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How the idea of shaft frequency began

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Forty years ago, Kim Braly and his father Dr. Braly went down to West Palm Beach to visit Wilson Golf, and that trip forever changed the way the golf industry thinks about the shafts in golf clubs.

“My father and I invented frequency matching,” Kim told me.

“And what’s that?” I asked.

“It’s the process of matching the stiffness of the shafts in your clubs to the heads so you can hit a golf ball rather than snap the shaft or hit the ball all over the place,” Kim said.

OK, that got my attention. So I ask how he stumbled upon the idea.

“My dad was an engineer and got into golf,” Kim said. “Eventually, I got interested in golf as well. In the early 1980s, we went to see the original ‘Iron Byron.’”

Manchester_Lane_Robot

A modern-day golf robot at Titleist’s Manchester Lane Test Facility.

Iron Byron was the first club-testing machine, and it was modeled after smooth-swinging legend Byron Nelson. It’s basically an early robot — a motor in a box with an arm — built to use a regular golf club to hit a golf ball.

Kim and Dr. Braly watched the engineer operating Iron Byron put a club into the mechanical arm, place a ball in front of the club face and then press a button to swing the club. The result: perfection. It produced a high, piercing ball flight that was hit on a rope, not far removed from the storied ball flight of Nelson himself. This was followed by another and another. Kim and his father were ecstatic.

With great anticipation, they watched the engineer load the next club. The results were much different. Balls flew all over the place. The dispersion was awful. The Wilson engineer operating Iron Byron slowed down the machine. Balls flew shorter distances, but they landed closer together. The dispersion had been reduced. This was the inception of their game-changing idea; dispersion was a result of certain shaft characteristics matched with a club head and swing speeds. This “AH HA” moment changed how we fit and purchase golf clubs today.

Based on this observation, Kim and Dr. Braly designed a method to measure the performance of a golf shaft. Later, this led to the concept of frequency: very simply, stiffness is not the letter on the shaft, but a measurement based on characteristics like weight of shaft, weight of the head, length of the shaft and several other characteristics. The year was 1977 and they submitted a patent on this idea called “Frequency Matching.”

Armed with the power of measurement, Kim was ready to change golf shafts forever. He and his father started traveling the PGA Tour, and in doing so became the first “PGA Tour Van.” Over the last 40 years, Kim has worked as a researcher and designer, mastering the golf shaft. He’s worked at True Temper, Royal Precision and is currently as the head designer of research and development at KBS Golf Shafts.

Kim, working with a player

Kim working with a player on his golf equipment.

In 2008, Kim launched a shaft company called KBS, which became the fastest growing shaft company in golf. Since that time, the company has gotten some of the best golfers in the world to use its shafts products, including Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson.

The next time you’re struggling with shots that fly sideways, think about Kim and Dr. Braly. You might want to try try being fit for shafts if you haven’t already, because they may just be the most important part of your golf club.

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Brendan Ryan, an entrepreneur and scientist, is a passionate golfer who loves his local muni. Armed with a keen interest in the game, a large network of friends in the industry, Brendan works to find and produce unique content for GolfWRX.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. TeeBone

    Jun 7, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    Further, frequency matching a set doesn’t mean that the clubs all have the SAME shaft flexibility, only that the DIFFERENCE in flexibility is uniform from club to club. As the clubs get shorter, frequency and stiffness increase. Add to this the fact that as the clubs get shorter and heavier, they are swung at a slower speed. In the end, each shaft in a set flexes more and more overall as the clubs get longer. This silly “dispersion” theory suggests that a shaft must flex a specific amount to behave consistently.

  2. TeeBone

    Jun 7, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Tour players, unless they have a specific shaft manufacturer deal, are free to play whatever shaft they want. Their decision to play graphite over steel has to do with performance, not money.

  3. TeeBone

    Jun 7, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    So Iron Byron, set at any particular swing speed, only reproduces the same ball flight with one specific shaft flex? This “dispersion” theory would mean that the same shaft can behave quite differently, from swing to swing, for an otherwise same swing input. Nonsense. There is no mention of this in any of the best-regarded scientific studies of shaft flexibility. This is a made-up marketing story designed to sell equipment.

  4. Ned

    Jun 6, 2017 at 8:06 am

    Brunswick Golf developed the Frequency Matching System in 1981!

    • Rico

      Jun 6, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      The article states that the Braly’s submitted a patent for “Frequency Matching” in 1977.

  5. J.

    Jun 5, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    And stiffness of an EI profile may be invisible to CPM matching? Does SST PURE shaft alignment work better?

    • Skip

      Jun 7, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      SST pure is pure Kool-Aid. Drink it if you so choose.

  6. tim crider

    Jun 5, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    There is no doubt that shots can be saved every round by every player with changes from the shaft to the swing weight to the compression of your golf ball,,, hell practicing on the driving range could improve your game. There is a lot to know about this game and if you have the money and the time you may be able to cash in on these findings. Think how much better play got when shafts changed to steel from hickory. A lot to know and even more to learn. How much more can be found and improved, it was a very good article.

  7. Charles Bartholomew

    Jun 5, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Interesting article. A little history lesson now and then is a good thing.

  8. cgasucks

    Jun 5, 2017 at 8:20 am

    If the Iron Byron can make crappy shots with a shaft that isn’t compatible with its swing speed, imagine it with a human being.

    • talljohn777

      Jun 5, 2017 at 12:14 pm

      Yes, if you have a club shaft that is too soft you can slow your swing down to allow the clubhead time to catch up and square, but why would you want to do that? The preference would be to hit a club that matches your top swing speed allowing you to get the most out of your swing.

  9. artie j

    Jun 5, 2017 at 6:59 am

    I didn’t know the backstory. Very cool article Ryan

  10. SH

    Jun 4, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Yup, awesome

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Whats in the Bag

WITB Time Machine: Danny Willett’s winning WITB, 2016 Masters

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Driver: Callaway XR 16 (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana W-Series 60 X
Length: 45.5 inches

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3-wood: Callaway XR 16 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana W-Series 70X

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5-wood: Callaway XR 16 (19 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana W-Series 80X

Irons: Callaway Apex UT (2, 4), Callaway Apex Pro (5-9)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 Superlite

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Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy 2 (47-11 S-Grind) Callaway Mack Daddy 2 Tour Grind (54-11, 58-9)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 Superlite

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Putter: Odyssey Versa #1 Wide (WBW)
Lie angle: 71 degrees

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Ball: Callaway Speed Regime SR-3

Check out more photos of Willett’s equipment from 2016 here.

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Equipment

Project X Denali Blue, Black shaft Review – Club Junkie Review

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Originally, Project X was known for low-spin steel iron shafts. However, the company might now be known for wood shafts. Denali is the newest line of graphite shafts from Project X. With the Denali line, the company focuses on feel as well as performance.

There are two profiles in the Denali line, Blue and Black, to fit different launch windows. Denali Blue is the mid-launch and mid-spin profile for players who are looking for a little added launch and Denali Black is designed for low-launch and low-spin. Both models are going to offer you a smooth feel and accuracy.

For a full in-depth review check out the Club Junkie podcast on all podcast streaming platforms and on YouTube.

Project X Denali Blue

I typically fit better into mid-launch shafts, as I don’t hit a very high ball so the Denali Blue was the model I was more excited to try. Out of the box, the shaft looks great and from a distance, it is almost hard to tell the dark blue from the Denali Black. With a logo down install of the shaft, you don’t have anything to distract your eyes, just a clean look with the transition from the white and silver handle section to the dark navy mid and tip.

Out on the course, the Blue offers a very smooth feel that gives you a good kick at impact. The shaft loads easily and you can feel the slightly softer handle section compared to the HZRDUS lineup. This gives the shaft a really good feel of it loading on the transition to the downswing, and as your hands get to impact, the Denali Blue keeps going for a nice, strong kick.

Denali Blue is easy to square up at impact and even turn over to hit it straight or just little draws and most of the flex of the shaft feels like it happens right around where the paint changes from silver to blue. The Blue launches easily and produces what I consider a true mid-flight with the driver. While it is listed as mid-spin, I never noticed any type of rise in my drives. Drives that I didn’t hit perfectly were met with good stability and a ball that stayed online well.

Project X Denali Black

When you hold the Denali Black in your hands you can tell it is a more stout shaft compared to its Blue sibling by just trying to bend it. While the handle feels close to the Blue in terms of stiffness, you can tell the tip is much stiffer when you swing it.

Denali Black definitely takes a little more power to load it but the shaft is still smooth and doesn’t give you any harsh vibrations. Where the Blue kicks hard at impact, the Black holds on a little and feels like keeps you in control even on swings that you try and put a little extra effort into. The stiff tip section also makes it a little harder to square up at impact and for some players could take away a little of the draw from their shot.

Launch is lower and more penetrating compared to the Blue and produces a boring, flat trajectory. Shots into the wind don’t rise or spin up, proving that the spin stays down. Like its mid-launch sibling, the Black is very stable and mishits and keeps the ball on a straighter line. Shots low off the face don’t get very high up in the air, but the low spin properties get the ball out there farther than you would expect. For being such a stout shaft, the feel is very good, and the Denali Black does keep harsh vibrations from your hands.

Overall the Project X Denali Blue and Black are great additions to the line of popular wood shafts. If you are looking for good feel and solid performance the Denali line is worth trying out with your swing. Choose Blue for mid-launch and mid-spin or Black for lower launch and low spin.

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Equipment

What we know about Bryson DeChambeau’s 3D-printed Avoda irons

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Bryson DeChambeau fired an opening-round 7-under 65 at Augusta National, hitting an impressive 15 of 18 greens in regulation in the process. Golf’s mad scientist’s play grabbed headlines and so too did his equipment. In place of the Ping i230 irons he had in the bag last week for LIV Golf’s Miami event, DeChambeau is gaming a prototype 5-PW set of irons from little-known direct-to-consumer manufacturer Avoda.

What is Avoda Golf?

Founded by Tom Bailey, also a Mike Schy student like Bryson DeChambeau, Avoda Golf is a direct-to-consumer golf equipment company that currently manufactures both single and variable-length irons in one model that are available for pre-order.

What irons is Bryson DeChambeau playing?

Per multiple reports, DeChambeau is playing a custom-designed set of single-length irons that incorporate bulge and roll into the face design. The two-piece 3D-printed irons were reportedly only approved for play by the USGA this week, according to Golfweek’s Adam Schupak.

Regarding the irons, DeChambeau told Golf Channel the irons’ performance on mishits was the determining factor in putting them in play this week. “When I mishit on the toe or the heel,” DeChambeau said. “It seems to fly a lot straighter for me and that’s what has allowed me to be more comfortable over the ball.”

What can we tell about the design of the clubs?

These days, it is a little hard to speculate on what is under the hood with so many hollow body irons. DeChambeau’s irons look to be hollow on the lower section as they do flare back a decent amount. That “muscle” on the back also looks to be fairly low on the iron head, but we can assume that is progressive through the set, moving up higher in the short irons.

A screw out on the toe is probably used to seal up the hollow cavity and used as a weight to dial in the swing weight of the club. From pictures, it is hard to tell but the sole looks to have a little curve from heel to toe while also having some sharper angles on them. A more boxy and sharper toe section looks to be the design that suits Bryson’s eye based on the irons he has gravitated toward recently.

What are bulge and roll, again?

Two types of curvature in a club face, traditionally incorporated only in wood design. Bulge is heel-toe curvature. Roll is crown-sole curvature. Both design elements are designed to mitigate gear effect on off-center strikes and produce shots that finish closer to the intended target line. (GolfTec has an excellent overview of bulge and roll with some handy GIFs for the visual learner)

What else is in DeChambeau’s bag?

Accompanying his traditional Sik putter, Bryson builds his set with a Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, a Krank Formula Fire driver and 5-wood, and a TaylorMade BRNR Mini Driver, all with LA Golf graphite shafts.

 

 

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