The most overlooked piece of equipment in a golfer's arsenal is the golf shaft. Different shafts create different ball flights that affect performance and, therefore, our enjoyment of the game.
Research is increasing exponentially year on year as equipment manufactures employ engineers and physicists from the NASA Space Program and give them the instruction to find 'more distance and accuracy' at all costs. That is one of the reasons why manufacturers keep launching new and 'improved' models more often than the market can sustain. How the golf shaft influences the accuracy and speed at which the club head makes contact with the ball is that significant.
When it comes to shaft fitting, golfers are faced with an almost infinite variety of weight, flex and torque. They all affect how a shaft feels and how it performs. The shaft type and its characteristics have a big effect on the sensations a player experiences during the swing and his potential to play better.
Shafts are categorized by flex but there are so many differentials it is mindboggling. Below is a list of some of the most common with a brief description of what the terminologies mean. Hopefully, it will help readers to identify what shaft they should be looking for?
Flex: The amount the shaft bends corresponds with its stiffness. A Ladies flex will bend much more than an X-flex. The softer the overall stiffness, the greater the launch angle and spin rate.
Frequency: If the shaft is clamped at the butt end, pulled and released the shaft will oscillate back and forth. The faster it oscillates, the stiffer the shaft. A heavier shaft will oscillate at a slightly lower frequency - finding the 'right amount of oscillation' is critical for each individual and it can only be done by (sometimes exhaustive) trial and error.
Kick point is another way to explain stiffness. The softer the tip of the shaft is compared to the butt, the lower the kick point, and vice-versa. The lower the kick point the higher the launch and spin characteristics.
Weight is the first characteristic a player notices when trying various shafts. Some players have a strong preference for either a heavier or a lighter shaft. A heavier shaft promotes lower ball flight with a left-to-right trajectory while lighter shafts promote higher flights with more right-to-left ball movement. (If you are a right-hander.)
Graphite is a lighter material and is ideal for players who struggle to get enough club head speed or who would like to minimize the harshness of mishits.
Torque - There seems to be a misconception that if a shaft is 'lower-torqued' it is better but there is no evidence to back it up. One way to measure torque is to clamp one end of the shaft and apply a constant turning force at the other end. The more the shaft twists, the higher the torque. Shafts with lower torque FEEL stiffer and shafts with higher torque FEEL softer but it is only the way the feel not the reality.
All Flex codes are not equal - (e.g. R, S, X) can differ from one manufacturer to another, which creates problems of pride for many low handicappers, eliciting emotional responses that do not reflect their ability. Two shafts with different codes may, in fact, have a similar flex.
To make matters more interesting a shaft that worked well with one driver head or set of irons, may not do so in another model. The way a shaft behaves also depends on the characteristics of the head itself. The properties of the head can change quite a bit from model to model.
As a result, a player may find that one shaft works really well in one model, but another shaft works best in another. Confused? Again, for the best chance of getting what you expect, let me emphasize the importance of testing various combinations.
I like to quote the example of a top pro like Nick Price, who, when he wants a new driver, takes a bundle of twenty clubs with exactly the same specifications 'on trial.' Invariably, one or two stand out as better than the rest. He keeps those and sends the others back!
With all of this confusing information how does one begin to figure what type of shaft might be best for you? The best way to narrow down the selection process is to begin with measuring swing speed and start with a flex relative to that by trying out as many different combos as the fitter thinks is reasonable. Alter the flex based on less for an aggressive swing and more for a passive swing.
Since the arrival of Trackman technology, it is much easier to understand and appreciate why being properly fitted delivers an improved performance on the course. You can't argue with physics. The proper application of physics brings results that are both inevitable and predictable. Being custom fit is a good investment for every standard of golfer. It is well worth the effort and time involved.
Words of the Wise
Your best chip and best putt will achieve exactly the same result by going in the hole. But, your worst putt will ALWAYS be better than your worst chip. If there is no 'bad ground' or rough grass between your ball and the putting surface - you should always putt.