2003: Business - True Temper feeling good about Blue

After Mark Calcavecchia used the True Temper BiMatrx RXI shaft in his driver while setting a PGA Tour scoring record at the 2001 Phoenix Open, many observers predicted the graphite-and-steel BiMatrx would become golf’s most popular metalwood shaft.

It didn’t quite turn out that way. Even though True Temper introduced a second shaft in the BiMatrx series, the BiMatrx Rocket, sales remained steady but unspectacular.

For 2003, True Temper officials believe they’ve developed another attention-grabbing metalwood shaft, one which will generate commercial success as well as critical acclaim.

Trying to capitalize on the growing popularity of big-headed drivers, True Temper has unveiled the Grafalloy Blue -- a lightweight, all-graphite driver shaft designed to enhance stability in large clubheads. The Blue already has popped up among the top 10-selling shafts at Golfsmith International, the superstore retail chain and catalog company based in Austin, Texas.

Although True Temper owns Grafalloy, the name True Temper appears nowhere on the Blue shaft. This is true as well for the Grafalloy ProLite, which has remained a top-selling shaft for several years.

“They are distinctly different shafts that probably will appeal to different kinds of golfers,” says True Temper president Scott Hennessy. “The ProLite is preferred by many low-handicap golfers, while the Blue should have a broader appeal. On the other hand, there is a lot of interest in the Blue shaft on the pro tours.”

The question for True Temper engineers was how to deal with driver heads that now exceed 400 cubic centimeters.

“All that torquing, twisting and drooping of larger driver heads was what we wanted to address with this shaft,” says Russ Minick, True Temper’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “We wanted to develop a fresh idea, not just stiffen an existing shaft.”

The answer? A new design featuring a beefed-up center section and a proprietary Micro-Mesh technique of uniting the various cuts and layers of graphite material.

“It feels extremely stable,” says Jeff Sheets, the primary club designer for Golfsmith. “It’s in the top 10 in our shafts that are selling through, and it’s in the top three in graphite wood shafts. Considering the small amount of publicity it has received, this is very impressive.”

Former PGA Tour player Harry Taylor, now the chief U.S. golf club designer for Mizuno, says the shaft is very strong in the tip section.

“I thought I would have to tip it (cut off part of the tip to stiffen the club), but I didn’t,” he says.

Though equipment experts have taken note of the stability of the Blue shaft, Minick says it is actually “20 percent more tip soft than the ProLite.”

The Blue weighs about 62 grams at 46 inches in length. That makes it about two grams lighter than the ProLite and approximately 14 grams lighter than the BiMatrx. Torque on the Blue is listed at 2.8 degrees.

Mizuno and Cleveland are offering Blue through their custom programs, and other manufacturers are expected to join them once the larger tip version (.350 inch) is released in late February. Currently it is available only as a driver shaft, although heavier fairway wood shafts are being tested on the PGA Tour. Retailers such as Golfsmith and GolfWorks sell the Blue for about $49, and the cost for reshafting typically ranges from $65 to $75 when dealing with a custom clubbuilder.

As for the BiMatrx, company officials say they will keep it in their lineup. Weighing roughly 76 grams at 46 inches, the BiMatrx is well suited for fairway woods and remains popular on the Tour (David Toms made a hole-in-one with his BiMatrx-shafted 5-wood on the way to winning the 2001 PGA Championship).

“The BiMatrx is a wonderful shaft, and I am very optimistic about the future of multi-material shafts,” Hennessy says. “Looking back over the last two years, I believe the only thing that may have hindered the BiMatrx is its weight.”

And, just for the record, Calcavecchia now is using Blue in his driver.

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