Choosing the Best Shaft for Your Game
by: Britt Lindsey - VP of Technical Services
One of the most difficult aspects of fitting today is choosing the best shaft for a player. There are so many variables, that club fitters and players alike almost have to have a 6th sense to determine what is the best shaft for their game. There are programs that exist, that with a little bit of input, will spit out a shaft recommendation. However, these programs can not talk to the player, getting feedback on how the club feels with any particular shaft. Yes, we as club fitters can analyze data we acquire on many of the wonderful launch monitors that are available, and narrow down choices based on the data. This does take some of the guess work out of the decision and gives us performance data to base a decision on. However, there still is that aspect of feel that can not be quantified. With the knowledge that we can use customer input data and launch monitor data to narrow down the choices, we as club fitters and players are better equipped today to make a more informed decision when selecting the best shaft to optimize performance.
The real difficulty lies, because there are so many choices, when there are multiple options that seem to fit the player after all of the data is compiled. There could be 20 or more options, for instance, that match the weight, flex, torque and trajectory a player should play based on their data. Are all of these options the same? Once the selection is narrowed down, does it really matter? Shouldn’t all the shafts play the same since they all have similar characteristics and all seemingly match the players profile? In a perfect world, the answer would be yes to all these questions. That would make it a more definitive process. However, experience and common sense should tell us that this is not the case.
In reality, all of the data comparison of shafts serves the club fitter and the player as more of an eliminator than a determinator. Knowing this, we can eliminate many options going through the best practices that are involved in modern day shaft fitting. The most definitive specification we can narrow down through the shaft fitting process is shaft flex. By examining the club head speed (swing speed) of a player, noting the players tempo and release point, we can with some level of certainty find the best overall flex for any given player.
In an effort to simplify the process, the below shaft primer was created.
Shaft Selection Primer 1.0:
Single most important determining factor in shaft flex (indicator of overall strength of the player).
General Swing Speed / Ball Speed ranges and corresponding traditional shaft flex Swing Speed
Swing Tempo - Pace of the Swing
Generally, the faster the tempo, the stiffer the shaft flex needed. The slower the tempo, the softer the flex needed.
Generally, early release results in higher, weaker shots and is more prevalent in slower swing speeds. Late release is seen in better players and results in higher swing speeds.
Trajectory - Height of Ball Flight
What is the players ball flight? What is the players preferred ball flight?
Generally, the more flexible a shaft, the higher the ball flight. The lower the bend point in the shaft, the higher the ball flight (minor affect). Generally, the stiffer the shaft, the lower the ball flight. The higher the bend point, the lower the ball flight (minor affect).
Flight Direction Tendency
Improperly fit shafts can cause inconsistency in flight direction, due to the mismatched flex characteristics of the shaft to the player, and the players perception and compensation for the mismatched flex. Generally, too flexible a shaft can cause inconsistent directional ball flight in all directions. Too stiff a shaft can lead to more shots missed right of the target (for right handed players).
- Distance and Control
Generally, players are looking for either Distance, Distance and Control, or Control. With regards to the shaft - The lighter the shaft, the longer the overall club length and more flexible the shaft is (within the players flex range), the greater the potential for distance gain. The heavier the shaft, the shorter the overall length of the club and the stiffer the shaft is (within the players flex range), the greater potential for control (tighter shot dispersion). The ultimate goal in shaft fitting is to find the best combination of both Distance and Control.
A broad range of prices exist in the shaft category. Price does not always equal performance. From a performance standpoint, shafts should be chosen based on their specifications and how those specifications fit the players swing characteristics, providing the desired trajectory, feel and consistency.
By understanding these basic concepts related to shaft selection, the chances of selecting the best shaft are significantly increased. By narrowing down the choices based on the basic data, the “fine tuning” of the fit becomes a much less arduous process. Preferably, once the process has narrowed it down to a flex, a weight range and a trajectory profile, shots can be hit with minimal options of shafts within the prescribed range to dial in the single best choice. During this final process, it is imperative that the “feel” part of the equation is addressed. Understand, at this point in the process, there may be very little variation in the performance data. The purpose of this final step is to determine if one option provides better feel than another.
In an effort to provide all the key information about individual shafts to clubfitters and players, a comprehensive shaft list of all the shafts in the 2016 Golfworks Master Clubmakers Catalog was created. This shaft list contains all the shafts in the 2023 Golfworks catalog. The list is sorted by MPF, with the most flexible shafts at the top of the list and progressing to the extra stiff shaft options. Shafts highlighted in green are new additions for 2023. Each shafts key specifications are added, allowing for quick comparison. Shafts are listed by category: Woods, Irons, Wedges and Hybrids. Our hope is that this list, along with sound shaft fitting principles, will provides all the key elements a person needs to streamline the shaft selection process.