What a weekend!! We started out at Mariner’s Point at 8 AM on Friday and we didn’t finish until we cleaned up the last of the Korean banquet at Han’s in Palo Alto on Saturday night. Forty-eight hours of all golf – all the time. Jamie Pipes is the Iron Man of shaft fitting.
Over thirty Golf Lab customers took advantage of multiple opportunities to meet up with Jamie. We worked with wedge shafts, performed driver shaft fittings, played golf and performed more driver shaft fittings.
Four players broke the code. Jeff Segol, Dirk Godsey and Rick Kehr completed the foursome and returned to the Golf Lab for the launch monitor fitting after golf. I have said this before – absolutely, positively the most accurate and efficient way to start a clubfitting is on the golf course.
The best information I can give any player is which clubs are performing so well that it doesn’t make any sense to challenge them. If your current driver is performing within 2% of your potential, why waste time and money testing and buying drivers? Focus on what’s most important – and exactly the clubs that have the most upside for your game.
Free On-Course Clubfitting – Mornings at the Muni
I made it a tradition to meet up with new customers at the Palo Alto Muni to play nine holes. No charge. “You just buy your own “Breakfast Special” for $32. The Bay Café is the only place I know that serves a passable corned beef hash with poached eggs and San Francisco sourdough toast. The perfect breakfast after breathing fresh air for two hours.
We then return to the Golf Lab to complete the fitting – knowing exactly what a player’s ball flight and consistency are on the golf course. That allows me to zero in on exactly the clubs that will make the biggest difference.
Starting out with a morning at the Muni is the best way to complete a comprehensive clubfitting in a single day.
Some Golf Lab customers work for a living and can’t get away for the 8 AM Wednesday morning round. I’m scheduling a Sunday round – in the afternoon for the first couple of weeks. This is a good way for old customers to update their fitting. Go to the course. Come back to the Golf Lab. If you have not been fitted with radar – you’re not playing with a full deck.
It doesn’t matter that it’s a Muni and it might be a slow round. Who cares? We’re out there to dawdle around, enjoy some conversation, hit a few extra practice shots. Sunday afternoon at the Muni is a perfect pace of play for what we want to do. Call Bob to reserve a spot this week or next. (650) 654-1770.
Fitting for Torque – Jamie Pipes’ Tour Bag
Watching and listening to a Tour Fitter for two days was a great learning experience for the entire Golf Lab staff. Here’s how fitting for torque works:
A player starts with his own driver to establish a benchmark. We are interested in “ballistics” – ball speed, launch angle and spin rate – usually shortened to “speed, spin and launch”.
When we go “under the covers” with radar we find more useful information. The radar records and remembers where each shot went. That becomes the “shot grouping” display where each driver is compared for accuracy. Radar also reveals the movement of the clubhead milliseconds before impact. That reveals shaft performance by direct measurement.
We are early in the testing cycle. Kaz Hoffman is still playing the UST VTS shaft in the “Black” (low torque) version. If you plan to follow up launch monitor testing with range or on-course experience, we can supply the correct shafts and an interchangeable head. Alternatively, we have the entire UST shaft line mounted on Taylor Made fittings so you can check out any UST shaft to hit with your own driver if you have a Taylor Made adjustable driver – all the way back to R9.
In the “Big Picture of Clubfitting”, my view is that fitting for torque is an interesting starting point.
Even for accomplished players who play other brands – it is good to know the torque value that produces the best results. That would be valuable information to have before making a shaft choice.
I wanted more – and so did Jamie. That’s where things got interesting.
The Concept of “Shaft Bend Profile”
For the last twenty years – graphite shafts have been pretty much the same. They were designed to be “stiff in the butt” and then get gradually softer toward the tip – kind of like a fishing rod.
The Mitsubishi “Blue Board” driver shaft was a watershed product when it came out. At one point, seven out of ten of the top players in the world were playing the same Blue Board. That’s the closest thing to a Perfect Storm that’s ever happened in the golf business. The Blue Board called attention to the “stiff tip” concept – key for Tour Players looking for control.
Mitsubishi took the concept of “bend profile” to the Bank. The introduced the “Redboard” – designed with a stiff butt section and soft tip – ideal for players who need more spin and help getting the ball in the air. They followed with the “Whiteboard” – a soft butt section and super stiff tip designed for the “dragger, dropper” (Sergio Garcia) style of swing that loads the shaft early.
The concept of “shaft fitting” started with Mitsubishi and their “Red, White and Blue” series. For the first time accomplished amateurs could influence their ballistics with a driver shaft. Since then, most of the refinements have been very subtle – too subtle to see or feel and measure in many cases.
“Too subtle to see or feel” presents a problem. You have to trust the launch monitor to convince you that it’s worth it to go through a lengthy testing process. What’s more boring than testing driver shafts?
How do you measure success? Would it be that Kaz Hoffman has improved his “fairways hit” from 9 to 11 per round? Do we believe that the reason is a low torque driver shaft? How could anyone know? We only know that looking at performance statistics – at whatever level of detail you can stand – is the only way to tell the difference between driver shafts – and any other golf club for that matter.
UST on the Rise
We should have expected that the best outcome would be unexpected. I explained bend profiles to help explain the exciting part of UST’s shaft line.
UST is almost two companies. There’s the Japanese headquarters and management. That is the Mamiya side – one of the best of the Japanese shaft companies. UST is also one of the major suppliers to the Mass Market – so they’re still going for those million piece orders. The American interface is pure Texas.
The key ingredient in any company is innovation. That’s where UST shines.
The first UST product that produced a spotlight success in the last couple of years is the Nunchuk – a Jerry Hogan invention marketed by Inventix. We learned from Jamie that this version of the Nunchuk is actually the third time UST manufactured a shaft built to Hogan’s specifications. We love the Nunchuk. That’s another story.
The Nunchuk lead UST to hire Ralph Mann – the top independent engineer focused on the golf industry – to understand the science of energy flow down the shaft. That led to some important breakthroughs in shaft design.
The one that stood out in testing with nearly every player last week was the Element. It comes in three models. Since you’re now up to date on what EI Curves look like, here is the “picture” of the three models of the new Element shaft. Notice how the smooth slide now looks like a snake that swallowed a rabbit.
Every player who tested shafts for torque this weekend also tested the Element. The Element was a shaft that every player could “feel”. The Element came out the winner.
It is now in our driver shaft fitting system.
Upgraded Challenge for Driver Optimization and Shaft Fitting
Last week I made an unprecedented challenge in the clubfitting world. Guaranteed results or you don’t pay. That challenge pertained to irons. I’m expanding the challenge to the much more difficult world of improving driver performance.
Here’s the offer: I will test your driver to establish a benchmark and make sure that the “ballistics” are within acceptable ranges. Assuming that your driver is producing “correct” numbers – I might modify the length – longer or shorter – the balance – heavier or lighter and add the magic “Accurizer” in the handle. We’ll hit another series of shots.
Your driver will go farther, straighter or both. Your “smash factor” will go up. Your spin rate will come down. You will see and feel improved performance. You will smile.
From there, we “test the extremes”. From experience, I know that no current driver beats the trusty old Taylor Made R9 for technology. We test lighter and heavier shafts with different flex profiles. We watch the radar graphs. We find the shaft that works the best from direct measurement of the shaft – not by looking at the ball and guessing “why?”
The performance of your current driver will be optimized and we will test it against the best competition. If you are leaving yards on the tee, you will know how many.
You will also know the best that current technology can deliver.
1.5 hours. $150. Better measured performance improvement – guaranteed.
“Rhythm of the Week”
The “New Golf Lab” is really a startup. Much more complicated than the old place. Organizing collaboration. Creating a weekly schedule. Getting the word out.
Our communication is beginning to make sense. This is the “Tuesday Update” (an experiment) to bring local customers up to date on what’s happening in the next few days. All emails are archived on the Golf Lab Blog. Go here to follow the history of our emails most recent first. Please send this link to your friends. http://calgolflab.com/blog/dashboard/ .
Call in. Refer your friends. We need the business.
Leith Anderson and the Golf Lab Gang.