AUGUSTA, Ga. – The evolution of graphite shafts is one of the most important developments in modern golf equipment.
As technology and materials improve, graphite shafts continue to get lighter and stronger. Just a few years ago, most PGA Tour players wouldn’t even look at graphite driver shafts in the 60-gram range. Mostly they cited durability concerns.
That has changed. Robert Karlsson, for example, played a 64-gram driver shaft in the Masters (Graphite Design Tour AD DI-6TX).
This doesn’t mean all Tour players are sold on the benefits of lighter shafts. At the Masters, Ryo Ishikawa played the same shaft model as Karlsson but used an 88-gram version.
A weight differential of 24 grams might not sound like much, but to avid golfers there is a night-and-day distinction. A heavier shaft can feel like a sledge hammer compared to a lighter one.
The movement toward lighter shafts continues. Mitsubishi Rayon’s 43-gram Bassara shaft has been a hit in Japan and the United States, and Miyazaki is about to crack the 40-gram barrier with a 38-gram shaft.
Many trends in modern golf seem to start in Japan and migrate to the U.S., and shafts are no exception. Japanese shaft brands such as Mitsubishi Rayon, Fujikura, Graphite Design and UST Mamiya are known to many American golfers. Miyazaki, a product of Sumitomo Rubber, is new to the U.S.
With history as our guide, it is fascinating to note the progression from 120- or 130-gram steel shafts to graphite shafts that weigh half as much.
Even heavyweight golfers such as Tiger Woods have gotten the lightweight message.
For the past several years, Woods has used an 83-gram Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana White Board driver shaft. At the Masters, he played with a 75-gram Graphite Design Tour AD DI-7X shaft. That’s a 10 percent weight reduction for the world No. 1.
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The skinny: Weighs 49 grams (stiffer flexes slightly heavier) and contains Fujikura’s new VEXX carbon interweave. According to the company, VEXX places more carbon fibers in the direction of shaft loading for a stronger, stiffer and more responsive shaft structure.
Cost: $299 MSRP
Miyazaki C. Kua
The skinny: Several new C. Kua shafts in the 40- to 50-gram weight range will be available, according to Miyazaki. “In the past,” a company statement said, “lightweight shafts were often too soft to be played on Tour. The launch of C. Kua series will (change this).” Comes with a Lamkin Performance Plus grip.
Cost: $150 MSRP
Grafalloy ProLaunch Blue 45
The skinny: The R flex weighs 44 grams and the S flex 48 grams, making this the lightest Grafalloy shaft. It is intended for golfers with slower swing speeds (55 to 85 mph) and is designed to promote a higher trajectory.
Cost: $120 MSRP
Graphite Design Tour AD DI
The skinny: This shaft, introduced at the PGA Merchandise Show in January, is available in a 53-gram version (R flex; stiffer flexes slightly heavier). Graphite Design says the tip section contains its nanotechnology material, producing optimal spin and launch characteristics.
Cost: $380 MSRP
UST Mamiya ATTAS 5
The skinny: According to UST Mamiya, this new shaft weighs 53 grams in stiff and regular flexes. Features AXIV material in the butt section to reduce “ovaling” and increase stability. Has a constant taper design and low resin content for better feel.
Cost: $350 MSRP