Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Are you getting the Shaft ?

Remember the days when buying golf clubs was easy ? Just walk in, look for a recognizable name like
Ping, Titleist, or Callaway , pick a set of irons, a driver, a 3 wood, and you were good to go. My, how things have changed....so much so that I can't begin to cover all of the topics here

Rather, let's look at one that is either (a) overlooked and very important, or (b) overrated and a sinister marketing scheme... the object of this debate - the SHAFT. Check out any "real" player (present company included, laughing inside), and you are likely to see a variety of aftermarket shafts on their driver (at a minimum), or even their entire bag. What is up with this, and why all the fuss ? I mean, did Hogan, Nicklaus, or even Faldo and Watson ever pay THAT much attention to the shaft ???

Well, believe it or not, there really IS something to all of this fuss. There are dozens of articles on the topic, such as the one here , but the bottom line is that shaft selection really does have a lot to do with performance. If you still think this is all a load of BS, is my story:

For the longest time, I had an extremely high ball flight with my driver - I mean like towering height...not "pop ups" mind you. because I was hitting it pretty far (averaging about 245, sometimes getting it out around 280-290). I have always been a bit partial to Taylor Made drivers, and at the beginning of this year was playing a TM R7 Superquad with an aftermarket Aldila NV 65 (Pink - hats off to my favorite LPGA player) stiff shaft. After a million comments from my golf buddies ('you hit that higher than a 9 iron", or "think how far you would hit it if you could level that off some"), I decided enough was enough. Thus, I was off to my local golf emporium for my first ever "driver fitting session".

We tried out drviers from Callaway,Cleveland,Titleist,Ping, and TaylorMade. We tried shafts from Aldila, Grafaloy, Ozik, Mitsubishi, and UST, as well as the stock factory shafts from all of the manufacturers. After all of this, I learned that I have (a) a very high launch angle, and (b) a very high ball spin rate, and (c) tend to hit a ball that moves from right to left. Both (a) and (b) are pretty common for the average hacker, but (c), also known as a "draw" for righty's, was an unusual outcome considering (a) and (b).

After much trial and error, we settled on a TaylorMade Tour Burner, 9.5 degrees of loft, fitted in an Aldila VS Proto stiff shaft....unfortunately TM does not make this combo, so I had to custom build it. Three months l;ater, and I am a happy camper - Im still hitting the slight draw, but my launch angle and spin rate are down and my trajectory is much more penetrating.

My final analysis on the whole thing leads me to the following conclusions:
(1) First step, go to the launch monitor and try out some aftermarket shafts vs. your stock shaft. If you don't see a measurable difference, stick with your current rig.
(2) If you are unsatisfied with your drivers performance, check out a shaft upgarde before you get a new driver.
(3) The shaft is at least as important (possibly more) as the clubhead - so be SURE your shaft matches your swing.

Finally, here is a great resource for evaluating the shafts currently on the market.

Bombs away,
Da Judge

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