Shafts are getting plenty of attention this golf season
FARGO - Talk about "moment of inertia" to the average golfer standing on the first tee and they'll probably hold up their own quiet sign. But to those who know the business of golf club shafts, it's loud and clear: Science and technology have as much to do with the game as tees and greens.
Take the shaft, which is no longer a stick that connects the grip to the head. Worried about the proper grip on your driver? It's cosmetic compared to the shaft, which golf club makers often call the engine of the club.
For every camera angle viewers see of the top professionals, there's a behind-the-scenes pat on the back for Kim Braly. He's the inventor of the KBS shaft used by some of the best PGA Tour players and is one of the world's most innovative minds when it comes to shafts.
It practically takes a chemistry degree to explain it.
"Mainly, it allows a player to play a shaft that is quite a bit stiffer than they ever played before," Braly said.
It's allowed more players to shoot lower scores, although that doesn't mean the winning tournament scores are better than they were decades ago.
"You have to remember technology from back in Ben Hogan's day is still being utilized," Braly said.
What golfers didn't have in Hogan's day, however, was the testing technology that has been the precursor to the better technology. Specifically, launch monitors have turned shafts into a science.
"We can see more, we can break it apart," said David Glod, founder of Tour Edge Golf. "You've got a club moving at 120 miles per hour and a golf ball coming off at 170 miles per hour, and there are a lot of things happening there."
Glod is based out of Chicago and is heavily involved in research and development of designing clubs. The trend in shafts, he said, is continuing to get lighter and he calls the KBS one of the most consistent shafts out there.
"You're able to make stronger shafts out of steel that are lighter," he said.
And he goes back to the launch monitor for proof. Computer data has invaded the traditional way of field testing.
"You put the weight 'here' and see what happens," he said. "We're able to improve on all these things and learn how to use them to our advantage."
When golfers walk into Dave Voss' National Golf store adjacent to the Sports Bubble in south Fargo, most don't ask about shafts.
"The golf junkies do," Voss said.
But the correct fit no matter what part of the club can make a difference, industry experts say. This week, Brian Thompson was at his club-fitting workshop at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., when he was asked what difference it would make to the 10-handicapper.
"It would help dramatically," Thompson said. "I hate to bring up Watts or Golfsmith, but those guys are there to basically sell equipment. Take that kid straight out of college looking for a job. Some know it, but very few do."
For shafts, Thompson said the popularity these days is with KBS, True Temper (which advertises itself as the No. 1 shaft in golf) or Project X.
"I would say KBS is making the most consistent shafts right now and that's what we like about it," Glod said. "When assembling clubs, there are no balance issues."
Thompson works with the PGA Tour pros when they go through Florida. That's when he sees the best of the best and the newest technology on the market.
"Those guys don't pay for anything," he said. "They're sponsored by big companies and the new stuff comes out on tour first. Then they might bring it to the public. It's a whole different world on the tour."
Four of the top 15 finishers at this year's Masters played with KBS Tour shafts. Asked what's in store for the future, Braly said club restrictions have to be taken into account.
"At this point, you're only talking materials," Braly said.
That being said, Thompson still said the average golfer walking off the street is "still just looking for something that looks cool."
"The average guy just needs to get the ball up in the air," Voss said. "The stock shafts are a little lighter and they'll kick the ball up in the air a little easier."
That doesn't mean there's not a KBS for the average guy. Braly, whose company is based in Boulder, Colo., makes shafts that "are all the way across the board" in terms of weight.
"I deal in a process with some of the best players in the world," he said. "But we can also scale it down to a 10 or 20 handicapper by lowering the weight. It's easy to scale it down."
It's just difficult to explain.