By Scott McLeod – Editor FlagStck Magazine (flagstickeditorsdesk.blogspot.com)
Dynamic Possibilities: ACCRA Unveils Their New Shaft Concept
Ten months ago the shaft business was a different place for the principals behind ACCRA golf. By that point it had only been a few years since Canadians Dave Makarucha and Gawain Robertson had taken a distribution deal for a shaft sub-brand and grew it into nothing less than a solid and well-recognized product. Tour and consumer success compelled them to eventually acquire the brand from United Sports Technology, but even with their fresh line of ACCRA AXIV shafts selling well it was no time to rest.
On the PGA Tour, the barometer for golf equipment success, ACCRA was making a strong move. With Robertson working the tee line among the world’s best players they had more than a hundred shafts in play and the wins were piling up, but there was more work to be done.
Most golf companies would have been content with this level of success but the ACCRA gang was on a mission. From the start of their business they had committed to building the best shafts they could, without compromise, and the search for their next product was on. This time though, it was not a new material or simply a design change that had their full attention, it was an entirely new concept for how golf shafts would be fitted, tested, and eventually, purchased.
So it was on a day last March that the idea for the latest ACCRA shaft concept – DYMATCH came to fruition. They will debut this week at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
“A year ago, we (Premium Golf Management Company) acquired all rights to ACCRA,” Robertson told me recently on cool, snowy day in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario. “With that we also took on all the costs for marketing and running a golf shaft company. Until then we had shared a tour rep with UST so last year one thing we took over was running the tour for our product. So in going out on tour as our own company we were able to get to use the tour for things that were beneficial for the company. One of those is to be able to test products using best players in the world.”
That situation lead to some interesting discoveries. “We got to learn and watch what was going on out on tour and DYMATCH is a direct derivative of what we learned in our first year.”
Robertson said one of his earliest observations on the PGA Tour was just how few players were using the same shaft in their driver as they were in their fairway woods or hybrids. He began to wonder just why was this was the case.
In starting to research the situation they soon discovered that most tour players were using softer-tipped fairway wood shafts than the ones they were using in their drivers. Most players didn’t really know this was the case; they were simply doing it based on performance alone.
The ACCRA team began to look at how golf clubs were designed and the impact it has on shafts. It was fairly easy to see that in a driver the center of gravity was much further from the axis of where the shaft and hosel met than in a fairway wood or hybrid. Thus, to achieve the same feel you actually needed a more stable tip section as the center of gravity moved further away from the axis.
But this was just one factor in the DYMATCH concept, another great concern came from working out on tour. Out there one of the major issues with OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) reps was just how many club heads they would go through to fit a player. Similarly, the same goes for shaft manufacturers and the number of shafts they would burn through to get a player in tune. These are tight economic times after all.
“With us we might get a guy dialled in with an ACCRA XE75 in his driver and you think “Perfect, we’ll give him an 85 for his fairway wood and he will be all set.” But what happens is the OEM ends up building 4 or 5 fairway clubs with different shafts because they don’t know if it will actually work. We started to look at that and wonder how we could fix it. How can we get a player a guaranteed better fit while also making it cheaper and easier to do so on tour? We wanted to develop a product that consistently matched from driver, to fairway, to hybrid, in a series of shafts.”
And this, says Robertson, is where it got interesting. Until now most manufacturers have been designing shafts statically – creating them based on specs and profiles that they want to achieve. Then they take them out and test them. From a base gram weight shaft they usually make a heavier one and a lighter one. That is the simple way of doing it. They assume that because the first shaft worked well that the other ones will work well. They test them and make sure they do as much as possible.
For the DYMATCH they took a very different approach. “When we challenged our engineers on this project we told them that we didn’t care what the specs were, we didn’t want them to hit specs, just make a shaft that worked well. We wanted them to create a 55, 65, and 75 gram “kick-ass driver shaft” with certain general profiles – basically a little more stable tip section and little softer butt section – slightly different from ACCRA shafts of the past but appropriate for the clubs out there today. After we did that we did our normal testing then we did a whole range of dynamic testing.”
For those tests, rather than focusing on the 46 inch uncut, raw shaft they put their attention on a normal length (45 inch) driver shaft fit into a modern, high MOI clubhead and with a grip, just as it would be played. They subjected it to a battery of tests for frequency, EI (Energy Inertia) profile, tip and mid flexes followed by a series of cannon and robot testing. They then used a ballistic camera to measure what happened with the club and shaft as it made contact with a golf ball at different speeds.
With driver measurements in hand they then looked to create a three wood shaft the replicated the dynamics of their driver tests, without concern for the static specifications. “The goal was to not to see that the shaft matched at the full uninstalled length, but to ensure the shaft was working the same in a real golf swing.”
It took twelve different versions to get the first three wood shaft.In designing it “backwards” to create the right dynamic end product, each test was essentially a shot in the dark that got fine tuned with each subsequent trial.
Robertson says he believes that with a greater availability of testing devices like launch monitors that the industry will slowly move more toward dynamic trials like they have been doing.“You already see it out on tour with players finding a ball that suits them and then building their equipment around it. That is opposite of what they used to do.”
He says their live player testing including both amateur and pro golfers but they feel that being able to get shafts that match is even more critical for the non-tour level golfer. “For amateurs you are taking away another variable in their swing. Tour players can adjust but why should you when you don’t have to?”
In the end the man from ACCRA says it is results that matter, not specs. They have created a dynamically matched set of shafts not meant to replace their other products but simply supplementing them. “Every shaft does something different for every player. This product line is not for everyone but for those that it fits, they can choose a driver and be guaranteed that the three wood and hybrid will perform the same. Once you find a driver shaft that works for you, average player, tour player, video, cannon, and strain gauge testing has all told us that the fairway shaft will match and perform with the same feel and launch conditions.”
The DYMATCH shafts provide a slightly lower ball flight than past ACCRA shafts, working well with the low center of gravity/high MOI club heads of today.
There are three lines of DYMATCH shafts, Series #1, #2, and #3, providing different weights and performance characteristics.The shafts start at 45 grams and go up to 98 grams with the lighter shafts providing slightly higher launch angles. They all feature innovative new graphics and paint schemes in the familiar copper, blue, and red ACCRA theme (see photo).
After the unveiling this week at the PGA Merchandise Show the next major milestone for the shafts will be getting them into the bags of tour players at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles.A couple weeks after that, likely at the end of February, they will be available to consumers through a network of more than 350 authorized dealers around the world.
Almost a year in development, getting ACCRA DYMATCH to market has been quite the process. “A lot of time and effort has been put into these shafts but I think it worked out very well,” concludes Robertson. We are excited for golfers to be able see what a difference it can make to their golf games.”