Golf Club Specs: Little Things that Count, Part One

Sometimes the devil is in the details. Here are some often-overlooked equipment specifications that can make a big difference in how a club feels and performs.

Bag DropMost golfers are aware of basic club specs when they venture out to buy new sticks or, better still, be fit for them. Shaft flex, lie angle, and perhaps driver loft are all well-known ways of matching clubs to your swing. We wrote about some of these in earlier Bag Drops you can find here and here.

But there are a number of other factors that go into the way a club works for you. Some are so subtle that only someone playing as much as a touring professional can feel or see the difference. Even so, sometimes tweaking a little something here or there can make a positive change in your game.

So here are some things to check out next time you’re buying, or when you think you might want to play around with your current clubs…

Driver Crown Welding
I saw this come into play much more some years ago when metal drivers were first introduced. Still, every once in awhile, I see it again.

The way most drivers are made the crown, or top of the head, including the hosel, is welded or fused in some fashion to the body of the driver. Sometimes in the manufacturing process the crown is skewed ever so slightly as it’s attached. The result is a head with a slightly more open or closed clubface than normal that may even rest on the ground differently at address.

Years ago I remember looking at a bunch of the original TaylorMade Tour Burner drivers before I found one that didn’t look closed to me. This is one of the reasons even today I much prefer to buy a driver I can see in person before the purchase. As I recall, it was a TaylorMade rep back then who clued me in to what was happening.

But, as I said, I see this happening much less today. Manufacturing techniques are obviously better and more sophisticated. And that some clubmakers are offering drivers with different degrees of face angle means they have to pay much more attention to the phenomenon. Still, it’s something for which you may want to keep an eye out.

Unitized vs. Taper-Tipped Iron Shafts
This is a somewhat subtle variance the merits of which can be argued till the cows come home. But even I, an average club player, can feel the difference.

Unitized shafts, or parallel-tipped shafts, exist because they are cheaper to use in the manufacturing process. Sometimes labeled as .370″ tip shafts, or designated by a “U” on the shaft band, they allow clubmakers to use just one kind of shaft and trim it from the tip to get the proper length for every iron in the set.

Taper-tipped shafts, generally .355″ in diameter at the tip, require multiple lengths to be made. One shaft might do for the 3- and 4-iron, another length might be required for the 5- and 6-irons. This obviously complicates manufacturing and adds cost.

True Temper says their taper-tip shafts are constant weight, meaning each shaft weighs the same from the 1-iron through the wedges. Their unitized shafts, because they are trimmed from the tip, descend in weight as the clubs get shorter.

To me the difference in feel is small, but definitely noticeable. Taper-tipped shafts feel more responsive and lively at impact as well as more consistent through the set. Unitized shafts feel a little dead to me. Maybe it has something to do with the way vibration is better transmitted up a tapered sounding board. But that’s just a wild guess. I just know there is a difference.

A quick check reveals that not every manufacturer declares whether a particular iron model is made with unitized or taper-tipped shafts. In my experience, and generally speaking, most forged irons use taper-tipped shafts while cast irons use unitized.

The exception to the latter is Ping, which has always used taper-tipped shafts in their cast irons. I heard from a Mizuno rep last year that all their irons are shafted with taper tips. Others, like Adams, TaylorMade, and Callaway, as examples, use the different kinds of shafts in different models.

Butt Diameter
Do you know how big your butt is? Of course I’m talking about the butt of your club shaft.

Steel shaft makers use butt diameter to help them produce the desired stiffness in the shaft. For instance in True Temper’s TT Lite XL shaft line the A and L flex shafts have a butt diameter of .580″ while the R and S flexes are .600″.

Graphite shafts, however, use butt diameter to better distribute weight along the length of the shaft. Thus, graphite shaft butts are typically larger. For instance, the butt diameter of the Aldila VS Proto shaft in my hybrids is .625″. The butt diameter of the SuperFast 50 Fujikura shaft in my TaylorMade Burner driver is .620″.

Who cares? Well, if you regrip your own clubs or if you want to make sure the guy who does is doing it right, you’ll want to make sure they’re putting the right size grip on the shaft.

Grips come in different core diameters, most commonly .580″ and .600″. Golf Pride and Lamkin both mark their grips just inside the lip with “58” or “60” to designate the size.

In the old days, to achieve a standard size grip you’d put a .580″ grip on a .580″ shaft. But I’ve noticed that virtually all manufacturers today are putting .580″ grips like Tour Velvets on .600″ shafts. Which is the route I take. It’s slightly oversize, but smaller than a midsize grip.

On my graphite-shafted hybrids and woods, I thus use a .600″ grip to achieve roughly the same finished size. Putting a .580″ grip on a .620″ shaft definitely makes for a different feel. Amazingly, I see people doing it all the time. Why would you want a thicker grip on your longer clubs? Why would you want one grip different at all?

What’s further amazing to me is that Winn only makes .600″ core grips and that some other manufacturers like Lamkin and Golf Pride only offer a choice of .580″ or .600″ grips in certain models in their lines.

Which means to me that if you are going to use one size grip throughout the set, you’ll have to build up the grip on your steel shafts with so they’ll end up matching the finished grip size of your graphite-shafted woods.

I won’t get into all the permutations possible matching different grip sizes to different size shafts. But I will suggest you check to make sure all your grips are the same finished size.

In the End…
We’ve rambled long enough this week on club specification minutiae. But we’ll be back next week with some more tales from somebody who has spent too much time over too many years sweating the small stuff.

9 thoughts on “Golf Club Specs: Little Things that Count, Part One”

  1. Great article, Jack. You sure know equipment.

    I had a set of 3 Cleveland 588 wedges once, and couldn’t get over how well I hit them–more consistently than I’d ever hit wedges. I asked a Cleveland rep about it and he said that they used taper tip shafts in those wedges.

    You also mentioned Winn grips. My impression–and I may be wrong–is that some of the Winn grips, being a multi-layer, engineered products as opposed to the simple rubber compound cylinder of “old fashioned” grips, don’t really have the same capacity for stretching as the old grips did, and so you have to use a core size that matches the butt diameter. I know Winn’s new line of grips are the single material, stretchable kind, but I don’t know if they offer different core diameters. I guess if they didn’t, you can build up the shaft with a layer of tape first, and check the final product with a grip guage…

    Some of the new grips are great in terms of the feel of the materials, the “groove” patterns, etc., but I stay away from any grip where I can’t “size” them by knowing the core diameter and creating the precise grip size I want in this manner. I stick mainly with the old standard Lamkin Crossline.


  2. JP,

    You make an excellent point on the Winn grips. Which brings to mind another grip trick. Rubber grips like Tour Velvets and Crosslines can be stretched down the shaft in installation, then taped off until they dry. It’s an easy way to get a thinner grip. I believe Davis Love III, among others, does this with his putter grips. But it doesn’t work so well with cord grips… or at all with Winn’s as you pointed out.


  3. Great point on the grip size. There is a Golfsmith article from last year that helped me get my grip sizes consistent, when I noticed that the different graphite shafts (Aldila NV, Grafalloy Blue) on my woods and hybrids and my steel iron shafts had different butt diameters. A grip gauge helps a lot, if you are doing yourself.

    I have a small/medium hand and wish the grip makers would make a 1/64″ undersize to fit 0.600″ plus shafts. I don’t like stretching grips because they get harder.

  4. Jay,

    Ah, a man after my own heart who can feel the difference in grips. You are absolutely correct, a grip gauge (fairly cheap at GolfWorks or Golfsmith) is the way to go if you’re uncertain about grip bore and butt diameter).

    And you are spot on correct… stretching them does make them firmer.

    Thanks for contributing!

  5. Jack,

    Your articles are very informational. I am saving up to get custom fit for a whole new set this fall and I’m trying to get as much info about every…and I mean every little thing that goes into getting properly fit. I’ve had two bad experiences with custom fitting in the past, and thanks in part to articles like these it won’t happen again.

  6. ANYONE contemplating being custom fitted should read up about Tom Wishon Golf Technology. He’s a highly respected component club maker (NOT clones or knockoffs). He was various fitters he works with throughout the country. You can be fitted without buying his clubs. BUT, you may want too.

  7. I need to regrip my Nicklaus air bears with a Vapor Ultralight graphite .82 butt dia. Orginals are Golf Pride Tour Wrap. I would prefer to install a little softer grip w/ 1/16″ oversize. What replacement grip(s) should I use. I have tried to figure it out and am more confused than ever.


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