Golf Club Construction


Golf Club Construction

The shaft is a tapered tube made of metal (usually steel), or graphite fiber. Some "matrix" shafts have incorporated two construction materials, such as a graphite shaft with a steel tip in True Temper's Bi-Matrix. The shaft is roughly 1/2 inch in diameter (12 mm) near the grip and between 35 to 45 inches (89-115 cm) in length.

Shafts are quantified in a number of different ways. The most common is the shaft flex. Simply, the shaft flex is the amount that the shaft will bend when placed under a load. The load in this case represents the swing of a given golfer. Golfers who have faster swing speeds generally use shafts that are less prone to bending, i.e. stiffer shafts. Another method of measuring shaft stiffness is the frequency of a given shaft, that is the number of cycles per second the shaft makes when struck by a tuning fork. The stiffer the shaft, the greater the frequency is. Different manufacturers have different standards for measuring the flex of a shaft, so one company's standard should not be taken as universal. For example, Grafalloy's Blue model tends to play stiffer than does Aldila's NV-65 shaft. Most shaft makers offer a variety of flexes. The most common are: L (Lady), A (Known as soft regular or Senior Flex), R (Regular Flex), S (Stiff Flex), and X (Tour Stiff, Extra Stiff or Strong Flex). Some companies also offer a stiff-regular flex.

It is widely known that most male golfers play shafts that are too stiff for their own good. A shaft that is too stiff will result in a loss of distance because the golfer is not strong enough to place enough load on the shaft to cause it to deform and thus "whip" through the ball. Occasionally, some golfers play with shaft flexes that are too light. The major problem caused by a "whippy shaft" is a loss of accuracy. In general, shaft stiffness appropriate for any particular player is dependant on the club-head speed reached by said player. A regular flex shaft is for those with an average head speed (80-94 mph), while an A-Flex (or senior shaft) is for players with a slower swing speed (70-79 mph), and the stiffer shafts, such as S-Flex and X-Flex (Stiff and Extra-Stiff shafts) are reserved only for those players with an above average swinging speed, usually above 100 mph.

On off-center hits, the clubhead twists as a result of a torque. In recent years, many manufacturers have produced and marketed many low-torque shafts aimed at reducing the twisting of the clubhead at impact. The less the clubhead twists laterally, the greater the golfer's accuracy. Most recently, many brands have introduced stiff-tip shafts. These shafts offer the same flex throughout most of the shaft, in order to attain the "whip" required to propel the ball properly, but also include a stiffer tip, which cuts back drastically on the lateral torque undergoing in the head. This translates into greater accuracy with the same distance as a regular shaft.

Prior to the 1930's, hickory was the dominant material for shaft manufacturing, but it proved difficult to master for most golfers, as well as quite frail. Steel was the ubiquitous choice for much of the next half century. Although heavier than hickory, it was much stronger, more durable, more uniform, and more consistent in its performance. Prior to steel, a player would need a slightly different swing for each shaft given the inherent inconsistencies in the hickory shafts. Graphite shafts first appeared in the 1960's, but did not gain widespread use until the early 1990's.

Widely overlooked as a part of the club, the shaft is considered by many to be the engine of the modern clubhead. Current graphite shafts weigh fractions of their steel counterparts which allows for an overall lighter club than can be swung at a much greater speed. Within the last ten years, performance shafts have been integrated into the club making process. These performance shafts all have various characteristics-some are designed to launch the ball high, others low, for example. They also allow for greater discretion for the modern golfer as every shaft model is slightly different. Whereas in the past one club could only come with one shaft, today's clubheads can be fit with dozens of different shafts, increasing the variety of combinations by an order of magnitude, creating the potential for a much greater fit for the average golfer.