Have you ever wondered why some golfers have a tendency to favor certain golf clubs in their bag while avoiding other golf clubs at all costs?
This page will explain why and show you how to fill your bags with favorite golf clubs.
What is a spine?
The spine is the part of the shaft that is more resistant to bending than any other part.
A spine exists in all shafts; regardless of the material they are made from (steel, titanium, graphite, etc.) and regardless of the manufacturing process.
The spine is a flaw in the shaft, caused by any number of manufacturing inconsistencies e.g. the shaft not being perfectly round or straight, being thinner or thicker at different points or maybe an imperfection in the shafts material.
A Spine should be visualized as a backbone or ridge in the golf shaft, running down its length, more resistant to bending than any other part of the shaft.
When a golf club is swung it is forced to bend; this flexed shaft will then naturally want to straighten and return towards it’s spine and should the spine is misaligned to the club face it will leave the club face slightly open or closed on impact.
This will result in off center hits, lost distance, inconsistency and a general feeling that the club is not working for you.
What can be done?
I start by finding the shafts spine, once found, I align and install the shaft into the club head so the spine works with your swing and not against it.
To my knowledge, no club manufacturers supplying the mass market (regardless of their pedigree) are spine aligning their shafts, for a very simple reason, the process of spinning takes time and requires a skill level that does not lend itself to their assembly lines.
If, when you acquired your golf clubs, the phrases, shaft spine, flow, shaft purring, shaft alignment or shaft orientation, (all different terms for locating a shafts spine) were not mentioned, it’s a matter of luck whether the shafts in your golf clubs are positioned correctly and the club is performing as well as it should.
As a professional club maker I want every club I build or rebuild to be the best it can possibly be and believe the process of shaft spine alignment, will without question, give any club more distance and improved consistency.
An added benefit
On a graphite shaft the normal position for the shafts spine is face up, this gives the shaft optimum resistance to shaft drop. (For info on shaft droop read up on the effect of shaft flex and club length on lie angles on the loft and lie page)
In February 1999 the golf’s governing bodies modified the rule on golf shafts that required all shafts to “bend symmetrically in all directions”, they decided it was no longer against the rules to orientate the shaft in the club head, as long as the shaft imitated the effect of bending symmetrically (you are not allowed to orientate the shaft to make a club that produces a draw or fade).
The reason for the change was proof that the shaft manufactures have not and cannot make a shaft with the symmetrical properties required without raising prices to unrealistic levels.
Shaft orientation also know as spining, puring, or optimizing USGA Ruling:
Because of a change in the interpretation of a USGA rule. Rule 4-1b states: b. SHAFT The shaft shall be generally straight, with the same bending and twisting properties in any direction Appendix II 4-1b states, BENDING AND TWISTING PROPERTIES.
The shaft must be so designed and manufactured that at any point along its length: (i) it bends in such a way that the defection is the same regardless of how the shaft is rotated about its longitudinal axis, and (ii) it twists the same amount in both directions.
The intent of the Rule is to prevent the manufacture of shafts, which would enhance the shot due to their asymmetrical shape.
For instance, a shaft which would be made oblong to take advantage of its none symmetrical properties.
There is a catch 22 here. It is impossible to construct a shaft, which is perfectly symmetrical.
No matter how well a shaft is made. No matter how tight the construction tolerances are in making the shaft.
It is impossible for a shaft to be made which holds the exact same wall thickness all the way around its circumference.
Every shaft made has a spine or heavy area running its length. As stated above this spine or heavy area is created as a part of the shaft making process.
The shaft is then stiffer where this spine is located.
This is evident when you place the shaft in a frequency machine and rotate it. It will read stiffer when the spine is oriented in the direction the shaft is deflected.
Clubmakers have known for years that this has an effect on the performance of the club.
It can have an even bigger effect on the feel of the club. When the spine is set at 90 degrees to the direction of the shot, toward the heel of the club or away from the golfer (toward the toe), the club is effected adversely.
In research done by Tom Wishon while he was at Golfsmith he found that there was a difference of about 2 miles per hour ball speed between the shaftss worse and best orientation.
There was also a launch angle difference of .7 degrees lower when the spine was located in the best orientation.
An independent study on spine alignment was undertaken by Golf Science Consultants Inc, performed by J. Howard Butler, President of Golf Science Consultants, Inc, and former vice-president of shaft technology at True Temper, clearly indicated that when the golf shaft is properly aligned the club becomes more stable, improving the impact repeatability (more on centre hits).
In all golfers tested impact repeatability improved from 14 to 51% when changing from non-aligned to spine aligned golf clubs.
Some “on center” science
Golf Digest recently reported on tests conducted by Dr. P. C. Chou of the Drexel University Ballistics Research Centre, which revealed that a player loses about six yards for every two-tenths of an inch they miss the center of the club (the sweet spot).
What Others Say
Tom Stine, PGA Tour Partners Magazine. September/October 2002: “The bottom line is that if the spines are not set in the club heads at the proper angle in relation to the clubface, we are not getting the most out of our golf clubs and we will continue to have golf clubs that will perform differently than others.
Did spine aligning my golf clubs make a difference? It sure did. I’m hitting my 8-iron, 9-iron and wedge further. I also noticed that I hit my woods straighter, and I don’t hate my 6-iron anymore.”
John Gordon, National Press, May 1999: “In auto-speak, no matter how good or expensive the tires on your car, you won’t get optimum performance if your wheels aren’t aligned.”
Harry Coffee, Fenwick Shaft’s Director of Composites, March 2000: “having shaft spines aligned in the plane of the swing is better than having them haphazardly positioned in a set of golf clubs”
Golf International Magazine In its April 05 issue celebrating its 50th edition, Golf International Magazine put Shaft Alignment on its list of the 25 most essential equipment developments in 500 years of golf history and was included alongside Gene Sarazen’s innovative sand wedge and the introduction of metal woods.
Do the tour pros have their shafts aligned?
Yes, the PGA and Champions tours in the States must have close to a 100% take up in this technology, with the Europeans and the rest of the World hot on their heels.
The next time you watch a Tour pro in action, take a close look at their graphite golf clubs and the location of the manufacturer’s logos on the shafts.
Chances are that they won’t all be facing up, as they are on your golf clubs. Instead they’ll be rotated to various positions, because their golf clubs have been spine aligned, the logos started out on top, but were moved when the shafts were rotated and re-aligned.
Can I have my shafts re-aligned?
Yes, regardless of whether you are having new golf clubs built or you are fine tuning your old equipment you can benefit from this technology.