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What are Shaft Lead and Shaft Lag?

shaftleadandlag_300For the technically minded golfer, a frequent question that we encounter is exactly how does a golf shaft bends during its down swing? And how does the bending affect your shaft selection? This is a subject matter that, to our knowledge, has never been covered by any golf publication before. We are happy to share with you what we know.
First of all, everything on this planet is affected by gravity. Therefore, throughout the entire downswing the golf shaft will bend downward to a varying degree due to gravity. People in the golf industry have called this phenomenon drooping or toe down deflection.
This downward bend will affect your lie at impact. That is why the best way to determine a proper lie is to swing the club over a black rubber matt and see the location of the scratch mark on the sole. If the scratch mark is near the heel, the lie is too upright. If the scratch mark is near the toe, the lie is too flat.

Now that we are done with the gravity issue, let's talk about the shaft bending induced by your swing. Please keep in mind that we can only address this issue in general terms, because after all each golfer's swing is different. Shaft lead occurs as the golf shaft bends forward in the direction of the swing plane. Shaft lag results as the golf shaft bends backwards in the direction of the swing plane.

On the down swing, at around the 10 to 11 o'clock hand position, a golfer will generally engage his initial load. In response, the golf shaft will lag. Upon reaching the peak of his initial load, the acceleration rate will drop while the player's swing speed continues to increase. Therefore, at around the 9 o'clock position, the acceleration will pass the initial peak and the shaft will transition into a leading position, forward bending.

The golf shaft will stay leading unless the golfer engages a second load, commonly known as delayed release or wrist snapping, at 7 to 8 o'clock hand position. A moderate delayed release will likely bring the golf shaft to a relatively straight position. A strong delayed release will cause the shaft to lag again.
Looking at the acceleration pattern alone, a strong delayed release will produce a secondary peak of acceleration. Whether the golfer has one peak or two peaks in his acceleration pattern, his swing speed will continue to increase throughout the down swing prior to impact.

What does this whole picture mean? If the shaft leads forward at impact, the golf shaft will not contribute much to the kick that golfers are seeking to get that extra distance. Therefore, most respected golf instructors today teach delayed release to keep the golf shaft in the position of a slight lag to give the golf ball an extra kick. It is like pulling back a bow prior to releasing an arrow.

Shaft lead will occasionally cause an unexpected problem that is more commonplace with better golfers. If the golfer is an excellent golfer who happens to generate shaft lead, he will naturally be counting on having the shaft lead to give him a little bit of timing advantage because the club head is traveling ahead of the shaft with a slightly closed face. If this golfer loses the lead, he will push the golf ball to the right.

How about delayed release? A common problem we encountered is shaft lag combined with a slow-recovering golf shaft. It is like pulling a bow with a loose string. You can guess that the arrow will not go very far. The stronger the delayed release the golfer has, the faster the shaft recovery he needs to have to optimize the performance of his club. This is one of the reasons why we integrated titanium into our graphite matrix to take advantage of the high memory that is inherent in titanium to provide a fast shaft recovery.

Shaft lead or shaft lag bring about unique issues that every experience club fitter need to consider to derive a satisfactory solution to a golfer seeking assistance.