New focus on shaft science has helped pros, amateurs

Rory McIlroy hits off the ninth tee during the final round of the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course.

Rory McIlroy hits off the ninth tee during the final round of the 94th PGA Championship at the Ocean Course.

Golf shafts can change our games. It’s no secret. More and more players are paying close attention to their shafts.

Take Rory McIlroy, for example. He won the PGA Championship with a new Mitsubishi Rayon 70-gram graphite driver shaft. Officially the shaft is classified as a Diamana prototype, and McIlroy used it to finish first in average driving distance (311.5 yards) at this year’s final major championship.

photo

The Diamana Plus

That’s good news for McIlroy, but it’s also good news for everyday amateur golfers. Why? Because major shaft manufacturers are building phenomenal shafts. Gone are the days when building a golf shaft was a fickle, inconsistent process.

Even better news: The science of graphite driver shafts has advanced so dramatically that almost any golfer can gain yardage by finding a shaft that produces the optimal combination of launch angle and spin for an individual player.

One of the newest driver shafts brings with it a familiar name. The Diamana Plus from Mitsubishi Rayon is the third generation of the popular Diamana family of shafts.

The original Diamana (Blue Board, White Board and Red Board) was known as a stable, soft-feeling shaft. A second generation of the Diamana (‘ahina, ‘ilima and Kai’li) introduced a stiffer tip and butt.

Now, according to Mitsubishi, the Diamana Plus combines the best qualities of both shafts -- great feel with tour-quality stability. Driver shaft weights are 62, 72 and 82 grams. It is available in Blue Board and White Board versions.

What’s the difference between Blue Board and White Board? The White Board has a slightly lower launch.

A Diamana Plus hybrid shaft also is being introduced by Mitsubishi Rayon. Weights are 92 and 102 grams.

Today’s marketplace overflows with lightweight yet durable shafts. Looking at the three major championships played so far in 2012, the winners used driver shafts from three manufacturers:

• Bubba Watson’s Ping G20 driver (7.5) was outfitted with his longtime favorite shaft, the True Temper Grafalloy Bi-Matrx, at the Masters.

• Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open with a UST ProForce AXIV Core Tour Red 69 in his Titleist 909D3 driver (10.5).

• Ernie Els added a second Open Championship crown with a Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 7.2 shaft in his Callaway Razr Fit driver (8.5).

Meanwhile, a fourth driver shaft manufacturer has more wins on the 2012 PGA Tour than any other company. That would be Mitsubishi Rayon, whose driver shafts have been used by nine PGA Tour winners this year.

Mark Gunther, director of sales for Mitsubishi Rayon, talked about the new Diamana Plus: “We are using thinner pre-preg (sheets of graphite fiber). It’s what I call ultra-thin pre-preg. What we ended up with was the feel and feedback of the original Diamana shaft in a new shaft that is very, very precise with kick points and bending and so forth. The shaft is extremely stable.”

The Diamana Plus has a stylish matte finish, but, no, the White Board is not white. It’s black. As we might guess, the Blue Board is blue. Actually the original Diamana prototype had a matte blue finish. “It’s a little bit of going back to the future,” Gunther said.

The new shafts are available from major golf retailers with a suggested retail price of $300 for the driver shaft and $180 for the hybrid shaft.

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