Use a critical eye when viewing golf club shaft reviews
One thing you do not see me write much on in our blog are golf club shaft reviews, which can be quite a few in the course of a season. If you (and my bosses who encourage me to do so) are wondering why, it is because there is a big dilemma that occurs every time I try to put pen to paper. I have come to the conclusion that any independent review would be unfair to our readers, not to mention our dear vendors. Any positive or negative feedback would be only as good as how the shaft fits my unique swing. Before I can explain what I can best do to help fellow golfers find a golf club shaft they will like, let me try to explain a few things first.
We are all like snowflakes
You have all heard this adage a million times before. Go to a golf course, range or even watch golf on TV and what will you notice? Each golfer has their own natural swing…well, like a snowflake. No one will confuse my swing with Jim Furyk’s, Tiger Woods’ or Arnold Palmer’s. It’s obvious, the pros don’t need the exact same swing to excel at this game; nor do you. Only equipment that complements a player’s swing has to.
One of my best friends is approximately the same age and height and we both have almost identical swing speeds with all our golf clubs. I’ll take a new club with the shaft du jour or one that I happen to like. He will go to hit it and says it doesn’t feel good. The ball flight substantiates his claims too. Then he will hand me a club he raves about the performance and feel. I’ll end up telling him, “Meh”.
Golf Shaft fitting is all about swing speed isn’t it?
The answer to that is a big no! While golf swing speed is a starting point, it does not tell the whole story. Speed tells you how fast an object is moving. But the other piece of the puzzle is how and when the player loads and unloads the club.
To put this in perspective, loading is a force a player puts onto the golf club or golf shaft during the downswing. The magnitude of this force is caused by the acceleration or the rate of change in the velocity during the course of the swing. One example might be where one player exerts a very large acceleration at the initial part of the downswing. Another golfer might gradually accelerate the golf club until some point and then he/she may accelerate the club again immediately after releasing the club prior to impact. The point I am trying to make is the amount the shaft loads (or deflects) can vary even though the same swing speed is achieved at impact.
Then golf shaft fitting is all about the golf club’s frequency (butt stiffness) isn’t it?
The answer to that is a big no as well. Recently I took three identical length golf hybrids out to the range for me and my friend to test. Each also had a different shaft (although they were all labeled S-flex by each manufacturer). I had to sort through my collection of golf shafts to find ones that were the same frequency (measure of shaft stiffness) and where the weights were with +/- 1 gram of one another.
Many clubmakers would assume that just because the weight, length, torque and frequencies were near identical, that these would play the same. If you follow the Dynacraft Shaft Fitting Index I have been testing and publishing the results for the past twenty plus years, you would already know this isn’t always the case. Plus I recently acquired a new toy (called an EI Golf Shaft Profiler) for my R&D lab that examines shafts better than what I had been using and I wanted to test a theory eliminating as many variable as possibly to come up with a conclusion.
Understanding stiffness distribution along the length of the golf club shaft
Here is a plot of deflections of those three golf shafts from the tip (left side) to the butt end (right) using a shaft profiler. To understand this chart, look at Series 3 or the deflection curve plotted in light green. Near the tip, the deflection is far less than the others, indicating this is a stiffer tipped shaft. When we get to the area 16” from the tip, these all have the same deflection. As we get closer and closer to the butt end, the deflection is once again much less on the green plot line denoting a stiff butt section. The blue line or Series 1 would have the softest tip.
My friend didn’t know the differences between these golf shafts prior to hitting them as not to form a bias. Handing him one after another to hit, he indicated the Series 3 felt the best (most solid) to him after hitting several shots. When he hit Series 1 (blue), he felt that it was too flexible like he had to be careful how he swung it in order to control it – something he didn’t have to worry about with the other shaft. Remember now, these all have identical weights and frequencies (stiffness).
What he had discovered was the difference in stiffness distribution along the length of the golf shaft giving it its own unique feel. Now you know why each manufacturer produces a wide variety of golf shafts although they may be labeled R or S flex and have the same weight to appeal to specific tastes.
So how good would my golf shaft reviews be anyway?
Like I mentioned before, golf shafts that I like he doesn’t. I hit these same three golf clubs and found the club with the Series 1 (blue) shaft to be by far the best for me. As a matter of fact, according to the launch monitor I was 14 yards further than with the Series 3 golf shaft and with no difference in swing speed. Well guess what, if I had given my review of these shafts, one would have been stellar and the other not so stellar. Not to mention, if he had read the review knowing that our age, height and speed were nearly identical, he might have bit the bullet and bought the Series 1 shaft instead of the Series 3 he really liked.
How I can help golfers find the right shaft
Part of my job is to help educate customers on the products we sell. It is not to tell which products that performs well for me and those that do not. However, if I do find a product that performs well for me, I make sure to know as much about it as I can so that I can find similar shafts to it. The vehicle that I have used to express these findings has been our annual Hireko Golf Club Shaft Fitting Addendum which is available for free to download. By using our new measurement tool and building a better library of shaft profiles for customers and fellow clubmakers to access, they will have a better grasp of what shafts to confidently choose.
I took apart several of my golf drivers that I use in my rotation to see how their golf shaft profiles compared. Here is a plot of 4 of them plus one additional one I threw in that I didn’t fare well with. Can you guess which one it was? That’s right it was the one in aqua (light blue), yet again the same basic frequency as the others. One thing of note, some of these shafts are labeled by the manufacturer as regular and others as stiff, but doesn’t really matter as long as the numbers are the same.
Now whenever I go to the range to test a new head I have to remember to make another one up with a shaft profile my friend already likes otherwise I am not going to get any feedback on the head, only grief about the shaft he doesn’t like.
What type of golf shafts are right for your customers?
First, utilize something like our Hireko Golf QuikFit system so you can interchange different golf shafts onto the same head to eliminate all but one variable (shaft). But more importantly when you go to set up you demo golf shaft collection, make sure to get shafts that vary from one to another so you can maximize your investment – absolutely no duplication to avoid confusing your customer and tying up your money. Lastly, read as much as you can and personally try out the products you offer so you are intimate with them.