RENSLOW: The shaft flex effect
Okay, I’m to going to tell you right up front. At first glance, this might seem to be the most boring article on golf you will ever read. But upon further review, this could also be the most helpful article for your golf game you will ever read.
Today, we’re talking about shaft flex. Believe it or not, this is the equipment component that will have an effect, positively or negatively on nearly every swing that we make. When we choose a club to hit a shot, the loft of the club is a static thing, the mass of the clubhead is a static thing, and the size of the grip is a static thing.
Yet, the shaft will flex and rebound (or at least it should) during the golf swing. How much the shaft bends has a tremendous influence on impact with the ball. Consider this, the shaft is the only connection that your hands have with the clubhead and that relationship may be up to four feet from each other. It is critical for the amount of flex in the shaft to be coordinated with you and your golf swing as a unique individual.
Let’s look at two extremes to help me get this point across. In one scenario, we’ll take a fishing pole and fix a clubhead to the end of it. Now, make your golf swing. After a while, we might make contact, but even then it would be very challenging to hit a straight shot.
In our next scenario, let’s fix that clubhead on the end of solid pipe. Contact with the ball would be much easier. But, now that ball won’t go anywhere. There simply is not enough energy, caused by flex, to keep a ball airborne for very long.
We need a shaft that is firm enough to make consistent contact, yet flexible enough to create energy. Generally, a shaft that is too flexible for you will send shots left (a “hook” for the right-handed player) and a shaft that is too firm will tend to push shots to the right.
For our purposes today, I’m not going to get into the nuances of shaft materials and performance characteristics. Technology has brought us a long way, however. Bobby Jones was playing with shafts made from hickory. There was a day that shafts were made from aluminum. Now, we see very fined tuned steel alloys and exotic materials, such as graphite, in nearly every quality set of clubs. The key is to determine which choice will put you in the best position to hit a successful shot.
In our modern era, there has been a basis of a regular flex shaft, which would suit many players. From this “benchmark,” a more firm shaft would be known as a stiff flex, while a more flexible shaft for slower swing speeds has been identified as an “A” shaft or even a ladies flex.
More recently, advances have provided a range of available shaft weights, different torsional flexes, and even positioning the point at which the shaft will flex (i.e. high vs low on the shaft).
The important concept to take away from this is to know that every one of us is different. We have different bodies, different personalities, and different swing styles. In order for us to play our best we need our golf clubs to match these differences.
Next time you’re in your favorite pro shop, ask the golf professional about a “fitting session.” It will be fun for the two of you to find the path that will help your game. Just like our personalities, maybe we need to be more firm, but most likely we need a bit more flexibility.
John Renslow is a PGA Class A Professional and Instructor at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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