Club heads get much of the glamour promotion from manufacturers, but it’s the club shaft that delivers the leverage and power of the swing to the ball. Most amateur golfers have little concern for the flex and type of shaft supplied with their clubs and even less inclination to change shafts. GOLF RETAILING asked some of the major suppliers how retailers can educate customers on the benefits of custom shafts to stimulate sales.
The shaft is the engine of the club”, says Tim Gillis an account manager for KBS Shafts. “Whatever technology and design the club head has is not going to work to its optimum if the shaft is not suitable for that head. There are numerous benefits: better launch angle, optimum spin, tighter shot dispersion and consistent distance, which usually ends up being longer.” Bill Lange, director of golf sales at True Temper agrees. “True Temper definitely endorses that statement. The shaft should be individually fitted to the player in order to efficiently deliver the club head to the ball. Without being properly fit, a golfer won’t be able to produce the type of results he or she is capable of achieving.”
In terms of promoting custom shafts Doug Poole, a director PBA Golf Sales, UK distributor for Aerotech shafts, believes golf retailers need a better understanding of the technology. “Understanding shaft technology is not always easy for pro-shops and golf stores as confusion between brand technology and flex and bend-point grading makes it difficult to access performance factors for customers. If a focus is placed upon shaft weight rather than colour or flex it would make more sense when selling after-market custom upgrade shafts as shaft weight is a major factor in performance.” Tim Gillis recommends demonstration events as a sales promotion tool. “They should have demos available for consumers, too, with some brand of launch monitor to show the difference in performance.”
All agree that custom fit shafts can make a significant improvement in the average player’s game. Garry Price, sales manager for Nippon Shaft says, “Being custom fitted for the correct shaft by a recognised club builder optimises the performance of a golf club to match the players swing. A player after being custom fit correctly should see and feel the benefit from the first round played after the fitting. Having the correct shaft installed will transfer the power generated in the swing to the club head in the most effective/efficient way. This can create the launch conditions desired by the player. You could have your dream set of clubs, but if they are fitted with a shaft not suited to your swing your scoring and enjoyment of the game could suffer.”
Bill Lange confirms: “Each golfer has a specific swing DNA and it’s impossible for club manufacturers to offer a ‘one size fits all’ shaft. Getting custom fit puts the best possible combination of head and shaft together which usually results in more distance and better accuracy.”
“The only reason to fit a custom shaft is to benefit the performance of a customer”, says Doug Poole. “It seems obvious, but trend following is often the reason for customers buying a custom shaft upgrade. If possible the best way to try a custom upgrade shaft is on the golf course as this is where it gets used. As the shaft is a major factor in performance it is essential to fit and use the shaft best suited to a customer. There are three major shaft factors: weight, which effects control and distance; length controlling shaft management, distance and ball flight; and flex and flex point which effects distance and accuracy.”
Regarding materials suppliers see a role for both steel and graphite in the market. Doug Poole also points to the development of composite shafts. “Steel has always given very consistent performance benefits partly due to its higher weight than graphite. So graphite being lighter can be played as a longer shaft which does increase swing speed and therefore ultimately distance. New to the market are composite shafts which have a graphite core often surrounded by another material.”
Tim Gillis explains, “Graphite will continue to be an important material for golf shafts. The composite technology continues to grow in materials and manufacturing capabilities, allowing shafts to be built lighter and stronger than previous generations. It will continue its path in woods and have a place in irons, but again, consistent distance for irons is more important than more distance. Because composite shafts are a combination of materials – graphite and resin/glue – there is always the possibility for the shaft to react differently and cause distance control issues. This is why very few tour players play graphite.”
It’s a similar sentiment from Bill Lange at True Temper. “With lighter shafts, a driver can be built to maximise distance, and everyone wants to hit their drives farther. In irons we believe steel is a better material for shot making and control. Now that we are producing steel shafts at traditionally graphite weights, we can provide lightweight performance without sacrificing accuracy.” Garry Price confirms, “There will always be a place for graphite shafts in golf. Materials and resins are continually improving, so who knows what exotic materials will be developed in the coming years?”
The future’s composite
Which begs the questions, what developments can we look forward to in the near future? Tim Gillis at KBS says, “One of the biggest advances is steel shaft designs that are 30 percent lighter than the original steel shaft designs. This is due to improvements in manufacturing capabilities and the use, in some cases, of lightweight steel alloys. Bill Lange comments, “With both steel and graphite shafts, the raw materials have become so much better. This has allowed True Temper to create some really cool and effective designs that wouldn’t have been possible with previous materials. For example, in our XP line of steel shafts we have developed a proprietary steel alloy that allows us to significantly reduce the weight of a steel iron shaft without sacrificing feel.”
Garry Price states, “For Nippon Shaft it has been the development of a new steel alloy that has enabled us to create the lightest constant weight steel shaft with the NS Pro Zelos 7, which is super-lightweight, with no loss of strength. Also, our ability to precisely distribute the wall thickness of the Modus3 series of shafts in particular enables us to create the performance demanded by tour professionals worldwide.”
And if you needed further confirmation that the new generation of composite golf shafts incorporate a lot more technology than a steel hollow tube, Doug Poole asserts, “The Aerotech SteelFiber shaft is one of the new breed of composite shafts and probably one of the biggest innovations in shaft technology to have come to golf over the last few years. The SteelFiber shaft provides superior performance through innovative composite engineering that combines a high-modulus graphite core with 59 miles of steel fibre lacing the shaft surface.
“While the shaft’s graphite core provides vibration dampening, increased clubhead speed and maximum distance, the steel fibres produce optimum weighting for a solid feel at impact and add stability and control for pinpoint accuracy The superior hoop strength prevents the shaft from deforming during the swing and at impact and gives unmatched stability during the golf swing whilst the lightweight properties of graphite increase clubhead speed and promotes greater distance.” So now you know!