In Their Own Words - True Temper

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Editor's Note: Casey Bierer is The Golf Channel's new Business Reporter. He will file regular Business Edge columns so be sure to check back for his latest offerings.
 
A Conversation with Chad Hall
Chad Hall is Director of Marketing for True Temper Sports. His primary responsibilities include product development and advertising / promotion for the True Temper and Grafalloy brands. He is also in charge of True Tempers global tour operations.
 
True Tempers roots go back to 1902 when a combination of businesses was formally organized as the American Fork and Hoe Company. In 1930 the Royal and Ancient Order of Saint Andrews, the golf decision making body in Scotland, made the steel shaft legal for tournament play. Shortly thereafter, predecessors of the Company began marketing steel shafts under the True Temper brand name. True Temper has been the No. 1 shaft on the PGA Tour for over 70 years. True Temper steel shafts are produced in their steel manufacturing facility in Amory, Mississippi. This 325,000 square foot facility was opened in 1965. In addition to golf shaft production, True Temper manufactures a variety of steel products for the automobile, bicycle, and sports recreation industries.
 
Casey / Q:
We see a focus from shaft manufacturers on lighter and lighter weights. You guys are spending a lot of time and resources on this, arent you?
 
Chad / A:
We're broadening the super light family if you will - the Gold super light family - with the Dynamic Gold SL and the Dynalite Gold SL. The Dynalite Gold SL is the super light counterpart to Dynamic Gold SL. Theyre available in Sensicore and non-Sensicore.
 
Casey / Q:
Whats the difference between the shafts?
 
Chad / A:
Dynamic Gold is tip-stiff it promotes a low ball flight for better players. Its like the low-handicap gold standard in shafts, if you will, for tour players and better players. Dynalite has the same kind of tolerance - what our gold series stands for ' the overall weight, balance point, wall thickness, diameterall of those things that make it a superior golf shaft. Those are basically the key elements and those parameters are held to standards that are off the charts; extremely tight tolerances. That's what the gold standard is all about. The shafts cater to different consumer needs without sacrificing quality.
 
Casey / Q:
I havent seen Dynalite Gold SL in the stores yet. When is it going to be available?
 
Chad / A:
Mizuno is going to be launching it soon in a new high-end game improvement iron set. And we're going to be shipping the new shaft to a broader range of customers and to consumers in conjunction with Mizunos launch. It'll be available in fourth quarter.
 
Casey / Q:
Scott Hennessey, your president and CEO, made reference recently to a shaft called the M80. Off the charts light?
 
Chad / A:
True Temper continues to push the envelope on super light shafts. We have so many shafts because the market demands so many choices in weight. The M80 is the lightest steel shaft on the planet. It's a Japan only product right now. The player profile is a little bit different between the Asian markets and American players so were working with the M80 only in Asia at the moment. The name M80 comes from the shafts 83 grams of raw weight. That's literally off the charts light of anything that is an iron shaft weight. Its really a graphite weight shaft in steel. We say were pushing the envelopewell, on the M80, the envelope is pushed.
 
Casey / Q:
Give people a weight comparison.
 
Chad / A:
Contrast the M80 with the dominant shaft every week on tour ' the Dynamic Gold. Dynamic Golds raw weight in an S300 is 128 grams. It is a tour standard weight type of golf shaft and there are obviously many players that prefer the Dynamic Gold and a heavier shaft. At 83 grams, the M80 is one hundred and eighty degrees the other spectrum.
 
Casey / Q:
Its interesting to me. No matter how far you push the technology envelope, you always come back to Dynamic Gold.

Chad / A:
We're on course this year, in its twenty-fifth year no less, to have the biggest year in Dynamic Gold sales ever. It's an amazing thought in today's society and in consumer products in general - and certainly considering how fast golf technology changes ' Dynamic Gold has been out there for 25 years because it's just literally that hard to improve on a design that was so good when it was introduced. It was so far ahead of its time. 25 years later, there is a golf shaft that is literally chosen by 60 percent of the tour players every week and by the majority of players in the marketplace. And thats Dynamic Gold. And it's the dominant OEM shaft choice as well.
 
Casey / Q:
You mention the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers.) They have a growing number of choices in shafts to identify as their stock shafts. And yet, Dynamic Gold appears to continue to be a favorite.
 
Chad / A:
Our business is very much dependent on successful relationships with the club manufacturers. Some of our customers are having a lot of success in iron sales this year and of course a large part of our Dynamic Gold success is being driven by the fact that the OEMs overwhelmingly choose to put Dynamic Gold in their irons as the stock shaft. They see the value and they see the premium positioning. So, it's a great situation for us and for our OEM customers.
 
Casey / Q:
True Temper is venturing in to new territory with its first stepless shaft, Black Gold. Youd have to agree thats a departure from what we think of when we think True Temper.
 
Chad / A:
To this point all of our - what we call discreet length taper golf shafts - excluding some specific proprietary shafts that we may do for an OEM occasionally - the ones that we brand as True Temper products: Dynamic Gold, Dynalite Gold, Dynamic Gold SL, Dynalite Gold SL - all of these products are constant weight discreet length shafts. Shafts with steps. So yes, this is new for us.
 
Casey / Q:
Explain constant weight discreet length shafts for me.
 
Chad / A:
What that means is that the two-iron weighs exactly the same as the pitching wedgeand every shaft in between. And, they are all discreet length; meaning that the two-iron shaft, the raw length of it when we sell it, is 40 and a half inches. The pitching wedge shaft is 37 inches. But the overall weight in both cases, using Dynamic Gold as the example, is 128 grams. That gives a consistent feel throughout the set. This is a preference of many of the best players in the world and in general, many consumers.
 
Casey / Q:
And so in stepless shafts you have descending weight?
 
Chad / A:
Right. Consumers who prefer a descending weight golf shaftthere is a very distinct feel difference there. When I say descending weight shaft - the two-iron is going to be heavier than the wedge. With the way its trimmed each shaft in the set gets progressively lighter. That is to say the three-iron is 2 grams lighter than the two-iron, the four-iron is 2 grams lighter than the three-ironyou see the progression there. So thats a very distinct feel. So when I get down to my short irons in a stepless shaft I've got a feel thats very much different than what Dynamic Gold feels like.
 
Casey / Q:
So in the manufacturing, do you put steps in or take them out?
 
Chad / A:
This is kind of an interesting fact. All steel golf shafts start without steps - all of them. The step tapering process, which is the process by which the machines put the steps in, was patented by True Temper back in the late 20s. And that puts the changes in diameter ' the steps - into the shafts. What happens with the stepless shaft is that shaft goes through a process we call swedging. Swedging is basically a machine you put the shaft in that takes the steps out of it. So it makes it straight tapered again.
 
Casey / Q:
Playing characteristics aside, does one type of shaft have an advantage over the other?
 
Chad / A:
An advantage might be - when you're a club builder - you have this one shaft that doesn't have any steps on it. Frequency as we know is kind of a big buzzword out there. You can target a specific frequency by trimming that shaft at various points. If you have a set of golf shafts that have been trimmed a little bit differently, one from the next, when you look at them you don't see step patterns that are out of line. That gives the club builders a high level of freedom to try to do different things and really customize sub-flexes within a players individual preferences. A player, for example, who is right in between an R flex and an S flexso if I make some minor changes in shaft preparation I'm right where that player needs to beand so on and so forth.
 
Casey / Q:
Im not telling you anything you dont know. Stepless golf shafts have been around for a good long time. Why Black Gold now? Whats unique about it?
 
Chad / A:
The thing that makes Black Gold so special, and what were very proud of is, we're talking about frequency-tuned technology with Black Gold. It's more than just a frequency number. It is taking the gold standard which we just talked about with Dynamic Gold - the quality that goes along with the gold series of products and the incredibly tight tolerances - and bringing that to the stepless descending weight category of shaft. We've got an incredible amount of importance placed upon the weight of that shaft, the balance point, the wall thickness, the diametersand how that constant taper rate changes. All of those things add up to the performance and the feel.
 
Casey / Q:
For the benefit of our reader, get a little more specific about Black Gold.
 
Chad / A:
Sure. Let's say, for instance, I had two identical stepless shafts. Let me back up for a second. You know you could take a couple of Dynamic Gold shafts and put them side by side. And you could quickly identify those as being different from one another. Like the five iron shaft is going to be different than the pitching wedge shaft and you can see that because the steps are in different places. But, what if you put down two shafts that did not have steps? You would not know the difference. The most trained eye would not know the difference. Let's say they are both identical looking shafts but they have very different balance points. Meaning the overall balance point of the shaft is off by let's say an inch or so. Those two shafts are going to feel vastly different from one another and you might not know that just to look at them. These are issues and characteristics that are so vital to the overall performance of a shaft and ultimately the full set of irons. And that's what the gold standard represents. Weve brought that now to the stepless category of shaft and we're very excited about it.
 
Casey / Q:
Whats the release schedule on Black Gold look like?
 
Chad / A:
Black Gold is just starting to make its way out on tour. We're going to be probably shipping it in the September timeframe - the initial shipments - to consumers and to our OEM customer base. So people should be on the lookout for it.
 
Casey / Q:
OK, Chad, in this day fast moving technology, its kind of like what have you done for me lately? Superlight is here to stay. Youre breaking new ground with stepless shafts. What is True Temper working on next that nobody knows about yet?
 
Chad / A:
We've got another shaft that we're going to be rolling out here and taking to tour the latter part of the year. Thats generally a good time to do thatlate October early November timeframebecause then you've got guys who are almost done for the season. The Tour Championship is over by the first part of November. After that, that's when the guys are going to the test facilities and they are spending the time in the off-season looking for new stuff. And we're hoping to make a really big splash in the beginning of the 06 tour season with the introduction of a new graphite shaft. Its really something. We're going to take the brand and the whole graphite category of shaft to another level.
 
Casey / Q:
And of course youre going to give Adam and me an early look at that?
 
Chad / A:
Youll get an early look. I will promise you that.
 
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