May 1, 2018

Fitting for Drivers: Finding the Right Combination of Clubhead and Shaft

By: Jordan King Thomas, PGA

Finding the right clubhead and shaft combination boils down to the player’s individual swing characteristics. This is why clubfitting is so important; the golf swing is as personal as a fingerprint. No two people load and expel power at the same point.

The textbook wants golfers increasing speed when the club is parallel to the ground (or hip high) in the down swing. However, not everyone does this. I see many golfers exerting more energy and force from the transition at the top of their swing. For these players, I like to find a shaft that has more butt stiffness to absorb this force.

After identifying the point in the swing in where the player unloads the force, I like to look at the numbers. The first things I look to are launch angle and dynamic loft. These two numbers are directly related to spin rate and distance. If you see a player who is generating high launch and a lot of spin, you want to find a shaft that has low torque and a high kick point. Pairing such a shaft with a low-spinning head at the right loft can produce significate change.

Some of best performing low-spin driver heads I’ve seen on the market currently are the Callaway Rogue Sub Zero and Ping LS Tec. The top shafts for cutting spin and producing great launch have been the Diamana BF and W series. The Project X HZRDUS line, specifically the Black and T1100, have also proven to be spin killers. On the other hand, HZRDUS Yellow is a great for players who create the proper shaft load in the swing.

Asking what is the optimal spin and launch can be a loaded question. Golfers can have low launch and high spin, or low spin and high launch while still achieving the similar results. General consensus is that 2,500 rpms and 12 degrees of launch is right around optimal. Ten degrees of launch at 3,000 rpms can also produce great results in distance and consistency with the driver, same for 15 degrees of launch and 1,900 rpms. Everything comes down to the player.

Attack angle also plays a major role in driver fittings. Our corridor of success with angle of attack is +3.0 to -1.0. It’s extremely hard to cut spin on a player who is hitting -5.0 and likewise if a player is +5 or more. At that stage, it’s just too difficult to get dynamic loft under control. A lot of times it’s a simple fix: Make sure that the ball position is in the proper place, just to the inside of their left foot or off the big toe (for right-handed golfers). Having the ball too far back in the stance can promote a negative attack angle, while too far forward can have the opposite effect.

Once ball position is squared away; if the golfer is still hitting up on the ball too much it could be because of a soft shaft or one with too much torque. Shafts with these characteristics promote a whip of the head at impact, leading to an extremely high angle of attack.

Ultimately, driver fitting is about first recognizing characteristics of the player’s swing and understanding when they load and unload the shaft. From there, you find the right combination of clubhead and shaft that produces the most consistent spin and launch.