While I’ve been playing golf for the last 35 years, I only started tinkering with equipment for the last 17 years. I started with regripping and then graduated to full blueprints and rebuilds for myself and close friends and family. This came in handy when I had delusions of trying to compete with the guys in the Long Drivers of America (LDA). While my swingspeed is fast enough to necessitate the replacement of caved heads and broken shafts from time to time, I was humbled back into the amateur ranks very quickly. But the LDA guys were one of the early groups that made me realize that lighter shafts aren’t necessarily better for distance.
When golfers think of a great classic driver, the seasoned ones would talk about persimmon and steel while most WRXers will speak with reverence to the TaylorMade R510TP. This first re-launch of the Tour Preferred series was notorious for the high price tag as well as what justified the cost: the legendary Fujikura Speeder 757 shaft. At one point, you were not considered a player if you didn’t have a Speeder 757 in your driver. At 78 or 79 grams (based on flex), it was much lighter than steel. But its tight profile and low torque made for a very accurate shaft that produced a lower spin rate and allowed for good distance when you wanted to take a healthy swing at the ball.
Today, the manufacturers continue to promise distance gains with a marketer’s perfect formula: lighter total weight and longer shafts. Many WRXers have poo-pooed this concept of longer shafts over the years, professing their love for 44.5 inch drivers. You can go back to the inception of this board to read the questions of how to get a D2 or D3 swingweight on a club that has had the stock length cut down. Today, with some drivers measuring as long as 47 inches, you may have to add 15-20 grams of mass to the head to get the balance back to the club. Some of my early recollections of reshafting include removing the lightweight and big butt shafts from Callaway Great Big Berthas and Goldwin AVDP drivers to install 86 gram EI-70 shafts. My drives were much more accurate with the heavier driver shaft.
Until recently, this trend was applied only to woods and hybrids. But the next phase in the lighter/longer march by the OEMs has been irons. Lofts and lengths have literally made each iron one club longer than a similar numbered iron 25 years ago. And your 120-gram KBS or 130-gram True Temper Dynamic Gold shaft are now being substituted for 85-gram steel or 65-gram graphite. This was the norm for senior and ladies clubs for years. But these lighter weight clubs are now appearing in the men’s market as well.
Thankfully, most of the player or “pro” models still come with heavier shafts. But even there, you still have driver shafts in the 50-gram range, and they seem to be getting lighter each year. This follows the old club thought:
But control always seems to take a back seat to potential distance. I’m sure I could pick up 10-peak yards on a perfectly struck shot with a lighter driver shaft. However, the rest of my imperfect shots would suffer accuracy issues, whereas my heavier shaft would allow me a more consistent face contact and greater AVERAGE distance. My thought when I have built clubs for friends and family was to “swing the heaviest club that did not noticeably cost you distance.” My vindication for this is that your scoring clubs — wedges and putters — are trending heavier or maintaining their shaft weights. Read the GolfWRX thread about increasing accuracy and distance by going back to steel shafted drivers here: http://www.golfwrx.com/forums/topic/705558-now-this-is-how-a-cleveland-classic-should-look
I believe the quickest way to get someone to get excited about the game is to have them strike that one pure shot. Tin Cup described it as a “tuning fork going off in your loins” to Rene Russo, and he was right. Hit that one shot and you will be back for more. My experience has shown that more golfers would have more accurate shots with greater average distance with shaft weights in the following ranges:
Driver: 65-75 grams, 300 gram or more total weight
Fairway Woods: 80-130 grams
Hybrids: 90-130 grams
Irons and wedges: 110-140 grams
Compared to lighter equipment, most of your average male golfers will find the center of the face more often and realize more purely struck shots. This will increase your average distance and minimize the difference between your great shots and your misses.
The one argument that I cannot deny is the lighter weight in your bag if you are a walker. But consider that a golf ball weighs around 45 grams. The difference between heavy and light equipment for someone with three wedges is the equivalent of roughly three sleeves of balls in your bag. If that’s enough to break your back, then you should consider weight/endurance training or move to a push/pull cart. Fatigue at the end of the round from heavier gear is quickly fixed by strength training and sessions at the practice range.
Next time you visit your local clubfitter, pick their brain about being fitted into a slightly heavier shaft in your fairway, hybrid or driver by stressing that you want a more consistent and accurate swing instead of distance. You may find a new favorite club in your bag.