Pros: Gives tighter dispersion and more distance... Marketing materials clearly explain the science behind it...
Cons: This is a precision instrument. Read instructions so you don't damage it on insert... Price point may be too high for some.
In 1996, True Temper borrowed ideas from carpentry tool manufacturers and introduced the vibration-dampening Sensicore golf shafts. Next came clubhead gel inserts and cushions by various club makers such as Cleveland and Titleist.
While early efforts pursued both a softer feel and less impact shock to joints and tendons, Harrison Sports has taken the trend to the next level: its new Shotmaker shaft insert promises increased shaft stability without increasing tip stiffness. Basically, Shotmaker is designed to lessen the vibration of the shaft and increase the likelihood of center hits. Shotmaker does two primary things, according to marketing director Frank Choi. It lessens the deformation of the shaft, and lessens impact vibration which improves center hits while allowing transfer through of residual vibration to maintain feel.
“If you completely eliminate vibration, the club would have no feel,” said Frank during a phone interview.
Based in California, Harrison has become one of the top five manufacturers and distributors of golf shafts, including the Mugen, Eclipse, and Saga lines. According the Harrison website, clients have won 67 PGA tour victories and seven long driver championships. And this summer, Shotmaker got approval from the USGA.
The first Shotmaker version was designed for drivers and fairway woods with a .335 bore graphite shaft. The second generation will fit .350 bore shafts. Golfers select the best Shotmaker by going to the Fitting Chart, which matches the eight Shotmaker flex variants with the person’s swing speed, load factor and angular velocity (speed of golfer’s wrist rotation before impact).
“Now, Shotmaker won’t swing the club for you. What it does is take a bad shot and makes it less bad, and a good shot and makes it better,” said Frank.
In this review, I will cover the inserting of Shotmaker, the results of indoor and outdoor tests I conducted, and then address my impressions of the product.
Handle Shotmaker with Care
The Shotmaker is a thin, 4-gram tube with a locking screw which slides down the shaft of the driver, and is locked in place at midshaft. Recommended installation involves cutting a plug out of the butt of the grip with a half-inch grip cap cutter. Then, the fitter slides the Shotmaker insert through the plug hole and down the shaft. Then, the fitter uses the telescoping insert tool/torque wrench to engage the locking screw and gently torque the insert into place.
From there the player has two choices: Glue a plastic cap in place over the plug hole – required by USGA rules – or cover it with Grip Lock, a 5-gram weighted plug that screws into place using the collapsed insert tool.
Harrison rep Frank Choi warned me about how easy it is to damage the Shotmaker if one doesn’t know what to do.
Frank, the Harrison website and the Shotmaker brochure all tell golfers to read the instructions first. Also, Harrison has how-to Shotmaker videos on its website, also circulated on YouTube. A suggestion for improving the video: have some close-ups of the hand and tool positions on key steps of the installation. The long shots leave the watcher guessing in a couple of places
I had pro Michael Wyatt do the insert for me the first time. Without going into a lot of details, I would advise fellow Sand Trappers to let a skilled craftsman do it the first time. Then, if you try it yourself, consider loading the how-to video to your iPhone and playing it as a pre-insertion refresher.
Shotmaker on the Launch Monitor
I’m a somewhat erratic golfer who had been working hard to get his tee shots under control. So, I was quite interested when I got a phone call from Harrison’s Frank Choi about testing the Shotmaker.
For test 1, I contacted PGA pro and clubsmith Michael Wyatt at the Golf Galaxy in Fairview Heights, Illinois. In late 2008, Michael had fitted me for the driver I now use, the Callaway Hyper X Tour. This driver won out in a test against six other models at a time I was switching from stiff to regular shafts.
He also has given me some useful lessons, and had gotten me to cut down on my backswing. We spent an hour on the PureLaunch Pro™ launch monitor doing the test, 10 shots with a Stock driver and 10 shots with the Shotmaker + Grip Lock plug.
Here’s the equipment specs for the HyperX Tour driver.
- 10.5º loft, square face
- Fujikuri E360 R-flex shaft, 65 grams, 45.5” long, midkick and low-mid torque
- Standard thickness Callaway Universal grip
- Swingweight: Stock = D5 | Shot + GL = D6
- Total club weight: Stock = 327 grams | Shot + GL = 335 grams
I used Nike Air Tour Pro golf shoes, a Footjoy golf glove, and TopFlite Gamer.v2 golf balls. I teed the ball so that it was ¼ inch above the crown of the driver, a bit lower than suggested for jumbo drivers. This matches my normal set-up for a round of golf.
At the shop I did my normal dynamic stretches and hit some partial and full shots to warm up before going “live.” After the first 10 shots, I took a break and watched Michael insert the Shotmaker. After three practice shots, I hit another 10 for record. Here are the results:
Note: In July, I had sprained my wrist blasting out of a rain washed bunker which only had an inch of sand under the ball. I took some recovery time. The warm-up shots preceding the launch monitor test were the first full shots I had hit in four weeks, which may explain the low distance.
For the Stock driver, clubhead speed was consistent in the low 80s, and average distance right at 200 yards. The Stock clubhead speeds were more uniform, but the Shotmaker speeds started in the mid-70s before topping 90 MPH for shots 8 and 10, which at 234 and 217 yards were the longest shots of the day.
The impact tags tell a clearer story. The Stock impacts are scattered around the clubface. The Shotmaker impacts start off with scatter, but shots 5 through 9 cluster tightly in the left half of the sweet-spot.
While the Stock variant had its normal head-heavy feel of a jumbo driver, the Shotmaker had a more uniform feel going back. It reminded me of my MacGregor MT persimmon-headed driver which launched some fine shots for me back in the 1980s. Also, the 5-gram Grip Lock helped me get a better hand drop –didn’t think a few grams could help that much.
I recall the club tweaking from the 1970s when the power hitters put fishing weights in the butt of their drivers and fairway wood to try to slow down their hands a little. Jack Nicklaus talks about it in the equipment chapter of Golf My Way. I never tried it, and didn’t give butt weighting much thought until it came time for me to dump stiff shafts and rearm. The golf component companies now offer a wide variety of end-shaft weighted plugs, tip weights, and some clubheads with adjustable weights.
The GripLock, among other things, is supposed to keep the Shotmaker from adding to swingweight. The Stock swingweight was D5, and the Shotmaker swingweight was D6. The reason: the GripLock extends out about ¼ inch from the end of the shaft, effectively lengthening it a tad for swingweighting. But, I couldn’t tell any difference during swing.
Testing in the Wild
After a day of sprinkled rain, things cleared up on Sunday, so I contacted the crew at Stonewolf G.C. about my club testing. I bought a twilight special, and they let me go out to No. 9 tee in the late afternoon and do the Stock and Shotmaker field testing.
No. 9 of this Jack Nicklaus layout is one of the top driving holes in the area. The tee boxes have excellent drainage, and the hole is framed on the left by a clump of trees, and on the right by a fairway bunker and – if you go really wide – a lake. I selected the blue tees to give me plenty of depth in the landing area. From the whites you can catch the downhill slope with a decent drive, which would greatly inflate the drive length.
I stretched and hit warm-up shots at the range. I was moving through the ball much better than during launch monitor day. My planned test was patterned after the Shotmaker accuracy tests done up in Kansas a few months ago. In these tests, golfers get 10 shots stock and 10 with Shotmaker. Scoring was as follows:
- You get an F if you hit the Fairway.
- You get a Q for Quality if you hit the first cut of rough.
- You get Out (zero) for all else.
- A shot must go 150 yards to count.
While the Kansas tests used vector launch monitors, I used visual estimates to the nearest five yards to estimate driver distance and dispersion (amount to left or right of dead center, in my case a line from the right red tee marker out through the hole’s 150-yard pole).
Some golfers have registered up to a 40% improvement in accuracy (including dispersion decrease) in such tests. It didn't help me to that degree, but I did get improvements. Here are my results:
Because I had a left-to-right crosswind, I decided to aim a bit left and draw the ball back against the wind. After a couple of wild ones to the right in the Stock group, I put three straight in the left half of the fairway about 200 to 210 yards out. Shot 9 was my rocket of the day, 260 yards down the middle. Unfortunately, it was bracketed between two right misses, one of which skipped into the lake.
On to Shotmaker. After a solid opener, I missed shots left and right. Then, I put four straight in the fairway; the draw began working on the last seven, even though one turned into a wild hook. Basically, I scored points on six of the last seven shots.
Looking over the figures, Shotmaker drives didn’t match the Stock 260-yard rocket in distance. But, four of the five longest drives came from the Shotmaker set-up. Shotmaker showed a slight improvement in both fairway accuracy and dispersion.
And, I got the same solid feel from Shotmaker as I did on the launch monitor. I could feel the club starting to drop into the place at the top, more so than with the Stock configuration.
It Helps Accuracy, But It Won't Swing the Club for You
I will try the Shotmaker some more, playing it during actual rounds. The club simply seems more solid on the takeaway, the old Persimmon feel. And, getting better feel for steady position at top of swing will help stabilize my overall shots. I sense that the Shotmaker + Grip Lock makes a great team, especially for someone who has battled over-the-top and needs good hand drop.
Shotmaker marketing items stress that it should not decrease distance despite a slight weight increase in the club. In my case, it seems to be increasing distance – hits closer to center will do that. It also delivered small improvements in fairway accuracy and dispersion. But, it won't swing the club for you - you have to learn how to use it.
One variation in testing might include having some players start with Shotmaker driver, and finish up with Stock driver. That way the effects of warm-up learning curve and end-session fatigue might be better accounted for.
Here are some other things to think about:
- HyperX Tour in Light Shaft? When Frank arranged for me to get a Shotmaker, he also told me about Harrison’s new lightweight shafts. I decided to buy a Harrison Eclipse R50 48-gram shafts, but did not want to install it at this time. I have several fall scrambles coming up, and I don’t want to change the Big Stick to much. I would like to find a slightly used HyperX Tour 10.5º head somewhere, and install the 48-gram on that. Then, I could do side-by-side tests – E360 and Eclipse shafted drivers, with and without Shotmaker – and see which combo worked out the best.
- Stabilize Lighter Shafts? At the St. Louis Golf Expo back in January, I got to see the woods with superlight (below 50 grams) shafts. At the time, two different manufacturer’s reps expressed concerns about the soft tips in the first-wave superlights. The shafts got to be superlight by having very thin walls. The reps worried that soft tips would lead to major accuracy problems for golfers with medium- to high-speed swings. It might be better to settle for a 250-yard drive into the first cut of rough rather than a 270-yard drive deep into the tree line. Possibly Shotmaker technology can help stabilize the superlight shafts.
- Retaining Longer Shafts? Driver shafts approaching 46 inches long are a mixed blessing. Longer shafts will hit the ball farther, but are more difficult to control. That’s why many tour pros have cut back their drivers to the 44-inch range. Enter Shotmaker – if it can take out some vibration, possibly smoother swingers can still benefit from longer shafts.
- MSRP Too High? The current MSRP of $139 has sparked a range of comments. Some players whose bags contain close to $2,000 worth of clubs say it’s a small price to pay for a major enhancement to drivers. Others suggest that it might work best as a component part of future shafts. We’ll see what happens.