Pros: FLT shafts use a flighted design, which helps golfers launch their long irons higher and with more spin. The FLT short-iron shafts provide a more penetrating trajectory for more control.
Cons: FLT shaft flexes correspond with weight, so golfers may not be able to match their desired shaft weight with their desired flex.
Who They’re For: Golfers who need more spin or more launch from their long irons to optimize their trajectory. Everyone from beginners to PGA Tour players can use the shafts effectively, but they’ll be most popular with golfers with moderate-to-slow swing speeds, or any golfer who generates low-spin launch conditions.
Selecting the proper iron shafts is one of the most important equipment decisions golfers make. It’s an issue of quantity. Most golfers carry about 7-8 irons in their bag, so if they choose the wrong iron shaft, they’ve made the game harder than it needs to be with half or more of their clubs.
The good news is that there’s a wider selection of quality iron shafts than there has ever been, with recent growth in models that are designed to help golfers hit their iron shots higher and farther, while still maintaining PGA Tour-quality consistency and feel.
KBS is one of the leading steel shaft manufacturers, and already offered a wide variety of models prior to its newest shaft launch. Company representatives felt KBS was lacking a product for a particular segment of golfers, however, so it developed its new FLT shafts.
FLT shafts ($31.95 each) have a flighted design, which helps certain golfers optimize the performance of each iron their bag. The long irons shafts have progressively softer tip sections, which helps golfers increase their launch angle and spin rates with those clubs. For the right golfer, the design will help them hit their iron shots farther, and stop shots on the green more quickly. In the short irons, where height and spin are easier for golfers to generate, the FLT shafts are stiffer, which creates the flatter trajectory most golfers prefer with their scoring clubs. The crossover point between the higher-launching long irons and lower-launching short irons is the 7 iron.
Like all KBS shafts, FLT models have a constant weight, which means that long iron shafts and short iron shafts will be roughly the same weight through the set. Shaft weight is dependent on flex, however, as softer-flex models are lighter than stiffer-flex models. So if you’re looking for a really heavy, regular-flex shaft or a really light, extra-stiff-flex shaft, these aren’t for you.
Keep in mind that KBS shafts do not have reinforced tip sections like many other iron shafts, which gives them a slightly higher balance point and can decrease swing weight by 1-2 points. I personally like the feel of KBS shafts and their slightly higher balance point, but some golfers won’t.
For this review, I tested the new FLT shafts head to head against KBS Tour shafts of the same flex and weight (130X) in 4 irons, 6 irons and pitching wedges. Each of the shafts were installed in Callaway’s Apex Pro ’16 irons, and were built to my specifications (standard grips, standard length, 1-degree strong lofts, 1-degree flat lie angles).
I performed my testing at the Launch Pad at Carl’s Golfland in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where I hit the 4 irons, 6 irons and pitching wedges on Trackman IV with premium golf balls. I hit 3-6 solid shots with each iron, and then removed the outliers from the final data in an attempt to compare only the most similar strikes. Results were normalized.
As you can see from the data, there was a significant difference in the flight of the 4 irons with the two different shafts, but less of a difference with the 6 irons and pitching wedges.
As expected, the FLT shafts caused 4 iron shots to launch higher (0.8 degrees) and with more spin (729 rpm) than the KBS Tour shafts. I’m not a low-spin player, which is one of the target audiences for this shaft, so the added launch and spin of the FLT shafts caused my 4 iron shots to fly shorter. Golfers who launch their irons too low or with too little spin, however, will likely see a distance increase when using the FLT shafts.
As I moved closer to the short end of the set, the two shafts started to perform more similarly. Theoretically, the 6 iron shots with the FLT shafts should have launched slightly higher and spun more than 6 iron shots with the KBS Tour shafts, but I actually saw a slightly lower launch angle (0.5 degrees) with the FLT. The spin was higher, though, by 211 rpm. With the pitching wedges, the results were again quite similar. The FLT launched 0.9 degrees higher, but actually spun 271 rpm less than the KBS Tour shafts.
Stepping back from the numbers, I was impressed with how similar the feel was between the KBS Tour and FLT shafts. Yes, I could feel that the FLT shafts were more active in the tip with the 4 irons, but they felt nearly the same in the 6 irons. By the time I got to the pitching wedges, the two shafts were indistinguishable. The KBS Tour is considered one of the better-feeling iron shafts currently available, so KBS’ ability to replicate that feel in the FLT will be a plus for the majority of interested golfers.
Looking more broadly, trends in shaft design tends to go hand-in-hand with trends in club head design, and the FLT shafts are no exception. Equipment manufacturers continue to strengthen the lofts of their distance irons; they have to in order balance the launch equation, as their faster ball speeds create a higher launch angle and more spin.
While the improvements to iron design have allowed golfers to hit their mid and short irons farther, many golfers continue to struggle to hit their long irons high enough or consistently enough for them to be effective. And based on my testing results, it’s clear that the FLT shafts can make long irons more playable for certain golfers, and maybe even keep long irons in a golfer’s bag that might otherwise be kicked out for higher-flying hybrids or fairway woods.
As always, I recommend that golfers get properly fit for iron shafts, which means visiting a reputable club fitter in your area. So if you’re in the market for new irons or iron shafts, you can get started by going through KBS’ Online Fit System, which upon completion lists KBS-certified dealers in your area.
2018 GolfWRX Men’s Spring Fashion Shoot
As promised by our Resident Fashion Consultant Jordan Madley in the 2018 Women’s Spring fashion shoot, below is some much-needed fashion love for the guys.
GolfWRX was on location in Las Vegas at the UNLV college campus where our Director of Content Johnny Wunder went full Zoolander to model the following golf apparel companies:
Also, many thanks to the folks at the UNLV PGA Golf Management program for hosting us!
We look forward to any and all feedback, and your thoughts about the apparel we chose to feature.
Golf polos with bold patterns: A quick chat with Bad Birdie golf
Founded in 2017, Los Angeles-based Bad Birdie golf produces some of the most eye-popping polos ever seen on a fairway.
The company’s brazen ambition to “make the most savage golf polos in the world” and its boisterous presence on social media belies an attention to detail and careful pattern curation. It’s easy to make loud, obnoxious clothing. It’s more challenging to produce something that’s at once bold, stylish, appropriately fitted and of high quality. But that is what Jason Richardson’s company has tried to do since entering the market.
I spoke with Richardson about his eye-catching wares.
Before we get into your Bad Birdie offerings, tell me your take on the state of golf wear when you decided to enter the market?
JR: I went shopping for a polo for an upcoming tournament and was hoping to find something a little flashier/fun. I got bummed out when I realized most of the golf polos were generally the same colors/patterns. Solid pastels or stripes weren’t necessarily what I was going for, so I did some research online.
After looking at anything I could find, I realized that most golf polos are almost identical to each other. The only thing that’s really different is the branding or tech fabric. There’s a couple brands making a few edgier patterns but they still have a middle-aged, Tommy Bahama feel that’s not necessarily relevant to the younger golfer.
So building on that, what was the opportunity you saw?
JR: I saw an opportunity to make polos for the younger/trendier/bolder golfer whose style doesn’t fit into the traditional golf trends of pastels and stripes. We have a saying we use on some of our ads: “Your dad called and wants his polo back.” Most young/millennial guys who love golf are having to get their apparel from the same place their dad does. Bad Birdie sees an opportunity to fix that.
Cool. What’s your background in golf?
JR: I’ve worked in golf for a lot of my life. I started caddying when I was 12 at Forest Highlands in Flagstaff, AZ, during the summers, so learned the game while working. During high school, I worked for an eBay store that sold golf shafts that were left over from all the club fitters in Scottsdale. After college and before starting Bad Birdie I worked in advertising.
What’s Bad Birdie’s competitive advantage?
JR: There’s no other brands making performance golf polos with styles like we do. Our team is in their 20s and early 30s so we’re right in our target demographic and have a great network of friends/golfers we can bounce ideas off of. Being based in Los Angeles doesn’t hurt either, as we see a lot of the new fashion trends first.
Who’s your target consumer, and what has the response been like?
JR: 18-35-year-old males (and their significant others who buy Bad Birdie as gifts). The number one customer email we get is guys telling us how surprised they were by the number of compliments they got while wearing their Bad Birdie. Love getting those.
Any upcoming releases, plans we should know about?
JR: We have some new polos dropping in July you’ll want to keep an eye out for.
Who’s the best-dressed golfer on the PGA Tour?
JR: Until someone is wearing a Bad Birdie it’s tough to say.
Check out Bad Birdie’s wares here, or check them out @badbirdiegolf on Twitter.
I tried the great Golfboarding experiment… here’s how it went
Corica Park Golf Course is not exactly the first place you’d expect to find one of the most experimental sports movements sweeping the nation. Sitting on a pristine swath of land along the southern rim of Alameda Island, deep in the heart of the San Francisco Bay, the course’s municipal roots and no-frills clubhouse give it an unpretentious air that seems to fit better with Sam Snead’s style of play than, say, Rickie Fowler’s.
Yet here I am, one perfectly sunny morning on a recent Saturday in December planning to try something that is about as unconventional as it gets for a 90-year-old golf course.
It’s called Golfboarding, and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an amalgam of golf and skateboarding, or maybe surfing. The brainchild of surfing legend Laird Hamilton — who can be assumed to have mastered, and has clearly grown bored of, all normal sports — Golfboarding is catching on at courses throughout the country, from local municipal courses like Corica Park to luxury country clubs like Cog Hill and TPC Las Colinas. Since winning Innovation Of the Year at the PGA Merchandising Show in 2014, Golfboards can now be found at 250 courses and have powered nearly a million rounds of golf already. Corica Park currently owns eight of them.
The man in pro shop gets a twinkle in his eyes when our foursome tells him we’d like to take them out. “Have you ridden them before?” he asks. When we admit that we are uninitiated, he grins and tells us we’re in for a treat.
But first, we need to sign a waiver and watch a seven-minute instructional video. A slow, lawyerly voice reads off pedantic warnings like “Stepping on the golfboard should be done slowly and carefully” and “Always hold onto the handlebars when the board is in motion.” When it cautions us to “operate the board a safe distance from all…other golfboarders,” we exchange glances, knowing that one of us will more than likely break this rule later on.
Then we venture outside, where one of the clubhouse attendants shows us the ropes. The controls are pretty simple. One switch sends it forward or in reverse, another toggles between low and high gear. To make it go, there’s a throttle on the thumb of the handle. The attendant explains that the only thing we have to worry about is our clubs banging against our knuckles.
“Don’t be afraid to really lean into the turns,” he offers. “You pretty much can’t roll it over.”
“That sounds like a challenge,” I joke. No one laughs.
On a test spin through the parking lot, the Golfboard feels strong and sturdy, even when I shift around on it. It starts and stops smoothly with only the slightest of jerks. In low gear its top speed is about 5 mph, so even at full throttle it never feels out of control.
The only challenge, as far as I can tell, is getting it to turn. For some reason, I’d expected the handlebar to offer at least some degree of steering, but it is purely for balance. The thing has the Ackerman angle of a Mack Truck, and you really do have to lean into the turns to get it to respond. For someone who is not particularly adept at either surfing or skateboarding, this comes a little unnaturally. I have to do a number of three-point turns in order to get back to where I started and make my way over to the first tee box.
We tee off and climb on. The fairway is flat and wide, and we shift into high gear as we speed off toward our balls. The engine had produced just the faintest of whirrs as it accelerated, but it is practically soundless as the board rolls along at full speed. The motor nevertheless feels surprisingly powerful under my feet (the drivetrain is literally located directly underneath the deck) as the board maintains a smooth, steady pace of 10 mph — about the same as a golf cart. I try making a couple of S curves like I’d seen in the video and realize that high-speed turning will take a little practice for me to get right, but that it doesn’t seem overly difficult.
Indeed, within a few holes I might as well be Laird himself, “surfing the earth” from shot to shot. I am able to hold the handlebar and lean way out, getting the board to turn, if not quite sharply, then at least closer to that of a large moving van than a full-sized semi. I take the hills aggressively (although the automatic speed control on the drivetrain enables it to keep a steady pace both up and down any hills, so this isn’t exactly dangerous), and I speed throughout the course like Mario Andretti on the freeway (the company claims increased pace-of-play as one of the Golfboard’s primary benefits, but on a Saturday in the Bay Area, it is impossible avoid a five-hour round anyway.)
Gliding along, my feet a few inches above the grass, the wind in my face as the fairways unfurl below my feet, it is easy to see Golfboards as the next evolution in mankind’s mastery of wheels; the same instincts to overcome inertia that brought us bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, skateboards, and more recent inventions such as Segways, Hoverboards and Onewheels are clearly manifest in Golfboards as well. They might not offer quite the same thrill as storming down a snowy mountainside or catching a giant wave, but they are definitely more fun than your standard golf cart.
Yet, there are obvious downsides as well. The attendant’s warning notwithstanding, my knuckles are in fact battered and sore by the time we make the turn, and even though I rearrange all my clubs into the front slots of my bag, they still rap my knuckles every time I hit a bump. Speaking of which, the board’s shock absorber system leaves something to be desired, as the ride is so bumpy that near the end I start to feel as if I’ve had my insides rattled. Then there is the unforgivable fact of its missing a cup holder for my beer.
But these are mere design flaws that might easily be fixed in the next generation of Golfboards. (A knuckle shield is a must!) My larger problem with Golfboards is what they do to the game itself. When walking or riding a traditional cart, the moments in between shots are a time to plan your next shot, or to chat about your last shot, or to simply find your zen out there among the trees and the birds and the spaciousness of the course. Instead, my focus is on staying upright.
Down the stretch, I start to fade. The muscles in my core have endured a pretty serious workout, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to muster the strength for my golf swing. It is no coincidence that my game starts to unravel, and I am on the way to one of my worst rounds in recent memory.
Walking off the 18th green, our foursome agrees that the Golfboards were fun — definitely worth trying — but that we probably wouldn’t ride them again. Call me a purist, but as someone lacking Laird Hamilton’s physical gifts, I’m happy to stick to just one sport at a time.
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