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The Mystery of the Golf Shaft

For such a simple piece of equipment, the golf shaft gets a lot of attention.

I should qualify that: the shaft isn’t exactly “simple”, but it is compared to (what I consider to be) the more technologically advanced club head.  I mean, it’s just a tube of steel or graphite fibers… but there can be a lot of information- as well as misinformation- about it.

The mystery of the golf shaft is in the misinformation- which is something I’m trying to rectify here at Green Lantern Golf.  That only makes it easier on you, dear reader.

It used to be, the woods in a set all came with the same (steel) shaft, the irons all came with the same (steel) shaft.  There wasn’t a lot of thought put into it.

The Truth About Golf Shafts

Just a handful from my collection!

Former USGA Tech Director Frank Thomas (maker of the Frankly Frog putter) writes in his book “Just Hit It” about a story involving Tommy Armour, the Silver Scot.  He would have a certain amount of his signature iron sets sent to his home course, an equal amount of “R” and “S” flexed sets.

If a member of the course asked the Silver Scot about what kind of clubs to get, Armour would suggest playing a round with him.  How often does that happen today?  But I digress…

Anyway, after the round was over, Armour would tell the golfer that he’d have his people take care of him.  He’d then go to the workers at the counter to get one of the sets he had previously had sent in out of the storage room and have it set in front of the golfer’s locker in a week’s time.  In short, it was almost arbitrarily determined which set would go to the golfer!

The biggest difference?  That golfer believed that set was created just for him, so there was a personal attachment to it.

That premise is what drives fitters today.  Of course, we’re using a little bit more than playing a round… though, it doesn’t have to be as technologically advanced as some make it out to be.

Sometimes, though, even after all the work that goes into creating a set just for you, something happens that involves what’s called a “honeymoon effect”.

 

The Honeymoon Effect

The Honeymoon Effect is real, and it’s not exclusive to golf.  Anytime you buy something that isn’t toothpaste, toilet paper, or some other commodity, you don’t take it for granted.  Your iPad, XBone, a French Press coffee-making doodad- they’re all high-priced “premium” things that get special attention… for awhile.

That’s the thing with many purchases.  After the Honeymoon Effect is over, that cool-as-hell doohickey becomes just another thing.  Ever see someone buy that new $500 smartphone?  They play with it for days, maybe weeks.  They get a case, a screen protector; they love it… until the memory starts to get full, or some glitch causes them to lose that lovin’ feelin’.

Golf equipment is no different- even golf shafts.

You spend $400 on a driver that came with some “it” shaft.  For you, $400 is a LOT of green…  For the first couple of months, maybe even a year, you just can’t not hit the thing well.  “This thing performs so much better than my last $400 driver” you’ll say.

Until the first topped shot.

Maybe it won’t be the first; maybe it’ll be the second, third, or thirtieth.  The Honeymoon Effect will end, and you’ll feel like you were kicked in the balls off of Cloud Nine.  That $400 driver will be just another driver.

You could’ve at least staved off that terrible feeling by getting properly fitted.  The unfortunate truth is, even with a fitting, that Honeymoon Effect is destined to end.  It happens to virtually everything.

Granted, some people are better at holding that feeling at bay, while many others aren’t.  That’s why there are so many “club ho’s”, those that will buy club after club after club, always in search of some kind of holy grail.

Am I bashing on those people?  I don’t believe I am, because I’m kind of one, as well.  I’m not as obsessive as some; I have something like 15 drivers, 15 or so wedges (of various lofts), a couple of iron sets, 8 hybrids, 3 three woods (I’m really picky about these) and 4 or 5 putters (I’ve given some away to be donated, or that number would be higher).  The picture above is just a handful of the shafts I’ve owned in my golfing lifetime.

I like to think I’m doing it in the name of research.  Which, in my (ir)rational mind, I am.  If I do what I can, maybe then you won’t have to if you can’t or don’t want to.  Why be bogged down by endless, virtually pointless, information?

There’s a ton of information out in the interwebs about what a “best” club, shaft, etc., is.  The shaft being the most misconstrued of them all.

Think about it for a second: how can there be so many different shafts, but none of them play similarly?  Well…

S2S Profile for yours truly!

This is a screenshot of Tom Wishon’s Shaft Bend Profile software system.  What it does is, you pick a shaft from their extensive list of shafts and it will find matches to that shaft.  That’s what you see here: one shaft I particularly like, chosen based on my swing style and body type, and five other matching shafts.  This is another one of those YMMV situations; for my situation, there are six shafts that match, but for others, it may be 20, or maybe only two.

When I mean “profiling”, these shafts are set in devices that measure the shaft’s flex in seven different locations.  They’re then plotted on the graph, which gives a representation of the flex of the shaft throughout its entire length.

Before you get too geeked up about this, there’s a disclaimer: there’s one specific move you need to make in your swing to get an actual performance difference in the shaft.  Not everyone has it, but its effect on shot performance depends on it.

That one move notwithstanding, many golfers, regardless of skill level, may “feel” a difference between shafts.  Here’s a quote from Tom Wishon, in an email exchange we had:

While stiffness feel has nothing directly to do with shot performance it most certainly can have a lot to do with a golfer’s swing consistency.  Few golfers who get an unsolid feel of impact tend to achieve very good swing tempo or swing timing consistency because it is very common when feeling an unsolid impact to try to swing harder or swing differently as a way to try to make the shot feel more solid.  But when impact feels very solid <ed. note: from a shaft that’s flex is matched to the golfer>, this very often results in the golfer being able to achieve a little better swing to swing consistency in their tempo and timing.  Of course having the right total weight and swingweight is as much and even more of a contributor to tempo and timing consistency too.

 

So… What Should I Do?

Well, the first thing is to get properly fitted.  Realize that if cost is a factor, there are options.  If you have the “ideal” swing mechanics, a shaft can be utilized to the max to enhance the performance of the overall club.  If you don’t have it, that’s OK… but know that the flex can be used to dial in a “feel”.

If you want to discover:

  • What a shaft can and can’t do
  • Some myths developed and perpetuated about the golf shaft
  • Online methods, outside of my fitting form, that can help you discover the “right” shaft

Check out my new book, The Truth About Golf Shafts.  Just click here to be taken to the Amazon Store to purchase!

 

 

About the Author

Justin Blair is the founder of Green Lantern Golf. When he isn't bringing his 10+ years of excellent craftsmanship experience to golf club fitting, building, and repair, he's geeking out about Star Wars (he's watched them all about 8,437 times!) and things like the MCU and LOTR, he's drinking mead and craft brews. If you wanna know more, check out my About Page!

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