When golf shaft manufacturers introduce new products, they go to great lengths to highlight the new materials they’re using to create their new shafts. The buzz words are “thinner” and “stronger” and “lighter” and “higher modulus.”
The truth is that every golf shaft manufacturer has the ability to purchase high-quality carbon fiber from a variety of manufacturers. While it’s true that high-quality carbon fiber costs significantly more than lower-quality carbon fiber, all of the leading golf shaft manufacturers are using the highest-quality carbon fiber in their premier products. For that reason, the fiber itself is not a true differentiator.
Some golf shaft manufacturers actually produce their own carbon fiber, but in our research of the industry, we did not find an advantage in doing so. We can make better golf shafts when we have the freedom to purchase carbon fiber from multiple suppliers. This gives us the ability to always buy the best material regardless of the company that is producing it.
What does make a difference in the performance of a golf shaft is what we do with that carbon fiber. TPT is a vertically integrated shaft manufacturer, which means that we create our own carbon fiber “prepreg.” Some shaft companies outsource this process, but that was simply not an option for us. Our core competency is creating the world’s thinnest and strongest carbon fiber prepreg, so it’s a huge advantage for us to do so.
Our shaft making process starts by turning the high-quality carbon fiber we purchase into prepreg, which are single sheets of carbon fiber that have been impregnated with “resin” — the glue that holds carbon fiber together. Prepreg has a specific fiber orientation, and all the fibers in the sheet of prepreg are “parallel” (aligned in the same direction). They aren’t yet crisscrossed like the TPT logo.
Our experience with carbon fiber applications in different industries and applications has taught us how to make our prepreg significantly thinner and stronger than our competitors. While we’re always working to improve, we’re proud to say that we can currently produce prepreg that’s as light as 15 grams per square meter, which is four-times thinner than a human hair and one-quarter the weight of a page of paper.
We take this thin, strong prepreg and turn it into “preforms,” the material that is used to create a golf shaft. A preform is created by “forming” or “layering” sheets of carbon fiber prepreg on top of each other one by one to achieve specific properties. For example, the preform we use to create our stiffest shafts is different than the preform we use to create our most flexible shafts.
All of our preforms are created with automated machines we developed specifically for our manufacturing process. We call them “ATL Machines,” and they precisely apply layers of prepreg on top of each other to our exact preform specifications.
It’s the next step, however, that’s most important to our shaft manufacturing process.