If there is one constant in golf equipment design it is change.
New clubhead shapes, adjustable weighting, rescue clubs that replace long irons, finely balanced putters and high-tech golf balls that fly farther and straighter help make the game more enjoyable and approachable for a wide array of players.
While clubhead design gets much of the attention from the media and players, the shafts that power our new sticks have also seen their fair share of change in recent years.
“With the expansion of composites into aerospace industry the materials have become more consistent and higher quality,” says Tim Gillis, vice president sales and marketing for Graphite Design International, Inc., a major shaft manufacturer. “This combined with manufacturing technologies have made golf shafts more consistent and better performing.”
Gillis adds, the shaft is “by far” the most important part of the club. The head has to be delivered to the ball to make it perform. Without the shaft, specially the correct shaft, the head cannot achieve its best performance.
Says Ray Stuart, brand marketing and public relations for UST Mamiya, another major shaft maker, “Shaft engineers today have access to improved high modulus materials, such as AXIV, a four-axis weave material found in our Proforce AXIV Series. And we have better design techniques using computer aided software.”
He continues, “At UST Mamiya, we have a software system called CASA that was developed in-house to help designers get a sense of how the shaft will perform even before the prototyping phase.”
Better manufacturing capabilities have ensured tighter tolerances in shaft manufacturing for “consistent symmetry.”
As has been duly noted, the shaft is the engine of the club.
Says Stuart, “The shaft transfers the energy produced by the golfer to the club and eventually to the ball. The overall goal is to produce a high performance golf shaft that optimizes an efficient release of energy without sacrificing control.
Greg Cavill, manager of the steel design for True Temper Sports, a venerable player in the shaft marketplace, concurs and says that just as players can now tweak their clubheads to match their swing characteristics, dialing in the right shaft is crucial to a good golf game.
“If the shaft was not deemed important, True Temper, along with all the OEM’s, would not be spending millions of dollars a year in supporting the professional tours around the world. Tour players are constantly trying new shaft designs to help optimize their irons and woods.”
He continues, “The player must match his or her load profile to the appropriate flex to ensure good launch conditions, control and feedback. Just because a particular shaft works in one head does not mean that it will respond the same way in a new head. This is why we work closely with all of the OEM’s to ensure that True Temper proprietary designs meet all of the requirements requested by our customers.”
He says it is essential to be fitted to the correct shaft and flex by a knowledgeable PGA professional to make sure you receive maximum benefit from your purchase.
New manufacturing processes have allowed True Temper to produce shafts, such as the GS Series, that “rewrite the rules of lightweight steel golf shafts, offering a cushioned feel once the preserve of graphite shafts, while enhancing overall distance,” says Gavill.
So where are we heading in shaft design?
“We are working on several new wedge shaft designs to compliment the new groove regulations that will be enforced next year on Tour,” relates Cavill.
Says Gillis, “The shaft will continue to advance technologically. We work constantly with new materials and other forms of research and development to improve performance.”
Stuart sees lighter shafts with more stability and improved feel.
“As materials continue to improve, I believe we will see shafts in the 45 to 55 gram weights as standard for the average player. With the popularity and availability of launch monitors, golfers will have a better understanding of what weights and flexes work best for their swings. Optimizing shaft technology is more personal than ever before.”
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