Stock. Made For. Premium. Featured. Aftermarket. Exotic. No Upcharge.
All common descriptors of the shaft in your driver. The challenge is understanding which one is right for you. The quick answer? It depends.
The longer answer: It really depends.
Selecting the best driver shaft isn’t always a case of you get what you pay for, though many boutique club fitters might have you believe otherwise. The only guarantee that comes with a $400 shaft is that you’re $400 poorer after buying it. Conversely, plenty of golfers can find better performance with something other than the stock off-the-rack shaft.
Fujikura Ventus Bend Profiles
Every shaft has a bend profile which is largely what determines how the shaft will perform. More specifically, the profile is a declaration of how stiff the shaft is in the butt, mid and tip sections. Graphically, the bend profile is often represented as an EI curve. What’s important to note is that the two-dimensional rendering considers two variables. “E” is the measurement of material stiffness and “I” is the shaft diameter at specific points.
Often, golfers will find that shafts with a certain bend profile (EI curve) work better than others. And absent some unique swing characteristics, many golfers are best served by sticking relatively close to shafts with similar bend profiles throughout the bag.
Yes, there are exceptions. However, if a player benefits from an iron shaft with a very stiff handle section, they’re likely going to see a similar benefit from a driver shaft with a very stiff handle section. Case in point: Gary Woodland plays KBS C-Taper 130X shafts in his irons and a Fujikura Ventus TR Black 8X in his driver. Not only is the butt section uber-stiff in both shafts, the mid and tip sections are as well.
No one has either the time or capacity to hit every shaft-head combination that a fitter has available. So the first step is to determine which family, or class, of shaft fits you best. Based on numerous fittings, my optimal driver head/shaft combination emphasizes spin reduction. It’s a nice way of saying I tend to add too much loft at impact (dynamic loft), which results in excessive spin.
Beyond that, low-spin/low-launch shafts with a stiff handle section tend to produce the stable feeling throughout the swing that I prefer. The combination of a quick tempo, jerky transition and arms-dominated swing means I exert a decent amount of force directly along the handle section of the shaft. It’s a good bit of the reason I’ve played the Fujikura Ventus Black 6X for the balance of the previous two seasons.
It’s Not A Driver …
It’s a driver system. The mass properties (center of gravity, face angle, bulge/roll, etc.) largely determine the flight and spin characteristics of a shot. That said, and despite what some might have led you to believe, the shaft is vitally important. The synergistic relationship between golfer, shaft and clubhead is ultimately what determines performance.
Change any of the variables and results can differ drastically. I’ll concede that a fair number of golfers can get similar performance from a relatively wide selection of shafts. However, one shouldn’t confuse similar with optimal. The concept of “one size fits most” is both accurate and acknowledges that it’s not good for everybody.
Every golfer knows something about his or her current driver/shaft. It might be difficult to articulate or seemingly unimportant but you know something. A typical shot shape. Dominant miss. That sort of thing.
Given my history with Ventus Black, I was keen to see how it compared to the Ventus TR Black in a mid-low launch/spin head like the Titleist TSR3. For reference, the Ventus TR Black has the same bend profile as the Ventus Black but with a torsionally stiffer handle section.
My initial thinking is that if the Ventus Black was damned near perfect, maybe the Ventus TR Black could be perfect-ier.
Fujikura Ventus In The Lab
My first step was to compare the Ventus Black and Ventus TR Black in a controlled environment and capture the data on a Foresight GC Quad launch monitor. After several sessions over multiple days, the differences were consistently clear, though relatively small.
Though I used a different clubhead this time, the results were largely the same. Ventus TR Black launched slightly lower (+/- 1°) with +/- 200 rpm less spin. I play most of my golf in Colorado and, while less spin can be a good thing, I like to live close to 14-degree launch with 2,500-2,700 rpm backspin.
I prefer the overall feel of the Ventus TR Black but the uber low spin is a concern. Keep in mind that, to a degree, spin functions as control. A 1,700-rpm Phil Niekro knuckleball might carry 300 yards on the launch monitor. But good luck trying to control that flight on the course. And if there’s more than 10 mph of wind, you’ll have about as much control as a third-grade teacher the day after Halloween.
With that, to raise the spin-floor, I could increase the loft of the driver head or go down a step in flex from 6X to 6S. As I suspected, increasing the static loft bumped up the spin sufficiently. However, the launch angle sat at the very top of the optimal range.
It was at this point I had a thought that manifested as a question. What if I tried the Ventus TR Blue 6X? The Ventus Blue is a softer overall profile than the Ventus Black. But the Ventus TR Blue has a much stiffer handle section than the original Ventus Blue. Essentially, Ventus TR Blue is the Ventus Blue mid-launch/mid-spin profile with a Ventus Black handle section.
Bada bing. Bada boom. With the Titleist TSR3 eight-degree clubhead set to A1 (stock lie/loft), the Fujikura Ventus TR Blue 6X produced the trajectory, shape and spin conditions that sat consistently closest to the middle of my desired range.
My $0.05 …
Every element of a fitting experience is, at its core, an educated guess. It’s why doctors operate a “practice” and not a “perfect.” We’re all constantly learning and evolving our understanding of the relationship between the golfer and his or her equipment. Case in point, I was fully expecting to replace Ventus Black with Ventus TR Black and move on. But that wasn’t what happened.
See, what had happened was …
That said, I could make a strong argument for all three shafts: Ventus Black, Ventus TR Black and Ventus TR Blue. And I could tweak the loft/lie settings on my driver to accommodate the various shaft characteristics to optimize each shaft/head combination. If you want to think about it numerically, let’s say the Ventus TR Blue is a 98/100. Ventus Black and Ventus TR Black might be 95/100 and 96/100 respectively. The best shaft/head combination is the one that fulfills the vital criteria while mitigating any potential downsides. For me, that’s a shaft with a sufficiently rigid handle section that still generates the required launch and spin.
And while every golfer’s swing is unique, there’s an EI profile that’s the best match for your swing. You might need a softer tip section to increase launch and spin. Or a soft mid section with a stiffer tip and butt so the shaft acts more like a hinge.
The key is figuring out which one is best for you.
Have you solved the mystery? If so, what’s your best fit and how’d you figure it out?
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