Tuesday, November 24, 2009
5 Questions on Shaft Fitting
Answer: Odds are, it’s both. Nobody repeats his or her swing perfectly every time. If you did, finding the perfect shaft for your swing would be a piece of cake. Instead, we’ve learned that the better golfer you are, the more adaptable you become to different flexes. This type of adaptability actually makes shaft-fitting more complex for low-handicappers. In fact, we did some blind testing to see the effects of adjusting one’s swing to the shaft (with one low-handicapper and one high-handicapper) and found some interesting results.
We started with a low-handicap tester, who hit four identical drivers with four unmarked shafts, each of varying degrees of flex. We observed that, because of his skill, he was able to adjust his swing with each shaft and hit fairly decent drives down the middle of the fairway with each club. (His most erratic drives were with shafts that were too flexible, but he still found the fairway most of the time.) For him, the key to figuring out which was the best shaft meant evaluating his best drives, not his worst. He looked to find his best trajectory, distance, accuracy and so forth with each shaft. Our tester didn’t ignore his worst shots, as it was clear some shafts were a mismatch. He wavered between a couple similar flexes that produced solid shots, but inevitably chose the one that delivered the best shots of the four shafts he tested. Even though the test was blind, he still was able to rely on feel and adapt to each driver so it performed at its best. Once he was told what the flexes were, he hit a few more balls and adjusted even more.
For our higher-handicapper, he approached the test from a different angle. Instead of looking at his best shots with each driver, he leaned more toward evaluating which of the four unmarked shafts produced the best of his worst shots, and deducted from there. In other words, the high-handicapper occasionally hit a stellar drive, but what’s more important on the course isn’t the occasional perfect hit, but rather, how severe his shots are when his swing isn’t at its absolute best. The high-handicapper adjusted his swing to different shafts too, but struggled much more at finding his groove with shafts that weren’t right for him. He eventually chose the right shaft that minimized his slice the most effectively, not the shaft that occasionally produced the longest drive. For the better player, it was about capitalizing on his best. But for the high-handicapper, it was about minimizing his worst.
If you’re a low-handicapper, check to see if your best drives fly too high or low, draw too much, etc. If so, you might be using the wrong shaft. As for high-handicappers, if you miss deep and wide, struggle with distance or have trouble with consistency, a better-fitting shaft can help minimize the effects. You’ll still need a swing fix if you want to hit drives like a pro, but a new shaft is a good place to start if you want to see quick results.
Final thought: We asked the PGA Tour’s Richard S. Johnson about how he gets fitted, and he said that he knows whether a driver will work in about three to four swings. He, like many other PGA Tour players, actually avoid “adapting” as much as possible; instead they maintain a constant swing. This makes it easier to see the differences in how shafts perform; hence, several Tour players need only a few swings with a club to know which driver shaft is right for them. By not adjusting, it helps keep their fundamentals in check, too.
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