By Leonard Finkel
Think you know a lot about golf shafts? Think again. Did you know there are no recognized standards for shaft flex, no uniform measurements?
Flex can mean something different for every brand and manufacturer. Tolerance ranges in each category like stiff or regular are huge! To learn more about this misunderstood topic, I spoke with executives from leading shaft manufacturers: Fujikura’s Chad Embrey, Victor Afable of VA Composites, Gawain Robertson of ACCRA/True Temper Plus, Kim Braley of KBS Golf and Nick Sherburne, founder of Club Champion, a national club fitting chain.
Club Champion is the #1 premium club fitter, builder and retailer of the best brands in golf. Their master fitters and builders are unrivaled experts. Their approach is unbiased; no specific vendor is promoted. The only goal is to find the best combination of components to lower your scores. Club Champion offers over 35,000 hittable head and shaft combinations, making Sherburne an expert on the topic.
Says Sherburne, “The industry taught us the head is the engine of the golf club because that’s what hits the ball. But the shaft is far more important. With thousands of shafts and no industry standards in flex, it’s nearly impossible for golfers to find the shaft that performs best for them without professional help. This makes it important to not buy clubs off the rack. Instead, find a skilled fitter with a launch monitor to show you how the right shaft will maximize your swing to its fullest potential.”
According to Gawain Robertson at ACCRA, terms like stiff or regular flex are so generalized, they really mean nothing. Different sections of the shaft can be totally different flexes within that shaft. When ACCRA designs shafts, they look at three different zones; the butt, midsection and tip. They can produce shafts that are soft in the middle and stiff at the tip or the butt section plus countless other combinations. Robertson adds, “Club fitters understand the profiles of shafts. If a player needs something with a softer tip section and a stiffer butt section, they know which shaft fits that profile for that golfer. Club Champion’s understanding of how to fit golfers is an integral part of any club being successful in a player’s hands. “
Chad Embrey from Fujikura shares that, “Flex specifications range from manufacturer to manufacturer and it is significantly impacted by torque, one of the most misunderstood shaft specifications. The ways you can measure torque are countless.” Many golfers think that lower torque means better shafts. Not necessarily true. Higher torque shafts are better for smoother, slower swingers; getting the ball up and creating spin. Lower torque is better for herky-jerky movements, guys that swing aggressively.
VA Composites likes to fit to the way a player loads the shaft, not just swing speed. Afable says, “Imagine two types of swings. An Ernie Els swing, which is a very smooth tempo; and a swing like Lanny Watkins, a short, fast swing. Both may have the same swing speed, but they get there two different ways. The fitters at Club Champion really understand the difference and are trained to fit our shafts not only to factors such as swing speed but also to the amount of shaft load a player will create.”
There is an enormous difference between standard OEM golf shafts and higher-end aftermarket models. Materials and technology are different, as is attention to detail. Premium shafts are manufactured individually in Japan while stock shafts are most likely made in places like Vietnam or Mexico on an assembly line.
Typically, cheaper shafts are made from lower grade materials. They’re manufactured in larger quantities which necessitates wider tolerances. The most exotic materials from Japan maintain very tight tolerances, not only for frequency, but straightness and roundness of the shaft. When a shaft is not rolled or manufactured properly, there will be gaps within the layers of graphite, which can really affect performance.
With aftermarket product used on Tour and sold through premium club fitters, Fujikura has the freedom to use materials and technologies that may be cost prohibitive for an OEM club company. “A lot of times when I handle OEM business, cost targets prohibit some of the techniques we can use. An OEM shaft is a great shaft. We would never not put our name on it,” Embrey adds. Mostly, OEM shafts do what they’re intended to do, but they’re not designed to dial players in.
To facilitate finding the right components, Club Champion uses a unique coupling system that allows golfers to hit any head and shaft. They deliver combinations that address a golfer’s problems and fix them. Most fitters use fitting carts provided by club manufacturers. While they offer options, golfers are unable to mix-and-match across carts to determine their ideal combinations. Club Champion offers hundreds of shafts, many not available through most other fitters and retailers.
Sherburne believes golfers should start thinking about what value they put a on their golf game. “Sometimes people come in and say they’ll just get something off the shelf because spending $500 to get an extra 20 yards isn’t worth it. That 20 extra yards is two less clubs into the green? Hitting pitching wedge instead of 8-iron, you’re going to hit more greens. I can almost guarantee that 20 yards is going to knock two strokes off your handicap.”
Club Champion delivers a Tour-quality fitting producing longer, more accurate shots with a nearly 100% satisfaction rate. Whether you’re looking to buy new clubs or just fix your current set, premium club fitting is the answer. With 28 studios across the country, at Club Champion, you don’t just buy clubs, you buy guaranteed improvement. More information at, https://clubchampiongolf.com/gator-golf