A few weeks ago, we talked about how the innovation of the steel shaft changed the way golfers swing the club. Today, we’re going to talk about the next evolution in golf shafts – the graphite shaft.
The graphite shaft was first marketed over 50 years ago but did not gain widespread use until the mid-1990s and is now used on almost all woods. Steel, which generally has lower torque but less flex than graphite, is still generally preferred for irons, wedges and putters as these clubs stress accuracy over distance.
Frank Thomas is credited with developing the modern graphite shaft in 1969 when he was working for Shakespeare Sporting Goods Co, as its chief Design Engineer. He had been contacted by Union Carbide, who wanted to bring carbon fiber technology to the consumer market.
Thomas combined graphite and epoxy into a compound to create the first graphite shaft and introduced it at the January 1970 PGA Merchandise Show in Florida. However, because of the high cost of graphite, the early graphite shafted golf clubs did not catch on with the masses.
Shakespeare was unable to secure a patent on the shaft, and soon several other companies were producing graphite shafts of their own. Around the same time as the Shakespeare Company was developing its version of the graphite shaft, James Flood, an aircraft engineer, formed his new company, Aldila, to introduce his first graphite shaft in April 1972.
The major innovation of using graphite in a shaft is that it is 14 times stronger than steel for the same weight. The graphite shaft was half the weight of a steel shaft, allowing manufacturers to put more weight in the head, which helped increase distance by 7 or 8 yards. Over time, the introduction of other materials such as boron helped to reduce twisting in the shaft as it was swung. This also gave them greater durability.
In the late 1980s, metal woods caught on among golfers. Metal heads were heavier than traditional wood heads, which meant a lighter shaft was needed, so graphite shafts were ideal. The lighter shaft allowed golfers to swing the clubs faster, and the extra speed was transmitted to the ball, which then traveled a greater distance. By that time, graphite shaft technology had reached a stage of development where professional players were willing to use them. Graphite shafts are now the go-to material for drivers, fairway woods, and hybrids.
The same carbon fiber materials and construction techniques used in the most expensive driver shafts in the world are used in the Bloodline Golf putters with patented technology. These shafts are a critical component in the revolutionary Bloodline Golf putter that gives it the ability to stand up by itself on the green, allowing golfers to align putts from behind the face. This is the first stand-up putter technology that has been validated with numerous tour victories.
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Photo credit: Metropolitan Golf Association
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Photo credit: GolfWRX