I often seek input on equipment questions from those working in the trenches, the passionate fitters who are trying to put their customers in the best position to optimize their potential on the golf course. Our list of America's 100 Best Clubfitters includes a collection of folks with strong ideas on how to make fitting easier to understand, and ideally as a result, more likely that more golfers will consider its benefits.
I just came across a note from one of the more thoughtful fitters in the country, Russ Ryden. Ryden is the owner at Fit2score, which operates in two locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. He offers some wisdom on the complexities of shafts, and I include it here as some meaningful advice, along with some incentive to pay attention to the July issue of Golf Digest, where we try to answer some of basic questions about shaft-fitting. Look for it soon.
Russ Ryden, Fit 2 Score, on the power of shaft-fitting:
"There is no substitute for spending time with a fitter in front of a launch monitor. If you have never been through a good fitting, there is a great deal to be learned from the fitter in the process.
"Generally you can take the advice of the shaft companies about the speed ratings they apply to their products. After all, who knows them better and who has a vested interest in your success. Many have fitting systems on their websites. You should make an honest evaluation of your distances on these systems and look at their recommendations. Many retail stores have demo programs. Take out a few demo clubs and experiment on your own based on the recommendations you get from the online fitting programs.
"Don't look exclusively at the shaft to solve what may be a fitting issue. Weight, club length, club balance, grip size are all important. What makes a club right for your friends has little to do with your fit. While shaft stiffness is important for feel, the bend character of the shaft (profile) is more important. Stiffness is entirely a feel issue. If it feels right, it probably is for you. If your good at the game, you can hit almost anything after a few swings. Finding the right shaft fit however unlocks your maximum potential. While you can hit any shaft with a little practice, if your going to go for it on the course, fit yourself stiff. If you have great tempo and a silky smooth acceleration, you can go a little softer. But when that clubhead is coming into the ball, it's the shaft that is motivating it. So a silky smooth acceleration still needs a stiff shaft to maintain the direction of the clubhead with the swing speeds get into the 110+ mile-per-hour range. When you get into the 120 range, get yourself a broomstick. When you get much above 120, find a fitter with access to the shafts made for the tour vans. They are not usually listed in the shaft company brochures.
"While I look at shafts to unlock potential, I look at the golf club head itself as the most important element in flighting the ball. Anything I can do with a shaft to control flighting is minor compared with what I can do with loft of the head. And dynamic loft creates spin.
"If you are looking to keep your balls from ballooning, a sure sign you have too much spin, try a stiffer shaft. If you are comfortable with the feel, it will give you a more penetrating trajectory. Be careful when getting advice about shaft zone stiffness. A stiffer tip on a softer mid will increase launch. Understanding a shaft's effect on ball flight is complicated science. The vast array of shaft designs now available makes many of the cliché notions of shaft performance just that, clichés.
"When trying to fit yourself for shaft weight, try this. Go hit enough balls to get yourself a little fatigued. Now try different weight shafts. Do you feel yourself struggling to get the club around. Do you find yourself engaging large muscles to lift the club, or does it lift and turn into the ball with your arms and hands? That is the best way I know to help a golfer make an assessment of overall club weight and balance.
"Remember, you are not fitting for the perfect swing, you are trying to increase your margin of error on the less than perfect swing."