Iron shafts, wood shafts and who uses what

Contributing Columnist

I was asked this week to discuss iron shafts. Much is written about shafts for woods, but little is mentioned relative to iron shafts.

A strange statistic is revealed relative to the usage of iron shafts by tour pros. Seventy-eight percent of the top 200 tour pros use steel shafts, whereas 82 percent of tour pros use graphite woods and 85 percent of them use metal woods. In comparison to amateur players, a poll recently taken determined that 81 percent of amateurs use graphite iron shafts as well as wood shafts. The response to the question as to why pros use steel iron shafts most often was the ability of tour pros to have greater control with steel-shafted irons. Most amateurs have been sold graphite in all clubs basically so that manufacturers would have the ability to sell more replacement clubs. It won’t be long before a new material will show up forcing us to buy new clubs.

There is a section in The Rule of Golf, Appendix II (page 126) that determines the “Design of Clubs.” For example the length of a club cannot exceed 48 inches and must be longer than 18 inches. Some years ago, Hubie Green actually used a putter that was shorter than 18 inches. The measurement of length is taken when the club is lying on a horizontal plane and the sole is set against a 60-degree plane. Clubs in breach of the maximum length limit as specified in Appendix II, lc, which were in use or marketed prior to Jan. 1, 2004, and which otherwise conform to the Rules, may no longer be used.

The shaft must be straight from the top of the grip to a point more than five inches above the sole, measured from the point where the shaft ceases to be straight along the axis of the bent part of the shaft and the neck and/or socket. This rule thereby permits putters to have crooked putter heads, which many players use today.

It is permissible for putters to have grips that are not circular in nature. They may have a flat surface. However, for clubs other than putters, the grip must be circular in cross section, except that a continuous, straight, slightly raised rib may be incorporated along the full length of the grip, and a slightly indented spiral is permitted on a wrapped grip or a replica of one.

The material and construction of, or any treatment to, the face or clubhead must not have the effect at impact of a spring, or impart significantly more or less spin to the ball than a standard steel face, or have any other effect which would unduly influence the movement of the ball. This has caused much concern in the last few years, which permits a tour pro using a high impact spring-like driver to hit a ball 325 yards.

I sincerely hope I didn’t confuse my readers, but these Rules have caused a great deal of consternation to the USGA and the Royal and Ancient. If improvement of clubs and the distance they permit a ball to travel might some day have the affect of making many shorter courses obsolete. It is the function of the Rules makers not to allow this to happen.

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Quiz yourself
Here are a few questions that might interest you:

1. In match play, a player’s line of putt will take the ball off the green on its way to the hole. His caddie touches the ground with the flagstick on the fringe to indicate where the player should aim. Is this a penalty?

2. Is it permissible to place a marker on the green in front of your ball, rather than behind it?

3. A ball comes to rest on a cart path made of compressed soil. Is the player entitled to relief without penalty?

4. A ball on the fairway is covered with mud. Can you mark its position, pick it up and clean off a portion to identify it?


1. Rule 16-la. Prohibition is on touching the line of putt. Hence, there is a penalty.

2. There is no penalty; you can mark a ball on any side of the ball, Rule 20-1/19. However, you must return the ball to the same position when you replace it.

3. No. A cart path that has not been artificially surfaced is not an obstruction, Rule 24/9.

4. Yes, Rule 12-2 but only clean the amount of mud necessary to identify the ball.

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