Shaft Fitting Made Easy
Shaft Fitting: A look at What to Expect
By Jeff Jackson, submitted to www.equip2golf.com
Finding a shaft that best matches your game can be a challenge. There are several key elements involved in selecting the proper shaft. You and your golf equipment specialist work as a team to make certain the feel and performance of the shaft best matches your playability and feel requirements. Shaft fitting is an investigative process; you will often be amazed at how much you learn during the fitting process. A look at the playability and performance of your current clubs is a good place to start when making shaft selections.
“Risk-Reward” is a term that can be associated with shaft fitting. The key is to find a shaft that you are able to swing under control, yet one that produces maximum distance. Generally a softer shaft will produce longer shots, but with less control. A longer length or lighter weight shaft often does the same thing. Stiffer, shorter and heavier shafts often improve accuracy, but at a distance cost. Keep a number of things in mind during your shaft fitting session. How flexible can the shaft be before you lose control? How stiff before you start over-swinging? When considering shaft weight, how light of a shaft can you handle use without losing control? How heavy can the shaft be before the swing slows down, you get tired, or the club feels too heavy? Concerning length, how long can the club be made before control is lost or the club feels to heavy? How short might the club be until distance or feel is compromised? You must consider and analyze all of these during your fitting session in order to choose the optimum shaft for your game.
Yet another factor for you to consider is the weight distribution of the shaft. If a high percentage of weight is toward the tip of the shaft, the resulting club will feel heavier and ball flight will be higher. If the balance point is high, the club will feel lighter and ball will fly lower. Bend point or flex distribution is also a factor. Bend point has little effect on actual ball flight, but does have a noticeable effect on club feel. Lower bend point shafts will feel softer and will create a club with more head feel. Higher bend shafts will feel stiffer and will tend to have less head feel.
Your tempo plays a role as to what shaft you should play. The faster you swing, the better chance that you will be able to more effectively control a stiffer shaft. A good example of a faster paced swing is the one belonging to Tom Watson. He has played higher frequency clubs throughout his career. More flexible shafts are better suited to slower-paced, “Fred Couples-type,” swingers of the club. A faster swinging player using softer shafts will add distance to his shots, but will quickly lose control. The converse applies; a player with a slow swing tempo using stiff shafts may gain a measure of control, but will almost always lose distance and feel, something you cannot afford to do if you are a slower swinger of the club.
The length of your back-swing is also a factor when choosing a shaft. The longer and smoother a player’s swing, the more flexible the shaft selection for that player. Players with very fast swings – Nick Price for example – will be better matched to a stiffer shaft. Your swing plane may have an effect on shaft selection as well. A player with an upright swing plane will tend to hit shots higher than average as a result of the longer arc of the upright swing. If that player uses softer shafts, ball flight will be higher yet. If the upright swinging player desires to lower ball flight, a stiffer tip shaft may provide such flight. For golfers with flat swing planes who most often have lower trajectory shots, stiffer shafts may be difficult to hit very high, making approach shots to the green very hard to hold. Softer shafts may help “kick” the ball into the air higher, helping to achieve an acceptable trajectory.
Your shaft length selection is a key to consistent setup and impact. Your height, arm length, posture and hand position at impact and address combine to influence your club length selection. Not all tall players need long clubs and not all shorter players need short clubs. Multiple-major champion Gary Player is not considered as tall, yet he used a steel-shafted 44-45” driver throughout most of his career. As a general rule, longer clubs will provide more distance potential due to the longer swing arc they create. But there is a trade-off. Longer clubs may be harder to control as they are more difficult to return squarely to impact. Typically longer clubs are heavier as well, perhaps making fatigue and/or your strength a factor. The key element when making a length determination is to choose the longest length club that you can swing under control, leading to consistency and longer shots.
Today’s shaft fitting is primarily determined by either swing speed or launch angle, or both.
It is generally assumed – sometimes incorrectly – that a player who swings the club at a higher speed is best fitted with a stiffer shaft and the slower swinging lady, junior or senior will be better matched with a softer shaft. Swing speed does seem to be a possible starting point in shaft selection. Nearly all manufacturers list their shafts according to certain swing speed ranges. As an example, Grafalloy’s Blue graphite shaft,
a popular shaft among better players, has a speed rating of approximately 95 miles per hour for the “R” shaft version and 105 for the “S.” Does this mean that any player who swings at 95 mph should use this “R” shaft? Certainly not. The shaft is a tip-stiff shaft with a lower torque than most shafts on the market. This shaft is designed for a stronger, faster swinging player. The player who has a long, slow swing will tend to hit this shaft shorter and with less control than will a stronger player, even if they both achieve swing speeds of 95 miles per hour.
Launch angle has entered the fitting arena as a means of fitting shafts as well as balls and driver loft. A launch monitor measures ball speed, ball spin and launch angle, among other variables. Ball speed equals distance. Spin rate is a direct result of ball speed and club loft at impact. The basic concept of launch angle driver fitting is to provide you with a club/ball combination that produces the highest ball speed and longest carry (highest loft) with the least amount of spin. The goal of launch monitor shaft fitting is to find the combination that produces the highest launch, flattest trajectory and lowest ball spin. This will provide your greatest driver distance potential.
Choosing a shaft is a multi-step process that involves a number of factors that you and your golf club specialist will determine are best for you. Every shaft will have its own unique specifications, yielding overall performance and playability characteristics. The same applies to balls when fitting with a launch monitor. What plays well for one golfer is often a poor choice for another. The shaft is a key element of club performance; finding the correct shaft for your swing can immediately improve direction, trajectory, feel and distance. You have your own unique playing characteristics; so do golf shafts , club heads and balls. Matching them will lead to improved performance and lower scores just about every time.