One dilemma golf manufacturers and custom clubmaking shops have to consider is what the “standard” lengths of their products will be aside from one size for men and another for ladies.
It would be easy if all you had was one shaft and one grip, but in the world of custom fitting and building, it doesn’t work that way. One time you may be building an iron with a 125g steel shaft and the next with an 80 gram graphite shaft. Assuming the balance point of the graphite shaft wasn’t intentionally shafted to the tip end, the clubs will end up with a different balance or heft when held in the golfer’s hands and this will also affect the shaft flex.
When manufacturers build a product they do so to a certain specification. Many times this specification will be a specific swingweight range for each gender. For men, clubs typically range between a D0 and D2 and C4-C6 for ladies at standard lengths. Sometimes you might see a product slightly higher or lower than this but it is not by much. For those of you not familiar with that term, swingweight is the relationship between the overall weight of the club and its balance point. Generally a lighter swingweight will be a result if a lighter shaft is used with all else being the same.
Here is a matrix of 5-irons with standard weight grips (50g) and what you can expect with various weight shafts. Note there is not always a linear relation in swingweight reduction as you decrease weight. This can be explained by the fact that manufacturers will often reduce weight near the upper portion of the shaft is where there is less stress so the balance points will be closer to the tip of the shaft.
The clubmakers has two options if they want the swingweight to be the same with steel or graphite shafts. There is a practice of making the lighter graphite shafts longer. That is the graphite-shafted clubs will be ¼” or ½” longer than the steel-shafted standard and this varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Hireko’s standard has ½” variance between the two materials and accounts for a 3 swingweight point drop between standard weight steel and lightweight graphite.
One of the downsides to having the graphite-shafted club longer than the steel is when golfers are sensitive to additional length that makes it harder for him or her to hit the ball solidly. In those cases if the person let’s say fits into “standard” length with steel, but if they want graphite, they may have to order shorter than standard to achieve the same length.
|Iron Corks – 25 Pack||Steel Ramrod||Dynacraft Tungsten Powder|
|Model: CORKS||Model: SRR-001||Model: TG|
|$5.95 for pack of 25||$3.95 each||$16.95 each|
One way to avoid making the clubs longer to maintain the same swingweight is the use of tip pins. This may require 4-6 grams of material inserted into the tip of the shaft. The clubmaker can also opt to use tungsten powder and a cork and tamp it down with a ram rod in a steel shafted club, but you never want to use these items in a graphite shaft because the opening is much too small. As long as the weight is at a minimum, then it has no adverse effect on the club’s performance.
The third option is to keep the “standard” lengths the same, but let the swingweight of the graphite shafted clubs be a couple points lighter than the steel. Again, it is up to the discretion of the manufacturer or the clubmaker to exercise this option.
It doesn’t matter whether you are ordering custom made clubs or building them yourself, it is a good habit to know which method is utilized to avoid confusion. Hopefully you have a better understanding and know there is a rhyme and reason why some manufacturers will employ the practice of making their graphite-shafted clubs longer than with steel and others do not.
Golf has been around for 500 or so years and is not going to die anytime soon.
I have been in the golf industry for 30 years now and seen a lot of changes both good and bad. Back then golf was considered a rich man’s game where doctors and bankers would get away in their own sanctuary wearing snazzy clothing to enjoy a quick round at their local country club. I’ll be honest golf was foreign to me growing up as few of my peers every laid foot on a golf course. However, I did follow Jack Nicklaus on TV, a local legendary figure, and held him in reverence in the same way I did Pete Rose, John Havlicek and Fran Tarkington.
Growth in the golf industry started its roots back in the early 80’s. That is where the Hireko’s and Dynacraft’s of the world emerged because investment casting opened the door for new companies to invent, manufacturer and distribute better products. You had the players of the day changing over from century’s old technology like blade-style irons to cavity back models and new-fangled “metal” woods were starting to supplant those wooden beauties. Graphite shafts were better and gaining market share too.
If you couldn’t make money in the golf industry in the 1980’s, you were doing something very, very wrong. That continued in the 90’s although you had to work harder to do so. Once more new technology led to customer buying clubs in droves again when golfer eschewed their stainless steel driver for the larger, more high-tech titanium models.
Many middle class families were enjoying golf at record levels. And when Tiger Woods debuted on tour in 1996 and excelled, there was no telling how rapid the growth of golf could become. Golf courses were developed at record pace for the anticipated numbers of new golfers to enter the game. Golf was all-the sudden cool and what could go wrong?
Too much of a good thing
9-11 made us mourn and changed people’s priorities and spending habits. Two wars and an economic melt-down didn’t help either. USGA regulations hampered innovation. Golf companies gobbled up one another and became behemoth companies that had to appease shareholders. More people took to training for golf teaching jobs than there were positions available. The growth of the 1980’s and 90’s was unsustainable and the golf industry was in denial; no one wanted to hear the truth. Yet the golf industry continued on its’ binge. Defying decade’s long product life cycles, companies began flooding the market with new product after new product only adding fuel to the fire and where the industry stands today.
It is not all doom and gloom
The media will paint a dark picture about the state of the golf industry because they remember the days of wine and roses. I look at it a little differently. The perception has changed and golf is now accessible to far more demographics and is no longer just a rich man’s game. Many people I see on the local golf courses might not be there if it were for those responsible for the innovations in the 80’s and 90’s. Yes participation has declined. So too did tennis and yet it is making a comeback. There may be 5 million fewer golfers than there were a decade ago, but there are still 5 million more players than in 1986. More courses are closing than opening, but that is because they built way too many and we still have more options to play than we did 15 years ago. Course conditions are much improved and so too is the equipment.
With all the negative reporting we still have to remember people are still playing golf and it is not dying anytime soon. There are lots of other activities to stimulate our senses and occupy our valuable time. Yoga is trendy right now. You can bet companies will capitalize on it while the fire’s hot. But will it have a two decade bender the golf industry enjoyed? No one can tell, but usually the slow but steady win the race at the end.
Answers or solutions
Many say golf is too expensive and I would have to argue. OK, it can be if you want the latest and greatest immediately when it comes out. Golf courses are vying for the same dwindling pool of players and as a result rates are low. As for purchasing golf equipment there are lots of different price points and avenues than the traditional retailer route. That’s why I proud to be at Hireko even though I know we and our brands (Acer, Dynacraft, Power Play, etc.) may never be household names.
One of the biggest obstacles is golf can be time consuming, especially at newer courses that are extremely long to appease the better player. But the problem is the golf industry has had a top down approach by going after the upper echelon of players and hoping it has a trickle-down effect. Maybe it needs to implement a bottom’s up approach to get more golfers involved by having access to shorter courses like par 3’s or executives. It would cost courses less to operate and golfers cold play quicker and possibly with less clubs which will further reduce expenses. Over time, many of those players will get hooked and play their local regulation courses.
Golf has been around for 500 or so years and is not going to die anytime soon. I have learned over the years how trends change; some just last longer than others. When things change you adapt or get out of the way. While we may never again encounter the rare success as seen in the go-go ‘80s, there are still opportunities in the golf business.
Hireko now stocks corks, tungsten powder and ramrods for all your swingweighting needs!
Can We Quantify The Feel of a Golf Shaft?
What constitutes feel or relative stiffness of a golf club? You’ll find there are many theories on defining how stiff a golf club (or shaft) are compared to another. Today I want to share with you a different perspective on defining this delicate subject and hopefully opening your mind to other possibilities or explain what you may have experienced in the past.
First, you need to understand one thing; the only standard in the golf industry is “there are there no standards”. When you buy a club with an R-flex in it, you may find that it feels different from other R-flex shafts. Some of the factors include the lack of standardization for flex or could be the overall weight, bend point of stiffness distribution as well as torque.
For years a simple deflection board was used that cantilevered the butt end of the shaft as one hung a weight from the tip and noticed how much the shaft deflected downward. The more the tip hung lower, the more flexible the shaft was considered. In other cases, a shaft is deflected a known distance downward and load sensor records the amount of force to hold it into that position. Here, the lower amount of force indicated a more flexible shaft. Of course this is only true if we are comparing clubs of the same length.
Today, frequency analyzers are commonly used as another way to define the stiffness of a club by clamping the butt end and plucking the head to put it into motion. The frequency analyzer measures these movements and calculates how many cycles per minute (cpm) the shaft would oscillate over the sensor. The higher the number of oscillations meant the shaft was moving faster and would be considered a stiffer club than one with a lower cpm. Again this is only true if we are comparing clubs of the same length.
Last year we added a new piece of equipment to our shaft testing lab to help better quantify shaft stiffness and to educate clubmakers and customers alike to help select the right shaft. Our EI shaft profiler is a 3-point bending test that measures the deflection along a span of the shaft. By taking measurements from the tip to the butt and plotting the results provides a more comprehensive look at the shaft’s stiffness distribution and a better understanding of how that shaft will react.
It is not the most glamourous job as you have to carefully move the shaft to each exact location, reset the dial indicator to zero, lower the weight and record the amount of deflection and then repeat this step over and over and over. Well here is an example of a graph of deflections readings of 3 flexes of the same family of shaft.
To make this easier to understand, let’s blow up the chart and makes some notes. The left side of the chart represents the tip end. The plot is an accumulation of 17 data points measuring 2” closer to the butt. The lower the position on the chart; the stiffer the shaft is at any given point. Yes, the butt end is stiffer than the tip due to the larger cross section or diameters. The red line is the S-flex, black line is the R1 flex (standard regular) and the blue line is the R2 flex (commonly referred to as senior or A flex).
Since it is the same family of shaft (in this case the Graphite Design Tour AD BB 5), the shape of the curve is very similar. The only difference is the more flexible shafts exhibit a greater amount of deflection.
To put this all in perspective, one way to quantify feel in is to examine the summation of all the individual deflections along the entire length of the shaft. In other words we want to look at the area under the curve (shaded area). If we were to look at the area under the black curve, it would be larger and the blue line even a little more.
This leads us to our next topic. Clubmakers rely on frequency analyzers to take a quick measurement of the stiffness of a club or even a shaft by itself with some sort of weighted object attached. Again you have to compare frequencies at identical lengths otherwise you are not comparing apples to apples. But let’s say we have three shafts of all the same frequency, length and similar weight. Should all those shafts feel the same? Many would incorrectly assume so.
There is another factor in shaft fitting that is important to remember and that is the stiffness distribution or what some may say is the bend point or kick point of the shaft. Here are three R-flex shafts that we tested that had the same frequency, very similar weight, but their deflection curves varied considerably, especially near the business end of the club (head).
From about the 22” point from the tip all the way to the butt end, these shafts all had nearly identical deflections readings. It may not come as much surprise as the shafts had the same frequency which is measured by clamping the butt end. The blue line represents the Accuflex Evolution. Although this shaft is no longer manufactured, I can tell you it was one very tip stiff shaft and always felt much firmer overall than other shafts of similar frequency. The red line represents the Aldila NV Voodoo 60 which is considered a mid-trajectory shaft by the manufacturer. Lastly, the green line represents the Loomis Collegiate Series, which is said to be more high-to-mid launching.
Now let’s tie in what we learned earlier. The less area under the curve would result into a stiffer shaft. Even though each of these shafts is the same exact frequency and similar weight, the Evolution should feel the stiffest and the Loomis Collegiate the most flexible of the three.
Back in 2011, I reported on the UST-Mamiya VTS series that was recently introduced. If you are not familiar with this unique series of shafts, you can click on the link for more detailed information. UST Mamiya was able to produce shafts of the same weight, butt, mid and tip flex, but with 3 different torques, each 1 degree apart or what they said was the minimum threshold at which golfers could feel. The shafts are colored coded to indicate the torque. The Black is the lowest torque version. Silver is the mid torque version or 1º higher than the black. Lastly Red is the highest torque version of 1º higher than the silver. The higher the torque was to provide a softer feel of the grouping.
Here are the deflection profiles of the 65 gram S-flex series. At first glance they appear to overlap once another. This should come as no surprise. After all, there were designed to be the same stiffness, stiffness distribution and weight. But there are little nuances with each shaft if you were to look at the individual deflections and measure the area under the curves. The Black (or lowest torque) had the least amount of area under its curve signifying the stiffest “feel”. The Silver was next and the Red exhibited the highest amount of area under the curve.
So what is the real reason for the difference in feel? Remember, In order to alter the torque and maintain everything else requires the materials to be applied at different angles along the shaft forming mandrel and these can alter the deflections along the length of the shaft. For years our DSFI (Dynamic Shaft Fitting Index) was based on torque as well as frequency. Now we have another way to put a number on feel.