the 8 iron tip trim amount for the shaft being put in the wedge.

What you're talking about in terms of lower flight with more spin is a MYTH - you can't make a shaft that offers a lower launch angle AND higher spin. To make a shaft offer lower flight means you have to make the shaft stiffer overall or make the tip section stiffer. When you do that, you act to LOWER the spin on the shaft, because stiffer shafts always spin the ball less than more flexible shafts. Can't be any other way.