The Engine of the Golf Club
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy
Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"A golf club is 90% shaft, and 10% how it goes through the dirt."
That's how Mr. Ben Hogan saw it anyway. Of course he never envisioned what technology would do to clubhead design in both irons and woods. And would the guy most famous for that one-iron shot ever have believed what we've done with hybrids?
But even with all today's head technology, Mr. Hogan's principle was much more right than wrong. When you are bringing a clubhead from the top of the backswing to the ball, at speeds on either side of 100 miles per hour, there is a lot going on, and small variances can mean a lot. The shaft is loading, unloading, reloading, unloading . . . . an rotating around its center all the way down to the ball. Watching slo-mo video, it's a wonder we ever hit a ball!
Essentially, there are two parts of the shaft equation: what the shaft does in that 100 mph environment, and how consistently the shafts in your bag from driver to 9-iron do the same thing. And there are three key elements to a shaft's design – its weight, flex profile and overall stiffness. Most quality shafts have a torque factor that coordinates with those three things, so I'm leaving that out of this dialog today.
In weight, we've seen a move to ever lighter and lighter shafts, in an attempt to squeeze a few more miles per hour of clubhead speed for you. But I strongly suggest you approach the lighter shafts with caution, unless you are a senior, lady or other less-strong player. To me, there is some measure of weight that is essential to give you “motion feedback” – a sensation of where the club is in your swing and what it is doing. That applies from the driver all the way down to the irons. In my opinion, the only golfers that can handle very light shafts are those who hold the club very lightly, too.
Then there's the flex profile. Shafts are sold that are tip soft to tip stiff. Understand that this is a relatively subtle differentiation, but generally tip softer shafts will give you higher launch angles and tip-stiff profiles will keep trajectories down more. Since shafts are not usually marked as to what they are, only trial will show you how a particular shaft will perform for you. And a shaft that works well in one clubhead might not produce desirable results in another.
In overall flex, there are two contradictory rules that we can hear:
1. Play the stiffest shaft that you can handle, orHmmm, what are we supposed to do with that advice? My suggestion is to go through a thorough fitting with a qualified clubfitter. Not one that is not just zeroing in on one brand of shaft or heads, but someone who is focused on matching the shaft to the head to YOU. Most good golf shops have fitting carts from one or more major brands, but don't overlook the network of independent clubfitters/builders out there. They have access to great product lines and usually have attended many schools and courses about golf club performance and fitting.
But here's a word on fitting. If you get a “prescription” that looks a little too "weird," don't be afraid to get a “second opinion” from another fitter. This is as much art as science and all are not equal. My opinion has always been that 95% of all adult golfers will fall not far from either side of industry standards for lie and length. The tour pros don't and they come in all shapes and sizes. I've always been leery of clubs over 1” long and 2* upright, but I sure see a lot of golfers getting fit that way. Another hmmmmmm.
The last element of shafts, and the one most overlooked is the matching throughout the set. In fact, very few talk about this at all, because most golfers have a mishmash of clubs in their bags that they've picked up along the way – driver here, fairway woods there, hybrids, irons, wedges . . . all bought at different times and all with different shafts. Hmmmmm, again. How hard do we want to make this game? I know my consistency got a lot better years ago, when I began to weight blend and frequency-match my set from driver to wedges. Any good independent clubfitter can do an analysis of your set and open your eyes as to why those one or two clubs give you trouble, and why that one is just your favorite.
So, that's the Cliff's Notes story on shafts. Let's get those questions, comments and experiences coming.
* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.
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I agree with everything in this article. I recently ordered a set of Ping's from driver to pw at my local club so as to have a set fit to me, and it is amazing how much more consistant my ball striking became. As for my wedges I went with Mizuno because of feel and ability to have bent to spec.
Darn, rwill234, wish we would have had a chance to build you some custom EIDOLON wedges!!!! But your experience with matching shafts throughout the set confirms the importance of this, doesn't it?
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