Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

Wishon: “What shaft flex should I use?”

Published

on

Let’s start our discussion by making one thing clear. There’s a lot to fitting the flex and bend profile of shafts — enough to write a whole book.

In asking me to write about the fitting of each of the key specs of golf clubs, GolfWRX in essence gives me a “1-pound bag” each week to offer information about each fitting spec. Covering everything about shaft flex and bend profile would be like trying to put 100 pounds of stuff into that 1-pound bag!

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 5.34.35 PM

For those who are really into knowing as much as possible about flex and bend profile fitting in shafts, I recommend you read the three-part series I wrote for GolfWRX some time ago.

Related

index

For those who may not be that familiar with fitting for FLEX and for BEND PROFILE, fitting for the flex is a matter of finding a shaft with the correct swing speed rating for the golfer’s clubhead speed AND transition/tempo, while fitting the bend profile involves matching the tip stiffness design of the shaft to the golfer’s point of release.

Of all the points that an experienced club fitter has to evaluate to do a good job in the fitting of flex and bend profile, the most important one is to have accurate shaft bend profile measurement and swing speed rating data on the largest possible population of shaft models and flexes. This is because there are no standards for the flex of a shaft in the golf industry. Each golf company and shaft company is free to decide how stiff any of their letter flex codes on their shafts are to be. As such, the R flex from one company can be of the same stiffness as the S flex from another company or the A flex from a third.

Without access to a large data base of actual stiffness and swing speed rating measurements for shafts to be able to clearly know and compare the stiffness design of shafts, fitting for flex and bend profile is a matter of time consuming and frustrating trial and error. Period.

The following bend profile data graph is simply offered as an example of the type of shaft stiffness measurement data required to take shaft flex/bend profile fitting from a trial-and-error process to one of clear, succinct organization. This example graph will also prove the point about the confusion in flex due to a lack of standards in the industry.

Each of the five shafts in this graph are labeled and sold as S-flex shafts. The stiffness measurements represent a range of three full flexes, or stated another way, represent a swing speed rating difference of more than 30 mph.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.01.53 AM

With such data, the flex and bend profile fitting analysis follows these procedures:

1. Accurately measure the average clubhead speed of the golfer with a driver and a 5- or 6-iron.

2. Observe the golfer’s downswing transition and tempo and evaluate it as either:

A) Smooth/gradual/passive with little sense of acceleration.

B) Average, with some sense of force and acceleration from the transition through the downswing.

C) Forceful and aggressive, as if the golfer cannot wait to pour on the coals to accelerate the club to impact.

In simple terms, the club fitter is observing whether the golfer is more of a swinger (A), a definite hitter (C) or somewhere in between (B) with his downswing transition and tempo.

3. Observe the golfer’s point of release (i.e. the point at which the golfer begins to unhinge the wrist-cock angle on the downswing as either (1) early, (2) midway, (3) later, or (4) very late. Another way to evaluate this is to reference the point of starting the release to the hour numbers on a clock while facing the golfer.  

  • (1) Early: 11 to 9:30
  • (2) Midway: 9:30 to 8:30
  • (3 Later: 8:30 to 7:30
  • (4) Very Late: 7:30 to 6:30

4. Choose shafts of the correct weight (see my story on shaft weight/total weight), which have a swing speed rating that matches to the golfer’s clubhead speed and an adjustment for their transition and tempo evaluation with a tip stiffness design that matches the golfer’s point of release.

We will use an example of a golfer with a 100 mph driver clubhead speed. The up or down adjustment in the swing speed rating and tip stiffness recommendation is the same for all other clubhead speeds.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.00.30 AM

The above procedures are done to give the club fitter A STARTING POINT for shaft flex and bend profile fitting. Suitable candidate shafts are chosen by the club fitter from which the test club hitting process begins.

Again, because the best club fitters are superb multi-taskers during the test club sessions for flex and bend profile, the club fitter is also testing for shaft weight, swing weight and continually asking the golfer for feedback with each change of head weight or shaft.

Without question, the matter of ADVANCED PLAYER SHAFT FLEX/BEND PROFILE FITTING must also include an evaluation of the golfer’s preference for feel elements and shot shape/performance related to the flex/bend profile. Experienced club fitters will ask the golfer to provide the names of shafts the golfer has used, along with the golfer’s feedback of too high, too low, good flight, too stiff feeling, too flexible feeling, just right feeling, etc.

With this information, the club fitter will access his database of shaft stiffness measurements to study as many of the golfer’s previous shafts and compare the stiffness measurements. Through this process, the club fitter will be able to know what the actual stiffness measurements are for each shaft model feedback opinion from the golfer. From this the club fitter will have a very clear picture of what the stiffness measurements need to be to best satisfy the golfer’s feel and shot shape preferences.

Again, with the right database of shaft stiffness measurements, the process of flex and bend profile fitting becomes a very organized, very orderly, and very accurate process. Without such information, shaft flex and bend profile fitting will forever be a matter of trial and error.

Related

Tom Wishon

  1. What length should your clubs be?
  2. What lofts should your clubs be?
  3. Face angle is crucial for a proper fitting
  4. The best way to fit lie angle
  5. How to choose the right club head design
  6. Tom Wishon’s keys to set makeup
  7. Getting the right size grip, time after time
  8. What shaft weight should you play?
  9. What swing weight should your clubs be?
  10. What shaft flex should I use?

This story is part of a 10-part series from Tom Wishon on professional club fitting.

Your Reaction?
  • 205
  • LEGIT30
  • WOW16
  • LOL4
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP7
  • OB1
  • SHANK7

Tom Wishon is a 40-year veteran of the golf equipment industry specializing in club head design, shaft performance analysis and club fitting research and development. He has been responsible for more than 50 different club head design firsts in his design career, including the first adjustable hosel device, as well as the first 0.830 COR fairway woods, hybrids and irons. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: February 2014 Tom served as a member of the Golf Digest Technical Advisory Panel, and has written several books on golf equipment including "The Search for the Perfect Golf Club" and "The Search for the Perfect Driver," which were selected as back-to-back winners of the 2006 and 2007 Golf Book of the Year by the International Network of Golf (ING), the largest organization of golf industry media professionals in the USA. He continues to teach and share his wealth of knowledge in custom club fitting through his latest book, "Common Sense Clubfitting: The Wishon Method," written for golf professionals and club makers to learn the latest techniques in accurate custom club fitting. Tom currently heads his own company, Tom Wishon Golf Technology, which specializes in the design of original, high-end custom golf equipment designs and club fitting research for independent custom club makers worldwide Click here to visit his site, wishongolf.com

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Jim M.

    Mar 24, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Hello Tom,
    I’m curious if you have any thoughts or opinions on the accuracy/validity of the Golfworks “MPF Shaft Ratings”? Up to this point it’s the only shaft rating guide that I’ve used, and have found it to be better than going about shaft purchases blind, but not something I’d use and bet the house on.
    Since I’m just up in Boulder, maybe we can discuss the fascinating World of Shafts in person someday. Thanks for your articles, really enjoy hearing your perspective!

    • Tom Wishon

      Mar 24, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      Jim M
      Sorry, but I don’t think very much of the Golfworks MPF shaft ratings. If you take a look at the clubhead speed ranges that they advise, you will see that every R flex is rated for the same 77-92mph driver speed, every S for the same 93-107 swing speed and so on. In doing this they are showing they are not aware of the fact that there is no standard for letter flex as I showed in that bend profile graph in the article. Also, having a 14-15mph swing speed range within the same flex is too large. While there are some areas for which I hold high regard for Golfworks, this is not one of them and the information is not very good for helping golfers find the best shaft for their swing characteristics. That graph you see in the article comes from my Bend Profile software program in which we now have something like 3,000 different shafts in the data base. Many of the clubmakers use this as their guide for empirically comparing the full length stiffness design of shafts so they know much more precisely how one shaft compares to the other. We certainly do not have all the shafts in the data base because this is a monumental task to try to get samples of as many shafts as we can. We certainly cannot buy them all. So we ask the shaft makers to submit samples of their shafts for us to measure and put into the data base. And as happens, some of the shaft makers choose not to participate for whatever reasons. But as it stands now, this software program is the most extensive data base of shaft relative stiffness measurements for clubmakers or golfers to have to be able to make better empirical comparisons.

      • Jim M.

        Mar 25, 2015 at 11:39 am

        Thanks for the reply Tom. I was under the impression Golfworks had a bit more sophisticated analysis at play, but as you point out, my impression was false.
        I’ve had a couple “clunker” purchases recently, and things are making a lot more sense why now!

  2. Devon

    Mar 18, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    Hi Tom:

    Thanks again so much for posting. Incredibly valuable knowledge. It seems from reading your posts, I have been misunderstanding the role of shaft flex (and it seems I would not be alone!). I have always thought the main consideration in choosing a shaft is the trade-off between distance and accuracy. Want more distance, get a flexible shaft that will bend more and load the club head more like a sling shot catapult. Want more accuracy, get a stiffer shaft that won’t bend and twist as much, and thus provide a more consistently square face at impact. If you have a fast club head speed like I do (115+ for driver), but a miss will put you three fairways over, get the stiffest shaft you can find. When I read your posts, however, I don’t see any mention of stiffness impacting accuracy (hitting it straight). I see mention of stiffness affecting two main areas: 1) trajectory, spin rate, and launch angle (for harder swinging, late releasing folks, which I think I would also be); and 2) an individual preference for the feel of the club either loading or not loading.

    Have I been wrong all these years in thinking the main consideration in choosing stiffness is the trade-off of distance and accuracy?

    • Tom Wishon

      Mar 20, 2015 at 3:47 pm

      Devon:
      Thanks for asking your question so I could have the chance to answer because this is a very good question since it has been said over the years that stiffer means more accurate and flexible means more distance. This concept has its roots from way back, long before serious research was done to find out precisely what the stiffness design of a shaft really does for golfers with different swing characteristics.

      It fooled Karsten because those who remember Ping clubs from the 70s and 80s recall that he always used one very stiff flex in all the clubs Ping made back then, from this belief that going very stiff was better because it offered better accuracy. But once he and his engineers discovered the real performance contribution of flex and bend profile, Ping did move away from this original very stiff philosophy to make their clubs with different flexes to better match to the clubhead speeds of golfers.

      Where this stiffer is more accurate and flexible is more distance belief came about was from way back when really good players would use different flex shafts – not from regular golfer testing with different stiffnesses. When a high clubhead speed player with a later release uses a MUCH more flexible shaft, the forward bending of the shaft coming into impact not only increases the dynamic loft to result in a higher launch/more spin/higher flight, but a greater amount of forward bending also causes the face to close a little bit too. So these higher speed, late release players would see that they had a tendency to draw or even hook the ball a little more when using a much more flexible shaft. Changing to a stiffer shaft reduced the amount of forward bend on the shaft at impact, which in turn lowered launch/spin/trajectory AND reduced the tendency of the forward bend to close the face. So from this came the belief that stiffer was more accurate.

      Not so with avg to regular players because without a higher speed AND later release, the shaft cannot come to impact in a forward bend position to bring about any real change in launch/spin/trajectory or any change in the face angle position.

      The concept that more flexible meant more distance came from the fact that when a higher speed, later release player used a more flexible shaft, often times the higher launch resulted in more carry distance, particularly if the player was using too little loft on the driver for his speed and his angle of attack. But here again, this does not work for early to midway release players because the shaft can’t be in a forward bend position at impact with an early to early-midway release and only gets to that point as the release gets a little later and later in the downswing.

      So to a small extent, going stiffer can have a small effect on accuracy, but typically only if the player were using a shaft that was too flexible for his speed and downswing force/tempo. Thing is, it is NEVER a good thing to play with a shaft that is stiffer than what your speed and downswing force dictates because that has the effect of making impact feel more dead/boardy and also can affect the golfer’s swing timing, tempo, and release in an adverse manner.

      Final point – ACCURACY is far, far more a product of getting the right fit for your length, the shaft weight, the headweight, the face angle. The shaft flex is a distant and only slight contributor to that.

  3. James

    Mar 18, 2015 at 12:40 am

    you could write a book…and that book would be called “Bullsh*t”…..unless you are a low single digit handicap player it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans what kind of shaft you are using. whether its a stiff or extra stiff or you pay $1000.00 for some after market shaft or use a made for shaft or some proprietary shaft. your swing just isn’t going to be consistent enough to see and difference. and they guys whos swings are consistant enough? its really just fine tuning…and I mean FINE tuning…

    • Tom Wishon

      Mar 18, 2015 at 10:41 am

      JAMES
      I have said many times in my books and articles that golfers have to have a higher clubhead speed and mainly a later release before differences in the shafts’ stiffness design will begin to show an effect on changing the launch angle, trajectory and spin of the shot. So if you assume that only low single digit handicappers have a higher speed with late release, then you’re right – at least from a launch angle, trajectory and spin standpoint of performance related to different shaft stiffness designs.

      On the other hand, the stiffness design also can have a very big effect on swing tempo/timing/rhythm and on solidness of impact feel. And these elements of indirect performance from the shaft’s stiffness design can most definitely be perceived by high single digit, middle digit and even some higher handicappers depending on how much golf they have played.

      Pretty much most golfers who have played a lot can notice when a shot feels dead or lively when the ball leaves the face. When a shaft is too stiff for a golfer, the feeling of impact in the center of the face becomes more “dead” or “boardy”. And while that won’t affect actual ball speeds or shot characteristics, it most certainly can affect the golfer’s sense of feel to the point that he begins making worse swings and becomes more inconsistent as he fights with this sense of dead impact feel from the shaft being too stiff. This most certainly is an element related to stiffness design that more than just low single digit players can perceive.

      Yes, no question, and as I have said before, for the golfers with avg to slower speeds who also have an early to early-midway release, the elements of length, loft, lie, face angle, shaft weight, total weight, swingweight, head design, set makeup and grip size will for sure contribute much more to game improvement than will the stiffness design of the shaft. But even so, this matter of getting the right flex for avg golfers so their sense of timing/rhythm is a little better, and very much so the feeling of impact is more solid are important elements related to the stiffness design that have to be observed for these less skilled players.

      • Justin

        Apr 8, 2015 at 12:37 am

        Hi Tom,

        I’ve been into clubfitting for a few years now, and am a firm believer in the Common Sense Clubfitting system you developed. My question about this thread, with the importance of flex for less-skilled players, is: how would it matter?

        What I mean is, when an early unhinging of the wrist angle happens, doesn’t all of that flex go out the window (so to speak)? Am I correct in believing the shaft flexes and returns to straight well before the clubhead gets to the ball? If so, would the flex really have that much of an effect on “feel”?

        Thanks for all you do,
        Justin

  4. Dennis

    Mar 15, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Seems hard to believe you can discuss shaft flex without mentioning splining and whether the shafts were spline for maximum or minimum flex.

    • Tom Wishon

      Mar 15, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      Dennis
      Like I said in the opening paragraph, one could easily write a book about all the elements related to shafts, shaft flex, bend profile and the fitting thereof. Shaft spine alignment can be important to SOME players depending on their swing characteristics, but by no means is it a critical element for ALL golfers. With the limited space I have for each piece, I have to award a priority to covering information that will be pertinent to the largest segment of golfers and spine alignment/orientation does not fit that priority. FYI so I don’t leave this too much in the dark, I’ll leave you with two basics about it – 1) far fewer shafts today exhibit asymmetry properties for which a spine/asymmetry check and realignment is necessary, 2) shaft spine alignment/orientation becomes more important as the clubhead speed gets higher, as the downswing move becomes more aggressive and as the release becomes later and later in the downswing.

  5. Charles

    Mar 13, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    I’ve read a lot of articles from club fitters about shaft flex and there are folks saying “You should play the softest shaft you can control”, while other guys say “You should play the stiffest shaft you can get the ball airborne”. I really would like to know your opinion about that. Let’s say that when you are fitting someone you see by the numbers that there are two shafts that match the player’s swing, but one is stiffer than the other, what would be your recommendation? Thanks

    • Tom Wishon

      Mar 13, 2015 at 8:06 pm

      CHARLES
      Depends on the golfer’s swing characteristics. The higher the clubhead speed, the more forceful the transition and tempo and the later the release, the more it would be better to err on the side of being a little bit too stiff than too flexible. But the lower the speed, the more passive the downswing force and the earlier the release, the better it would be to err on the side of being a little too flexible than too stiff.

      Reason is that higher speed, more forceful transition/tempo and later release are all swing characteristics that make the shaft bend more in the swing. So as the player has the ability to bend the shaft more in the swing, the better it would be to err on the side of being a little too stiff. However, fitting the shaft flex/bp always should involve asking the player if he has a preference for the bending feel of the shaft based on experience in the game. if so, then you really have to keep this in mind when making final decisions for the flex/bp. So if the player has preferred shafts that are stiffer than what his swing characteristics might otherwise dictate in a fitting analysis, then you have to err on the side of being a little more stiff. And vice versa too.

  6. Marty

    Mar 13, 2015 at 12:20 am

  7. RP Jacobs II

    Mar 12, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    Great article Tom!!

    Stay well my Friend 🙂

    Golfingly Yours,
    Richard

  8. Sean

    Mar 12, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I have three different flexes in my bag: light, regular, and stiff. Works for me.

    • marty

      Mar 14, 2015 at 4:20 am

      I thought I was the only weirdo who does this. Hahahahah

  9. Chris C

    Mar 12, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    I seem to recall that Mr.Wishon has previously suggested that, for those who release the club early, shaft flex is not a significant factor in fitting. I believe that he noted that all of Ping’s early irons came with stiff flex shafts. If I have recollected correctly, Mr. Wishon might actually concur with Mr. Crossfield’s assessment. At least with regards to early releasers.

  10. gunmetal

    Mar 12, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Tom,

    Have you checked out Mark crossfield’s YouTube series on ‘shaft flex does it matter’? Really interesting on how miniscule the differences in performance are even from x to L let alone S to R.

    • David

      Mar 12, 2015 at 6:25 am

      Please don’t tell me you’d believe Mark Crossfield over Tom Wishon. Shaft flex obviously matters, Mark and his friends are all low players, try testing on mid-high handicappers and he’d see a noticeable difference.

      • Rich

        Mar 12, 2015 at 8:42 pm

        I think Mark Crossfield’s video makes sense. He has the data to back it up as well. Yes they are low markers but there are a lot of guys out there that swing at the same speed as MC (roughly 150 ball speed with a driver) so it would seem quite relevant to me.

      • Marty

        Mar 13, 2015 at 12:02 am

        Actually I believe Tom himself has stated that shaft flex matters very little with an early release swing and matters mostly on late to very late release swing. With early release swings, the club has already released and returned back to straight before impact therefore negating the flex

    • Mat

      Mar 12, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      I’m just shaking my head over that comment…

    • Tom Wishon

      Mar 13, 2015 at 7:58 pm

      Gunmetal
      There are two possible ways that the shaft can have an effect on performance. 1) as clubhead speed gets higher AND with it, as the release gets later, the shaft will show an effect on the launch angle, trajectory and spin. But the other side of this is also the fact that as clubhead speed gets slower AND with it, the release happens earlier, the shaft cannot have any real effect on LA, Traj and spin. This is because the early release causes the shaft to go into its forward bending action too soon before impact so by the time the head gets to the ball, the shaft has rebounded back to straight and thus can’t affect LA, Traj and spin. Add to this the fact that slower speed means any potential change in the LA and spin are far less evident.

      2) the other way the flex/bend profile can affect performance is when a golfer happens to have a very distinct sense of FEEL for the bending action of the shaft, when the flex/BP is dead on right in the wheelhouse of the golfer’s sense of feel, this means his timing for his release is as good as it can be, which in turn means he will reach his absolute highest clubhead speed as well as best timing and rhythm in the swing.

      But not all golfers have a definite sense of feel for the bending action of the shaft. Some do, many don’t. And this is something that while usually more in the realm of better players, it is still possible to find a less skilled but experienced player who does have a real sense of feel for the shaft. In such cases even though the less skilled player may not have the speed or release to make the shaft elicit much effect on the LA, traj and spin, if he does have a very refined sense of feel for the shaft, this means getting him into the right flex/bp helps with his swing tempo, timing and rhythm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Podcasts

TG2: What clubs did Instagram pick for Knudson? Let’s talk some PGA Merchandise Show!

Published

on

Instagram picked Knudson’s clubs he has to play with next week. Rob and Knudson discuss what clubs won the Internet’s heart and are they a good fit? The duo also talk about the PGA Merchandise show and what members in the GolfWRX forums want to see this year.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP1
  • OB1
  • SHANK12

Continue Reading

Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Kankakee Elks Country Club in St Anne, Illinois

Published

on

These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member schley, who takes us to Kankakee Elks Country Club in St Anne, Illinois. The track was built in 1926, and in schley’s description, he claims that the course is so impressive that it has the potential to rival any other in the area.

“An old Langford/Moreau design that could easily be one of the top 10 in Illinois with some tree removal and minor work on bunkers. One hour south of Chicago and love the course for it is cheap as well (under $50 bucks on a Saturday morning).”

According to Kankakee Elks Country Club’s website, 18 holes during the week can be played for $24, while to play on the weekend the rate rises to $30.

@the_fried_egg

@the_fried_egg

@the_fried_egg

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT5
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Fresh Pond Golf Course in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Published

on

These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member runningdog, who takes us to Fresh Pond Golf Course in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The nine-hole track is a Donald Ross design, and runningdog states in his description that, should you visit the course, then you need to walk it.

“It’s where I played my first golf when I picked it up years ago, and every time I’m back I go and play.  It can be a long round, but it’s a great walk (don’t ever ride this course). 9 Hole track that can be played twice.”

According to Fresh Pond Golf Course’s website, 18 holes will set you back $36 during the week and $41 on weekends.

@VEPO64

@bostoncross

@youre_away

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

Your Reaction?
  • 8
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Facebook

Trending