Does the shaft really make a difference?

by | Mar 31, 2019 | Instruction | 0 comments

Let’s talk about Putter Shafts.

Let me start this conversation by saying, “I have always used a shaft with a reinforced tip with my putters.” I like to use a flare tip shaft when I can. I have two favorites. The first and my shaft of choice is the Head Speed shaft used by Wilson in the early 60’s. This shaft has some flex, but is much stiffer in the tip because of the flare or bell shape where the shaft attached to the putter-head. The reason for the flare tip or bell shape, was simply to reinforce the tip by making it wider, reducing the vibration you might feel post impact. See Figure 3. The second, takes the concept a step further by fluting or crimping the shaft just above the flared portion of the tip. This reinforced the shaft just that much more. Acushnet used this shaft in many of their Bullseye Putters.  The difference in feel is subtle but noticeable. As a competitive player, I never gave it much thought from a scientific perspective. It just felt better to me. The flare tip moves the flex point of the shaft slightly closer to the hands. I have always felt this combination of a stiffer tip with a softer flex at the mid-point of the shaft gave me the smooth feel I was looking for. In my mind it made me more aware of the putter head. If you ever have the opportunity, hit some putts with a putter with a flare tip shaft and then hit some with a conventional tip. It doesn’t take long to feel the difference with a direct comparison.

There is a current trend in the industry to reinvent these concepts, using multi material, highly engineered shafts. As I believer in the basic concepts, I am excited with this new trend and encouraged to know I was not the only one who had these opinions. However, I think it is possible some of the claims have gone a bit too far.

Try this test. Take a putter head in one hand and the grip in the other. Now try to twist the shaft. What do you feel? I think you will feel the torque you create at the grip as the softer materials give way to the pressure and not so much in the tip of the shaft.  The idea that a putting stroke, moving the putter around 5mph has the force to twist a shaft, is a bit of an exaggeration. Also that striking a golf ball at that speed, would create as much force as the experiment, and twist the shaft at impact is a bit of a stretch. No doubt, it changes the feel post impact, but a different feel does not mean improved results. It just means a more pleasing feel.

I believe the real benefit comes from the redistribution of weight. They all move the weight to more productive places. One thing we have learned is that weight distribution is a major factor in your consistency. Correct weight in the putter head to improve face awareness and the right weight under the hands to stabilize hand path. Finding the right combination improves the connection between hands and putter-head. For example, sometimes when the shaft gets too heavy, a player will swing the balance point and lose their feel for the putter head.

I also agree that in this era of heavier head weights there is a benefit of using a stiffer shaft to counter the extra weight. On longer putts there is a load – unload factor to the feel. The enhanced examples were found when we were building broom putters. There was a correct flex to match the heavier heads.

We have found that we can enhance a player’s feel in transition by considering the shaft flex. Up tempo, back-hit strokes who like a firmer feel at impact preferring a stiffer flex. While the players who pause in transition with a back-wait-through sequence, tend to prefer a softer flex. If you ask me if I can help your tempo by considering shaft flex, the answer is yes. I just can’t tell you how we do it.

Regardless if you agree with my observations or not, I hope you will consider this. If my job is to sell you a putter, if I can change the feel, it is easier to convince you I have created some benefit. Unfortunately, feel is not an indicator of accuracy. Even if the claims are true, you won’t know until you have given the product a chance. That is why I think it is important to learn as much as you can about your putting stroke. At Burnt Edges we call it defining the stroke. Then you can make decisions based on what you need. Not what someone says you should want.

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