Aftermarket versus OEM shafts – Certain “Premium” Shafts May Not Be What They Appear To Be

Don’t Get Burned – The Premium Golf Shafts You Find Listed in the Hireko Golf Catalog and Website are Indeed the Real McCoy’s

If you are paying premium dollar for premium golf shafts, should you be receiving what you thought you were ordering?  If you say “Yes”, then you better read up on a practice that is happening in the golf industry to make sure you are really getting the product and by the manufacturer you thought you were receiving all along. This article will help explain some of the difference between OEM golf companies and aftermarket golf shafts.

Aftermarket shafts versus OEM shafts What if…?
XYZ manufacturer spent months (if not years) developing a new shaft using exciting new materials and/or technology.  That golf shaft was eventually sent out on tour to validate its performance.  A few weeks later it was used in the driver of a tour player who happened to hold up the winning crystal trophy.  Word of mouth spreads and a couple weeks later starts showing up in the bags of several tour players.  The golf club shaft becomes easily spotted on TV or threads appear on-line in golf forums such as Golf WRX or MyGolfSpy.  Instantly, demand begins from the public for that golf club shaft.

Download Hireko Golf Equipment CatalogA short time later, that same shaft becomes available by a number of golf component suppliers (including Hireko Golf) often with a price tag of $149 or north of that.  Finally, Joe Q. Public can buy the exact same shaft as their favorite tour player used or won with or the one they saw in the media that they just had to have.  Are you following me?  This is the order of the universe of how those tour player aftermarket golf shafts enter the marketplace.

Hocus Pocus, what have we here?
A short time passes and all of the sudden you start to see a major manufacturer begin offering their newest golf club with XYZ-brand’s exotic new golf shaft – or is it? Maybe the silkscreen on the OEM golf shaft has marked 60 instead of a 55, meaning the aftermarket vs OEM golf shaft is a lighter version.  Or maybe the color is different, but the markings aren’t exactly like the one that you saw on Hireko’s website, catalog, Golf Digest or on a popular forum page.  You are probably asking yourself, “Hey, what the H E double hockey sticks is going on there?”

Well my friends, that is what we call “Made For” or retail shafts. These are variations off of popular or expensive aftermarket golf shafts.  These may be slightly watered down versions of the Real McCoy in order to hit a certain price point or make them a little more user-friendly for Joe Q. Public who doesn’t swing anything like or as hard as the pros.  One clue if this is the case is to look at the retail price between their stock shafts vs. after-market shafts.

Many OEM drivers will retail for $299 with their house brand shaft.  Let’s say the OEM uses a “premium” golf shaft you see in a component catalog that lists for $199 for just the golf shaft itself.  If the retail price of the club is $399, then you know it is the “Made For” version, whereas at $499, it is the real deal.

UST Recoil Golf Shaft

Abracadabra, watch me pull a shaft from this hat

There are some people who feel like there is a conspiracy theory and those that produce “Made For” shafts ought to go to the pokey for false advertising.  Others will say, “You know, the average guy probably can’t hit the real deal anyway and the retail version is probably going to be a better fit for them.”  The latter has basically a no harm, no foul approach.

But what if that “Made For” golf club shaft wasn’t even made by the company that originally designed the shaft and went through the arduous task of getting it in the hands of the world’s best players?  What if the name brand club manufacturer went to the shaft maker and said, “Hey, we want this other company to produce a shaft for us, but we would like to slap your name on it because it is good marketing.  We will pay you x-amount per golf shaft and you don’t have to manufacturer the shaft, have it sit in your warehouse until we put in a purchase order, worry about a late invoice or any returns either.  All you have to do is sit back and enjoy those royalty checks because your name is worth something to us and the general public.”

Shocked?  Believe it or not this practice does happen.  I actually applaud those shaft vendors that turn down the offer of “free” money not to tarnish their branding now and far into the future.  Do I have a grudge against any name brand club manufacturer – absolutely not!  Do I have a vendetta against any shaft manufacturer?  Again, my answer is emphatically no. For one, we sell the majority of these company’s products anyway and that pays part of my salary.  But I do feel I have a responsibility to help educate consumers and for them to understand we are not ripping them off when comparing the OEM vs aftermarket shafts.

Don’t get burned
If you want the real deal, well you are going to pay for it one way or another.  The tour grade golf shafts you find listed in Hireko’s catalog and website are indeed the Real McCoy’s – not a watered down or totally unrelated product to appear as the one you thought you were getting in the first place.  There are some name brand club manufacturers who will put the real thing in either as a premium stock offering or as a custom option, but at a premium price as well.  It’s the same story on those shafts you found on eBay for a terrific price as it is really hard to say what they are, where the came from or even who produced them.  Caveat emptor…

14 comments

  1. don tuskes says:

    thanks for the info…keep it coming. i’ve bought some stuff on ebay because i’m just getting into component assembly, and already been ripped. as you say, “let the buyer beware”.

  2. DaveT says:

    I have compared specs for a few “Made for” shaft models (I’m sure Jeff has compared a whole lot more), and I have seen two places where they are almost guaranteed to cut performance and quality: weight and torque. In the ultralight shafts (actually, anything under 70g), the “Made for” shafts are probably heavier than the aftermarket shafts. And the “Made for” shafts will have a higher torque number. It is just difficult (and expensive) to make shafts that are both light and torsionally stiff.

  3. Justin says:

    Let’s start naming names. A majority of us already know this happens- it’s the same for their heads, as well (Miura is the name floated around). Why NOT call these people out? The people will get up in arms when it happens in other walks of like (Burger King/Taco Bell and the horse meat ordeal, for starters)… why NOT do it to golf OEMs? Who are we protecting?

    Tom Wishon and Robin Arthur (Mr. Author even states the material cost between his AXE shafts and the expensive ones is “about five bucks”, even though the others sell for roughly four times more) are two gurus that have been on record for saying that cost doesn’t equal performance, but if someone does feel the need to spend $300 on a hollow graphite tube, shouldn’t they have this information at their disposal?

    @Don: you only got “ripped” if you feel like you did… or overspent for used gear just to have it. “Made for” shafts will fit people just the same as aftermarket shafts. So long as it’s not delaminating (layers peeling off) it’ll be fine. Just like aftermarket shafts, the “made for” has to be matched to someone that can benefit from the flex, torque, length, weight, etc. of that specific shaft. You can also spine it if you feel the need. S/He’s out there- just be patient.

  4. alan says:

    I totally agree with your comments however, 99% of the golfing population CANNOT ans SHOULD NOT use a TRUE tour shaft.

    The pros are generally playing something like an 80 grams or more of X-flex graphite in their drivers wirh a high bend point, low torque, tip stiff shaft.

    Unless you have BOTH the swing speed to properly load the shaft and the correct swing mechanics to square-up the face at contact you are wasting your time. These shafts are not foregiving and will only reward a good strike just like the smaller tour head they are attached to. If you are scratch player with high swing speed, GREAT. However, if you are athe average Joe Sunday, stick with the “made-for” and spend the money you saved on a few more lessons !!!!!

  5. Robert Croft says:

    I’m not saying that you are telling a non truth but if I ask Hireko Golf if their shafts are the real deal they will say yes! If I ask any other shaft maker if their shafts are the real deal the will say yes! Sooooooo why should I believe you!

  6. luther thweatt says:

    I need shafts for a 5 & 4 iron, the shaft is prolaunch axis r-flex by grafalloy.

  7. Jeff Summitt says:

    Luther,

    The ProLaunch Axis iron shaft was made for Mizuno the best I can tell you and not a shaft that was available to the aftermarket.

  8. Jeff Summitt says:

    Robert,

    You need to ask the shaft manufacturer if the shaft in a particular OEM is the “exact” same as what you see in the component catalogs or a variation. If you ask the club manufacturer, they will either not tell you (they don’t have to disclose their sources) or you may get someone who honestly does not know.

  9. Gary says:

    @Robert: Jeff has forgotten more about golf shafts than most people know (or think they know). If he states that this activity is taking place, then it is taking place. He has no axes to grind.

  10. Al Peskett says:

    Well said Jeff, punters just don’t know. We, like you have been spreading the word for years about this. I was plesently surprised to see one of the higher end shaft manufacturers announce that they will no longer be making ‘made for’ shafts.

    I will keep banging the drum this side of the pond.

  11. Jeff Summitt says:

    Hi Al,

    Hope you and the rest of the gang are doing well on the other side of the pond. Actually I have no beef (or maybe horse in Europe) with “Made For” shafts. The part I am surprised more people aren’t noticing is the part below the Abracadabra part.

  12. Rod Clemmons says:

    Thanks for the detailed explanation, Jeff. “Made for” shafts often are taper-tipped and an odd tip diameter, so replacing them with the tour quality shaft sometimes takes some doing. It may be better to just start with good components that fit the golfer rather than try to retrofit to chase the latest label. Rod_CCCGOLFUSA

  13. Joe Golfer says:

    It seems like some folks didn’t read the whole article, or simply didn’t understand the terms in it.
    “Alan” says 99% of public shouldn’t be playing the tour shafts anyway, because they are too stiff and too heavy. Doesn’t get it: the article is talking about difference between real aftermarket shafts and ones that are painted to look the same, used by OEM club companies. You can purchase those “real” tour shafts in a flex and weight to suit you, so it’s not like you need to purchase a tour shaft in heavy/X-flex specs. What the article is saying is that the OEM shaft may just be a cheapo shaft that hardly compares at all to a good shaft. Some are, some aren’t.
    Robert Croft says he doesn’t know who to believe because everyone will say that they are using the real McCoy. I don’t think he understands what OEM means. It is original equipment manufacturers, like Callaway or Titleist or Cobra or Nike.
    It is NOT a comparison of different component shaft sellers, or even the actual aftermarket shaft makers. It is aftermarket shafts (shafts sold separately by professional shaft companies, that market them via component companies like Hireko) compared to those used by major companies that make the entire club. Yes, they do use shafts that look like the real deal. I personally own a Titleist 909 D2 driver. It has a shaft that looks just like the Diamana BlueBoard of that year, but my shaft says “exclusively designed for Titleist” in very very fine print. Not a big deal to me, as I knew beforehand that it wasn’t the real deal, but many consumers don’t know that, and that’s what Jeff Summit of Hireko is trying to teach people here.
    I think Mitsubishi Rayon is a major culprit in this field of tomfoolery. I recall when OEM clubs first started using those namebrand lookalike shafts. In fine print, it might say that the torque was around 5.7*, which is quite high. And if one compared the actual aftermarket shaft from the same company, the torque might be 3.5*. Quite a difference, but the shaft graphics would look the same.
    I’ve never seen “Made for” graphite shafts that were taper-tipped when it comes to use in woods, nor have I seen them in anything but the usual .335 or .350 tip diameters, as Rod Clemmons mentioned. Irons often use taper-tip shafts though.
    Justin is correct about Tom Wishon and Robin Arthur selling shafts that are high quality at reasonable prices, but they aren’t accessible via Hireko. Robin Arthur sells his shafts via a different, competing component catalog, and Wishon’s shafts are available only to custom clubmakers, not to the general public.
    Lastly, I applaud Jeff for this article. I knew that OEM shafts were often watered down versions of the real deal, but I thought that the same company was making them. I was totally unaware that OEM’s often had a completely different company make the shafts, then simply use the same graphics on them to make it look the same. So thank you for that reveal, Jeff.

  14. Joe Golfer says:

    An OEM’s lookalike shaft may actually fit many weekend golfers, but if one wants the true quality, go with the true aftermarket shaft. The lookalike shafts often have much less graphite and far more resin in them than the true aftermarket shafts. This leads to more “ovaling” during the downswing, and consequently, less hits in the center of the face of your driver.
    For a real look at this, see these brief YouTube video clips, especially the first one:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szSwodaqfpw
    The above clip is entitled Stock Golf Shaft vs. True Aftermarket Shaft.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJiuGtBElo8
    This second clip is called Stock Shaft v Aftermarket Premium Shaft. Not as good as the first one, but still informative as it relates to the hoop strength and integrity of the cheaper OEM shafts.
    Each video clip is approximately three minutes long, so it doesn’t take long to view them.

    P.S. Hireko has lots of good video clips of their own on YouTube, so check ‘em out if you’re a club builder.
    Sorry for the length of that prior post :) I got carried away, haha.

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