The Local Knowlege

Gear & Equipment

Trimming shafts helps elite players zero in on the right stiffness

By E. Michael Johnson

Instead of asking a barber to take a little off the top, tour players are asking tour technicians to take a little off the bottom. That's because shaft tipping -- where the tip end of the shaft that goes into the head is trimmed -- is commonplace on the PGA Tour.

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Matt Every. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Talk about tipping and most folks' minds turn to the amount they leave a server rather than golf shafts. And although most people likely know more about the former than the latter, shaft tipping might put a few dollars in your pocket rather than dollars leaving it.

The reason players tip shafts is to make them slightly stiffer than they were designed. But tour players don't have to worry about paying for shafts, and the components can be swapped out in mere minutes. So why not just change shafts?

Related: Hot List 365: Shafts

Tipping instead of trying a different flex allows a player to find a shaft with a firmness in between flexes. The average tip on drivers is about an inch, although some players go to greater lengths. Back when Tiger Woods was using a 42.5-inch True Temper X-100 steel shaft in his driver, all of the extra length (more than three inches) was cut off the tip to achieve the proper flex.

Thankfully for tour technicians, one element of tipping has been eliminated in recent years. Back when some drivers such as Callaway and Titleist featured bore-through hosels, they would require little to no tipping because the shaft went so deep into the clubhead. So if a player switched from one of those models to one that wasn't bore-through, it was more difficult to duplicate the feel. Now bore-through hosels are gone, making life a little easier for those doing the work.

Also making work easier is adjustable hosels. "Players can now dial in their launch, spin rate and dispersion without tipping," said Callaway tour rep Mike Sposa. "There's not as much experimenting now as when it was all glued-in product." Still, fairway woods require shorter shafts than drivers, requiring many to be tipped. Matt Every, for example, recently tipped his Aldila Tour Blue 75x shaft in his 3-wood 1.5 inches.

Related: The hottest shafts of the year

Altering the flex is different in irons. Players will "step up" or "step down" rather than trim the tip on steel shafts with steps. That means a player seeking a firmer shaft will use a 4-iron shaft in a 3-iron and so on to make it stiffer, and use a 2-iron shaft in a 3-iron and so on to make it softer. This alters the firmness about one-half a flex.

That's a tip beneficial to everyone.

TOUR STORIES

paula-creamer-putter.jpgPAULA CREAMER // A putter with personality

Paula Creamer has always liked personalizing her putters, often using her trademark pink color, but has been known to add touches such as diamonds and other bling as well. The same holds for the TaylorMade Ghost Daytona 12 putter she used to hole the remarkable 75-foot eagle putt that won the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore.

Perhaps most notable about the putter, which Creamer first put in play at the start of this season, was that it wasn't really a "Ghost" putter at all because the clubhead featured a dark gray finish -- the first time in four years the company says it has made a non-white putter head for any player. The club, which is 34 inches in length with a head weight of 360 grams, has a black, steel shaft and carbon-fiber insert. The heart engraved on the toe area signifies her recent engagement. Upon receiving the putter, Creamer texted the company, "Oh my goodness that's amazing!" So was the winning putt it produced.

NEW STUFF

nike-vrs-covert.jpgNike VRS Covert 2.0
PRICE: $200 (Lofts: 15, 19 degrees)

Russell Henley had a pair of these fairway woods in the bag at the Honda Classic. The cavity in the sole of the club moves weight to the perimeter for added stability.

NikeGolf.com



metal-x-milled-versa-9ht-face-putter.jpgOdyssey Metal-X Milled Versa
PRICE: NA until April

Although it won't be available at retail until April, Odyssey unveiled this putter to tour staff at the Honda Classic. The putter combines the Metal-X face technology with the Versa's alignment stripes and comes with adjustable weights.

OdysseyGolf.com


BAG ROOM

Russell Henley started using Nike's new RZN Black ball earlier this year and while the differences between that and his old Nike 20XI are subtle, they are noticeable to the Honda Classic champ. "The biggest difference is that it flies a little flatter, not as much a spinny flight," said Henley. "So I'm able to control it in the wind well. But it checks well around the greens, too, and has a softer feel that I like." . . . Ryan Palmer had a new weapon at the Honda -- a prototype Fourteen Golf Type 7 utility iron. Palmer's club, which features a hollow head, was 21 degrees bent to 23 degrees to promote a higher ball flight. . . . Although Geoff Ogilvy didn't go the full Adam Scott route by using a long putter, he did use a 38-inch Scotty Cameron by Titleist Futura X at PGA National. Although Ogilvy missed the cut, he was on the plus side in strokes gained/putting (.307) for his two rounds. . . . Charles Howell III employed three different types of Mizuno irons for his set, using the company's JPX-EZ Forged for his 4-iron, MP-54 for the 5- and 6-irons and MP-64 for the 7-iron through PW. . . . Kenny Perry went back to his Ping G2i Craz-E at Honda -- the same model he used in 2008 when he won three times on the PGA Tour.


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Gear & Equipment

Accuracy, feel explain why some PGA Tour players have gone to heavier driver shafts

By E. Michael Johnson

There was some heavy lifting happening at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and Farmers Insurance Open.

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Gary Woodland. Photo: J.D. Cuban

Sergio Garcia won in Qatar using a 100-gram Mitsubishi Diamana White Board shaft in his TaylorMade SLDR driver. Gary Woodland, meanwhile, was in contention to the very end at Torrey Pines with a 102-gram Mitsubishi Diamana S+ Blue Board. The hefty driver shafts are indicative of a movement, by some, away from the lighter weight shafts that have made inroads on tour the past few years.

It is easy to understand why drivers with lighter shafts became popular. One of the biggest benefits to tour players in the quest for distance has been the arrival of lightweight graphite shafts that could withstand the stress delivered by high swing speeds. The lighter the shaft, the faster the club can be swung. The faster the club is moving, the farther the ball goes. It is why the most popular weight for driver shaft-weights on the PGA Tour is still in the mid-60-gram range, with some players having tried shafts less than 50 grams.

But more and more, there are exceptions -- players opting for driver shafts decidedly heavier than most of their tour brethren. Yet with distance considered such a precious commodity, why would tour players consciously leave yards on the table by using a shaft that would contribute to a slower swing speed?

For most players in the "heavy" camp, the answer is control, Woodland included.

Related: 2014 Hot List Drivers

"I have plenty of speed, but I need to keep the ball in play to be successful," Woodland told Golf World last year when asked about using a weighty driver shaft. "The extra weight allows me to feel where the clubhead is during the swing and that helps me find more fairways. It's a plus for my game and not a negative at all."

Tiger Woods is also back to using a heavier shaft in his Nike driver. Woods was one of the last to forego a steel shaft for graphite and over time the weight in his driver shaft crept lower, eventually to less than 70 grams. However, at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in December, Woods went heavy again, switching to a Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board 103-gram shaft. Woods said that as he became more comfortable with his swing, he felt he could handle the weight again and that it gave him a better feel of the club at impact.

More than 25 players had driver shafts of 75 grams or more at the Farmers Insurance Open. Fujikura had 14 of those shafts in play. "Control is a big factor with our players using heavier shafts," said Pat McCoy, director of tour operations for Fujikura. "Some professionals when trying lighter parts have not gained enough swing speed the way they load the club, so they stay with a weight they are familiar with."

Although familiarity plays a role in opting for meatier shafts, so does fitness in some players. Those who regularly work out can more easily handle the extra weight. The number of tour pros opting to use hybrids as fairway-wood replacements is another. Hybrids can be heavy and players don't want such a big difference in feel between the hybrid and the driver.

Related: Editor's picks at the PGA Show

Consistent weighting is the reason Garcia takes on extra heft in his driver shaft. The Spaniard uses 100-gram shafts in his 3- and 5-woods. "Going with the same weight with the driver shaft keeps the feel similar," Garcia said at the 2013 BMW. "My swing speed is enough so I don't lose distance, and I feel like I gain some control."

Although those using heavy driver shafts remain in the minority, if a player is struggling with a lightweight shaft in the driver, it's not a bad idea to swap it out for a heavier version. Although swing speed will diminish, it is quite possible accuracy will improve. No matter how much you want to hit the long ball, fact is anyone's game will benefit more from finding fairways than gaining a couple of extra yards. Just ask those at or near the top of the leader board recently.

TOUR STORIES

bubba-watson-gw-equipment-0203.jpgBUBBA WATSON // Striping it

It goes without saying that Bubba Watson is unique -- a trait that extends to his equipment. Watson, who likes pink on pretty much every club component, once saw a putter with an iridescent finish on a table at Ping's headquarters shortly after winning his first tour event and immediately wanted one. Given that, it's no wonder he had a special request for Ping to jazz up his pink Ping G25 driver.

 Intrigued with the racing stripes on the company's i25 driver (they are not offered on the G25), the 2012 Masters champ requested that the stripes (which assist alignment on tee shots) be placed on his driver. Although seemingly an easy request, getting the stripes just right on the crown was no easy feat. Indeed, it took the company nearly three years to get the stamping process down to where it could accurately place straight lines on the crown. Watson, not surprisingly, took things one step further. The iridescent finish on his putter is now also on the sole of his driver.

NEW STUFF

titleist-sm5-hero-v2S.jpgTitleist Vokey SM5
PRICE: $129 (21 loft/bounce combinations)

The wedges feature a new groove configuration with 7 percent more groove volume for added spin. Scott Stallings used a trio of the wedges in his win at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Titleist.com

BAG ROOM

The putter Pat Perez used in finishing T-2 at the Farmers Insurance Open was an Odyssey Versa Jailbird. Although most designs today are done via computer assisted design (CAD), the putter's creator, Odyssey's Austie Rollinson, drew the first iteration on a co-worker's notepad. The sketch did not receive a lot of praise, but once a 3-D prototype was produced, the putter (which features a bar in the rear to provide four black-and-white stripes, hence: "Jailbird") was put on the production fast track. Perez ranked sixth in strokes gained/putting at +1.782 strokes per round. . . . Erik Compton had a solid T-19 at Torrey Pines with a new Titleist 913D3 (8.5 degrees) in the bag. . . . K.J. Choi's first outing with a set of Ping i25 irons went well as the eight-time PGA Tour winner nearly pulled out a victory at Torrey Pines. Choi settled for a share of second place, ranking T-8 in greens in regulation, hitting 51 of 72 greens. . . . TaylorMade's new Tour Preferred X ball was used by Jason Day at the Farmers, and the Aussie had a strong showing in his inaugural outing with the ball, finishing T-2, ranking third in distance and T-3 in GIR.


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Gear & Equipment

Stripes For Stars: A shaft benefiting Folds of Honor

By Mike Stachura

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Short supply: Limited-edition shaft will raise money for vets' families.

Fujikura's fuel, the popular low-launch, low-spin shaft, has already been issued in commemorative color patterns for the Masters and the U.S. Open. Now a limited edition with special red, white and blue graphics is available to help raise funds for the Folds of Honor Foundation. The foundation provides scholarships and other financial support to the families of soldiers who have been killed or disabled in service. Ten percent of the proceeds from sales of the new Folds of Honor Fuel shaft will go to the foundation.

Fuel features high modulus carbon-fiber plies arranged at 45- and 90-degree angles in the middle section of the shaft to improve energy transfer and tip stability. This version of the Fuel comes in a 65-gram S-flex and a 67-gram X-flex. Check FujikuraGolf for a list of retailers selling the shaft.

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Gear & Equipment

There's benefit in using oversize grips

By John Strege

superstroke-grips-stix.jpg

Oversize and non-tapered, SuperStroke putter grips are growing in popularity among professional golfers. The movement largely began with Jason Dufner finishing second at the 2011 PGA Championship using one. At the recent Northern Trust Open, Charlie Beljan (second) and Fredrik Jacobson (tied for third) used them. Amateurs might benefit, too, says Jason Guss, one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers.

"Because the grip is so big it takes away a lot of grip pressure, so your hands are a little more relaxed. When they're more relaxed, it takes the wristiness out. And changing the thickness in the grip erases bad memories from your mental bank." Pictured is the Mid Slim, selling for $25 each. More info.


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Gear & Equipment

True Temper introduces Ryder Cup shafts

Dynamic Gold.jpg
Project X.jpeg

By John Strege

Ryder Cup players from both the U.S. and European teams will have new shafts in their irons, provided their shafts of choice are True Temper's Dynamic Gold or Project X.

True Temper Sports is introducing limited-edition Dynamic Gold and Project X shafts featuring Team USA and Team Europe logos. Players who use Dynamic Gold or Project X will have their shafts replaced with the limited-edition shafts.

"We want to celebrate our overwhelming presence at this event, and felt it was very fitting to specifically pay tribute to these two extremely talented and competitive teams with shafts that commemorate the Ryder Cup and the classic rivalry," True Temper Sports CEO and president Scott Hennessy said in a news release.

The shafts will be available to the public at Golfsmith, Hireko Golf, the GolfWorks, Swing Science and Performance Fitting Center dealers, the company said, with a portion of the proceeds earmarked for Birdies for the Brave, a PGA Tour charity supporting miliary personnel and their families.


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Gear & Equipment

Prototype Mitsubishi shaft at the U.S. Open

Mitsubishi shafts are used by some of the game's best players, including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. At the U.S. Open, a prototype Mitsubishi shaft was seen being used (photo courtesy of golfwrx.com). The shaft, which is black and white with white stars, is a next generation Fubuki that is set to formally debut later this year. 

-- E. Michael Johnson
Follow on Twitter @EMichaelGW

New Mitsu shaft.jpeg

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