Perhaps no segment of the golf industry has benefited more from the 90's influx of aerospace engineers than shaft manufacturing. With dozens of high-tech companies competing for OEM contracts, the race to produce graphite shafts with higher and higher levels of technical sophisticatoin isnot unlike a golf industry version of Silicon Valley. One new company receiving attention for its work is CDI.
Started in 1993, CDI has its roots in the aerospace industry. The cmopany is using the same technology to maker shafts that was used to manufacture graphite tubes for NASA's Galileo spacecraft. Called High Pressure/Molded, or HP/M, the process allows for shafts to be made that are entirely reproducible, according to CEO Jim Lawrence.
"Our founder, Mike Orlowski, is both an engineer and a pro who played on the Australian Tour and aspired to play the PGA Tour as well, " Lawrence explains. "His family had a composite company that made graphite tubing for the space program, and they perfected a way to make cylindrical graphite tubes. Mike applied that technology to golf shafts. To make a long story short, we can make a shaft that we don't grind to flex and that has virtually zero spine. By not curing on the mandrel, the extenal mold controls the geometry. There are no varying wall thicknesses. Every shaft is dead straight."
They took their shafts on Tour in Spring of 1997 and now has about 70 players on the PGA, Senior and Nike tours either playing or using the shaft, none of whom are compensated. "Grant Waite is playing our shaft, as is Skip Kendall. Kirk Triplett picked some up and last week (the week of the Bob Hope Classic) we heard that Fred Couples was trying the shaft, " says Lawrence. "Because we do no grinding, we can use a much better grade of pre-peg. The players love the consistency of the product, improved dispersion, the high bend point, the flatter ball flight. If a player needs a perfect duplicate of his driver, we can make it in 10 minutes."
The do not use eitheir boron or steel fibers to strengthen their graphite. "We use a Hy-Bor material which doesn't distort performance as much," says Lawrence. "It's more of a fiberglass fiber. Since we've gone to it we've had virtually no breakage." What further sets them apart, says Lawrence, is that their shafts have a more pronounced taper and fewer parallel sections. "This optimizes transfer of energy. It allows us to build a higher bend point for all levels of players, from slow swingers to fast."
The company had some good news recently: Callaway requested shafts for use in their tour vans, while Titleist selected CDI shafts as a special option on their popular new driver. CDI makes a variety of shafts from ultralights to tour weight in a wide range of flexes, all of which can be frequency matched within stringent exactness. "We give our customer what wants. We just don't throw a couple of stiffs in a box and mail it off," says the CEO.
The company's new tour weight Dogstar wedge shaft has a torque range of 3.0 to 3.7, with flexes running from 4.5 to 7.0 so that a set of custom flexed wedges are possible. "Our response on Tour with the wedge shafts has been great," said Lawrence. "Our goal there was to fight the negative connotation that graphite wedge shafts always have, namely the weight problem, which we've solved by developing a composite material to fill the shaft and get it up to steel weight as well as to improve feel and vibration." A putter shaft using the same fill is also available, but what they are really excited about is the debut of their new tour weight shafts for irons made with the same HP/M technology. We've got people beating down the door who like our metalwood shafts and believe that our technology will allow us to build a perfect set of iron shafts.