Long Drive Science

By Carter Penley

Although this article dates back to 1990, all theories and analysis are still pertinent today:   

Over the past few years interest in Long Drive Competition has grown and along with that growth so has the popularity of the graphite shafted club; the weapon of choice for all serious Long Drive Competitors.

This fact should not be a surprise to anyone when you consider the versatile design of carbon fiber materials. And no one understood this better than Joe Bianchi, who for the past several years was looking for (to quote Joe) “The best graphite shaft in the industry”. So far Joe had tried them all except for the Penley Power Shaft.

That was the basis of our first meeting, to determine not if we could develop a shaft, but which of our current designs would best fit Joe’s requirements. I recommended two shafts that I thought would be most suited for the task at hand. Joe played them both and selected one that was subsequently tested at different lengths, heads and head weights to fine tune for the best combination possible.

These were the results. Joe out drove 55 competitors to become the #1 qualifier for The “Chrysler” Long drive, San Diego sectional, and then went on to out drive the 26 competitors at the State sectional qualifier to capture the “Chrysler” Long Drive 11th district (California State) competition. This is an impressive feat when you consider we used a shaft from our standard line and Joe Bianchi is not the hulking mass most professional long drivers are. (Joe is approximately 5’11” and 185Ibs.)

I was quite confident that one or more shafts in our Penley Power Shaft line would work because of one basic theory, FEEL. This is not measured in robotics, pure number crunching or following the lemmings, by just designing another tapered plastic tube!

Quite simply I look at things differently than many other designers or manufactures; for instance, set aside the usual design theories and ask;

· If one horsepower is one horsepower (and mathematically it pencils out) then why is one horse faster than another?

· If two race car engines are assembled to the exact same specifications, then why will one engine develop more horsepower than the other?

· If you assemble two golf clubs, using shafts of different manufactures, to the same specifications (length, swing weight, over-all-weight & grips) and by the same clubmaker, why will one club yield more distance or better dispersion or both?

Obviously there are many factors to consider, but one word in my opinion can best sum it all up and that word is efficiency!!!!! More specifically ETA (energy transfer accelerance). Ultimately, a golf shaft must be very efficient from tip to butt to give the best ETA performance:

1. The shaft must have the highest quality carbon fiber not too stiff) to withstand maximum compressive loads and still exhibit enough yield to be able to recover quickly enough to generate the highest head speeds possible.

2. Preferably, the shaft must have the highest quality epoxy matrix to bond the fibers and transfer the highest percentage of flexural loads possible.

3. Preferably, the shaft should be one complete piece no matter the length from tip to butt.

4. The shaft must effectively transfer back to the player a positive feel throughout the entire swing and thru impact.

5. The club head must recover within milliseconds prior to impact.

6. The shaft must perform with a very high degree of consistency for distance and dispersion.

7. The shaft must not be super sensitive to head weight variations.

8. The shaft must be of such a design as to deliver the above qualities at a wide range of swing speeds.

The shaft Joe is currently using performs very well from approximately 70 mph to 145 mph.

Needless to say, these designs incorporate the highest grade of fibers available and the blending of as many as three to five different grades of fiber and epoxy matrixes along with unique fiber patterns, mandrel designs, and manufacturing processes, and several years of continuous testing and along with a high degree of R&D activity all of which are proprietary to Penley Power Shaft.

Joe Bianchi’s longest drive to date with a Penley shaft is 478 yards with 455 yards of carry (Joe also had the longest district qualifying drive last year 392 yards recorded by the LOA) Surveyors report and signed witness reports on file at Penley.


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