The KBS Tour Hybrid Prototype is the first graphite shaft offered by KBS. It is a natural extension of the brand into carbon fiber products. My measurements of the EI profile of the shaft confirmed the KBS marketing claim, this shaft is an extension of the KBS Tour and KBS FLT set. Hybrids built with this shaft will be a perfect extension of an iron set. Listen to Kim Braly describe the shaft:
You can see in this chart just how the EI, Torque and Hoop Strength compare to a 2 iron KBS Tour steel shaft.
Kim Braly has been designing and making shafts for around 40 years. That’s a long time. In my opinion fitting is an experience based art form and is likely to remain so. That said, over 40 years one accumulates an impressive amount of experience.
The KBS Tour was the first shaft produced by Femco steel as the KBS brand. We have seen a lot of designs since its introduction, most of which are reviewed here. This year, KBS is introducing its first flighted design. My experience with ‘flighted’ shafts goes back to the Project X Flighted designs. That design was promoted as having the propensity to create the same ball flight height throughout the set. The short irons height apex being lower and the long iron height apex being higher than the conventional set of Project X shafts.
It was not until I measured the KBS Tour FLT shafts and compared them to the KBS Tour that I understood exactly how that is accomplished. In a shaft product line like KBS, the shaft bend profiles are the same for all shafts in the design family. As they get heavier, they get stiffer. And, as they get stiffer for any particular golfer, the launch angle tends to come down. This is what I love about the KBS mix of shafts. They are available in 5 gram increments, with flex designations of R, R+, S, S+ and X. If I want to change a clients launch angle I move the stiffness up or down 5 grams. Now before the professional fitters reading this jump on me, that can also be accomplished by hard stepping or soft stepping the set. Leaving the weight the same but altering the tip lengths.
In this video Kim and I discuss set stiffness gradients. After a discussion of the KBS Tour 560 and 580 shafts we talk about the FLT design. He tells us this shaft is already getting tour play. When you push the flight apex of those longer irons out, not only is there likely to be some distance gain, but the ball will have a steeper angle of descent. What I refer to as drop and stop trajectory.
Lets take a look at the numbers in a way I have not presented the here before. This style of information is now incorporated into the latest version of the Fit2Score shaft knowledge base. The set charts shown above are also from that software.
The tip to butt rations indicate a mid launch as is typical on the KBS Tour. Torque is typical for steel, low. Balance is conventional, the weight range works for the average to tour level player. The low ninety driver swing speed player is going to fit into the 110 or 115 gram R or R+ models.
The KBS Tour 105 Constant Weight Taper released in August 2015. The label looks much like the KBS 105 Parallel that is offered in the 2015 Taylor Made RSi irons, the shaft is not. The KBS Tour Taper 105 is generally stiffer and has a firmer tip than the TaylorMade only KBS 105 Parallel Shaft.
My fitting experience has taught me that the 105 to 115 gram weight range is the best fit for most amateur golfers. My understanding from the tour fitters is that this range is rapidly gaining traction among professional players as well. The KBS Tour iron shaft profile is not new. It is available in two 90 gram versions and the ‘standard’ version that ranges from a 110 gram R to a 130 gram X in 5 steps, 5 gram increments. The Tour 105 overlaps that range as seen in the table below. It comes in 5 gram increments, a 108 gram R, a 111 gram S and a 117 gram X. The 111 and 117 are much the same as the same weight KBS Tour shafts.
Now look closely at the difference between the profiles of the short and long irons in the two sets. You will see a flatter short iron vs long iron in the C Taper profiles than in the Tour set. This is what is referred to as a flighted set. Neither set is intentionally flighted, but one would expect the CTaper Set to deliver lower, more piercing short iron trajectories than the Tour set. And this is precisely why it is important to know set profiles not just 6 irons when fitting irons. The KBS Tour model will flight high throughout the set while the C Taper will offer some assistance in launching the long irons while keeping the short iron trajectories lower. Which is best is simply a function of your individual style. Knowing the profiles, your fitter can match you to the iron set that enhances your game.
Many of you have probably seen a KBS Tour 105 shaft in stock TaylorMade RSi 1 and RSi2 irons. As of the date this review was published this shaft is not available in the USA after market, the review samples were shipped from the KBS factory in Taiwan.
The KBS Tour 105 used in the TaylorMade RSi’s are parallel shafts. A taper version will soon be available to club makers in the USA. For those that are not club makers and are not familiar with the terms parallel and taper let me explain. This illustrations shows the bore in the hosel of a club head. Some heads, like the RSi1 and RSi2 have parallel bores. The hole in which the shaft is inserted has parallel sides. They are typically 0.370″ diameter. They are designed for parallel tip shafts. Heads designed for constant weight taper tip shafts have a tapered bore. The bottom of the hole is 0.355″ diameter and slowly increases in diameter.
Taper tip shafts are sold in sets. Each shaft in the set is specifically designed for a particular iron, 3i, 4i, 5i, etc. The shaft lengths in the set are in 1/2″ increments and typically weigh the same despite being different lengths. The stiffness of the shafts is set by the designer. The shafts are butt trimmed by the club maker to get to the lengths needed for you set. Parallel shafts are sold individually, one length for the entire set. They are tip trimmed by the club maker to create stiffness for the different irons then butt trimmed to create the lengths needed for the set. Because they are trimmed from both ends, the shaft weight gets lighter as it gets shorter.
The balance of sets made with constant weight tapers and parallels is different. You should not attach a value judgement to that fact. But you should realize that if you are accustomed to the balance of one design, changing designs will affect your game despite the fact that the swing weights will be the same. If you want to learn more about this it is explained in greater depth in the technical article, Parallel and Constant Weight Iron Shafts.
Now that you have a basic understanding of Parallel shafts, lets take a look at the KBS Tour 105 parallels.
The after market addition to the KBS Tour line of shafts, the 105 constant weight tapers is coming soon. Stay tuned, 105 grams is a great weight and will be a great compliment to the CTaper light in a fitting system matrix of shafts.
When we get back to back wins 2013 in the Scottish Open and the British open the shaft in the bag of the Phil Mickelson gets a lot of attention. Well, it turns out it was it a tour prototype that is now available. It is an unusual profile for steel but not unique. Here is a look at the KBS Tour V which now is the stock steel shaft in the 2014 Callaway Apex Pro Irons. It has a long handle, every so gently declining in stiffness until the about 14″ from the tip. Then it declines rapidly. I have heard Kim Braly refer to the design as ‘fast tip.’
It is noteworthy to mention that the stock graphite in the 2014 Callaway Apex Pro is the UST Recoil. An interesting choice of premium shafts, in a classy players design iron head.
Within the golf club fitting and building community there are now three methods to understand bend profiles of shafts. A future technical article will discuss the history and methods of the systems. The 3 point bend system used in these reviews is classical textbook engineering for beam measurement. It is the language spoken by the vast majority of golf shaft designers and engineers. That is why I built the Fit2Score software around this measurement methodology.
I tested a review sample installed in a Miura CB-501 on the range and was surprised at how tight my ball flight dispersion was. I had expected more variation from the soft tip. That was not the case, the balls were flying true despite a heavy cross wind the day I was testing. As with any golf shaft, you will not know if it is right for your swing without testing it.