Friday, January 18, 2008

Interchangeable Shafts!

Sure, they probably won't help the average player improve their scores at all, but it is still pretty cool. And it's going to make a ton of money for the club companies.

In short, a number of manufacturers are coming to the marketplace (or will shortly) with shafts that you can pop in and out of your driver in less than 30 seconds, using a small tool, about as easy as changing blades in a shaver. These drivers will have exactly the same feel and performance of a traditional glued-and-assembled model. Even in tournament play, players will be able to pop in a different shaft before hitting the course, though changes will not be allowed mid-round. TaylorMade even expects some of its PGA Tour players to use adjustable-shaft models in tournaments this year.
It was all inspired by a USGA ruling that allows interchangeable shafts and weights in golf clubs - a good one I think.
Dick Rugge, the USGA's technical expert, sees it as a sort of giveback to both the manufacturers and the average golfer.

"We have a responsibility to keep looking at rules, and we've been doing that with clubhead sizes, moment of inertia, coefficient of restitution, and we've been closing some doors on the manufacturers," Rugge said. "We have a responsibility to open doors as well. We got to thinking about it, and a Tour player goes into an equipment van at a tournament and gets his shaft changed in five minutes and costs him nothing. For the rest of us mere mortals, we don't have a place to do that, and if we did, it would cost a fortune. The pros effectively have adjustable clubs."

The downside of this new technology? It can get pricey, fast.
TaylorMade's entry will be available in April. The $1,000 package, known at company headquarters as Tour Van in a Box, will include a driver head and three different shafts. The shafts, by Fujikura, Mitsubishi and Matrix, will have different weights (55, 65 and 75 grams) and are designed to produce different ball-flight trajectories.

[E]xotic shafts can cost several hundred dollars. The shafts will be interchangeable, but each company's interlocking system is likely to be proprietary, so a shaft included in a TaylorMade package won't fit into a Callaway head, and vice versa. Clubhead sales could be hurt if golfers simply buy a new shaft instead of a whole new driver. Retailers and club pros may be forced to stock a much bigger inventory of shafts.
It's an interesting venture. I wonder if retailers will go for the additional stocking costs associated with shafts and interchangeability. I wonder if consumers will go for carrying 3, 4, or 5 shafts and only be able to use one brand with those shafts thanks to proprietary equipment. Perhaps if it takes off enough, we will see the coming of the USB of interchangeable shafts.

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