Steel iron shafts have dominated the golf marketplace for 75 years. The reason: Consistency and stability.
The process for manufacturing steel shafts is easily repeatable, and the performance from one shaft to another is highly predictable.
Who are the obvious candidates to use steel iron shafts? Everybody, says Kim Braly, creator of the KBS steel shaft and a man with a long pedigree in golf shafts. Braly’s father, Joe Braly, invented frequency matching of shafts. Following in his father’s footsteps, Braly designed and patented the Rifle shaft and then the Project X shaft.
“KBS is sold in 5-gram increments from 90 grams all the way up to 130 grams,” Braly said. “We can fit any golfer.”
Steel shafts from True Temper and Nippon are available down to the 75-gram range, although individual golfers must decide how light is too light.
“There is a point of diminishing returns,” Braly said, “where many golfers feel the shafts are too light, and they don’t get any more performance benefits.”
On the PGA Tour, where swing speeds are among the fastest in the world, more than 95 percent of players use steel iron shafts. Traditionally, skilled players have favored heavier weights – in the 120- to 130-gram range – but interest in lighter weight steel is increasing on Tour and among amateur golfers.
Look at the 90-gram range, for example. True Temper recently introduced the Project X 95 Flighted shaft, while Nippon’s largest selling shaft is the 950 GH. KBS, meanwhile, has seen increased sales of its KBS Tour 90.
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True Temper Dynamic Gold
The skinny: The shaft of choice on the PGA Tour, the old reliable Dynamic Gold (the first Dynamic shaft appeared in 1942) outnumbers Project X by a 3-to-1 margin on Tour. Tiger Woods uses the Dynamic Gold X-100. Each flex designation has five sub-categories, so fitting with these shafts is a very personal choice. X-100 is one of those sub-categories and is popular on Tour, although some players go slightly softer with an S-400.
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True Temper Project X
The skinny: What is the difference between the Dynamic Gold and Project X? Both are heavy (in the 125-gram range), and they produce similar shot patterns. However, the feel is distinctly different. Project X is stiffer in the grip area, and this stiffness can be felt in the hands and arms. Rory McIlroy uses Project X. With the Dynamic Gold used by Woods, there is more clubhead feel. New Project X shafts such as PXi and PX 95 Flighted have a softer feel.
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Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 3 Tour 130
The skinny: Introduced at the PGA Merchandise Show, this shaft features relatively low tip rigidity to produce a higher trajectory. Meanwhile, the mid-section of the shaft is stiff, and the butt section is slightly less stiff. The result is a stable shaft that enables golfers to achieve more height on their iron shots. Nippon carefully points out that, despite this height, shots do not balloon with this shaft.
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Nippon N.S. Pro 950GH
The skinny: Nippon’s largest-selling shaft in the United States and throughout the world, according to the company. It often is cited as the first modern lightweight steel shaft. The hallmark of the 950GH is its combination of strength and weight balance. The strength comes from an alloy called NSGS8665V. The balance reflects the primary mission of Nippon engineers, who sought to create an ultra-lightweight steel shaft with the shot control sought by skilled players.
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The skinny: The original KBS Tour shaft (well-known because of use by Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Adam Scott and Justin Rose, among others) was followed by the KBS Tour C-Taper and now the KBS Tour V2, played by Phil Mickelson in winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The V2 is a tour-only product at this point, but will be sold to consumers later in the year. The C-Taper offers a lower trajectory than the original KBS Tour, and V2 has a slightly more penetrating flight than the C-Taper.
KBS Tour 90
The skinny: Kim Braly called this “more of a player’s shaft than a lightweight shaft,” although the shaft appeals to a wide range of skilled golfers. It is a softer shaft than the KBS Tour. Braly said the Tour 90 S is not quite as strong as the original Tour R. That being said, Braly’s recommendation to amateurs is different from often-heard advice: “Use the strongest shaft you can load, not the most flexible shaft you can control.”