Golf Equipment Chronicles!
Read Leith's Blog Now!
Most serious golfers have become experts on graphite shafts for drivers over the last few years. Unfortunately, most of that experience came from investing another $150 or so to reshaft the $500 driver that didn't perform. It is common knowledge today that most "original equipment" shafts are relatively cheap and low quality.
Most "better amateurs" have confined their experimentation with iron shafts to trying Sensicore and Rifles - usually "Tour Flighted Rifles" or TFR's. They found they weren't much different, certainly no "breakthrough". There's a good reason. There has been very little significant change in steel shaft technology in the last 50 years. If you're looking for a "breakthrough", you have two choices. The first is to try graphite shafts in your irons. The second is to try truly lightweight steel irons from the Nippon Shaft Company.
With the advent of SST PURE ® technology, the erratic performance of graphite shafts has been controlled. This is especially important for irons. If you want to test what we're saying, you don't have to take the whole plunge. We will SST PURE ® a single club; we'd recommend your driver. Or, send us your driver and they iron out of your bag that you hate to hit. The only proof is for you to try SST PURE ® yourself.
We believe that graphite is the shaft material of the future. It has already been proven for woods, except for Tiger and everyone who wants to be Tiger. Over the next few years, we think there will be a strong move to graphite shafts in irons, particularly among better amateur golfers who have so far been afraid to make the change because of the perceived inconsistency in graphite.
If you can't imagine yourself playing graphite shafts in your irons, another reasonable alternative is to take another look at lightweight steel. Better players have been disappointed with lightweight steel shafts up until now. This has been due to absence of feel in lightweight steel shafts. Lightweight steel also has a tendency to play much stiffer than expected. We recommend the Nippon Shaft Company's lightweight steel shafts as the steel shaft of the future. "Steel with feel."
Steel v. Graphite
This is our opinion, not science.
We no longer recommend True Temper Dynamic or Dynamic Gold. They are simply too harsh. Might be OK for the pros. For some players who can't escape tradition, we recommend True Temper Dynamic Gold with Sensicore.
In Standard weight steel, we like the feel of Rifle shafts. They tend to feel "softer and squishier". The problem with Rifles has been with their consistency. They tend to be sold in sets, cut to length for easier assembly. We find them to be erratic when we measure CPM. We prefer customizing a set by starting with 1 iron shafts and cutting them to length very carefully. This technique can produce spot-on frequencies. Rifle has a new shaft, the "Project-X". They're little experience with this shaft but it has turned in a couple of PGA Tour wins. We received our first samples in mid-May and will post our hands-on experience very soon. Call for an update if you can't wait.
Our current favorite in graphite is the Apache MFS - stands for "Master Fitting System" series. K.J. Choi won at the Compaq Classic in New Orleans playing Apache shafts in his woods and irons.
Several other graphite manufacturers have promising products. We are listing Accuflex in our Products and Services section this week on the strength of their new "Icon" line. Our testing is continuous and we will report results periodically in our newsletter and on our website.
Another name to watch is the Japanese-made Nippon Shaft Company. These are ultra lightweight steel shafts. They are a little scarce and are just becoming available to custom clubmakers. We are receiving our first samples the week of May 20 so we'll have an opinion very soon. We think that this is the shaft to watch in steel.
Bend point is usually interesting to better golfers who tend to think that a "high bend point" causes a lower shot trajectory and a "low bend point" causes a higher trajectory. Good players are trained to like high bend points and eschew low bend points. They want to hit the ball low with their irons.
One of the most amusing revelations after a clubmaker begins to study the "science" behind golf shafts is to learn that the difference in the location of the bend point between "high" and "low" is about an inch. Consequently, whether a shaft has high or low bend point tends to have much less effect on shot trajectory than you would expect.
The variable that has more effect on shot trajectory is flex, particularly when the flex is located closer to the tip. The Proforce shafts were the first with a "stiff tip" in woods that produced a lower trajectory. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Rifle Tour Flights promote a more flexible tip in the long irons to promote higher trajectory at that end of the set. What you are searching for is the "right" ball flight. There is more to the search than bend point and flex. Loft and offset come into play. A lot depends on your swing path. The point is, when you're searching for the perfect ball flight, it's going to require some experimentation. Changing your shaft alone is not enough.
Taper v. Parallel
There is a huge argument between proponents of taper tip and parallel tip shafts. On the side of taper tips, you have tradition and Tour Professionals. Taper tip shafts are made specifically for each club in a set. They are manufactured to "constant weights" which means that a three iron shaft weighs the same as a nine iron shaft. Tour pros think that this is desirable.
On the side of parallel tips you have every golf equipment manufacturer and anyone who plays graphite. The move to parallel tip shafts in the 1970's was primarily caused by the manufacturers' desire to control inventories. With parallel tip shafts there is only one model that usually comes 41" long. Manufacturers "fit" the shafts to individual clubs by "tip trimming" for flex and the "butt trimming" for length. One stock keeping unit (SKU) and they can make shafts for all their clubs. The big difference is that the individual shafts are no longer constant weight. The nine iron is lighter than the three iron by the weight of the shaft that was trimmed and discarded.
We have done a lot of testing on this subject and we come down on the side of parallel. To start, we can't tell the difference in feel between taper and parallel clubs. Perhaps professionals can.
The reason we are totally in favor of parallel tip shafts is that we can't get uniform frequencies from taper tip shafts. Sure, if you're a tour Pro, the Tour Van has dozens of taper shafts for each club length. They can sort through their inventory and find a frequency matched set. As clubmakers, we can't stock that quantity of inventory. Consequently, we buy our taper tip shafts a set or two at a time. They are usually good, because the product has been in production for 50 years, but they are never perfect. We much prefer parallel tip shafts that we can trim a little at a time and get a perfect frequency slope.
You can just forget about taper tip graphite shafts. They are inconsistent. We have never tested a set of OEM taper tip graphite clubs that was consistent. The only way to get a good frequency slope with graphite is to use parallel shafts and trim carefully.