Think you know a lot about golf shafts? Think again! Did you know there are no standards for shaft flex? It can mean something different for every manufacturer. Playability tolerances in each category of stiff or regular are vast! To understand this better, I spoke with several shaft industry leaders: Fujikura’s VP of Sales Chad Embrey; Victor Afable, CEO of VA Composites; Gawain Robertson, President of ACCRA/True Temper Plus; and Nick Sherburne, co-founder of Club Champion.
“The industry taught us the club head is the engine of the golf club because that’s “what hits the ball”, but the shaft is far more important.” Sherburne says. “With thousands of shaft options and no industry ‘flex’ standards, it’s nearly impossible for golfers to find the shaft that performs best for them without professional help. It’s important to find a skilled fitter with a launch monitor to find the right shaft to maximize your performance.”
Sherburne considers Club Champion to be the #1 premium club fitter, builder and retailer of the best brands in golf. Their master fitters and builders are unrivaled experts whose approach is unbiased, where no specific vendor is promoted.
The only goal is to find the best combination of components to lower your scores. Club Champion offers over 35,000 hittable shaft and head combinations, making Sherburne an expert on this topic.
According to Robertson, “terms like stiff or regular flex are so generalized, they essentially mean nothing. Different sections of the shaft can be totally different flexes.” Manufacturers design shafts for three different sections; 1) butt (the grip end), 2) midsection and 3) tip sections. They can produce shafts that are soft in the middle, stiff at the tip, and medium in the butt or any combination imaginable. Robertson adds, “Club fitters understand the profiles of shafts. If a player needs something with a softer tip section and a stiffer butt section, they know which shaft has that profile.
Club Champion’s understanding of how to fit golfers is an integral part of any club being successful in a player’s hands. “
Embrey adds, “Flex specifications are impacted by torque – a misunderstood shaft specification. Many golfers believe lower torque means better shafts, which is not necessarily true. Seasoned fitters will often choose a higher torque shaft for smoother, slower swingers to help get the ball up in the air faster and create spin. Lower torque is better for players that swing aggressively.”
Afable believes custom fitting is very important. “Shafts with various weights and flexes react differently to individual heads. Some retail stores sell shafts off a wall. The problem is they may or may not be the right shaft for you. Furthermore, the builder who installs the shaft may not know how to trim it correctly which is where things can go wrong. It is essential to find a highly skilled fitter, like Club Champion, who understand the difference and are trained to properly fit and install shafts.”
There is an enormous difference between club manufacturers’ stock shafts and higher-end, aftermarket models Tour professionals play. Typically, cheaper shafts are made from lower grade materials. They’re manufactured in larger quantities in places like Mexico and Vietnam, which often means watered down tolerances. Exotic materials from Japan maintain very tight tolerances, not only for weight or flex, but straightness and roundness of the shaft. When a shaft is not rolled or manufactured properly, there will be gaps within the layers of graphite, which can really affect performance.
Embrey adds, “Mostly, OEM shafts do what they’re intended to do, but they’re not designed to dial players in.”
Club Champion uses a unique coupling system allowing golfers to hit any combination of heads and shafts. They find combinations that solve a golfer’s problems. Most fitters use club carts provided by club manufacturers, however, they are unable to mix-and-match across carts to determine the ideal combination. Club Champion offers hundreds of shafts, many not available through most other fitters and retailers.
Club Champion delivers a Tour-quality fitting producing longer, more accurate shots with a nearly 100% satisfaction rate. Whether looking to buy new clubs or just fix your current set, a premium club fitting is the answer. Many assume that premium fitting is only for great golfers, but a 2017 Golf Magazine fitting study found that high handicappers improved even more dramatically.
By Leonard Finkel