Golfers know when they have the right shafts in their clubs.
The results are clear. With the correct shafts, golfers hit the ball further, straighter and are able to swing with less effort. What has not been so clear to golfers, however, is how to find out what shaft is best for them.
Golfers can spend hours hitting different shafts with the hope of finding the one that feels right. Variables such as torque and frequency can make the process seem more like a physics course than an activity to improve one’s game. That’s why golfers who are serious about improving their games often visit a custom club builder for a fitting session.
Usually, a trip to a custom fitter will give golfers access to a wider variety of products and a launch monitor, as well as the expertise of the club fitter. But because there are so many different shafts from countless manufacturers with limitless characteristics, many golfers can leave the fitting session with uncertainty. With all the different options, how do they really know that they shaft they chose was right for them?
UST Mamiya, a golf shaft company headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, began a long-term study in 2004 that they hoped would bring clarity to the shaft fitting process. To do this, the company recruited hundreds of golfers to see how different shafts were affecting their launch angle, spin rate, swing speed and dispersion.
In the test, golfers hit shots with shafts that isolated a specific variable. For example, one test asked golfers to hit shots with two different shafts, which were nearly identical with the exception that one that weighed 55 grams and the other weighed 80 grams. Developers repeated this type of testing with other variables, such as torque and stiffness.
According to Jamie Pipes, a product developer for UST, some of the results were contrary to what UST had been touting. For example, it was commonly accepted in the golf industry that lightweight shafts could increase clubhead speed, while heavier shafts decreased clubhead speed. What Pipes and the UST team saw in the testing, however, was that the weight of the shaft didn’t greatly affect swing speed. What was more important to swing speed was a variable that at first Pipes and his team thought was going to be a waste of time to test – torque.
Torque in a golf shaft is defined as the shaft’s resistance to twisting in the downswing. Torque is measured in degrees, which means that shafts with low torque twist less than shafts with higher amounts of torque. For years, developers at UST strove to make shafts with as low amount of torque as possible. It was a reaction to the growth of driver heads. Around 2000, the average driver head size was about 275cc. Just a few years later, many companies were producing driver heads in excess of 400cc.
In 2004, the USGA imposed a maximum limit of 460cc on the size of driver heads. While the new rule made it harder for major equipment manufacturers to innovate driver heads, it was a blessing for shaft companies. As heads grew larger every year, companies like UST struggled to engineer shafts that would match. But when the heads reached the maximum size limits, club designers began to focus more on the placement of the center of gravity of the heads, as well as the MOI.
Better placement of the center of gravity and MOI in driver heads made the heads more stable, and thus lessened the need for UST’s shafts to be as low torque as possible. Torque was one of the variables that stood out to Pipes and others on the team during UST’s long-term shaft test. Most of the comments testers made about the two different shafts during the torque testing – one with 2.5 degrees of torque, the other with 4.2 degrees of torque – were about one of the most vague terms in golf equipment: feel.
Pipes assumed that golfers with faster swing speeds were going to like shafts with low torque, while golfers with slower swing speeds would prefer high torque shafts. His reasoning was based on the physics of what happens to a shaft during the golf swing. As a golfer starts his downswing, three things happen to the shaft:
- The forces a golfer applies to the golf club as well as the forces of gravity cause the shaft to “droop” during the swing because the weight of the head is pulling down as the golfer swings to impact.
- As the golfer goes into impact, the hands slow down and the club head leads the swing, which is why on high-speed cameras the shaft appears to bend toward the ball as the golfer nears the impact position. This is why high-speed players usually opt for stiffer shafts – it limits the amount of bend.
- As the clubhead droops and the shaft flexes, the club head is also going to rotate closed. By what degree the clubhead closes is determined by the torque of the shaft.
Since launch monitors became an integral part of custom club fitting more than a decade ago, fitters have worked to find a combination of stiffness and shaft weight that matched a golfer’s swing. According to Pipes, the process of selecting the proper stiffness and weight for a golfer is fairly straightforward.
“Based on someone’s swing speed and ball speed, I can pretty much predict what stiffness they need,” Pipes said. “A guy with a swing speed in the mid 90s is probably going to be a stiff flex. A guy in the 100s or above is probably going to be an X flex.”
Weight is also a pretty easy fit, because Pipes said every golfer has a limit on how heavy or how light they can go with their shaft. If a player is using too light of a shaft, they will have a tendency to draw the ball. If he or she has too heavy of a shaft, they will tend to fade the ball. These results are obvious to a trained fitter during a fitting session.
But torque is a little trickier for a club fitter to tune, because it has to do with feel. It’s impossible for a club fitter to tell what a golfer is feeling – they can only interpret the numbers they receive from a launch monitor and the results they see from ball flight. But when the torque of a shaft is matched to a player’s swing type, Pipes has found that there is a noticeable spike in a golfer’s swing speed, as well as a more consistent spin rate.
“When [golfers] find the right shaft that fits them, they say it feels like butter,” Pipes said. “It’s like a homerun ball. It’s effortless.”
My fitting session
I had the opportunity to test UST’s line of Proforce VTS shafts in April at Pure Impact Golf Studio in Commerce Township, Mich. The owner of the facility, Chris Darakdjian, had fit me for a 3 wood two years ago when I was playing collegiate golf, so he was familiar with my swing. UST shipped him a few shafts that he believed I would most likely fit into.
I’d recently received three woods (driver, 3 wood, hybrid) with stock X-flex shafts that I was happy with, but I thought I custom fitting session could boost their performance. As with all of Darakdjian’s fittings, we started with my driver, a 460cc adjustable head with 8 degrees of loft. I warmed up with my driver, and after seeing the results, Darakdjian installed a VTS TourSPX Red 7X, which was the eventual winner.
Pipes said that during his fitting sessions, he does not like to have golfers hit more than a few shots without trying a different product. He said he doesn’t want golfers to become used to a shaft because it can distort the fitting process. Darakdjian followed the same protocol. After a handful of shots, Darakdjian had me try a Proforce VTS TourSPX Silver 7X, and then a VTS TourSPX Black 7X. (We also tried different weights and flexes, but I had the best results with 7X in my driver, 8X in my three wood and 8X in my hybrid). UST’s shaft fitting system uses colors to distinguish differences in torque. Red has the most torque, silver has a medium amount of torque and black has the lowest torque.
With my driver, I’ve always had a tendency to leave my shots out to the right. It’s because of a swing fault that I’ve always battled. On my downswing, I often get the clubhead outside my hands at the halfway down position. From there, I have to work extremely hard to get club back on plane, or I hit a block to the right. In competition, I usually settled with aiming down the left rough line, and trying to hit a block into the fairway.
The shaft I was using in my driver prior to the test weighed 76 grams and had 2.8 degrees of torque. On Darakdjian’s Trackman, I was averaging 111.2 mph swing speed with an 11.8 yard miss to the right. With the VTX Red 7X shaft, which was 75.9 grams and had 4.2 degrees of torque, my average swing speed jumped to 113.2 mph with an average dispersion of 0.7 yards to the right. My ball speed also increased – from 167.4 mph to 169.8 mph, my spin rate dropped from 2777 rpm to 2448 rpm and my launch angle increased from 7.9 degrees to 12.2 degrees (Darakdjian increased the loft on my adjustable driver from 8 degrees to 9 degrees to help raise my launch angle). What do all these numbers mean? I went from hitting my driver an average of 295.1 yards to 313.8 yards. But was more important to me was how much straighter I was hitting my driver.
Darakdjian noticed the difference in my swing immediately. Although my launch angle and spin rate improved with the silver and black versions of the VTS TourSPX shafts, my dispersion was not as consistent. The shafts also felt less smooth in my downswing, and Darakdjian noticed that with the lower torque models, the effort I was expending in my swing appeared to increase. I saw similar results in my 3 wood and hybrid – better launch, better spin rates and more distance. And most importantly, a better feel that led to tighter dispersions.
On the course
To Pipes, fitting golfers with the right shaft is a process, not something that is set in stone after one fitting. Adjustable driver heads have made that process much easier on club fitters, giving them the ability to quickly switch out shafts and alter the head’s launch conditions through moveable weights. But there are still many variables a club fitter can’t control, particularly the way a golfer’s swing changes over time or in competition.
When I was competing in collegiate golf, I always wondered if the swing changes I was making with my instructor were affecting the performance of my custom fit clubs. But most times, it was not reasonable for me to check in with my club fitter every time I made a change in my swing. Often there isn’t enough time, and many golfers lack the resources necessary to keep upgrading their equipment. Luckily, Pipes said that despite what many golfer’s believe about their swings, a golfer’s tendencies and swing characteristics are often more consistent than they believe.
Over the last month, I’ve had a chance to play multiple rounds with my new VTS TourSPX Red shafts. At first, the majority of my misses went to the left. I was not used to playing with shafts with such a high amount of torque. But on my good shots, the improvement was undeniable – especially into the wind, where the higher launch angle and reduced spin rate produced drives that were more than 30 yards longer than I was accustomed to. And the more I’ve played with my VTS TourSPX Red shafts, the straighter I’ve hit it.
According to UST Mamiya, 50 percent of its tour players are using Proforce VTS Black shafts (the lowest torque model) – 33 percent of players are using VTS Silver shafts (mid-torque) and 17 percent are using VTS Red shafts (high torque). That puts me in the minority of high-speed players that are using high-torque shafts, along with Webb Simpson, who uses a UST Avixcore 69X Red shaft in his driver and VTS Red 8TX shafts in his three wood and five wood.
But I shouldn’t need to know that Webb Simpson or any other tour pro is using a similar shaft as me. The shafts Darakdjian fit for me worked on the launch monitor, and luckily they’ve proved their worth on the course as well. Experienced fitters like Darakdjian charge about $100 for a driver fitting, and $250 for a full-set fitting – substantially less than what it would cost a golfer to buy a new driver or a new set of clubs. Many times, fitters will put some of these charges toward the purchase of a new shaft. And Darakdijian currently offers discounts for GolfWRX members who visit his studio.
A new golf club can give a golfer an immediate sense of confidence, but if its shaft specifications are the same as the previous club a player has struggled with, the old results are sure to follow. Whether you swing like Webb Simpson or Homer Simpson, if you’re a serious player with a reasonable amount of swing speed and consistency, there’s a shaft available that will help you improve your game. And the right shaft will likely cost much less than a new club, and bring much more enjoyment to your game. I know it did for me.
Forum Thread of the Day: “Scotty Cameron Albertsons Boise Open putter covers”
Today’s Forum Thread of the Day showcases Scotty Cameron’s Albertsons Boise Open putter covers. The vibrant french fries themed covers have been receiving plenty of love from our members in our forums, with one WRXer calling the new additions their “favorite headcover in a long time.”
Here are a few posts from the thread but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say on the covers at the link below.
- jschwarb: “Gave up french fries many months ago … this cover makes me happy and sad. I’ll probably grab one for my T22 Fastback.”
- manVSgolf: “This is my favorite headcover in a long time. Can’t wait to receive mine. Orders are still available for Club Cameron members.”
- chrisokeefe12: “Those are so sick would love to get my hands on one of those.”
Top 10 most iconic driver and fairway wood shafts of all time
If there is one thing we love as golf gear junkies, it’s driver (and fairway wood) shafts!
From the early years to today’s modern designs, materials, and profiles, there are some shafts that have maintained steady popularity—like a Ping Eye 2 lob wedge. There are a lot of graphite shafts that have stood the test of time, and they bring back memories of great driver combos gone by.
This is my top 10 list (in no particular order) of the most iconic driver shafts of all time.
Fujikura 757 Speeder
Launched more than two decades ago, you could arguably say it’s the shaft that started the shaft craze. Built from advanced materials in a profile that was designed to work for stabilizing larger driver heads of the time—you know when 300cc was HUGE. The Speeder 757 was an instant hit among PGA Tour players, most notably Fred Couples, who used the shaft for over a decade and was said to have at one point remove all the remaining stock from one of the equipment vans for his personal use.
One of the very first “low-spin monsters,” the Aldila NV took the PGA Tour and retail by storm when it was introduced. The unique green paint made it easily recognizable, and thanks to the many weights it was offered in, it was just as popular in fairway woods as it was in drivers. Honorable mention goes to its cousin the NVS (orange version) that was softer in profile and easier to launch. At a time when most off the rack drivers had three shaft options (low, medium, and high flight-promoting shafts), the NV was the staple as the low-launch option in many OEM offerings.
Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board
Originally very hard to find, the Diamana Blue Board was a shaft that fit a large variety of golfers. Its name was derived from the blue oval that surrounded the “Diamana” on the all silver/ion painted shaft. Just like others on the list, the Blue Board came in a variety of weight options and was made particularly popular by Tiger Woods. Best known by most shaft junkies as being extremely smooth, it is one of the first sought after shafts in the aftermarket.
True Temper EI-70
It’s hard to picture a classic 900 series Titleist Driver without an EI-70 shaft in it. The EI-70 was lower torque—when that was a big talking point in shaft design—and it had a fairly stout profile, which in turn made it very stable. Unlike others on the list, it was much more subdued as far as its paint and graphics, but the green shaft was a mainstay for many years on tour and in the bags or recreational golfers.
Graphite Design Tour AD DI-6/7
It’s hard to figure out if it was the design and performance of the shaft or the performance of a certain golfer (a certain Mr. Woods) that to this day makes the Tour AD DI-7 so popular. Painted BRIGHT orange with a bend profile that offered a lot of stability and playability for a variety of player types, it can still be spotted on tour every week. You could call the DI-7 the grandchild of the YS6/7, which should also get an honorable mention for its well documented smooth feel.
The aptly nicknamed “Lakers Shaft” because of its original gold and purple paint job, this was another shaft that was just as popular at the retail level as it was on the PGA Tour. As driver head sizes were going up (400cc ), players were looking for stability and this offered it. The most notable player to use it was Jim Furyk, who won the 2003 U.S. Open with one in the bag.
Henrik Stenson and the Grafalloy Blue in his 3-wood. Name a more iconic duo…(I’ll wait). An updated and stiffer version of the Prolite, the Blue stood out for a couple reasons—its color, and its extremely low torque. Most golfers wouldn’t consider the Blue a very smooth feeling shaft, because it took a lot of speed and a quick tempo to maximize its performance, but it did birth another shaft for average player: the Prolaunch Blue, which is still available to this day.
Matrix Ozik TP7HD
$1,100 bucks! That was the original asking price for the Martix Ozik TP7HD. Matrix thought of this design as a concept car of shafts and threw everything they had at it including exotic materials like Zylon, and the fact that it was wrapped on a 16-sided hexadecagon mandrel. Some golfers said it had a fluid-like feel (we golfers can sure be weirdly descriptive) but it still had a LOT of stability thanks to the materials. Although never as popular as many on the list, if you did spot one of these in the wild you knew its owner was VERY serious about golf gear.
True Temper Bi-Matrix
Bi (two) matrix (a surrounding medium or structure). The first and only truly notable shaft to be made from putting two very different and distinct pieces together. The bottom portion of the shaft utilizes a steel tip section that serves to add stability and additional weight. This shaft is quirky, which is something that could also be said about Bubba Watson, who has used this shaft for over a decade now in MANY different Ping drivers (although Tiger did give it a go for a short period).
This shaft might seem like the underdog of the bunch, but if you talk to any longtime club builder and get into “vintage” aftermarket shafts, undoubtedly the Accra SE-80 is going to come up at some point. Originally launched in 2006, the SE-80 combined a very low torque rating with an active tip section to help increase launch—yet feel extremely stable. Even though this shaft design is officially a teenager now, you can still find it in the bag of PGA Tour winner Ryan Palmer, who uses it in a TaylorMade R15 5-wood.
Editor’s Note: Let us know any shafts you think should be included in the comment section, WRXers!
Forum Thread of the Day: “TaylorMade Albertsons Boise Open putter covers”
Today’s Forum Thread of the Day showcases TaylorMade’s Albertsons Boise Open putter covers. The covers have impressed our members, who are hoping that the new additions will now come to retail.
Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire thread and have your say on the covers at the link below.
- Green In Reg: “Name your price TM!”
- chrisokeefe12: “Those are super cool. Would be sweet if they did one for every major college.”
- Titletown: “Those are great.”
Tommy Fleetwood’s bag is as awesome as he is (Tommy Fleetwood WITB)
Shane Lowry’s winning WITB: 2019 Open Championship
Tour caddie shoots 202 in U.S. Am qualifier and gets DQ’d after the event
2019 Mizuno MP-20 irons: Layers of feel
Why do Tour players prefer fades over draws from the tee box?
Matthew Wolff’s winning WITB: 2019 3M Open
Collin Morikawa’s winning WITB: 2019 Barracuda Championship
Brooks Koekpa’s winning WITB: 2019 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
Tiger Woods opts for lead tape on his Newport 2 rather than a heavier putter: Here’s why it makes sense
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