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What value are the new interchangeable/Adjustable heads to the player?
The “Adjust-ability” Rule mean to you?
The major club companies, also known as Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (OEM’s) have introduced us to their new interchangeable/adjustable driver heads as a way of fitting the club to your swing. The latest adjustable shaft fitting changes lofts, lies and face angles. This marketing approach is in response to the rule allowing club “adjust-ability” which was to sell one “magical” driver head with multiple shaft positions. Their initial theory was that different shafts with different flex points allow the player to produce different launch angles based upon ever changing course and playing conditions (stiffer shafts with high flex points for lower launch angles and trajectories encouraging more roll, and softer shafts with low flex points for higher launch angles and trajectories encouraging more carry) and then next came tweaking these characteristics by rotating the shaft in the head to different positions changing the loft, lie, face angle and weight distribution. Following the OEM logic then, changing shafts and rotating them and changing the weight distribution would allow one to dial up the perfect launch angle and trajectory for every round to fit the players swing. While the objective is certainly worthy, the OEM marketing strategy of changing shafts and tweaking its position in the head to accomplish the task is flawed. The correct approach would be to find the one correct shaft for each player’s natural swing timing, (the frequency that returns the shaft to straight and square at impact for that particular player) and then change the driver head to one with the correct loft and face angle for the conditions at hand.
What is wrong with the OEM approach?
First of all, it perpetuates their scientifically flawed, but financially profitable marketing position, in which the club head and the ever changing technology behind club head design, is identified and marketed as the component having the most impact upon a player’s performance. They do not mention that the USGA has placed limits on the head performance technology and they have been designing to these limits for many years now. Selling based on head technology naturally assigns shaft frequency/stiffness a secondary status at best. While perpetuating this erroneous belief is certainly in the OEM’s benefit (it drives the sale of millions of new clubs year after year) it just is not true. Ask any competent club fitter or club builder. When it comes to producing consistent shots, the correct frequency/stiffness shaft is the most important club component, not the technology and design of the club head. It has been proven time after time. The “best” head on the wrong shaft produces poor shots (although it also produces future sales of next year’s “better” model), while even an “average” head on the correct shaft produces great results.
In the case of rotating the shaft, each time you rotate the shaft you will be changing the position of the spine of the shaft as well as the frequency or stiffness of the shaft. Spines in the shaft are primarily found in the graphite shafts and are caused by an over lap of material causing a hard spot along the length of the shaft. If you have a shaft that was properly fitted for your swing and spine aligned in the neutral position as you rotate the shaft you will be degrading the shafts performance from your fitted position. In most cases the OEM's shaft is not spine aligned in the first place and rotating them may or may not improve that alignment.
Further Proof of OEM Marketing Mumbo Jumbo!
If the “magical” club head itself is so critical from a performance standpoint, why do the OEM’s keep changing them every year? Do they really push the envelope so much that last season’s club head technology (USGA limits did not Change), the technology they themselves advertised as “the best club head ever designed”, is no longer sufficient to do the job now that the current model year head designs are available? Ask yourself, does your performance really change with a new head, or has the OEM just added another marketing twist to increase sales?
The Real Factors!
In all honesty, the changing dynamics in club head design have provided an enormous benefit to players of all skill levels, and this is not meant to imply that changes in club head design are of no benefit. However, club head design alone cannot deliver on all the promises made by the OEM’s until, and unless, the correct shaft for the individual swinging that club is attached to the “Magical” club head. Once the heads were designed to the new C.O.R. limit ruling of the USGA there leaves little room for improvement left.
Lets look at shaft mechanics and what changing shafts can do for you (see "Tech Talk" "Golf Clubs 101" page).
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