EQUIPMENT & BUSINESS BLOG
It was colleague Mike Stachura who convinced me to alter my traditional pre-PGA Merchandise Show schedule to attend this year’s ACCRA, KBS, Miura golf day. He told me he has always enjoyed hanging out with some of North America’s top club fitters. He figured I would too.
“My kind of people,” he said at the end of a message.
When we chatted at the outing held at Orlando’s Grande Pines Marriott last month, I asked Golf Digest’sequipment editor what he meant by that.
“Everyone here is intrigued by possibilities,” Stachura explained. “The club fitters want to figure it out. These guys aren’t selling things. They’d happily give their stuff away for free. Their passion is, ‘Hey, you’ve come into my shop with a problem and I have the ability to fix it so let’s get to work.’ The beauty of the ACCRA day is I get educated here. This is selfish on my part.”
Canada’s ACCRA is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Although it does not have the same elevated brand status of shaft-makers such as Fujikura, Aldila or Graphite Design, the Kingston, Ont.-headquartered Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) continues to be the brand of choice for custom club fitters who remain fiercely loyal and appreciative of ACCRA’s commitment to them and their businesses. To varying degrees the same applies to KBS and Miura who, like ACCRA, have forged tight business and personal bonds with these elite equipment professionals. Nearly 100 fitters were on hand for the co-sponsored ACCRA, KBS, Miura golf day. According to the two companies more than 450 of the world’s best professional fitters endorse ACCRA and KBS to their customer base.
“Professional club fitting makes up a very small percentage of the equipment market,” said ACCRA’s Gawain Robertson. “If it was to increase even two to three per cent, fitters would be incredibly busy. The truth is club fitting is still a work in progress to make the public understand what we do. For that we need help. We need the (golf) media to continue to help us get golfers on our side.”
Philosophically, ACCRA has never wavered. Since Robertson and partner Dave Makarucha formed it a decade ago the brand has maintained its commitment to designing premium-level shafts utilizing the highest modulus materials and the most up-to-date engineering equipment. It then limits those shafts to only the best club fitters in the world who must, in turn, show their level of loyalty by agreeing not to sell ACCRA shafts below the brand’s minimum selling price. Fly-by-night fitters need not apply. Any new ACCRA fitters have to be recommended while going through extensive certification.
The company’s testing ground is where you would hope it would be. Performance validation and marketing for ACCRA comes directly from the PGA Tour. More than 100 players use the brand’s products without compensation. That includes world No. 10 Matt Kuchar, multiple winner Luke Donald and Ryan Palmer, who has used ACCRA since his rookie season on the PGA Tour. He remains one of the brand’s most vocal proponents.
“Every tour player has a choice of what shaft(s) to play,” Robertson said. “To have that many using ACCRA speaks to the level of our products. We’re tour proven week in and week out.”
For 2014 the company has, once again, expanded its offerings. Most significant for club fitters is the new Japanese-manufactured Concept Series CS1, which takes the best features of ACCRA’s Tour Z ST and Tour Z CB and combines them into an advanced innovative new product ideal for today’s low spin clubheads and golf balls. To help achieve this, ACCRA did a couple of things: it infused the Concept Series CS1 with a much higher concentration of composite versus resin and added more modulus graphite.
“We get to tolerances with it (Concept Series CS1) we never thought possible,” Robertson said of the product line that features three weights and three different flexes.
One significant footnote to the CS1’s development: it would not have been possible without ACCRA’s most recent technology breakthrough. Robertson and Makarucha partnered with Mark Timms, president of Cool Clubs of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Queens University (Kingston, Ont.) engineering graduate Simon Grodin on a new analysis machine called S3 (Shaft Simulation System). According to Robertson, the S3 effectively measures everything going on with a golf shaft. And he absolutely means everything.
“You get more information on a shaft than you would ever want to know,” he said to the club fitters and media in attendance. “We get 10,000 times the data other shaft profile systems get. The S3 works on as many planes as you want. Its accuracy is incredible.”
The company will also move into a new era of its DyMatch product. Designed for fairway wood and hybrid shafts to react exactly the same as the driver shaft (for performance and feel), the new DyMatch 2.0 is already getting a huge response from fitters for its ability to fit such a wide spectrum of golfer types.
Also slated for 2014 is the next generation of ACCRA’s ISeries, a complete family of shafts from driver through wedges; the SPi wedge shafts, which enable golfers to increase spin while controlling launch; and the incumbent Tour Z shaft series, which allows fitters to get absolutely precise with launch angles at impact.
“Our products are evolving,” Robertson explained. “We’re getting better at helping our network of club fitters get even more precise right through the golf bag. That helps them offer the very best service to their customers.”
Stachura was right. I did thoroughly enjoy my time with the club fitters in attendance, hearing their thoughts on ACCRA, KBS and Miura while lending an ear about their businesses. Once again spending time with those guys reinforced what I’ve believed for quite some time: professional club fitting is essential to any club purchase and a golf club’s shaft is its primary component.
It’s something to keep in mind.