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
Getty Images

Kisner (67) enjoying 'frat' life, soccer matches with Jordan and Co.

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The frat house tradition continued this year at The Open, with a group of seven high-profile Americans rooming together for the week, including early first-round leader Kevin Kisner.

Kisner explained after his opening 5-under 66 that the group – which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler – has spent the week talking about how demanding Carnoustie is playing and enjoying the summer weather.

“We're out there playing soccer at night and hanging out,” he said.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


To be clear, this isn’t a proper soccer match, but instead a penalty-kick situation with all but one player taking turns trying to score.

“I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”

Although Kisner said he’s always impressed with the athletic prowess of other players, Spieth has proven himself particularly adept on the impromptu pitch.

“Jordan scored when Duf tripped, it was hilarious,” Kisner smiled. “[Spieth] is good until he sends it over the goal four houses over, and we've got to go knock on a neighbor’s door for the soccer ball.”

The group is actually staying in two local houses that are next to each other, one with a large enough back yard and a soccer net, but perhaps not enough soccer balls.

“We’re going to have to Amazon Prime a couple new balls to replace the ones we lost,” Kisner said.

Getty Images

Van Rooyen continues links run with impressive 67

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:27 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For Erik van Rooyen familiarity has not bred contempt.

The South African, like many European Tour players, has been on a links golf odyssey the last three weeks, playing the Irish Open, Scottish Open and this week’s Open Championship in consecutive weeks, and the crash course paid off on Day 1 at Carnoustie when he opened with a 4-under 67 to assure himself a spot among the early leaders.

Although van Rooyen missed the cut last week just down the coast at Gullane Golf Club, he entered the final round in Ireland with a four-stroke lead.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I didn't pull it off the final day,” said van Rooyen, who closed with a 74 to tie for fourth place. “I still think I played pretty well. I was nervous. That's completely normal, and I'll learn how to deal with that. I'll take that experience into tournaments like this.”

Van Rooyen, who was alone in second place when he completed his round, began his round with back-to-back birdies and was bogey-free until the last hole. It was just what one would expect from a player who has immersed himself in links golf for the better part of a month.

“We've been playing nice golf now the last three weeks, so definitely used to the way this course is playing, definitely used to handling the wind,” he said. “So I'll be ready.”

Getty Images

Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.



Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.