Ten years ago, Japanese shaft manufacturer Nippon debuted the N.S. PRO MODUS line of golf shafts. Now, with the addition of MODUS Tour 115, the resumé is starting to feel more complete.
And while MODUS gets the preponderance of attention, it’s not the product that garnered it attention from other elite shaft manufacturers.
In 1999, Nippon pioneered the first sub-100 gram steel iron shaft —the N.S. PRO 950 GH which set a new standard for lightweight iron shafts. Is a 23-year-old product still relevant today? Absolutely. Just ask Danielle Kang who won her sixth LPGA Tour event (Hilton Grand Vacation Tournament of Champions) this past weekend with … yep, you guessed it … Nippon N.S. PRO 950 GH iron shafts. Likewise, Miguel Angel Jimenez won the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai for the third time on the PGA Tour Champions. Jimenez, a PING staff member, plays Nippon MODUS 105 shafts in his irons.
The point of this brief tangent is to illustrate a small but vital point. Nippon isn’t a volume-hungry, market share at all costs sort of operation. It has a rich history of producing high-quality shafts and it has product in play every week on every major professional tour around the world.
Many familiar names use Nippon shafts but the company ethos is to let the quality of the product speak for itself—more or less. With Nippon, the bite is louder than the bark.
The MODUS Family Tree
According to Nippon, N.S. PRO MODUS Tour shafts are designed to address the exacting requirements of elite professional and competitive amateur golfers. With that, MODUS Tour 115 is the fifth (and perhaps final) model in the MODUS family of shafts.
With many shaft brands, the bend profile (EI chart) of the shaft is relatively consistent throughout a line, though the weight changes based on flex. For example, Project X 6.0 (120 grams) and Project 5.5 (115 grams) share the same architecture but vary in weight/flex.
With Nippon, its numerical shaft nomenclature isn’t entirely straightforward.
MODUS Tour 120 and MODUS Tour 130 don’t work off a similar bend profile. And the 120 TX weighs 126 grams whereas the Tour130 X weights 129 grams. Currently, there is no 130 TX flex.
MODUS Tour 130 is softer in the tip section with more rigid mid and butt sections. Conversely, MODUS Tour 120 is stiffer in the tip with more responsive mid and butt sections. As a result, Tour 130 tends to launch higher with less spin and Tour 120 launches lower with moderate spin.
However, Nippon MODUS Tour 105, Tour 115 and Tour 125 do share the same basic mid-launch, mid-spin profile. In 2010, Nippon launched the Tour 105 on tour as the Proto ST. It quickly became the second most popular Nippon shaft on the PGA TOUR, just behind the Tour 120. Four years later, Nippon released the Tour 125. At 127.5 grams (stiff flex), it provided a heavier option for stronger players who need a bit more launch and spin than the Tour 120.
Nippon MODUS Tour 115 Fit
With Tour 105 and Tour 125, Nippon had two shafts with similar profiles though they sat roughly 20 grams apart. So why did it take seven years for Nippon to do something about it?
Well, just because there’s a gap doesn’t mean you have to fill it. That might have been the convenient approach. But Nippon tends to take a more measured approach to product releases. This means Nippon requires a clear picture of where the product will fit in the market and who it will benefit before it can justify the necessary development costs and resources.
The cost of a lighter shaft is often stability. It’s easy to make a shaft stiff and heavy. But lighter shafts give players more options and, though a point of diminishing returns exists, many golfers can swing a lighter club faster.
As with every club or piece of equipment, finding the right fit means acknowledging the inherent trade-offs. A lighter shaft might produce several more miles per hour of swing speed but at what cost? Accuracy? Optimal spin/trajectory?
Ultimately, the question remains, “Who is the MODUS Tour 115 for?” The most obvious target is the golfer who currently plays the Tour 125 or Tour 105 but wants something a little lighter (or heavier). File that one under the “obvious, yet important” tab. The other possibility is the player who stumbles upon the MODUS Tour 115 in an agnostic fitting or through a demo day with a manufacturer that carries MODUS as a stock/no-upcharge shaft option. Both Mizuno and Srixon come to mind in that regard.
In the grand scheme of golf equipment, shafts don’t inspire too many visceral “take my money now” knee-jerk responses from consumers. And within that space, Nippon likely receives less attention than it deserves.
But various sources inside major equipment manufacturers all acknowledge that Nippon’s combination of pliable yet consistent shaft construction is a differentiator that appeals to a large share of golfers and not just amateur players. Put another way, “Nippon absolutely kills it in our fittings …” according to one individual.
I mentioned previously that MODUS Tour 115 is the fifth member of the N.S. PRO MODUS series of iron shafts. At this time, Nippon hasn’t stated any plans for additional MODUS shafts but, if given the opportunity, I’d be intrigued by a combination of the Tour 120 and Tour 130. Specifically, the tip profile of the Tour 120 with the butt/mid construction of the Tour 130. And because Tour 125 already exists, it could be the Tour 140. Why not, right?
Pricing and Availability
The Nippon MODUS Tour 115 will be available for purchase in late March. Quantities will be limited.
Pricing is expected to be in line with MODUS Tour 125/Tour 105 which is $37 per shaft.
For more information, visit NipponShaft.com
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