Can You Fit a Shaft on Specs? – Golf Myths Unplugged

Do Specs Tell the Whole Story?

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me, “Are shaft X and Y the same?  They have the same specs.” I wouldn’t be writing this, I’d be permanently lounging under a palm tree.

The allure of shaft specs is obvious: they take the mystery that is the golf shaft and make it quantifiable.  But can they be trusted?  Can we pick shafts based on the numbers?  We did the testing so we could bring you the answers.

The Myths

Myth #1 – Driver shafts with similar specs will feel the same

Myth #2 – Driver shafts with similar specs will produce equal distance

Myth #3 – Driver shafts with similar specs will produce similar accuracy

Myth #4 – Iron shafts with similar specs will feel the same

Myth #5 – Iron shafts with similar specs will produce equal distance

Myth #6 – Iron shafts with similar specs will produce similar accuracy

How We Tested

For this test, we brought together a group of five testers with handicaps ranging from 0 to 12.  Each player tested four wood shafts and three iron shafts.  Within each group, the shafts had nearly identical specifications.  Each player used the same driver and iron head with each shaft, hitting five shots with each combination.  The shaft order was varied for each player.  Every shot was recorded on Trackman.

All testing was done at, and with the help of, Club Champion.

Results

This was busted before I even asked the question.  During the testing, each of our participants declared that at least one shaft “felt bad” (some used slightly more colorful descriptions).  Keep in mind that each of these driver shafts was within a few grams of the others and was the same flex.  They also had nearly identical torque ratings and bend profiles.  Despite these apparent similarities, our testers loved certain shafts and hated others.

This test produced some of the most shocking data we’ve ever collected.  As I was watching the testing, I actually thought to myself, “The readers are going to think I made this up.”  Rest assured, I did not; the swings in distance were actually this big.

Let me first reiterate that all four driver shafts were approximately the same weight, the same flex, and had nearly identical specs, per their manufacturers.  Despite that, on average, our testers had a 25 yard gap (carry distance) between their longest and shortest shaft.  And for those of you that are good at math, yes, that means that some testers had gaps larger than 25 yards between shafts that are the same on paper.

I want to offer a scenario to really drive this home.  Let’s say you go to a demo day and hit Shaft A.  You crush it, but Shaft A costs more than you want to spend.  You go home and jump on the internet.  You learn that Shaft B has the same specs as Shaft A, and it’s half the cost, so you order it.  Based on what we saw in our testing, you could very well be 25 yards shorter with Shaft B!

As shocking as the distance stats were, the accuracy numbers were even more jarring, both in real time and in post-test analysis.  Though these shafts should be nearly identical, every tester found at least one that they hit very well and one that they could not keep on the planet.

When looking at distance from the centerline, our test group average revealed a 30 yard gap between the most and least accurate shaft.  When we look at dispersion (the gap between the furthest left and right shots), the results were even more dramatic.  With their most accurate shaft, our testers were generally able to keep their shots to one side of the course in a fairly tight pattern.  With their least accurate shaft, our testers – who are all above average players – were hitting wildly curving shots in both directions.

The results here were not as dramatic as with the driver shafts, but this myth is still undeniably busted.  No one in the iron test shouted profanity about the feel of any shaft, but when I asked if the shafts were interchangeable, I was laughed at.  Even with the same weight, same flex, and same profile, these shafts did not feel the same to our testers.

As with feel, the results here were not as stark as with the driver, but they were no less conclusive.  On average, our test group saw a difference of 5.4 yards of carry distance and 7.5 yards of total distance between their shortest and longest iron shaft.  The median player saw about a half club difference (4.5 yards of carry).

It’s also worth mentioning that our testers saw measurable differences in apex, landing angle, and roll out between the three shafts.  In the most dramatic case, a player gained 24 feet of peak height and produced a 4.5 degree steeper landing angle.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so in the interest of brevity, check out these dispersions.  The first word that they say is, “Busted.”

For those of you that like the numbers, let’s dive in.  Comparing each player’s most and least accurate iron shaft, we saw that testers improved their average offline by 5.2 yards.  If we look at left-to-right dispersion, the improvement was an even more dramatic 18 yards.  Despite having nearly identical specifications, these shafts produced wildly different shot patterns.

Industry Secret Revealed!

There’s one simple reason why all of these myths are busted and you can’t fit based on specs: there are no industry standards!  Whether we’re talking about flex or torque, there’s no agreed upon way to measure these things.  One company’s stiff flex is another’s regular is another’s X-flex.  Even something as seemingly concrete as torque or CPM can be measured differently by different companies.

The Takeaway

The results of this test bring us back to a familiar place: the importance of being fit.  Specs are simply not a substitute for trying a shaft for yourself.  As we saw, two shafts can be nearly identical on paper yet produce wildly different results in both distance and accuracy.

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Matt Saternus

Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Plugged In Golf. He's worked in nearly every job in the golf industry from club fitting to instruction to writing and speaking. Matt lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

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12 Comments

  1. Per-Erik Olsson

    What shaft are you using in your Ping driver, after testing so many good shafts?
    Diamana TB 6TX, Ventus Black 6x or perhaps the new Tensei White 50 TX?
    Lets hear it!!!!
    PEO

  2. Golf shafts are definitely not the same and won’t be until an industry standard is established. I go mostly by the CPM of a shaft when selecting. I have even heard stories (but not verified) that sometimes an excess of last years shafts are stripped of their finish and repainted to match the new version coming out. Selecting a shaft should be done with a monitor and by feel before purchase.

  3. Matt. Great article. Love the way it was written. Could you provide details as to whether there was some consistency between best and worst across the testers?
    Now! Be brave. Name the shafts used to compare! Don’t have to provide details on which ones did and didn’t perform if there was any consistency across your testers. Although that would be good.
    Arguably it would make the argument even stronger if each of the testers had different best and worst shafts in the two tests.

    • Matt Saternus

      Jason,

      Good question. There was one shaft that was the worst for a couple of our testers, but overall there was no strong trend. Every player had different bests, second bests, etc.

      -Matt

  4. Was there any correlation between distance/accuracy and cost of shafts?

    • Matt Saternus

      John,

      Great question. The answer is no, all the shafts were premium aftermarket shafts with retail prices around $300.

      Best,

      Matt

  5. Keifer Marr

    Would you say you could stay within an OEM and then just upgrade based on specs? Say from evenflow blue to the riptide or riptide cb? Thank you!

    • Matt Saternus

      Keifer,

      I would not recommend that because product lines can change pretty dramatically. EvenFlow is a good example. Those shafts all share some common DNA, but I wouldn’t say the original Blue is a duplicate of the RipTide models.

      Best,

      Matt

  6. Matt –
    Love the myth busters series of articles. Fun and informative.
    The use of aftermarket shafts certainly mitigates questions regarding quality of manufacture to explain differences in shaft performance. Although some articles have brought into question the quality of even the most expensive shafts from OEM’s with reputations for high quality expensive product.
    Questions –
    1. I wonder how different the specs would be if the shaft parameters were measured by the same methodologies.
    2. Although the overall specs may match, doesn’t the way flex, torque, and other parameters are distributed along the shaft make its performance under a load different when machine tested?
    3. And wouldn’t the static parameters affect a shafts overall bend profile and also its rate of change under the force of a golfers swing?
    4. Meaning that any given shaft reacts uniquely to a golfers individual swing DNA, necessitating the process of fitting?
    5. And so, perhaps to make the process of fitting more precise, one could somehow match a golfers swing characteristics to the bend profiles of a shaft to help identify optimal shafts by this data rather than the traditional measures of flex, torque, etc.?
    6. And further, shaft design could then somehow take into account the motion data now able to be collected and incorporate that into shaft design?

    • Matt Saternus

      Mike,

      Thank you.

      #1 is very interesting. It would be very informative to take a whole range of shafts – preferably many of each model to eliminate QC issues – and measure them with one methodology.
      #2 – If I’m understanding your question, yes.
      To the rest, I think you’re more or less re-emphasizing our conclusion. It all comes back to fitting the given individual. Shaft manufacturers are absolutely studying players’ swings and using that to drive designs, but I don’t think that by itself gets us any closer to fitting on specs.

      Best,

      Matt

  7. Raymond H

    Matt,
    May I suggest to do a follow-up test? My hypothesis is to prove whether a golfer’s driving (swing) characteristics will effectively override the variance factors created from 4 different shafts with similar specs. It is to show whether a Tester (A or E)’s driving distance or accuracy in using one single shaft in 5 times of 5 shots each has about the same variances as using Four shafts in similar specs. If so, it is golfers changeable and varied “swing characteristics” may explain most part of their distance and accuracy dispersions?

    (1) Choose two from your 5 testers (A,B,C,D,E): the most consistent (in driver) say Test A, and the least consistent say Test E .
    (2) Ask Test A and Test E to swing 5 times of 5 shots each by using the driver equiped with only one and same shaft having averaged performance of distance and accuracy recorded in your above comprehensive tests.
    (3) To measure Test A and Test E’s performance in distance and accuracy of 5 times and compare these variances (in the same shaft) with the variances of distance and accuracy made in your above comprehensive “four driver shafts”

    Thanks.

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