Stiffer Isn’t Always Better

Our Approach To Shaft Flex

Selecting the right shaft flex for your driver shaft should be simple, but because of the lack of standards in the golf shaft industry, it’s become a hurdle in club fitting. In the same way that two t-shirts labeled size “Medium” can fit very differently when you try them on, two golf shafts labeled “Stiff” rarely perform the same.

This lack of standardization led TPT to create its own system to bypasses the common shaft flex names of Regular (R), Stiff (S), and X-Stiff (X). Our team felt these labels had lost their value, and in some cases, these labels were actually keeping golfers from choosing the best shaft for them. 

For those reasons, TPT Red Range shafts are labeled with numbers. These numbers start with our 14 Series, which are the stiffest TPT shafts, and range as high as our 21 Series, which is our most flexible shaft. The lower the number, the stiffer the shaft flex, but that’s not something golfers need to be thinking about during a fitting. 

What we hope to help golfers understand in this article is that it doesn’t benefit them to relate their swing speed, skill, or strength to a shaft flex, which is often what happens with the traditional system of R, S, and X flexes. 

Rather, golfers should be open-minded to a shaft flex that allows them to maximize their distance, accuracy, and consistency. And that often comes from using a TPT shaft flex that’s softer than what they’re used to playing. 

A New Orientation

There’s a belief in the golf industry that some players have what’s called “Shaft Ego.” They want to play as stiff or as heavy of a shaft as they can, presumably because that’s what the best PGA Tour players tend to use. 

We don’t deny that these thoughts exist in the psyche of some golfers, but our research has led us to believe that it’s not ego that’s driving these behaviors — it’s the shaft manufacturing processes used by the big shaft companies.

These companies use what’s called the “Roll-Wrapping Process” to manufacturer their graphite shafts, and this has been the standard manufacturing process for decades. In this process, shafts are created by hand-rolling layers of fiber on top of each other.

The decision to launch TPT was based entirely on our discovery that if we could automate the shaft manufacturing process, we could remove human error and dramatically improve the consistency of a golf shaft. That manufacturing process we developed is what we now call Continous Fiber. 

How Spine Affects Performance

With the Roll-Wrapping Method, the big shaft manufacturers are unable to produce fully consistent shafts. It’s for this reason that no two shafts created with the Roll-Wrapping Method will never feel or perform the same. This is due to imperfections that occur inside the shaft; overlapping seams that are known in the golf industry as “spine.”

Even recreational golfers can feel the effect of spine, which causes the shaft to move inefficiently during the swing. Many golfers describe this inefficient movement of the shaft as a “wobble,” and they smartly try to minimize this unpleasant feeling. 

Technologies such as “shaft puring” have been created to minimize the effect of spine, but they do not remove the spine — they simply rotate the shaft to find the most consistent axis and recommend installation along this more consistent axis. While this can help, it does not eliminate the spine. 

There are two other ways to minimize the feeling of wobble: the first is to play a stiffer shaft, and the second is to play a heavier shaft. Again, this does not eliminate spine. It only masks the wobbly feeling. 

Knowing this, it’s easy to understand that many cases of shaft ego are not that at all. Golfers are actually trying to make a shaft feel more consistent, but unfortunately, they’re doing so at the cost of performance. 

Continuous Fiber and Flex

Because Continuous Fiber is an automated manufacturing process, we’re able to create a shaft without spine. And that significantly changes the way TPT shafts feel to golfers. Our blind testing shows that the vast majority of golfers will prefer a more flexible TPT shaft compared to the shaft they were previously using.

TPT Head of Performance Jon Sinclair regularly runs these tests at his facility outside Fort Worth, Texas, where he fits golfers of all abilities including many PGA Tour players. Sinclair’s testing with technologies including Trackman and Gears has revealed that more flexible shafts can lead to dramatic performance increases. And these performance increases are due to what’s known as increased shaft deflection. 

You can think of shaft deflection as the amount a shaft bends or loads during the downswing. Through the years, different beliefs about shaft deflection have emerged, but the most popular is that less shaft deflection is better. Our testing has found the opposite to be true.

Increasing Deflection

In every fitting Sinclair has performed with his players on Gears, a system that places sensors on a golf club that accurately measure its movement during the swing, he’s found a direct correlation between increased performance and increased shaft deflection. And when you think about it the purpose of a shaft, this makes perfect sense. 

A shaft is meant to store and then release energy during the swing. Just like a spring, the more we bend a golf shaft, the more energy it will release. The purpose of shaft flex, then, is to maximize the amount of shaft bending without negatively affecting shot consistency. 

In his fittings, Sinclair’s goal is to identify the flex that allows his golfers to hit the longest, straightest and most consistent shots they can. And the best way to do this is to increase shaft deflection. This has resulted in Sinclair fitting higher-speed golfers into softer shafts that they may have never previously considered. 

Again, the reason this phenomenon is most pronounced with TPT shafts is due to the way they’re manufactured. The fully automated Continuous Fiber manufacturing removes the spine that is present in shafts made with the Roll-Wrapping Method. And this is what unlocks a new standard of performance.

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