Five Questions With Kim Braly, Director Of R&D & Tour Operations, KBS Shafts
1. Golfers don't reshaft their irons nearly as often as their woods and drivers. What are you doing to make it easier to upgrade your iron shafts?
Reshafting irons is way less sexy than a driver, or this year, a 3-wood, as every golfer from Tour-caliber to your average player is searching for extra yardage off the tee. That said, fairway metals generally account for about 20% of the strokes the average player takes during a round of golf. Meanwhile, irons and wedges account for roughly 50% of the average player's shots and generally nine or 10 of the 14 clubs in their bag.
At KBS, we've focused our product line on three performance options (Tour 90, Tour and C-Taper) where each shaft design contains multiple flexes for dialing in a precise fitting. We've termed it "fit for performance then dial in the flex," and we believe the system leads to faster and more efficient fitting.
Beyond that, KBS has sought out major OEM partners for our product line so golfers have access to a KBS custom fitting. With the progression into interchangeable iron heads during fitting, players have the opportunity to "try" KBS before they buy it, and that's most important.
2. What are most golfers looking for when they opt to get their current set reshafted?
Typically, if a player is seeking out KBS, they've heard from a peer that KBS generates a smooth feel, and it sticks in their memory. The good thing is that feel generally translates to better control and, in the case of KBS shafts, more distance, so players win all around.
On Tour, players generally seek out a shaft change because they have issues controlling the ball. They want to see a specific flight and the right amount of spin throughout their irons. If they get a feel they're more comfortable with or enjoy more, it's a "win-win."
3. Longer and lighter shafts are more common in woods and drivers today. Do you think we'll see that trend continue with steel iron shafts?
Longer and lighter is certainly an overall trend in the golf industry, and the driving force is no doubt coming from metal woods where graphite shafts are going incredibly lightweight. In irons, this trend is carrying over a bit, but the driving force, from our perspective, is the growing number of average golfers seeking custom fitting. For those players, lightweight construction mixed with an advanced shaft design can lead to significant distance increases and an all-around better golf game.
On Tour, Loomis iron shafts made a big push several years ago for players using graphite, and it carried with it a perceived value of "High-tech and lightweight equals more distance." Over a short period of time however, players quickly realized their shot consistency and shot dispersion was suffering, and nearly 100% moved back to steel. Today, there are a couple of guys trying new materials in irons, but probably 98% of players prefer to go with steel. That tells me all I need.
4. Explain why you recommend certain shafts in wedges and short irons. What's the difference between a wedge shaft and an iron shaft?
This is a great question and one that we hope will see more discussion in the years to come. In your wedges, feel is critical right alongside performance. You're making more partial shots, and your shotmaking is put to the test. And, with KBS, our product line works in a way where the shafts stiffen incrementally from 3i to 9i so players get a little more forgiveness in their long irons and tighter control in their scoring irons and wedges. What we typically recommend is for players seeking more feel to use the KBS Tour 9i shaft through their wedges, and players seeking tighter control go with the KBS Wedge. For either set, players should consider a Hi-Rev shaft in their highest degree, which will achieve up to 500 rpm more spin (stopping power) for tough shots around the green.
5. We're big fans of your three custom finishes (chrome, brushed satin, black nickel). Any plans for more finishes? Maybe painted shafts?
KBS is already moving in this direction with an all-new Custom Series lineup that allows golfers to choose one of three finishes on their set of irons or wedges. The series includes white pearl, silver pearl and black pearl paints, and the process incorporates two patent-pending technologies, which are proven to maintain durabil-ity under stress. A snapshot of the industry today versus a year ago shows a number of manufacturers moving in this direction, and it's exciting to see. It may just bring younger people back to the game, and the possibilities are vast.