Is $1200 a lot for a golf shaft? It sounds like a lot, particularly for an entry-level model.
It is, and Seven Dreamers Laboratories is entirely good with that.
Seven Dreamers started in 1957 as a company called Super Resin. As it developed industry-leading technologies in composite materials with industrial and aerospace applications, the company mantra of “creating things the world has never seen” led to some remarkable achievements. After becoming the global leader in molding carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRPs) in the 1970s, Super Resin produced parts for Japan’s Hayabusa satellite project in the 1990s.
The company vision of seven centers of excellence throughout the world, focuses on everything from advancements in aerospace engineering, to sleep devices and even a fully automated laundry folding machine which can separate according to fabric type and member of the family to which each article of clothing belongs. It’s the company that creates the ” I can’t believe a company can actually make that” category of products, and as of 2014, Seven Dreamers broached the uber-premium golf shaft market and quickly assumed the title of most expensive production golf shaft in the world.
In every consumer market there exists products which unapologetically price out the majority of would-be consumers – and it’s also nothing new to golf, though, until the advent of PXG, it was a dynamic more in play in Asia (Japan and Korea largely) where $75K can buy one a full bag of Honma Beres Five-Star series clubs and a whole bunch of 24K gold-plated street credit.
The eye-popping prices on such items serve to attract a clientele for whom several zeros one way or another determine how many pairs of Jimmy Choo shoes to purchase and whether or not it’s getting old to ski Vail every single winter break. First world problems indeed.
But there are also supporting technology and production processes which are more expensive – and theoretically lead to improved performance, though not necessarily by the same magnitude as the difference in price – even when compared to products which are generally thought of as premium. Regardless, it’s a best of the best portion of the market which sits somewhere beyond typical designations like premium and elite. The rules are different in these spaces because the customers operate under a different set of principles which can be contrary to how the majority of markets operate.
Actual shaft manufacturing is more technical than the following description, however in the interest of brevity, the common process begins with sheets of prepreg (material of combined resin (glue) and carbon fiber) wrapped in various orientations around a steel mandrel. Depending on the desired weight, flex and internal/external dimensions of the shaft, each section (industry types call them flags) of prepreg is placed in a specific pattern along the mandrel.
Once complete, the layers of prepreg are wrapped with a thin, shrinkable tape and baked in an oven under approximately 1 atm of pressure. As the sheets are heated, resin is allowed to bond the layers together. Then, the tape and mandrel are removed, and surface inconsistencies are sanded away, leaving what is, in theory anyway, a perfectly round shaft. Finally, the shaft is painted. The net result is any mass-produced shaft, even those with premium price tags, built within a range of spec tolerances (weight, flex, and torque). There’s plenty of good-natured debate around the degree to which changes in said specs impact performance, but the reality is the tighter the tolerances, the more expensive it is to manufacture.
Seven Dreamers primary point of distinction is a unique and proprietary process which, it asserts, results in shafts with superior construction and performance and unparalleled consistency from shaft to shaft.
Seven Dreamers uses an autoclave rather than oven-baking each shaft. This allows Seven Dreamers to use shaft molds (rather than shrinkable tape) inside the autoclave which place each shaft under 6-10 atm of pressure, squeezing out any excess resin. The layers are cured, leaving a hardened, perfectly round shaft. Because the final product doesn’t require any grinding or coating, the aesthetic is entirely inconspicuous and void of any inconsistencies. Without any paint, the shaft is a naked carbon weave with a decidedly generic “Seven Dreamers” monogram and serial number. If it looks unfinished, it is only because we’re conditioned to see the final paint scheme as something OEMs often do to differentiate product and garner attention from TV/media audiences.
The real substantive difference is not that the process yields shafts manufactured to exceedingly tight tolerances but that it helps to mitigate the usual trade-off of weight and stability. Any company can make a shaft both heavy and stiff. It’s like asking the head chef at a fine French restaurant for a PB & J.
However, to achieve a low launch, low spin profile in a sub-70 gram package, which retains ample stability and a signature feel; well that comes at a cost – and a rather steep one.
I generally fit best in tip-stiff driver shafts in the 75-gram range (think Project X HZDRUS Black, Mitsubishi Diamana Whiteboard/’Ahina). Any lighter and dispersion suffers. Much heavier and swing speed (which maxes out around 112 mph) drops off drastically. This Seven Dreamers T-series shaft is 67 grams but plays with the stability of heavier premium shafts, particularly in the tip section. The butt section, if anything, felt a bit soft, comparable to the Graphite Design AD-DI 7x.
The decrease in weight should theoretically lead to increased peak swing speed, but based on numbers gathered from my Foresight GC2, I didn’t experience any statistically significant increase in swing speed, though my peak ball speed was 1-2 MPH higher than typical. Dispersion wasn’t appreciably better or worse. Some golfers are very sensitive to the total weight of a golf club and moving 8-10 grams either direction could be a major adjustment, though I suspect it’s easier to adjust to a lighter shaft than a heavier one. Depending on what bend profile a consumer requires, Seven Dreamers offers 28 different shafts (ranging from 40 grams to 80 grams) in the stock, J Global Design series ($1200 MSRP) which is now available in North America through select, high-end fitters.
If the need is a one-off bespoke shaft custom built for only your swing, Seven Dreamers does that too, but it will require a visit to one of two studios in Tokyo and $2500.
RATIONAL OR RATIONALE?
Seven Dreamer’s story is one of both quantitative and qualitative appeal. From a materials and process standpoint, everything Seven Dreamers does is undeniably premium and given the plethora of available shafts; this isn’t a play to attract primarily high swing-speed players. That said, any number of shaft OEM’s (e.g., Mitsubishi Chemical and Fujikura) can make this same claim, though one can debate whether or not Seven Dreamers proprietary production process is empirically better than that of long-standing market leaders. That said, in my individual testing, the Seven Dreamers shaft performed commensurate with other premium shafts I’ve tested, which one would expect given the price tag. Pragmatically, it offered a titch more ball speed but at a lighter total weight.
That fact alone won’t satisfy the concrete sequential, value-based consumers but for potential buyers for whom cost is of no consequence, the criteria are different, and the rules are such that most of us can’t relate – hence the qualitative nature of uber-premium products. When the topic is $38,000 House of Testoni shoes, $500 M yachts or a Gulfstream G-650, it’s an entirely different beast where ironically, price really has very little to do with the purchasing decision.
It’s about buying a brand and investing in that identity as much as it is about the product. It’s a commitment to be able to state without reservation your product is by some measure, the absolute best in the world – and it’s not necessary that others agree.
Seven Dreamers isn’t well-known, even by the gearhead metric and one long-tenured industry insider had reservations around whether Seven Dreamers will become a mainstay in the evolving ultra-premium segment of the market. While it continues plans to reach deeper into the North American market, I wouldn’t expect Seven Dreamers to dilute the price point or do anything which marginalizes the exclusivity of the product or name. As a brand, it’s the consummate wild card. Tour players are dabbling more in the ultra-premium shaft space. If one of them win while bagging a Seven Dreamers shaft (Charl Schwartzel nearly did at The Players this year) it could create momentum similar to what we’ve seen with TPT, which was in Jason Day’s driver when he won the Wells Fargo earlier this year and in Justin Rose’s bag during several worldwide wins late in 2017.
Beyond the exclusive nature of Seven Dreamers shafts, it begs a fundamental yet divisive question – Is this the holy grail of shaft manufacturing or is it yet another attempt to create a distinction without any real difference?
So what should we do next? Ignore it? Test it?
For more information, visit the Seven Dreamers Laboratories website.