In 2008, when Matt Kuchar first switched to Aerotech graphite shafts in his irons, he heard the good-natured barbs of fellow players on the PGA Tour.
Nobody had more fun with Kuchar’s graphite decision than his buddy Brandt Snedeker. “Old man” was Snedeker’s favorite mock rebuke of Kuchar and his graphite shafts.
Fast forward to 2012 – both Kuchar and Snedeker are using Aerotech shafts in their Bridgestone irons. Snedeker completed a full-circle conversion when he won the Farmers Insurance Open.
How did this happen?
First, Snedeker watched Kuchar’s dramatic ascent up the money list, from 115th in 2007 to first in 2010. Obviously instructor Chris O’Connell was instrumental in this turnabout. However, Kuchar’s rise also coincided with his switch to Aerotech shafts.
Second, Snedeker decided to test the iron shafts. He ended up with the exact specs as Kuchar – SteelFiber i95 taper tip, constant weight, stiff flex Aerotech shafts. As the name suggests, the shafts weigh 95 grams.
Aerotech SteelFiber iron shafts, available in weights from 74 to 125 grams, are classified as graphite shafts in a broad sense. Actually, though, they are a combination of a graphite core surrounded by an outer layer of steel fiber. This steel fiber looks like a steel mesh comprised of individual steel filaments, with one filament measuring approximately one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.
The philosophy here is to provide the feel and vibration dampening of graphite with the stability of steel. Aerotech president Chris Hilleary is constantly talking about how the outer steel fiber prevents the shaft from deforming during the golf swing.
Aerotech, headquartered in Bellingham, Wash., 90 miles north of Seattle, is hardly a new company. Founded in 1991, it was a pioneer in composite hockey sticks. The first Aerotech golf shafts were produced in 1994.
“We’re an overnight success after 20 years,” Hilleary said with a laugh.
The company does not have an employee who travels with the PGA Tour. It does not pay any player to use the shafts. Still, Aerotech has claimed a visible spot on the golf equipment radar screen.
“There have been more requests from Tour players,” Hilleary said. “Matt (Kuchar) put us on the map, and it has progressed from there.”
The 95-gram S-flex has been the most popular version on Tour, and Carl Pettersson uses it as well. Hale Irwin, who has played much of his career with heavier, stiffer iron shafts, requested the 110-gram, X-flex model. The Aerotech SteelFiber shafts sell individually for a retail price between $40 and $50.
Hilleary stresses the importance of using the proper flex.
“If you get the right flex, you can control the trajectory and hit all the shots,” Hilleary said. “You do not have to give up any consistency. A lot of people used to say that graphite irons shafts were for seniors and women, but that myth is dead.”
What does Snedeker, the former skeptic, have to say about this?
“I’ve been converted,” he said. “I like the feel, I like the performance.”