During the golf swing, the shaft bends in so many ways and in so many places that we wonder how the ball can be hit straight. But it all works out. Read this description of something that looks simple only when we see it at high speed.
The clubhead of an iron weighs about eight ounces. The entire golf club weighs about fourteen. When the club moves away from the ball, the flexible shaft gets ahead the movement of the clubhead; that is, the shaft bends in a concave direction in regard to the target. The clubhead remains in this lagging position throughout the backswing.
At the top of the backswing the clubhead catches up again just before the reversal of direction the swing. But as before, when the clubs starts swinging down, the heavy clubhead gets left behind, bending the shaft again, but in the opposite way than it bent at takeaway.
The downswing accelerates the clubhead, whereas the backswing it was decelerating. At some point in the downswing, the accelerating clubhead passes the shaft, causing the shaft to bend in the opposite direction, a concave shape relative to the target, as the clubhead approaches the ball.
The clubhead now behaves as if it were a freewheeling object. This bending of the shaft causes the clubface to be closed at impact by about 2 degrees. In addition to being bent a bit backwards, the shaft also bends downward, somewhat like a fishing pole bent downward by the weight of the lures tied to the line.
This downward bending causes the lie of the club to flatten out, and must be taken into account when the lie of the club is determined during club-fitting. The amount of the bend can between from 1 to 3 degrees, depending on shaft flex and clubhead speed.
So again, we manage to hit the ball straight in spite of this high-speed noodling. Knowing this makes golf a little more interesting, but don’t get caught up in all of it when you swing. Let this be something that keeps club designers awake at night.
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