DALLAS — Almost every week on the PGA Tour, players are offered the opportunity to provide feedback on prototype shafts that could eventually make their way to the average consumer. With feedback weighted heavily in the design process, the trajectory of a shaft’s future can change drastically depending on what’s being relayed to tour reps.
When Project X rolled out a blank prototype version of its Tour-only HZRDUS Smoke Green shaft last year at Punta Cana, the goal was to gather feedback on the tip-stiff profile — one that was supposed to rival the ultra-stiff HZRDUS T1100.
But there was one issue: No one was commenting on the shaft’s stiffness during early testing.
“I still remember [True Temper Tour rep David Wilson] saying, ‘Well, nobody said the shaft was too stiff,'” said Don Brown, True Temper’s senior director of marketing and innovation. “We weren’t sure if the lack of feedback was good or bad initially, but we quickly figured out it wasn’t what we wanted. We wanted some guys to say it was too stiff. If the average distance guys don’t think it’s stiff enough, then the shaft isn’t going to fit the guys we’re targeting.”
After making some tweaks to beef up the profile, Project X rolled out a prototype version that received the response the shaft manufacturer was looking for from the start, with a few players noting “you basically have to be the Hulk to handle the shaft.”
“It’s not officially known as the Hulk shaft,” Brown said, “but the nickname sort of stuck from the comments we’ve received on the profile.”
From a static standpoint (tip stiffness, CPM-wise), HZRDUS Smoke Green is similar to HZRDUS T1100. However, from a dynamic standpoint, it will play slightly stiffer because, unlike the counterbalance T1100, Smoke Green has more traditional weighting with a stiff butt and tip section.
Smoke Green is the first shaft in the HZRDUS lineup to feature a new Hexcels HexTow HM63 fiber. According to Brown, the fiber removes some of the boardy feel associated with T1100 without sacrificing overall stability and stiffness.
How stiff is Smoke Green? It’s without question the stiffest profile Project X has ever brought to Tour. Compared to the Grafalloy Blue shaft Henrik Stenson plays in his 3-wood — considered one of the stiffest shafts ever made for Tour — Smoke Green is 17 cycles stiffer, which equates to almost two full flexes.
“A lot of the college kids coming up are topping 180-190 ball speed, so we needed something that worked for that player profile, while also realizing counterbalance doesn’t work for everybody. Now we have two options with Smoke Green and T1100.”
Smoke Green is currently offered on Tour in two finishes: A no-nonsense matte black launched earlier this year at Riviera, and a more eclectic Gamma PVD that fades from green in the handle and midsection to a rainbow hues in the tip section. The Gamma PVD takes roughly 90 minutes to apply to the shaft in a PVD chamber.
The shaft is currently available on Tour in a 6.5 TX for the “strongest of the strong,” along with more manageable 6.0 and 6.5 flexes. Honda Classic winner Keith Mitchell was one of a handful of player who planned to test the shaft this week at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas.