The club shaft is playing a greater role in achieving ball spin, roll and distance than ever before. Shaft characteristics such as weight, stiffness, torque and kick point should be scrutinized and the right combination determined using the manufacturer’s specifications and a launch monitor fitting.
Club fitters agree that weight is the most important factor in deciding what shaft is best for an individual golfer. Shaft weight makes the most difference in club head speed, which determines distance. Weight also affects shaft flex since the stiffer the shaft the heavier it is. Not surprisingly, heavier and/or stiffer shafts often have lower torque and higher kick-points. In other words, all of the important characteristics of a shaft start with the weight.
True Temper is the leading producer of steel shafts for golf clubs. True Temper owns Precision Rifle, the maker of Project X, as well as Apollo, a low end producer of steel shafts now made in China. Although virtually all club heads are cast, forged or molded in Asian factories the majority of pro-line steel shafts come from True Temper’s factory in Mississippi. (A China-based facility, opened in 2007, produces the less expensive steel shafts used in boxed sets and commercial product).
Another steel shaft producer, Nippon Pro of Japan, introduced steel shafts lighter than 100 grams in 1999, which set the trend for reducing shaft weight particularly for irons designed for higher handicappers. True Temper followed suit in 2002 with their TX-90, however the “constant weight” technology of the Nippon NS Pro-950 has made Nippon the preferred steel shaft in most of the pro-line game improvement irons.
There is no question that almost all of the new steel shafts have less iron in them than shafts did ten years ago when the trend toward lighter shafts started. Now even senior golfers have gone back to steel shafts in their irons because the lighter weight steel blends offer more control and consistency than graphite without significant loss in swing speed.
At the other end of the weight scale are the Project X and Dynamic Gold steel shafts, which weigh about 125 grams after trimming. Nippon recently introduced a new extra-heavy steel shaft with raw weights in the 132- to 139-gram range, dropping into the high 120s after trimming.
Steel shafts from KBS, designed by Kim Braly who created the Rifle steel shaft, are made in Colorado and range in weight from 110 to 133 grams (Tour models). KBS also offers a high spin shaft for wedges (Hi-Rev), and two light weight steel models: the Tour-90 (95 grams) for irons and the Hybrid (100-105 grams) for hybrids.
The Tour players and better amateurs prefer Project X, Dynamic Gold and, more recently, KBS, because of consistency in feel, weight and distance between irons. The choice for light-weight steel is still Nippon Pro, while True Temper makes the Uniflex and M10 shafts for Callaway and the CS steel shafts for Ping, weighing around 100 grams.
Below is an excerpt from GolfWeek magazine, August 15, 2009 issue, summarizing the types of steel shafts offered in most of the pro-line iron models:
True Temper Dynamic Gold
This is by far the most used shaft on the PGA Tour. Most Tour players choose either the X100 or S400 version. The trimmed shaft weighs about 125 grams. The emphasis here has not changed over the years, and the Dynamic Gold is designed for players who want a low, penetrating ball flight with maximum control and accuracy.
True Temper Dynamic Gold SL
The SL (Superlite) version reduces the Dynamic Gold weight by 20 percent, and True Temper says the ball flight, control and feel are identical. The key is what the company calls S3 alloy technology, used to create the tip strength necessary to perform like the original.
Nippon N.S. Pro 750GH
Steel shafts don’t get any lighter than this. Nippon’s 750 and True Temper’s GS75 are 75-gram shafts that exhibit enough strength for all but the fastest of swings. The Nippon 750 has four carbon filament sheets in the grip area that are wound on top of the shaft to enhance strength and durability. These sheets also help dampen vibration. For most golfers, Nippon says carry distance will increase with this shaft.
Rifle Flighted (Project X Flighted)
This shaft was designed to provide an exaggerated change in kick point to manipulate ball flight. Thus, the long irons feature a lower kick point for higher trajectory and increased distance, while the short irons have a higher kick point for a lower ball flight and greater accuracy. All of the shafts are stepless on the outside, with the changing kick points determined by internal design.
KBS Tour 130
Robert Allenby and several other touring pros are using KBS shafts that weigh 130 grams. These KBS shafts are available to consumers in weights of 90,100,110, 120 and 130 grams. Ping club designer Mike Nicolette, a former PGA Tour winner, tested the shafts and said he felt like the ball was remaining in contact with the face for a longer period of time. Inventor Kim Braly says the shaft produces a smoother power transfer, allowing players to use a stiffer flex.