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Shaft flex is one of those topics that can be quite confusing for many golfers. It seems that there are as many opinions on the topic as there are different shafts. Does shaft flex really matter? We wanted to approach the question a little bit differently.

In this video, we explain how the shaft in your driver can either be helping or hurting one key element of your drives.

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Athletic Motion Golf is a collaboration of four of golf's brightest and most talented instructors who came together with the sole purpose of supplying golfers the very best information and strategies to lower their scores. At AMG, we're bringing fact-based instruction that's backed by research and proven at the highest levels on the PGA Tour straight to golfers through our website. Our resources will help you "clear the fog" in your game and understand the essentials of playing great golf.

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Dr. Golf

    Feb 13, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    Seven Dreams $1200 autoclave cured driver shafts are superior to the oven cured shafts because they suck out the excessive epoxy plastic that causes graphite shafts to be floppy and soggy in tip dynamic action and recovery.
    Steel shafts are still the gold standard for shaft consistency. Soon the debates about current graphite shafts will be moot as they are made obsolete by Seven Dreams graphite shafts.

  2. Adam

    Feb 12, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    A little defined problem has to do with the radial consistency of a shaft. I would never use one that varies more than 1% hard to soft plane. Yet, I have wondered, even if I position the head so that it moves exactly along the soft plane at impact, it moved through other planes on its way to impact. So, the head is twisting and turning in odd ways before impact. That can’t be good.

    • AMG

      Feb 12, 2018 at 8:08 pm

      You’re right on the money, it’s not bending in a consistent plane. Not comforting, lol

    • Dr. Golf

      Feb 13, 2018 at 6:53 pm

      The radial consistency of steel shafts is uniform, whereas it’s all over the place for floppy soggy graphite shafts…. all because of the excessive epoxy plastic and arbitrary layering that compromises radial action.
      $1200 Seven Dreams autoclave cured graphite shafts has superior radial consistency when compare to all the oven-cured shafts on the market now.

  3. Josh

    Feb 12, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    The video achieved what it was meant to. It showed us that the shaft is not straight at impact, and flex has an effect on speed. We learned that having the right flex matters. The question posed, “Does shaft flex make a difference?” was answered. Thank you AMG.

  4. Joro

    Feb 12, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Having been in this business for over 60 yrs as a player, club maker and repairman, plus teaching I have found out no, not as much as the ego thinks.. Weight, flex, and length are not that much, of course the difference tween xx and R or reg.. is there, but between X and S, not much and of course the heavier the stiffer also. Knowing shafts, what the do and why is complicated, but not that difficult.

    Now Graphite is a different matter because there are not standards, one makers reg flex is another makers s and it has to be tried to be sure you get what you want. Weight is also a bug factor that too light can be too fast and hard to control. So with Graphite you have to careful and get fitted, although the shaft you hit well may not be the same they put in your clubs. Like I said, it varies and not as consistent as steel, and that is just part of it.

    • AMG

      Feb 12, 2018 at 7:14 pm

      Great points, Joro. Always good to leave the fitting with what you just hit the best.

  5. joe virdone

    Feb 12, 2018 at 11:59 am

    What were the clubhead speeds for the reg, stuff and X stiff demos…thanks.

  6. Reeves

    Feb 12, 2018 at 1:03 am

    I find at my level (15) that shaft flex can make a lot of difference..went from stiff metal iron shafts to regular iron shaft (same brand on Ping irons) can now get 4 and 5 irons up in the air…also with the driver I went from a regular graphite shaft to a tour stiff (Wilson Triton driver) and picked up 20 yards and a small draw where the regular shaft was a constant baby fade….

  7. TeeBone

    Feb 10, 2018 at 11:24 am

    I would like to have seen the final clubhead speed at impact numbers. There is other research that found that shaft flex had no significant impact on clubhead speed. Isn’t it possible to have different kick speeds with the same total speed?

    • AMG

      Feb 10, 2018 at 4:10 pm

      We posted the final head speeds in the comments section of the video. I don’t recall exactly what they were, but they’re in the comments if you’d like to see them.

      Do you have a link you could share for that research? Would like to see how they did their tests.

      I don’t think it would be possible to only vary kick speed while keeping total head speed the same. It would be possible to do if the other variables changed. BUT… we haven’t tested it, just a hunch.

      • TeeBone

        Feb 11, 2018 at 11:37 am

        Sasho MacKenzie has several papers on this. See also Milne and Davis. And David Williams’ book. And probably others as well.

  8. CB

    Feb 10, 2018 at 9:13 am

    Really informative stuff! Very clearly explained and simplified for anybody to understand. Thank you very much!

  9. JE

    Feb 10, 2018 at 6:00 am

    Damn interesting stuff. Thank you!

  10. Chris

    Feb 9, 2018 at 10:28 pm

    If I knew nothing about golf and was trying to learn, this video would tell me that if I wanted to not lose Club Head speed with my 86mph driver swing, I need an x flex shaft.

  11. OB

    Feb 9, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    True Temper scientist-engineers determined three distinct shaft loading profiles. Double peak, single peak and ramp-up swing-shaft loading. TT designed 5-iron and driver devices that monitored the stresses in the shaft, called ShaftLab. It worked well until one of the many internal load sensors failed and it malfunctioned. It was discontinued.
    Nevertheless, ShaftLab defined swing loading profiles and shaft recommendations. What is shown in the video is slightly visually misleading because what we see as “deflection” is actually shaft tip droop and tip torque.
    Face-on “dead straight” does not show full shaft droop and torque twist. What we see is the dynamic alignment of the shaft axis to the clubhead eccentric sweet spot location.
    Shaft stiffness and droop is a function of swing speed. The clubhead “whipsnaps” through final release and into impact. If your swing speed is too low and your shaft is too stiff, it won’t droop and the reaction forces into your hands and arms are excessive.
    95% of golfers worldwide should be playing a woman’s A-flex shaft to get adequate droop and whipsnap… something most golfers never feel because their swing isn’t synchronized to the dynamic action of the shaft tip section and clubhead.
    It’s also why Tour and LD players have problems with inconsistent soggy floppy epoxy plastic graphite shafts. Steel shafts have the most consistent flex dynamics.

    • AMG

      Feb 9, 2018 at 4:39 pm

      GEARS captures both shaft deflection and droop separately. We show both sets of numbers for each shaft looked at in the video. These are not tip numbers, but overall numbers from the length of the shaft. But because the tip is the softest section of the shaft, more movement happens the closer down the shaft you look.

      The purpose of this video was not to show anything other than shafts do not all produce the same results, and that shafts are not straight at impact.

      If you really want to take a deep dive into all things deflection, drooping, and torque you would love the info from Fujikura’s Enso system. There is nothing else out there like it.

    • george

      Feb 10, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      When then there is a golf shaft for irons and woods that eliminates droop, twist
      and kick at impact; why would we ask golfers to synchronize their golf swings to each shaft in their bag?

      More droop, more twist and more kick make it impossible to time a solid impact on sweet spot, consistently.
      When there isn’t a solid impact and ball flight is erratic, should the golfer change his swing or change his shaft or clubhead?
      Its no wonder so many golfers quit this game.

      Moe Norman and Ben Hogan would not play with ‘licorice’ sticks. No one should.

  12. farmer

    Feb 9, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    There is no baseline information, other than the LD swing. Would be more informative if it was done on an Iron Byron, and captioned by various SS’s. Does not take into account the different flex patterns in shafts. So, nicely produced, but worthless.

    • AMG

      Feb 9, 2018 at 4:47 pm

      The problem for us using Iron Byron type robotics is that we work with real golfers and are much more interested in the human variances/influences on equipment. The OEM’s do a great job going down the robot testing road, we’re more interested in how the equipment works in the hands of a wide skill range of actual golfers.

      We didn’t include the baseline info because it really wasn’t necessary to answer the questions of does shaft flex make a difference and are shafts straight at impact.

  13. Steg0726

    Feb 9, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Knowing the swing speeds and the other variables that involve the shaft loading and unloading needs to be present. Maybe adding info from a GC quad or even mizuno shaft optimizer would give some outlook on swing tendencies. Adding shaft specs as well.

    • AMG

      Feb 9, 2018 at 4:52 pm

      That information would absolutely be necessary to match a golfer to an optimally fit shaft. The questions we wanted to answer with this short video were way less ambitious.

      Is there anything specifically regarding shafts that you’d like to see looked at?

      • george

        Feb 10, 2018 at 11:43 am

        I would like to see how much each type of shaft decelerates at impact (Newtons Third Law)

  14. Jeff

    Feb 9, 2018 at 11:03 am

    How much does the golfer/ swing speed etc affect the results. Is the golfer that is swinging the x flex shaft more efficient??
    Just curious how the golfer affected the results

    • Jack

      Feb 9, 2018 at 11:20 am

      different golfers, good/bad techniques, hard to come away with anything from this video

      • Skip

        Feb 9, 2018 at 11:53 am

        agreed. there’s too many variables to really come away with anything definitive. Is there an ideal reaction of the shaft? Watching this, this long drive guy should be playing the X-Flex instead of the XX?

        • george

          Feb 9, 2018 at 3:32 pm

          to eliminate some variables such as droop, kick, twist and gear effect
          at the same time, try /test Nunchuk shafts

          video at, nventix.com

        • AMG

          Feb 9, 2018 at 5:10 pm

          I doubt he’d be happy playing the X flex.

          We weren’t attempting for optimally match shafts to swings – you’re right, the number of variables for that would be staggering. Instead, we wanted to show how shafts can and do perform differently (many believe they don’t) and that shafts are not straight rigid rods at impact.

          Most highly informed golfers are not aware of how much a shaft can or does add/reduces speed to the overall motion. We thought that would be interesting to show as well.

      • Dan

        Feb 9, 2018 at 4:59 pm

        Are we to assume it was the same person with each shaft? If so then the video makes sense, if not complete nonsense.

    • AMG

      Feb 9, 2018 at 5:02 pm

      Very difficult to define efficient, but all 4 golfers are excellent players in their own class of skill level.

      The golfer has a huge affect on any non-robot shaft testing. We have seen swing speeds from high 80’s all the way up produce both positive and negative kick speeds.

      It’s interesting watching golfers respond to different shafts with strong feelings of love/hate, but with next to no fluctuations in the actual data. A “good feeling” shaft often trumps everything.

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Opinion & Analysis

I’m practicing. Why am I not getting better at golf?

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We all want to improve our golf games; we want to shoot lower scores, make more birdies and win bragging rights from our friends. As a result, we practice and invest many hours in trying to improve. However, do we improve as quickly as we want to? Is there something we’ve been missing?

“The secret is in the dirt,” Ben Hogan said. And he was right. To date, not one golfer has become an elite player without investing thousands of hours in improving their golf game. And yet, there are thousands of amateur golfers who practice every week and don’t get better. What is the difference? To me, this is a very interesting question. What underpins how or why we learn? Furthermore, how can we super-charge our rate of learning? 

To super-charge our learning, we must first realize that practice itself does not make us better at golf. This is an empty promise. It is close to the truth but incorrect. Instead, practice, when done correctly, will cause changes in our body to make us more skillful over time. This is a subtle, but important difference. There is no magic type of practice that universally builds skill, however, there are a handful of factors that can speed up, slow down or even stop your progress.

Remember: “You are not aiming to hit 50 balls; you are trying to become more skillful.”

There are the two major factors that stop golfers improving. Try not to view them as switches that are on or off. Instead, view both factors as sliding scales. The more you can fine-tune each factor, the faster you will improve your golf.

1) Give your body clear and precise feedback

What is 2 + 2? Imagine if you were never given the answer to this question at school. If you weren’t, you would never know the answer. Similarly, imagine you made a golf swing and the instant you hit the golf ball it disappeared. How would you know what to do on your next attempt to hit a straighter shot?

In both cases, feedback is the missing ingredient. Feedback comes from the shot outcome, watching the ball flight and many other sensations we get during our golf swing. As soon as our body does not have clear and precise feedback our learning will stop.

When we first learn to play golf, the feedback required to improve is simple – did the ball move at all, and did it get airborne? As we progress, we then need more precise feedback to keep developing our skill.

As a 20 handicapper, we need to know if the ball finished 10 or 15 yards right of our target. When we become an elite player, the requirement for feedback becomes even more stringent. The difference between a wedge shot landing 103 or 107 yards becomes important. This type of feedback, known as knowledge of results, is focused on the result of your golf shot.

“If your body can’t tell the difference between two outcomes, you will not make any changes – learning will not occur.”

To learn, we also require another form of feedback, known as knowledge of performance. In essence, your body needs to know what it did to cause “x.” Relevant practice drills, training aids and videoing your swing are all useful ways to increase feedback on performance. The best form of feedback, however, is an internal understanding of your swing and how it causes different ball flights. This is an implicit skill all great golfers master, and a by-product of many hours of diligent practice, refinement and understanding.

Many golfers hit a brick wall in their golfing journey when their practice stops providing the precise feedback they need to keep improving. They may not have enough information about their shot outcome, or they may not understand how the golf swing causes various shots. Both will completely halt your golfing progress.

Next time you practice, think of ways you can obtain clearer feedback. You don’t need Trackman by your side (although this can be helpful), but pay attention to where your shots finish during putting and chipping practice and note these trends. Find landmarks behind your golf range to gauge the lateral error of your long shots.

If you’re working on your swing path through the point of impact, one way of obtaining feedback on your performance is to place a bottle or a second ball on the ground. To put it simply, if the bottle/ball flies, you’ll know you’ve made a bad swing. Another way, if you are trying to improve your iron striking, is to place a towel one inch behind the ball to indicate whether or not you have hit the ground before the ball. These ideas are not mind-blowing, but trust me; they will speed up your rate of learning.

2) Make your practice suitably difficult

When you first go to the gym, lifting the lightest weight you can find is fine. But how much would your fitness improve if you were still lifting that same weight 12 months later? Now think of how your golf practice has changed over the past 12 months. If you were asked, could you explain the level of difficulty of your practice?

The reason many golfers can’t answer this question is they don’t have a good measure of success when they practice. Most golfers don’t have a quantifiable way to say “that shot I just hit was or wasn’t good enough.” Even fewer golfers have a way to say “this week my practice performance was 20 percent better than last week.” If you fall into this category, try the following game the next time you practice your long game.

Structure your practice so that you have set target zones (10 yards and 20 yards wide) with points for hitting each zone (3 and 1 points respectively). Take a set amount of balls (20 balls) and see how many points you can score with a 6-iron and a driver (10 balls with each). Each week, play this game and track your progress. We’ll call this game the “WRX Range Challenge.”

Set a goal for how many points you want to achieve. This goal should be challenging, but not impossible. When you reach this goal, make your target zones smaller and repeat the process. This way you can track your progress over time. As you make the target zones smaller and smaller, your body has to continually refine your swing to make it more effective.

Summary

We all want to improve our golf. We all want to get better at a quicker rate. The two factors discussed here are obvious and yet are not addressed by many golfers when they practice. Next time you head to the range or practice ground, ensure you have clear feedback on your shot outcome and golfing technique. Make your practice measurable, suitably difficult and enjoy watching your scores progress.

If you do try out the WRX Range Challenge, let us know. Post your score and a photo: #WRXrangechallenge @GolfWRX and me @golfinsideruk on Twitter and Instagram.

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole: What it’s like to play golf with a goat caddie

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Live from Silvies Valley Ranch in Oregon for the Grand Opening of McVeigh’s Gauntlet and the debut of its goat caddies (yes, goats), host Michael Williams shares his experiences using a goat caddie. Guests include course architect Dan Hixson and Seamus Golf founder Akbar Chistie.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Bobby Clampett: “The 2 big problems with club fitting”

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Four million golfers are still quitting golf in the United States each year. My concern about this trend has led me to write several recent articles for GolfWRX. I’ve shared my thoughts because I believe much can be done to help golfers better understand the game, and most importantly, improve their games in ways that are not being done today.

The high frustration level of golfers is a leading cause of their giving up the game. I’ve talked about how I’ve learned this playing in over 200 pro-ams in my five years on the Champions Tour. I’ve discussed the sources of this confusion: style-based golf instruction with an over-abundance of swing tips, as well as confusing and conflicting swing theories offered on television and internet sources, etc. Another cause for concern that no one seems to talk about involves the way club fitting is typically done in our industry. While there are many examples of how improper club fitting causes issues and frustration, there are two main areas that desperately need to be addressed by fitters and even club manufacturers.

Problem 1: Clubs Designed to Correct a Slice

The first culprit is clubs that are designed to correct a slice. I’ve had several first-time students take lessons with me this season who had been recently fit for clubs from a wide range of club fitters. Some of these students had significant out-to-in swing paths through impact and all were chronic faders/slicers of the golf ball. The clubs recommended to them were “anti-slice” clubs. All the grips were small (standard size), and the woods (especially the drivers) were upright with the sliding weights put in the heel. The irons were “jacked-upright” as much as 8 degrees. All of these adjustments were made for the purpose of building in the ability to hit hooks.

Many of the woods with today’s improvement in technology can be easily altered with sliding or interchangeable weights. Adding weights into the heel slows the heel down through impact and allows the toe to close faster. Thinner grips also encourage the golfer to have more active hands and forearms causing the toe to close faster. While some of today’s adjustable woods do allow for a small bit of upright lie adjustment, it would be good if manufacturers went back to longer hosels that can be more lie-adjusted.

If the lie of the club is upright, more “hook” is built into the club through the principle that “loft is hook.” Additionally, the more the available “loft” of the club, the more the upright angle increases hook. So a set of clubs built 8 degrees upright has a very different directional profile with the 4-iron than with the wedge. This is a fact a well trained and experienced club fitter will take into consideration and properly apply.

Without correction, a wedge that is 8 degrees upright will really go left, while the 4-iron won’t have as much correction. Additionally, the uprightness of the club significantly reduces the sweet-spot, making the club less forgiving by increasing the chance that the ball will be struck lower in the face (which has a worse effect on long irons than short irons). Gear effect has now been proven to exist even in irons, and low-in-the-clubface hits will cause a gear effect fade, magnified with lower lofted clubs, even if the face and path are square. So, the uprightness of the club creates a bigger pull/hook in the wedge and the effect doesn’t really work in the longer irons. If fitters are going to use this approach, then short irons should be bent less upright and long irons more upright, but even so, this will reduce the sweet-spot in the longer irons and most golfers will really struggle to get the ball into the air since most of their hits will be low on the clubface.

I’ve had playing lessons with some of these students and have clearly seen how much farther to the left shots go when teeing the ball up, such as on a par-3. With the contact higher in the face, the contact has “zero” gear effect. The upright lie angle, combined with the loft of the club, sends the ball with a pull-hook way off target. This alone is enough of a source of confusion and frustration to send some golfers home, back to the tennis courts, to the card room, or whatever else might take the place of golf.

Additionally, golf clubs that are set to “lie angles” that are not square will not cut through the grass (when taking divots) as they are intended to do. For example, using the example above, if the lie angle of the club is set too upright and the shot is hit a little fat, the heel of the iron will dig or hit into the grass first, usually causing the heel to slow down while the toe of the club speeds up, thus closing the face and causing a big pull/hook. Different grass types, different firmness of grasses and different density of grasses can have differing effects, leading to increased inconsistencies of golfers and greater frustration levels.

Some club manufacturers have built game-improvement irons with bigger sweet-spots (with lower CG’s and higher MOI’s). When club fitters make the lie angle “off-square,” this improvement immediately is canceled and, in most cases, completely nullifying any benefit the game-improvement design can provide. The poor golfer who just spent thousands of dollars getting new equipment comes to the realization that the clubs didn’t work that well after all, and his/her 16 handicap is not dropping.

The real answer to game improvement lies in improving the golfer’s impact first, then getting clubs to match his or ideal impact or the impact they are striving to attain. Then, and only then, will the golfer get the full and just reward for improving one’s impact. Simply trying to buy a new game by getting a new set of clubs just doesn’t work. One must work with an instructor who truly knows what proper impact is and is diligently directing the instruction to improve their impact first. Then they can have a knowledgeable club fitter fit clubs to that proper impact. Unfortunately, in our industry, instructors and club fitters rarely work together. Golfers are continually being fitted to their improper impact and thus effectively playing with clubs with smaller sweet spots that are ill-designed for what they were originally intended to do.

Problem 2: Fitting Irons for Distance

The second problem that seems to be growing in the industry is the focus on increased distance with the irons. I don’t mean to be too blunt here, but who cares how far you hit an 8-iron! Today’s pitching wedge is yesterday’s 9-iron. My pitching wedge is set at 49 degrees, and my 9-iron is 44 degrees (about the standard loft for today’s pitching wedge). The only two clubs in the bag that should be designed for distance are your driver and your 3-wood. All the other clubs should be set for proper gapping and designed to improve consistency and proximity to the hole. That’s why my pitching wedge is at 49 degrees and I only hit it 120 yards (exactly 16 yards farther than my 54-degree sand wedge). Most of my students hit a pitching wedge 20 yards farther than I do, but I drive the ball 30-40 yards farther than they do. When they get into the 7-irons through 4-irons, their gaps narrow. They have a 175-yard shot, and they don’t know what club selection to make since the 7, 6, 5, and 4 irons all go somewhat similar distances.

When I dig a little deeper, I start to find significant differences in spin rates. Like most pros on the PGA Tour, my 7 iron spins about 7000 rpm, I launch it around 17.5 degrees and carry the ball about 158 yards with 88 mph of clubhead speed. OK, I’m retired from playing competitive golf and I’m 58 years old, so I don’t have that youthful club head speed anymore. When I try some of the new products that are the top sellers today, I start launching the ball slightly higher but my spin rate drops below 6,000 rpm. Suddenly, I’m hitting my 7-iron 170 yards like my 6 iron. But is this better?

Yes, my peak height gets slightly higher (I do like that), and the ball won’t roll out much differently, even with the lower spin rates. So, what’s the problem you ask? When I start to look at distance control numbers and proximity to the hole, I clearly see higher distance dispersions and thus proximity to the hole gets worse. Learning to hit the ball flag high is one of the key separators between top PGA Tour Players and those a notch or two below. It’s also a key element in lowering scores. So, greater distance with my irons actually makes my game worse and it does the same with my students, too, because accuracy and ability to get the ball consistently closer to the hole is negatively impacted.

What avid golfers are really wanting is game improvement. They want to see their handicaps go down, shoot their lowest scores, create personal bests. Sure, there is a bit of “wow factor” they like to have with the new, shiny equipment, but the people I give lessons to and have played with in all these pro-ams want a better game! How are they going to get that when the golf industry separates teachers and club fitters? Where can golfers go to get the whole experience of tying in their swing improvement that creates better impact with their equipment properly set up?

If you want to see your scores get better, the best way to do so is to work with a qualified golf instructor who knows how to improve your impact while keeping your style of swing. You want to work with a club fitter who understands that the lie angles of the irons should be set to square, and that proximity to the hole is more important in the irons than distance. Only then can you get the biggest game improvement and take full advantage of hitting better shots with a better impact.

Improve your impact, improve your game; it really is that simple!

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