Golf equipment has changed considerably in the last two decades. We’ve seen titanium overthrow steel; adjustable weights become the norm in the woods category; the advent of the hollow-body blade; and mallets go from a complete outsider to a common sight at your local course — and on Tour.
It’s important to put this period of rapid gear change into context when discussing a piece of equipment that hasn’t changed during this timeframe. That would be Bubba Watson’s pink Grafalloy BiMatrix driver shaft.
In a sport where players change equipment to stay ahead of the gear curve (and their peers), Watson has remained steadfastly loyal to the multi-material driver shaft that True Temper first introduced in the late 1990s. Deemed a modern marvel at the time it was introduced, the shaft featured a steel tip section attached to a lightweight graphite body.
Geared for those with immense swing speed who required a stable part to pair with their driver head, BiMatrix still produced a high trajectory, making it a worthy option for modern low spin golf balls.
Watson found the shaft to be the perfect complement for every Ping driver he used, dating back to before he turned pro in 2002. Despite the hefty weight (80 grams), Watson had no problem leading the tour in driving distance on five separate occasions, including three straight years from 2006 to 2008.
“I’m a feel player,” Watson said several years back. “Always have been. Working the ball is important to me off the tee, and that requires a certain level of trust in the equipment. Ping has always made me great drivers, and that shaft has always worked with them. It’s a familiar feel for sure.”
Up until last week, Watson was playing the oldest driver shaft on Tour. But like all good things, there comes a point where even the longest hitters on Tour have to question if a piece of gear that helped them reach the pinnacle of professional golf is now holding them back. It’s a reminder that Father Time is still undefeated.
In Watson’s case, a decrease in speed was the impetus behind a driver shaft change last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson. At 43, Watson felt a move away from an 80-gram shaft into something lighter could help him gain back some of the speed he’d lost in the last year.
Watson requested several shafts to test at home, including a Project X HZRDUS Smoke RDX Black 60TX shaft that received a special shoutout on his social media feed. At 60 grams in weight, the HZRDUS Smoke RDX is a full 20 grams lighter than BiMatrix but still provided the necessary stability Watson requires to work the ball in his optimal launch windows.
“He was definitely excited about more distance,” said True Temper Tour rep Paul Loegering. “For someone who has been a distance leader for so long, it was important to try and find a way to stay long by going lighter without sacrificing dispersion and stability.”
Once Watson had thoroughly vetted the shaft, his team reached out to True Temper to see if there was a way to get Watson a custom version. As someone who’s known for his hot-pink gear, Watson wanted to keep the look of his gear consistent.
With supply chain issues snarling most of the industry, True Temper was still able to deliver a custom part to Watson in Texas
“Now that we’re running a bunch of different sports out of the same facility, it’s extremely busy to get stuff in through the queue,” said Loegering. “In this situation, we were able to take the existing RDX Black shaft without the paint and managed to get a custom paint job on there in four days. It’s just like making a prototype when it comes to the graphics, which is the fun part.
“We stayed in contact with Bubba’s team during the process to ensure he was good with the final look. I saw five versions [of the shaft] the week prior when I was in D.C., which tells you we didn’t just go with the first set of graphics we came up with.”
The final version of the shaft features “Bubba Smoke” emblazoned behind a pink backdrop. Watson officially put the shaft in play last week, along with a second HZRDUS Smoke Black 80 6.5 shaft in his Ping G425 Max 3-wood — a sign that he’s trying his best to get acclimated to one of Project X’s most popular parts.
With accuracy at a premium this week at Southern Hills, Watson will need a combination of distance and dispersion to stay in the mix. He’s hoping the new shafts provide the perfect recipe for success.
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