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