Lee Trevino, golf's newest and happiest millionaire, says, "I didn't like it. It felt dead. Anyway, I figure I can hit the ball just as far with my steel shafts."
And Jim Jamieson is also a dissenter, noting, "I tried it two rounds at the Masters to get a little extra distance on the par-5 holes, but just a slight mistake can make it go way wrong. I just couldn't feel confident with it on the tight holes."
None of this discourages Jim Flood, a former stockbroker who is founder, president and part owner of Aldila Inc. of San Diego, the company that is making the graphite shaft.
"Some guys take a couple of swings, knock both shots to the right and say they don't like it," says Flood. "But it may take a while to find the correct club. I think Casper tried shafts that were much too whippy. He's having problems with his weight and is swinging poorly, so you've got to temper his remarks."
Flood heard of the graphite fiber substance about a year ago and logically reasoned that it could be molded into golf club shafts. He rounded up a small group of investors, including Glen Campbell and Andy Williams, and Aldila was in business.
Anyone leafing through his old high school physics book will be reminded that the force with which a stationary object (i.e., a golf ball) can be hit is the product of the weight of the object doing the hitting (i.e., the club head) and its velocity on impact. As for graphite itself, it is a black lustrous carbon that is mined in various parts of the country. However, the graphite used in the club shafts as well as in such products as pencils, paint pigments and foundry facings is artificially produced from petroleum coke.
"By using graphite the overall weight of a driver is reduced from 13� ounces to 12 ounces, and thus it can be swung faster," says Flood. "Since graphite is so strong, we can also shift weight from the shaft into the club head, providing more mass at impact. With graphite the club head can weigh up to 180% more than the shaft. With steel the club head can weigh only about 45% more. A light shaft and a heavy club head also provide a golfer with another important advantage: a terrific sense of feel."
Some pros who have tried graphite point out that it is more difficult to control a shot because of the club's high torque factor, the twisting and rotation of the club head during the swing. "It's like hickory in that regard," says Bert Yancey. " Bobby Jones was such a great player with hickory because his hand action, rhythm and timing were so delicate that he could minimize the effects of torque. Steel shafts have almost no torque. Now with graphite we are back to swinging a rock on a string.
Flood insists that the torque created by graphite is something special; that far from promoting wildness it actually improves accuracy. It does so through a process of recovery, or self-correction on impact. "If the recovery rate from the effect of torque was less than steel it would be wild," he says. But he claims this is not the case. "It recovers 100% faster than steel. We eliminate torque from the shafts that go into irons because torque reduces the backspin you need with irons, but in fairway woods and the driver you want torque."
Believers are putting their money where Jim Flood's mouth is. Aldila produced its first prototypes in April of 1972, and Flood took a quiverful of his black beauties out on the pro tour. By last December there were 10 touring pros, including Brewer, Gene Littler and Phil Rodgers, swinging black-shafted drivers. Currently, says Flood, 70 touring pros are using graphite shafts—primarily in drivers.