January 2010

Club fitting the Proper Way-Part III: Golf Shaft Flex and/or Frequency

Author: Pete Popovich

The shaft is the engine of the golf club. It is the most influential factor in club performance and, ultimately, the golfer’s performance. At the same time, the shaft is one of the most misunderstood and neglected factors in all of golf as the majority of people that play golf have little or no idea how shaft flex and/or shaft frequency affects shaft function.

In the past few years, shafts of certain colors or color combinations have sold well and shafts that tour players use have sold well. Yet, any of these criteria is a very poor way to select a shaft. Colors do not determine shaft function, and tour players are professional athletes who have a much higher ability to load and unload the shaft than the vast majority of amateur golfers.

The golfing public is generally uninformed about shafts and how shafts actually function. Consumers cannot be held totally accountable for being uninformed, however, because they have very little access to accurate information. What they think they know about shafts is often what they have heard—from a friend, a country club employee, an assistant golf professional—or what they have read in magazines or seen on television.

Oddly enough, many consumers who are usually cynical or suspicious about advertising claims in general are surprisingly gullible when it comes to the advertising of golf equipment. To many of them, golf ads in magazines are looked upon as gospel. Television ads featuring tour professionals convince thousands of amateurs that if they buy a certain tour pro’s brand of equipment, they will hit the ball as well as the tour pro hits it. Major golf companies and their advertisers realize, and count on, golfers making purchase decisions based upon emotional responses to advertising. Unfortunately, emotional purchases do not improve your swing or your game.

(Regarding advertising, a common term used somewhat loosely today is “frequency matched” clubs. The frequency of a shaft is measured in cycles or vibrations per given rate of time, usually “per minute,” and for a set of clubs to be frequency matched, the variance in frequency from one shaft to the next as one progresses through a set of different length clubs must vary in a consistent manner. In order to accomplish frequency matching, the raw frequency of each shaft must be determined prior to cutting. If the raw frequency of the shafts is unknown, it is often impossible to frequency match the clubs once the shafts are cut. At the same time, if the golfer’s swing is not optimized by a capable instructor, matching shafts to the golfer is rarely realized.)

A simplistic explanation of shaft flex and frequency and how they apply to shaft function is: “Flex” in a shaft is the ability of the shaft to “load” during the back swing, and “Frequency” of a shaft is the ability of the shaft to “unload” during the forward swing.

With this in mind, it follows that, to golfers of all skill levels, the flex and frequency of the shaft must match the physiology of the individual golfer. Why is this so? Because, during the back swing elasticity allows us to pull or stretch our muscles to the point commonly referred to as the “top of the back swing” or the “transition point.”At the point of transition, it is imperative that the shaft is fully loaded and ready to go forward at precisely the same moment that we are physically loaded and ready to go forward. The forward motion of “downswing” occurs as the body physically unloads itself at a level of power and rate of speed unique to each golfer, and this is why each shaft or set of shafts must be fit to each golfer’s unique swing.

During the downswing, the shaft goes through a series of movements. For each movement the right hand (for right-handed golfers) makes in the forward motion, the shaft MUST move in a direct correlation and ratio. When a shaft does not have the ability to load and unload at the same rate and power level as the golfer, swing flaws will occur. Some of the swing flaws created by improper/incorrect shaft flex and/or frequency are:
-Slicing
-Hooking
-Loss of control or lack of control
-Excessive body movement during the swing
-“Over the top” move
-Loss of distance
-Deep divots
-Low trajectory
-Inconsistent yardages
-“Sliding” or “Swaying”
-Extremely long back swing
-Excessive energy required to perform the golf swing
-Fatigue setting in before round has been completed

I hope you have enjoyed our three-part series on club fitting and now have a better understanding of how precisely clubs can be fit to an individual, how the body and club work during the golf swing, and how clubs that are truly custom fit improve the interaction between the body and the club.

To learn more about club fitting and golf instruction, contact the Golf
Performance Academy at (843) 338-6737 or visit us on the Web at
www.golfacademyhiltonhead.com.

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