Interchangeable golf heads, shafts now legal

TRAVERSE CITY – If Mr. Potato Head played golf, he would give an arm and a leg to be able to afford the latest innovation.

As of Jan. 1, a revision to the U.S. Golf Association's Rules of Golf allows for woods and irons to be fully adjustable.

That means if you don't like the face of your driver, you simply unscrew it and replace it with another. If you don't like the shaft of your club, you change it out to one that better fits your swing.

"Until now, you had no choice but to buy an assembled club," said Ray Pezzi, owner of Golf TC in Traverse City. "That consisted of the head, the shaft and the grip. That's all changed as of this year. The USGA has legalized using interchangeable heads and shafts."

Pezzi and golf pros around northern Michigan admit they were surprised that the USGA made the change.

"That doesn't happen very often," said Pezzi. "So this is very exciting to those of us in the golf business."

The concept is to let golfers, in fewer than 20 seconds with a twist of a small wrench that comes with the driver, to change shafts to fit playing conditions. Those variable conditions include the weather, the terrain of various courses and their own games.

While the concept is revolutionary, there is a price to pay for this latest innovation.

For instance, Calloway's i-Mix offers 22 head options and 70 shafts. It's adjustable Ft-i head costs $399, plus shafts ranging from $149 to $349. The assembled Ft-i club is $499. If money is no object, a golfer can buy all the i-Mix options for about $25,000.

TaylorMade is offering what it calls the Tour Van in a Box, which will be available this month (April). The price is $999.

Why the big fuss over interchangeable clubs?

On a windy day, a player might choose to use a shaft that would lower the ball flight. Courses with soft fairways would be better suited for high shots and more carry off the tee. A golfer can make the change in his clubs before – but not during – the round, according to the USGA.

"It's actually a pretty cool concept," said Bay Meadows golf pro Rodger Jabara, a fixture on the Grand Traverse golf scene for the last 30 years. "I'm just surprised it was approved by the USGA because they don't make changes easily."

While Jabara is intrigued by the concept, he also warns golfers to make sure of what they are getting.

"It's a buyer beware type of situation," he said. "Make sure you are getting these from a reputable source."

Pezzi agrees.

"It starts with a fitting process," he said. "You have to make sure you are buying equipment that is right for you in order for it to work properly."

Once a player is fitted and ready to play, will it make a difference in his score?

"I think so," said Pezzi. "It gives the average player the opportunity to enjoy the same benefits that tour players have now."

But not everyone thinks the average golfer will embrace – or be able to afford – this new technology.

"I'm not convinced the average golfer is going to be interested in buying multiple shafts," said Doug Brody, a PGA pro at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc. "I think this will appeal to golfers who have to have the latest and greatest – or the person who loves to tinker. But I think that will be about it."

Still, golf is big business in northern Michigan and the region attracts many top-notch players who have the ability and the means to sample the sport's latest innovation.

"It will be interesting to see how this plays out," said Jabara. "We still have snow on the ground and we're already getting quite a few questions about it." BN