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PGA Merchandise Show, Day 1: swappable shafts usher in a new dawn for the truly gear-obsessed

Forget moveable weight technology – that is soooo five minutes ago. Welcome to the era of swappable shafts.

If you’re a member of golf’s tweak-and-fiddle set, it’s a day to rejoice as major manufacturers introduce quick-change shafts and driver heads _ a no-brainer of an idea that’s been too long in coming.

On Day 1 of the the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, the big noise has been the satisfying snap and click of drivers with threaded hosels that allow a golfer to change shafts with the twist of a wrench.

Professionals who play the PGA, Champions and Nationwide tours have known for years the luxury of being able to change shafts on a whim and experiment with different setups. Soon, such convenience will be available to Joe Average as well.

Callaway Golf and Nickent Golf were just two of the manufacturers debuting the technology at the show, where an estimated 43,000 golf industry professionals are swarming the floor at the sprawling Orange County Convention Center, perusing the offerings of more than 1,200 exhibitors and trying to separate the sensational from the snake oil.

Callaway’s quick-change offering, christened I-Mix, includes either the FT-i or the FT-5 driver head and countless shaft options, including products from top-tier manufacturers like Diamana and UST.

“The idea was essentially born from PGA Tour players having access to the tour vans every week, being able to change their equipment based on the course or the weather conditions,” said Darron Green, a product manager with Callaway Interactive in Austin, Tex.

“Now, with I-Mix, we’re able to bring that to the general public.”

Included with the driver is a specially designed torque wrench that allows a player to change shafts without running the risk of overtightening the assembly or stripping the threads.

The Callaway package isn’t expected to be available at retail until March; no word yet on when it will be for sale in Canada.
The resurgent Nickent Golf’s Evolver set includes a 4DX driver head and two Proforce V2 shafts, one designed for a higher ball flight, the other to keep the ball low. It uses an allen-key style wrench to loosen a nut on the sole of the club that threads into the shaft to lock it in place.

“Right now it’s packaged with a low launch and a high launch,” said Nickent “Someone can buy this package and then get 20 different shafts, and they can just put it in or take it out.”

The Nickent package, which comes with one clubhead and two shafts, retails for $479 US; a single clubhead-shaft combo goes for $399, with other shafts available for sale as well.

Taylor Made, which introduced moveable-weight technology in its r7 driver line in 2004, has also jumped aboard the swappable-shaft movement with the r7 CGB Max Limited driver line _ “A Tour Van in a Box,” according to their latest release.

“Because different shafts promote different launch conditions, TaylorMade SelectFit Technology gives golfers the power to customize the driver and optimize the character of their shots by changing shafts,” Sean Toulon, TaylorMade’s Executive Vice President, Innovation and Product Creation, said in a statement Thursday.

“When you combine that with the shot-changing influence of TaylorMade’s Movable Weight Technology, you’ll find that the r7 CGB MAX Limited gives you more control over the shape and trajectory of your shots than any other driver.”
The r7 CGB MAX Limited comes with a new titanium clubhead with three movable weight ports; three shafts, with distinctly different launch properties; two shaft-securing bolts; one 40 inch-pound torque wrench and nine movable weights.

The shaft technology is pretty serious: Ozik, Mitsubishi and Fujikura shafts come with the set. The price is pretty serious, too: MSRP is a cool $999.

Gearheads, rejoice!

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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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