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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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Ping launches limited PLD Anser Patent 55 putter in copper

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Ping has today unveiled its PLD Anser Patent 55 putter in copper, the third of four fully machined collector’s models being offered as part of a year-long celebration acknowledging the issuance of the original Ping Anser putter patent 55 years ago.

The choice of copper as the material is a tribute to Arizona and its rich tradition as the country’s leading producer of the material. Arizona has also been the home of Ping for more than 60 years and it’s where founder Karsten Solheim first sketched the Anser design on a 78-rpm record sleeve in 1966.

Speaking on the limited-release, Ping Executive Chairman John A. Solheim, said

“The celebration of the Anser patent’s 55th anniversary has been very exciting and rewarding.  It’s generated renewed interest in the Anser story and shed deserving light on its game-changing role in putter engineering and the continued influence it has on putter designs today.”

“The first two versions of the Anser Patent 55 sold out in less than three minutes, so we’re encouraging those interested to be ready promptly when we make them available on Monday. Several golfers have acquired the first two versions and we expect they’ll be ready on Monday to add to their collection in hopes of collecting all four.”

The putter launches today and will be available exclusively through pingpld.com beginning Monday at 2 pm ET. Only 55 of the precision-milled, handcrafted putters, which are made in the USA and serialized, will be available via the website for $790 (limit one per customer).

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Coolest thing for sale in the GolfWRX Classifieds (9/26/22): ‘The sexiest Miura TC-201s you may ever see’

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At GolfWRX, we are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment of the game in many ways.

It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball. It even allows us to share another thing we all love – buying and selling equipment.

Currently, in our GolfWRX buy/sell/trade (BST) forum, there is a listing for “the Sexiest Miura TC-201s you may ever see”.

From the seller (@radiman): “So, you are going to have a very difficult time finding a set of Miura TC201 as clean and sexy as these.  4-PW set w/48* gw.   Club Champion literally just finished rebuilding these with a set of LAGP graphite iron shafts.  105g Stiff shafts.  Here are the specs on the irons for CC’s build.  The 48* is 60* lie and std loft.  Set also has custom BB&F ferrules. The shafts alone were almost $1k.  The heads are going to be hard to find in this condition.  Come with Lamkin Crossline Cord grips. Asking $2100 OBO

To check out the full listing in our BST forum, head through the link: ‘The Sexiest Miura TC-201s you may ever see’

This is the most impressive current listing from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

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Players distance iron shootout! TaylorMade vs. PXG vs. Takomo

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When I head to the range, I usually pack a golf bag to the brim with different clubs and driver shafts to ensure that I can hit a plethora of options. This week, I loaded up my bag and grabbed the Full Swing KIT launch monitor and a few of the players distance irons that I have been using this season. Out on the course the PXG 0311T Gen5, TaylorMade P770, and Takomo 101T have been really solid, and I have enjoyed my rounds with them. I never really do launch monitor comparisons, but I figured it would be fun to see what the differences in numbers showed me. Take a listen to the Club Junkie podcast for the full discussion on my time with these irons on the range!

The driving range I go to is close to my house but nothing you would consider the “ultimate golf club testing facility.” I was hitting off a mat and using two-piece range balls that surprisingly were in very good shape for this time in the season. Typically, most range balls have seen better days at the end of the summer and are struggling to hold on to the few dimples they have left. Most of the balls in my basket looked very new or like they had never been hit, so I was a little more confident in what I was seeing from the launch monitor. I hit six very good shots with each iron and did dump a couple of outliers that either went way left or that I might have caught a bit of mat first before contact with the ball. 

Carry Distance: I knew this metric was going to be close because I had played quite a few rounds with each of these sets, but I didn’t know it was going to be this close. Between the three sets of irons, there was a total of two yards difference between them all. For my swing, the PXG 0311T Gen5 was the longest of the group at 162 yards, followed up by the TaylorMade P770 at 161 yards, and finally the Takomo Iron 101T at 160 yards. So that means that out on the course they all play the same for me! At my skill level (9.7 handicap as of this writing) a mere two yards isn’t something that I can notice — especially when you throw in course conditions like wind, green undulation, and temperature. 

Spin: This was the metric I thought I would see some variation but my pre-shot rankings of what irons would spin the most and the least was 100 percent wrong! The highest spinning iron for me was the TaylorMade P770 at 6,531 rpm. Before hitting them on the launch monitor, I thought the P770 might be the lowest spinning iron of the three, but I was way off on that. The Takomo Iron 101T came in with an average of 6,374 rpm, and the PXG 0311T Gen5 was the lowest at 6,118 rpm. Now, remember that these are low-spin range balls, but a 400 rpm difference between the three is so close it isn’t very noticeable. None of the shots had any sort of ballooning shape to them and all hit their apex on a fairly steep trajectory. There is also a chance that a higher quality ball could even tighten that spin number up a bit as well.

Ball Speed and Smash Factor: In this category of “players distance” irons ball speed has become a bigger factor and most companies have been trying to help increase that number for golfers. The ball speed numbers on all three irons seem high and these for sure have more speed to them than the one-piece forged CB’s that I used to love to play. The Takomo Iron 101T took the top spot here at 117.8 mph and 1.40 on average with the PXG just being edged out at 117.3 mph and 1.37. The TaylorMade P770 came in a very close 3rd at 116.8 mph and 1.35. Again all very close and I love the fact that irons like these keep that ball speed number close even when you don’t find the center of the face. 

Launch and Apex: This one is usually pretty important to me as I don’t hit a typically high ball with any of my clubs. Added launch is my friend and allows me to have better distance control and get the ball to stop on the green without worrying about calculating the amount of release on the ball. For me the TaylorMade P770 launched the highest, by a few degrees, at 20 degrees and hit an Apex of 81 feet. The PXG 0311T Gen5 was the next highest at 16. degrees and hit an Apex of 75.5 feet. The Takomo Iron 101T was the lowest launching and flattest flying at 16.1 degrees and rising up to 73.5 feet at its apex. This was very noticeable on the range as the TaylorMade could easily be spotted as the highest launching. I also think that added launch is what gave the P770 the added distance even though its ball speed was a little lower.

Overall, it shows me how good this players distance category is and how many players probably fit very well into it. I like all three iron sets and will continue to rotate them through my rounds.

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