The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Three

Performance comparisons (that have grip sizing connections for a golfer for any given club) between taper-tip, constant-weight and parallel-tip, unitized golf shafts can include comparisons such as golf ball travel results and golfer swing performance, which in and of itself can be subdivided into multiple performance facets.  Just one of these is whether a constant-weight or unitized shaft design might be better suited for use in conjunction with the exact same grip size as one moves from the longer to the shorter clubs in a set.  This is an extremely important shaft design consideration if one expects to be able to use the same grip model/part number for all of the clubs in a so-called “matched” set and also expects to achieve one’s best swinging performance throughout the set.

To further supplement the shaft background information given thus far, taper-tip versus parallel-tip shaft characteristics refer to the section of the shaft that is inserted into the club head, as both types of shafts routinely increase in diameter (through various designs and constructions) as they progress toward the butt (grip) end.  Somewhere along the line (though I honestly cannot remember where) I believe I read that for much of the roughly fifty years the original steel golf shaft dominated the market (I will choose the 1930’s through the 1970’s for reference purposes), it was a taper-tip model (which I also read aided in securing the shaft to the head given the technology of the day) that only came in one length for woods (and one for irons) and was perhaps trimmed increasingly more just from the butt end for shorter clubs.  Thus, those taper-tip shaft models were also unitized-type shafts, although unitized shafts today are routinely trimmed from the (parallel) tip end first (and then also from the butt end in most cases).  Shaft trimming instructions can vary markedly between shaft manufacturers and models.

Steel shafts were legalized in the Rules of Golf and began their dominance around 1930, but constant-weight, discreet-length shafts did not appear with regularity until perhaps the 1950’s or 1960’s, when one or more major golf club manufacturers of the day and/or the shaft manufacturer(s) evidently determined that such shafts would perform better in their (sets of) golf clubs than shaft models previously designed.  I again here want to disclaim my expertise and general interest in golf history and whether the information I provide in this particular area is authoritatively correct.  I did attempt to do a little research on this, but the sources I inspected were not very detailed and varied in their definitiveness with respect to the specific information I was looking for.  However, such a scenario would appear logical in the early years and generations of steel golf shafts after wooden shafts were produced (and presumably analyzed) so differently from steel for such a long time.

Additional indication to support such a scenario is that a comparison of constant-weight and unitized golf shafts is very closely linked to and highly dependent upon how a “set” of multiple, individual golf clubs are “matched” to each other.  Swingweight is the golf club specification that allows golfers in general to swing consistently well throughout a set of golf clubs as these clubs can otherwise vary in their lengths, total weights, and shaft flexing (frequencies) as examples.  Without these (advantageous) variations within a set of golf clubs brought about by the invention of swingweighting, the primary reason for comparing constant-weight and unitized shafts would not even exist in the first place.  Now since swingweight first appeared around the same time as steel golf shafts (about 1930 again), a learning curve for the new specification that could have lasted decades was clearly (in hindsight) needed before something like constant-weight shafts within a set of varying-length clubs might even be considered and/or tested against unitized-type shafts.  Quantify this with the fact that golf club swingweighting (which I will address in greater detail soon) is not even properly comprehended to this very day of the year 2010 by most people.

I will not go any deeper into performance comparisons of constant-weight versus unitized golf shafts at this time even as they can relate to grip sizing concepts and practices (which are the primary focuses of this post title sequence), and with very good reason.  Instead, I will leave you with the following to ponder for now.  The conclusion many people have come to (many others have not come to this conclusion) that better golfing performance can be achieved through using discreet-length, constant-weight shafts over unitized shafts within a set of varying-length clubs has been fundamentally derived through the use of golf club swingweight as recorded above.  This concept and invention has had the same accepted 14-inch fulcrum dimension around which to balance a set of golf clubs since the specification’s inception.  But if this 14-inch dimension were to change even a relatively small amount (which it may quite soon) due to scientific analysis and proof, then all past comparison data between taper-tip (discreet-length and constant-weight) and parallel-tip (unitized) shafts would have to be voided and retested for again anyhow, and beliefs and recommendations regarding this topic could change from what they have been in the past.

I have personally used constant-weight shafts for a long time, and I admit I started using them basically because I believed in the “better performance” jargon.  I did not have the experience back then to know how to prove one way or another whether constant-weight or unitized-type shafts might have been better (performance wise) for me.  And now that I do know better about how to proceed in this regard, it is an issue that I have essentially ignored while addressing golf matters I consider to be more critical toward playing well.  But rest assured I will direct you on how to best make such a comparison(s) after I attend to these other issues.  Given how comparatively easy a golf swing is to learn and perform both physically and mentally (athletically speaking), I have often thought it is odd that a more complex technique like producing many discreet shaft lengths all designed to have the same weight for a set of irons for example would produce better golfing results over starting with a single-length (and weight) shaft model and simply cutting it to the various lengths desired for the set of irons.  But this is just personal speculation right now, and further advances in golf club fitting/making are needed to determine which shaft design might ultimately be better.  The value of this information (even toward grip size fitting) will hopefully become clearer as I continue.