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Part 1: Taking the guesswork out of selecting shafts

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It’s clear that a lot of threads and posts in the GolfWRX forums are from golfers asking all sorts of questions about shafts. In nearly 40 years of golf equipment design and research work, I think it is fair to say that the shaft is the least understood component of the golf club.

I have engaged in serious shaft research since 1990, and from that have learned a lot about shaft design, performance and fitting, I would like to help clear some things up and share some facts about shafts and what you need to know to pick the best shaft for YOUR swing.

I will do my best to make all of this understandable without stressing everyone’s attention span. But there is a lot to explain about this subject so I will separate this into three parts with some time in between each thread to allow you to digest it and ask questions.

How Can Golfers TRULY Compare Shafts to Know their Real Performance Differences?  

Below is a typical “specification chart” from a major shaft company.  I have removed the names because it is not my intent to criticize a specific shaft maker.  It is simply my desire to show you how the typical information provided about shafts will not allow golfers to know what they really need to know about shafts to be able to make an informed buying decision.

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Plain and simple, the information in this chart cannot tell a golfer how any of these shafts truly perform, much less how they actually compare in stiffness to any other the shaft.

The flex? There are no standards for exactly how stiff any of the flex letter codes are. Charts like this provide no quantitative measurements of exactly how stiff any shaft might be. In fact the ONLY bits of information on a typical chart like this which can be helpful are the WEIGHT and the TORQUE.

The butt and tip diameter? These are fine for knowing what the hosel bore of the clubhead needs to be to easily accept the shaft and to know how to install the grip to obtain a desired size.

The parallel tip section? That simply tells you if you cut more than 2 inches off the tip, it’s not likely to fit all the way into any normal hosel with a 0.335-inch bore.

The bend point? Sorry, but the term bend point is not relevant because with terms like “high,” “mid,” or “low,” it has always been way too generic. WHERE EXACTLY IS a mid bend point? And how does this mid bend point compare to some other company’s mid or low or high bend point?

Recently I have seen a couple of other shaft companies begin to offer a form of QUANTITATIVE stiffness measurements for their shafts. Here’s an example:

post-45409-0-42691000-1347655297_thumb

This shaft company offers a series of stiffness profile measurements for the butt, mid and tip sections of their shafts. That’s a start, but the problem is that this company only offers these stiffness profile measurements for their own shafts. This is somewhat reasonable for comparing the various shaft models and flexes within this one company, but what if you have some other company’s shaft in your driver, or you wish to compare these shafts to some other company’s shafts? And if you have never hit one of these shafts, how stiff or flexible are any of these measurements in the first place? These rudimentary stiffness profile measurements do not allow the depth and scope of stiffness information to allow you to make a valid shaft fitting decision.

You might look at the butt stiffness number and say, “That’s a frequency measurement and I know how stiff a 270 cpm shaft plays.”  Yes, that butt stiffness number is a frequency measurement. But the problem is you have no idea how these butt frequency measurements were obtained.

  • What length of the butt was clamped?
  • How heavy was the tip weight?
  • Is this 270 cpm frequency the same as a 270 cpm shaft that you played?

Again, there are no standards in the golf industry for shaft frequency measurement so you have no idea if a measurement of say, 270 cpm from this company is equivalent to a measurement of 255 cpm or 265 cpm or whatever cpm using one of the many other types of shaft frequency measurement.

What makes all this even more “exciting” or I should say, challenging, is the fact the industry is now populated with many shafts that are VERY expensive. Do you really want to GUESS whether that $300 shaft is right for you, or would you like to have a more definitive way to help make that decision?

Is there a Better Way to Compare Shaft Stiffness?  

Ever since I began to perform quantitative measurements on shafts, I knew we needed a way to be able to see and compare the stiffness of as many shafts as possible, and do it over their entire length. That way, club makers and golfers could have a tangible way to compare the complete full length stiffness design of shafts to each other. The performance and the bending feel of any shaft are products of its stiffness design over its entire length. Not just the butt, not just the tip, but the whole length of the shaft. There are almost an infinite number of ways the stiffness of a shaft can be created over its entire length.

In 2005, we arrived on a reasonably simple method to perform full length comparative stiffness measurements for golf shafts. From this, we created a software program that would house and display the data from our shaft stiffness comparison methodology. We made the first version of the software available to club makers in 2006. Two times each year we ask the shaft companies to send us multiples of each of their new shaft models and flexes so we can keep adding shafts to the software data base.

At present, we have more than 2,000 different wood, hybrid and iron shafts in the TWGT Shaft Bend Profile software. We charge a one-time fee of $129.50 for the software because the expense to have it programmed and maintained is not insignificant. It also takes us quite a number of hours to acquire, test and input the new shaft data into the software two times each year. You can find more information about this on my site, which is linked in my bio.

As much as we would like, there is no possible way we can include EVERY shaft in the industry in the software’s data base. We have to rely on the shaft companies to send us the multiple samples of each of their shafts to measure because we simply cannot afford to actually buy all of the shafts. We also cannot obtain the OEM stock shafts because the OEM companies will simply not allow anyone to have their raw shafts for any measurement work like this. We do have some OEM stock shafts in the data base, which come from “pulls” from OEM clubs that we can measure. But we do try to put as many shafts as we can into the data base so that clubmakers and golfers can better compare the relative stiffness of shafts.

To date more than 600 different club makers now use the TWGT Shaft Bend Profile software in their shaft fitting. This use by the club makers has also provided “in the field” verification that the measurements of the shafts do indeed provide a valid representation of the performance and even the bending feel of the shafts in the data base. The shaft fitting comparisons made with the data in the TWGT Shaft Bend Profile software is most definitely valid for predicting the performance and feel of a shaft.

How Does the Bend Profile Data Explain the Performance and Differences Between Shafts?  

Some of you have seen graphs from the TWGT Bend Profile software that I have posted to answer a question here and there about shafts. For those of you who have not seen this, the following is a basic screen image from the software showing a comparison of the relative stiffness design of two shafts. I just randomly chose to use the Mitsubishi Rayon’s Diamana White 83 X5CT S flex and the UST ProForce V2 HL65 S flex to start the explanation.

You see seven columns in the data box. These show WHERE on the shafts we do the stiffness measurements. Starting at 11 inches up from the tip, the measurements then are made at 5-inch spaced positions up from the tip end of each shaft, ending at 41 inches up from the tip. Because iron and hybrid shafts are shorter in raw length, their measurements run from 11 inches up to 36 inches up from the tip end of the shafts.

Measurements are done with a 454 gram weight attached to the tip of the shaft using a specially designed frequency analyzer that measures the shaft oscillations using two separate load cells and two separate strain gauges. Each shaft is tested at the same exact place on the shaft, using the same exact test methodology. This ensures the data is comparable from shaft to shaft to shaft in the data base of the software.

Let’s take a look at an example graph and data chart

WRX shaft article graph 1.JPG

The 41-inch, 36-inch and 31-inch measurements represent the butt section, the 31-inch, 26-inch and 21-inch measurements represent the center section and the 21-inch, 16-inch and 11-inch measurements represent the tip section of the shaft (yes, there is an overlap).

When companies design different flexes of a shaft, each different letter flex version is ordained chiefly by the stiffness measurements of the 41-inch to 21-inch positions of the shaft (butt, to center, to upper tip). Tip section differences on shafts do not play as significant of a role in the overall flex design (swing speed rating) of a shaft as do the butt to center to upper tip sections. The tip section design of a shaft is chiefly designed to create differences in the launch angle, trajectory and spin rate among shafts within the same flex.

After significant research and study of the shaft data, we can make conclusions about how much of a difference in the stiffness measurements is significant or not. With so many shafts in the data base, we can also identify a basic relationship between a golfer’s clubhead speed, the average bending force generated by that clubhead speed, and the overall stiffness design of a shaft. This is very important for being able to tell a golfer which shaft may be better suited to his clubhead speed. Therefore, we can use the stiffness measurements of the 41-inch to 21-inch positions on the shaft to determine the swing speed rating of any shaft.

We can also determine how much of a measurement difference is significant or not with respect to stiffness in the butt, center and tip sections of the shafts.

  • For example, at the start of the butt section, as represented by the 41-inch measurement, a measurement difference of 8-to-10 cpm is approximately equivalent to one full letter flex difference.
  • At the middle of the center section, as represented by the 26-inch measurements, a difference of 12-to-15 cpm is equivalent to one full letter flex difference.
  • In the middle of the tip section, as represented by the 16-inch measurement, a difference of 30-to-40 cpm usually accounts for a visible difference in the launch angle, trajectory and spin rate of the shot.

There are no standards for how stiff any of the letter flex designations of shafts may be. How stiff IS an R flex, an S flex (or any of the other letter flexes)? How much variation is there among shafts of the same letter flex?    

Below is data to show the low-to-high range in stiffness for all shafts for drivers and fairway woods in our data base that are marked as being a letter R flex shafts. These are listed from softest to stiffest, but all of these are made and marked by their respective companies to be an R flex shaft.

Based on the measurements of the 41-inch and 36-inch sections for the butt section, you are looking at a range of FOUR FULL FLEXES. That means the R flex shafts in the golf industry actually exist within a range of four full flexes. The same is true for S flex shafts, as well.

Because there are far fewer L, A and X flex shafts, the range in stiffness within these letter flex codes is not quite as wide as it is within the R and S flex shafts. Here is the Bend Profile graph and data chart to illustrate the range in R flex shafts for woods that exist today.

WRX article shaft graph 2.JPG

Based on all of our research to associate a driver clubhead speed with the measurements for the 41-inch, 36-inch, 31-inch, 26-inch positions of the butt and center of the shaft, here are the appropriate driver clubhead speed ratings for each of these above five different R flex shafts:

  • Miyazaki C.Kua 39 R: For a golfer with a driver clubhead speed of 55-to-65 mph
  • UST ProForce V2 HL-55 R: For a golfer with a driver clubhead speed of 65-to-75 mph
  • Aldila RIP’d NV65 R: For a golfer with a driver clubhead speed of 75-to-85 mph
  • Fujikura Blue 004 R: For a golfer with a driver clubhead speed of 85-to-95 mph
  • Rapport Blue Velvet R: For a golfer with a driver clubhead speed of 95-to-105 mph

Therefore, you are looking at shafts in the golf industry that match up to a range in swing speed of 50 mph, yet ALL are marked and sold as R flex shafts.

You may be prompted to comment, “This has to be the exception rather than the rule.” If we take a look at the data base to search where the majority of R-flex shafts lie with respect to their 41-inch, 36-inch and 31-inch butt section measurements, we find that the majority of R-flex shafts exist within a range that represents a 20-to-30 mph difference in the clubhead speed rating for the shafts.

This is precisely why golfers sometimes buy a new club and its shaft doesn’t feel as stiff or feels stiffer than their previous shaft with the same letter flex.

Do all shafts of the same letter flex have the same butt-to-center section stiffness (same swing speed rating) within the same shaft company or the same golf club company?  

Let’s take a look at the R-flex version of a number of different shaft models from one shaft manufacturing company. All are selected on the basis of being very close to the same shaft weight so they potentially could be considered for purchase by the same golfer.

WRX article shaft graph 3.JPG

I want to be sure to first make something clear. I am NOT saying it is wrong for a company to make the same letter flex version of each different shaft model to be of a different stiffness design. That is their right as a company to determine the exact design of each flex for each shaft they make.

What I am saying is that it is very difficult for consumer golfers to know how to choose the shaft that might best match their swing when the companies provide no empirical information like this to use for making quantitative comparisons of the different shafts.

The swing speed range for all these R-flex shafts from Aldila ranges by 25 mph. At one end, the NVS 65-R is a shaft that would be rated for use by a golfer with a driver clubhead speed of 70-to-80mph. At the other end, the RIP Gamma 60-3.6-R is a shaft that would be rated for use by a golfer with a driver clubhead speed of 85-to-95 mph. That means within all the R-Flex shafts from Aldila, the clubhead speed rating for possible selection by a golfer can range by 25 mph – yet all are marked as being an R-Flex shaft.

On top of this are definite differences in the TIP SECTION design of all these different R-flex shafts. Within all the R-Flex shafts from Aldila, we see shafts with a tip section design that ranges from the very tip-soft (Habanero 60-R) all the way up to the moderately tip stiff design of the RIP Gamma 60-3.6-R. If both these R-flex shafts were hit by the same golfer, the Habanero would launch the ball approximately 3-degrees higher and with an estimated 750 rpm more backspin than the RIP Gamma 60-3.6-R. Yet again, both are marked as R-flex shafts.

Again, each company is free to design their shafts as they see fit, for whichever golfer swing types they designate. But how can any golfer really know the difference in the overall stiffness design of any of these shafts and from that, know anything about the performance difference between these shafts of the same flex without clear, quantitative comparative information?

Please understand that variation between the same letter flex of different shaft models goes on INTENTIONALLY with every shaft company in the golf industry. It is not specific to Aldila. I simply use them to illustrate that this does happen within each shaft manufacturing company. Without a clear, quantitative means to compare the stiffness design of shafts, consumer golfers are in the dark with respect to making accurate shaft buying and shaft fitting decisions.

For those of you who made it this far, CONGRATULATIONS! You ARE indeed interested in shafts. For those of you who didn’t… well, true shaft knowledge can be a little beyond a normal realm of interest, I do admit that. I hope you all got something out of this, and there is more to come to help you know much more about how to determine the differences between shafts and how to turn that information into better shaft buying decisions.

By the way, there are many custom clubmakers out there who can help you find the right shaft FAR more accurately than the ways you have been trying to pick the right shaft in the past. These club makers who study this stuff are worth knowing and can help you. Again, to find a good club fitter, check out these sources:

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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

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Graham Davis

    Dec 10, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    One more point. I am 5 fòot 7 inches and 11 stone, so not a power house. 7 is my highest handicap and I hit my driver about 240 yards with mý 88 to 90mph swing speed. 220 yards carry.

  2. Graham Davis

    Dec 10, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    I should add to my previous mail that I have put together at least ten different shaft combos ranging from 45.5 inch fujikura 44gm regular to 44.25 inch black tie regular. I have tried senior, regular and stiff flex, and high , mid and low bend points At 85 to 90mph, why does a long heavy shaft give me the best results?

  3. Graham Davis

    Dec 10, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    I am a 7 handicap 61 year old with driver swing speed of 88 to 90 mph. You often say current drivers are too long and to use more loft but my stats on trackman say 45.5 inch shaft at 9° gives my best launch and carry with least spin. Why is this? I use grafalloy prolaunch blue and swing weight is about D5. This is a 68gm shaft. I have the same shaft at 44.5 inches but don’t hit it as far. Consistency is not a compromised with the longer shaft. My smash factor is just as good. I can see 10 to 20 yards more carry. Do I simply have good tempo?

  4. Montree

    Mar 23, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    May I share my story to choose golf swing analyser

    A common mistake made by amateur golfers is choosing golf clubs that are not suited to their swing speed. If you do not match your clubs to your abilities to swing them, it can have an adverse effect on your game. Club factors that should be adjusted based on how fast you swing a club include the shaft flex, torque and the type of shaft. By taking the time to find the right clubs for your game, you can best leverage your golf equipment to improve your game.

    Step 1

    Determine your swing speed. Many golf retail stores and pro shops can take this measurement. Otherwise, the speed can be estimated based on the club that you hit from a distance of 150 yards. If you use a 3-iron or wood, your swing speed is probably less than 60 mph; a 4-iron is 60-75 mph; a 5-iron is 75-84 mph; a 6- or 7-iron is 84-93 mph; and an 8- or 9-iron is over 93 mph.

    Step 2

    Determine the shaft flex of your clubs based on your swing speed. The shaft flex is representative of how much force is required for the shaft to transfer energy to the golf ball during your swing. Ladies flex should be used for a swing speed of less than 60 mph, senior flex for 60-75 mph, regular flex for 75-84 mph, stiff flex for 84-93 mph, and extra-stiff flex for speeds above 93 mph. Choosing the wrong shaft flex can lead to hooked, sliced or generally inaccurate shots.

    Step 3

    Pick a material for the shafts of your irons. The two most common options are graphite and steel. Players with a slow swing speed normally will choose a graphite shaft to maximize the distance the ball travels, while those with a fast swing will choose steel for greater consistency. If your swing speed is moderate, test clubs of each type to determine which feels the best. The majority of modern fairway woods and drivers are sold with graphite shafts and should be chosen based on the information provided in Step 2.

    Step 4

    Choose the clubhead for your irons. Low-handicap players will prefer half-cavity or blade clubheads for greater consistency and control, while high-handicap players should opt for full-cavity clubs to aid in getting the ball in the air consistently. A half- or full-cavity golf clubhead has a hollowed-out area toward the back to distribute weight around the clubhead, creating a larger “sweet spot.” Blade clubheads have more weight around the face of the club.

    Step 5

    Test the clubs you have chosen before purchasing them. If you do not like the feel of the clubs, pick a different manufacturer with the same configuration options before changing the shaft flex, material or clubhead variant.

    Read More : http://www.golfswinganalysers.com/best-golf-swing-analyzer-2016/

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  6. Rob Campbell

    May 8, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Dear Mr. Wishon,
    How about if I clamp the grip to a work bench with the shaft cantilevered, hang a weight (maybe 454 g) onto the head (hosel) and measure the deflection along the shaft, once with just the head, once with the added weight? A lot more time consuming than clamping a bare shaft in an expensive oscillator but way easier for us at home. A profile of the shaft bend could be drawn and different shafts could be compared without messing with the club.
    I just found out I hit my cousin’s driver 30 yards further than mine. He’s got an R Fujikara and I have an A Project X. His would have way more deflection.
    Could such a profile convert to yours?

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  8. Adrian Hubert

    Mar 31, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Hi,

    I have some good knowledge of shafts, please can someone confirm that there is a difference between buying a shaft from say Golfsmith and having the same branded shaft from the tour. ?

  9. Tom

    Mar 11, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Great article Tom. Just wondering, how did you determine that 454 grams was the best weight to use?

  10. tlmck

    Oct 8, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    lol. Just thinking of the guy who tried to sell me a C.Kua 39 R for my 92mph clubhead speed.

    I can say for certainty, with only my swing as evidence, that a C.Kua 39 stiff is equivalent to a Diamana Red 44L stiff. I have the C.Kua in my identical head backup driver as the Diamana is apparently no longer made, and was nowhere to be found. It’s also nice that the C.Kua does nor require a special grip.

  11. Nathan

    Oct 2, 2012 at 3:56 am

    This article looked promising untill i got to the part ( you really want to know it will cost you!!) good work

  12. Chris

    Oct 1, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    When can we expect part 2?

  13. Tom Wishon

    Sep 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    to JEFF who asked about shaft swing speed ratings for golfers with different levels of transition/tempo force in their swing.

    Most definitely you are sniffing at a lot of what is going to be in Part 2 of this series. This is precisely why we teach clubmakers to do a basic 1, 2, 3 rating of each golfer’s transition force and downswing tempo to go along with their swing speed.

    For example, three golfers all with a 90mph swing speed. But Golfer #1 has a very forceful transition and aggressive tempo. Golfer 2 has an average force/aggressiveness in transition/tempo and Golfer 3 has a smooth, more passive “swinger” type of transition and tempo.

    For golfer 2, you can choose from shafts rated to be 85-95mph because his bending force is average for a 90mph swing. For golfer 1, you’d pick from shafts rated at 90-100 because these would be slightly stiffer shafts his swing speed is at the low end of the shaft’s rating – more stiff to better match with the fact that for his 90mph swing speed, his strong/forceful transition/tempo puts more bending force on the shaft so he needs a little stiffer shaft than what his swing speed indicates on its own.

    And then finally the 90mph smooth swinger should pick from shafts with a swing speed rating of 80-90mph because he is NOT putting as much bending force on the shaft for his 90mph swing.

    But you have the big basic point of shaft flex fitting down – amount of bending force is not always related to the golfer’s swing speed, but is heavily influenced by their transition and downswing tempo.

  14. Tom Wishon

    Sep 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    To John who asked about OEM stock shaft stiffness:

    There’s no nice way to say this. You can’t and won’t know how stiff an OEM stock shaft is. The OEMs do not provide any quantitative information on the stiffness/bend profile design of their stock shafts. Test hitting is the only way unless you buy the club, take it apart and then send me the shaft so I can measure it and include it in the data base of the software we created.

    We’d love to include them in the data base of this software program but they will not send us their stock shafts to measure, nor will they allow their shaft mfg vendor to do that either. So the few OEM stock shafts we have in the software come from clubmakers who pull these shafts intact from stock clubs and send them to us to measure.

    This again is one more good reason to be working with a GOOD, experienced clubmaker who has this software when you want to nail down what works/performs best for your swing and sense of feel.

    • Ian Mikutel

      Apr 22, 2013 at 4:18 am

      Why not use some of the $129.50 you charge for database access to purchase OEM shafts each year? It seems to me like the most valuable data for most golfers out there would be that of the OEM shafts, not super expensive, custom shafts? Unfortunate that the OEMs won’t send clubs for this testing, or just standardize this testing across all OEMs.

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  17. Justin

    Sep 24, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    @Eric:

    Yes, the more flexible the shaft, the more you can “feel”.

    • Davy

      Mar 29, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      The more ‘what’ you can feel?
      The answer should be interesting.

  18. Ryan

    Sep 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Great write up. This definitely confirms what a lot of us already thought we knew which was every OEM even within there own shafts has no tangible way of discerning flex even within their own shafts that to me is CRAZY but soo glad Tom gave us real eveidence to prove this and I cannot wait for part 2

    • Davy

      Mar 29, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      You seem to have missed the point. Each manufacturer arbitrarily decides by their own measurement and priorities what they will market as an ‘R’ flex for example. One practice is to offer an ostensible ‘R’ flex with an ‘S’ shaft band on it to capture the vastly misinformed share of the market that believes they require a stiff shaft. But, you are correct about Tom’s authoritative expertise.

  19. Ryan

    Sep 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Great write up. This definitely confirms what a lot of us already thought we knew which was every OEM even within there own shafts has no tangible way of discerning flex even within their own shafts that to me is CRAZY but soo glad Tom gave us real eveidence to prove th

  20. Jeff

    Sep 21, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Terrific article. Does the data about stiffness profiles lend itself to discerning which shafts are more suitable based on an individual’s loading characteristics at a given swing speed? Does this matter? Looking forward to reading your next article.

  21. Eric

    Sep 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Tom:

    I play hickory clubs with a group. One thing I’ve noticed is one can truly feel the weight of the club, and I believe that significantly affects how the club is swung – particularly as you begin the forwardswing, and your subconscious changes the path of the swing.

    As a result, I wonder if the whippier shafts improve feel of the clubhead – OR – is there a way to get great clubhead feel without giving up the control of a stiffer shaft?

  22. Mark

    Sep 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks Tom.

    As always, a well thought out and informative article. I’ll be getting the software, and look forward to part 2.

  23. ACGOLFWRX

    Sep 21, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Excellent information for the masses, well written and above all, very informative.

  24. John

    Sep 21, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Very well written Tom – thanks. The only problem remains, how do I know what level of stiffness I should be purchasing through the OEM’s at retail stores? Hope that’s covered in Part II.

    • Al

      Oct 16, 2012 at 11:47 pm

      Not speaking for Tom by any means, but his philosophy is that, rather than relying on the OEM’s, you should be custom fitted for your clubs rather than buying off the shelf.

    • Davy

      Mar 29, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      Well, you might try hitting before buying. Would you buy shoes without trying them on?

  25. Matt

    Sep 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    As an engineer I am fascinated by this and am always on the search for the right fit as a scratch golfer, to maximize my game. This is revolutionary stuff. Thanks!

    • Davy

      Mar 29, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      It probably seems revolutionary, but Tom has been doing this since back in the 1980s when he was at Dynacraft and wrote his first Complete Guide to Golf Shaft Fitting. While there are no generalities, many tour players over the years have opted for heavier dynamic and static weighting with flatter lie angles than off the shelf mass-produced clubs. As an engineer, you probably enjoyed reading Homer Kelley’s The Golfing Machine. Bob Tway, Bobby Clampett, and a litany of others found it interesting all the way to their demise in a vortex of paralysis by analysis. But, it is interesting and has one salient bit of advice you can look up at 6B-1D in the book.

  26. Bill B

    Sep 20, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Tom,

    Without a doubt this is the best information on shafts I have seen in one place. You have created my dream of the “golf shaft genome project”. The golf shaft is the heart of the club and you are making quantative information available that provides options to professional fitters and club junkies alike. We have all made our own personal golf shaft assments on various shafts via real life play, launch monitor results, and feel, but this speeds up the process and opens the door to choices across various manufactures.

    Thanks and keep up the good work

    Bill Baitinger

  27. Mike D.

    Sep 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks for the write-up Tom. Verifies what I’ve thought about shaft manufacturing. Can’t wait to see part two!

  28. Chris

    Sep 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    This is absolutely fantastic information. Many thanks!.

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Opinion & Analysis

A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy

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New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?

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You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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