— June 2016
By: Golfweek Staff Writer
The shaft in an iron does a lot more than just connect a club’s grip to its head. Ideally, the shaft bends efficiently to help create more power on the downswing while delivering a desired sense of feel at impact.
But most steel iron shafts look similar, so it is hard to know the subtle differences in performance between them.
Nick Sherburne, the founder of Club Champion and a master clubfitter, said the average handicap of the players who shop in his stores is between 13 and 15. They’re typical golfers, and they haven’t got a clue about their iron shafts.
“It’s very rare that we see someone who really knows anything,” Sherburne said. “Maybe one out of a hundred. It’s amazing, but it seems like about half of them don’t know if they have regular or stiff shafts.”
Manufacturers design many different iron shafts because they want to offer at least one product suited to nearly every type of swing. There are shafts that work well for slow swingers and others that benefit golfers who can generate a lot of speed. There are shafts that increase launch angle and others that lower launch angle. There are plenty of shafts that reduce spin and others that increase spin.
Options abound, but plenty of golfers play the wrong shafts in their irons, especially those who buy off the rack and don’t work with a clubfitter.
“When I cruise forums and message boards on the Internet, I see posts from people who get new irons and complain that they are hitting the ball shorter than they expected,” said Don Brown, True Temper’s director of golf innovation and product strategy. “A shaft that does not help you launch the ball, flight it and spin it correctly can make a huge difference in distance.”
For example, Brown said, a high-speed player using shafts designed to create more spin could easily lose distance, because the ball is going to balloon up. Conversely, a low-speed player with shafts designed to reduce spin may see the ball drop from the sky without maximum distance or appropriate stopping power on the greens.
Weight is another commonly overlooked aspect of iron shafts. Brown said the right weight can play a significant role in helping a player establish and maintain the ideal tempo.
“If you have a smooth tempo and a pretty even swing, then I don’t think you are going to notice the weight too much,” Brown said. “But for guys who swing hard from the top, a little more weight can be helpful because it (can slow the transition and) helps them maintain their tempo.”
Playing with the wrong iron shaft also affects the quality of contact.
Sherburne said golfers are prone to hitting fat shots if the swingweight of their irons is too light or the shaft’s overall weight is too light. Those problems can cause a player to come out of posture too quickly.
If an iron shaft’s flex is not stiff enough, a golfer needs to time the release of the head just right and use the hands excessively, which also leads to inconsistency.
Unfortunately, Sherburne confirms that players still tend to opt for shafts that are too stiff.
“That’s the number one thing that happens in our fittings,” Sherburne said. “We try to soften the ego blow by telling guys that flex is not universal. So we tell the guys that, just because you play a regular flex in one shaft and stiff in another because they are very similar.”
Too flexible, too stiff, too light, too heavy … how does a player find the perfect shafts?
The only way to ensure that shafts match a swing and enhance a player’s game is to talk with a good custom-fitter. The player must explain what they are looking for (more distance, more accuracy, better feel) and try as many models as possible. Skip that step and a player is rolling the dice.
“You always hear in our industry that the shaft is the engine of the club, but I call it the transmission,” Sherburne said. “It’s what drives the engine. You can dial in spin and launch with the heads, but you’ve got to get the heads there first. That’s what the shaft does.”
By: Golfweek Staff Writer