Spinner Shaft for Wedges

With pros all around the tour being deprived of pre-2010 club face grooves system, shaft makers are quick to come out with solutions to cater for the need of check-check-bite type of scoring wedge shots on the greens. The solution is called “Spinner Shaft”. Simply put it, these shafts help to spin the ball at much higher revolution-per-minute (rpm) than normal shaft. So, exactly how much more rpm was needed to bring scoring irons shots to check and bite the greens on every occasion?

Based on robot test results, wedge fitted with Conventional Steel shaft spun the ball at about 8,000 rpm while the same wedge fitted with Spinner Steel shaft spun the ball at 8,300 rpm. In addition, lab test result shown ball launch angle of Spinner Steel shaft was about 3 degree lower than normal. So, lower ball flight trajectory coupled with increased spin rate of 300 rpm, i.e. “3%” higher than normal, could help the ball to check and bite the greens? Hmm…. questionable? Haven’t got a chance to test it out myself, but I am kind of skeptical about the lab test result from mathematical perspective. 3% increase sounded too little to create significant impact on the ball’s rpm, unless the -3 degree ball launching angle is doing most of the trick. Nonetheless, let us just respect the Spinner Steel shaft maker’s claim then, period.

Robin Arthur, the person who had contributed to the earlier successes of Grafalloy graphite shaft, has released his version of Spinner shaft in Graphite under the label XCaliber of Arthur Xtreme Engineering. Graphite! Yes, you heard me right that it is Graphite Spinner shaft. This shaft weighs only 95 g and lab test result shown that it increases ball spin rate by another 2,000 rpm (on the average) as compared to standard steel shaft. That’s 25% higher than normal wedge shafts! Hey! Lab result sounded right this time mathematically. A must try, indeed.

From USA, I air freight in 4 pieces of XCaliber Graphite Spinner 95 Stiff shafts and got them fitted on a series of Titleist Vokey wedges: 58, 54, 50 and PW (from AP2 set). Weight reduction from the shaft helped to increase the overall clubs’ swing-weight from D2 to D9. To my preference, the swing weight gain had translated to much better club head feel for all the wedges.

Course test results were as follows:

  1. Spin Rate: Very obvious spin rate improvement for the 54 degree SW, 50 degree AW and the 46 degree PW. Shots from 85m with the SW or 100m with the AW would land, check and bite. Total displacement forward on the green was less than 3 feet. Great! On some well struck shots the ball would land, check and back-spin by 1 to 2 feet. Kind of cool to watch that ball actions on the greens. As for the PW, most shots would land, check, check and bite. Total displacement forward on the green was less than 4 feet. The increased in rpm on the ball had minimized forward roll in a big way. In most occasion, forward roll wasn’t noticeable. However, there wasn’t obvious spin rate improvement from shot came out of the 58 degree LW. Perhaps the excessive airborne time resulted from its high launch angle had worn off the extra rpm before landing.
  2. Ball Flight: Despite being specified as Stiff, this shaft tends to launch the ball higher than conventional steel wedge shafts. As we know a less aggressive ball flight  trajectory means harder to be precise in shot making in the wind. A noticeable shortcoming of this graphite spinner shaft.
  3. Distance Carry: This shaft carries the ball farther than conventional steel wedge shafts by 10% to 15%. This could be due its graphite characteristic, i.e. more active shaft tip and lighten overall club weight by 35g. Lighter club yields higher swing-speed and hence longer flight distance as a result.
  4. Shot Manufacturing: Shaft tip was highly stable with Torque measured at 2.6 degree. As a result, it responded to shot making pretty well, e.g. draw, fade, de-loft punch and so on.
  5. Sand Shot: The advantage of active shaft tip, high spin construction of the shaft body and high launch angle of the shaft work like magic in the sand bunker. Coupled with higher swing-weight (D9), the LW and SW could pop ball out of any sand bunker (high or low lip) and land softly on the green with ease. Here’s my personal recall of a pleasant encounter: My shot landed at the foot of a super high lip (6 foot high) bunker. To worsen the situation, the ball seated less than 1 inch away from the bottom of the lip face. Couldn’t possibly pop the ball out from the sand in 1 for a normal circumstances. Surprise, surprise! I shot the ball up almost 12 feet high with the LW (58 degree) and it landed softly on the green. Success! At D9 swing-weight, the SW and LW could glide through sand effectively while providing excellent feedback to the execution hands at impact and follow-through. The high spin construction of the shaft provides a “push” sensation on the club head when gliding through sand. Kind of enjoyed that “push” sensation that you would’t normally find in other wedge shafts.
  6. Feel: At D9 swing-weight, the wedges were extremely good feel on the head. Good head feel was proven to be useful for shot execution around greens like, chip and run, short pitch and even flop shot. Again, the highly responsive feedback from the club head at take-way (back swing) and at impact provide precise timing trigger to the mind and hands. A plus point for golfer who consistently look for good club head feel for effective shots manufacturing. Like in the sand bunker, the “push” sensation from the high spin construction of the shaft was extremely useful in the rough or long grass. It is like a little impact booster to prevent golfer from decelerating club head speed in rough or critical pitch shots.

In conclusion, the XCaliber Graphite Spinner 95 Stiff Shaft scored 80% in overal performance rating. It could have scored 90% if not for the higher than normal ball flight. Go get hold of it before it is banned, who knows when by USGA!?

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Sand Shots….. keep your lower body quiet & …..

Sand bunker shots, be it Green-sides or Fairway bunker, can be made simple. Key to successful bunker shot lies with ones’ ability to keep his lower body QUIET. Flexing & shifting of lower body will lead to excessively thin or thick shots. Simply put it, “bunker shot are meant for the upper body”, i.e. let your Shoulder, Arms & Wrists do the job, while your legs & hip are suppose to be kept still to maintain the optimum vertical height to the ball. That explained why “active” lower body results in unfavorable inconsistent sand shots.

Fundamentally, there are differences in sand shot execution techniques between green-side & fairway bunker. However, the key note of keeping ones’ legs & hip quiet is applicable for both bunker types. First, let’s talk about green-side bunker. The following elements are important to successful green-side bunker shot, they are: (1) Position the ball forward in the stance {to promote high launch angle}, (2) Put 70% of body weight on the forward leg (left leg for right-handed-golfer) {to promote aggressive attack through the sand}, (3) Open club face before gripping the club {to promote the use of bounce-angle of the club} (4) Aim to enter the sand at approximately 2 inches before the ball {to promote the use of sand as media to lift the ball up & out of bunker}, (5) Cock the wrist early at the take-away {to generate acceleration at impact} while shorten the back-swing {to maintain accuracy of point of entry into the sand} & accelerate into the sand {to overcome resistance of the sand}, (6) Use the bounce-angle of the club to approach the sand aggressively {bounce-angle helps to glide the club head through sand while preventing massive downward descending blow}, & (7) Follow-through with wrist uncocked to the left & finish with the club head swing high into the sky {to help in launching the ball high & land soft on the greens}.

Moving to fairway bunker, a shot that is more often than not will turn out short or having the ball hit the bunker lip after impact. To avoid agony of living with bad fairway bunker shot, the following sand shot execution techniques can be of some helps, they are: (A) Check the bunker’s lip height to determine the permissible loft angle of the chosen club to clear the lip height; if not sure, it is quite safe to select any club between the 9-iron & sand wedge for the job, (B) Once the concern of lip height is cleared, next comes the selection of club to carry the right distance to target, it is always good to choose 1 to 2 clubs stronger than your normal fairway shot for the job {reason being that it is harder to execute shot in the uneven sand}, (C) Position the ball right at the center of the stance {to promote contacting the ball first before hacking into sand}, (D) Maintain good balance with 50/50 equal weight on both legs, (E) Keep lower body quiet throughout swinging motion {to promote clean sweep at the ball}, (F) Use Shoulder, Arms & Wrists to execute the shot, (G) Follow-through with club head finishes up high in the air.

Sand bunker plays an important role in golf course design. Not only it is a hazard that demands special technique to get out, it is also an unique landscape that help brighten up the golf course. So, learn to love the sand bunker. To love it, ones must first acquire the skill to get out in style. Hope the above sand shot tips can make you enjoy getting in & out of the sand with ease. Love the sand bunker & enjoy all aspects of golf thoroughly.

Golf Putting, Cure for “yips”….. Claw Grip that is!

Remember who Mark O’Mera is? He was once a leading PGA tour player and Tiger’s neighbour. O’Mera was Tiger’s flight mate for casual games and practice rounds too. Just like most weekend golfers, O’Mera’s putt was once hampered by “yips”, a golfing disease that must be fixed and its root-cause must be determined. O’Mera was quick to identify his root-cause to be his “active” right hand wrist and so the solution was to make his right wrist passive. Or, perhaps, “lock” it for good during putting stroke. This can be done by using the Claw Grip. Check this out to understand more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0Qq49sA3FU

In fact, one can re-invent their own right-hand-grip for Claw Grip to suit their own comfort and confidence. Personally, I kind of preferred Tom Kite version of Claw Grip on his right-hand. Check this out:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtmAwe1lNOM&feature=related

I feel that Claw Grip is both accurate and it has excellent distance control. Give it a shot if you are not pleased with your existing putting grip, or your existing putting grips don’t work as well as you wish. Happy putting!

golf ball analysis …. the tale of Launch Angle…..

Just a simple question: “are distance/hard surlyn cover balls really that bad a green-side performer?” Hmm….. may be not…..?

Very often we learnt from golf ball manufacturers that distance balls are too firm on their shells hence not recommended around the greens when you are engaging with the ups and downs. There are lots of technical truth for such claims. However, these claims may be more true for the pros or highly skilled golfers who can consistently & precisely accelerate their loft wedges through the ball with a steep descending blow without hesitation. Shots of such will usually go “check-check-munch” on the green with little rolling momentum. Nice shot! But, how often would the weekenders be confident enough to make steep descending blow on the ball at around green or approach the green if the green were to be guarded by bunkers, OB or red sticks at the backside? Hardly, unless there’s no stake involved. Shot of choice for weekenders would always be the “chip & run” technique, i.e. to run the ball up the green and get as close as possible to the hole and hope for a gimme. Nice shot, a different type altogether!

Let’s  take a closer look at the most useful stroke saver: “chip & run” in relation to the ball being used. As the name implied, this technique meant to lift the ball off ground, land and run on the green towards the direction of the hole. As you can see, this is not quite the same as the “check-check-munch” phenomenon. For “chip & run”, the ball in action should arm with plenty of forward rolling momentum after landing, i.e. minimum back-spin on the ball from the point it landed. As such, does it really matter if “chip & run” is being executed with ball covered with hard surlyn or soft urethane elastomer?

Allow me to share with you a little observation I chanced upon recently while I was going through my routine chipping practice. When I was chipping with a bag full of balls of different brands & constructions, I realized that no two balls were the same when comes to launch angle after impact. Some balls were more hungry for swing speed in order to air-borne while others could settle for less, i.e. a slow descending sweep was good enough to send them air-borne effortlessly.

To further confirm by observations, I conducted a set of ball launch angle experiment with a mix of 11 leading golf ball brands of different constructions with the following boundary conditions: (A) Club: 58 degree loft wedge with 8 degree bounce, (B) Surface: indoor synthetic mat, (C) Ball Impact Angle: ~ 25 degree, (D) Swing Speed: ~ 0.8 meter/second. Illustration of swing pattern for experiment proceeding, ball launch angle results & brief dissection balls’ constructions are as shown here in slide 1 & 2 respectively: swingman_chipping

Findings I could possibly extract from the launch angle experiment results are:

  1. The combination of surlyn cover (regardless of soft or hard surlyn material) + high energy core help to jet the ball off higher with ease of stroke execution, even at slow club head swing speed.
  2. Urethane elastomer cover appeared to offer little help in ball launching. However, when constructed with a high energy core, as illustrated in 2 of the ball specimens, it does help to raise the launch angle a bit but not enough to compare with those constructed with surlyn covers.
  3. The combination of urethane elastomer cover + multi-layer core seemed sluggish in ball elevation. Given all boundary conditions being equal, higher club head swing speed, e.g. 1.5 ~ 2.0 m/s, was needed to launch this class of balls to the same angles as those constructed with surlyn covers.

While chewing on the findings, I could possibly draw the following conclusions from the experiment:

  1. Higher launching angle = higher forward momentum.
  2. Balls constructed with surlyn cover (regardless of hard or soft) + high energy core are less swing speed hungry to launch high & roll far. Hence, it is well suited for slow swing speed chip & run stroke production.
  3. Balls constructed with urethane elastomer cover + multi-layer core demanded higher swing speed to achieve similar launching angles as those surlyn’s covers.
  4. Finally, if we are non frequent executor of “check-check-munch”, we might score better with surlyn cover distance balls. Distance balls are easier to chip & run at slow swing speed since slow swing speed = less chance for errors, e.g. thin or fat shot. Also, surlyn cover distance balls typically longer off the big dog (driver) & any other clubs in the bag. Those are additional helps to get weekenders closer to the hole with lesser stroke. Last but not lease, surlyn cover distance balls are relatively inexpensive and more durable.
In my opinion, urethane elastomer cover balls are meant for skilled golfers with high club head swing speed and excellent ball striking consistency & accuracy. Any less skillful than those might not able to squeeze the goodness out of the urethane elastomer cover balls. On the same notion, less skillful golfers might be shortchanged, in terms of shots executation, by these balls from tee to green from time to time. On the other side of the coin, surlyn cover distance balls are absolutely not bad a green side performer if you are not seeking for back-spin on the green on every approach shots. On the contrary, surlyn cover distance balls not only help to improve weekenders’ percentage/consistency around the green, they are longer off the tee & fairway as well, hence a more forgiving tool to improve scores.
{Technical Note}: High revolution of under-spin on the ball is key to achieve “check-check-munch” on the green. While spin rate is determined by 3 factors, they are: (1) the Coefficient of Friction (COF) between ball and club face, COF is directly proportional to angular velocity of ball spin, i.e. higher COF = higher under-spin. (2) Swing Speed of the club at impact, i.e. higher club head speed = higher under-spin. (3) High loft angle of club, i.e. higher loft angle = higher under-spin. In the case of hard surlyn distance ball, the wear resistance property of hard surlyn cover makes no effort to squeeze into the club face grooves during impact, unlike the urethane elastomer. Consequently, COF is largely reduced and hence minimum under-spin is achieved, i.e. no likely to achieve “check-check-munch” on the green.

golf grip….. black widow

I am kind of trilled with the fact that the black widow grip is both eyes catching & feels great on both hands. The multi-compound cord section for the left-hand is firm but not too hard for comfort. The soft compound section for the right-hand gives a soft feel to the bare right-hand. On the eyes catching aspect, the contrasting dual-color-tone + the images of 5 black widow (spider) added a hint of fun & liveliness to my golf clubs. This grip is great attention catcher. I was out practice at the driving range last week & I noticed golfers around were constantly attracted by the unique & good look of the black widow grip. Love it!

Keen to grip it up on your clubs too? Check the page on black widow grip on my blog & drop me an email at ox@oxputter.com to find out more.

golf….. The Grip digest…..

The genesis of good golf is in the The Grip. It is your only connection with the club & it needs to be absolutely comfortable, correct & confident to produce good ball impact & directional control. Strictly speaking there are 3 forms of gripping method, namely: (1) Overlapping or Vardon Grip [named after Harry Vardon, 1870 ~ 1937], (2) Interlocking Grip, & (3) Basball Grip. Which is the grip of choice? Well, really, it is depending on who you asked. If you asked Jack Nicklaus his answer will certainly be “the interlocking grip”. While Nick Faldo definitely sell you “the overlapping grip”. As for the baseball grip I can yet to associate it with any professional name on the tour. However, at club level, I do notice some high-handicap golfers & beginner embraced the baseball grip to generate power & get their club head square at impact, especially when they are driving with their big-dog (driver). With 8 fingers on the club, the hands and wrists are free to move, pronate & twist during motion. Very often, baseball grip will lead to both hands working in opposition, plus with nothing securing the right-hand (right-handed golfer) in position it may slip underneath the club, hence resulting in severe hook (a phenomenon of closed club face at impact). In my opinion baseball grip is not meant for serious golfer.

I spent 5 years with interlocking grip & here are my observations: (1) this grip weakened the firmness of left-hand griping on club as the left index finger (strongest finger on the left hand) is absent for the interlocking purpose. (2) with only 6 fingers on the club, this grip is the weakest among all the 3 grips, it often force golfer to grip excessively tight & hence lose flexibility in the wrists. (3) the interlocking is somewhat clumsy & it disallowed minor adjustment when come to shot manufacturing. (4) misconception of fingers interlocking could lead to full fingers interlocking & hence resulted in unnecessary injury to the interlocking fingers. In conclusion, this grip will lead to distance loss and flexibility in shot manufacturing. 

I started golfing with overlapping (Vardon) grip 15 years ago. This grip accompanied me from a 16 handicap to a single 7. Unfortunately, I dropped out of golf due to my overseas assignment during my peak. Upon my return to the game of golf I decided to make a switch to interlocking grip. I can’t remember why I made the grip change. Perhaps I was convinced by Tiger’s success tale of interlocking grip? Nonetheless, this grip change was proven a bad move & disastrous. Not only I have lost in my driving distance, my finesse for chipping & pitching were in the trash, not to mention my handicap went straight back to where I started. The clumsiness of interlocking grip was the smoking gun for my series of golfing failures for 5 years. There could be some truth in this saying: “interlocking grip is meant for folks with small hands…..” My hands are pretty huge, that could be the reason.

I made my switch back to Vardon grip, it is truly the grip that can bring both hands together & keep them working in harmony. This grip gives enough freedom for the wrists to pronate through impact during driving, it gives enough gripping strength on the left-hand (all 4 fingers on the club) to generate the necessary power for driving. The harmonized hands allow fluid wrists action for green side chipping & pitching control. Vardon grip is the grip of choice. I trust that it is meant for golfer of all level, especially for those who are looking for better game control & distance hungry. Happy golfing!

 

relax before taking golf shot …..

My tennis mate once said this: “it is harder to hit a static ball on the ground consistently than to smack one flying in mid air…….” I can’t agree more, very true indeed. Under the normal circumstances, it shouldn’t be that hard for any trained golfer to strike a still ball consistently. However, that might not be necessarily true if tension in some, or all, of those golfing muscles start to build up as you adopt the addressing posture. Addressing the ball being the most static aspect of golf, very often, sink golfer into emotion entanglement, e.g. bad experiences/memories, high expectation, high betting stake, embarrassment if fail, & etc, hence lead to unvolunteery stiffening of golfing muscles. Knowing tension is bad, golfer should engage the “quiet moment” at address to loosen those high tension hot spots from neck to toes. Develop an addressing routine checklist to relax each section of your posture from neck down to the toe. Check and relax (at address) by introducing a series of “minor motion” to all relevant muscles, one set at a time, to make sure the key golfing muscles are relax and ready to produce the stroke to perfection.

Minor Motion can be of various forms, e.g. (1) rocking: to relax neck, (2) twisting: to relax wrist & back, (3) grip & release: to relax fingers, (4) stiffen & relax: to relax back & hamstring, (5) upright & bend: to relax back & knee, (6) foot tapping: to relax ankle, (7) tip-toeing: to relax ankle & calf. These motions will help to check and unlock tension that are trapped within each set of muscles.

Important Note, as the term “minor motion” implied, one should engaged in those motions in a subtle fashion, i.e. should be carried out undetected by fellow golfers. Elaborative motions may make one looks eccentric on course. Happy golfing!