Thursday, October 24, 2013

How Should a Golfer Select the Right Shaft for His/Her Swing?

One of the most common posts I see is when one golfer asks other golfers for a shaft recommendation. These posts seldom say anything about a golfer’s swing characteristics other than his or her handicap and sometimes a clubhead speed. Invariably, many different shaft recommendations follow, rarely a follow up question to ask the golfer anything more about his or her particular swing characteristics.

Shafts do not perform the same way for all golfers. Shafts perform differently for different swing characteristics because different swing characteristics make shafts bend and twist differently. Most golfers are aware that their clubhead speed has relevance to what shaft they should play. But in addition to the clubhead speed, there are several other swing characteristics which determine how different shafts can and do perform differently for different golfers.

Shafts are in essence, “dumb animals.”  There is absolutely NO magic to the performance of a shaft – they ONLY do what their owner’s swing characteristics ordain them to do. For some golfers, there is some additional performance contribution from the center of gravity location inside the clubhead. However, there are a lot of different variations in how golfers swing the club with respect to the specific swing characteristics that dictate how a shaft will perform.  The whole idea of analyzing the swing characteristics which are pertinent to shaft performance is to allow me to have a way to systematically ELIMINATE shafts from consideration for a golfer, so what is left would be a smaller, manageable number of shafts with which each golfer could play.

The KEY elements of the golf swing in shaft fitting are:

1.      Clubhead Speed

The clubhead speed affords a basic, rudimentary, BEGINNING indication for the approximate overall amount of bending force a golfer may put on a shaft. However, it is very common for two golfers with the same clubhead speed to put totally different amounts of bending force on a shaft.  It is also common for two golfers who put the same bending force on a shaft to have different clubhead speeds. This is why a good shaft fitter has to analyze other characteristics of the golf swing to get more of an idea of how much bending force the golfer is putting on the shaft for his/her swing speed, when that bending force is being applied to the shaft and where on the shaft is the most bending force being applied.  Clubhead speed gives us a starting point to help us begin to narrow the choice of possible shafts for a golfer in the fitting process. But it only tells us a part of the story.

 2.      Downswing Transition Force

The force with which the golfer starts the downswing determines the initial bending force on the shaft. In other words, how much the shaft is initially “loaded” is chiefly determined by the golfer’s transition force to start the downswing. Of two golfers with the same clubhead speed, the one with the stronger, more forceful transition will need a stiffer shaft (a shaft with a swing speed rating that is higher than the golfer’s swing speed). Of two golfers with the same clubhead speed, the one with the smoother, passive transition will need a more flexible shaft (a shaft with a lower clubhead speed rating than the golfer’s swing speed).

In addition, a golfer with a stronger transition typically is better fit into a HEAVIER weight shaft. A strong/forceful transition with a very light shaft can result in a swing tempo that gets too fast and too inconsistent, although it can be possible to use a higher than normal swingweight to allow a golfer with a strong transition to not get too quick when using a very light shaft.

3.      Downswing Tempo/Downswing Aggressiveness

I said the transition force determines the INITIAL loading of the shaft.  The downswing tempo determines how much that initial loading may change during the rest of the downswing before impact.  Tests have been performed with special sensors on the shaft reveal that it is extremely rare for a golfer to increase the loading of the shaft during the downswing. It is not very common for a golfer to maintain the same load on the shaft during the downswing, either. Almost every golfer loads the shaft the most at the beginning of the downswing, after which the loading on the shaft begins to decrease from the moment the transition turns into the downswing.

A good shaft fitter will analyze the downswing tempo to estimate if the golfer is maintaining their initial loading of the shaft, slightly losing some of the loading or substantially losing it. In more recent research, I have come to the belief that the transition and tempo blend together in terms of the golfer’s ability to put a bending force on the shaft and maintain it or not to the point of release. Hence the good shaft fitter will analyze the transition/tempo together in one overall observation to decide whether the golfer is an AGGRESSIVE HITTER, a SMOOTH SWINGER, somewhere in between or variations of each extreme.  It really is not necessary to split the hair too fine on this evaluation. Good fitters chiefly think in terms of HITTER, SWINGER or AVERAGE when it comes to evaluating the effect of the transition/tempo on the golfer’s ability to load the shaft.

How is the analysis of the golfer’s transition/tempo used to help narrow down the shaft recommendation? 

The more forceful and aggressive the golfer’s transition/tempo, the more the shaft would be selected to have a swing speed rating that is a little higher than the actual swing speed of the golfer. Vice versa, the more passive, smooth and easy the golfer’s transition/tempo, the more the shaft would be selected to have a swing speed rating that is a little lower than the actual swing speed of the golfer.

For example, let’s say we have three golfers, each with a 100 mph clubhead speed.  Golfer No. 1 has a short, three-quarter length backswing with a fast, forceful transition and an aggressive downswing. Golfer No. 2 has a normal backswing length with some sense of transition force and downswing aggressiveness but not nearly as much as Golfer No. 1. Golfer No. 3 has a smooth, rhythmic, almost passive transition and tempo that identifies him as far more of a “swinger” than a “hitter.”

For basic fitting, Golfer No. 2 would be advised to look among shafts that have a 95-105 mph swing speed rating because his swing characteristics are putting an average amount of bending force on the shaft for his 100 mph clubhead speed.

Golfer No. 1 (strong/forceful transition and tempo) would be advised to look among shafts that would have a 100-110mph swing speed rating because his swing characteristics are “loading” the shaft more from him putting an ABOVE average amount of bending force on the shaft for his 100 mph clubhead speed. And Golfer No. 3 (smooth, passive transition and tempo) should choose from shafts that have a 90-100mph swing speed rating because his swing characteristics are “loading” the shaft much less for his speed and put a BELOW average amount of bending force on the shaft for his 100mph clubhead speed.

In short, as the golfer puts more bending force on the shaft due to his Transition and Tempo, the swing speed rating of the shaft needs to increase higher than the golfer’s actual clubhead speed. And as the golfer puts less bending force on the shaft due to his Transition and Tempo, the swing speed rating of the shaft needs to decrease lower than the golfer’s actual clubhead speed.

But what’s next after finding the shafts which have a swing speed rating that corresponds to the golfer’s clubhead speed and adjustments for the golfer’s transition and tempo?

4.      Point of Wrist-Cock Release During the Downswing

The key swing characteristic which good shaft fitters analyze to determine the correct TIP STIFFNESS design of the shaft for the golfer is the point the golfer unhinges their wrist cock release on the downswing. In swing mechanics terms, the action of unhinging the wrist cock angle is called the RELEASE.

The point when the golfer releases the club is what determines WHEN the shaft goes from being “loaded” to being “unloaded.”  The point when the golfer releases the club determines when the shaft moves from a “flexed back” position into a “flexed forward” position.  The point of release also determines when the clubhead achieves its highest speed.

Once the golfer unhinges the wrist cock angle, the arms immediately begin to slow down while the clubhead speeds up. If the golfer releases the club too early, the clubhead reaches its highest speed well before it gets to the ball. With an early release, by the time the clubhead gets to the ball, the clubhead speed has slowed down. This slowing down of the clubhead before impact even happens for golfers who release the club midway on the downswing – though not as much as with an early release.

The only golfers who achieve their highest clubhead speed right when the clubhead meets the ball are golfers with a late release.  Hence this is another reason why a late release is such an important swing skill for golfers to achieve to be able to play to the best of their physical skills.

In shaft fitting terms, the later the golfer releases the club, the more tip stiff the shaft COULD be. And conversely, the earlier the golfer releases the club, the more tip flexible the shaft should be.  Because the actual point of release can vary all the way from the start of the downswing to the very end, so too the tip stiffness design of the shaft is chosen to correspond.  Early release = most tip flexible; Latest release = most tip stiff;  Release in between early and very late = tip stiffness in between.

You can now start to see why we need to have quantitative stiffness measurements of shafts so we can choose the right level of stiffness for golfers with varying levels of transition/tempo force and different points of release. With only letters for flex and generic terms for tip stiffness or bend point, shaft fitting is little more than a trial-and-error guess.

5.     The Qualitative Side of Shaft Fitting — The Golfer’s Perception and Preference for the Shaft’s BENDING FEEL

Talk about something that can throw a monkey wrench into all the logical things that we have taught so far about shaft flex/bend profile fitting!  If you want to know why some golfers play well with shafts which are “on paper” considered to be too stiff, too flexible, too tip stiff or too tip flexible for their clubhead speed, transition/tempo and point of release, this is the reason why.

If a golfer has developed a specific preference for a type of bending feel of the shaft during any point in the swing, that feel preference has to be THE GUIDING FACTOR in the shaft fitting process. During the fitting process, the smart, experienced clubfitter knows to interview the player and ask questions to assess the golfer’s level of perception for the bending feel of the shaft and whether they have acquired specific “likes and dislikes” for various aspects of the shaft’s bending feel during the swing.

The very best way to incorporate a golfer’s preference for shaft feel in the shaft fitting process is to have the golfer reveal specific shafts they have either liked or disliked in previous or current clubs. If these shaft models/flexes are searched in the Bend Profile Software we created, the stiffness measurements of those shafts can then be referenced against possible future shaft recommendations to determine if the new shaft selection may or may not satisfy the golfer’s shaft feel preferences.

One of the myths about shaft flex/bend profile performance is when someone states that this or that shaft is designed in a way that can actually increase the bending velocity of the shaft to offer a golfer a higher clubhead speed.  This is impossible because of the physics of tube design and performance.  However, it is very possible for a golfer to change to a different shaft flex/bend profile design and experience a measurable increase in clubhead speed.

How this happens is how the new shaft falls into the golfer’s preference for the bending feel of the shaft. Give a golfer a shaft that feels perfect in terms of how much it bends, when it bends and where it bends in relation to the golfer’s acquired preference for bending feel and that golfer will achieve his most free, most unrestricted and most fluid release through the ball.  And it is from this – having a shaft that feels perfect in every way to the golfer – that they are able to achieve a higher clubhead speed.

On the other hand, put the golfer into a shaft that demonstrates a feeling of being too stiff or too flexible in some way compared to the golfer’s preference for bending feel and they most typically will begin to change their swing to make the shaft perform and feel as they prefer.  Manipulating the swing means a lack of free motion, free unrestricted release and a lower clubhead speed with less swing consistency.

Again, to not have a truly quantitative way to analyze shafts, trying to turn a golfer’s feel preferences for the shaft into a valid new shaft recommendation becomes a trial and error process.

6. Putting It All Together

The higher the golfer’s clubhead speed, the more forceful/aggressive the transition and tempo, the later the release, the more the flex and the bend profile of the shaft become a contributor to the launch angle, trajectory and spin rate for the shot.   The lower the clubhead speed, the more passive the transition and tempo, the earlier the release, the less important the shaft’s flex and bend profile are to performance. But for ALL golfers, the WEIGHT of the shaft is an important part of the shaft selection process.

The higher the golfer’s clubhead speed, the more forceful/aggressive the transition and tempo, and the later the release IN RELATION TO THE SWING SPEED RATING and TIP STIFFNESS OF THE SHAFT, the more the shaft can increase launch angle, trajectory and spin.

The shaft only just begins to contribute to launch angle, trajectory and spin in a gradual increasing manner as the golfer has a midway to later to very late release. Midway release, the flex and bend profile begin to matter a little. Very late release, the stiffness design of the shaft matters a lot more. For golfers with an early to before midway release, the flex and bend profile of the shaft do virtually nothing to the launch angle, trajectory and spin of the shot.   The shaft’s WEIGHT becomes the only key shaft fitting factor for golfers with an early to before midway release.

The ONLY ways the shaft can lower launch angle, trajectory and spin is:

i.     if the shaft is either more stiff overall than the golfer’s previous/current shaft, OR,

ii.     if the tip section of the shaft is more stiff than the tip section in the golfer’s previous/current shaft.

Just because a shaft is said to be tip stiff will not reveal whether it is a lower spin shaft than what you play now. A shaft has to be more stiff overall and/or more tip stiff than what you play now to have any effect on lowering launch angle, trajectory and spin.

The golfer’s preferences for a specific bending feel of the shaft overshadow the stiffness and bend profile fitting analysis compiled from the clubhead speed, transition/tempo and point of release.  In all cases for all golfers, you do go through the stiffness and bend profile fitting analysis compiled from the clubhead speed, transition/tempo and point of release, but you listen hard and consider modifying the recommendation when the golfer says they have a specific preference for the bending feel of a shaft.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What does it mean when I here the term "a tip soft" shaft?

What is meant by a “tip soft” shaft?  A shaft can be designed with any variation in its stiffness over its whole length.  So a tip soft shaft is one that is designed to be more flexible in the tip area of the shaft.  Likewise there can be any number of variations in how stiff the tip section of a shaft is designed.  The reason this is done is to help golfers with different swing characteristics find the right shaft that matches best to how they swing.

Most typically, golfers who unhinge the wrist cock early in the downswing are better fit with tip soft shafts, while golfers who hold that wrist cock until very late in the downswing are better fit with a tip stiff or tip firm shaft.  Those who unhinge the wrist cock somewhere in between early and late then are typically better fit to shafts that are more what is called a tip medium design.

But these terms “tip soft/tip firm/tip medium” are completely generic in their description and in no way tell you HOW TIP SOFT or HOW TIP FIRM is the shaft exactly.  That’s why I purchased the Bend Profile Software so that I can see exactly how much stiffer one shaft is than another, and where on the shaft from butt to center to tip is the shaft more or less stiff.

This software demonstrates the FULL LENGTH STIFFNESS measurements of over 2,600 different shaft models and flexes so that I can empirically compare the stiffness design of one shaft to another to help me make better shaft fitting recommendations for the golfers I fit.

You can easily have two different shafts which are designed to be virtually the same exact stiffness from the butt to the center of the shaft, but then different in stiffness for their tip section.  I hope this answers your question.

I have a short, powerful backswing. So what is the best shaft for me?

Short backswings with strong acceleration do require more overall stiffness and/or more tip stiffness to prevent a sudden, forceful swing move from over bending the shaft at the start of the downswing.

When choosing the right shaft, the weight of the shaft, the overall flex and the bend profile are the most important elements, with torque being much less important.  The reason is because you just do not see higher torque with any shafts that are designed in a stiffer overall flex with more tip stiffness. The shaft companies know that players who need to use stiffer overall flex shafts and more tip stiff shafts also need to keep the torque no higher than 3.5*. So it is very rare in the industry these days to even see a normal S, a strong S or any X flex with tip stiff bend profile to ever have a torque higher than 4*.

In addition, as long as the overall flex and bend profile and weight of the shaft are correct for a golfer’s swing, the difference between a torque of say, 2* and 3.5* is very minimal on shot dispersion. The golfer might notice that the 2* torque shaft felt a little stiffer at impact than the 3.5* torque version of the same flex and bend profile shaft, but he would not experience anything in the way of off line shots from a 1.5* torque difference.

So do your best to get fit for the right shaft weight, shaft overall flex and bend profile for your swing moves and the torque is not going to be an issue.

The best way to be sure you are properly fit for the right shafts that match all your swing characteristics is to find a GOOD Clubfitter in your area and have them use their knowledge and experience to custom fit you.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Golf Shaft Fitting: How Does ‘Transition’ Affect Shaft Selection?

I often get asked about golf shaft fitting and I do my best to answer them.  Here is a question regarding ‘transition:  What role does ‘transition’ play on the golf shaft and what kind of tips can you provide in finding the right shaft?

Because the difference in how forceful the golfer starts the downswing can be of high importance to finding the right overall stiffness in the shaft along with the right shaft weight and right headweight feel as well.

Typically if you have two golfers with the same clubhead speed, the one with a much more forceful transition move will do better with at least ½ flex stiffer shaft than what would be normal for that swing speed, with a 20g heavier shaft weight and in the area of 2 to 3 swingweight points higher in the headweight feel than the golfer with a pause at the top and a very smooth, gradual transition move.

Golfers with a strong transition who end up with too light of a total weight and/or too light of a swingweight tend to experience a higher degree of off center hits, more heel side hits, and even the tendency to make a slight outside in path become more outside in.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Body Anchored Putter: USGA and R&A Putter Ban in Effect

From the desk of Tom Wishon:

Those who follow the doings of the golf equipment industry with interest are aware that on May 21, the USGA and the R&A officially announced their decision to ban the anchoring of putters to the body. The decision was made despite the publicly stated opposition of the PGA of America and the PGA Tour to the ban, as well in the absence of any facts which prove the use of a body anchored putter automatically enables a golfer to make more putts.

Body anchored putters have been in play for more than 30 years. Up until 2011 you could count the number of tournaments on one hand that were won by playing professionals using such putters. Of the 700 or so tournaments played on the PGA Tour
between the advent of the body anchored putter and 2011, fewer than 1% were won by pros using a body anchored putter. If one wants to say using a particular type of putter automatically results in better putting, these statistics could be used to say that the pros who used conventional putters during this time had the advantage. After all, over 99% of all the tournaments won between the advent of the body anchored putter and 2011 were won by pros using a conventional putter.

But in 2011 and 2012, 11 tournaments were won by pros using a body anchored putter. Did this all of a sudden prove that the use of a body anchored putter brought an automatic improvement in putting? Perhaps the USGA thought so. On the other hand, the reason for the sudden increase in wins by pros using the Belly or Broomstick style putters is more likely explained by the fact that a much greater number of more pros chose to use this type of a putter so the percentage of their wins simply increased because of statistics.

Even as the use of body anchored putters increased, far more tournaments have been won by pros using a conventional putter. So after 30 years of use of these putters, why did the USGA all of a sudden decide they needed to define that the putting stroke has to be executed with the grip end of the putter free from the middle of the body? After all, the game has been played for 500 yrs without any need to define how one should swing a club. Could it be that among the small number of individuals who decide what the rules of the game will be, a majority simply felt the body anchored putters “look bad” and represent in their opinion a break from one of the traditions of the game?

Rules that relate either directly or indirectly to golf clubs need to be made on the basis of whether the equipment automatically replaces the skill required to play the game for all golfers. Golf balls most definitely can be made so they can be hit significantly farther so we do need to put a limit on the ball. Driver faces could be made so they allow each golfer to automatically achieve a 3-4% increase in distance, so putting a limit on the COR of the face is able to be justified.

But a body anchored putter in no way allows every golfer to make more putts. It is simply a different type of putter. Just like there are golfers who hit the ball better with a 44” driver vs one of 46”, or golfers who gain more on center hit consistency from a D4
swingweight than a D1, or a golfer who hits the ball better with this shaft vs that one, or any other use of different clubs, there are simply some golfers who feel they putt better with a body anchored putter while there are many more who do not. At the risk of being labeled an anti-traditionalist, with my 40 yrs of experience in golf equipment research and design, the recent USGA decision to ban the anchoring of the putter to the body is a capricious and arbitrary decision made on the basis of emotion rather than science and statistics. Thanks USGA, you now have another poor decision to add to your previous rulings to change scorelines, and to restrict the size and length of golf clubs which will do nothing to help the game.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What really does control accuracy in a driver?

There always seem to be questions from golfers asking what driver is more accurate/straighter. It is evident that a number of golfers believe that driver accuracy is a product of the design technology of the driver head itself – as if to say this Brand and that Model of driver is straighter so if you buy it you will hit the ball straighter. The only driver club HEAD specifications that have anything to do with accuracy are Face Angle (huge effect), the Lie Angle (small effect), the toe/heel weighting (small effect that really only works for GOOD golfers) and the MOI of the driver head about the axis of the hosel bore (tiny effect, one to forget about). But these four clubhead elements are not really “design characteristics” unique to any company’s design technology – they can be had on some companies' driver head designs that offer a wide range of fitting options. Accuracy is chiefly a factor of the face angle plus a number of other assembly specifications of the driver and how they all FIT the golfer’s swing characteristics. Distance and Forgiveness? Sure, those performance elements can be designed to be a little different from driver head design to driver head design. So when you are asking who has the longest / most forgiving driver, you can talk a little about the brand and model – but keep in mind as well that maxing out your distance and improveing shot consistency are also a HUGE part of fitting. Without question the Clubfitting factors that control driver accuracy do not all have the same importance to accuracy. ALL OF THEM can work differently for different golfers, depending on each golfer’s specific swing characteristics. What brings about better accuracy in a driver for one golfer may or may not do that for another golfer because of differences in each golfer's swing that causes each golfer’s accuracy issues to begin with. This is why you cannot say "go try this driver or that shaft and you'll hit it straighter because it worked for me." What works for you probably has nothing to do with what will be best for any other golfer because your swing is different than other golfers' swings. That's why fitting is SO IMPORTANT to ensure each golfer can play to the best of their ability. One other thing before I explain driver accuracy. When a golfer buys/borrows a new driver and immediately achieves better accuracy with that driver, it is because one or more of the following accuracy elements happens to fit the golfer’s swing better than did those same elements in the previous driver. It isn’t just because of the brand or the model name of the driver. Following are the specifications which control accuracy RANKED IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE TO ACCURACY. Some golfers, depending on their swing or sense of feel, might find one or more of these more important than others. Main point, for the majority of golfers, this is the order of importance for driver accuracy. Get all these from #1 to #7 fit correctly to YOUR size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics and you will hit the ball as accurately as possible. 1.Face Angle 2.Length 3.Swingweight (MOI of the Assembled Club) 4.Shaft Weight / Total Weight 5.Shaft Flex/Shaft Bend Profile 6.Toe or Heel Weighting (Fade/Draw Bias Weighting) 7.Lie Angle 8.MOI of the Driver head about the Hosel Bore If you want to stop now to keep your reading short, you can do so. If you want an explanation of each of the above accuracy factors and how they all can be fit to help you achieve the best accuracy possible, then I welcome you to read on. 1.Face Angle Face Angle has the most effect on driver accuracy because it is a degree for degree correction for the swing path and/or face angle delivery of the golfer that causes the predominant misdirection problem. For each 1 degree CHANGE in the face angle from the face angle the golfer used previously, the ball flight moves 4 to 5 yards sideways based on a carry distance of 200 yds. For example, a golfer with a swing speed of 85-90mph who slices the ball on average 25 yards left to right who changes from a 0* square face angle to a 3* closed face angle will see his average slice reduce to 10-13 yards. The higher the swing speed, the more the misdirection correction for each degree of face angle change. Face Angle is THE #1 game improvement factor for accuracy with the driver and fairway woods. 1.Length TWGT has done a serious engineering study of the effect of driver length on the golfer and the golf swing. There is no question, the longer the length of the driver, the higher the load and the more stress the club puts on the golfer and certain specific swing movements. In short, longer driver lengths cause the swing to break down sooner and more dramatically. The more the golfer fights the following swing issues – over the top, outside in path, earlier release, quick tempo – the more that a longer driver length in excess of 44” can make these swing problems worse as well as much more difficult to correct. The more that a golfer has these following swing characteristics – inside out to square path, later to very late release, smoother controlled tempo – the more they COULD use a driver length of 45 to 46” and have decent results. I say COULD, not SHOULD. The reason is because for ALL but a very small number of golfers, the longer the length, the higher the percentage of off center hits. And when you hit the ball off center, you lose ball speed and you can lose accuracy as well. Perhaps the most common sense and compelling proof of the matter of driver length vs control and accuracy is the fact that for many years, the average driver length on the PGA Tour has been 44.5” and not the 45.5 to 46.5” that is standard on virtually every OEM driver made and sold off the rack to male golfers. The PGA Tour represents some of the best golf swings and best golf athletes on the planet. If THEY feel they need a shorter length to maintain control with their skill level, what does that say about all the regular golfers from low single digit on up to achieve the best driver results with a driver bought off the rack with a longer length? Seriously guys, these driver lengths sold off the rack are not doing anything good for 98% of all golfers. 1.Swingweight (MOI of the Assembled Club) All golfers have their own unique makeup of strength, athleticism, and most important, their own SWING TEMPO, TIMING, RHYTHM. Give a golfer a club that feels too light in the headweight feel for their swing tempo/timing/rhythm and their tendency will be to get MORE QUICK, to fight their tempo, to bring out more of an “over the top” swing error. If any of these happen because the headweight feel is too light for the golfer, accuracy will most certainly suffer. There is most definitely a headweight feel that will allow each golfer to swing with more consistency and with more comfort so they feel they are not fighting their swing tempo or laboring to swing the club. Most golfers reference a headweight feel in a club by its SWINGWEIGHT. However, one specific swingweight is not going to deliver the same headweight feel in all combinations of driver length, grip weight and shaft weight. In other words, D2 at 45” with a 70g shaft and 50g grip does NOT deliver the same headweight feel as D2 at 44” with a 55g shaft. Some clubmakers use the MOI of the fully assembled club to deliver the same overall swing feel in a golf club at different combinations of length, grip weight and shaft weight. If swingweight is used, the golfer has to be aware that as he changes the length, grip weight and shaft weight in his driver, he may have to experiment with different swingweights before arriving at the one that allows HIM to achieve the most consistency and comfort so they feel they are not fighting their swing tempo or laboring to swing the club. 1.Shaft Weight / Total Weight The weight of the shaft controls the total weight of the golf club more than any other component. Shaft weight/total weight acts in combination with the headweight to deliver the overall weight FEEL to the golfer. And, like swingweight, the total weight is also an important element to be fit to each golfer’s unique makeup of strength, athleticism, and most important, their own SWING TEMPO, TIMING, RHYTHM. However, for MOST golfers, changes in the swingweight (headweight feel) are noticed more than changes in the total weight. Of course, if the golfer changes from a 120 gram steel shaft to a 75 gram graphite shaft, they will notice the total weight change from that shaft weight change. But if the golfer changes from a 65g shaft to a 55g shaft, or changes shaft weight by 15g or less, not all golfers will notice that effect on their swing tempo and timing and rhythm. Shaft weight/total weight IS important to fit golfers with the best overall weight feel to help contribute to a more consistent swing tempo and better accuracy. But you can be off in the total weight a little with a golfer and as long as the swingweight (headweight feel) is right for that golfer’s swing tempo/timing, his accuracy will be good. But mess up the swingweight (headweight feel) and you will see some severe problems with accuracy and off center hit frequency. 1.Shaft Flex / Shaft Bend Profile It is true for SOME golfers, definitely not all and definitely not the majority, that a shaft that is too flexible for their swing can promote more of a draw and a shaft that is too stiff can promote more of a push or fade. But in no way does this happen for the majority of golfers nor does it cause a severe hook or slice. If a golfers has experienced a definite hook or slice from a change in the shaft flex/bend profile, most of the time it was something else that changed along with the shaft change that brought about the dramatic hook or slice. Most likely culprit is the swingweight (headweight feel) or possibly the combination of swingweight and total weight that changed when the golfer changed shafts. However, it is possible for some golfers who have a very refined sense of feel for the bending action of the shaft to suffer a definite accuracy problem from a shaft flex/bend profile change. For such golfers, when they feel the shaft bending more than they want, their reaction can cause swing mistakes which result in the more severe accuracy problem. Likewise, when a golfer with an extreme sense of bending feel uses a shaft that is too stiff, a typical reaction is to swing harder to make the shaft bend more and achieve the feel they prefer. And that too brings about swing errors that can result in an accuracy problem. In both cases, the golfer blames the shaft flex for the accuracy problem. In reality it is the golfer’s own reaction to the less favorable flex feel, sometimes conscious, sometimes sub-conscious, which brings about the swing errors that result in the accuracy loss. Bottom line? Always fit the shaft so the flex and bend profile are well matched to the golfer’s swing AND sense of feel and the shaft cannot be a problem for accuracy. 1.Toe or Heel Weighting (Fade Bias or Draw Bias Weighting) It was in Cochran & Stobbs’ milestone 1968 book that the concept was first introduced that adding weight to the heel could enhance a draw ball flight. Along with the late Elmore Just of Louisville Golf Company, in 1987 Elmore and Tom Wishon designed and built a laminated maple driver head with weight in the heel to test this concept. Later in 1995 Wishon had the chance to design an aluminum body driver with weight in the heel to further test the concept. Both these driver heads were the first commercially developed wooden and then metal Draw Bias weighted driver heads. Long story short, they found from all their work that it takes more than 25 grams of the head’s total mass to be positioned deep in the heel to even begin to see the ball draw. At 40 grams or more, the heel located weight has now pulled the center of gravity far enough off the center of the face toward the heel so that if the golfer hits the ball dead center on the face, ball speed is lost and with it, distance is lost. Bottom line? None of the OEM drivers that allow weight movement from heel to toe allow you to move more than 25 grams from one side of the head to the other. Draw Bias or Fade Bias (DB / FB) weighting is good for really good ball strikers to tweak their ball flight so as to encourage a slight draw or fade or to reduce a nagging draw or fade without having to manipulate their path or face angle. But Draw Bias or Fade Bias weighting is NOT for correcting a slice or a hook because it cannot affect the curvature of the ball anywhere near as much as can a Face Angle change. DB or FB work by moving the CG off the center of the face so that an on center hit now causes the head to twist a little, and in so doing generate a small gear effect to slightly tilt the axis of backspin rotation of the shot. Face Angle is a degree for degree correction of how many degrees the swing path and/or delivery of the face by the golfer has caused the face to be open at impact. If you have a very consistent delivery of the club to the ball and you want to slightly tweak the shape of your shot, use 25 to 30 grams of the head’s weight in the heel (draw) or toe (fade) and you will get that very slight ball flight shape change. If you slice or hook the ball, use a substantially different face angle along with a shorter driver length. 1.Lie Angle Lie angle is much more of an accuracy factor as loft increases in the set. While having the perfect lie for YOUR swing is important for every club in the bag, it is much more critical for accuracy in the mid to short irons and wedges than it is with the driver. Yes, it can be said that the smaller misdirection angle of an ill fit driver lie is magnified by the greater distance you hit the driver. But in testing, an ill fit lie angle doesn’t result in nearly as much of an accuracy problem with the driver as it does with the clubs that have much more loft. One big reason is because the acceptable target area for accuracy success with the driver is MUCH WIDER than it is with the irons. Most fairways are far wider than most greens.But it is also true if the driver if off by 4* of lie and the 9 iron is off by 4* lie for the golfer, the combination of the much greater misdirection angle of the off lie 9 iron with the much greater spin of the 9 iron contributes to that shot flying much farther off line at its shorter distance than the driver at its greater distance. Bottom line? If you’re much shorter than average and you see the toe of the driver sticking way up at impact, do hunt for a flatter lie driver or a driver that can be adjusted for a much flatter lie. Everyone else? Don’t worry about driver lie because any possible misdirection problems in the driver can usually be offset by a different face angle. In a world where bending titanium drivers to custom fit the lie is nigh on impossible, that’s the best advice I have for driver lie. 1. MOI of the Driver Head About the Hosel Bore This one’s a real yawner. Not only is its explanation complicated and boring, but it just is not a factor in accuracy fitting with drivers today. Some people like to say that the higher this MOI, the more difficult it is for the golfer to rotate the face back around to be square at impact. And so if this MOI is real high in a driver, a golfer could start slicing the ball because they can’t rotate the face back around to square at impact. Doesn’t really happen that way. For one, almost ALL drivers today have the same MOI about the hosel bore axis. 98% of all drivers today are between 440-460cc with very, very little variation in how far the Center of Gravity is from the center of the hosel bore. And that’s the parameter that determines just how high or low this MOI about the hosel bore axis is. Bottom Line? If you slice the ball, you can hunt for a sub-400cc driver to try to get this MOI Lower to help. But rather than do that, just go get fit for a driver that is shorter and has a face angle that is more closed than the face angle on your present driver. Do that and you will have done FAR MORE to reduce your slice than even a 200cc driver could do from its lower MOI about the hosel bore axis. Golfers, do all these things I just outlined and you will hit the ball as straight as your swing can allow. Better yet? Go find a good, competent, experienced custom Clubmaker who is schooled in all these things and let HIM do it for you in a fitting and custom driver for YOU and YOUR SWING.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wishon: The way golf clubs are being sold has harmed golf.

By Tom Wishon GolfWRX Contributor Tom Wishon served as Vice President of GolfWorks from 1980 to 1986. From 1986 to 1993, he was president of Dynacraft Golf Products, and from 1993 to 2002 he was Vice President and Chief Technical Officer for Golfsmith International. Wishon started his own company, Tom Wishon Golf Technology, in 2003. I read with great interest the article by Kevin Crook, The Focus on Equipment has Hurt Golf, in which he basically said it’s almost a waste of time to go buy new golf clubs because you have no way of knowing if what you buy is going to help or harm your ability to play the game. The main thing I took away from Kevin’s article is that he is yet one more confused and frustrated victim of the longtime business model of the golf equipment industry. If anything from the golf equipment industry has harmed golf, it is the way that golf clubs are being sold to golfers in a market that is fiercely competitive for sales. Many golf club companies exist to sell their clubs to millions of golfers through thousands of retail golf outlets and websites. The top-5 golf equipment manufacturers now control about 80 percent of the premium golf equipment market with combined annual revenues north of $3 billion. Four out of five of these companies are publicly traded, each with the accompanying pressures from shareholders and financial institutions to grow in revenue, profits and stock price. The only way large golf companies can sell the volume of clubs they must to meet forecasts and satisfy shareholders and executives is to pre-build their clubs to a series of standard specifications so they can be shipped to the thousands of retailers to be put on display and sold off the rack. Demand is driven by massive marketing campaigns that promise improvement and an increase in status upon buying the clubs. Credibility is established by paying professional golfers to play their equipment. After three decades of such fierce competition, the golf equipment industry has become a commodity business. Most retailers are selling the same exact products, so consumers hunt for the best price. Retailers have to discount to get the sale, which results in them making less profit. Making less profit means they do not have the money to hire and retain quality sales people. And retailers can’t afford to allow the sales staff to take more than a few minutes to make each sale, because making money requires that they sell a high volume of products. This is precisely what Kevin has encountered in his frustration with trying to do nothing more than to find the best golf equipment with which to play and enjoy this great game. He’s frustrated because he believes that whoever sells him his clubs should really know what they are doing. Unfortunately, the shortcomings in the current golf equipment business model means the people selling him his clubs do not know much more about golf clubs than he does, and may actually know less. Launch monitors are placed in golf retail outlets to give golfers the impression they are being properly fit for their clubs. Yet little to no training exists to teach sales people how to properly turn the outputs of the launch monitors into the best prescription for clubs for the golfer. Retailers also have inventory to worry about, so it is very common for them to pay a “spiff” to their sales staff to get them to make more of an effort to sell what they need to get rid of. Add to that the effects of the fierce competition among the golf equipment companies. At the wholesale level, it has resulted in drivers and woods that are far too long for the vast majority of golfers to ever hit consistently, which may or may not actually have the loft that is imprinted on the head. Lofts in irons have been decreasing as well, as a way of impressing golfers with more distance in their short irons. But this comes at the expense of golfer’s not being able to hit their mid and long irons as well. Shafts are a problem, too. Average golfers have no idea how stiff the shafts they purchase actually are because of poor quality control and a lack of industry standards. Add it all up, and it’s no wonder that golfers like Kevin Cook are confused and often end up with the wrong equipment. In truth, the best solution for golfers is to return to the original business model for golf equipment sales prior to the early 1900s, back when the only place a golfer could buy a set of golf clubs was to go see a clubmaker. Back then, golfers visited the clubmaker’s shop, where the clubs were built one club at a time, one set at a time, for one golfer at a time. It’s critical to be honest and tell you that some of today’s clubmakers do not have the fitting knowledge to be able to properly match a golfer with clubs that allow him or her to play to the best of their ability. Just because someone can build and repair golf clubs does not mean they know how to analyze a golfer and choose the best fitting specs to match to the golfer’s size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics. So golfers who decide to visit a clubmaker to end their equipment frustration MUST DO THEIR HOMEWORK to be sure the clubmaker they choose is a good, experienced and knowledgeable. Such clubmaker/clubfitters do exist and they are without question the very best sources for golf equipment and knowledge. They can truly help a golfer improve and play to the best of the golfer’s ability.