Recently we asked our Twitter followers how much they knew about golf shafts. One phrase came back to us over and over again: "not a clue".
The shaft is likely the most commonly misunderstood piece of equipment. Professionals spend hours tweaking and changing shafts, amateurs rarely do. Few look past the stock shaft offered on the shelf in their local shop. But is the naivety of the average golfer hurting their game? I decided to find out.
Matrix shafts have been making golf shafts for more than 20 years and their shafts have featured in all clubs of all the major manufacturers. One their newest shafts, the Matrix Velox, is featured in the new TaylorMade JetSpeed range.
I spoke to Matrix Shafts National Sales Rep, David Sakiyama, to answer some of the most common questions about golf shafts.
JK: Hey David, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. The first question I have is what is the most common mistake amateurs make in choosing a shaft?
DS: Hi Jamie, thanks for having me. Probably the most common mistake we see average golfers making is choosing a shaft that is too stiff, with a torque that is too low. Most amateurs don't realize how much a shaft can influence their golf game. Golf is all about numbers and if a golfer can optimize their launch and spin, their total distance will increase dramatically.
JK: Most golfers don't know much about shafts and tend to take what they are given from stock shafts. How good are the stock shafts found in most clubs?
DS: Most stock shafts are very similar to aftermarket, or custom, shafts. However, manufacturers often want slight modifications designed for a specific club that can make them better suited for that individual club. Overall, stock shafts today are very good.
JK: Most golfers think of shafts as either graphite or steel. What are the strengths and weaknesses of graphite versus steel?
DS: There is so much more technology and material that can be put into a graphite shaft compared to steel. Today’s graphite shafts are 10 times better than in the past and play closer to steel then ever before. In general, graphite shafts are usually lighter and absorb more shock, which produces are higher ball flight and more forgiveness on off-center shots. Steel on the other hand is heavier and less flexible. It is better suited to accuracy rather than distance. Whilst many think it is just graphite shafts becoming better and better, the standard of steel shafts today is similarly high.
JK: We've seen huge upgrades in drivers, irons and balls in recent years, how has the shaft changed and where is it going?
DS: Shaft technology has increased tremendously over the years. Many golfers may not appreciate the work that goes into making shafts, but with better materials we are able to make our shafts more stable at impact, offer more feel and increase distance by optimizing launch and spin.
JK: If a player likes a shaft in their driver, often they will look to put it in their fairway wood too. What are the differences between a driver and fairway wood in terms of shaft demands?
DS: Most of the time a fairway shaft would be around 10 grams heavier then the driver shaft, however, most golfers tend to need a fairway shaft that produces a higher launch. This makes it easier for the average golfer to launch the ball higher, especially out of the fairway.
JK: What is more important: shaft flex or torque?
DS: Shaft flex is more important, as torque is commonly misunderstood. People usually think they need really low torque, but in reality they could probably benefit from a higher torque that increases the feel of the shaft.
JK: What are the key factors in your swing that should dictate your shaft choice?
DS: Swing speed and attack angle are the most important factors in determining a shaft. Swing speed gives you the correct flex and attack angle determines the best shaft for launch and spin. If you can determine both of these swing factors there is a better chance of you being fitted to the correct shaft, thus producing a better flight.
JK: Lots of drivers are now being offered with longer shafts of up to 46 inches, how does that affect the shaft and how it will perform?
DS: The truth is distance sells. The longer the shaft, the more centrifugal force is being generated, which in simple terms means more speed and distance. Most manufacturers are coming out with longer length shafts to increase distance. The challenge for shaft companies is making a longer shaft that is weighted correctly and offers the stability needed in a driver. Using lighter shafts in these clubs will produce a higher launch and lower spin to maximize total distance.
JK: What is the process involved in making a new shaft?
DS: The process of making a shaft is a very long and detailed. It involves using sheets of high and low modulus-graphite, depending on the desired pattern design for that particular shaft. Each pattern design has its own unique structure depending on what launch and spin characteristics being achieved. The cross sections and materials used make a huge difference on how the shaft will perform. Each shaft will take a few months to design, test and develop. Then once materials and structure are finalized, it will take another few months to get it mass produced.
JK: What one piece of advice would you give to an amateur buying a new driver or set of irons, with regards to the shaft?
DS: When buying a driver or set of irons, golfers need to understand the shaft is a huge part in achieving maximum performance. According to your launch and spin numbers the correct shaft, along with loft and weight, will undoubtedly increase distance. Each manufacturer head has different spin and launch characteristics, but overall choosing a shaft that is more forgiving (i.e. higher launching, lower spinning) is generally the way to go for the average player.
JK: Thanks for the time David and for your great insight and advice. To learn more about the basics of shafts and the different types, check out our Golf Shaft Buying Guide.