By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Images courtesy of Aerotech Golf
BELLINGHAM, WA – “Golf shafts play a critical role in the performance of a golf club,” remarked Chris Hilleary, President of Aerotech Golf Shafts, the No. 1 graphite iron shaft on the PGA Tour.
Hilleary continues, “I think most golfers realize that shaft stiffness is important but I think there is little understanding of all of the other qualities of the golf shaft and how they influence club performance.”
It’s safe to say most golfers realize the shaft is vital to playing your best, but it’s still probably the least understood aspect of a golf club.
Many of us grew up playing our dad’s or mom’s old clubs – you know, the rusted ones typically occupying a corner of the garage that hadn’t been disturbed in years. The clubs were probably so old the accumulated dust almost masked the corrosion.
But we could still hit balls with them – and it didn’t matter in the least what kind of shafts they had.
Once we learned the game, however, we realized a shaft is more than just a stick connecting the grip with the club head.
Hilleary agrees. “Stiffness profile or where the shaft flexes can affect feel, trajectory and spin rates of a golf ball. Weight of a golf shaft is very important as this not only affects the overall ‘heft’ of the club but can influence a golfer's swing speed, timing and level of fatigue during the round.”
“There is usually a jump in ball speeds and consistency when the player gets the right weight shaft in their golf club. Conversely if a player is playing a shaft that is not suited to their swing they can lose distance, feel and the ability to manipulate ball flight.”
I never really thought about golf course fatigue as possibly being connected to the weight of a golf shaft, but it makes sense. We’re all conditioned to believe that lighter shafts are only for seniors or ladies. Not necessarily true.
Aerotech has an interesting history as well. You don’t necessarily hear the company mentioned with more well-known shaft manufacturers such as True Temper, but that doesn’t mean you’ve never seen – or played -- them before.
Again, Hilleary expounds. “Aerotech Sports was incorporated back in 1991 and was originally a supplier of innovative composite products to other manufacturers. In their heyday, Aerotech Sports had several engineers working for them designing new composite sporting good products that were then sold and supplied to larger brands.”
“At one point they were the 2nd largest hockey stick manufacturer in the world.”
Hilleary went to work for Aerotech in January of 1997and ran their golf department for nine years before purchasing that division almost 10 years ago.
“We supplied companies like Adams Golf, Fenwick and Pure Spin graphite golf shafts branded with their own name. We created our own Aerotech brand of golf shafts in the late 90s and it has been growing ever since,” he added.
As I said, you’ve probably seen Aerotech before and might not have known it. We’ve played the brand for years and have always been very satisfied with the feel and performance of the shafts. Granted, it is admittedly hard for a golfer to tell the difference in a shaft from one to the next – at least without a launch monitor.
Hilleary says there are a few things that set Aerotech apart from its competitors.
“First of all we use the Filament Winding process to produce our shafts as opposed to over 90% of all other graphite shafts which are made using the Sheet Wrapping method.
“The filament winding method requires more capital during startup but it yields a seamless and incredibly uniform structure. This in itself helps our shafts play more consistently and predictably than other shafts. We also use a proprietary winding method that allows us to make the structure more consistent in fiber/resin ratios giving the shaft better mechanical properties and durability.”
Another thing setting Aerotech apart is their SteelFiber shaft technology. This shaft is designed with a steel fiber material added to the surface of Aerotech’s graphite shaft, giving it performance benefits that cannot be achieved with graphite or steel alone.
For our trial, Hilleary recommended the SteelFiber i110, which he said would be a good shaft to offer extra distance and power. Naturally, we were curious as to how a shaft goes about delivering those benefits.
“We make several different weights in the SteelFiber iron shaft so extra distance can be achieved in the weight that is best suited to your swing characteristics and feel preferences,” Hilleary said.
“If you have been playing full weight steel shafts all your life then the i110 (110 grams) is a good transition into a slightly lighter shaft which can add distance but is not too light so you lose feel of the golf club during the swing.”
“The i95 (95 grams), i80 (85 grams) and the i70 (75 grams) can all offer progressively more distance to a golfer but you will want to find the weight that feels comfortable and gives you the best chance for consistent contact.”
In other words, Aerotech offers shafts for every type of golf club, ball and golfer.
Of course finding that correct weight and type of shaft can really only be done under the guidance of a professional fitter. The company features an impressive list of dealers/clubfitters to choose from – a complete list of Aerotech clubfitters is listed on their website.
“These companies will typically have a wide range of demos that the golfer can hit in front of a launch monitor and the best performing shaft will give the best numbers (i.e. Ball speed, spin rates, Launch angle etc.),” Hilleary said.
Seeing your swing statistics represented on a launch monitor screen is a terrific learning experience. There you’ll see exactly how different shafts definitely do make a difference – and the distinction could be striking.
A launch monitor session may also help dispel the myths involved with steel versus graphite shafts. Graphite has certainly taken over the driver, fairway wood and hybrid club categories. We asked Hilleary if there will come a day when top players will be switching to graphite irons shafts.
“In my opinion it's not a matter of ‘will’ but ‘when.’ There are just too many performance advantages that graphite has over steel.”
“Not only can we design a greater variety of shafts to fit individual swing characteristics, but the vibration dampening offered by composite shafts will reduce fatigue and injury or aggravation of existing injury.”
Again, there’s the fatigue factor. Injury too? Wow.
We were fortunate enough to match our Aerotech shafts with the Tournament Blade from Miura Golf, which is described as “pure and elegant.” We’ll address the Miura Tournament Blade in another story – but suffice to say, the Aerotech/Miura combination was nothing short of … awesome.
The thing that stood out the most was the consistency of the clubs. This is not a set for pure distance, in our opinion. We’ve seen clubs that will go farther – but you don’t necessarily want juiced up qualities from irons as much as you want the confidence that they’ll be consistent from club to club.
Feel was incredible. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a well struck golf shot… I think Roy McAvoy said as much in “Tin Cup.”
The clubs also let you know when you don’t strike it so well, which is arguably just as important.
Aerotech passes on all accounts. Well done.
We highly recommend you consider Aerotech if you’re looking for exceptionally high quality in golf shafts. Make sure you choose a club fitter that includes the company’s products in your fitting session – and that way, you’ll be able to compare a variety of shafts.
Hilleary wouldn’t have it any other way. “I am a firm believer that all golfers, beginners to professionals, can benefit from being custom fit. A well trained and experienced fitter will be able to get the golfer into the correct style of golf club with the correct shaft and shaft flex characteristics, lofts, lies, playing length and swing weight so they will have the best chance of success.”
If you’re going to invest the money into a set of this quality, you should become a firm believer, too. You simply cannot afford to have the wrong shaft, period.
Aerotech Golf Shafts
1971 Midway Lane, Suite J
Bellingham, WA 98226
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