We need to talk more about iron shafts.
So much emphasis is placed on the head, but in order to get any iron head working correctly we need the shaft to be right.
It’s the engine of the club and allows us to transfer our speed and energy into the ball correctly.
Another thing many people don’t realise is that you can replace the shafts in your current irons.
Let’s say you’ve bought a set of irons online. You take them on the course and really don’t get on with them. Chances are the shafts aren’t right.
Nippon iron shafts are very popular among tour players – and for very good reason.
Some iron brands offer Nippon shafts at no upcharge, but for many other brands they will only be available as an after-market option.
But how good are they? Well, we recently ran a competition offering four readers the chance to put their current shafts up against some Nippon iron shafts.
The venue was Tour X in Wigan – run by former tour technician Nick Hibbs and his wife Nicola.
Tour X offer the ultimate tour experience when it comes to custom-fitting and have a facility that is second to none.
Nick, formerly with Adams, worked closely with Tom Watson as he made it into a play-off at the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry.
There’s a wall of fame at Tour X with glowing references from Wayne Rooney, Joey Barton, Bernhard Langer, Branden Grace and Andrew Murray among others.
I for one was like a kid in a sweet shop.
So with Nippon providing the shafts and Nick the expert fitting and club-building – our readers were in for a treat either way.
Here’s how our four lucky readers fared on the day…
Reader 1: David Beighton (Handicap 12.9, Club: Turton)
Left-hander David was playing the Ping G20 irons with the stock Ping CFS shafts in regular flex.
After hitting a few shots on Trackman, Nick noted that the dispersion was quite wide and the 7-iron swing speed was around 65-68mph.
David said a bit more distance and height would be beneficial to his game.
One area Nick thought he could improve David’s shots was by trying to increase his swing speed with a lighter shaft.
He was instantly drawn to the Nippon Zelos 7 – one of the lightest steel shafts on the market.
Nick said it feels like graphite from a weight point of view but has the benefits of steel – one benefit being tighter dispersion.
The Zelos 7 in regular is 74g compared to the 100g CFS shafts David was using.
David was instantly gaining 4-5mph in swing speed with the Zelos 7 which resulted in a bit more ball speed and carry.
Nick also made the club a bit shorter and flattened the lie angle which improved the consistency of David’s shots.
Reader 2: John Cartledge (Handicap: 8, Club: Chorley)
John had just returned from a golfing holiday in Thailand – his plane landed in Manchester just a few hours before the fitting.
His current irons were Ping G25 with the same 100g CFS regular flex shafts as David.
After hitting a few shots on Trackman it was clear John was a solid player. His 7-iron swing speed was about 74mph.
When asked, John said he’d like a bit more height and carry on his iron shots.
The best two Nippon shafts Nick found for John were the Zelos 8 and the Modus Tour 105.
The Zelos 8 flew about 13ft higher than his current irons and increased carry by six yards.
With the Modus Tour 105 the height was 9ft higher but carry had increased by 11 yards from 124 to 135 yards. The spin was a bit lower at 6,900rpm.
John’s swing speed with the Modus Tour 105 was 3mph faster than his current set.
For me it was a no brainer to go with the Modus but John really enjoyed the feel of the Zelos so was torn between the two.
Eventually he decided on the Modus as felt he could always switch into the Zelos if his swing speed starts to slow down over the next 10 years or so.
Reader 3: David Hoyland (Handicap: 9, Club: Crookhill Park)
This was a real challenge for Nick as David hit his own Callaway XR irons very well indeed.
Of all the shafts which Nick tried he couldn’t match the carry distance and dispersion which David had with his own 7-iron in the stock Speedstep 80 shaft.
However, David commented how he didn’t really enjoy the feel from his current iron shafts – he was getting very little enjoyment out of hitting them.
A similar performance but improved feel was what David was looking for from his fitting.
He had a go with the Nippon Zelos 8 and although he enjoyed the feel, the spin was just getting up for too high.
The Modus 105 was the shaft which was closest to David’s current irons in terms of performance and he loved how they felt.
David said he could feel the head right through the swing and was getting more feedback from his shots.
Reader 4: Alan Ibbotson (Handicap: 15, Club: Crookhill Park)
Alan had a swing speed of around 70mph and was using the Ping GMax irons with the stock graphite shaft.
What Alan was looking for was a shaft which felt like graphite but could squeeze a bit more performance out of his iron shots.
This was a fairly easy one for Nick as Alan loved the feel of the Zelos 7 in regular.
And it had the performance to match with more ball speed, spin, height and carry than his current irons.
His smash factor – efficiency worked out by dividing ball speed by swing speed – went up from 1.28 to 1.34.
Alan really enjoyed hitting shots with the new Zelos 7 shafts and couldn’t wait to take them on holiday with him to Gran Canaria.
Obviously it was great that all four readers had no hesitation switching from their current shafts. It meant more work for Nick but he was happy to be helping improve our readers’ golf.
By purely looking at the numbers, you wouldn’t think David (Hoyland) would make a change but that speaks volumes for the improved feel of the Nippon iron shafts.
With the other three readers, the Trackman numbers and player feedback made Nick’s job very easy to put them into a better performing and feeling shaft.
It all sounds good but the real test is when these four golfer get out on to the course and start playing in competitions at their respective clubs.
We’ll come back to you in a couple of months time to update you with how they’ve got on.