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Equipment Report
  • Equipment mailbag: Popular driver shafts, more

  • Phil Mickelson is one player using the Callaway Chrome Soft golf ball. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)Phil Mickelson is one player using the Callaway Chrome Soft golf ball. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

In this week's Equipment Report Mailbag, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider Jonathan Wall discusses a number of topics, including TOUR pros using game-improvement irons, Callaway's Chrome Soft golf ball and the rise in popularity of Aldila's Rogue shaft and Mitsubishi Rayon's Kuro Kage XTS shaft on TOUR. 

Have a question about the latest golf equipment or what the pros are playing? Send a tweet to @jonathanrwall.

How well would a TOUR pro play with clubs like we play with such as "player improvement" irons off the shelf? - @johnclivingston

It's worth mentioning that the definition of a game-improvement iron has changed considerably in the last few years. Gone are the days of balky iron heads and thick toplines. Thanks to improved technology, equipment manufacturers are able to design irons that look closer to the "player iron" your single-digit handicap buddy uses.

As far as how a TOUR player would fare with a "game-improvement" set, you need to understand that these irons are geared for golfers in the 15-plus handicap range. That means they have more offset and a higher MOI that improves ball speeds on mis-hits. If you're buying this set you are likely trying to accomplish two things: reduce mistakes (i.e. hit the ball straight) and get a few extra yards with each iron. 

These are two things the average TOUR pro has no problem doing on a regular basis. Throw a set of game-improvement irons in, say, Rickie Fowler's hands and he's going to hit every iron longer. It sounds like a good thing, until you realize Fowler has the yardages on his current set dialed-in. He has no interest hitting one wedge 140 yards and the next 150 yards. He's looking for consistency. Also, the offset would make it difficult for him to shape the ball.  

In other words, the technology benefits that make "game-improvement" irons a great option for the weekend golfer could be a problem for the TOUR pro.

Even though you'll rarely see a TOUR pro put a full set in the bag, I've noticed a trend over the last few years of players adding game-improvement long irons to the bag. Keegan Bradley (4-iron) and Graeme McDowell (3-iron) have used Cleveland's 588MT that has a hollow head design that allows weight to be distributed for a lower, deeper center of gravity.

Brian Harman also used a couple TaylorMade SpeedBlade long irons (4- and 5-iron) at the 2014 Honda Classic because they were easy to hit and had a high trajectory.

How many Callaway staffers are using the Chrome Soft golf ball? - @jmeehan75

As of THE PLAYERS Championship, there are currently six players on the PGA TOUR using Callaway's Chrome Soft golf ball. The list includes Phil Mickelson, Gary Woodland, Pat Perez and Sangmoon Bae.

There are two versions on TOUR: the retail ball and a TOUR-only prototype that Mickelson started using at TPC Sawgrass. According to Callaway, the prototype has all the same ingredients as the retail version with a different level of spin on short iron shots.

I could probably stop right there, but it's worth mentioning the design behind Callaway's latest Tour level golf ball. Solid core, multi-layer golf balls remain the model of choice on TOUR; however, some companies have spent time trying to develop a technology that could blend the feel of the old Balata cover with the distance, low-spin and all-around performance of a solid core model.

Enter Chrome Soft, a three-piece ball that features a SoftFast core that works together with an intermediate mantle layer to retain more energy than previous low-compression models.

And if you're wondering what kind of compression we're talking about, Chrome Soft has a compression of 65. The standard tour ball is usually around 90, meaning Chrome Soft will feel considerably softer.

So what does all of this mean? You're basically getting a softer feeling ball that still performs for guys with TOUR-level swing speeds (don't forget Gary Woodland is using the ball).

Aldila Rogue vs Kuro Kage XTS: Which will we see more of during the #MatchPlay? - @Tom_Belshaw

The WGC-Cadillac Match Play is a great event to track equipment trends because you have the best 64 players in the world at the same venue. With that in mind, this was a good place to keep tabs on two of the most talked about shafts on TOUR: Aldila's Rogue and Mitsubishi Rayon's Kuro Kage XTS. 

There were nine Rogue shafts and seven Kuro Kage XTS shafts in play at TPC Harding Park. That's nearly a quarter of the field playing one of two shaft models, which is pretty impressive. 

Of course, there are some big names using the shafts. Jordan Spieth, Charley Hoffman and Hunter Mahan use Rogue; Jason Day, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner and Webb Simpson play Kuro Kage XTS. 

If you have some club head speed, you may be able to benefit from these shaft profiles. Rogue is a counterbalanced, tip-stiff model that has an expensive, extremely stiff petroleum based carbon fiber — the carbon fiber is used for aerospace applications like satellites, where extreme stiffness and ultra-lightweight materials are required — in the lower portion of the shaft that produces low launch, low spin characteristics. 

The second-generation Kuro Kage has a firmer butt and tip section and was made popular by Rory McIlroy, who used a prototype version of the shaft for some time before switching to Mitsubishi Rayon's Diamana Blue S+ 70X. 

Kuro Kage XTS utilizes premium 40 and 46 ton high-modulus carbon fiber which makes the tip even stiffer without adding additional weight. The shaft also has a 13-inch application of titanium-nickel wire prepreg in the tip section of the shaft that stretches and then regains its original shape to efficiently transfer and unload energy.

While these are without a doubt two of the most popular shafts on TOUR at the moment, you should make sure they fit your game/swing before you consider taking one for a test drive.

If I use KBS C-Taper shafts in my irons do you also recommend using in my wedges? - @kgmjto

I'd recommend getting on a launch monitor and doing some testing before you make a final decision. KBS C-Taper is low launch, low spin, so I'm going to assume you have no problem spinning the ball. That could make the shaft a good fit in your wedges. 

However, if you do decide to stick with the same shaft, I'd recommend at least considering the idea of going with a softer flex. I covered this in a previous mailbag, but most players on TOUR have different shaft flexes in their irons and wedges. 

For example, Rory McIlroy currently uses Royal Precision Project X 7.0 shafts in his Nike VR Pro blades and Royal Precision Project X 6.5 shafts in his wedges. The reason he uses a slightly softer shaft in his wedges is because he doesn't need to take a rip at the ball; he's looking for something that offers a bit more feel, especially for those flighted shots. 

Brandt Snedeker has three different versions with Aerotech's SteelFiber i95 shafts in his irons, True Temper's Gold Series 95 shaft in his 51- and 55-degree wedges, and a True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 Tour Issue shaft in his 60-degree lob wedge. 

What that tells you is feel is absolutely critical to these guys when it comes to wedge shots. I'm not saying this works for everybody — again, I'd recommend getting on a launch monitor — but it's worth kicking around the idea of going with a softer flex in your scoring clubs. 

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