12 Myths That Could Wreck Your Golf Game (P3)

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I know I play a stiff shaft; it says so right on it.

No, you don’t know that you are playing a stiff shaft. The “S” you see on your shaft is completely meaningless.

Most golfers know, or think they know, that shafts come in a variety of flexes: S for stiff, R for regular, A for amateur or senior, and L for ladies. What most golfers don’t realize is that those letters (and only those letters) represent just about everything upon which there is universal agreement.

You say you want a “stiff ” shaft in your driver? Fine. Whose definition of stiff do you want to use? Because one shaft company’s “stiff,” is another company’s “regular,” ́ which is another company’s “Ayflex.” Worse, the flex rating of one line of shafts might be at hopeless variance with that of another line, within the same shaft company!

But, I’m just getting started.

Is that “stiff” shaft going into an iron or a wood? Because iron “stiffs” are stiffer than wood “stiffs.” And you’ve said nothing about whether you want that driver in a steel shaft whose “stiff” is almost always stiffer than a graphite shaft.

If it sounds as if the concept of shaft flex is hosed to the point of being a shot in the dark for your game, you are exactly right. If you buy a driver because it has a stiff, regular, senior, or ladies flex shaft in it, you have no idea what you are getting—nor does anyone else. 

Wait a minute; let me retract that. Serious, professional clubmakers do. They have easy access to that kind of information; golf stores do not.

Here’s the bottom line.

  • From a pure shaft performance standpoint, 90 percent of you are going to be better off with a shaft that is more flexible than what you think you need.

Let me put it this way. If you happen to end up with a shaft that is too stiff for your swing speed and your swing mechanics, first, the ball will go a little shorter in distance because it will probably fly a little lower. Second, you might have a tendency to see the ball fly over to the fade side of the target. Your feeling from hitting the ball on the center of the face will be a little more “harsh,” as if the club felt like it vibrated a little more in the hands.

On the other hand, if you happened to end up with a shaft that is too flexible for your swing, first, the ball might fly a little higher and from that, possibly, a little farther. Second, it might cause a fade shot to fade a little less or a draw shot to draw a little more. The feeling of an on-center impact on the clubface will bring a softer or more solid feeling to your hands. Of the two, choosing the second choice is a no brainer.

  • Unless you work with a professional clubmaker to make your shaft selection, you will have to do a lot of trial-and-error test hitting of all sorts of shafts before you come up with a decision.

You might be able to guess that you want to have an R- or an S-flex, for example, but because the R from one company can be very different in stiffness from the R of another, you have no other alternatives but to: (a) do trialyandy error testing to see for yourself how stiff or flexible that new R- or S-flex shaft really is compared to your old one; or (b) listen to a retail sales person who nine times out of ten won’t know enough about shafts to really help ensure you get the right one for your swing.

You might be measured for your swing speed in a retail golf store, but I am here to tell you that virtually NONE of the big companies that make the stan- dard golf clubs stocked in the retail shops ever provide their retailers with a reference chart to indicate what swing speed matches up with which flex in each shaft model they offer. So, the recommendation of the retail sales person will quite possibly be a guess or based on which flex they have more of in their store inventory.

A competent clubmaker will measure your swing speed, and then observe your swing mechanics to look for things like your tempo, how much force you use to start the downswing, and where in the downswing you release your wrist- cock. The clubmaker will then ask you some questions about how high or low you want to see the ball fly and other performanceygoal queries to determine what you want to achieve that could be associated with the shaft’s performance. He or she will then reference the files of shaft information that he gets from his suppliers or from research on shaft testing that they or other clubmakers have done and made available to each other. He will also have more precise lists of what swing speed matches well to what shaft flex for what shaft design. After that, he will make a recommendation and possibly build a test club for you to hit to obtain feedback. The clubmaker may also have a launch monitor which can be used to actually measure the launch angle contribution of the shaft as you swing the club. And in the end, the clubmaker will come up with a far more accurate recommendation of which shaft is likely to perform and feel best to YOU.

The newer clubs have a larger “sweet spot.”

Actually, they don’t. What they might have, however, is a larger “moment of inertia” and that is a very different thing. Sweet spot is a term that is commonly found in golf club ads and misused a lot by almost everyone in the golf industry. You frequently see ads boasting that this club or that has a “larger” or “wider” sweet spot. Technically that can’t happen because the actual sweet spot (officially known as the center of gravity) is a point that’s about the size of the sharp end of a pin. It can’t get “larger.” It can’t get “smaller.” It just…is.

If you deliver the face of the club square to impact and hit the exact center of the golf ball directly in line with this tiny spot, the ball will fly straight, true, and at the highest speed your swing will allow. But, here’s the catch. If you miss this point of perfect contact, the head will start to twist, not only imparting sidespin to the ball but causing a loss of distance. As mentioned earlier, if you miss the sweet spot by a quarter inch, you lose five yards, a half inch, 10 yards, and so forth.

The only way to help relieve this problem is by making heads that resist twisting as much as possible. In technical terms, that’s called increasing their “moment of inertia.” But don’t panic over these terms. You know all about mo- ment of inertia because you’ve seen it in action dozens of times.

Think of a figure skater doing a spin. When their arms are out, their moment of inertia (i.e., their resistance to twisting) is increased, so they spin more slowly. When they draw their arms in close to their body, their moment of inertia is immediately decreased, so they spin faster. Hence, low moment of inertia (MOI), less resistance to twisting2high MOI (a neat buzzword acronym you can use on your golf buddies) more resistance to twisting (see fig. 1).

The newer clubs have a larger “sweet spot

Well, the same thing happens with the golf clubhead. The clubhead has some natural resistance to twisting around its center of gravity (moment of inertia), which can be increased, for example, by putting extra weight out at the heel and toe and back of the clubhead (i.e., by extending the club head’s “arms”). The more you can do that, the more resistance to twisting you have, the “larger” (i.e., more forgiving) is the soycalled sweet spot. That’s really what they are talking about when they say the “sweet spot is larger.”

One final point. The moment of inertia of a clubhead is especially important with putters. Basically, the higher the MOI, the better the putter will perform when you look up or move or do whatever you do to hit the ball somewhere other than the sweet spot. So, when you are thinking about buying a putter, look at the heel and toe and rear areas. If you see gobs of weight in those areas, compared to the front or the middle, you know you are on the right track. In ad- dition, putters that are much longer from face to back will also provide a better chance of reaching the hole with any putt you hit off the sweet spot.

But you will never, ever, putt well with any putter no matter how elevated its MOI unless you are fitted properly for the correct lie, length, loft, grip feel, and overall weight or balance of the putter.


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