One major reason for the tremendous improvement in shaft technology lately is the proliferation of oversized drivers. The unique demands a 460cc head places on the shaft has given designers a whole new segment of equipment to work with. As a result, driver shafts (as well as hybrid and iron shafts) are more advanced and of a higher quality than ever before.
This explains why so many golfers are spending extra money to replace their stock shafts with premium aftermarket models. Today's shafts simply provide superior performance to stock models, and although they do come at a premium cost, any avid player who finds the right aftermarket shaft for his or her game will immediately notice improved feel and performance. In addition, most stock shafts don't feature the impressive array of technologies found in premium shafts, most of which are the result of years of research, millions of dollars of investment, and the dedication to providing golfers with superior performance. Hot Technologies Today's advanced driver shafts are built with specific levels of flex, weight and torque just like yesterday's models. So what makes them so much better? Basically, in the way these performance parameters interact with one another and the inclusion of one or more of the following hot technologies.
1. Carbon Nanotubes By definition, carbon nanotubes are cylindrical carbon molecules. About 1/10,000th the width of a human hair, they exhibit extreme strength (supposedly around 200 times stronger than titanium), which, along with their other properties, give them the possibility of creating a technological revolution in golf shafts.
Several shaft companies (notably AccuFLEX, Aldila, Grafalloy and Harrison) employ carbon nanotechnology. Some manufacturers use the technology to increase the surface area of the shaft material, which in turn creates a tighter molecular structure. Others use it simply to make a stronger shaft that's more resilient, helping it to deform less and recover more quickly for extra distance and greater control.
2. Reinforcement Layers If you ever saw a shaft being built, you'd be amazed. Multiple layers and multiple sections work alone and in unison to create greater torsional stiffness to help golfers take advantage of large 400+cc head designs.
3. Customized Lineups In perusing this Guide, you'll see that manufacturers realize that one shaft certainly does not fit all. This is why most models are available with varying weights, flexes, torques and flex points to help golfers of all abilities achieve the desired high-launch, low-spin launch parameters.
4. Advanced Materials Any product is only as good as its parts, and several companies have gone out of their way to employ the highest-quality materials and processes to ensure the ultimate in performance. The strength of Fujikura's famed Speeder line rests in its Triax material (pictured). The woven honeycomb structure adds resiliency, even against the forces generated by 120+ mph swings. Graphite Design and Mitsubishi Rayon are two other shaft manufacturers that favor materials-influenced performance. This explains the high price, but you get what you pay for.
5. Low Torques It used to be that only fast swingers could enjoy the extra control allowed by low torque ratings (less twisting). But thanks to ingenious designs and innovative midlayers, manufacturers can add torsional stiffness while retaining a relatively soft bend profile, a combination from which most swings can benefit.
6. Stiff Tips The revolution of tip-stiff designs spearheaded by UST and its ProForce line continues. Grafalloy's Blue, for example, uses a multi-layer Micro-Mesh tip design to better control large 400+cc clubheads and promote a squarer face at impact.
Material Matters: Flex Points You may have heard the terms "bend point," flex point" and "kick point." Flex points have relatively little to do with launch when compared to tip design, but they do play a role in how a shaft feels. Shafts with low flex points tend to feel softer than do models with high flex points. Typically, high-launch shafts will have softer tips and lower flex points than will lower-launch shafts. A shaft designed with a stiffer tip for lower launch is fine for certain drivers, but if yours is a seven-degree model, this low-loft head/low-launch shaft combination might limit your ability to get the ball airborne. The opposite is true if your driver is a high-lofted model and you combine it with a soft-tip, high-launch shaft–you may end up ballooning your drives and losing distance as a result. –Mike Chwasky _Ê_Ê_Ê _Ê _Ê_Ê
Accuflex AccuLaunch Series www.accuflexgolf.com (800) 721-3342 | $N/A
Designed to match any golfer, these shafts are available in over 500 fitting options within 13 models. Features: Four weight categories within 13 different flex/weight models, all tuned for optimal launch and spin conditions within each weight and flex profile. Advantages: Because the series comes in a wide variety of weights, flex points and spin options, players can be properly fitted for their individual swing needs. Greater distance, improved accuracy and optimized trajectory are the end result. Benefits: Just about any golfer who desires a shaft that fits their swing. What We Like: The same quality throughout the line, from slow-swing models to low-launch designs. Material: Nano composite Weight(s): 50g, 60g, 70g, 80g Torque(s): N/A Flex Point: N/A Flexes: X, S, R, A, L
Accuflex Evolution www.accuflexgolf.com (800) 721-3342 | $89
A high energy-transfer shaft. Features: The Evolution features Nano Composite technology, which increases the surface area of the shaft. This effectively creates a tighter molecular structure by eradicating voids in the material. Advantages: What this means for the golfer is a shaft with a lighter overall weight that has greater fiber density, making it stronger and more able to efficiently transfer energy than models with less-dense materials. In addition, the superior quality provided through Nano Composite technology creates more feedback and a better feel. Benefits: Low torque, mid flex point designed for fast swingers. What We Like: The high-quality materials and lighter weight. Material: Nano composite Weight(s): 70g-74g (X-R) Torque(s): 2.8__ Flex Point: Mid Flexes: X, S, RAerotech SteelFiber www.aerotechgolfshafts.com (888) 733-8988 | $N/A
An uncommon construction and blending of materials makes the SteelFiber unlike any other shaft._Ê Features: A unique combination of steel and graphite fiber, extreme uniformity of shape and relatively low torque ratings. Advantages: Typically, golfers associate steel shafts with control and consistency, and graphite with light weight and increased swing speed. The combination of materials in the SteelFiber shafts are aimed at producing both the control of steel and the power of graphite. Benefits: Golfers who desire the ultimate control and consistency of a steel shaft, with the added torsional properties and feel of graphite. What We Like: Best steel/graphite hybrid we've seen yet. Material: Graphite, Steel Weight(s): 65g, 75g Torque(s): 65g–4.3__-4.6__; 75g–3.8__-4.0__ Flex Point: Mid Flexes: S, R Aldila NVS www.aldila.com (858) 513-1801 | $87
Same technology as the original NV, but with a more responsive tip. Features: High-quality Micro Laminate construction that provides increased consistency. A flexier, more responsive tip section gives players with slightly lower swing speeds more optimal performance. Advantages: Micro Laminate construction makes the NVS more consistent and more capable of efficiently transferring energy throughout the swing and into impact. Benefits: Players who want a Tour-quality shaft but with a more flexible tip section that will allow them to optimize trajectory and distance. Players who swing more than 100 mph should opt for the NV._Ê What We Like: The performance. Material: Nano carbon Weight(s): 55g, 65g, 75g, 85g, 95g, 105g Torque(s): 2.1__ (105g)-4.4__ (55g) Flex Point: Mid Flexes: X, S, R (A, L 55g only)
Aldila VS Proto www.aldila.com (858) 513-1801 | $N/A
Aldila's next-generation Micro Laminate Technology featuring carbon nanotubes produces the company's ultimate performance model. Features: Micro Laminate Technology makes a jump to the future with the addition of carbon nanotubes. Aldila's proprietary A65 Performance Resin System also contributes to the overall performance of this advanced player's shaft. Advantages: The extreme strength of carbon nanotubes in combination with Aldila's other impressive technologies makes the VS Proto extremely resilient and consistent, producing longer, straighter shots for those who can handle it. Benefits: Stronger, more accomplished players who generate plenty of clubhead speed. What We Like: Nanotechnology. Material: Nano carbon Weight(s): N/A Torque(s): N/A Flex Point: N/A Flexes: N/AFujikura E300 Series www.fujikuragolf.com (800) 728-6420 | $135
A company known for ultra-premium performance (and price) shafts offers a new, more affordable series that can fit almost any golfer. Features: Available in 55g (350), 65g (360) and 75g (370) models, all of which are built with the extremely high-quality materials and processes expected from Fujikura. Other features include a relatively high kickpoint and stiff overall profile, as well as attractive ion plating. Advantages: Range of weights and torques make the E300 Series perfect for clubfitting purposes. Fujikura's top-quality materials provide outstanding consistency and distance. Benefits: Golfers who want a more boring trajectory and mid torque. What We Like: Top-notch Fujikura quality at a reasonable price. Material: Graphite Weight(s): 55g, 65g, 75g Torque(s): 3.2__-3.8__ Flex Point: High Flexes: X, S, R
Fujikura Speeder Series www.fujikuragolf.com (800) 728-6420 | $300+
One of the most expensive and highest-quality shaft lines currently available, the Speeder Series from Fujikura is both technologically advanced and diverse. Features: The key to all Speeder shafts is the company's proprietary Triax material, which is a carbon fiber that's woven in a honeycomb structure, giving each shaft greater resiliency and a better ability to withstand force. Advantages: Speeder shafts deform less during the golf swing than many competitive models, resulting in more consistent performance, better vibration dampening and enhanced energy transfer at impact. Benefits: Better players. What We Like: The Speeder Series is about as good as it gets. Material: Graphite Weight(s): 42g-77g Torque(s): 2.5__-4.4__ Flex Point: Mid, Mid/High Flexes: X, S, R
Grafalloy Prototype Comp NT www.grafalloy.com $79
One of 2005's top designs continues to be a popular choice among discerning golfers. Features: The Comp NT is built with carbon nanotubes in its resin system, which dramatically increases the strength properties of the shaft, as well as the uniformity of the material from the butt to the tip. Advantages: This feature helps provide greater resiliency during the swing and a greater transfer of power for increased ball speed. Another benefit of the Comp NT's makeup is a low amount of twisting (torque), which helps produce less dispersion and more accurate drives. Benefits: All players. What We Like: The Micro-Mesh tip, which provides great consistency. Material: Nano composite Weight(s): 65g, 85g Torque(s): 3.1__ (65g), 2.7__ (85g) Flex Point: Mid Flexes: X, S, RGraphite Design YS-6 Type II www.gdintl.com (888) 707-6132 | $73
A more player-friendly version of the very popular YS-6+ model. Features: Shaft construction features the use of a very high grade of modulus graphite geared toward producing a more responsive feel and superior playability. These shafts feature a higher degree of torque than the original YS-6+ models._Ê_Ê_Ê Advantages: The high-quality materials utilized by GD always lead to greater accuracy and an increased transfer of energy at impact. In addition, the higher degree of torque makes the Type II easier to hit for a wider range of golfers. Benefits: All golfers who desire a premium-quality aftermarket driver shaft that provides excellent distance characteristics and feel. What We Like: More torque. Material: Graphite Weight(s): 69g Torque(s): 5.0__ Flex Point: Mid Flexes: X, S, R Fujikura Rombax www.fujikuragolf.com (800) 728-6420 | $350
The most advanced model yet from a company known for producing the ultimate in high-performance composite shafts. Features: Anyone familiar with Fujikura's line of Speeder composite shafts knows how well they perform and how good they feel. The new Rombax, which is said to surpass the Speeder in overall performance, takes Fujikura's patented Triax technology (used in the Speeder) and combines it with another box weave to form a new patented technology called–you guessed it–Rombax. Other features include the extremely high-quality materials normally used by Fujikura as well as a stiffer overall profile and lower torque, resulting in more boring trajectories and lower spin rates. Advantages: The new Rombax design helps the shaft maintain its shape and resist deformation during the loading and unloading that occurs during the swing, producing an earlier squaring of the clubhead and more consistent impact. Greater stability for oversized clubheads provides superior shot dispersion, as well as superior clubhead speeds and distance. Benefits: Designed primarily for more accomplished players who desire the ultimate in high-quality materials, construction and overall performance, particularly for oversized drivers. However, this shaft will work for a wide variety of players. What We Like: Fujikura's dedication to innovation and quality. Material: Graphite Weight(s): 55g, 65g, 75g Torque(s): N/A (low) Flex Point: High Flexes: X, S, R
How To Buy A Shaft Virgil Herring, PGA, owner of the Higher Performance Golf Academy in Nashville, is a shaft expert. Being a two-time Middle Tennessee PGA Teacher of the Year, he's seen many golfers opt for the wrong shaft.
His advice on getting the right shafts: "I strongly recommend you go to a place with a launch monitor, one where you can see the ball fly. Hit as many different clubs with different shafts so that you can see what kind of feel and trajectory you like. Sometimes people might be playing the right shaft but they'd rather hit it higher. So they go from extra-stiff to stiff, or stiff to regular."
With balls being made the way they are now, the higher you hit it, the better off it's going to fly for you. "That's certainly true," says Herring. "Those are the two big keys to me. Experiment with different shafts in the clubhead that you like at places that have launch monitor technology, preferably where you're hitting from indoor to outdoor or just outdoor completely. Get accurate information about how far and how high each ball goes from each shaft. As for steel versus graphite, I haven't hit any of the graphite iron shafts lately, but I understand from Tour players that they are equal to steel now. Graphite in irons is supposed to be unbelievably good. The quality is no different than steel–graphite is just lighter." –Scott KramerGraphite Design Tour AD www.gdintl.com (888) 707-6132 | $329
A Tour-style shaft for every swing. Features: Graphite Design's proprietary Ultra-High Modulus Material strengthens the shaft and makes it more resistant to twisting. Advantages: The I-65 model is designed with an exceedingly low amount of torque, making it a good option for stronger players. The W-60 possesses a more flexible bend profile and a very low kickpoint, making it perfect for players who need help getting the ball in the air. The W-70 has a similar bend profile to the W-60, but is slightly heavier for those who swing faster. Benefits: The three models make the Tour AD a shaft for all players. What We Like: Options, options. Material: Graphite Weight(s): 62g-74g Torque(s): 2.2__ (I-65), 3.6__(W-70), 4.8__ (W-60) Flex Point: Low (W-60, W-70), Mid/High (I-65) Flexes: X, S, R
Harrison Mugen www.harrison.com (800) 347-4646 |_Ê $N/A
Harrison's first ultra-premium model promises to be the company's best. Features: Innovative construction that features the fusion of Ultra Thin Ply (UTP) prepreg resin and satellite-grade graphite fiber, as well as the addition of single-walled carbon nanotubes that are embedded in the tip section of the shaft. Advantages: The extreme strength of the fusion material as well as the carbon nanotubes combine to produce the highly desired high-launch, low-spin characteristic that all golfers looking for distance want. Benefits: Any serious player who wants a very high-quality shaft with an extremely strong tip section for increased durability and feel. What We Like: The combination of fusion materials and nanotubes. Material: Graphite, Nano carbon Weight(s): 62g, 72g, 82g Torque(s): 2.8__ Flex Point: N/A Flexes: X, S, R, AHarrison Striper Tour www.harrison.com (800) 347-4646 |_Ê $60
The success of the Striper Tour is due to a proprietary laminate material formed with a low resin content for a torsionally tight design. Features: The shaft is very strong and flexes consistently for a high launch with less spin, making this shaft the ideal blend for driver clubheads more than 400cc in size. Three weights (62g, 72g, 82g) are available in all flexes. Advantages: The fusion material as well as the carbon nanotubes combine to produce the highly desired high-launch, low-spin characteristics. Benefits: If you're interested in souping up your driver and want something a bit different, take a close look at the Striper Tour. What We Like: Negated shaft twist. Material: Graphite, Nano carbon Weight(s): 62g-82g Torque(s): 3.0__ Flex Point: Mid Flexes: X, S, R, A Mitsubishi_Ê Bassara www.mitsubishirayongolf.com (760) 929-0001 | $150
An easier-to-hit model from MRC that can be played by both Tour pros and weekend golfers. Features: A softer bend profile and more moderate torque ratings than the Tour-intended Diamana Series, as well as three different weights to fit a wide range of players. Advantages: Higher trajectory, higher ball speed and more distance are the goals that the softer overall bend profile and more torque accomplish. Benefits: Recreational to better players with moderate swing speeds who want the feel and performance of a Tour-quality shaft but don't want the extreme stiffness that normally accompanies such products. What We Like: MRC quality. Material: Graphite Weight(s): 63g, 73g, 83g Torque(s): 3.6__-3.9__ Flex Point: Mid Flexes: X, S, R (L 63g only)
Mitsubishi Diamana Red Board www.mitsubishirayongolf.com (760) 929-0001 | $350
A Tour-level model that features a slightly softer tip section for players who want a higher shot trajectory. Features: A more flexible tip than the closely related Blue Board model, as well as a construction that utilizes more than 20 different types of materials._Ê Advantages: The softer tip section is aimed at making it easier for players to get the ball airborne and on a higher trajectory. It also makes it easier to produce a right-to-left shot shape. Accompanying low spin rates complement the high-trajectory characteristics to produce distance. Benefits: Anyone who wants to hit the ball higher and longer. What We Like: Mitsubishi getting serious in U.S. shaft market. Material: Graphite Weight(s): 63g, 73g Torque(s): 2.8__ (73g), 3.2__ (63g) Flex Point: Mid Flexes: X, S, R (L 63g only)Penley ETA www.penleygolf.com (800) 543-2396 | $60
Penley's high-performance ETA (Energy Transfer Accelerance) shafts have high-modulus fibers and high resin content in critical shaft flex areas for absolute distance, accuracy and minimal twisting. Features: The ETA 55 is a worthy choice for players with slower swing speeds. The ETA 75 is designed for players who prefer a heavier-shafted driver. The company also offers a low-torque Tour version of the ETA. Advantages: More energy at impact for more distance, thanks to quick tip-recovery time. Benefits: The ETA 55 and 75 are primed to please a variety of golfers. What We Like: Both shafts are equally effective in fairway and hybrid woods as well. Material: Graphite Weight(s): 55g, 75g Torque(s): 2.5__ (75g), 4.3__ (55g) Flex Point: 55g–Low, Low/Mid or High); 75g–Mid/High or High Flexes: X, S, R, A
Tech Talk A Few Tips On Tip Stiffness By Chad Hall Director of Marketing True Temper/Grafalloy
The primary goal of a shaft is to optimize ballflight and maximize efficiency for each individual swing profile. With the heightened focus the past few years on launch monitor fitting and proper launch and spin, it's important for golfers to understand the significant consideration these features are given during the design of each shaft. The most important design feature is the tip design, or the relationship between the stiffness in the shaft's grip section and tip section.
We identify a particular player profile, and then make sure the appropriate tip flexibility or stiffness is achieved through extensive testing to produce the desired ballflight. By the way, tip stiffness is independent of the shaft flex.
When you see a shaft with an X, S or R designation, you're essentially seeing its stiffness at the grip end. So you can still have a flexible shaft with a stiff tip section. That's very important, particularly in large-headed drivers that need to be more stable at impact.
With the highly publicized USGA regulations in place regarding clubhead design, the shaft will continue to play an even more significant role in upcoming years. –Scott Kramer
Royal Precision Project X Woods www.royalprecision.com (800) 920-4747 | $N/A
The same technology that made the Project X a great iron shaft is used to create an outstanding wood shaft. Features: All Rifle steel shafts feature four distinct technologies–Frequency Matching, Stepless Design Technology, Flighted Technology and Internal Rifling. Advantages: Frequency Matching provides superior consistency from club to club, allowing golfers to match the performance of their driver and fairway woods perfectly. Stepless Technology helps prevent_Ê loss of energy and distance, while Flighted Technology provides variable shot trajectories that can be customized to the individual. Internal Rifling dampens harmful vibrations. Benefits: You name it. What We Like: The whole deal. Material: Steel Weight(s): 115g-130g (X-R) Torque(s): N/A Flex Point: N/A Flexes: X, S, R
UST Proforce V2 www.ustgolfshaft.com (817) 267-2219 | $65
A high-performance shaft that delivers higher launch angles and increased ball speed with less spin for less shot dispersion. Features: A low-torque design that's optimized to work with modern drivers that measure over 400cc in volume. In addition to stabilization properties, the V2 also features a more flexible overall profile, including