Ever heard this phrase?
“The Shaft is the Engine of the Golf Club”
Actually, those who believe this have their auto parts mixed up. In reality, the shaft is more like the TRANSMISSION of the golf club because it connects the golfer’s hands to the clubhead and allows the golfer to transfer his or her power to the clubhead, and in turn, to the golf ball.
Those who like to say the shaft is the engine of the golf club are in essence trying to say the shaft is the most important part of the club or at the least, equal in importance to the clubhead. I’ve found in my career that most who believe the shaft is the engine of the golf club have come to this conclusion because of success in shot improvement that they have achieved upon making a change to a different shaft. Upon experiencing this improvement after making a shaft change, these people tend to think “if it made this much of a difference for me, it has to be important for every golfer.”
Back in the early 2000s, with some very capable assistance, we had the chance from a true engineering standpoint to analyze what the shaft actually contributes to the shot and from that, what movements in the golf swing cause the shaft to do what it does to the shot. While all this could fill a book, here’s a few of the key basics of what we learned about the importance of the shaft to the performance of golf clubs for different golfers.
1. The WEIGHT of the shaft is important to ALL golfers who have the ability to hit the ball in the air 90% of the time or more. As all experienced clubmakers know, the weight of the shaft is the NUMBER ONE factor that controls what the TOTAL WEIGHT of the clubs will be. The weight of the shaft also has a strong influence on how much headweight is required to achieve any particular feeling of the clubhead during the swing.
It is true that most golfers can increase their clubhead speed when using clubs with a lighter total weight, but in no way does this mean that all golfers who use a lighter total weight will experience an increase in shot distance. To do that requires that the lighter total weight be well matched to the golfer’s sense of swing timing and tempo so that they can still hit the ball ON CENTER the highest percentage of time. Hit the ball off center with a faster clubhead speed and you lose distance over what you can achieve with a slightly slower clubhead speed that comes with a high percentage of on center hits.
The weight of the shaft is more important for matching the total weight of the clubs to our sense of swing timing and swing tempo. How much our clubs weigh when we hold them off the ground is an important clubfitting factor for helping us to achieve a more consistent, repeating swing tempo and swing timing. Too light of a total weight and we can fight swinging the club too quick and experience problems in staying steady over the ball during the swing. Too heavy of a total weight and the extra effort required to swing the club also can mess up our swing tempo and balance during the swing. Get the total weight right for the golfer’s strength and natural sense of swing timing and tempo and we can experience as high of a level of swing consistency as our natural ability and golf athletic ability will allow.
2. The FLEX and the BEND PROFILE of the shaft can contribute to the launch angle and spin rate of the shot. But it does this only for a certain segment of golfers who possess a later to very late release of their wrist-cock angle on the downswing. For the majority of golfers who unhinge their wrist-cock angle early or in the first half of the downswing the shaft won’t display any real difference in the launch angle or spin rate of the shot.
The reason has to do with how a later release causes the shaft to bend as the clubhead impacts the ball. When the golfer unhinges the wrist-cock angle, the golfer’s arms slow down while the club speeds up. In this action the clubhead pushes the shaft to bend forward. As the shaft bends forward, the clubhead starts to tilt more upward, which increases its loft angle. If the golfer does not unhinge the wrist cock angle until later to very late in the downswing, the shaft is bent forward when the clubhead meets the ball and the increase in loft on the face of the clubhead causes the shot to take off higher with a little more backspin. But if the golfer releases the club in the first half of the downswing, the shaft then has the time to bend back to straight by the time the clubhead reaches the ball, so the shaft cannot then elicit any change to the dynamic loft of the clubhead at impact, and the shaft won’t contribute anything more to the launch angle or spin rate of the shot.
3. The FLEX and the BEND PROFILE of the shaft can have a measurable effect on clubhead speed and on center hit consistency for golfers who have a very refined and specific sense of FEEL for the bending action of the shaft during the swing. Interestingly, this can happen both for very skilled golfers with a late release as well as some golfers who may have an early to midway release.
Call it a blessing or a curse, some golfers more than others have the ability to feel when the shaft bends during the swing and how much it bends. This may happen because of an inherent heightened sense of feel the golfer may either be born with or acquires from hitting lots and lots of shots with different clubs. For such golfers, when they hit shots with a club that has a shaft installed which delivers exactly their preferred amount of shaft bending feel at exactly their preferred time in the downswing to feel this bending action, the golfer tends to react by swinging with absolutely no restrictions and with a completely free release which results in a higher swing speed.
On the other hand, give this type of golfer a club in which the shaft does not display their preferred bending feel and the results can be a disaster because the golfer is simply unable to achieve a full, free, unrestricted swing through the ball. For FEEL golfers, when they sense the shaft is too stiff, they tend to swing harder as if to make the shaft feel as they prefer – and when the shaft is too flexible, they tend to try to ease up to get the shaft to again feel as they prefer it to feel. Either way, the shot making results are typically not very good.
Until next time, best wishes in this great game,