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Understanding the differences in golf shafts has never been easy. There are a lot of terms used to define a shaft, too many to review in this article. Without any industry standard, they have little value to anyone trying to understand the differences between two shafts. Over the time I have been involved in club fitting, I have tried several systems. Each had limitations and finally, I gave up and invented my own. Yes, I added one more system to the plethora of systems already in use.

That system is based on text book mechanical engineering beam theory. Bending is he product of the elastic modulus E and the area moment of inertia I of the beam cross section at a point on the beam. The formula looks like this:

w is the bending of the beam, x is the location and k is the curvature. This is the fundamental science used by all golf shaft designers of significance. It makes simple sense to use the same system to understand their designs.

What this formula means is that if you know the EI along the shaft it can be transformed into the bend profile of the shaft as shown in this illustration.

I picked these two shafts to illustrate the value of knowing the EI profile of golf shafts. These two shafts are both rated by their respective manufacturers as S flex. The EI profile shows the butt and tip stiffness to be about the same. And yet, they show very different bend patterns when loaded as shown on the right.

The loading illustration is what you would see if you used a deflection board. I borrowed this image of a deflection board from GolfWorks. This is a classic tool used by clubmakers to understand shaft bending properties and to rate stiffness.  Frequency instruments have replaced this instrument in most club makers shops. Frequency gauges give the club maker a number from which many systems translate frequency of oscillation to stiffness. What is not seen on frequency instruments is the bend profile seen on a deflection board. The shortcoming of deflection boards is that they do not quantify the bend profile, leaving the club maker to compare bend properties with tracings.

Using EI values along the shaft, the deflection profile can be calculated and quantified as shown. And this lets a shaft engineer translate material properties, shaft wall thickness, shaft wall diameter and shaft taper into computer simulated bend properties of a golf shaft.

The club fitter, equipped with EI measurements, understands the bend properties of the shafts he fit with.

And that understanding is why I felt it was necessary to invent my own instrument and system for measuring golf shafts. The amount of load applied during a golf swing is transformed into shaft deflection. The amount of deflection is what you feel as stiffness when you swing. Feel feedback helps you time your swing. Too much deflection creates dispersion, too little, bad timing. The EI bend profile determines not only the amount of deflection but also the shape of the deflection. And that shape influences how your swing presents the club head to the ball at impact. EI profiles guide me in fitting my clients into the best shaft for their golf swing.

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