How Steel Shafts are Made and Why You Should Care

How many times have you seen something like this posted at a store or clubhouse?

Swing-Speed-Conversion-Chart

Honestly this chart is wrong. There are so many more variables then swing speed that affect the flex of a shaft. This article is aimed at providing a better understanding about the manufacturing process and the affects on the feel and playability of a golf shaft. The objective is to provide information that will help you bypass the marketing portion of the industry and choose a fitter, who is well educated, and understands what is needed for a proper fit.

There are two ways that most golf shafts are formed. A seamless process, starting out as a solid cylinder, and a welded tube process, which starts out as a flat sheet of metal.

SEAMLESS PROCESS:

  • starts as a solid steel cylinder
  • special tool heats and pierces cylinder turning it into a tube
  • stretched until a thin walled tube at 5/8″ diameter “blank” is formed
  • to form the steps a special tool is used to press down and shrink the diameter at a certain point throughout the shaft
  • once sized correctly the raw shaft goes through heat treatment, straightened, and finally nickel-chrome electroplated for strength and durability

WELDED TUBE PROCESS:

  • starts as a flat sheet in coil
  • goes through a rolling process which forms the tube and then is welded
  • goes through a process called “skiving”, where metal on the outside and inside are removed
  • to form the steps a special tool is used to press down and shrink the diameter at a certain point throughout the shaft
  • once sized correctly the raw shaft goes through heat treatment, straightened, and finally nickel-chrome electroplated for strength and durability

These are very generalized steps and there are so many more, all of which take a significant amount of time. I was told, when I had the opportunity to tour the True Temper plant, that it takes approximately three weeks for one shaft to be completed. There is a reason that there are so many more graphite shaft companies then there are of steel shaft manufacturers. One of the main steel manufacturers, True Temper, is known for their ability to change the wall thickness on the inside (ID) of the shaft. Because of this ability, they are able to design and manufacture different types of shafts to optimize the fitting process.

Not as well known, but worth noting, is that there are two different shaft sizes. The taper tipped golf shaft is the original design and still is considered mostly standard. In the 1970’s the parallel tip shaft came to the market and is widely used, especially in the manufacturing and custom side of the industry.

TAPER TIPPED

PROS

  • most OEM’s have designed their hosel on the clubheads to match the .355″ tip
  • manufactured the proper length for each individual club
  • constant weight can be achieved with this process

CONS

  • manufacturing has to be done on each separate length
  • to change flex a different shaft profile is needed

PARALLEL TIPPED

PROS

  • “blanks” are able to be fine tuned to a specific frequency
  • able to create a descending weight set
  • manufacturer can create a single length shaft that can be cut to desired lengths

CONS

  • most OEM’s are not designed to accommodate the .370″ tip
  • understanding of “how” to build a set is needed to get full use of a parallel tipped shaft

As a builder, parallel shafts are my favorite to utilize; however, as stated earlier most OEM clubheads are designed for a taper tipped shaft. There have been many studies on the feel and affect of a parallel tipped shaft vs taper tipped shaft and all have come back with little to no difference. It truthfully is a preference.

What does this all mean for the normal golfer, who is not a builder or fitter? It is there for you to not fall into some of the marketing traps that are out there.

So what should you concern yourself with then? WEIGHT, STIFFNESS, AND FLEXPOINT

WEIGHT: Hot topic for the past few years has been the weight of the completed club from grip, shaft, and clubhead. If the weight is decreased there is an increase in speed, launch angle, and spin rate; whereas,  an increase in weight can have the inverse affect. Clubhead speed is not everything, as I said earlier, because spin and launch angle will affect distance as well.

STIFFNESS: Please understand that there is no industry standard of this, even though most would believe that: regular, stiff, and x-stiff are standards. This is why it is so important to get a proper fitting. A stiffer shaft is going to lower the trajectory and possibly ball speed. Shafts that have too much flex will have a higher launch angle.

FLEX POINT: This is the portion of the shaft at which the shaft will bend. The bend, or flex point is what provides extra power into the clubhead. By lowering the bend point of the shaft a higher trajectory can be created; whereas, a higher bend point will lower the trajectory

A proper fitter is going to look at these, along with some other variables, to get you in the proper fit. In the swing, your tempo, release, path, and speed are going to factor into which shaft fits you the best. That is why charts are wrong, they only show you one variable that needs to be evaluated.

In a few months we will do a deep dive into KBS, True Temper, and Nippon the major manufacturers of steel golf shafts.

Advertisements

2 Comments on “How Steel Shafts are Made and Why You Should Care

  1. You should do a survey of how many golfers would answer to, If they play their own shaft and did a fitting to see what shaft would be a better benefit for thier game?How many golfers would actually change a shaft for different flex to thier own shaft based on feel. As Pro you that you could 100 golfers and this is perfect for swing but I can guarentee 95% response rate would keep the shaft they are playing with has a better feel to the one that might show better performance. You should examine what’s better for golfers, club shaft feel as the most important or a shaft that performs to the numbers. You hear it all the time most golfers say it’s how a club feels, looks and sounds, over a club that makes the best golf shots. [Driver V. Driver 2 is good example] Of course I love how Pros always say get a club fitting but there is never enough emphasis on getting a ball fitting at the same time. That’s another question How many golfers are playing shafts to thier right swing but the wrong ball to match it?

    Like

    • This is great commentary and thank you. As for feel vs what is correct: feel is what is comfortable, more then likely what someone has been using for years. While it might be optimal in some cases most of the time feel is not the optimal fit. That is true for swing as well (another subject for a different day). Professionals do make money off of fittings and so there are those who do it strictly for the money and sell every time regardless of the fit (this is wrong). A true fitter is someone who cares about optimizing — more then just the shaft. Club head, shaft, grip, length, and lie. And yes a ball fitting is smart and something I did frequently when I was fitting professionally.

      Personally I learn feel after I find what is optimal. Feel can be taught.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: