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2014 Iron shaft shootout: Top-rated steel and graphite iron shafts get put to the test

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Iron shafts are the forgotten younger sibling of the golf shaft family. Where’s the love?

Most of the avid golfers we see in our shop will spend hours combing WRX forums, reading various reviews, asking questions and trying out countless different options for their new driver shaft. For some reason, these same golfers simply don’t pay attention to the shafts that go into their irons, even though there are typically at least eight of them in their bag versus just one driver. Too many golfers use the same iron shafts they’ve been gaming since the last time they were fit (usually at a demo day, a couple of sets ago) or use whatever might come as stock.

Although you surely don’t fall into this category, you might have a friend or two that does. So to help, we did data-driven, head-to-head comparison of several of the top iron shafts for better players. Our findings indicate that everyone should take a fresh look at what shafts should go into their next set of irons. Putting the wrong shaft in one club can show up on the scorecard. Now imagine having 7 to 10 shafts that don’t match your swing. It’s not a pretty picture.

As we began the test, I didn’t think any single shaft or shafts would surpass the others in total performance. Instead, my hypothesis was that certain shafts would distinguish themselves in one or two areas and potentially fall behind in others. For example, the longest shaft would likely be the least consistent.

Testing Procedure

For each shaft in our test, I asked four low-handicap golfers (-2 to a +2) to take five shots with a 4 iron and PW with a stiff-flex shaft using Mizuno JPX-825 Pro iron heads for each shot. We threw out obvious mishits, but included slight misses as they’re part of the game. A shaft’s performance must be measured by how misses are managed. The number of excluded shots was low and very consistent across the shafts, however, indicating that these were caused primarily by a swing issue and not a result of the shaft.

IMG951614

We used a Foresight GC2 launch monitor to track all the results. The order we hit the shafts was random and the shots were broken into three different hitting sessions to ensure that fatigue didn’t skew any numbers.

Here are the shafts we used in our testing:

  • Aerotech SteelFiber 125S
  • KBS C-Taper 120S
  • KBS Tour 120S
  • KBS Tour-V 110S
  • Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 120S
  • True Temper Project X 6.0
  • True Temper Dynamic Gold S300
  • UST Mamiya Recoil 125S

We tracked the average ball speed, launch angle, backspin, carry distance, carry deviation, decent angle and distance offline.

4 iron

4table

Pitching Wedge

PWtable

Research findings

Shafts perform differently for different golfers. All the shafts performed well, however, and if you spend any time looking through the data you’ll see that the single biggest finding is that my original hypothesis was wrong. On average, there are very limited performance differences between shafts when data from the four golfers is averaged. Yes, there are some minor variances, but given the sample sizes we cannot conclude anything definitive.

The real variations come when we look at how each shaft performs for individual golfers*. Take the Aerotech SteelFiber performance for Golfers A & B from the table below.

findingtable

For Golfer A, the SteelFiber was his longest 4 iron and flew nearly 7 yards more than his average carry distance. It was the shortest shaft for Golfer B, however, and 6 yards below his average. The only way to ensure you’re playing with the best shafts is to go through a thorough fitting where you’re able to hit several options, ideally with the same head.

How a shaft feels should not be the first criteria used when selecting a shaft. Other than in extreme cases, it’s best not to assume how a shaft is performing, but instead rely on a launch monitor to provide unbiased data. You might be surprised how your perception of feel might be changed by performance. For example, our testers expressed concern about the dispersion with the Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 120S and UST Recoil 125S shafts. The numbers show that the dispersion for both shafts were right in the middle of the pack. Feel is best used as a final decision when two shafts are performing very similarly. Here is the summary feedback on feel:

  • Project X 6.0: An incredibly stiff, solid feel. Not much in terms of the shaft loading/unloading and what the ball is doing at impact.
  • KBS Tour: Lots of feel throughout the swing as the shaft flexes. It feels like it “pops” at impact. Also, it feels more flexible than it actually is.
  • Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 120: Incredibly smooth-feeling throughout the swing, a definite favorite. Only concern is if the shaft too soft and distance and offline consistency are sacrificed.
  • UST Recoil 125: Feels very good with a lot of pop, like a KBS Tour on steroids. Despite being graphite, it feels very stable and many would play them. Testers knew when and where misses were, but the feedback wasn’t harsh.
  • KBS C-Taper: Heavy and stable, a cross between the Project X and KBS Tour. The weight and stability feel good, but the ball doesn’t jump off the face.
  • Aerotech Steelfiber: The Recoils feels nice off the face, but the SteelFiber feels more stable and smooth throughout the swing. It really feels like steel.
  • True Temper Dynamic Gold S300: Feels like home, very familiar.
  • KBS Tour-V: Very smooth, but light and flexible. It would take a while to get used to the lighter weight.

Both the Recoils and SteelFibers limit harsh, negative vibrations on mishits, but still feel solid throughout the swing and at impact. The shafts provided enough feedback that the players could control ball flight and knew where exactly they hit it on the face. Graphite performs, even for very good golfers. Living in Hilton Head, I got a front row seat for Matt Kuchar’s win with a set of SteelFibers.

Despite being doubters before the testing, all of our testers indicated they would strongly consider both high-end graphite options for their next set of irons. The feel feedback indicated the Recoils could be felt loading and unloading during the swing more than the SteelFibers and provided a “pop” at impact. The SteelFibers felt stable like steel throughout.

Note*: In this study, we attempted to correlate shaft performance differences with differences in the golfers’ swings. We were unable to do the correlation as a result of our limited sample size.

Conclusion

The original purpose of this testing was to provide a data-driven guide to help better players select what shafts to put in irons. As with much in golf, my research findings didn’t turn out quite that simple.

What this testing really proves to me, and hopefully for you, is that everyone can really benefit from taking a fresh look at what they’re playing and do a thorough fitting. What you are playing may not be the optimal shaft for you.

Related: Click here to see GolfWRX’s top-rated players irons and game-improvement irons picks for 2014. 

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Chris Wycoff is the owner of SwingFit, a custom club fitting and building studio in Hilton Head Island, SC. Prior to joining the golf world, Chris was a management consultant for over 7 years and brings a great deal of the data driven processes from that world into golf. SwingFit has spent the last 2 years with a Gears motion tracking system capturing thousands of swings and partnering with data scientists to research how clubs and human golf swings really interact. SwingFit was included on Golf Digest's list of 100 Best Clubfitters in America for 2015/16, 17/18 & 19/20 as well as Golf.com's list of 25 Elite Club Fitters in 2019 .

65 Comments

65 Comments

  1. Gerald Teigrob

    Jun 25, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    Having seen success in graphite shafted irons in the past, I am feeling like a little kid now with the Bio Cell Black irons in stiff graphite. I switched to graphite from steel in the early to mid-90s and noticed significant improvement and a greater confidence in my game. I figure that now with the Black Bio Cell irons I will see more improvement immediately and can work from there into the steel shafted irons. But at this point, there’s no rush! So knowing how things went based on past experience, this will be an exciting time for me! I can only imagine the confidence and extra length that comes with such a switch will work very well in my favor!

  2. James

    Jan 29, 2015 at 2:40 am

    I am low single figure handicap, 55 yrs old and still have driver ss of 118. Iron play is my strength and have change shafts a few times, X100, C taper, KBS tour, Steelfiber i95 and now, Nippon Pro Modus 120. I play Mizuno MP 63 irons. for my game I find that the Nippon Pro Modus 120 is a great fit, I had them custom fitted and lofts and lie angles done as always. Dispersion is no problem and I find the slightly higher launch angle a great help. My home course is in the mountains so we have a lot of alleviation changes and wind. In the wind I can still hit it low and uphill shots to greens are fantastic. In my view people change clubs to often as every small change takes time to adjust to. My Driver is a D3 910 Titleist with custom vir Accra shaft. I see now positive improvement in changing to one of the newer models. I agree, with the test results, Find the shaft that works and stick to them. I tried the C Tapes and for me they where a disaster. I still have a set of MP 62 with the Steel fibre shaft. I play them in winter and they are my second choice. Enjoy and play well all good people

  3. Straightdriver235

    Jan 19, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    With graphite shafts there is a learning curve, where you have to dial them in, whereas with steel, generally you don’t other than adjust to the weight–there’s some difference in feel and trajectory, but not near as much. I’m of the opinion that graphite can work well, but some might give up after one or two rounds with them. I’ve got the right graphite shaft, which is a GDI, I feel now I’m pretty consistent with the irons after working through what they can and cannot do in regards to working the ball, trajectories, common miss errors, adrenaline highs and lows throughout the round, etc., the learning curve with graphite is definitely sharper. Add the expense of graphite, and regular golfers won’t go to them.

  4. Pat

    Dec 2, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Used to play the C-tapers in S+ hard stepped once. It was the best shaft for my 120mph driver swing with hard, aggressive transition. Flight was nice and low and spin was very low. Dispersion was also the best. I absolutely hate PX shafts. Very harsh and excessive vibration. I hooked the crap out of the PX 6.5 shafts I had very briefly and broke my hand. Currently gaming the Recoil proto 125 F5 shafts. Very glad I made the switch from the c-tapers. Dampens vibration, feels great and gives me a slightly higher launch and a little more spin. I was shocked how great composite shafts could be when I tested them. I will be gaming the recoil protos for a long time.

  5. Pingback: Dynamic Gold X100 Swing Speed Radar Launch Monitor | Golf Swing Tips

  6. Ryan

    Aug 6, 2014 at 8:31 am

    You guys have an F5 recoil in the test picture. F5 is x flex. In the story it says s flex.

  7. tyro

    Aug 5, 2014 at 10:53 am

    I’ll add to the Steelfiber praise. I’ve been plagued by joint and bone issues since I started playing just 2 years ago. The Steelfiber i95s are the easiest on my body by far. I’m going to have them put in my main set now and I’m very excited to see the difference. They lack nothing in terms of feel, though if you are used to an S400 or X100, the weight might take a little getting used to.

    I LOVE S400’s in my wedges though!

  8. tlmck

    Aug 1, 2014 at 4:08 am

    I was fitted with S-300, but opted for X-100 for the feel and tighter shot dispersion. There was no distance difference. I got better distance with KBS Tour, but just could not control the spin. For me, the KBS not only felt weaker, but played weaker as well. PX 6.0 also worked well, but just did not have the “thump” of the x-100. PX 6.5 just plain felt weird. Never tried any of the others.

  9. adam

    Jul 29, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    These are results that are for scratch golfers. A 10-20 HDCP may love the Recoils but hate the Steelfibers, or vice-versa. You must get fitted when your swing is at it’s best (end of the season) regardless of your handicap. I’m a 10 and love the Recoils, X100’s and the modus120’s. It’s all about your own preference. Just because someone has the same S.S. does not mean he will love the same shafts as you. People: just get fitted at the proper time and you’ll know which shafts work best FOR YOU. Drastic difference for me when I was fitted. I was playing R300’s and now I game Recoil 680’s in an “X” flex. Wow, what a difference a fitting makes. Never would’ve thought my SS would tell me to get x stiff iron shafts but they have made a heck of a difference in my iron game. Kudos to moderngolf.

    • Pat

      Dec 2, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      Shafts don’t care what your handicap is. Someone could be an excellent ball striker with a very high swing speed but also have a really bad short game. They could be an 18 handicap as a result. When picking a shaft, what matters is swing speed, feel, angle of attack, launch angle and spin, NOT HANDICAP.

  10. Joe Golfer

    Jul 29, 2014 at 1:14 am

    I always wonder how the flex will feel in comparing the same listed flex of a steel vs a graphite shaft.
    With old woods that had steel shafts, I always found the comparable flex shaft in graphite to be whippier.
    Even with older model irons, the graphite shafts available were whippier than steel of the same flex, although those were stock graphite shafts of the OEM’s and not premium (and expensive) aftermarket graphite shafts.

    • Bob Pegram

      Sep 30, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      Graphite shafts 15 years ago were not nearly as consistent as steel shafts. That variability went away a number of years ago as graphite shaft quality control became better and better. Also, some golf club companies cheat on their shaft flex markings. Callaway did it first, marking senior shafts as Regular, Regular shafts as stiff, etc. That way guys who were aging, but vain, could brag that they still used the same flex shaft as they alway did. You won’t find that “cheating” with good quality after-market shafts like the Aerotechs or Recoils. They are the same flex as steel shafts. If the lighter shaft weight is offset be adding weight to the heads, the shafts will flex a little more, but that is due to the heavier heads weights, not whippier shafts.

  11. Dave

    Jul 28, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Has anyone hit the new Loomis iron shafts. All I can say is unbelievable. Hit a demo #6 iron and my launch angle and spin were the same as DGS300 but increased ball speed by 3 mph. The feel and how straight I hit the Loomis was what caught my attention.

  12. Tony

    Jul 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Why no PXi’s??

  13. Swifty

    Jul 28, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    I have three sets of clubs: TM320s withGrafalloy ProLogic. TM360s with TM Lite M-70 and TM R7s with Rifle 5.5 steel. Other than weight, I don’t see much difference in either of them insofar as distance and accuracy is concerned.

  14. Gautama

    Jul 28, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    I may be alone, but I find when I switch shafts I do swing a bit differently initially as my feel for the clubhead changes a bit, but it’s kind of a temporary effect and after a few dozen swings I’m back to my norm. So that shaft that was just perfect during my fitting did in fact perform better because I’m more aware of my transition tempo, for example, and strike the ball better. But once I get used to it they don’t really seem to make a huge difference. That said, I still think DGS300 is the most underestimated shaft in golf, and personally love the feel!

  15. flogger38

    Jul 28, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Great article and as always a thorough presentation. However, saying that, how about ratings for Joe Average, 15-21 handicap? As a senior, we need more info for us average Joe’s who don’t carry a 2-5 handicap and don’t have a 100mph swing speed.
    Not a complaint, just looking for what fits me.
    Thanks

  16. cody

    Jul 28, 2014 at 12:32 am

    I found this article interesting. Good work! thanks. lots of negative nelle’s here that are never satisfied with anything produced. But, I think it was a good effort.

  17. Tote bagged

    Jul 26, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    C taper lites are the best shafts out there hands down

    • Fred

      Jul 28, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Agree. The C-Taper Lites were a big game improvement for me.

    • WarrenPeace

      Aug 4, 2014 at 7:59 pm

      Yep- I loaded the c-taper lites into a set of 714 ap2s and am hitting 1 club farther across the set. It took a while to adjust mentally but now I am loving it.

    • Bob Pegram

      Sep 30, 2015 at 6:39 pm

      Tote –
      For you they are. Everybody’s swing speed, swing timing, release point, etc. is slightly different. What works for you may not work the best for a lot of other people. That is why custom fitting is so important. Two people with the same clubhead speed may need very different shafts if the way they got to impact is different.

  18. Sean

    Jul 25, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    I have been playing the SteelFiber i95’s for a few months now. Am very pleased with them.

    • carl marcus

      Jul 26, 2014 at 10:07 am

      I have i95s waiting to go in a set of 2010 ping forged that I’ve been playing this year, (ebay for 300, haha). I love the px 6.0 shafts, but i’m 54 and having some elbow pain. I have played i110 steefibers in cb2s and liked them, but was told that by dropping over all weight will help my elbow. I hope they’re not too light, but I guess i could sell them on ebay fast as pullouts.
      Maybe towards the end of the season i will throw them in, didn’t want to mess with the shafts right now, i hit these 6.0s so good. I really like the pings because they have minimum offset for a game improving iron, the new forged look like they have too much offset.
      Anyway, we’re talking shafts. Any steelfibers I ‘ve hit are EXTREMELY accurate and smooth like butter. I would recommend them to anyone to try. But like every other shaft, you have to hit it. Doesn’t matter what the manufacturer says, it’s about the individual’s swing. For me, I’ve always liked PX’s. If these graphite shafts were cheaper, I’d have tried more.

    • Michael Curley

      Jul 28, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Sean,
      May I ask your handicap and approximate swing speed?
      Also what shafts were you playing before the switch.
      I am switching to SteelFiber soon and am still trying to determine
      what is the best match for me. ( 5 handicap)

      • Pat

        Dec 2, 2014 at 4:04 pm

        Michael, your handicap means nothing in terms of fitting you for the right iron shaft. Shaft doesn’t care if you are scratch or a 30 handicap. You need to look at swing speed, feel, angle of attack, flight and spin.

  19. Tyler

    Jul 25, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    This is really good stuff! I love tangible data and there isn’t enough for iron shafts. Thanks!

  20. Homer Simpson

    Jul 25, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Rather have seen x100 than s300… This is Golfwrx!

  21. Think

    Jul 25, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Totally useless study. Any golfer who hits down on the ball will get far more spin off of mats. Reminds me of the crappy exec courses I played that had mats (you could literally spin the ball back 15 yards). Spin is the one variable that makes no sense when looking at the shaft profiles and the above results. I also like how the carry deviation is the the same or greater in the PW vs the 4 iron. Whaaat?!

  22. moses

    Jul 25, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Well there you have it. It’s no wonder the DGS300, Project X 6.0, KBS Tour and KBS C Tapers all were about the same for me in terms of performance.

  23. Tommy

    Jul 24, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    What? No PING CFS shafts? Lol

  24. KK

    Jul 24, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    No surprise that strong golfers performed well with S300s. Some (if not all) of them probably play X100s.

    Would definitely like to see the test redone with 10-20 HCP players and AP2/G25 irons.

  25. Chris Smith

    Jul 24, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    This article is nice to read, and I’m sure it was limited in size. It would be nice to see more statistics for each golfer, such as angle of attack and club head speed. I just think that more information would paint the whole picture.

  26. Golf4evah

    Jul 24, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    No love for DG Pro’s ?

  27. Lobber

    Jul 24, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    I went to Steel Fiber 95s a month or so ago in a set of BS DPC because I was developing tendonitis in both elbows. I was really nervous at first until I put them into play and found that my distance, dispersion and feel improved dramatically! The dispersion on the Steel Fibers is amazing and yes I can work the ball. Expensive but well worth it imo

  28. Kevin

    Jul 24, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Why would the KBS C taper have a higher launch with both the 4i and PW when it is supposed to be a lower launching shaft compared to the KBS Tour and Tour V?? Am I missing something?

    • Nick

      Jul 24, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      Because they can’t load the shaft properly and are presenting too much loft at impact instead of compressing the ball.

      • Brad

        Jul 24, 2014 at 10:00 pm

        You need to remember that all shaft testing posted by shaft companies are done using robots, its a robot function, when you ad a human being to the equation you add a sense of feel and balance that no robot has, therefore forcing different individuals to FEEL different things and in turn move the club in a different manner producing different results.

        Ultimately the shaft that FEELS the best to you will perform the best as you will deliver it the best, performance comes from the Head, feel comes from the shaft, control comes from the flex…. keep it simple!!

        • Nick

          Jul 25, 2014 at 8:25 am

          It isn’t that simple, the shaft will give the player the right launch and spin. head has a little influence on the flight and spin, but in the end the right shaft will give you the best results. Go get fit and stop looking at these tests because it will tell you nothing about how you swing(tempo, load, unload etc). Mizuno has the Shaft Optimizer for a reason, and Ping is about to do the same. Keep it Simple.

  29. JJ

    Jul 24, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    What’s your explanation for the C Taper having the highest launch of all the shafts? To me, it seems odd. It’s been my experience that the C Taper is lower launch than most of those other shafts. Even The KBS website has them as the lowest launch of their shafts. Obviously, they did a bunch of testing to come to that result on their own.

  30. Moon

    Jul 24, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Great to see some group testing like this!! Please keep them coming!!

  31. Pingback: Great Iron Shaft Test of Top Shafts on the Market! » D'Lance GolfD'Lance Golf

  32. twshoot67

    Jul 24, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Can’t believe they could get Aldila RIP Tour to be in this iron shaft test. I personally just re-shafted with these and have found them to be a very good shaft, can keep up with any steel shaft on the market or graphite for that matter. I would have liked to see Aldila involved in this test . I can see a day when Steel will be phased out and graphite will be the norm in irons. Just like when everyone use to play steel in woods now you don’t see a one on Tour!

    • jcorbran

      Jul 24, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      compare the cost of a dynamic gold $15 to an aerotech or similar graphite / composite shaft $75-$150, for a standard set of 8 irons going to pay a hefty upcharge

    • Nick

      Jul 25, 2014 at 7:26 am

      P Reed son

  33. Desmond

    Jul 24, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    It would have been interesting to see the shafts played on tour in the Aerotech i95 against the Tour Recoil 95, and the standard Recoil 95

  34. Philip

    Jul 24, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks, shows me that feel really is the deciding factor if I like my ball flight.

  35. Martin

    Jul 24, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Doing a shaft test with golfers all between +2 and 2 handicaps isn’t really very relevant to me.

    • Chris Wycoff

      Jul 24, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      Martin – I understand that the scratch testers might not have the most relevance to you, but I think the results still do.

      Even with this set of golfers with excellent and consistent swings, there was a very large variation in performance between golfers. There is no simple answer to the question of what is the best shaft, regardless of handicap. We found that you really need to find a quality fitter that allows you to try different shafts that fit your profile and see which performs the best for YOU, not your friend, pro or anyone else!

      • Martin

        Jul 24, 2014 at 7:47 pm

        I get that, but it’s the same as a review of a new driver done by a guy with SS of 115 mph.

        I have tried many different shaft/clubs over the years and no what I like and works my old broken down body and decent if not slightly over the top golf swing.

        I keep ending up back with my Mizuno JPX with the TT Dynalyte XP S300. Given it’s not available anymore I was hoping for some more “mainstream” testers when I saw the headline.

    • Bman

      Jul 25, 2014 at 9:42 am

      If you did this test with higher handicap players, the results would be all over the place. Not enough consistency with their swings. This is the best way to do it to get a more realistic view of how these shafts compare and contrast. These results should transfer to most people’s swings.

  36. jcorbran

    Jul 24, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Mizuno has a very nice fitting cart with a shaft analyzing device to help find the right club head and shaft for your ball striking skill level and swing. A lot more to it than what was mentioned here, like an early or late release for a golfer and which shaft might perform better for that and so on.

    • devlin

      Jul 25, 2014 at 7:02 am

      interesting article.
      …in regards to the specs. if i was really working to improve my score through equipment, i would not be surprised if someone would now consider using different shafts for their long irons versus their scoring clubs (8,9,pw).
      i would consider this if i was for example, trying to control off-line deviation, or backspin, as these will help with distance to the pin.

  37. Tony

    Jul 24, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    For the price you can’t really beat good ole S300’s.

  38. DB

    Jul 24, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Actually, these results seem to indicate that you SHOULD go by feel for iron shafts. Very minor differences in performance.

    • DH

      Jul 24, 2014 at 9:02 pm

      This is not true at all. The overall averages for all of the testers combined may have shown very little variance, but the example involving the performance differences for golfer A and B with the Recoil shows that every golfer will see a noticeable difference from shaft to shaft.

  39. 4pillars

    Jul 24, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    If the study is not statistically valid, then what is the point of publishing your results.

    Saying “We were unable to do the correlation as a result of our limited sample size” is saying we are too lazy to do it properly.

    • Craig Smith

      Jul 25, 2014 at 6:35 am

      Agreed. Much like “We threw out obvious mishits…” Good thing. Becasue you TOTALLY get to do that on the course.

    • Bob Pegram

      Sep 30, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      There was so much variability between golfers that there were no easily discernable patterns. That is because even very good golfers’ swings vary a lot from one golfer to another. That doesn’t mean the results aren’t valid. They reinforce the idea that getting individually tested by a good custom clubfitter is the way to go.

  40. Bob Gom

    Jul 24, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Hard to compare all these shafts side by side unless they all frequency out the same. Most know that C Tapers, Aerotech and PX in Stiff are all stiffer then the other and still even vary between the three. In the Player A and B charts, the launch killed the distance for Player B.

    Love all the info and article. Would have loved to see how C Taper Lite, and Aerotech 95 would have stacked up even though they are lighter.

  41. Douglas White

    Jul 24, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I fitted for the Ping i20 (wound up purchasing the i25’s, due to availability at the time) with ProjectX 5.5 shafts. During the fitting, it was night and day, in feel, when switching between stock shafts and the ProjectX shafts (fitted with a 7 iron). I am certainly glad that I did this as the clubs now play the closest to my swing and help produce great results

    • RogerinNZ

      Jul 25, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Doug, re your fitting of the PX 5.5 can you confirm your
      7 iron swing speed please? eg 88 to 93 mph? Smooth ?
      I thought it was a great Test Article. Thanks Golfwrx !

  42. Dick

    Jul 24, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    In short they perform more similar than different. Players should determine results/feel in their decision for which iron shafts.

  43. marionmg

    Jul 24, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I think PX 5.5 and C-Taper R+ flexes (and maybe R+ in KBS Tour) are more comparable to S300 and Modus120 stiff. Using the correct flex probably would have made these shafts perform even closer in comparison. Nice experiment though.

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Equipment

What It’s Like: TaylorMade Golf’s “The Kingdom”

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One of the best parts of this job, beyond the people we get to meet, is the facilities. All of the core OEMs have a “place” that is exclusive, away from anything normal, and you gotta know someone to get a ticket in.

That’s what the “What It’s Like” series is about. Those certain OEM places with no doors open to the public. Those places that if you happened to sneak in, there is no way you can Fletch your way around into two steak sandwiches and a bloody mary.

I never admit this, but I used to manage a night club in Los Angeles called Les Deux (it was cool for a minute). It was a fun although soul-sucking endeavor but the thing that made the experience stick out was the exclusivity of it. If you got in by knowing someone, greased the door guy (me), or got invited, it was four hours of awesome. Yes, it’s a lame example, but there is, unfortunately, something about getting to the other side of a closed door that is just awesome.

TaylorMade Golf’s Kingdom is location No. 1, and as you would expect, it’s nothing short of pure golf ecstasy.

My Experience

I have been to TaylorMade HQ quite a number of times, and typically those visits involve time at what I call the gear junkie mecca (short of Tiger Woods’ garage or the Nike Oven graveyard now called Artisan) AKA The Kingdom.

The coolest thing about it is how subtle the location is. Located just steps away from the front door of TM HQ (and a very random corporate basketball hoop) sits a small-yet-elegant building that if you didn’t know was there, you would fly past it. Once you pull into the side parking lot, unload your sticks, and head to the door, there is still that feeling of “will they actually let me in?”

Here’s the thing. The best (all of them) have been in here. To test, practice, hang out, get fit, get wowed to potentially be on staff and everything in-between. A schmuck like me should get nervous, but then it happens, the door opens and you are not only let in but you are greeted by the master of ceremonies and a man I truly adore Tom “TK” Kroll.

With the passion to match not only yours but anyone else who walks in, he makes sure every nuance is seen and experienced. From the lobby with current TM athletes on the wall to the locker room with your custom locker that sits next to an exact replica of Tiger’s bag. There are snacks, extras shoes, gloves, swag, coffee, beer, and all your wildest dreams…and we are barely in the facility.

From a 35,000 foot view, The Kingdom has everything a golfer would ever want, need, or wish for. Starting with Duane Anderson’s putter studio that has tested thousands of strokes from players ranging from a 20 handicap to Rory McIlroy. The data compiled in this room is staggering. We did a video (link below) that gives you the full rundown.

There are three (one with an Iron Byron for testing) main inside hitting bays with all the bells and whistles you would assume. TrackMans, cameras, big screens, fresh gloves hanging on the wall, and a club fitting matrix with every TM combination you could think of.

The outside hitting area is heaven on earth. There is no other way to describe. Huge hitting area with multiple styles of grass, lies, pins, etc. Any shot you would need to hit can be recreated here on grass with a ball flying into the air and not into a screen. My favorite area is the Flick Tee. In honor of the great teacher and longtime TM staffer Jim Flick. Its tucked up high and privately in the corner of the range under a tree and this may sound ridiculous but you can almost feel Mr. Flick standing there with you as you look out onto the facility. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

As mentioned, the man who manages your experience is Tom Kroll. He’s about as respected and beloved as anyone in the industry and for good reason. You combine passion with service you get an awesome human to hang out with. Everyone that has been through these doors has a TK story, which includes a chuckle and a smile.

I chatted with him recently about The Kingdom, and this is what he had to say.

JW: Walk me through how The Kingdom came to be what it is now? Basically origin to current day…

TK: Back in 1994, I was in R&D, running player testing, and we needed to find our own testing range. We built our headquarters in Carlsbad in the 1990s and added the range in 1998. Only robot, cannon and player testing were done at the start. Once in a while, a tour or staff pro would come out and test, but it was all operated from one building. At the time, what’s currently the clubhouse at The Kingdom was actually a maintenance building. But in 2010, The Kingdom was reimagined to the layout we have now.

Over the last three years I’ve been at The Kingdom, we’ve added GEARS, Quintic high-speed cameras, and a Foresight simulator bay. We transformed the putting lab with a Perfection Platforms articulating floor and SAM technology. Last year we resurfaced the main tee, redesigned and dedicated the Flick Tee, underwent a complete renovation of the short game area with new bunker complexes, redesigned the targeting downrange, and developed a par-3 routing. We partnered with Kurt Bowman Design, a longtime designer under Jack Nicklaus.

Our superintendent Mark Warren and his crew have done incredible work with our current maintenance equipment, and I can’t wait to see the conditions after we deliver a brand new fleet of brand new Toro equipment. We structured a long-term partnership with Toro and Turf Star Western.

JW: What is the simple function of The Kingdom? 

TK: We still have the robot bay and R&D does development work almost every day. We are mostly a resource for the entire company: Global Sports Marketing (Tour), developmental pros and ams, AJGA standouts, our Crusaders (club professionals), and commercial teams. We host pre-lines to introduce new product to our at-large teams and training events. We’re even a PR resource, hosting media, social influencers, celebrities, and professional athletes.

We also act as a hub for our Crusaders. They send their members to us, and we wholesale back to the staff account. I’ll do a significant amount of corporate events, charity events and have had “Flicks at The Kingdom” where we set up a giant projector and our employees bring their kids, beach chairs and blankets to watch a movie out on the range. Really a fun and cool event.

JW: Give me three awesome stories or experiences from your time there that you are cool sharing.

TK: It’s tough to only pick three! From Reggie Jackson stopping by to Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, President Bush. Those may be the most haughty name drops of all time! What can I say, it is beyond the coolest job I have ever had! It’s truly tough to pick, but here are my three…

Story 1: Tiger was preparing to make his first PGA Tour start after fusion surgery and he just spends the day grinding out here. He was testing an early proto of the TW irons and to see how much speed he still had. There’s a sound that only he and maybe two or three others make when they center it up. That sound is something that goes through your body, I can still hear it. It sticks with you.

He’s playing old school lofts, which are three degrees weaker than any other tour pro, but the carry distances were still there, the windows he hits it through, holding it against the wind, flighting a 6-iron even ripping a 5-wood 275 yards. His feedback and ability to discern the most minute details working with the advanced teams developing the irons was fantastic to witness.

To come full circle, I played with him in the Southern Cal Amateur when he was 16-years-old and had a front-row to his 62 at Hacienda, I was keeping his scorecard so he has my autograph. To again be standing three feet from him while he goes through the process is just special.

Story 2: I’m going to put two guys in the same bucket (because The Kingdom is so magical, I hope the golf gods are okay with it). Rory now spends a day out here the week of Farmers–he has for the last two years, and with the U.S. Open there 2021, I think he’s a lock for the next few. He went through two sets of irons in a wind quartering off the right at 20-25 mph. The consistency of launch, speed and spin were shockingly close! It was one of the greatest ball-striking exhibitions I’ve ever witnessed. We handpicked the range after his day, it took us 10 minutes He’s also the most gracious, down to earth person.

Jon Rahm stops by five or six times a year. To watch his sessions in the putting lab, to see Duane show him what’s changing and getting Jon back to baseline and see his confidence, to the 4-iron flop shots after we tell our Seve stories. Jon is part of the family. His brother and dad came out before Jon and Kelly’s wedding. He’s one of the two or three others where the sound goes through you.

Story 3: Has to be Operation Game On (OGO). We have partnered with  Tony Perez for over 15 years, we are the cherry on top of a 6-10 week program where wounded veterans take lessons and the graduation is a fitting at The Kingdom. I had a dear friend, Joe Horowitz, who’s a golfer and a musician, here late one day and I mentioned the OGO guys were coming the next day. It’s Veteran’s Day and the Marine Corps Birthday. Not to mention Jon Rahm would be here for a last tweak before he left for Dubai. Joe shows me a video of him singing the national anthem at the Jaguars game a few weeks before, and we both say let’s do that for the OGO guys. I get in early and send an email to all employees to be on the tee at 9 a.m. sharp. We have the OGO guys arrive and Jon is hanging in the locker room. I’m stalling to get all the employees onto the tee through the side gate, I walk the boys into the bay and hit the roll up door. Outside are 250 employees cheering these guys on! Joe sings the anthem (goose bumps every time), then happy birthday to Jon and the marine corps. There’s fittings, a pizza truck, Jon Rahm signed U.S. Open staff bags for the OGO boys. Then, get this, Jon goes on and wins that week in Dubai!

JW: If you could change anything about the property or the experience what would it be?

TK: At TaylorMade, the relentless pursuit of improving is in our DNA. The Kingdom is no different. We’re constantly innovating and reimagining the downrange experience. From targeting, to conditions and turf types, we’re always nuancing and squeaking out ways to be better. One example, we’re designing each of our targets with a specific purpose. When players are testing at The Kingdom, we want them to feel that every shot has a consequence. So, we want to deliver a real-world experience in every testing situation. We went through a massive redesign last fall and are currently still working with the advanced research team on new ways to enhance our testing and fitting experiences to meet the way that players perform in competition.

When it comes to the overall experience, The Kingdom has transformed from a predominantly R&D and fitting facility to the most capable environment to test, measure and understand how equipment performs and how golfers interact with their equipment. I call it the ultimate truth machine. We help golfers at every level uncover the insights they need to improve. After each session, we’re going to know everything about the club, the player and the ball flight.

So we came from a place where we were mainly focused on research, fitting, and selling. Our goals have changed. Now we obsess over how to help golfers get better.

What would I change? If you’re curious and passionate about making change, the answers are out there. The first thing we do is listen. We’re going to change everything that needs to be changed in order to meet our goals. I have an incredible focus group to bounce ideas off of. To ask our tour pros, club professionals, and teachers for feedback on the design ideas and what they like and prefer is fortunate. We’re constantly learning, we’re constantly improving, and if there’s a better way do something, then we’re going to figure it out and do it.

JW: What does the kingdom look like in 10 years?

TK: We have a lot of incredible plans for new targeting, bunker complexes, and refining the purposeful design of the range and short game area. Beyond that, we have designs for new teeing areas, a new short game complex, adding another GEARS system and Foresight Simulator, along with other new technologies. I can’t disclose all we do, since the R&D guys get a bit jumpy when I start going on about all the cool stuff and high science! I don’t know exactly what The Kingdom looks like in 10 years as technologies and our understanding continue to improve, but I do know give me six months, and we’ll have done something new. Always grinding to get better!

JW: Tell me a little bit about your career at TaylorMade.

TK: 31 years is hard to do in a “little bit” but I’ll try to give you the Clif Notes! Bob Vokey ran our Tour department and had me running his repair shop in Vista after George Willett took a job driving the Tour truck for TaylorMade. I was refinishing wooden clubs and repairing clubs for the local country clubs. I told Bob I was going broke making $4.50 an hour and driving all over San Diego. I asked if he could get me a job at TaylorMade and I started on the custom line with Wade Liles! Get to work at 2 p.m., off at 1 a.m. and golf in the morning. It was the life! Not to mention, I was lucky enough to meet my wife who worked for the company.

I started our player testing and worked for the great Dr. Benoit Vincent–the smartest man I know. I was a pretty good player, and I played a bunch of USGA and national amateur events. But when I did a TV commercial, I lost my amateur status and made the decision to turn pro. I quit my job and started that journey. Our CEO wanted me to take a leavem and I said: “I need to be all-in on this.” I had two children, a mortgage, car payments and had to buy health insurance while getting through all three stages of Q School. I realized I was a better amateur than a tour pro. We had our third child, and then I got the sales rep job in San Diego. After 10 years of sales, I moved inside the building and the ran innovations department before taking over our metalwoods category when we hit our highest market share in history. I spent a few years in product creation, ran global experiential for a few years and then got the best gig in all of golf here at The Kingdom. Been here for three years, and we’re just getting started!

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Puma Golf teams up with Ernie Els in support of Autism Awareness Month

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Puma X Els Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and Puma Golf has teamed up with ambassador Ernie Els in support of the Els for Autism Foundation.

Throughout April, Puma will donate a portion of every individual sale of the brand’s Ignite Pwradapt Caged shoes with the proceeds going towards the Els for Autism Foundation.

Puma X Els Autism

Every pair of Caged shoes sold this month will include a blue Els for Autism shoe bag and puzzle piece ribbon lapel pin – with the color blue and the puzzle pieces representing Autism Awareness.

Puma X Els Autism

The Els for Autism Foundation helps deliver and facilitate programs designed to serve individuals with autism spectrum disorder. You can purchase the shoes here.

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What GolfWRXers are saying about “Boutique brands vs Major OEMs”

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In our forums, our members have been discussing both boutique brands and major OEMs and why the former “trail the OEMs in drivers and woods”. WRXer ‘gr8 flopshot’, who plays a bag full of boutique clubs bar woods, poses the question and it’s got our members talking in our forum.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • DaRiz: “Irons, wedges, and putters don’t change much, and for all the technology OEMs try to pack in there, it’s more about how they look and feel. So boutique can fit in nicely here. Drivers/FW, on the other hand, definitely benefit from the millions of dollars in R&D, and it is probably really hard to compete. You can argue that COR is maxed out, but the tiny changes in launch conditions, spin rates, and forgiveness add up.”
  • MattM97: “One reason why I and most other lefties don’t go boutique is options. At least with OEM’s for drivers and most woods we get the most of what is released, some versions and loft we don’t get but better than nothing. I’m not against boutique; I love my putters, I love the look of a lot of wedges, I would absolutely love a set of Japanese forged CB irons one day. Just woods I’ll stick to OEM options.”
  • sniper: “The Wishon 560’s I had built years ago were as good (or better) as anything I’ve had. My current set of MP-18SC’s and Wishon’s are the best feeling irons I’ve played. Both came from a club builder and not built by the OEM. Obviously on the Wishon’s.”
  • RogerInNewZealand: “Genuinely good point. It’s like why we buy JDM, Yonex Ezone 420…and the famed J33 Bridgestone driver from long ago! T.E.E is another one..always a surprise there. With your wood/driver if your sorted that’s fine! You don’t have to bag an exotic club to hit fairways.”

Entire Thread: “Boutique brands vs Major OEMs”

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