Lighten Up Already

By Adam BarrNovember 12, 2005, 5:00 pm
It aint heavy; its my driver shaft.
 
And these days, it can feel as close as a brother, mostly because its not very heavy at all. Ten years ago, the mainstream golf community would have snickered at the idea of a graphite shaft weighing in at 55 or 65 grams and waited for it to snap like a twig. Today, such weights are commonplace, and stable shafts of 40 grams are often seen in the Japanese market.
 
Why is light right? Of course, no golf development means anything in a turf-free vacuum. Light is only as good as what itwell, illuminates.
 
The key benefit in using lighter weight shafts is that they provide more options for the location and distribution of the weight in the [club] head, said Kevin Egelhoff, a senior design engineer at Aldila, whose NV shaft has been ripping it up lately in the market, especially in that 65-gram category. Head manufacturers can add additional weight or move the weight to strategic locations in their head, allowing them to obtain optimum performance benefits for players of all skill levels.
 
All this without adding the overall weight of the club, which is important from a design point of view.
 
Nowadays, could anyone imagine a 460 cc head with an 85-to-95 gram shaft as a standard offering in an OEM Club? said Robb Schikner, vice president of research and development for Graphite Design International. By decreasing the weight of the shaft, more weight can be placed in the head, which helps the golfer to increase club head speed.
 
But too much ' or in this case, too little ' of a good thing can be a problem.
 
The thing is that many players cant control a shaft that is superlight said Chad Hall, director of marketing for True Temper Sports, whose graphite shaft company Grafalloy makes the Blue, ProLaunch, and other popular models. They will actually lose distance because they start to hit the ball all over the face and dont effectively transfer the energy created in their swing to the ball. We say play the lightest shaft you can control. For some that may be a standard weight shaft; for others that may be a superlight shaft.
 
That might explain why some tour pros, masters of control, have stuck with the 100-gram-plus shafts theyre used to. But most of them have traded in at least 10 or 20 grams in an effort to move the head faster. (The typical tour player driver shaft weight is now between 70 and 90 grams).
 
So lightness can help all kinds of players, but like so many things in golf, you have to fit carefully to avoid a costly control tradeoff. Major shaft companies are working hard to lighten things up, but with proper fitting in mind.
 
How did it get this far? How did we attain this unbearable lightness of swinging?
 
Evolution, in both materials and designs, said Schikner. Golf is like other industries, in which the ultimate goal is to improve upon existing products. Graphite golf shafts have benefited from advances in materials driven by the aerospace industry, where the requirements are very stringent. The quality improves, the strength of the materials increase, and this allows shaft designers to take these materials and construct a better product. Also, better test methods have been developed for graphite golf shafts that allow us to better understand the relationship between design and durability.
 
Manufacturers have been working as much with process as with content. Most graphite shafts are made by wrapping specially prepared sheets of carbon fibers around a mandrel, then curing the long, narrow tube into a firm but flexible machine. Those sheets are usually made of carbon fibers impregnated with an epoxy-based resin (sticky stuff) ' known in the industry as prepreg. Wrappers place the sheets of prepreg at various angles depending on the shaft designers intent ' where the shaft should bend, how much, soft tip, hard tip, how much twisting (torque), etc.
 
That resin in which the carbon fibers reside has weight. (The fibers do too, but in general they are very light.) If you can reduce the weight of the resin while maintaining its flexibility and other properties, the whole unit becomes lighter.
 
Aldila's new proprietary resin system enables us to use higher carbon fiber content in the prepreg material while using lower amounts of resin to build lighter weight but very durable shafts said Egelhoff. Aldila also has a new laminating technology on its NVs that cuts grams.
 
And thats just the .350 soft tip of the iceberg. The future of graphite shafts involves not just weight, but very fine adjustments in feel. Already, proprietary technologies such as that used in Grafalloys Micro-Mesh tips keep the shaft from torquing too much, while avoiding that harsh or boardy feeling (thats how True Tempers Hall puts it) sometimes found in tip-stiff models. Modern big-head drivers need torsional stiffness in the tip, but no one wants that two-by-four feel up the ol forearms.
 
Beyond that, theres the long term, which involves a word thats popping up in many industries: Nanotechnology. Essentially, its design at the molecular level. At that invisible echelon, changes can me made out of all proportion to the size of the playing pieces. They may be tiny molecules, but rearranging them can yield big results.
 
Grafalloys Comp NT shaft, now a prototype, employs nanotechnology, but the advances are so promising that Hall doesnt want to give anything away yet. Aldila is working with some OEM clubmakers on shafts with something called Single-Wall Carbon Nanotube resin. Its lighter and stronger than traditional epoxy resin, and early tests show it working well in tip-stiff shafts, but without that harshness recently discussed.
 
If youre looking for a little light on this subject, the word on the prepreg is to look to the PGA Tour in early 2006. As usual, that will be the proving ground for the future of graphite. And as soon as the shaft companies can get these things to market, you can bet they will, competition being what it is.
 
Which should lighten your step come next season.
 
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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.