How Much Does Shaft Torque Affect Performance?
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 golf industry’s term “shaft torque” is used to convey the relative, comparative amount that a shaft is designed to resist twisting in response to a specific force of torque applied to the shaft. 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 have nothing to do with shot performance.
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 heel end of the clubhead, which means all the weight of the head sticks out in front of the shaft. With a majority of the head’s weight and the head’s center of gravity not in line with the center of the shaft, under the force of the downswing the force of the downswing will cause the clubhead to apply a twisting force on the shaft.
The golf industry’s first experience with shaft torque came way back before the early 1900s when hickory was the predominant shaft material. 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 can have a torque measurement of more than 20 degrees!!
In fact, the biggest reason that steel shafts took over in the 1920s and wiped the hickory shaft from 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 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 to achieve better shot accuracy.
Next came the introduction of graphite and fiberglass shafts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Heralded as a huge breakthrough because they were much lighter in weight than steel shafts, early composite fiber and resin shafts failed to gain much of a foothold because their torques were over 10 degrees. The companies that introduced the first composite shafts simply did not know how to make their shafts with a lower degree of torque and much greater resistance to twisting.
As a result, the first composite shafts could only be used by golfers with a smooth, passive, totally non-aggressive swing tempo. 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 as well as the center of gravity of the clubhead protrudes well out in front of the shaft, the moment the golfer begins the downswing, that acceleration 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 strong, aggressive swinging golfer using a shaft with a torque of 6 degrees and higher can see the ball fly with a low, severe hook. This is because 6 or more degrees of torque in a shaft does not provide enough resistance to the twisting force that a golfer with a strong transition move and aggressive downswing tempo will generate. The shaft and clubhead snap back from the initial application of force and then springs back causing the clubface to significantly close and lower the dynamic loft at impact to cause the low, sniping hook.
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 typically that higher swing speed generates 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 to help keep the head stable coming into impact.
Thanks for that bit of history, Mr Wishon. I don’t get the conventional thinking with shaft ‘ torque ‘ For me, I’ve always thought of it as something I take advantage of for shot making (left to right/right to left) …never straight ahead, for instance A to B. I’m an A to —B-C guy…that’s just how I play the game. …anyway, there’s a fine line with me and torque – I don’t want too much or too little. All that talk with dispersion right or left is pure uninteresting crap for me. Those specs now with the ‘ correct a… Read more »
HAL From your response to my brief writing on shaft torque, it sounds a bit like that information did not help you as much as you wish. Can I help with additional information related to torque? It sounds from your statement that you have a fine line between too much or too little that you must have a well above average sense of feel for the bending/movement of the shaft during the swing, into and through impact. IS there something related to what you feel or sense in the shaft, whether torque, flex or bend profile related, that I might… Read more »
I don’t believe that a strong, aggressive swinger using a high torque shaft will always have a low severe hook. It can depends on a variety of factors (where they release the club, club path, swing plane, tempo, etc). They can hit all kinds of sprayed shots with a high torque shaft. Torque definitely is a metric that needs to be fit to a particular swinger, but generally you can bet that a lower torque shaft would show more consistent shot pattern and dispersion in a strong aggressive swinger.
I’m interested in the actual hickory shaft data. I’m curious about your statement that hickory shafts had more that 20˚ of torque. I’m interested to learn because I’ve been searching and have found no actual hard data and usually people point to old photos where the camera creates an illusion of massive shaft flex and then they state that hickory shafts were super flex-y and twisty. The few hickory shafted clubs I’ve used don’t really feel all that flexible or twisty. So that’s why I’ve been searching for data from actual measurements. I have a few questions and I’m hoping… Read more »
Always happy to help with the best information possible from my experience. What you are seeing when you see photos that show the shaft curved dramatically is in no way the way a shaft actually bends. It is a trick of the camera and how it picks up a fast moving object that is called “rolling shutter effect”. Here is a link to some info on that so you can better understand it and know why you’re not seeing what you think you are in any of these shaft images – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_shutter I have done some work with hickory shafts… Read more »
Since trimming a shaft doesn’t affect spin and launch angle that much, wouldn’t it make more sense to just choke down on the driver to the desired length instead of cutting it? Only drawback I see is if the grip tapers too much it can throw off feel but that can be easily fixed by regripping with a few extra layers of tape near the lower end.
It may affect swingweight also but that’s an easy fix as well with lead tape or if you have an adjustable diver you can just swap out weights, correct?
TODD Yes for sure, you can definitely grip down on the driver or any club for that matter, to achieve better control and accuracy. And you are also right in saying that it would be better to re grip or to build up the lower part of the grip more so the gripping down would not leave you with a smaller grip that could be uncomfortable. It’s a funny thing that most times when a player grips down on a club, he does not usually have to increase the headweight to retain a decent head weight swing feel. But if… Read more »
Hi Tom I’ve been playing golf for 50 years now and have been single figure handicap for 40 of those. I’m only 5 foot 6 inches and have played a 46 inch R flex driver for the past few years. I’ve just started experimenting with shorter shafts and even put a 3 wood shaft in my flyz+ driver. I’ve seen no noticeable loss of distance. Why is this. One of the reasons I tried a change in shaft is because when ‘I go after one’ I tend to get a pull with the long shaft. I’ve always hit pretty straight… Read more »
GRAHAM There are two main reasons why a golfer can go shorter with a driver and not see any distance loss. And sometimes it happens where the player increases distance with the shorter length driver. First reason is if the golfer does not have a very late release of the wrist hing angle coming into the ball. The only way that a longer length turns into more distance is if the longer length allows the golfer to generate a higher clubhead speed from the increase in angular acceleration that could come from the increase in length. However, this increase in… Read more »
Hi Tom. My question regards torque in graphite iron shafts. I’m 65, with a driver swing speed of 88. This past year I was fitted to XR irons with Recoil 460, F3 shafts. For the most part these are working pretty well, but my dispersion is very wide. Many misses are hooks, and low left shots. The torque specs on these are 5.1, and weigh 65 gr. Whereas the Recoil 760 ES has a torque of 4.1, and weigh 68 gr. I have tried the 760 in a booth / simulator with better dispersion results. I have not tried on… Read more »
Grant IMO I cannot believe the torque has anything to do with the reason you are fighting the dispersion of the clubs with these shafts. With your 88mph swing speed with the DRIVER, your iron speed would be in the area of 70-75mph and in all honesty, that is not enough to cause an IRON shaft to twist badly enough before impact to be the cause of the accuracy problem. To me this has to be more of a cause from one or more of the following – wrong lengths, wrong total weight/swingweight for your tempo/strength, wrong lie angle. At… Read more »
Hello Tom, I’ve recently increased tighter dispersion in a 9* Driver since adding weight to the clubhead area. The PLred S @1.8 torque has a higher bend area. Now knowing that the Big-dog will break away from weaker tip links, He just can’t jump as high as he use too. I think -my problem is the correlation of overall shaft balancing due to the Very low trajectory now. It hasn’t occurred to me that the same method of correcting the horizontal effect can be applied to the vertical outcome… If so, will I feel a big difference adding a heavier… Read more »
DJ: What you are talking about is chiefly a FEEL oriented issue with the club. Once you head out into the realm of feel you walk into a door that is trial and experimentation to simply find out how YOU react to the change to a heavier grip. no one, not me or anyone, can predict how that will perform because you and only you know your preferences for feel when you make such changes in a club. But the good thing is that to experiment with this won;t cost you much money and you can always go back to… Read more »
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… Read more »
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.… Read more »
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… Read more »
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.… Read more »
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… Read more »
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.
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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!!
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!