Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spine Alignment in Golf Shafts...VooDoo or Valid?

     Ahhh, here we come to one of the more mysterious aspects of clubmaking...spine alignment.  A quick definition is in order to make sure that we are all on the same page as we delve into one of the most mis-understood tools in the clubmaker's chest as it relates to the pursuit and art of creating the most consistent set of clubs possible.  Golf shafts do not have "spines" as the academic definition would have you believe.  Whether this be thought of as a weld seam in a steel shaft or a composite rod inserted along the length of a graphite shaft.  A "spine" simply refers to a plane of greatest stiffness or most resistence to bending within a shaft.  Although light years ahead of only a few years ago, manufacturing tolerances and techniques are simply not able to produce a completely uniform shaft in all dimensions including straightness and flex in every direction of possible shaft load.
     As with many other subjects in the game of golf, clubmaking not withstanding, you are bound to run across a veritable smorgasbord of opinions on the relevance and proper technique of shaft spine alignment when building quality golf clubs.  Opinions vary from "I will not build a set of clubs without aligning all the spines in a certain direction," to "It really isn't necessary".  As a Golfer I can see the benefits of the concept.  As a Clubmaker I see the need for a method to ensure consistency from club to club.  As a Scientist, I am still struggling with the current methodology for determining and then aligning the "spine" of the golf shaft.  Hopefully, by combining all three of my personalities, I can best serve my clients by providing the highest quality equipment available. 
     The concept of spine alignment is simple...align the stiffest plane of the golf shaft in a manner that will produce consistent club behavior swing after swing.  It makes sense on a fundamental level.  This definition opens the door for the scientist to ask, "IF I can find the plane of greatest stiffness, what direction should I align it to because the golf shaft is loaded in at LEAST two different planes during the swing.  The first plane being the heel toe plane as the downswing is initiated, and second most prominent is the face back plane as the clubhead bends forward at release."  Now we have identified two planes.  What happens now when we further compound the problem by introducing individual swing characteristics and shaft load patterns?  Some golfers do not release the club, some release the club too early essentially eliminating the forward bending of the shaft at impact.  How should we align the shaft spines to maximize their performance?  Other golfers load the shaft hard with a quick transition while still others are silky smooth swingers that place a minimal load on shaft while still producing great clubhead speed.  How should we address their spine alignment? 
     I am neither naive or arrogant enough to profess that I have all of the answers.  I have done enough research  and experimentation to develop my personal philosophies and prove that they work when applied to specific situations.  If you have questions on spine alignment or are simply interested in the concept and would like to chat, please drop us a line at  WE LOVE TALKING SHOP!

Fairways and Greens.

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