Are graphite shafts ready to take over the market? | By the #PuttingPirate

The #PuttingPirate gives us an insight on what difference shafts make and why they shouldn’t be ignored when you’re looking at how you can improve your scores.

“For pretty much the past year I have been researching and testing one of the least glamorous items in my golf bag – iron shafts. All manufacturers push the ‘big stick’ collections as I guess they are easier to sell to consumers, leaving the iron segment with very little love.

In the last three years I have been fitted into a plethora of different steel offerings from Project X LZ to KBS Tour X. 

I’ve been told composites are for the injured and old, and as someone with an engineering background and understanding of materials I couldn’t follow that logic, considering where the manufacturing technology is nowadays.

Some time later I visited PXG in Scottsdale where I had the pleasure of meeting Lydia Ko, who plays KBS TGI shafts. It made me think, ‘If they’re good enough for a Major winner, they’re good enough for your average golfer’. Particularly if you take into consideration that your average male golfer’s swing speed is closer to that of Lydia’s than Dustin Johnson’s.

With that in mind, I reached out to my trusted fitter Rhys Atkinson at Eclipse Golf in London and we dived in, head first, to explore further.  The results were interesting to say the least. We went through Steelfiber, KBS, Accra and Mitsubishi, as they’re considered to be the leaders in the field. 

It took a while to get used to the very different feel. I was struggling to make good contact at first, and we had to go quite a bit stiffer than my gamers to fight the club’s toe from dropping. It could also have been accomplished by adjusting the lie angle, but as I’m more weight than flex sensitive in my irons, we just went stiffer.

I’ve jumped in and with help from Rhys and some manufacturers, we’ve built three full sets of PXG 0311T heads with Accra iCWT 95, Steelfiber i95 and Mitsubishis OTi Tour 100.

Why three sets? Well all three of those have unique and very interesting technologies in them. Accra comes with a titanium mesh tip, Steelfiber moves the COG with their steel wire core, and OTi is fully woven like a braid with their proprietary materials. 

Changes were astonishing 

I played 30/40 rounds with each, together with practice in between, just like I would normally do. The changes were astonishing. They all took a few days ‘adjustment period’ during which I’d hit around 600 balls on the range. 

First thing I noticed was the extreme reduction in wrist pain associated with hitting on a practice range with mats. I have an extremely steep angle of attack and after constantly being able to ‘feel’ my wrists the pain virtually disappeared. 

Second thing: My clubs became slightly longer and more forgiving. I was expecting that, as composite has better energy transfer than steel and on mishits, my balls retained more speed.

Third thing: By dropping nearly 30g and retaining the stiffness, I found that I wasn’t as tired during the last 3 holes, second round of the day, which translated to lower scores.

Fourth thing: It took a while to get used to the new shafts. I don’t really know how that could be addressed at a fitting session without taking at least a small leap of faith.

Reap the benefits 

In the end, I got on best with Mitsubishi’s OTi. The only problem is the premium price. But if you can stretch your budget, I guarantee you will reap the benefits as I did. A scorecard absent of double-bogeys is priceless for me.

In my opinion, the technology is there to overtake the market of golf irons. The prices should also come down over the coming years, making it more and more accessible to an average golfer.  

Remember that, as with all equipment, a good fitting is the most important part of changes in your bag. Having said that, if you have a studio carrying the Mitsubishi OTi Tour around you – I strongly suggest you go give them a try!”

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