V. Shafts

It is generally agreed that the

shaft is the single most important part of the golf club. Shaft selection

involves many variables including material, length, torque, kickpoint (bendpoint)

and most importantly, flex. Having properly fitted shafts in your clubs

is probably the best thing you can do with regard to equipment for improving

your game.

1. Steel

Steel shafts are generally made

from carbon steel or stainless steel. For the most part, the manufacturing

processes between the two are similar. A steel strip is rolled into a tube

and is drawn over a mandrel until the diameter and wall thickness are reduced

to their exact specifications. At this point the step pattern is formed

on the shaft. Then the walls are made thinner at the grip and thicker at

the tip to give the shaft its flex characteristics. Then it is hardened,

tempered, straightened and stress relieved. The final step is to polish

and chrome plate the shaft. One of the best features of the steel shaft

is the ability to have the same feel throughout the entire set. This means

that the shaft stiffness of the 3 iron will feel the same as the 9 iron,

if they are properly assembled. Other features are its durability and price.

Steel is the preferred material for the majority of the players on the

US and European PGA Tours.

2. Graphite

Graphite shafts are made from

a graphite tape or sheets. The material, which has an epoxy binder, is

wrapped around a steel mandrel. The wrapped shaft is then temperature cured

and the mandrel removed. The raw shaft is then sanded and cut to proper

length, at which point it receives a clear or colored paint coating. Its

most notable feature is its lightweight. It also helps dampen the vibration

caused by clubhead impact with the ground. A few of the drawbacks are the

feel of the shaft (some people complain that a stiff graphite shaft does

not feel like a stiff steel shaft); the stiffness may not be consistent

throughout a set, and its price tag. A newer manufacturing process called

“filament winding” can produce a set with greater consistency, but at a

higher price. Graphite has gained significant acceptance on the US LPGA

Tour and the US Senior PGA Tour.

3. Titanium/Aluminum

I have very little information

regarding the titanium and aluminum shafts and their respective manufacturing

processes. There are not many titanium or aluminum shafts on the market

and to my knowledge, none are in use on any professional tour.

4. Flex

The stiffness, flex, or deflection

of a shaft defines the bending characteristics of the tube, when a load

is applied to the shaft. The most common shaft flexes are designated as

X (extra-stiff), S (stiff), R (regular), A (man's flexible), or L (ladies').

Typically, a faster swing speed will benefit from increased accuracy with

a stiffer shaft. A slower swing speed will benefit from increased distance

with a more flexible shaft. Flex is probably the single most important

factor in the feel of a shaft.

5. Frequency/Slope

Some manufacturers rate the stiffness

of their shafts according to the Brunswick Slope. This measurement assigns

a stiffness rating to a shaft according its frequency or how fast it vibrates

and is also dependent on club length. This frequency is expressed in “cycles

per minute” or CPM. Below is a comparison of CPM, slope and standard flex

for a 38 inch club (typical men's 5 iron).



















6. Torque

Generally torque is a rating applied

to a graphite shaft. It specifies the twisting characteristics of the shaft.

The normal torque rating of a steel shaft for woods is about 2.5 degrees

and 1.7 degrees for the irons. The general range of torque ratings found

on graphite shafts are from 3.5 to 5.5 degrees, although it is possible

to get shafts with lower or higher ratings. The higher the torque rating,

the more the shaft twists for a given twisting force. The torque rating

also seems to be tied to the stiffness of a shaft, the lower the torque

rating, the stiffer the shaft. There is no accepted industry standard for

measuring torque.

7. Kickpoint

The kickpoint (a.k.a. bendpoint

or flexpoint) defines where the shaft will bend. Kickpoint affects the

trajectory of the shot, the higher the kickpoint, the lower the trajectory.

(A high kickpoint is closer to the grip end of the shaft; a low kickpoint

is closer to the head end of the shaft.) The effect in trajectory is small

but measurable. For someone that generally hits the ball with a high shot

trajectory, a high kickpoint is desirable in a shaft. For someone with

a low shot trajectory, a low kickpoint helps get the ball airborne and

on a higher flight path. The kickpoint also affects the feel of the shaft.

A golfer who can feel the difference finds the high bend point makes the

shaft feel like “one piece”, while with the low bend point, the shaft feels

as though the tip whips the clubhead through the ball. There is no accepted

industry standard for measuring kickpoint.

8. Spines

A shaft is considered to have

a spine when its flex and torque characteristics vary with its orientation.

Since all shafts, regardless of material or manufacturing process, have

some variation, all shafts are considered to have spines. Until very recently,

the USGA rules for shafts specifically required shafts to have the same

characteristics, regardless of orientation. However, variations are an

inevitable outcome of the manufacturing processes and the USGA has finally

acknowledged this fact. New guidelines from the USGA allow clubmakers to

align shafts so that they are consistent from one club to the next within

a set.

There have been some studies that indicate

improved shot consistency when shafts are aligned throughout a set. Some

professional players have been aligning their shafts for many years and

it is now becoming more common in the mass market. For an additional fee,

some shaft vendors and manufacturers will now sell shafts with the spines

marked. There are also devices available to custom clubmakers which will

allow them to determine spine orientation.

9.  Notes

Never base your shaft selection

on specifications, always try to demo the shafts you are considering. This

is because there are no industry standards for measuring flex, kickpoint

or torque. One company's low torque extra stiff shaft may be another company's

mid torque regular flex shaft. Choosing the material, flex, and kickpoint

of a shaft will depend entirely on what feels right when you swing the

club. Someone with a high swing speed may choose a steel shaft with a flex

rating of X and a low kickpoint, while someone with the same swing speed

may choose a graphite shaft with a flex rating of R and a high kickpoint.

The general consensus is see your local professional and ask what he/she

recommends. Make your decision from there.

This FAQ is Copyright 1999-2002 by Daniel J. Driscoll, all

rights reserved. Product and company names used in this document

may be trademarked or copyrighted by the respective owners. This

document may be replicated in whole or in part, without

alteration. All replications must include this copyright notice.

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