How Much Does Shaft Torque Affect Performance?

Posted by on Oct 2, 2012 in Shaft Fitting | 11 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/

11 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

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