Journey to the Worlds: Interview with Shaft Maker Bob Kent
All golf club shafts are not created equal. I learned first hand when I was doing extensive equipment testing with Leith Anderson of the Golf Lab that even identical-looking shafts from the same company, with the same frequency and flex specification, can vary significantly. And then, of course, the club performance will vary as well.
So I’m picky about the shafts I use in my long drive clubs and in my playing driver.
A few years ago a new shaft company called “House of Forged” burst on the long drive scene and proceeded to notch a win in the World Long Drive Championship. I got a chance to experiment with House of Forged shafts and there’s no denying the quality and reliability. I have them in a couple of long drive clubs, and I use House of Forged in my playing driver.
A short while ago the founder of House of Forged, Robert Kent, paid a visit to my office (the range) to work with some of our local long drivers. I grabbed Bob for an impromptu interview. Bob is very knowledgeable and articulate, and I think you’ll find his insights thought-provoking.
Hey, just because I’m a bit out of commission with the torn rotator cuff doesn’t mean that I’m not constantly learning at every opportunity. Anything for that slight edge …
Here is the interview with Bob.
Please post a comment and click the “Like” button. I’d love to hear from you.
I have slowed my swing down to hit more accurately. Obviously with the increased accuracy I’ve lost about 15 yards. Here in the desert I use to hit 300 yard drives regularly and now it’s more like 280. I’m wondering if my shaft is now too stiff as it seems like I’m not getting much out of it. I’m not complaining at the accuracy for my scores, but the loss in distance is a little blow to the ego LOL!
Have been using all your techniques for driving longer drives, but how do you know if you are using the optimal shaft for you? I do club repair and have a working knowledge, but how do YOU arrive a the best shaft? Many thanks!
Good question, and a VERY complicated one to answer for me. But that’s because in long drive I am operating at the extreme edge of performance. Every yard counts, and every ball in the grid counts.
The short answer to your question is that I test everything.
Through testing I have been able to narrow the range of club specifications to the ones that allow me to perform best. We build clubs within that range, then I test them on the range using both visual results as well as statistics from a launch monitor.
In the end it is the performance that matters most.
Here are some of the variables:
Driver loft. Driver loft affects both launch angle, trajectory, and spin rates. My goal is to optimize trajectory for the best combination of carry/roll-out. The ideal launch angle for me is about 13 degrees with a spin rate around 2,200 rpms to create a relatively flat, or parabolic, trajectory. For most amateurs launch angle should be a little – 14 to 16 degrees, and spin rates should be around 3,000 to 3,500 rpms. The longer a ball stays in the air the farther it will travel. I’ve found through experimentation that a 5 degree loft in my long drive clubs gives me the launch angle and spin rate I’m looking for. In my playing driver, however, I use either a 7.5 or 8.5 degree loft. My playing driver is shorter (45 inches vs a 48 inch long drie club), and the difference in length affects launch angle as well as spin.
SHAFT. As you heard from Robert Kent’s talk the shaft may be the most critical component of the club. There are a lot of variables to play with: length, stiffness, kickpoint, torque, spine orientation, and weight. The critical thing about the shaft is to get it to release correctly at impact. And that depends on the type of swing you have. I have a relatively smooth and constant acceleration from the top of the backswing through impact, so I am looking for a shaft that doesn’t release until impact. By using high-speed video I’ve learned that my shaft loads at the top, unloads as I start my downswing, reloads about half-way down the backswing, and releases at impact. For me, a stiffer shaft performs better. But many long drivers and even amateurs get their hands to the impact area so fast that the shaft doesn’t have time to unload, reload, and release. Their sequence is load-release. A more flexible shaft seems to work better for these types of swings. What I’m looking for at impact on the high speed video is to see the shaft bending so that the clubhead is ahead of the shaft. We experiment with different kick-points to see how they affect the shaft release. We’re adjusting the kickpoint by either tipping the shaft or by stiffening the butt end with a special insert. Thus far I’ve had the best results by stiffening the grip end of the shaft. That allows me to get more of a crack-the-whip effect. But again my goals in long drive are different than when I play. In long drive I’m after maximum distance. When I play it’s far more important for me to hit fairways, so I am after maximum consistency. In my playing driver I use a high-quality shaft from House of Forged with very low twist or torque. It doesn’t maximize my distance, but it does allow me to find more fairways.
Hope this helps. Great question!