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Opinion & Analysis

Should you switch to a softer shaft if you’ve lost clubhead speed?

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The search for more clubhead speed drives many golfers in to see us for fittings. Many of these golfers walk in considering moving to a more flexible shaft as they’re getting older and think it will help them regain some of their lost yards. It’s at this point we usually interject and summarize what their goals are, but ask them to keep an open mind as to what shaft flex we end up in.

There are multiple reasons we do this: The first being that clubhead speed isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to maximizing distance. Ball speed, launch angle, spin rates all play a bigger role than simple clubhead speed. The second is that by going to a softer shaft, you may not be getting more clubhead speed but may, in fact, be lowering it.

To start, I must give a little background of what the shaft does during the swing and compare it to a theoretical shaft that’s infinitely strong and stays perfectly straight during a swing. This theoretical shaft is shown in yellow on the captures below. Gears measures this relative clubhead speed with a metric called “kick.”

During the swing the shaft will cycle between lead and lag deflection.  The shaft reaches its maximum lag deflection shortly after the start of the downswing as the golfer starts to apply downward force and the mass of the clubhead lags behind.  Currently, the clubhead is moving slower than our theoretical shaft. That potential speed isn’t lost however, it’s stored in the shaft.

Picture at start of downswing showing deflection and negative kick

As the hands and club continue to move towards the ball, the shaft starts to release its stored energy and return to a neutral, straight position. As with any object that is flexed, the shaft passes the neutral, straight position and moves into lead deflection. It’s during this phase of releasing its stored energy that the clubhead is moving faster than the infinitely strong and perfectly straight shaft.  

Picture around half-way down, showing lead deflection and positive kick

For the flex of a shaft to contribute to the clubhead speed, the clubhead needs to hit the ball when that shaft is somewhere between maximum lag deflection and maximum lead deflection, so it has a positive “kick.” Timing is incredibly important on this! 

Impact showing lead deflection with negative kick

What does this mean for you as a golfer? Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple “yes/no” answer if going to a more flexible shaft will help you pick up clubhead speed.

The first video shows a golfer swinging two different shafts. The shaft on the left (gold avatar) is an Accra FX 2.0 140 M1 and the one on the right (blue avatar) is an Accra FX 2.0 270 M4. The 270 M4 is a “stiff” flex, shaft weighing 70 grams, and the FX 2.0 140 is a 40-gram “ladies” flex. As you can see from the video there isn’t a significant difference in clubhead speed.

From the enlarged graph of the “kick” metric below, you can see there is some difference in the amount of speed the shaft is contributing to the clubhead and the M1 shaft is contributing 2.19 mph more to the clubhead than the stiffer M4. It’s just that other variables are negating this slight advantage, so the result is that the two shafts are basically even in terms of clubhead speed at impact.  

Expanded Kick Graph

This isn’t to say that a more flexible shaft will never help you pick up clubhead speed. The M1 shaft contributed over 3 mph more than the M4 did for this golfer. 

The takeaway in all of this is that there are many variables that go into creating clubhead speed and how any shaft reacts to your swing may be very different than how it reacts to others. I strongly suggest, that you test multiple shaft options and keep an open mind as to what shaft works the best for you. We’ve had several cases where putting a stiffer flex shaft is the right choice to help a golfer pick up distance, even if their clubhead speed doesn’t indicate it.  

Additionally, it’s not all about clubhead speed! When recommending shafts, we focus first on face mapping — or reducing the impact area grouping of where you hit the ball on the face. This leads to better launch angles, spin, ball speed and most importantly, dispersion.  

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Chris Wycoff is the owner of SwingFit, a custom club fitting and building studio in Hilton Head Island, SC. Prior to joining the golf world, Chris was a management consultant for over 7 years and brings a great deal of the data driven processes from that world into golf. SwingFit has spent the last 2 years with a Gears motion tracking system capturing thousands of swings and partnering with data scientists to research how clubs and human golf swings really interact. SwingFit was included on Golf Digest's list of 100 Best Clubfitters in America for 2015/16, 17/18 & 19/20 as well as Golf.com's list of 25 Elite Club Fitters in 2019 .

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Dan

    Jun 15, 2019 at 3:53 am

    It’s incorrect common knowledge that more flex adds speed. Different flexes affect direction but mostly launch angle and spin. The biggest non swing factor for speed is shaft weight. A slower swinger would benefit from a 50 gram stiff over a 70 gram regular, even neither is optimal. Go lighter and shorter in the shaft settup to maximize speed and contact. It’s the better starting point in ones search for the right driver. But always default to the “whatever works” philosophy.

  2. Lane Holt

    Jun 13, 2019 at 7:50 am

    Great article. Actually some truth about golf shafts. I am sure if given more print you could explain how shaft deflection / deceleration at impact greatly affects distance and direction.

    • That Guy

      Jun 13, 2019 at 8:40 am

      There is no such thing as deceleration…. its negative acceleration. Physics 101

    • Chris Wycoff

      Jun 13, 2019 at 10:07 am

      Hi Lane – Thanks for the feedback and you’re correct. We have found that the shaft flex rarely changes club head speed significantly, but it can have a significant impact on distance and dispersion. This is primarily through smash factor, dispersion and spin. We’ll get more in depth on that topic in a future article.

  3. Mike Wiland

    Jun 12, 2019 at 10:54 pm

    Like to stop in and see you.Did my PGA under Cary Corbett at HT in late 80’s. Where are you located?

    • Chris Wycoff

      Jun 13, 2019 at 9:57 am

      Hi Mike – We’d love to have you stop by. We’re located on the Robert Trent Jones course in Palmetto Dunes.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Is lighter always longer?

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One of the continuing trends in golf clubs – particularly drivers – is the pursuit of increasingly lighter shafts; this obsessive goal has given us the premise that the lighter the club, the faster you can swing it. And that idea is driven by the relentless pursuit of distance at all levels, and for all golfers.

But as long as he is, for example, Dustin Johnson ran away with the Masters because he was exactly that – a “master” at ball control and precision. DJ outperformed almost everyone in the field in terms of fairways and greens. That gave him more birdie putts, better looks because of his precise approach shots, and many fewer tough par saves.

But my topic today is to pose the question: “Is lighter really the key to being longer for all of us “recreational” golfers?”
Let me begin by saying that “recreational” doesn’t mean any lack of seriousness or dedication to the game. Hitting better shots and shooting lower scores is the goal for all of us who care about our golf games, right? What I mean is that we do not make our living playing the game. We do not practice incessantly. We do not spend hours at the gym every day specifically preparing our bodies to optimize our golf skills.

Today I’m going to put on my “contrarian” cap and challenge this assumption of “lighter is longer” on a couple of bases.
First, if you watch every accomplished player, you will see that the body core rotation is fast enough to “beat” the hands and clubhead to the ball. All instructors agree that the big muscles of the legs and body core are the key to power and repeatability in the golf swing. The faster you can rotate your body through impact, the more power you generate, which flows down the arms, through the hands and shaft and to the clubhead. This is a basic law of “golf swing physics”.

The simple fact is, the speed at which you can fire these big muscles is not going to be measurably impacted by removing another half ounce or less of weight from your driver. But what that removal of weight can do is to possibly allow for your hands to be faster, which would aggravate the problem I see in most mid- to high-handicap players. That problem is that their body core is not leading the swing, but rather it is following the arms and hands through impact.

Secondly, speed without precision is essentially worthless to you, and likely even counter-productive to your goal of playing better golf. Even with the big 460cc drivers, a miss of the sweet spot by just a half inch can cost you 8-12% of your optimum distance. You could never remove enough weight from the driver to increase your club speed by that amount. So, the key to consistently longer drives is to figure out how to make consistently more precise impact with the ball.

No golf adage is always true, but my experience and observation of thousands of golfers indicates to me that the fastest route to better driver distance is to get more precise with your impact and swing path, and not necessarily increasing your clubhead speed. And that may well be served by moving to a slightly heavier driver, not a lighter one.

I’ll end this by offering that this is not an experiment to conduct in a hitting bay with a launch monitor, but rather by playing a few rounds with a driver that is heavier than your current “gamer”.

Continuing with my “contrarian” outlook on many aspects of golf equipment, the typical driver “fitting” is built around an intense session on a launch monitor, where you might hit 30-40 or more drives in an hour or so. But the reality of golf is that your typical round of golf involves only 12-13 drives hit over a four-hour period, each one affected by a number of outside influences. But that’s an article for another time.

For this week, think about pulling an older, heavier driver from your closet or garage and giving it a go for a round or two and see what happens.

I would like to end today’s post by wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. It’s been a helluva year for all of us, so let’s take some time this week to count our individual and collective blessings.

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Podcasts

TG2: Reviewing the first major OEM (Cobra) 3D-printed putter!

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The first major OEM with a 3D printed putter is Cobra Golf! I took the new Limited Edition King Supersport-35 putter out on the course and found it to be a great performer. Cobra partnered with HP and SIK Putters to create a 3D printed body mated to an aluminum face that features SIK’s Descending Loft technology.

 

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Opinion & Analysis

You went to play, now you want to stay: Homes near Cabot Links & Cliffs

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At some point, we’ve all had that moment during a vacation where we look around and think to ourselves, “Instead of visiting, why don’t we just move here?” It always sounds a little crazy in the moment, but really, what’s stopping you?

Like many, I have done this myself, and it leads me down a rabbit hole of golf destination real estate to places all over North America where you get world-class golf minutes from home.

So whether you’re a big spender or looking to downsize and find a cozy hideaway, these homes near Cabot Links & Cliffs have it all.

Homes near Cabot Links & Cliffs

Inverness, Nova Scotia

Steps away

$1,495,000 – 12 Mine Road Inverness MLS Number: 202011562

Location, location, location!

This is currently the most expensive house in Inverness NS, and for good reason. It’s steps away from Cabot Links and overlooks the resort. It’s over 2,600 square feet of beautiful open concept living, and with a local address, you get a discount on tee times at the course, although with its growing popularity, you aren’t guaranteed times like if you stay on the actual property.

Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this view every day? Listing: 12 Mine Road – Realtor

Just up the road

$980,000 – 30 Broad Cove Road Inverness, MLS Number: 202010717

If the first one seems a bit crazy, this next one might be right up your alley.

This 4,000 square foot home, is only minutes from Cabot Link and Cliffs and has amazing views that overlook the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It has everything you could want including a large chef’s kitchen and enough room to host friends and family.

Listing: 30 Broad Cove Road – Realtor

Just you and the ocean

$394,000 – 6 Bayberry Road, Port Hood, MLS Number: 202015994

If you like golf but want a little more separation from the Cabot golf resort, less than 20 miles down the road is Port Hood, another quiet seaside town filled with quaint shops and endless views of the ocean.

You can wake up every morning to the sounds of the ocean and the smell of sea air, and when you want to play golf at a top 50 course in the world, you just need to make a relaxing drive along the water to get there—heck, if you are so inclined, and happen to have a boat, you can go almost door to door that way too!

Listing: 6 Bayberry Road – Realtor

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