Shafts Buyer's Guide 2006
The fact that golfers feel they need a $300 shaft upgrade says a lot about what these ultra-high-tech models can do for your game
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.
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