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Shaft Review: UST Mamiya’s ATTAS International Series

Like a lot of things in life, golf clubs live and die by their silent partners, the often-unsung components that allow them to perform at their best, delivering the sort of results the consumer — that’s you and me, bub — expects for his or her many hundreds of dollars.

Orange you glad I didn't say 'banana ball'? The stylin' ATTAS International Series driver shaft, in all its sunshiney glory.

Sure, there’s a lifetime of costly high-tech R & D packed into that Otherplanetarium-faced, monster truck-sized, multi-adjusting, slicing, dicing, chopping and mulching driver head of yours. But consider instead, for a moment, the shaft — the place where every micro-measurement of swing force is stored, amplified to the Nth degree and then released at the precise moment when it’s needed most in order to propel a golf ball the farthest possible distance in more or less the correct direction, on a perfect trajectory with just the right amount of curvature, to boot.

A tall order, to be sure. Now, quick – what kind of shaft do you have in your driver? If that sound I hear is chirping crickets and tumbleweeds blowing through your rec room, it may be time to give your shaft (the one in your driver, smarty) more than just a passing thought.

If you are a discriminating single-handicapper who’s always looking for a leg up, and find yourself engaged in an ongoing search for the perfect shaft that would rival Henry Jones’s effort to find the Holy Grail, here’s a word worth Googling: ATTAS. Go ahead and do that now, and it should bring you back here.

Done? Good. Let’s get on with it.

ATTAS: it’s a Japanese word that means “brilliant,” according to manufacturer UST Mamiya, and it’s certainly apt in terms of the bright orange, white and black colour scheme that distinguishes the ATTAS International Series shaft from all the other clubs in the bag. Colour, in fact, has always been a UST Mamiya calling card; the unmistakable tri-tone look of the popular Proforce shaft was preceded 10 years ago by  the striking yellow and blue of the 65 series, one of the most popular shafts of its era.

The shaft, which currently carries a MSRP of $350 US, was introduced in North America late in 2009, and is being matched this week with a sequel of sorts, the T2, which claimed a professional victory this past June at the Asian Tour’s Queen’s Cup in the hands of Japan’s Tetsuji Hiratsuka.

“This was only the second week that the ATTAS T2 was in play professionally, so we are very happy to already have a win under our belt,” UST chief operating officer Gene Simpson said in a statement.

UST Mamiya says the ATTAS series is engineered with ultra-thin carbon fibers to deliver “smooth-bending properties” through a constant taper design that allows more energy to be transferred to the ball without distorting the shaft’s shape. That means, in a nutshell, more distance with greater accuracy through more consistent performance.

For woods, there are five IS shafts available, numbered 5 through 9 and suitable for swing speeds from as slow as 70 miles per hour (5), all the way up to more than 125 MPH (9). I’ve been field testing a stiff 6 in a TaylorMade R9 TP on the ‘Neutral’ setting with 9.5 degrees of loft and a 12-ounce slug in the rear weight port.

Since the shaft was standing in for the R9’s standard-issue X-flex Fujikura Motore, it initially waggled with a lot more softness than expected. It also seemed looser than the Proforce, which I know fairly well through several previous drivers and a couple of current hybrids. But that’s not overly surprising from a high-launch, low-spin shaft, which tends to have a softer tip section in order to deliver higher ball speed and a steeper trajectory.

As an aggressive driver of the ball with a swing speed that’s probably higher than average, the ATTAS very quickly settled itself into my comfort zone. Right away I noticed a decidedly higher, more penetrating ball flight than I’d seen with previous Proforce shafts, with a marked (but not mind-blowing) increase in distance. Given the chance to try the 7 or the 8, or perhaps the 6 in an X flex, I would expect to see even more distance gains. But for the slightly above-average golfer, say someone with a handicap in the range of 10 to 15, the 5 or the 6 would seem to be an excellent fit.

UST Mamiya is also in the grip business, producing some high-calibre alternatives to the pricier mainstream manufacturers. The Pro DC is a half-cord 'homage' to Golf Pride's New Decade MultiCompound.

Like its Proforce predecessors, the ATTAS gives no grief in the workability department either, despite its low-spin design. I consistently find it easy to shape the ball in either direction without any appreciable sacrifice in trajectory or distance. Compared with the harsher, less forgiving X-flex Motore, the ATTAS felt decidedly more stable, smooth and controlled, despite the obvious difference in stiffness.

When it comes to allowing golfers to get better, shafts are something of a double-edged sword. In an era of easy interchangability, there is a much wider selection out there, with greater availability than in past years. Given the number of manufacturers now who make drivers with detachable heads, it ought to be a lot easier than it is to test out different shaft and head combinations.

Your best bet is to attend a fitting session with your fave manufacturer — Titleist, TaylorMade and Callaway all offer extensive fitting sessions, a wide network of fitting facilities across Canada and an excellent selection of shaft and head combinations — and get your fitter to give you generic specs on your swing that will enable you to make a more informed decision. It’s very likely that in your session, you’ll encounter a shaft that fits you well.

Make note of its specifications, and what you like about it, then go do your own legwork. That way, you can mitigate the risk factor involved with buying a high-end shaft that you might not be able to test extensively beforehand.

When that time comes, the ATTAS is a terrific combination of premium performance and playability that would prove well-suited to a wide range of swings, and is well worth a look for anyone planning to give the shaft the respect it deserves, get out of the realm of off-the-rack offerings and enter the rewarding world of high-performance golf.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

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