Serious Shafts for Serious Players: Graphite Design Tour AD Series

The premium, hand-crafted Graphite Design Tour AD DI, BB and MT offer an array of weights with subtle difference in spin and trajectory to assist in fine-tuning an ordinary club into something special.

At Hireko we offer a wider variety of shafts than any other component supplier in the world. Just in composite shafts alone we have very inexpensive house brand shafts that retail for less than $10 each to models costing upwards of $400 and everything between. I am sure the vast majority of our readers have never have an opportunity to hit a shaft that costs over three bills, but I bet you also have never driven a fancy sport car either.

What is the difference between a Ferrari and a Ford? Aside from price, they both have four wheels and can get you from point A to point B. But ask a car aficionado and they will rattle off a long list of differences. The Ferrari is considered a high end luxury item for those that demand high performance and precision and synonymous with the worlds’ best drivers on the Formula One circuit. These types of cars are hand made using the best components and materials available and obviously demand a much higher cost than a typical family car.

The worlds’ best golfers may use clubs that you or I could buy but they will be outfitted with quite different components than what come “stock” off of the rack. At their disposal is every conceivable shaft and grip company’s products, some of which may be prototypes. Those players rely heavily on these high end components and precision fitting to help them win tournaments and the prize money.

Graphite Design Tour AD shafts
Every Monday morning I get press releases stating the winner of this tournament used a certain shaft, while the winner of another tournament won with this other shaft. Believe me there is a war out there for manufacturers to get their product in the hands of the most players and winners as possible. One company that happens to get their product in the hands of winners of multiple tours (both men and women) on a regular basis is Graphite Design, primarily with their Tour AD series.

Graphite Design launch versus spin chart
Broad range of products

Earlier this summer I wrote about the Graphite Design models that were under $100. Today I want to detail the models that are north of that price range. But first, here is a fitting matrix of all the Graphite Design shafts we carry in our current catalog. On the left is the launch angle or how high you can expect to hit the ball relative to other shafts in the line with everything else being the same. On the top you will find their relative spin again with everything else the same. This matrix is based on player testing gathered by the manufacturer.

Launch and spin

One hot topic you may have heard of with the advent of launch monitors is the importance of spin. Spin can be good for some to help the ball stay in the air longer for more carry and in other cases too much spin makes the ball fall straight from the sky with a steep angle of descent. Every golfer has an optimum launch angle and spin rate that will help maximize their driving distance. Some of that is related to the ball or club head and other cases the shaft can contribute. Assuming the player likes their current driver head/loft and ball preference, but wants to squeeze out every last inch, they look to retro-fit their existing driver with a new shaft model. This is why other than re-gripping; re-shafting is the second most common task for a clubmaking shop.

For years, if you wanted to launch the ball lower with a new shaft you looked for one with a high bend point or one that was tip stiff. As a result the spin and launch would go hand in hand. That is a low launching shaft would also provide less spin. Conversely, if the golfer wanted a higher launch, they would seek out a low bend point shaft or one with a more flexible tip. This type of shaft would typically cause the ball to spin more because it is creating more dynamic loft at impact. This is why companies like Graphite Design make a wide array of products.

The Graphite Design Tour AD difference

If you examine the fitting matrix you will notice that the shafts in the low spin category are all Tour AD products. Of interest are the Tour AD DI 5 and DI 6 shafts which fall into the high launch but low spin category or a dichotomy of conditions. I asked Bill McPherson, Vice President of Sales for Pro Choice Golf Shafts (US distributor for Graphite Design) how they could achieve it. He explained it was a combination of designing the shaft primarily in the first 20”.

Using our EI shaft profiler (3-point bending test that measures the deflection along a span of the shaft) we can plot the results to provide a more comprehensive look at the shaft’s stiffness distribution and have a better understanding of how they create it. The left side of the following charts represents the tip end and to the right is the butt end. The plot is an accumulation of 17 data points from 6” up the shaft to 38” measured in 2” increments. The lower the position on the chart; the stiffer the shaft is at any given point.

The YS6+ is probably their most popular shaft as it has been around for a number of years as was a popular upgrade shaft for major manufacturers clubs. So we will use this as the baseline. Its’ deflection curve is recorded in blue, while the Tour AD DI 6 is plotted in red. These were chosen because they both have nearly the same weights and frequencies and the DI 6 is only slightly lower torque.

Graphite Design Tour AD DI 6 vs YS 6+
Initially the deflection curves looks like from the 12” mark on the shaft to the butt end they look identical. The fitting matrix labels the YS6+ as mid-high launching and mid spin and the Tour AD DI as high launching / low spin. Upon closer examination of the deflection curves, the blue line of the YS6+ is lower from the 14” mark to the 20” mark indicating it is stiffer and possibly the reason one was labeled as mid-high launch and the DI 6 as high launching. This leaves us the first 12” of the shaft where the biggest discrepancy occurs. By making the deflection stiffer in this area, it made the difference of one being low spin and the other a mid-spinning shaft.

This all has to do with material difference and how these materials are laid up on the forming mandrel. The more specialized the material used and the higher the number of plies added is what causes the price of the shaft to escalate and this is simply something you don’t find is the lesser expensive shafts.

More shafts in the Graphite Design Tour AD family

With the success of the Tour AD DI (Deep Impact), last year they added a new model called Tour AD BB (Blue Bullet). The biggest difference between the two is the 10-20” area where the BB is stiffer and subsequently lower launching while still retaining the low spin.

Graphite Design Tour AD DI 6 vs Tour AD BB 6
Another new addition to the line is the Tour AD MT. The MT is derived from Maximum energy Transfer and has a slightly softer tip section. The fitting matrix labels this more mid launching like the Tour AD BB but with a little more spin. If we look at our conclusions earlier it is easy to see why. With the tip slightly softer, that increases the spin while the stiffer mid-section (18-20” range) lowers trajectory.

Graphite Design Tour AD DI 6 vs Tour AD MT 6
The Tour AD DI, BB and MT are all available in the same weights and flex (frequencies) and make it easy to select which model to use if you have only used one and were able to obtain launch monitor data.

High performance shafts for those with reduced speeds

The Tour AD SL II series have a completely different profile from the others mentioned. These were developed for those with reduced swing speeds and thus are higher launching and higher spinning shafts to keep the ball aloft. The SL II 4 (40 gram range) is not only their lightest shaft, but the highest launching and spinning shaft within their line. The RR2 is very flexible and the RR1 is a flex stiffer or the equivalent of a ladies flex. These are then followed by the SL II 5 (50 gram versions) where the R2 is a flex stiffer than the SL II 4 RR1 model and so forth. They all have the same deflection profile and have surprisingly low torque for shafts in their weight and flex category.

Graphite Design Tour AD SL II shafts
The option is yours

We understand these higher end shafts aren’t for everyone. But realize that serious golfers are often less concerned with what something costs as much as they are investing into a product that will provide the edge and that a new shaft will help them perform at their highest level. The premium, hand-crafted Tour AD DI, BB and MT offer an array of weights with subtle difference in spin and trajectory to assist in fine-tuning an ordinary club into something special.