The new Epic shaft, from Grafalloy, the graphite shaft company owned by steel shaft giant True Temper, seeks to combine the best features of steel shafts and graphite shafts in a new material called NanoFuse.
Yes, you heard right: the magic and often-invoked nano word, which involves design at the sub-molecular, nearly atomic level. By fusing a nanocrystalline alloy with a carbon fiber composite polymer sublayer in a proprietary manufacturing process, Grafalloy engineers say they have been able to develop a shaft with the consistency of steel and the distance and feel benefits of graphite. But the knocks on steel (its weight and distance limitations) and graphite (its inconsistency) have been eliminated, Grafalloy says.
The result, the company says, is a longer shot with 35 percent less dispersion ' the all-important tighter landing pattern in a group of test shots. The distance improvement has been measured at as much as 20 yards with the driver, Grafalloy says. The new shaft will first be available for drivers, fairway woods and hybrids.
The nano part is a step out of the box for Grafalloy and True Temper. Many products have used carbon nanotubes, but Grafalloy insists this is true design at the smallest level. That leads to an unimaginably small and tight grain structure in the NanoFuse material, which is so strong that when painted onto a ping pong ball, the formerly delicate orb can withstand 200 pounds of vertical pressure. In a golf shaft, the combined strength and flexibility properties make for a potent combination, say the new materials co-developers, PowerMetal Technologies of Carlsbad, Calif.
And just how small is the design framework? Twenty nanometers is the size of a molecule of the nanocrystalline material used in the Epic. Some perspective? A golf ball dimple is 4 million nanometers wide.
If a golf ball dimple were a shopping mall, a NanoFuse molecule would be a coin in the fountain in the middle of that mall, said one Grafalloy exec.
Grafalloy and True Temper claim that the Epic is the first sporting goods use of this technology. They also say the Epic is being received very well in consumer and elite player testing, and that it will have its PGA TOUR coming-out party at the FBR Open in Scottsdale next week. The shafts low torque fights twisting, but its feel properties arent boardy, many of the testers have said.
Significant investment and three years of development went into the Epic. For True Temper/Grafalloy, it was a matter of stepping out of a box they believe has been containing much of the industry: the decades-long effort to improve existing materials, instead of finding new ones.
You dont want to just stay in the comfort zone of what you know, doing evolutions of golf shafts, said Scott Hennessy, True Tempers president & CEO. We set out a number of years ago to say, What is revolutionary?; to keep looking at other materials.
What will a first-time Epic hitter notice?
He will definitely notice a softer and less harsh feel than some of the super lightweight steel shafts that are out there, said Graeme Horwood, vice president of engineering and research and development for Grafalloy. But also, I believe hes going to appreciate the light weight. And thats going to give them more distance, and with the accuracy benefits we saw in our testing, more confidence as well.
Club manufacturers and component distributors will have the shaft ready to go this spring. Soon after, True Temper will know if its newest Grafalloy brand will move the business needle as significantly as predicted.
If you just sit back and just want the status quo for your game and equipment, youre destined for failure ultimately as a company Hennessy said. You have to keep pushing the envelope, and thats what were trying to do.