Solving the Shaft Problem
There’s an effort underway here at MyGolfSpy - one that's become a personal passion of mine – to tear down some of the mythology that surrounds the golf shaft. There’s plenty of misinformation and misunderstanding in the shaft space, and we want to clear some of that up for you. Our goal is to empower you with the knowledge to differentiate what’s real and true from what’s opinion and what’s total nonsense. You’re going to see us tackle the problem from many sides, but one of the first clear manifestations will be a change in how we review golf shafts.
The truth is that gaining any meaningful insight into shaft performance has proven elusive. Last year we conducted an extensive test of so-labeled low spin shafts. We had some fun doing it, but digging through the data, while interesting, led us to a singular and admittedly not particularly helpful observation: the shaft any given golfer hits most left is almost invariably the one that spins the least.
That’s a perfectly logical conclusion and one that’s supported by the actual physics of how the shaft moves through the swing and into impact, but I’m not sure it does much to help you find the right shaft.
A Lack of Standards
Getting to what’s real is complicated by the fact that the shaft industry lacks any sort of standardization. Most of you already know that the notion of flex is arbitrary to the point where one company’s Regular may be stiffer than another’s X-Stiff, but it’s also worth mentioning that there’s no industry standard for the tools that measure the shaft. Much of the instrumentation that exists at the manufacturer level was developed in-house, and each manufacturer uses a proprietary suite of tools.
Further complicating matters is the reality that the language used to describe shaft performance is oversimplified. The notion of high launch and low spin (a combination that doesn’t actually exist), is a lot easier for the consumer to digest than performance stories centered around lead deflection, toe down, and closure rate. So, the industry keeps it simple; I'd argue too simple.
Low Spin, for example, is at best a way to describe a loose collection of shaft design characteristics, but not always the actual performance. Keep in mind, descriptions like low, mid, or high launch are relative only to other shafts in the same manufacturer’s lineup, and their real-world manifestation is largely dependent on the golfer holding the shaft. Low spin is far from an absolute; one man’s spin-killer is another’s 4500 RPM nightmare. That’s what’s real.
A Better Way
Before we take a closer look at how we plan to provide you with useful shaft information, let me first tell you what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to show you launch monitor charts where everything aligns perfectly with launch and spin-based marketing. That almost never happens when we test shafts. We’re also not going to continue to collect data with the unrealistic expectation that we can translate what we find for your game.
Finally, we’re not going to be a place that falls back on textbook shaft gibberish to try and make ourselves sound insightful. We’ll be adding our admittedly subjective thoughts (most likely in the comments section), but we’re not going to waste your time with meaningless superlatives like this shaft kicks like a mule, or it’s boardy, but in a good way. We'll spare you the butter analogies too.
We absolutely can do better.
Cool Clubs S3
What we can do is tell you is how the design characteristics of a given shaft compare to others within the market at large. We can do this because the data we’re going to share is collected independently with the most sophisticated shaft profiling system in the industry today.
S3 Technologies utilizes the most advanced shaft testing technology in the industry. The Shaft Simulation System (S3), which was developed in 2013, is a fully-automated, all-in-one shaft profiling machine. In a matter of minutes, the S3 determines the following shaft specs: (Straightness, Consistency Profile, EI Profile, CPM Analysis, and Torque). While some of the aforementioned specs can be obtained from shaft manufacturers, a lack of industry standards prevents that data being used for accurate apples-to-apples comparisons. S3 Technologies solves this challenge by testing all of our products in-house using the S3. This gives S3 Technologies a unique and in-depth understanding of the quality and performance of the industry's shafts.
Not only does S3 give us standardized quantitative information about the shaft(s) being reviewed, the data we share will provide you with a much better sense of how those shafts compare with similarly spec’d offerings on the market. For each shaft we review, we’ll provide the following information:
- Balance Point – Compared to similar shafts, is it high or low?
- Zone Stiffness – How does the stiffness in the butt, mid, and tip sections compare to the average shaft in the Cool Clubs S3 database?
- Launch Characteristic – Is it high, low, or mid launch? How does it compare to the database average or true neutral (what you might call a mid-mid profile)?
- Swing Speed Recommendations – For a variety of weight and flexes for each offering, we’ll show you the recommended swing speed range for each shaft.
Advice from Cool Clubs Fitters
While we can’t recommend enough that you get properly fitted, especially when you’re considering dropping several hundred bucks or more on an exotic aftermarket shaft, we understand that among us exist eBay DIYers, compulsive tinkerers, and guys who just like to play with new toys.
Believe me, I understand.
To help you make more informed decisions, we’ll be providing insight from the Cool Clubs fitting team as to the type of golfer (tempo, transition, and release) for whom the shaft is generally well-suited.
Along the way, we’ll explain how the various design characteristics of a golf shaft influence performance. Hopefully, you’ll come away with a better understanding of shafts, and what design characteristics are best suited to your swing.
The first review (Graphite Design Tour AD IZ) has been posted. Be sure to let us know what you think and what you’d like to see in future reviews.