Here’s a question I recently fielded from a student taking a golf lesson: “How do I duplicate a favorite club? I hit my 7-iron great almost every time. If I could duplicate the feel of my 7-iron, I know I could lower my handicap a few strokes. But I don’t know how to do it.”
Shaft frequency, as I’ve explained to the student taking the golf lesson, is one way of duplicating the feel of a favorite club, a demo club, or a friend’s club. It measures shaft flex, a key factor in feel. Previously, a shaft was rated either stiff, regular, or ladies flex. These ratings, however, were not consistent from manufacturer to manufacturer. One company’s regular was another company’s stiff. Matching clubs, therefore, was extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Measuring Shaft Flex
Measured by a machine, frequency is the number of times a shaft oscillates either vertically or horizontally. The units of frequency measurement are known as cycles per minute, or CPM. A shaft with a higher frequency (more CPMs) is stiffer than one with a lower frequency (fewer CPMs). By using frequency to compare shafts, you can tell which shaft is stiffer and by how much.
Typically, there are 10 cycles between shaft flexes. Thus, if one shaft registers 250 on a frequency machine and another 270, there’s a two-flex shaft difference between the two clubs, regardless of what the manufacturer says. By assigning a specific frequency number to a shaft, you can closely match one club to another, depending on what’s wanted.
Duplicating a Favorite Club
Obviously, frequency is a more precise method of measuring shaft flex than the old method. So how do you duplicate another club? It’s simple. A club building specialist determines the shaft frequency of one club, then matches it to the frequency of a new club. By attaching the right clubhead to the shaft, you can create an almost perfect match to the club you like or want to duplicate.
The frequency approach works for both woods and irons. Keep in mind, however, that a shaft performs and feels differently depending how it’s inserted into the clubhead. A good club builder measures the shaft in various places, then identifies the CPM that matches the desired flex of a particular club. He or she then inserts the clubhead to match the desired shaft frequency. To attain best results, the builder positions the shaft so that the desired CPM is parallel to the target line.
Matching a Set of Irons
Matching the shaft frequency of a set of irons is harder than matching the frequency of a set of woods. Normally, a shaft becomes stiffer as the clubs get shorter. Your pitching wedge has a stiffer shaft than your 3-iron, so the frequencies can’t be identical. To compensate, a good club builder will create a “sloped” gradient of frequency running throughout the set. As a result, a set of irons will have a similar frequency number between each club in the set
Using frequency, the club builder creates a set of irons that have the same feel and playability throughout the set. The exact number of CPMs will depend on what the player wants, but the difference in CPMs between each club will be uniform. This ensures that each club will feel and perform like the others in a set. The CPM of a favorite club can then be taken and matched throughout the set.
Only One Step
Having a matching set of irons, however, isn’t a panacea for your game. As I’ve said in my golf instruction sessions, your equipment helps only so much. In fact, it’s just one small step in helping you lower your golf handicap. You’ll still need to do other things, like practicing drills before you improve your game dramatically. Studying or reading about how others play a course is also of benefit, since it helps you improve course management capabilities.
Still, having the right equipment is important. Have your club’s frequency checked and matched, if you never done it before. If you’re buying a new set of clubs, make sure to check out the frequency of the iron set. Having the right shaft frequency will put you well on your way to lowering your golf handicap.