The iron shaft fitting saga continues. You might have read my recent piece about the perils of matching shafts and heads together without taking the trouble to be custom fit.
If the clubs then don’t work as you’d like them to, the danger is that you condemn a) the head or b) the shaft or c) both.
Well, here at the NCG we like to think we know better than that.
And to prove the point I’ve just come back from a fascinating morning at the exceptional Tour X Golf in Wigan, which promises (and delivers) a tour-level custom-fitting and club-building experience.
The aims of the session were: a) for Nippon to show me how well their shafts work (not that they needed to), b) for us to identify which Nippon shaft worked best for me in an iron and c) to have a proper iron shaft fitting.
Nippon’s sales manager Garry Price, who has worked in shafts for over 40 years, had brought with him an array of Ping 7 irons (iBlade and i Series) fitted with different Nippon products.
Tour X’s Nick Hibbs, formerly Adams’ man on the European Tour, took me through the process. We used TrackMan to analyse the results.
The first thing to say is that the hitting environment at Tour X is sensationally good. The screen is enormous (the size of the entire wall) and you can swing with total freedom.
In my experience, when you are inside there is always a lurking fear that you might catch the roof or a wall when you swing with the driver. Not here.
The Nippon shafts I hit ranged from the 70g Zelos 7, designed as an alternative to graphite, to the Modus3 Tour Series, as used by the likes of Henrik Stenson and Vijay Singh.
It is rare to get the chance to try so many shafts in a controlled environment like this. It meant I was able to make a genuine ‘apples with apples’ comparison.
Six things that I learned about iron shaft fitting
1 Don’t ignore feel
To an extent, your choice of head comes down to looks. And in the same way your choice of shaft comes down to feel. Only you know what the sensation is of swinging a certain shaft. If it feels heavy or light or soft or harsh then pay attention. You’ll be the one using the clubs out on the course so you need to enjoy the sensation you’re getting during the fitting.
2 Watch the grouping and dispersion
It is so, so important not to be obsessed with your best shots when trying to find an iron shaft. Think of it as how many shots in a batch would have finished on the green. It doesn’t matter what your ability level is – if a certain shaft is getting more shots on the green then that’s surely more important than another shaft that has produced one or two exceptionally good shots but several average ones.
3 Beware the outlier
With the driver, if you can hit it 15 yards further every now and again then so much the better. With a 7 iron in your hand that’s not so good. The right shaft will be producing consistent distance results. Out on the course, that equates to being pin-high more often.
4 Pay attention to striking
Hitting the ball sweetly is a really good sign that a shaft is right for you. Yes, it might take you a few shots to adjust to something different but it should settle down pretty quickly if a shaft is a good fit. The sign of a shaft that’s right for you is it will help you hit good shots and ball-striking is integral to that.
5 Identify what you want the shaft to help you with
There’s so much information available on TrackMan. That’s why you ned someone like Nick to sift through all the data and interpret what is most important. Nick and I were able to identify quickly that what I was looking for was a shaft that would take a little bit of spin off and ideally flatten out the flight a touch. Once you know what the goal is, you can start drilling down into the detail of what shafts might do the trick.
6 It’s science and art
Companies like Nippon spend millions of pounds developing their products and ensuring the tolerances are tight. Each shaft is created as a response to a demand from golfers. It means that you can look through a catalogue and shortlist a few that should work well for your game. But only by hitting them in the context of an iron shaft fitting will you really find out. And ideally hitting them under the watchful eye of an expert. Results can be surprising, counter-intuitive even, at times.
What did I get fitted into?
Having tried seven or eight shafts, there was a clear winner for me on the day. The Modus3 Tour 120, in an X flex, was giving the best results on a consistent basis. I was slightly surprised that Nick wanted me in the X flex. What do you know – he was absolutely right in his thinking. Funny that.
I got lower spin, consistent distance and no loss of clubhead speed. I’m sold. Better still, the dispersion was really tight.
I have also come away with massive respect for the quality and consistency of Nippon’s shafts. Made in Japan, with that country’s well-documented devotion to craftsmanship and manufacturing excellence, you can rest assured you are getting the best.
Finally, it confirmed what I already knew: iron shaft fitting is worth getting stuck into properly.
To learn more about Nippon’s huge range, go to nipponshaft.com
About Tour X Golf
Located in an industrial estate in Ince-in-Makerfield, near Wigan, go to tourxgolf.co.uk or call 01942 821 500 to learn more or book a fitting appointment