How Much Does Shaft Torque Affect Performance?

Posted by on Oct 2, 2012 in Shaft Fitting | 19 comments

Shaft torque affects performance a little bit, but not nearly as much as does the shaft’s weight, overall stiffness design and bend profile design. And here’s why.

The term “torque” is used to convey the relative, comparative amount that a shaft is designed to resist twisting in response to a specific force. If the Rules of Golf were to allow clubheads to be designed so that the shaft would attach directly in line with the clubhead’s center of gravity, shaft torque would be a non-issue. The reason is because what causes a shaft to twist is, 1) the downswing force of the golfer, 2) the fact that the shaft attaches on the very heel end of the clubhead, which means all the weight of the head sticks out in front of the shaft. With all the head’s weight sticking out there, under the force of the downswing that weight will elicit a twisting force on the shaft.

The golf industry’s first experience with shaft torque came way back before the early 1900s when the predominant shaft material was hickory. Wooden shafts had very little resistance to twisting. In fact, a completely different swing technique was required to prevent wooden shafts from twisting too much during the swing. Golfers who are used to seeing torque measurements on today’s shafts between 2 and 5 degrees would be interested to hear that a typical hickory shaft has a torque of more than 20 degrees!!

In fact, the biggest reason that steel shafts took over in the 1920s and wiped the hickory shaft off the face of the golf industry was their MUCH lower torque, which resulted in far more accuracy and control of the shot. The first steel shafts were much heavier than hickory shafts, but golfers were willing to deal with the downside of heavier golf clubs to get the far superior resistance to twisting that steel shafts brought with them.

Next came the introduction of graphite and fiberglass shafts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Heralded as a huge break through because they were much lighter in weight than steel shafts, early graphite shafts failed to gain much of a foothold because their torques were over 10 degrees. The companies that introduced the first graphite shafts really did not know how to make their shafts with a lower degree of torque.

As a result, the first graphite shafts could only be used by golfers with a smooth, passive, totally non-aggressive swing tempo. And this realization is what led to the industry learning just how shaft torque works, and what had to be done before graphite shafts could gain a much larger following.

Because most of the weight of the clubhead protrudes out there well in front of the shaft, the moment the golfer begins the downswing, that force causes the clubhead to exert a twisting influence on the shaft. The greater the golfer’s downswing force, meaning the more abruptly and more aggressively the golfer starts the club down, the more of a twisting force the clubhead will exert on the shaft.

At its worst, a very strong, aggressive swinging golfer using a shaft with a torque of 6 degrees and higher can see the ball fly with a severe, low hook. This is because that much torque does not provide enough resistance to the twisting force that a golfer with a strong transition move and aggressive downswing tempo will generate.

The reason that torque is not much of a fitting factor today is because the shaft makers all design the torque of their shafts to fall in line with the flex. Shaft makers know that the faster the swing speed of the player, not always but quite often with that higher swing speed comes more twisting force on the shaft. Hence you rarely ever see S and X flex shafts with a torque higher than 4 degrees.

And typically for the R, A and certainly L flex shafts, the shaft makers design the shafts with a higher degree of torque. This is because the slower swinger puts less twisting force on the shaft and thus the shaft does not need to have a lower torque.

As always, to get the very best shaft fitting and Clubfitting advice, do think about taking the time to search for a good clubfitter in your area through our Find a Clubfitter locator here – http://wishongolf.com/find-a-clubfitter/

19 Comments

  1. Just got fitted in September thru Golf etc in Mandeville, La. Using True Temper rifle shafts and your 870 heads!! First round out shot a 77 on a 6.300 yard course. I did not want the fitter to tell me what equipment he was setting me up with during the fitting. Your 870’s are awesome!!

    Thanks, Rick

    • RICK

      Outstanding to hear your news and we all are very pleased that you like the new custom fit clubs!!

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us all!
      TOM

  2. But doesn’t the CG become in-line with the hands before impact?
    And what about torque acting as resistance to twisting on off-center hits?

    • TODD

      Sorry for the delay in responding. I was out of the office on an extended business trip for 11 days.

      During the swing, the shaft bends in two different planes – the toe up/toe down direction that has to do with shaft droop and lie fitting, and the other one is 90* perpendicular to that which can have an effect on the launch angle, trajectory and spin of the shot. Whether it does this AT THE MOMENT OF IMPACT completely depends on the golfer having a later to very late unhinging of the wrist c o c k angle on the downswing. If the golfer unhinges/releases the club early to midway on the downswing, the shaft goes into both these bends too early so that by the time the clubhead gets to the ball the shaft has rebounded to being virtually straight.

      For the later to late release golfer, whether the shaft bends enough in both planes to get to the point that the CG of the head is in line with the upper portion of the shaft depends on how stiff the shaft is in relation to the golfer’s clubhead speed + transition and tempo force – if the golfer prefers to play with a little stiffer shaft than what his clubhead speed + transition/tempo would otherwise dictate, then the shaft will NOT bend enough for the CG of the head to get in line with the butt end of the shaft.

      TOM

  3. Hi Tom,
    Most of the golfer’s I fit have the classic outside in swing with high fades. They usually will comment that their ball flight is too high and want a lower loft. Let’s assume their club head speed is 85MPH and they hit a 9.5 driver. What kind of parameters would you look for in a shaft for a longer fluid swing and then a shorter choppier swing to reduce spin or help them get a better result? Thanks.

    • Chris
      The most common reason that slicers of the ball tend to hit the ball higher is because when they make the swing error that causes the face to be open at impact to cause the slice, this opening of the face actually increases the loft of the head at the moment of impact. Spin is NOT the issue with people who hit the ball high due to a slice. Getting the right FACE ANGLE that is a little more closed than what they are using is the first priority. Second is then getting the right loft to go with the more closed face angle so their launch angle can be a little lower along with the reduced slice from the more closed face angle.

      TOM

  4. Hi Tom,

    I am a professional club fitter in the Columbus, Ohio area.

    In my experience, I have found that certain tip profile-torque value combinations produce shots that tend go one direction. For me, this has been a very useful trick to fine tune a club by promoting a certain shot shape or helping to eliminate a particular side of the golf course.

    I haven’t heard many fitters talk about using this combination of shaft properties as a method choosing one shaft over another. What are your thoughts?

    • NICK:

      When you use the terms “tip profile” and “torque” you are talking about TWO SEPARATE design elements in a shaft. Tip profile as we view the term is the expression of how tip stiff, tip medium or tip flexible that lower section of the shaft is designed to be. Torque as you know, is the resistance of the shaft to twisting during the application of the downswing force in the golfer’s swing. They are somewhat related, but only in the sense that most typically if a shaft is made with a stiffer tip, that brings with it a tendency for a little lower torque. However, it is eminently possible to make a tip stiff profile with a higher degree of torque and vice versa by reducing the longitudinal fiber wraps on the tip section while increasing the angle ply wraps on the tip section. It’s just that most shaft designers do not typically make tip flexible shafts with low torque or vice versa.

      Tip profile most certainly can have a bearing on the launch angle and spin and height of a shot – but ONLY for players who have a later to very late unhinging of the wrist cock angle on the downswing. For players with an early to midway release, that earlier release move causes the shaft to “unhinge” and go into its forward bending action well before the club gets to the ball. Hence by the time the earlier release player gets the clubhead to the ball, the shaft’s forward bending action is done with and rebounded back to essentially straight. But for the later to late release player, that action causes the shaft to get to impact in the amount of forward bending as dictated by the combination of the shaft’s overall stiffness plus the shaft’s tip stiffness design. So for the later release player, stiffer tip means less forward bending of the shaft at impact which means a slightly lower flight and spin for the given loft on the head. And conversely, for the later release golder, a more flexible tip means more forward bending of the shaft which means a little higher flight and more spin on the shot.

      Torque on its own does not have anything to do with how much the shaft bends forward at impact. That’s strictly controlled by the overall stiffness (flex) of the shaft with the tip section stiffness design separate to the overall stiffness design. But torque can have a definite effect on the shot both from a stiffness FEEL standpoint as well as from its primary role in affecting how much the shaft twists on the downswing before impact under the stress of the golfer’s downswing force. MANY golfers who have played a lower torque shaft swear that the shaft is either stiffer overall or more tip stiff because of the FEEL that a low torque shaft can transmit back up the shaft to the golfer. And as we know, when a golfer FEELS something different in a shaft, that can affect how the golfer swings the shaft, which in turn can affect the delivery of the clubhead to the ball which can affect launch conditions.

      But if the golfer is totally oblivious to shaft feel or ignores it completely such that he never changes anything in his normal swing regardless of getting a stiffer feel at impact, then the torque is not going to have an effect on the launch angle, height and spin of the shot. So the best advice I can give is to fit the shaft on the basis of how the swing speed rating of the shaft matches to the golfer’s clubhead speed PLUS his downswing transition force and downswing accleration. Then fit the tip section of the shaft to the golfer’s point of release – earlier release = more tip flexible; midway release = tip medium; later to late release – more tip stiff.

      Hope this helps,
      TOM

  5. Tom,

    Great article.

    I recently got fit for the UST Proforce VTS 6S Red shaft. But this is primarily, I think, bec of limitations on shaft availability.

    My swing speed averaged out at 116mph. I have a very aggressive transition at the top and apparent I swing with a lot of force bec I’ve cracked the heads of two drivers before.

    Anyway, my main concern is the relatively large torque, 5 degrees, in that shaft. They did not have the XS version of that shaft, but I assume I’ll need that for sure.

    Thing is, that shaft was such a VAST improvement over my current shaft and the stock shafts that come with the club—I think bec the VTS is very tip stiff—that I’m worried that I might order the XS, and possibly the Silver 4deg or Black 3deg, and not like it. Note, the Red XS is 5degs also.

    But my gut tells me that the XS with 3deg should perform even better for me than the S with 5 degs, or the XS with 5 degs. But there is no way for me to know bec nobody stocks the Proforce VTS 6XS Black shaft.

    What is your opinion?

    Thanks in advance,
    Marc.

    • Marc:
      I hear what you are saying about your swing speed and transition saying that on paper you should go with a lower torque. Fact is that torque is not a distance element in the shaft, it is an accuracy factor. So if you are seeing the occasional shot that takes off in an off line, mostly left, direction, then ok, going with a lower torque in the same shaft model and flex could help that a little bit. But also, missing left with the initial ball flight direction can be a “too low swingweight” matter too. So if you are starting the ball off line or seeing more of a draw or hook than you normally would have, first add some lead tape to the head to get the swingweight up there to see what that does to the left shot before you would go spend more money on the same shaft with a lower torque.

      Now if this shaft is not resulting in any off line tendency that was not there before, that says that even though on paper the torque is a little high for your speed and transition force, as long as everything else seems good for the shots with this shaft, stay with it and just forget about that 5* torque vs your swing force. Fitting can take different turns that toss the “on paper analysis” out the window – and as such if the shot pattern is good, if the trajectory and ball flight shape is good and if the feel of the club and shaft is good for your preferences, stay with that shaft.

      TOM

  6. Thanks for the great insight Tom. It makes perfect sense.

    I actually hadn’t placed the order, so I was able to go to Golf Tech, who had much better shaft availability, and got fit. They got me into the Proforce VTS 7X Black. I was a new man with that shaft. I’ve never hit the ball that consistently… at least in a simulator.

    I’m going to take it to the course this weekend for a test run.

    Thanks again,
    Marc

  7. I have been struggling with the driver. I tend to draw the ball and my club head speed is 96-97 mph. I used to play with a Diamana Ilima R flex shaft, which have a 3.6 torque. I hit that pretty solid, but lost the club. I now have a Fubuki 50g reg shaft in my driver, but I tend to hit low hooks, which makes me think that the higher torque might be the culprit. Do you think the difference in Torque could be the reason for my added inconsistency?

    • Claus
      Please understand that without us knowing a lot more about your swing characteristics AND all of the other specs on the driver with which you are having issues, it really is not possible for us to pinpoint the exact reason for your problems with the club. BUt with our experience we certainly can make some viable educated observations. First one is to ask you what is the length of this driver? And then, what is the face angle of this driver? After that, we would want to know about your downswing characteristics. Would you characterize your downswing move as being more aggressive than most, as if you tend to be much more of a “hitter” than a “swinger” with regard to your transition move to start the downswing and your downswing tempo?

      For any golfer with a slightly aggressive to very aggressive tempo, driver lengths of more than 44″ and shaft weights less than 65g can tend to cause problems with consistency and control of the club. I doubt seriously this is a torque issue. 3.6* is not a high torque in any sense and not even close to enough to be the cause of low hooks. Typically torque only can do this if the torque is 5* or higher AND the golfer has a VERY aggressive downswing move at the ball.

      Hope this helps a little and thanks so much for coming to our site to ask,
      TOM

  8. Hello Tom,

    I have a hypothetical question about shaft torque for you.

    I know that what I am about to describe is not considered a typically “correct” swing technique, but please bear with me.

    Let’s say we were using a shaft with approximately 5* TQ.

    But instead of swinging “traditionally” by fanning open the clubface on the backswing and closing the clubface on the downswing and squaring the clubface at impact, you were to keep the clubface “relatively square” to the swing path and ball thru the entire swing and thru impact-WITHOUT imparting twisting forces on the shaft due to the non-fanning of the club AND also making ball contact on the sweet spot of the clubface.

    My question after all of this IS: Would then, the higher shaft TQ matter at all, unless of course you were to make contact with the ball on the heel or toe of the clubface, which would obviously close or open the clubface more than a lower TQ shaft, resulting in MUCH less accuracy in that manner alone?

    I apologize for being so long with the question, but I wanted you to be well informed of the variables and the results that I already have somewhat of a grasp upon.

    Oh yeah, I have one last question, “What do you know about, and think about the “HARRISON SHOTMAKER SHAFT INSERT”, that they claim increases accuracy by a lot?

    Do you know if this would help to compensate for higher TQ shafts in any sort of manner?

    Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you,

    JOHN

    • JOHN:

      What makes shaft torque work or not work is not really the position of the face as it rotates into the ball as much as it is the downswing acceleration of the golfer. The more forceful the transition move to start the downswing and the more acceleration and aggressiveness the downswing, the more the mass of the head can cause the shaft to twist on the downswing. Of course, no one can accelerate the club at a positive acceleration rate because once the release happens, the arms begin to slow down. So all acceleration is at a decelerating rate. That means as the initial force of acceleration causes the head to twist back, the head then eventually springs back from the torque of the shaft to twist the other direction, closed. Hence when you see a shot hit by a golfer who definitely over torques the shaft, the shot is a low sniping hook as the head springs back to snap closed.

      Therefore if you had a swing as you describe WITH A VERY AGGRESSIVE DOWNSWING, the shot would be a very severe low sniping hook, more so than with a normal rotation back and rotation through type of swing. Thing is though that since torque is always matched to flex in a shaft design, it is very, very rare to see a golfer over torque a shaft providing he has been fit correctly for the flex of the shaft vs his clubhead speed and transition force.

      I have not done any actual work with this shaft insert or any other plug in a shaft so I can only offer you theory based on my experience with all other areas of researching shaft bending and the effect of the golf swing on shaft bending. It’s not likely that this insert could have any real effect on the actual amount that a shaft will twist in the downswing. One big reason is that the insert only is put in the tip end of the shaft. And when a shaft torques, it twists over far more of its length than the tip section. Also,filling the inside of a shaft with a solid material that only extends a little ways up from the tip section can’t have that much effect on stiffness either for the same reason, the shaft bends over its full length during the downswing. What these things do more than anything else is change the vibration of impact so the feeling of impact is different for sure than if the shaft’s core is left open. To some players, that change in feel is something they like and can then key off to develop a little more consistent timing and tempo.

  9. Since torque is how much the shaft twists, would it be unlikely for a golfer to actually need more torque?

    I understand torque can affect the feel of a shaft, but if we assume a relatively low torque, say 2.8-3.0, and a flex and bend profile that are otherwise appropriate for a golfers swing, would it be rare to find a golfer who actually performed better with more torque (say going to a torque of 4.0-4.5 degrees)?

    • BRIAN:

      Shaft torsional stiffness, AKA torque, is a factor in shaft design that can have a bearing on the accuracy of the shot and the impact feel of the shot. The higher the degrees of torque and the more aggressive the downswing tempo of the golfer, the more the head can twist closed on the downswing to cause more of a hook or pull than the golfer deserved from his swing move. And the lower the torque, the less solid the feeling of impact can feel to the golfer, depending of course on his clubhead speed and his downswing tempo.

      However, over the past 20+ yrs, shaft designers have learned to understand this relationship of torque to golfer swing force such that very rarely do you find a golfer who ever suffers from torque problems when fit into the right flex and bend profile for his swing. Shaft makers understand that they can eliminate well more than 90% of any potential torque problems for golfers by simply making the torque change in relationship to the flex of the shaft. That’s why you typically see X flex shafts have lower torque than S, S lower torque than R, R lower torque than A and so on.

      There is a basic relationship between clubhead speed and torsional force on the shaft that dictates this torque design trend in shafts. The higher the clubhead speed, the more twisting force is put on the club on the downswing and vice versa. So this is why you see lower torques on stiffer flex shafts graduating down to higher torque on the more flexible shaft designs. And for over 90% of all golfers, this trend takes care of any and all possible shot problems that could come from an ill fit torque in the shaft to the golfer.

      Who are the 10%? Golfers who have inordinately more aggressive downswing tempo for their given clubhead speed. Thus if you happened to see a golfer with an 80mph speed but who happened to start the downswing with a very abrupt, aggressive move, it is possible this type of golfer could end up with some torque related problems and would need a shaft with a lower torque than what is typically made into shafts for his lower speed. On the other side, it is very rare but possible to find a golfer with a high clubhead speed but a very smooth gradual tempo into the ball who could find the low torque that goes with the much stiffer shaft flex could result in more of a dead or boardy feel at impact from the torque being too low for his downswing force, even though he would have a higher swing speed.

      Thing is, these situations in golfers are very rare because so many golfers tend to generate a twisting force on the club that is proportional to their clubhead speed. What you don;t want is too high of a torque matched with too high of a clubhead speed AND a very aggressive downswing move at the ball. But even so, the torque would have to be quite a bit higher than what is put on shafts today per each flex for there to be such a shot problem related directly to the torque.

      For example, on the tour today, there are tour players using shafts with 4* of torque. Not many for sure, but it happens. And they don’t see any accuracy problems from that level of torque. Now if a tour player were to somehow use a shaft with say, 5* torque, then you would likely start to see some problems. But in all the shafts that a tour player would consider using to match his swing speed and his downswing force, the odds of one of those shafts being made with 5* are slim to none because the shaft companies all know what this relationship of torque to flex and bend profile needs to be to eliminate torque from ever being a problem.

      To directly answer your question, if you had two shafts that were identical in flex and bend profile and both shafts matched your clubhead speed and downswing force perfectly in their flex and bend profile, if one of those shafts were 2.8* torque and the other at 4-4.5*, more than likely the only difference you would note between the two would be that the one with 2.8* would feel as if it is stiffer when you hit shots than the one that is at 4-4.5*. And that right there can be enough to say you want to stay away from the lower torque so impact could never feel as if it were less solid. Only if you had a super aggressive downswing move would you ever possibly see any accuracy issue with the 4-4.5* shaft and that still would be very unlikely.

      Hope this helps and THANKS for your question – it was a good one.
      TOM

  10. I have a 515 GRT 3 wood that can send the ball a country mile when I feel like I hit it near the toe. Could it be the torque of a Wishon ZT Ultra lite R high launch, with soft butt and tip?

    I still think I could benefit over all from a stiffer shaft, but on those certain hits the ball goes forever. I am guessing the shaft is torquing, or whatever the proper term is.

    • LEIGH

      Most often when a golfer suffers from off center hits, it is a matter of either the length being a little to long and or some aspect of the weighting of the club not being quite right yet for the golfer’s sense of swing tempo and timing. Not really the torque. Although you can have a way to know this by first cutting the length of the wood down by 1/2″ and then adding 4 strips of lead tape each one 4″ in length to the head to get the headweight feel up there more. Then try that and see what the results are.

      TOM

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