Finding the proper shaft flex is a process

Ping fitters work with clients to find the right clubs on the range. Golfweek File Photo

Finding the proper shaft flex is a process

Equipment

Finding the proper shaft flex is a process

Golfers often categorize themselves by shaft flex to describe their games or swings. “I’m an R flex,” or, “I’m an S flex.” It’s as if they can create appropriate expectations with four words.

Problem is, that approach is all wrong because there are no standardized flex specifications throughout the industry. One shaft-maker’s stiff iron shaft might be considerably firmer than another company’s. And even within the same company, various iron shaft models are designed to perform in very different ways.

The only way to know you have the best-fitting shaft is to experiment on a launch monitor in a controlled environment.

“Flex is tough, because flex is vague,” said Nick Sherburne, founder and master club fitter for Club Champion, which has 37 fitting centers around the country. “It’s trial and error, hitting a lot of shafts, and it’s also having a good fitter who understands all the different product lines. That way it’s an educated trial and error.”

Sherburne points out that even within a single steel iron shaft, the three main sections of the shaft can flex differently. For example, the butt section might be very firm, while the mid-section might be slightly firm and the tip is soft to help generate a certain type of ball flight. Just as every golfer’s swing is different, so is every model of shaft.

Instead of assuming which flex is needed based on observed swing speed, players should visit a qualified club fitter who can help choose an option the player can properly load on the downswing, meaning they can efficiently bend the shaft during their swing to generate energy while delivering the clubhead squarely to the ball.

“The most important things are center contact and ball speed,” Sherburne said. “Most golfers we work with just don’t load shafts very well. We work with our players to really understand loading a golf shaft and creating speed.”

Sherburne said most professional club fittings are about 65 percent finding the right shaft and 35 percent finding the right head (he includes an asterisk, because everybody is different).

“The USGA has put a lot of limitations on head manufacturers, and in a lot of cases there is only so much you can do with the head now,” Sherburne said. “So creating lot of value for the player is going to come from getting the right shaft.” Gwk

Club Champion

Club Champion

(Note: This story appeared in the May 2018 issue of Golfweek.)

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