Industry Standards?

It is surprising that there aren’t “Industry Standards” for golf club specifications.

What is the standard length for a driver?

What is the standard loft of a 5 iron?

Is Company A’s stiff flex shaft the same as Company B’s? What about the torque of comparable graphite shafts?

If you start comparing the actual specifications of golf clubs, you will find that each company has it’s own “standards” and there are no industry-wide standards. A good example of this is the torque of a graphite shaft. When we were sourcing our MFP (Made for Persimmon) graphite shaft, we wanted a torque measurement that was good for a variety of golfers. What we found is that the manufacturing companies measure torque differently.

The lack of industry standards can be confusing for the consumer. For instance, a golfer hits his 6 iron pin high on par three, while his playing partner takes out a 7 iron and hits it to the same spot. Does this mean that one person hits the ball farther than the other? Possibly, but since there are no industry standards the 7 iron may have the same specs as the 6 iron!

All of this is leading me back to a time when the golf industry and the US government tried to establish specifications for golf shafts…… hickory golf shafts. The year was 1929, which was just a few years before the end of the hickory era. The US Bureau of Standards assembled a “joint conference of representative manufacturers, users, and general interests” to recommend a commercial standard for hickory golf shafts. The result of that conference was “Commercial Standard CS18-29” which described the a) size and general requirements for quality, b) Grades based on the mechanical test, c) methods of testing.

Click here to download the Commercial Standard CS18-29 specs.

It is interesting to note that these standards were for hickory shafts for iron headed clubs only. I think by this time most woods were being shafted with steel shafts made by either Brunswick or True Temper. As a maker of hickory shafts, I can see why steel would replace hickory in woods before irons. It is much more difficult to make a hickory shaft for a wood than for an iron. And from a performance perspective, the steel shaft in the wood improved the performance of the wood, especially in terms of distance. However, in the irons, loft for loft, there was no difference in distance and many golfers preferred the soft feel of the hickory shaft.

I have always been interested in these commercial standards especially since they can connect the hickory shafts that we make today with the hickory shafts that were made in the 1920’s. Today, when we say a hickory shaft is a regular flex or stiff flex, how does that relate to what they thought was a regular or stiff flex shaft in the 1920’s?

Today we use a CPM meter to determine the stiffness of a shaft. The higher the number the stiffer the shaft. In the Commercial Standards brochure, the stiffness of the shaft was measured by how many pounds of force were applied when the shaft was bent a specific distance. Based on these measures the shafts were graded into the following categories:

Goose: Over 40 pounds

Owl: 34 to 39 pounds inclusive

Lark: 28 to 33 pounds inclusive

Falcon: Below 28 pounds


In order to make this connection, we need a method of testing the shafts in the same manner as they did in the 1920’s. And the Commercial Standard CS18-29 has a blueprint of the machine that was used to measure the shafts. So with the help of our friends at Jefferson Community and Technical College we are having an exact machine built. The machine will be delivered to us at the end of the week and I am anxious to compare today’s standards to the standards established in 1929.

At least this was one time when the golf industry got together and developed an industry-wide set of standards. I don’t think we would see the same cooperation today.


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1 comment

  • RIchard JOnes

    Thanks for those terrific articles.
    I’m always surprised how little golfers, not just new golfers, know of golfing history particularly lofts and ball types over time.
    I often enjoy playing with my old Ping Eye Twos, ‘correct‘, great to swing.
    You talked of a need for regulations on lofts, if that was done,unlikely, how would The manufacturers then able to boast “extra distance”

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