Changing Golf Shafts – Do I Use The Same Flex for Different Shafts?

Posted by on Jul 11, 2012 in Clubfitting, Shaft Fitting | 16 comments

Sometimes and then again, sometimes not. Sorry but that’s the truth because there are no standards in the golf industry for how stiff any of the letter flex codes are. Never have been and never will because the various golf companies don’t want that. So the R flex from one company can have the same stiffness as the S flex from another company or even the same stiffness as the A flex from a third company. Not only that, but the same flex of different shaft models within the SAME company is not necessarily going to be the same stiffness.

Sound a little confusing? Or a little bit like that’s not the way it should be?

Actually, it’s fine if each golf club company or shaft company wants to design their shafts different than another company. In doing that, they can express their own beliefs for each of their shafts should be designed.

What’s messed up is the fact that virtually none of these companies provide golfers with specific information to tell them exactly how stiff their shafts are in comparison to any other shafts. When it comes to flex, golfers are literally kept in the dark and have to adopt a “trial and error” means of determining how stiff this or that shaft is and whether it fits the golfer or not.

Since there are numerous shafts in the industry today that cost $100, $200, $300 and even more, a trial and error approach to shaft selection can get more than a little expensive. What’s the alternative? To put your shaft fitting needs in the hands of a custom Clubmaker who works with Tom Wishon Golf Technology’s proprietary shaft bend profile software.

In short, many years ago we saw the need for quantitative shaft stiffness information and created not only a measurement methodology for shaft stiffness, but a software program to allow all shafts in our data base to be compared in a way that you can definitely compare the stiffness design of many different shafts. As of mid 2012, we have over 2,000 different shafts in the TWGT Bend Profile software data base.

Here’s an example of what the information in the TWGT Bend Profile software looks like and how it works. The following data shows the range in stiffness among shafts which are sold and marked as R Flex in the golf industry today.

To translate what you are seeing, if we apply a swing speed rating to each shaft, you are looking at R flex shafts which range in swing speed rating from a 55-65mph shaft all the way up to a 110-120 mph shaft. The same goes on within all the S flex shafts in the industry as well.

Bottom line? If you want to be fit as accurately as possible for the shafts in your clubs, go get fit by a good, experienced custom Clubmaker. Especially a Clubmaker who uses this software in their shaft fitting. Clubmakers who use our TWGT Shaft Bend Profile software do a better job of fitting golfers and have a very high percentage of golfers who never have to go through an expensive trial and error process to find the best performing shaft for their swing.

16 Comments

  1. You provide an interesting table of shaft data but i read and am told that there are a lot of quality control issues with shaft manufacture so that what are nominally the same R shafts for a particular model could vary substantially. Assuming that is so. how is your table created – from the manufacturers’ specs?

    How do you ensure the shafts you fit to your clubs are what the label on them says?

    Thanks

    Sandy

    • Sandy

      In 2006 we created our own software program called the TWGT Shaft Bend Profile software. WE also developed our own equipment and methodology for measuring the stiffness of a shaft at 7 different points all along its length from the butt to the tip. At present we have the full length stiffness measurements for more than 2,100 different shafts in the data base of our Bend Profile software program. With this we can select any shaft or groups of shafts to overlay the graph of their stiffness measurements and display their actual stiffness measurements so that we can very precisely compare the exact stiffness design of any shaft to any other shaft(s).

      It is absolutely true that there are no standards for flex in the golf industry. The R flex from one company can have the same stiffness as the S flex from another company or even the A flex from a third company. None of the shaft or golf companies want there to be standards for flex – I know because I served on an ASTM committee in the 90s which was convened to try to establish different standards for shafts. After 6 meetings, the committee was disbanded because the committee chairman found that the shaft companies and golf club companies did not wish to compromise any of their methods to be able to establish standards for shafts.

      As such, when a golfer goes into buy a golf club(s), he has no idea if the R flex in this or that club is similar to the R flex he has in his present club. It’s a guessing game for golfers who shop at golf retail stores and pro shops.

      A big reason we created this software program was so the custom clubmakers who buy our designs for their work can also have a way to accurately compare the stiffness design of shafts. At present about 500 clubmakers own this software and use it to help them make much more specific and accurate shaft fitting recommendations for their golfing customers.

      So in no way do we use information from the shaft or golf manufacturers’ specs because they do NOT, DO NOT, share or offer any information that even remotely allows one to know exactly how stiff their shafts are. This is precisely why we created our own stiffness measurement methodology and the software program that allows clubmakers to accurately compare the stiffness design of shafts.

      TOM

  2. Thank you for the quick reply. You do a lot of technology development and don’t neglect the legwork (2100 shafts in your database).

    One point you didn’t quite answer related to the variability of what is nominally the same shaft. for example, I’ve just looked at the TaylorMade site and they give the briefest of information on the Aldila RIP Phenom 60 R shaft (but nothing specific on flex) for their R11S driver. How similar (or different) would you expect samples of that shaft to be in flex, weight, torque etc. Would such differences be of consequence to an average golfer (eg 10 handicap)? Do more expensive shafts have tighter inter-sample variability?

    If the inter-sample differences are significant do you then have to check a number of shafts until you come across one that matches the characteristics you want for fitting someone who has been measured up?

    Thanks

    Sandy

    • SANDY:

      Most of the more well known shaft companies like Aldila do a pretty good job of managing the shaft to shaft consistency for their models and flexes. With all shaft companies you do encounter the occasional odd one, but that’s fairly rare, usually on a 1 in 40 or 50 basis – which is darn good considering all that has to be done precisely to keep the shafts tight to tolerances. From all my experience, only when you work with a truly remarkable ball striker, someone of a tour player or top ranked amateur do you need to sort shafts to make sure you’re dead on the specs. Golfers who are scratch to low handicap typically won’t notice the little inconsistencies in the shaft to shaft production runs of these companies.

      I can’t help but comment on your observation that when you go to dig for info on actual stiffness or flex, you get nothing. That’s the way it’s been forever with the shaft companies and golf companies. There are only a couple of shaft companies that now try to offer some form of stiffness/flex/bend profile coding or numbering, but even with them, these measurements only pertain to their shafts so you have no frame of reference for how their numbers for describing flex might compare to some other company’s shafts. That is precisely why I started to do this several years ago and eventually created this software with its ever expanding data base of shafts.

      TOM

  3. The consistency of manufacture is re-assuring. To someone like me who knows nothing about the manufacture of graphite shafts it is, as you say, impressive. Golfers of my standard don’t deserve it!

    Moving of this topic a little, is the same consistency of manufacture true of club heads?

    Sandy

    • SANDY:

      The absolute best clubhead production factories in the industry all do their production for their golf company customers on the basis of delivering a +/-1 degree tolerance for loft, lie and face angle, and a +/-2 to 3 grams for the finished headweight. From the best head making factories, that really means out of 100 heads, you will see 50 that are dead nuts on the design spec, 35 which are within +/- 1/2 degree and 15 that are between +/-1/2 and 1. For the not as good factories, it jumps higher than that for sure.

      So what all that means is that any golfer who buys clubs off the rack lives in the world where most definitely some of the specs on the clubheads of his clubs are off by a little. While there are custom clubmakers who do measure all specs of the clubheads they buy to make custom fit/built clubs for the golfers they serve, most do not but do check the assembled specs of length and swingweight very carefully.

      TOM

  4. Its such as you learn my mind! You seem to grasp so
    much about this, like you wrote the e-book in it or something.
    I think that you just can do with some percent to force the message home a bit,
    but instead of that, that is wonderful blog. A great read.

    I’ll certainly be back.

    • Thank you very much and we’re pleased that you enjoy the information!
      TOM

  5. Hi there, I enjoy reading through your article.

    I wanted to write a little comment to support you.

    • Thank you! Best wishes in this great game!
      TOM

  6. Hi Tom,
    I am currently going through a process of fitting by Paul Sanders, in Victor,NY,who I was referred to through your site. It has been an eye opening experience for sure. We started with TrackMan numbers to get us into the ball park, and then he put some clubs together for me to try.
    I am a few months shy of 60 years old, 8 handicapper, swing speed on my 6 iron is in right around 80mph.
    What we are finding is that I am favoring shafts that are one flex flexier than what the tables suggest.
    I can tell that Paul is a little concerned about this, and we are doing a trial with a 6i and 8i ( both 575MMC) in the White Iron Shaft, specified for 60-70mph, and two shafts for the 775 4H, one spec’d for 75-85, the other for65-75.
    My transition and release are pretty average as far as smoothness.
    My question for you is if you are overly concerned with the fact that I seem to like a shaft that’s flexier than what the tables say.
    They seem to encourage me to not swing so hard, and being almost 60, I don’t see myself getting stronger over the next 5 years.
    Do any alarm bells go off in your head with where I’m heading on this?

    • Dan
      I would not be concerned at all with a move into a more flexible iron shaft. Give you a selfish example – I’m 62 and while I have moved up to about an 8 myself from the effects of age and a couple of past ailments, I still have a TrackMan measured 5 iron clubhead speed of 80-82 mph. Last year I changed from my old steel S flex iron shafts to our S2S Black 85 iron shaft in the R FLEX tipped only an additional 1/2″ over normal for the R. That puts these shafts only 1/3 of the way to an S and I have yet to ever notice that they are flexible feeling at all.

      Iron shafts always are made stiffer in terms of their actual amount of bending vs shafts for woods, so most golfers do not feel the flexing action of an iron shaft as they can in a wood. So for me being similar to you in age and swing, I’m totally fine with an R tipped only slightly even with my swing speed that says on paper I could be playing with most S flex shafts in the industry.

      TOM

  7. Thank you for the response. Would you be any more concerned as we leave the irons and move into hybrids, fairway woods, and drivers?

    • DAN

      Yes a little more for the driver and woods, but with the hybrids that also depends on how long you make the hybrids. Many of the big companies hybrids are 1.5″ to 2″ longer than an iron of the same loft. So that much longer length allows the shaft to pick up a little more bending action feel that golfers with a very refined sense of feel for the bending of the shaft can detect. But if the hybrids are built to the same length as an iron of the same loft, then no, you can look at them like an iron in terms of detection of the flexibility of the shaft during the swing.

      TOM

  8. Congratulations on technical knowhow and accumulated data. Is your database generally available to the public? If not, it would be of great service to be made available obviously for a fee agreeable to yourselves.

    • Alan

      I assume you are referring to the shaft data in our TWGT Shaft bend Profile software? If so, we do offer that complete software program for sale to anyone who is interested through the GOLFER’S STORE on our website. Software complete costs $129.50 and all updates are free, which we try to do at least once per year with the latest new shafts from all the companies that we can accumulate to add to the data base.

      TOM

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