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 The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)

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DGman
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PostSubject: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 10:45 am

What prompted me to start this thread have been our changes to fitting protocol and how by using a different point of reference, fitting performance have improved dramatically.

In the past we have also used Launch Monitor to measure the result of one’s swing such as Club Head Speed, Angle of Attack, Ball Speed, Spin Rate, Smash Factor but as we progress and better understand why the other stats on LM such as Club Path, Face Angle, Launch Angle and why Smash Factor varies, we begin to look at the Occurrence and not just the Result.

Occurrence simply put means the action and as we dwelled deeper, it means the Cause. While most club fitters are probably trained to offer solutions based on the results, its worthwhile thinking about what influence or change those results.

I sit on the Board of International Clubmakers’ Guild (ICG), an independent club making organization based in the US and we have lots of discussion about whether fitting is an art or a science. Definitely both. If its science alone, then you don’t need a club fitter just go to a shaft selector website, input your data and you should get what you need.

By introducing biomechanics as a major influence in club fitting, we will have to look closer at the following:

1. Total Weight
2. Swing weight
3. Length
4. Flex; and importantly
5. Shaft characteristic

I would explain a little about how each factor may influence performance. As a golfer you may want to think about how this may affect and help optimize your own golf game. I also hope to answer any question if you have any and who knows what we may discover as we go along.

Background

From our record, we must have over 2000 fittings in the last 4 years and when you have gone through 2000 fittings you pretty much have seen every swing in the book, for a lack of a better word, the good, the bad and the ugly.

As in any fitting we have experience hits and misses, simply because when a golfer swing in a controlled environment and get to reload, its different from the what happens on the golf course. On the golf course, there are other factors such as the heat; anxiety and scoring (to name a few) that may course one to lose focus and confidence.

Combining Biomechanics with Fitting

Ideally we want to have a biomechanics capture video but it’s a bit lavish unless we are screening for other aspect of golf such as swing diagnostic or physio-kinetic assessment. For now the Trackman TPS offers us the best validation for golfer’s biomechanics reaction to club selection.

To make it simple, we would typically assess the golfers differently when we are considering biomechanics. A golfer will need to hit various types of shots to show their performance for controlled and manipulative shot-making and using clubs of different weights, lengths, flexes and shaft characteristics. The results for each club type can be recorded to show us what is the most desirable and consistent result.

In more than 2/3 of recent cases, what feels best do not always show the best results. So golfers should try and get out of their comfort zone if they want to optimize their performance.

In our fitting process, it’s more important for us to get 80% consistency rather than a 20% peak. Meaning, it will be pointless to fit a golfer with a super light or super heavy shaft just because he or she hits 1 or 2 shots to distances never achieved before. Most often they will find it difficult to repeat that performance on the golf course anyway.

Some of my colleagues in the US believe that the trained eye is more essential than a LM reading. I agree as the stats are mainly for customers’ validation. A trained fitter should be able to spot the breakdown when the fit is off. Also i tend to focus on the bad shots rather then the good shots to find out more about its cause.

Physique, Strength and Flexibility

A golfers physique is not an indication of what heavy a shaft he or she should use.

To gauge a golfer’s ability the first test is a handshake and that will pretty much give the fitter an idea of how much strength you have in your palm. Other notable strength evaluation comes from your body torque, hip to shoulder turn ratio and ability to complete your follow-through without losing your balance. A lot have to do with what other sports an individual have engaged in his or her younger days and others sports such as swimming, badminton, football, cycling, tennis all have an influence over your ability to generate power and energy needed in a golf swing.

In a recent case I heard a golfer went on a cycling spree and had a hard time keeping up with the Jones on the road. However he played some of his finest golf this year after his cycling activities that probably reignite his biomechanics and helped him perform better on the golf course. Some have also tried brisk walking on a regular basis and it helped them maintain their golf swing with no range practice. Improving balance and flexibility can be simple and just a 30 minute brisk walk the night before can help loosen you up sufficiently.

Total Weight

We will use 3 clubs to represent what it means in terms of comparing body weight to total weight of clubs and it should give us an idea of what it means to a golfer.

Assuming we have three 7 irons fitted with different shafts:

1. 65 g graphite shaft – it will mean that the total weight will sit about 385g for the completed iron (head 270g + shaft and ferrules 65g + grip 50g)
2. 95g steel shaft – it will weight about 415g; and finally
3. 125g steel shaft – it will weight about 445g.

Let’s assume you are moving from a lightweight shaft NS Pro to the heavier shaft, it mean that you have to swing with 30g more weight (7% more weight) from takeaway through to impact. From our observations, the problem do not happened at impact or follow-through. The swing breaks down at the initial takeaway and that has a great influence over the quality of the swing.

When you combine physical condition of the golfer with the different weight of shafts, this is where art and science meld.

Different golfers have different needs, some play once a week, some play 2 times a week and some play 5 days in a row. It is different swinging a 445g in a controlled condition for 30 minutes as opposed to using the same club over 4 days of continuous play.

So its important to talk to your fitter to give him an idea of how you may feel at after the 10 to 12 holes of every game. Often it is at the latter holes that golfers feel fatigue and it’s at this stage where we have issues with total weight of the club.

i wish we have a solution to help golfers swing from 70% to 105% effort but in reality it does not happen. Watching how GMac lose the match in the Volvo Matchplay was a testament of how playing 36 holes on a demanding course can affect one's physical breakdown and the equipment which was doing well in the morning session did not helped him in the later round.


Swing Weight

8 out of 10 golfers I meet will ask about swing weight. Afterall it’s a 90-year-old standard created in the 1920s by Robert Adams. Golfers used this to establish a certain standard in club preference.

However from our records when the swing weight requested is match, it does not always work. Why then? Well its simple, Total Weight influence performance while Swing Weight influence Feel. And Feel contrary to general belief is something that you develop after repeat usage and not something that cannot be changed. I happen to have a hickory 5-iron from the turn of the century and when I measure the swing weight, it was an astonishing B4, not C, not D but B.

But how do this affect us….it’s like when you switched from normal wooden chopstick to Korean stainless steel version. It will feel weird initially but if you use it often, it grows on you.

There are countless golfers who come for swing analysis and tell me that a certain club has the perfect swing weight and they can feel impact, load, etc. After measuring their own clubs with the demo, they are surprised to find that it was much shorter than their own club and have a C6 swing weight instead of a D2.

In bad scenarios, golfers who are using clubs with excessive swing weights might experience the following:

1. Takeaway and Under-swing issues – jerky start or rushing to complete swing
2. Inability to control clubs
3. Feel the clubs are too heavy

It’s easy to explain this because it’s the total weight that influence performance and their “Feel” is based on what they experience – sight (ball flight, distance, dispersion) and impact quality.

So I will not be too hung up on swing weight and the notion of “I cannot feel the head at the top of my swing” does little to influence performance. So keep an open mind about swing weight and you may start to optimize your swing earlier.

Of course every golfer is unique and the traditional swing weight is still a key trigger for them to start the downswing. Someone I know just got back from training under Gary Edwin and one of the main issues he had was controlling distances. After a week training under the man himself and he rekindle all his basic of the RSS, he came back and was shocked that his distance control have improved tremendously without practice. Its probably due to his better setup and in turn biomechanics. In fact the same golfer have asked for lighter shaft and lower swing weight which was something the he used to hold dear to his believe that it was those element which helped his short game distance control.

Length of Clubs

It is commonly known that the length of clubs have progressively been built grown longer over the years.

In the late 1970s to early 1980s, for example, the "standard" length for a men's driver was 43 inches, for 3-woods 42, and 5-woods 41 (with women's woods one inch shorter). Back then, the typical 7-iron for men was 36.5 inches. Today the new 7-iron standard is 37 inches but the strange thing is we have not grown much taller. Arguably, one might say that the shafts in clubs have gotten lighter and hence the compensation in making a club longer is justifiable. I am sure the folks at S-yard will have a lot to say about this since they are notorious in producing longer clubs with stronger loft.

Loft has also grown stronger and its safe to say that a 5/6 iron from the past is about a 7 iron today both in length and in loft.

So what influence does having longer or shorter clubs have? I supposed one have to be objective and understand that golf is not hitting a 9 iron 150 m remotely but about hitting it close to the pin consistently. Having a longer club may have the following result especially in the case of a golfer with less developed biomechanics:

1. Lack of control – Push, pull, duff and top
2. Lack of distance control – variable distances

So the next time you get fitted, you may want to try out clubs that are different length and experiment if they are easily to control and predict. It may surprise you what a shorter club can do especially if you are below 1.65 m.

More important put more emphasis on consistency rather than length or you will not go yourself any justice on the course.

I am sure your rather hit your 8 iron 125 meters straight at the pin, rather than hit your PW 128 meters sometimes and 103 meters near the end of your round.

Flex

Over the years in fitting golfers we have found out what influence flex may have on golfers and it should not be linked only to club head speed but rather their biomechanics reaction to the load and flex point of the shaft.

It is not commonly known that there is no such thing as the whip of the shaft increasing distance for the ball flight. Scientifically is its an imagination of Feel. And the only way that can happen in reality is if you clamp the driver in a fixed position and use a flex force to load and unload the shaft, which will not impart much power anyway. The whip as we commonly refer to probably the lag action that very competent golfers have developed to close the clubface at impact and thus generate greater thrust when hitting the sweet spot.

Furthermore a shaft can only move no more than 2 inches (near tip) in either direction before it risk the chances of snapping. For those who have seen shafts loading like Indiana Jones whip in pictures be assured that it does not happen when you use a high-speed camera. What you see is an optical illusion caused by the camera shutter speed capture.

Now how does Flex influence a golfer? Primarily:

1. Help the golfer time his or her swing release and it all starts from the takeaway. Hence in my opinion the flex influence the confidence at takeaway and has less to do with the eventually impact. There are loads of golfers who are tried X flex and they do not swing a lot faster than the average guys who use an R flex. However they fare better with a stiffer shaft because it helps them establish greater confidence at takeaway to complete their swing. Nothing wrong with that as long as the total weight matches what they are capable of handling and their preference to the timing required

2. The label on the shaft. For a lot of golfers it’s just the shaft marking to denote flex that provide the confidence. In lots of cases, golfers who have not been fitted before had little idea that in most cases, an R flex is really a L or A flex on proven shaft measuring scale

Golfers might be surprised to discover that with a different flex, the only variable is timing and scientifically the difference between a X flex and a L flex struck with same club head speed and of the same total weight is likely to differ less than an inch at impact. However when a fitter hands over a shaft to the golfer and declared that its an X flex, more likely than not, the golfer will try and muscle the swing and the breakdown is more likely to be a biomechanics dysfunction rather shaft compatibility.

Finally Shaft Characteristic

In testing golfers over the years, we have found that the weight of the shaft, the kick-point, the torque and the flex of the shaft collectively play a part to influence golfers’ reaction and hence performance.

The right shaft is one that is correctly weighted, with a desired butt and tip stiffness or softness and the familiar feel of torsion in takeaway and impact. In concluding what’s right due consideration have to be made for the head weight, grip weight and shaft weight which makes up the total weight of the shaft, the loft which determines what sort of kick-point will suit the club head and in this case driver, fairway woods and hybrid in particular.

There is no science so far as this is concern. For most there will be a period of trial and error but when fitted with a trained eye, the trial is likely to be shorten if due consideration is made to marry total weight, length, flex and shaft characteristic to optimize a golfer’s performance.

we have someone who plays pretty competitively and progressively playing in more amateur tournaments. when he first came, his 7 iron was a massive 467g with an S400 shaft and a D6 SW. over 2 fittings we have progressively reduce the total weight and SW and in the last fitting dropped the total weight of the club to 435g with a MOI matched configuration. The SW is irrelevant and still for the record sit at about D1.5. The result is in his own words..."Balanced and so easy to control and i can complete my swing and feel like i am not rushed". of course it will help him tremendously in competition and controlling fatigue.

So if you intend to get fitted in the near future, make sure you consider the salient points. it would help if approach fitting with an Open Mind.

Hope you have fun reading this as much as I have fun writing it.

DGman


Last edited by DGman on Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:43 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 11:12 am

thanks DGman for making time to write such a very informative post. Am very sure this will benefit many Grians.
Lazy me have not read it in full yet but will read it again and see what questions I have. Cheers!
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scottycollector
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 11:13 am

Thanks Eric. great post!
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 11:17 am

Excellent reading, Eric!
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madmaru
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 11:20 am

Bravo !!!! lots to read very informative !!!!
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 11:41 am

read at your own risk.

Was reading this earlier. Totally engrossed. Din realise my boss was behind me reading it as well. Now he is asking me qns on swing weight etc etc. My ans: Boss Eric
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 11:43 am

Good info and thanks for sharing....
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 4:02 pm

time to buy new bike liao.......

must be more chio than kian's new brompton.......
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 5:14 pm

Cheers Jump
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 5:17 pm

very good post and informative. Totally agree. Thanks Eric !
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 5:21 pm

My takeaway after reading the whole thing is

"Info overload"

I will do just what the author once told me to do "Just hit the F**King ball"
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mengteck71
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 6:30 pm

Very nice read.. but i agree with Gray.. just hit what Eric fix for me Smile.. however, sometimes itchy backside.. will experiment others stuff.. i guess that is normal hor..
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 10:34 pm

Pwah! Will need some time for this to digest......else pay a visit to the Den.
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 11:20 pm

Was at the Golf Digest demo day and tried virtually every club on demo. After what seemed to be a very very long time, I went to the Den yesterday. Wanted boss to adjust SW of my driver but experienced it first hand with a simple experiment.. Now I can focus on my new swing. Very Happy Thanks Eric!
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 11:32 pm

Great post, waiting for part.2... Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Wed May 23, 2012 11:36 pm

Now getting to know more on golf,thanks to Eric.
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Thu May 24, 2012 12:28 am

The most important thing I took away from reading this article:

Consistency & being Open-minded.

Might just go for my first ever fitting soon......
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Thu May 24, 2012 6:23 am

Yup. And don't jump the gun. Not ready for fitting don't go. Stabilize the swing first. If your ball cannot find 10m radius of a target on the driving range, more likely to be swing problem lah.
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Thu May 24, 2012 3:10 pm

Great Great info Eric!
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PostSubject: Re: The relevance of Total Weight, SW, Length, Flex and Shaft Selection (Long Post)   Today at 7:47 am

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