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Lessons from Progressive Launch Iron Sets

I get a lot of comments from readers of my golf shaft site, GolfShaftReviews, that they love the information but do not understand some of it. Much of this article will be a discussion of golf shaft EI profiles. If you are new to this term, my friend Dave Tutelman published an article explaining the basics many years ago.  I wrote a more detailed discussion in these articles, Golf Shaft EI Profiling and Beyond Frequeny Matching  on GolfShaftReviews.  Other articles on this site further explain the background information you may need to understand this discussion.

I have been devoting a lot of time lately to completing the Fit2Score shaft profiling software that is now available through subscription. Many years ago I developed a spreadsheet for owners of my EI instrument that quickly profiles a set of shafts destined for use in a set. I call the process Iron Set Certification. The certification spreadsheet serves the club builder as a place to store not only the shaft data for a set, but most other aspects of the set; head brand, weights, balance, loft, lie, length, grip, etc. for future reference for that client. Using this software I have profiled a vast number of iron shaft sets. It became apparent that not all sets of shafts had the same bend profiles through out the set. In many sets there was some degree of flighting between the shortest shaft and the longest shaft in the set. I first heard the term flighting in reference to Project X shafts when they were made in Brunswick Connecticut by the Royal Precision. Flighted sets are designed to launch the long irons higher and the short irons lower. The objective is uniform ball flight height through out the set. The benefit is tighter distance gap control between clubs.

Be patient with me while I discuss a little more history. When I began as a hobby club builder 17 years ago I was introduced to shaft profiling using a frequency instrument. This is not simply measuring the butt frequency of a shaft. The shaft is measured at 5″ increments from tip to butt. The software that supported that system compared irons by looking at 6 irons only. When I developed my EI software I followed that model, writing my system to compare the bend profiles of 6 iron shafts. As I did numerous iron set certifications it was apparent how shortsighted only comparing 6 iron shafts was. An important aspect of iron shafts is the difference in bend profiles between the long and short iron shafts in the set. The complexity of converting 16 years of work to set profiles from 6 iron only profiles kept me from addressing this issue. About a year ago with the release of the True Temper Dynamic Gold Pro I decided it was critical to the understanding of irons shafts to incorporate set profiles. The view of irons as sets, that came from set certification profiles, needed to be brought into the Fit2Score shaft software system. It took a year to complete and debug the system software upgrade. I am still in the process of loading the data for the 300 iron shafts I have profiled in the past.

I have been looking at golf shaft EI profiles for 15 years. On this venture I continue to discover and understand nuances of shaft design and performance. This article is an attempt to explain an understanding of iron shaft sets that has developed over the last 5 years. If you get it on the first read, congratulations.

The amount of flighting in iron shaft sets varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and from model to model. A good understanding of EI bend profiles can be seen in shafts sets that were intentionally designed for progressive launch. I wrote a detailed review of such a shaft, the Dynamic Gold Pro, last year. Read it as background information about flighted or progressive launch iron sets.

DGP-RSXLook at the difference in the upper chart between the bend profiles of the wedge, 6 iron and 2 iron shafts in these sets. The vertical axis is the stiffness of a 10″ section of the shaft, centered at the position noted in the horizontal axis. The tip is to the left, the butt to the right. You can see that the butt of the shaft is stiffer than the tip. The tip is not always the softest section of the shaft. Very often the softest section is 10 to 12 inches up from the tip. If your measuring technology, for example frequency, does not allow accurate readings in this range, you are flying blind.

As you look at the R, S and X flex versions in the upper chart, you see that the entire curve moves upward as the shaft gets stiffer. And, in this model golf shaft, the shape of the profiles change as well. This is not true of all shafts. It is another reason that knowing both wedge and long iron profiles are important to the tour level fitter.

You can see how much flatter the wedge shaft profiles are than the 2 iron profiles. The steeper the change in stiffness from tip to butt, the higher the shaft will launch. The point where the bend profiles change the most is an indicator of shaft contribution to launch. The closer the maximum bend point is to the butt, the higher the shaft will launch.

The lower chart, shows the change in stiffness point to point on the shaft. It amplifies the understanding of the bend point of the shaft. You can see how the change in stiffness, especially in the R flex model, is steeper and moves significantly toward the butt in the 2 iron shafts. This method, looking at change of stiffness, is essential to understand shafts through their EI profiles.

Understanding the EI profiles is tricky. As you look at the actual profiles your eyes are drawn to the lowest point on the shaft, where it changes from losing stiffness to increasing in stiffness. But in the lower signature chart, the change of stiffness is not greatest at the lowest point of the EI curve. It is higher in the shaft, closer to the butt, where the shaft is rapidly losing stiffness. Doing a compression test on the R Flex 2 iron shaft, the point where the shaft bends is 17″ from the tip. This is exactly the spot that is the lowest in the profile signature chart of this shaft.

And that is a simple understanding of reading shaft launch propensity from 3 point EI data. This is not clearly shown in frequency or deflection profiling systems. But it is hard to miss in 3 point EI profiles. And that is why 3 point EI profiles are the language of shaft designers.

DGvsDGPLets take a quick look at the Dynamic Gold X100 and the Dynamic Gold Pro X100 wedge and 2 iron shafts. The Dynamic Gold X100 is a very flat profile as iron shafts go. There is little launch assistance and the wedge and 2 iron have the same profile. The wedge is stiffer, as indicated by being higher on the chart, but there is very little difference between it and the 2 iron shaft. Now look at the Dynamic Gold Pro X100. First you will notice a distinct zone in the 12″ to 22″ area where their is a noticable loss of stiffness. And, that loss of stiffness is more pronounced in the 2 iron than in the wedge.  Then, with the profiles superimposed on each other, you can see the wedges are quite similar. The 2 iron shafts are noticeably different. This illustrates why a fitter needs to know set profiles, not just 6 irons.