Clubmakers are a tinkering breed. Anyone who builds, repairs or adjusts golf equipment has a natural inclination to fiddle around with their many parts, not only for pleasure, but for better performance. While the average golfer knows either nothing or very little about the adjustability of their equipment, a clubmaker is well aware that a golf club is no different from a pocket watch. It can be disassembled by anyone, but only someone knowledgeable can put it back together to perform properly.
On January 1, 2008, the new golf equipment adjustability rule went into effect. The new rule enacted by the United States Golf Association (USGA) is not quite as definitive as the other Rules of Golf. The USGA will review new equipment with adjustable features on a case-by-case basis. Who knows what manufacturers will be introducing in the coming years? Attempting to police it ahead of time could be challenging, so they are prepared to evaluate each new product as it’s introduced.
Clubmakers know that the ability to alter golf equipment has been around for years. Of course, certain tools have been required, such as propane torches, epoxy, bending bars, etc. Even prior to the new USGA rule, there has been a trend toward equipment adjustability in the form of weighting screws for heads and counterweighting parts for grips. However, the new USGA rule now makes possible quick interchangeability of heads, shafts and grips.
Quick interchangeability occurs not by means of torches and epoxy, but instead through mechanical locking mechanisms. This can streamline the fitting process. Club fitters prefer to test different shaft models using the same head as a benchmark for performance. You can now do so using a single head with multiple shafts. The reverse can also be pursued. Once a golfer identifies their preferred shaft, various heads can be attached to it to determine which loft or model achieves the desired performance. In either case, the interchangeability between components is quickly executed and results can be seen immediately. It sure beats waiting for the epoxy to dry!
Golfsmith has a new interchangeable fitting system that allows this practice with our Snake Eyes Python XL, Viper Tour and Mamba II driver heads. The new Elite Lynx Black Cat driver will also be available as an interchangeable component. Special versions of these heads are threaded at the bottom of the hosel. A threaded SmartFit Conex adapter is epoxied to the shaft and the two parts screw together to create a hittable golf club. Sound simple? From a mechanical perspective, it is. However, a tremendous amount of engineering was required to make the system so simple to use.
Currently the Snake Eyes and Lynx interchangeable system is not USGA conforming. However, we are working on modifications to make it a conforming system.
In the meantime, some manufacturers are introducing their own interchangeable shaft and head systems. This is going to bring a greater focus to the individual components that make up the golf club. While these components may seem foreign to some, clubmakers will be familiar with the dynamic impact on ball flight created by a wise selection of complementary parts.
Those unfamiliar with equipment fitting will only be able to make limited use of interchangeable components. While the proper head and shaft may be identified in this process, there are still the factors of proper length, swingweight, grip size, lie, face angle, etc. that are very important for an optimized fit. So, while the interchangeable equipment rule opens up a new frontier for everyone, it is experienced fitters and clubmakers that can derive the greatest benefit from this new change.