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.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.