Why is the shaft such an important part of the driver?
“The shaft has to complement what the player is doing. Where they are loading it, what they feel, what they are looking to do. It optimises the energy flow through into the ball. If the shaft is wrong, even with the best head in the world you won’t be efficient or effective.”
There’s so many to chose from and so many different options offered by each brand. How do shafts differ?
“Some launch high, some lower with less spin. It depends on what the player is trying to achieve and what their profile is – some hit it high, some low. It’s about bringing players into that optimal window. The shaft is just as important as the head and the loft and the ball.”
The guessing has really got to stop, if you get it wrong then it’s a really expensive mistake” How will a wrong shaft feel?
You’ll be very inefficient, the ball won’t go as far as it should and you’ll be hitting it offline. It might feel really dead if the shaft is too heavy or too stiff or it can feel too soft, weak and whippy like a fishing rod. You want the shaft to unload at the point of impact so it feels great when you hit it right out of the middle of the club.
What can we expect from the stock options available in 2016?
Aldilas feel a little bit stiffer and come out low with less spin. The Diamanas will feel a bit smoother. With the Fukikura options, the Speeder profiles are pretty solid some are classic for a low-spin, low-launch slightly heavier shaft. Kuro Kage offers a higher balance point. Ping have also moved the balance point higher and added head weight to create more mass at impact.
What’s you key advice for the consumer?
The guessing has really got to stop, if you get it wrong then it’s a really expensive mistake.
It’s a minefield. Try a lightweight, medium and heavier weight to see which suits you. Then look at a shaft that is either counterbalanced or not and see where you finish up.
Gear effect is massive, it out-trumps everything – the numbers don’t mean anything if you hit it out of the heel or the toe. You’ve got to judge it on a middle hit. The miss negates the best fitting in the world.
The numbers and the spin can tell you where to go but if you can’t get those launch monitor numbers then good-old fashioned ball flight can help.
But it must be with a premium ball, a rubbish range ball can launch two degrees higher and spin 700rpm more.
If you’re hitting a new driver with rubbish range balls it won’t give you an accurate picture – especially if there’s tape on the face – it can mask the spin characteristics and the launch. Use foot powder or spray instead.
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Stock shafts for 2016 (selected)
Aldila Rogue Black/Silver
Stock option in: Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 816 DBD, TaylorMade M1, Titleist 915 D2/D3, Cobra King LTD
Performance: Silver is mid-low spin with low launch; Black has a higher launch
Stock option in: Titleist 915 D2/D3, Nike Vapor Fly Pro, Nike Vapor Flex 440
Performance: Blue (S+) is mid-spin, mid-launch; Red (M+) is high-launch, high-spin; White (D+) is low launch with low spin
Stock option in: Callaway (Evo), TaylorMade (Pro), Mizuno (Orochi/6)
Performance: A range of spin and launch options in the Pro and Evolution; the Orochi has higher flight and less torque than the 6
Kuro Kage Black/Silver
Stock option in: Callaway Great Big Bertha, TaylorMade M1, Benross HTX/Type-R
Performance: The Black is the mid-launch, mid-spin option, the Silver offers more feel with a mid-launch and mid-low spin
Ping Alta 55/Tour 65
Stock option in: Ping G, Ping G LS Tec, Ping G Straight Flight Tec
Performance: Alta 55 has higher launch in the soft/regular with mid-low in the stiff/x-stiff; Tour 65 has mid-low launch and spin
UST Elements Chrome
Stock option in: Wilson D200
Performance: Desgigned for long straight drives and tight dispersion. Expect a high launch with mid spin. Eleven different flex and weight options
If you fancy a colourful custom upgrade then check out the Tour prototype, as used by Bubba Watson in his pink Ping G driver. This shaft should allow you to add loft to your driver head for higher launch with low spin.