As a young man Joseph M. Braly lied about his age to join the Air Force, and served as a fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean War. After WWII he enrolled at Auburn University and bought a gas station in Auburn on the same day. At Auburn Braly earned degrees in aeronautical engineering and veterinary medicine.
After graduating from veterinary school in 1960 he moved to Lancaster and then Chester County, where he opened a small animal hospital. He joined the Kennett Square Golf & Country Club and as a golfer he became interested in the design of golf clubs.
In 1973 he designed the Console Sand Wedge, which had a wide concave sole and sold quite successfully. Soon after that he designed a golf club using titanium for the head, which was a first. In 1976 he created and patented a frequency-matching (FM) tool that revolutionized the steel golf shaft. The tool measured the flex in a shaft. With the shaft clamped in a vise the tip would be flipped and as it vibrated it would break a light beam which registered a reading. The stiffer the shaft the faster it vibrated and the higher the reading.
Before Joe Braly the golf shaft came in five flexes; from L for ladies to X for extra stiff. The tolerances for each flex were far from tight. The good golfers were able to sense that their irons did not all perform quite the same and had the ability to make adjustments for each club.
Braly came up with flex readings from1.0 to 9.9. A reading might be 6.1 or 7.6. Most golfers needed something from 5.0 to 8.0. Every time Dr. Braly tested a good players’ clubs, he would find several different flexes. He would ask the person which clubs he liked the best, and then he would reshaft all of the set with that flex.
The Ram Golf Company was the first to embrace Braly’s idea. Ram Golf salesman, Brian Doyle, recruited Tom Robertson, who was one of the best ball strikers in the Philadelphia PGA as a
test pilot for the FM shaft. Braly was able to tell right away which shaft was the right one for Tom and whether his FM idea was any good. With the FM shafts in his bag Robertson
qualified for the 1983 PGA Championship, and the PGA of America Cup team for club professionals that traveled to Scotland to take on the British PGA club pros.
From there Dr. Braly took a tour-van out to the PGA Tour, which was also a new idea, to promote his invention. At the 1982 Western Open Braly reshafted Tom Weiskopf’s clubs and he
went on to win that week. There were numerous success stories. Tom Watson was on the Ram Staff and used the FM system. Calvin Peete, the straightest driver on the PGA Tour, won all
of his tournaments after switching to Ram and FM shafts. Other early disciples of frequency matching were Patty Sheehan and Jay Sigel. Today Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth use golf shafts based on Braly’s theories.
As a result of Joe Braly’s frequency matching idea the steel golf shaft is now offered by the shaft makers in many more flexes for each category, such as S100, S200, S300, S400 and S500. The Philadelphia pros and amateurs were always welcome at his lab. Some have called Braly the father of the modern steel shafted golf club. He died this past Memorial Day at the age of 92 and was buried in Arlington Cemetery.