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Do you need a $1000 shaft?

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For $1000, a golfer can buy a lot of clubs — a driver, a few fairway woods and possibly even a few wedges. But unless that golfer went through a custom fitting, the $1000 worth of clubs he or she bought are likely going to fall short in distance, accuracy or both.

For golfers who want to leave absolutely nothing on the table, adjusting a driver’s loft or swapping stock shafts isn’t going to cut it. They need a club head and shaft to work together to give them the perfect launch and spin numbers, and they want it to feel perfect, too.

All that feel and performance comes at a price, however. For example, the aftermarket Matrix M3 “Black Tie” shaft that U.S. Open winner Justin Rose used in his TaylorMade R1 driver at Merion costs around $320. And get this — two other shafts used by golfers in the U.S. Open field made Rose’s shaft look cheap.

Aldila Rogue

Aldila Rogue

Aldila’s Rogue shaft is still in the testing phase, but John Oldenburg, vice president of engineering for Aldila, said that if it does come to retail it will cost around $1000.

The reason for its high price? Like most graphite shafts, it’s the materials. The Rogue uses what are called “pitch” fibers in its design, which are much stiffer than the graphite fibers used to make Aldila’s other shafts.

According to Oldenburg, the stiffest graphite fibers currently in play on the PGA Tour have a modulus of 65 million pounds per square inch, or 65 msi. The Rogue’s pitch fibers have almost double the modulus — 125 msi.

The stiffer materials allow Aldila to create a shaft that’s lighter and stronger than previous shafts, with very low torque. For Lee Westwood, who used the shaft in a Ping G25 driver at the U.S. Open, the Rogue created a lower-launching, lower-spinning ball flight that propelled him into a tie for 15th finish.

Click here to see what members are saying about the Aldila Rogue shaft in the forums.

Matrix Ozik TPHD

Matrix Ozik TPHD

Like U.S. Open winner Justin Rose, runner-up Jason Day also used a Matrix shaft in his driver and fairway wood. But Day’s Matrix Ozik TPHD shaft costs more than three as much as Rose’s 6M3  — about $1000.

Click here to see all the clubs and shafts used by Jason Day.

Like the Aldila Rogue shaft, the Ozik TPHD shafts are made with exotic materials and special constructions that offer increased strength and improved performance. Chris Nolan, executive vice president of global operations for Matrix, said one of the leading factors of the TPHD’s high price tag is a material called Zylon, which has been used to make bulletproof shirts and sells for about $2000 per pound.

“In layman’s terms, Zylon is like Kevlar on steriods,” Nolan said. “Kevlar is very tough and strong, but it doesn’t have a high modulus. Zylon has a high modulus.”

Ozik TPHD shafts also use several other special materials, such as boron and GMAT, which are arranged in a way that gives certain golfers like Day an opportunity to gain as much as 3 to 4 mph of ball speed, Nolan said.

Do you need a $1000 shaft?

Jason Day Merion

Even the experts, Oldenburg and Nolan, admit that most golfers probably don’t need a shaft that costs anywhere near $1000. So while the latest materials and manufacturing processes have allowed Aldila and Matrix to make shafts that are better than ever before, super high-priced shafts aren’t for everyone, even if cost wasn’t a factor.

As a general rule, golfers with more club head speed prefer lower torque shafts — and many tour players like Westwood like as little as possible. On the other hand, golfers with slower clubhead speeds usually need more torque. That’s why the most recent shafts from Aldila have what’s called progressive torques.

For example, Aldila’s RIPd NV shafts, which debuted in 2010, have 4.4 degrees of torque in the regular-flex models, but only 2.8 degrees of torque in the TX, or tour extra-stiff model.

Nolan has a different attitude toward torque, however. He said that Matrix is not that concerned with standard torque numbers — like shaft flex, torque tends to be measured in different ways by different manufacturers, which results in different readings. But what he said is important is the distribution of torque and stiffness throughout the entire length of the shaft, which creates stability and consistency.

As Nolan and Oldenburg both said, choosing a shaft really comes down to one thing.

“Do the numbers make sense?”

Chances are, golfers don’t need to spend $1000 for the answer to be “yes.”

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Gae922

    Jul 9, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Personally, I play only Tour shafts on my R1 Driver (Tour head also version 2 8,5° TD1xxxx), 3 wood RBZ stage 2 and on my rescue
    This is not the same world… the productivity and the control is better than stock shaft or market shaft… but the price is not the same between 600 € and 1200 €.. performance has a price !…
    But this is pure pleasure to play with this kind of equipment.

  2. Putt King

    Jun 22, 2013 at 8:53 am

    I’ve been building clubs for myself and friends for 20 years and have tried a lot of golf shafts in irons and woods. Some of the best performing ones have been the inexpensive ones and some of the worst have been expensive. Price was never really a good indicator of potential performance/success in trying a new shaft whether for woods or irons. As Nolan and Oldenburg state at the end of the article, it all comes down to the numbers – how does the shaft perform for YOU? So then how do you decide what shafts to even try? You can go by the specs – torgue, CPM, kickpoint/bendpoint, etc but those are sometimes more marketing than reality. I’ve had shafts that claim to be high launch (because that’s the current mantra) that don’t launch the ball high at all. It’s probably best to go to a club fitter that has interchangeable shafts and you can use the launch monitor for irons and woods to determine what’s best for you, and then take it out onto the driving range or golf course for final testing. Most people have different swings indoors vs the golf course.

    By the way, the best driver shaft I’ve tried in a long time is the TFC-189D Tour-S in my Ping G25 driver, 45″ length. I didn’t lose any distance or trajectory going to the Tour-S vs the Stiff shaft, and I’m hitting 12-14 fairways per round as a 6 handicap golfer (which is coming down because I’m hitting 3-4 more fairways per round now!).

    By the way, if anyone has any leftover Utility Master Series (UMS) heads, let me know! I built drivers and 4 woods with these heads years ago and they still perform great. My brother is a scratch golfer and still can’t find a better utility club for his bag. It’s not as long as a modern 3 wood, but for that 225 yard draw/fade/high/low shot, it’s awesome! I wish I still had mine…. I don’t even remember the off-brand shaft I put in these but they worked great too.

  3. Chris

    Jun 21, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Considering all the other expenses associated with gold, including $4+ golf balls and multi-thousand dollar annual memberships I frankly don’t see much difference between a $400 driver and a $1,400 one.

  4. Bob

    Jun 20, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Ever heard of Honma? Their 5 star shafts come with an even steeper price point. Heck, an iron set with 4 star ARMRQ6 graphite shafts will set you back a cool $20k.

  5. BigG

    Jun 19, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Taylormade = the biggest swindlers in the golf biz

    • Lee

      Jun 20, 2013 at 7:20 am

      Taylormade is like the Ian Poulter of Manufactures. They may be pretty good, but they give you so many reasons to hate them.

    • Gae922

      Jul 9, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      BigG… be fair with Taylormade

      Taylormade is the biggest marketing company in Golf… I will certainly advise to them to be more transparent with the market, the consumers and players in their Golf market approach…
      The product made for the Tour are not the product branding Taylormade on the golf market… end of discussion… even if they are both design by the same company Taylormade… It means that Taylor has the know how to produce equipment for Tour pro.
      Despite this fact, the Taylormade products are the best for the mass market… 45 to 6 hcp… If you want performance you need to use aftermarket heads and shaft or even better use the graal some Tour equipements… as Tour head from Taylor (see R1 driver version 2) + Tour shaft… etc … difficult or expensive to find this kind of Tour Golf equipments…. My entire golf bag is 10 000 € of equipments.. This is my pleasure… I know that hand crafting tour irons heads cost 60 000 € even for the tour players… quality and pure performance has a price.

  6. SSgt. Bear

    Jun 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Jason Day has three $1000 Matrix TP7HD shafts and elects to have them with Taylormade TP graphics. Is that part of the Taylormade endorsement contract? Do the contracted staffers all have to be “sheeple” and follow the herd?

    • Scott

      Jun 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      All taylormade players have the stock graphics on aftermarket shafts.

      • Gae922

        Jul 9, 2013 at 4:11 pm

        You are right Scoot but also you are wrong… The Tour shafts for the professional have the stock graphics not on aftermarket shafts but on special Tour shafts dedicated for the Tour players.
        These are better than the regular aftermarket shafts (selection in carbon, quality process, tests of the final product…etc This explain the price of each Tour shaft – 600 to 1200 €/$)
        This is where is the scam of club & shaft manufacturers … they want us to believe that the champions have the level of performance with their mainstream public products… This is completely wrong…
        This is also right for the head of the club… Tour heads are different… see
        For that reason, I advise good players (-5 to 4 Hcp) to obtain and play Tour products… no compromise o)))

        THIS IS PRODUCT MARKETING FOR THE CONSUMERS… WE NEED TO EDUCATE IN THE RIGHT WAY THE PLAYERS.. AND CONSUMERS

  7. Socorr4

    Jun 19, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Just like watches that cost in the hundred thousand range, Áldila will find some buyers among those people who always want the most expensive item on the market. But seriously, does the watch tell time better or even as well as any cheap quartz model? What on earth can be gained from a shaft that costs a thousand bucks? Most pros play with driver shafts that cost less than a quarter of that.

    • bradford

      Aug 27, 2014 at 9:11 am

      But it’s ITALIAN leather…..

      Sure, that’s much lower quality than mexican or honduran leather—but we can charge more–because it’s ITALIAN leather.

      Will it last? Hell no, and it’s thinner and less comfortable BUT!, It’s ITALIAN leather.

      Fact is some idiot will always pay the money for this stuff, and even bigger idiots will believe that it does something. Fair to compare touring pros to us? Do you make millions? If so, feel free to spend it on what is in fact only expensive because someone’s willing to pay for it. You know as well as everyone else that there is perfectly comparable equipment for reasonable prices.

  8. Mike

    Jun 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    i think everyone should be required to fashion their own equipment out of materials only found in their backyard. a limit of 3 clubs per bag, and while i’m on the topic…no bags allowed. oh and make the holes 1/2″ smaller.

  9. Dave C.

    Jun 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Nobody needs a $1000 shaft. PT Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

    How true!

  10. Soul

    Jun 19, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Waiting for the Rogue on Classifieds $950 firm

  11. M Bartolomeo

    Jun 19, 2013 at 11:27 am

    good bye golf carts, hello Emus

  12. BreakThrough

    Jun 19, 2013 at 10:23 am

    All players should eb using Steel shafts. You are changing the materials to a point where the game is no longer what it traditionally designed to be.

    • stonyman

      Jun 19, 2013 at 10:45 am

      Why steel? Hickory was used before this new fangled technology called steel.

    • mctrees02

      Jun 19, 2013 at 10:57 am

      Is there any chance we can get rid of the dimples on the balls while we’re at it?

    • Curt

      Jun 19, 2013 at 11:22 am

      Hell, while were at it, why don’t we go back to balls made of feathers???

    • joro

      Jun 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      Hmmm, and they say “anchored” putters are “not the way the game was meant to be played” Seems a bit stupid and the shafts to a lot more than the putter.

      • Blanco

        Jun 19, 2013 at 10:06 pm

        anchoring is to ______ as shaft is to putter?

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Whats in the Bag

C.T. Pan’s winning WITB: 2019 RBC Heritage

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Driver: Titleist TS2 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Atmos 6 Blue X

3-wood: Titleist TS3 (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK 70 TX

Irons: TaylorMade M3 (2/3), Titleist 718 T-MB (4), Titleist 718 AP2 (5-9 iron)
Shafts: Project X HZRDUS Red 85 (M3), Project X 6.0 (others)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (46-10F, 52-08F, 62-08M), Titleist Vokey 2017 Prototype (58-10K)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 (Purple)

Putter: Scotty Cameron Prototype

Ball: 2019 Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride MCC

Another look at Pan’s wedges, c/o Vokey wedge rep, Aaron Dill on Instagram

 

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Whats in the Bag

Brooke Henderson’s winning WITB: 2019 Lotte Championship

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Driver: Ping G400 (9 degrees set at 8)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-VR 5X, 48″

3-wood: Ping G400 Stretch (13 degrees set at 12.4)
Shaft: Ping Alta CB X, 45″

Fairway wood: Ping G400 (17.5 degrees at 18)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD TP6X

Hybrid: Ping G400 (22 degrees at 22.75)
Shaft: Fujikura Pro 73 R, 41.5″

Irons: Ping i210 (5-UW) (lie: 2.25 degrees flat, UW 1/2″ shorter than standard)
Shafts: Nippon Modus3 105-S

Wedges: Ping Glide Forged (52 degrees at 53), (60 degrees) (lie: 2.25 degrees flat, 3/4″ shorter than standard)
Shafts: Nippon Modus 115 Wedge

Putter: Ping Sigma 2 Valor (33″, 23-degree lie, 2-degree loft)
Grip: Rosemark MFS Wide Top

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

 

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Equipment

Talking New Level Golf with founder Eric Burch

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“If you want to make a small fortune, start with a big fortune”

It’s a phrase I’ve heard many times before, not just with the golf industry but in other industries that are, let’s call them — leisure or sports-focused. It’s an uphill climb to enter any market, but golf might be on another level. There are the big players that are worth BILLIONS, and spend millions of dollars in research and development, along with equal amounts marketing, to make sure that every golfer is aware of their new club technologies. They also have well-oiled systems of distribution.

But in this new world of brand-agnostic fitting centers, boutique brands, social media, and the ability to reach your target demographic like never before there are a LOT of new companies creating high performance, high quality, well-engineered products. But when it comes to forged irons for golfers of all abilities, industry veteran Eric Burch’s New Level Golf stands on its own.

If you don’t know Eric Burch, and you’ve gone through a custom fitting recently, then you are at least partially aware of some of the breakthroughs he’s helped create in the golf industry, including the Club Conex system. His newest endeavor New Level Golf was only started in 2017, but in that short time, it has made some very big strides including distribution in over 150 brand agnostic club fitting facilities and now some professional golfers signed to the roster (including PGA Tour winner Ken Duke).

So how do you go from designing club fitting components to designing forged irons and starting a company that has products on the Golf Digest Hot List? I got the chance to talk to Eric about New Level Golf, his background and how after his years in the golf industry he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

RB: Based on your history in the golf industry you seem to be a real problem solver with a “Be your own boss” mentality, is that how you would describe your self?

EB: I’ve been in business for myself since my early 20s. Other than a few short stints for other golf companies, I have primarily been my own boss involved with golf. I would consider myself a problem solver. Not necessarily by design, but mainly due to starting companies that have always been undercapitalized which forces your hand to learn a variety of tasks to help the business move forward.
Although I’ve received notoriety as a club fitter/retailer, Club Conex, and now New Level. I’ve been fortunate to have won the professional Clubmaker’s Top Shop Award (2004), Golf Digest Top 100 Club Fitters (2016),  & have products I’ve designed be on the Golf Digest Hot List (2019).

RB: What was the first product & club head you ever designed, and how does the workflow go now with New Level?

EB: The first golf products were, of course, the Club Conex prototypes and those were generated from hand-rendered sketches. I still believe, given what I did with Club Conex and the universal system I designed, I hardly get the credit I deserve. I bought a milling machine without really knowing how to use it and over the course of 6-7 months taught myself how to use it and started creating prototypes. Those prototypes eventually became the Uni-Fit system.

The first clubs I ever designed were putters dating back to the mid 2000s, but in terms of New Level, I know what I am trying to accomplish in design as well as fitting into player categories that comes from my years working at my own shop and fitting golfers from professionals to higher handicaps. Since product is made overseas, the engineers I work with at our factory have done a very good job of helping bring my concepts and designs to fruition. I really enjoy doing the designs and creating something that will one day be in someone’s golf bag.  The only current issue with the success we’re seeing now is if the company continues to push forward we will at some point be forced to bring on an industrial design engineer to further help with product development, but that would be in 2021 as most of our products for next year are in development, or have already been developed.

RB: On that note, how long from having an initial concept to that first set of irons or at least a prototype head in hand?

EB: This is heavily dependant on the complexity of the design. The 4995 HB took almost 9 months to get it where we wanted, whereas the 902 took just about four months. Typically we can get a first article sample of a playable sample in less than 60 days.

RB: When you consider the logistics and tooling involved, that’s quite an impressive turnaround time. From a design perspective, what do you think is the most misunderstood part of creating an iron head and the manufacturing process that you face?

EB: This is a hot topic with me since most people just don’t understand the depth of the manufacturing process. A lot of people think of the term open model (a factory’s in house design produced to create a starting point for some companies), they think we are just stamping our name on a head that is already been refined and finished by someone else which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Like with many aspects of club designs some of the tooling we use are openly available, but for example the raw forged blank head is on average 407 grams on a 6 iron that needs to be designed into a profile that weighs just 262 grams. So as you can imagine a club head overweight by more that 35 percent, it’s far from being a finished product. We call all the shots when it comes to every pertinent parameter and specifications of our design. The only thing incorporated into using this process and something we can’t change is the offset of the club. All other facets of the design are facilitated by my directive and incorporated into the final design.

I chose this method of manufacturing for New Level because it allows a far more flexible range of experimentation before a final design is consummated and brought to market. As a new company starting out it would have been near impossible to use a process similar to other OEMs that create a final tool for each and every design solely based on scale. We had several designs that were not used because they didn’t make the cut when it comes to performance and if we had gone the other route we would have had hundreds of thousands of dollars in tooling alone from products that never saw the light of day.

This process is called the “near net” process, and I find it to be much more in tune with today’s industry. I will take it one step further by saying regardless how good one may be at hand grinding and polishing, a human will never be as consistent and effective as a CNC machine. This entire process allows us to keep our costs reasonable and offer a…uniquely designed, full one-piece forged club for a fair price. There are a lot of other companies using this process you’d just never suspect it.

RB: As a club builder and fitter myself, I have encountered my fair share of misconceptions from golfers, what do YOU feel is the number one thing golfer misunderstand from a design perspective of their clubs?

EB: I can only speak from my experiences, but most golfers are scared of the word “forged” as it has been far too long associated with blades and hard to hit designs. I believe the average weekend warrior still views forged as a design methodology as opposed to a manufacturing process. That is a major objective for New Level to prove that forged clubs can be forgiving, can produce great ball speed, & can be used by your average mid handicap player. Our 1126, for example, is longer from heel to toe, has a shallow profile, and deep undercut – lots of forgiveness for any level of player. From a fitting perspective, I’d say that over 80 percent of players are using shafts that are too heavy, and too stiff for them.

RB:  We’ve talked a lot about the product, and now I need to know – How many retail outlets currently carry your irons and wedges. And lastly, what advantage do you believe New Level irons and wedges have over the competition?

EB: New Level products can be found at roughly 150 locations worldwide and growing almost weekly. If I had my way, we’d never sell another club off the website since I truly believe getting fit by a professional is the best way to get the right set, but saying that as the brand is growing and during the infancy stages, I am trying to get as much product in the field of play as possible to spread brand awareness. We get positive feedback on a daily basis. We have an extensive questionnaire on our site to help those that are not close to one of our retailers, and we also have a lot of people that see our clubs, like what they see and order to their known specs.

As far as our advantages go, I believe it’s pretty simple — being small allows us to pay more attention to each and every client and ensure they are getting the attention that they deserve. The mentality is always to be big enough to make money, yet no matter how we grow, act small and care about every single customer. Currently, we have the care part down very well. My belief is with any business I’ve ever been involved with is that if you do the right thing and stay focused eventually the money will take care of itself. It’s funny because I experience many of the same challenges with New Level as I did with Club Conex early on. Although I am mixed in with a ton of larger players in the golf industry, with New Level I am starting to see our awareness with golfers grow. I hope that this growth continues and we still maintain a great rapport with our customer base.

If you are interested in New Level products check out their website, or call and check with your local club fitter for availability.

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