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The Graphite Design Tour AD GP releases in a few days. New carbon fiber materials are being continuously developed. In the Tour AD GP, Graphite Design is using TORAYCA ® T1100G carbon-fiber pre-preg with NANOALLOY ® technology according their release information. This gives the shaft a stiffer tip without a change of weight that would typically be associated with tip stiffening by simply adding material.
Looking simply at the bend profile I see yet another driver shaft with a stiff tip and stiff butt or put another way, a soft mid. In my experience that is a very popular profile. It is being refined and offered in many more manifestations than the early days of premium shaft designs. But before we begin that discussion, lets take a look at the measurements of the Tour AD GP.
The radial consistency of the review samples was 99.1% with a 0.4% standard deviation. I have never actually seen a bad shaft from Graphite Design. Ever. They check the stiffness on both FLO planes and discard the bad shafts. Shafts are mostly made by hand. Not every shaft comes through the wrapping, baking and sanding process perfectly. The difference between shaft companies is what process they use for deciding what gets shipped and what goes in the trash. Graphite Design has very high standards. They only ship the shafts that pass through what must be a very high quality standard. I have not witnessed the process but I have witnessed the result.
In looking at the chart above take note of the tip torque numbers. There is a very small number of shafts in the sub 60 gram category that have 3 degrees or less of tip torque. If you are wondering what the TORAYCA T1100g pre-preg brings to the Tour AD GP you can see it here. Low tip torque in a shaft with a moderately high balance point. In comparison with the BB, the balance actually moved a bit down the shaft. For the club builders reading this, this is one of that category of shafts that should not be tipped. It gets stiffer starting at about 12″ up the shaft. If you tip it, you will be moving that soft spot closer to the tip. Not a good idea. In fairways, use a heavier stiffer shaft. My advice, DO NOT tip this shaft unless you intend to make the tip softer.
Looking simply at the bend profile I see an update of the ever popular Tour AD BB. Looking at the 60g S flex, comparison to the right, the tip is ever so slightly stiffer. There was some fine tuning in the tip torque area. The 50’s are slightly higher, the 60’s about the same and the 70’s slightly lower than the Tour AD BB. Tip torque has a great deal to do with feel. Moving it 0.1 degrees defines fine tuning. No one other that the Tour players are going to notice.
The soft mid is moved closer to the handle. This should get a little more load into the shaft with a smooth controlled transition. The overall tip to butt ration is a bit higher as shown in the deflection profile. It will launch a litter higher and feel a little softer than the BB. I see it as a refined update to that shaft. We will have it out on the range soon with a pro that has been playing a BB for some time now. Stay tuned for an update .
The Project X LZ, or loading zone shaft features a linear soft zone in the middle of the shaft which is visibly reinforced with bias wraps to maintain torsional stability. This 2014 composite driver shaft from True Temper, released under the Project X brand, is made in limited numbers in the USA facility in San Diego California. I am told only 60 or 70 can be made in any given day with current staffing.
This is an interesting option now being offered by a few companies. The general golfing public has access to the shafts that are made in the tour department for the tour players. Most graphite shafts are hand rolled. As such, the care taken by the person putting the shaft together is reflected in the quality and consistency of the finished shaft. Almost every company has some highly skilled wrappers that make their prototypes. And very often, when these people are not making protos, they are making the shafts that go to the professional tour vans. These shafts are not necessarily better than the shafts made in the volume production shops, but they are free of the shaft to shaft inconsistencies found in the factory produced product. And I have seen some inconsistencies that are hard to believe from the high volume, low cost foundries, but that is another story.
The concept of the Load Zone was to create a soft midsection in the shaft. Mid soft shafts are among the most popular shaft in my fitting experience. No shaft company likes to hear a section of their shafts being discussed as soft. If you make the tip stiff and the butt stiff, the mid is soft in relation to those other two zones. In the Project X Loading Zone shaft, the soft mid section is reinforced by a material called flex lock. That is graphite fiber oriented on an angle from the length of the shaft, commonly refereed to as bias or hoop plies. This stabilizes the torque in this zone. A full discussion of the design is shown in the videoed discussion I had with Don Brown, the True Temper graphite shaft product development manager.
Radial integrity averaged 99% with a 0.6 standard deviation. These shafts can be oriented in any direction in rotating hosels. The Loading Zone shafts are counterweighted, with high balance points. A good match to the bling heavy driver heads that dominate the 2014-15 market. The GJ torque profiles were linear. The soft mid zones, stabilized with the flex lock material did not exhibit a significant drop in torque from the zones closer to the butt of the Project X Loading Zone Shafts. As shown in the averaged EI profiles, the shafts could be sorted into three distinct design groups. Sorted by flex, not illustrated, the position of the loading zone is centered across the 50, 60 and 70 g versions. Sorted by weight, the loading zone moves toward the tip and gets shorter as the stiffness increases. This is very interesting matrix of shafts for the fitter working with a client that fits into a mid soft design driver shaft. it illustrates the importance of working with a fitter that ‘knows’ the EI profiles of the shafts he works with.
This is an interview shot at the 2015 PGA merchandise show in Orlando. Don Brown is the Graphite Shaft Product Development Manger for True Temper Sports. The discussion of the Loading Zone Shafts gets technical. Many readers of this site tell me they do not understand some of the graphics and discussions in my reviews. What you see in this video is a discussion using the terms you see on this shaft review site. Enjoy!
Project X Hand Crafted Loading Zone Driver Shafts
The images to the left are FlightScope acceleration charts. FlightScope radar tracks the clubhead as well as the golf ball. The head is picked up about 45 inches from impact. The FlightScope operator is presented with a large array of information to use in the club fitting process. I pay close attention to the stability and repeatably of the acceleration chart. We can see the hump in the chart, release, shifting further away from impact as the weight of the shaft increases. The combination of increased stiffness from the additional weight and the weight induced change in release manifested into a change in launch angle. The table below shows how this influenced ball flight.
Weight of the shaft and weight of the club head are key components of golf club fitting. Your sweet spot, the weight that creates the most stable speed and path can only be found by a fitter equipped with shafts and heads in various weights.
In this and future reviews we will be looking at deflection of the shaft derived from the EI profile. By looking at tip loading we see how the shaft bends from the weight of the head magnified by its speed and acceleration. The butt loading deflection shows how the shaft bends from the force applied at the handle. The 50 gram shafts are significantly easier to load from the butt. The 60 and 70 have much the same butt loading character, differing more at the tip, where the 70 gram shafts, designed for higher speeds have more tip stiffness and a lower launching propensity.
I recently measured the Grafalloy SuperCharged ProLaunch shafts and saw a similarity in profiles. An intentionally soft mid shaft by design. I have seen this in a few recent profiles. When a significantly new design appears, and it appears from a few companies, I get curious and have to take the design out for personal testing. I tipped and gripped a 55 gram 6.5 Project X LZ17 and took it to the range to test it against my long time standard. I have played a shaft with a smooth lost of stiffness through butt and mid, coming to a stiff tip for a very long time. I change the rate of loss and the weight from time to time, but the profile has always worked for my swing. At the time I write this I am working on a swing change and suffering with a limited range of motion in my lag shoulder. Following is the FlightScope Speed and Acceleration for my existing shaft and the Project X LZ.
On my left was my current shaft, on the right the Project X LZ. This graphic presentation is exclusive to FlightScope Radars. It shows the speed and acceleration of the club head as it comes into the radar ‘window’ which is about when the club is horizontal, mid downswing. A smooth acceleration profile as seen on the right is a good fit, a choppy profile, especially one with a big hook near the bottom is a bad fit. Clearly, the Project X LZ is a better fit for the motion pattern I am now working on. It is a little softer, a little lighter, it is high balanced but not by as much as what I was playing, and it has a half degree more tip torque. It works, I just played two rounds with it in the bag and did not miss a single fairway with my driver.
Whenever someone asks me what is the best shaft, the answer is always the same, ‘the one that fits your swing.’ This one fits the swing change I am working on. The other shaft fit the swing I had. So I will leave you with this thought. There is a synergy between your gear and your swing. If your swing is grooved on a particular shaft loading pattern, that shaft may not best fit a swing change you are trying to make. In fact, it may impede you from being successful with a new motion pattern.
The Graphite Design Tour AD M9003 released in mid 2015. It is an unusual addition in that it is only available in 4 models, 60 and 70 S and X. With a $550 MSRP, this is not a shaft for any but the strongest fastest golfers. Graphite design is not recommending it for anyone south of a 105 mph driver swing. That excludes me. It is made with high modulus 55 ton, Nanoalloy prepreg from Toray. Translation, the material in this shaft is as good as it gets.
Radial consistency is 98.9% with a 0.2% standard deviation. Like all Graphite Design Tour AD shafts, it is round and will play exactly the same in any orientation.
The closest match to this shaft from Graphite Design is the Tour AD BB, a shaft that was released around 2011. The Tour AD BB is one of Graphite Design’s popular shafts on the professional tours and gets a lot of play on the LPGA. The profiles are similar until we get to the tip. Starting around 17″ from the tip, the M9003 goes stiffer than the BB. It starts with a softer butt section, giving it a higher tip to butt ratio. For those of you that don’t look at these numbers like a shaft engineer does, a higher ration of tip to butt stiffness means lower launch and lower spin. If you are looking for a shaft that will help you get the ball in the air, look elsewhere. If you have the speed to launch and are looking for a shaft designed to keep your drives from drifting upward, take the Tour AD M9003 for a test drive. Bring a swing, this shaft demands one.
And while you look at these profiles take note of the way the mid section drops below the trend line. That seems to be a trend with a lot of shaft designs lately. Must be something to it when it starts showing up as often as I see it lately.
The Grafalloy Prolaunch Blue and Red Supercharged drive shafts are 2015 additions to the ProLaunch product line. They are $60 shafts with radial quality of 98.3% with a standard deviation of 0.6%. If you have not been reading this site and looking the radial quality numbers I will translate this for you, one word, impressive. Shaft to shaft consistency of the review sample profiles was equally impressive. I did not think a $60 shaft would get my attention. I was wrong.
If the $300 to $500 high end works of shaft art technology are not in your budget, try the Grafalloy Prolaunch Supercharged in your driver. You are going to give up some hoop stiffness and might experience some ovalizing. If that is a problem you can always get a similar design in the Project X LZ for around $350. The SuperCharged Prolaunch has a similar design to the handcrafted Project X LZ shaft, an active midsection. Does this design work for you? If you are not close to a fitter that can let you test the Project X LZ you can try a low cost test on your own with the ProLaunch Supercharged shafts.
The Blue is a higher launch design, the Red a lower launch. To my eyes they are much the same profile. The Red is heavier and stiffer. The bend point is higher. Those two properties are going to lower launch. This is not really complicated stuff to understand. Stiffer is lower for any particular golfer. Find the stiffness you feel you can load. Then, going a little softer or stiffer will move the launch up or down.
Look at the balance in this chart. These shaft are counterweighted to restore club balance when using the current generation of heavy driver heads. This is not seen at this price point.
This profile, a softer active midsection is gaining traction with the shaft companies. With this set of profiles, this particular pattern got my attention. Soft midsections are among the most popular shafts in the business. Exaggerated soft is a design I am beginning to see from a lot of shaft companies. it looks like one needs to go in my bag.
The Grafalloy Prolaunch is not a new design, it has been with us for a long time. It got a new paint job this year. As companies get better at making shafts, the quality and consistency of products gets better. What I saw in measuring a the $40 ProLaunch Blue and Red was beyond what I expected. Radial consistency was 98.9% with a 0.8% standard deviation. These shafts are round and will get no benefit from alignment. And the bend profiles were also consistent. There were no outliers in the 10 shafts I measured. That is not always the case, and it is rarely the case with a $40 shaft. I am impressed.
Beginning with this review I am introducing a new method for rating shaft stiffness. The method comes from inside one of the major club companies that has an EI measuring instrument. They use area under the EI curve to compare shaft to shaft stiffness. Frequency measured at the butt of a shaft works on shafts with the same bend profiles. When shafts have different bend profiles butt frequency does not give an accurate measurement. Have you ever heard or said, ‘this shaft plays softer (or harder) than it measures. Did it ever occur to you that you were basically saying the measurement system you were using does not work?
Using area under the EI curve takes into account every point of the shaft. The correlation with deflection measurements is incredibly high. It appears that we have stumbled on a shaft stiffness rating system that actually works.
Grafalloy rates the launch of the Blue as higher than the Red. Look at the chart above and you will see that with the same stiffness rating the Red deflects less than the Blue. The launch rating given by Grafalloy is validated. The more expensive, $80 Grafalloy Blue is also rated low launch and is validated by the deflection numbers. It has a stiffer tip, pushing the kick point up the shaft. Radial quality of the Grafalloy Blue, 99.6% with a standard deviation of 0.5%. Translation, great quality and consistency and a notification to the shaft business that quality is possible in affordable products.