Sonartec GS Tour Fairway
Mention the name Sonartec to golfers and the next word they will likely say is fairway wood. The small company, whose roots began in Japan among the Royal Collection brand, has quickly grown to become a cult favorite among better players.
I will make it clear that I have always been a big fan of Sonartec’s products. My previous fairway wood was an SS-07 4 wood which quickly became a go to club from both the tee and the fairway. I tried many other fairways, but none could match the playability and solid feel of my Sonartec. When Sonartec recently introduced their latest update, the GS Tour, I quickly got a 15° three wood and was anxious to see if Sonartec could improve upon their previous models. In short, I was not disappointed.
Look at the sole of any Sonartec club and you’ll see their trademark Driving Cavity – an indentation in the sole which is primarily there to reposition the center of gravity both higher and further back in the club head. This new center of gravity reduces spin and helps create a more penetrating trajectory which is of great help to players who struggle controlling high launch and spin. However, the driving cavity also has advantages for players who sometimes do not launch the ball high enough or spin it enough since they can use a higher loft while still keeping the club low spin to prevent ballooning. The Driving Cavity also helps move weight to the heel and toe areas of the club, making it more forgiving. One of the first things that struck me about the GS Tour is the shallow Driving Cavity. Previous Sonartec fairway woods had much deeper cavities, and this may well be a response to golfers seeking to increase their launch angles while still maintaining low spin.
While the Driving Cavity is at the heart of the GS Tour, Sonartec has made other improvements as well. The leading edge and sole have both been reworked to help turf interaction during shots off the deck. The sole has a little more camber to it than previous models and a more blunt leading edge to prevent digging. Sonartec has also worked very closely with Graphite Designs to produce the new Red Ice shaft they claim will enhance the performance of the club for a wide variety of swing profiles.
To make it simple, this is the best looking fairway wood on the market in my opinion. The club head is the perfect size, small enough to look compact and very workable, yet big enough to provide confidence once it’s set behind the ball. The club head sits perfectly square when you set the club down on the ground. There’s no fear of a closed face here, nor does the club have to be "hovered" in order to get it to sit right. The club is painted in a dark glossy black which combines very well with the round shape of the club head. The sole of the club is mirror polished and wraps halfway up the sides of the club. Thankfully Sonartec did not extend the mirror polish to the face which is a dull satin with full face scoring lines. The clubhead is all business from address and is the epitome of what a classic fairway wood should look like. The headcover is an all black zipper style that is clean looking and subtle by todays standards with only the white embroidered Sonartec name as embellsihment. It is functional, offering good clubhead protection and extends far enough down the shaft to protect it from knicks.
Much like its predecessors, the GS Tour feels very solid. Much of that can be attributed to the Driving Cavity which places the club’s center of gravity right in line with the equator of the ball. Adding to this is the sound of the club at impact which is very muted for lack of a better term. The ball jumps off the face of the club with a low pitched "crack" rather than the customary high-pitched "ting" found in some other larger headed fairways these days. The sound of this club is something I’ve really come to appreciate especially compared to the "louder is better" mantra other manufacturers seem to have adopted. However that muted sound does not carry over into the feel at impact. One of the big improvements I’ve noticed with the club is the responsive feel off the face, it has a spring-like feel that Sonartec fairways seem to have missed in previous models. The club carries the same solid feel Sonartec is known for and improved upon it.
This is where Sonartec has really progressed in leaps and bounds with the GS Tour. Quite simply the club launches much easier than any other club head Sonartec has made. No matter whether it’s off the tee or off the deck, the ball gets up in the air very quickly with a nice high ball flight. However, the high ball flight does not come at the expense of sacrificing spin rate. In fact, the GS Tour maintains a very low spin rate which leads to the high, flat ball flight many players prefer. High launch and low spin are words that are frequently over used these days in golf club marketing; however, Sonartec has really delivered it with the GS Tour. This club will be a big benefit to players with high swing speeds and spin rates, or those who use their fairway woods as second shot clubs into par 5′s and need a club they can eleveate high in the air to stop on a hard green. Lower swing speed players and those who use their fairway woods off the tee will be able to gain increased length due to added carry from hitting the GS Tour higher, but without having to worry about high spin rates costing them distance.
While the launch conditions are a golfer’s dream, forgiveness is one area golfers will need to consider carefully before purchasing this club. While this club is significantly more forgiving than some previous Sonartec offerings, it is not by any means a high MOI club. Contact away from center towards either the heel or toe will cost both distance and direction. Also, since the driving cavity does raise the club’s center of gravity compared to other clubs on the market, you can expect thinly struck shots not to travel very far or fly very high. However, these attributes do help the club retain a high degree of workability. If you like to shape shots with your fairway woods, this club will allow you to do so to your heart’s content. Both draws and fades are very easy to pull off with the GS Tour and trajectory can also be easily manipulated from high to low if you have the desire and ability. The bottom line is you do have to be a reasonably competent ball striker to accurately and consistently hit the GS Tour.
Off the turf the sole performs admirably. The leading edge has been blunted, so those in soft conditions or steep angles of attack will not have to worry about digging. Also, the sole appears to have just a touch more camber than previous Sonartec models which seems to reduce turf contact and drag and makes it easier to strike the ball cleanly in firm conditions. The face height is also just perfect, deep enough to inspire confidence off the tee while still being shallow enough to help golfers off the deck.
SS-07 Left, GS Tour Right
The stock shaft is really the only major issue I had with the club. The Red Ice is an inspired effort to be all things to all people, but comes up woefully short. The tip is extremely soft and the shaft really seems to play very weak to flex. According to Sonartec, the goal of the Red Ice is to help average golfers who need help launching the ball high. This shaft certainly does that, but stronger players may find it difficult to control and players with high swing speed will likely find it negates the low spin properties of the GS Tour. However, Sonartec has already addressed a clear remedy for this situation since their custom department is willing to order ANY shaft on the market for their customers. According to Erik Boysen, Sonartec’s Marketing Manager,
"We want the golfer to call in, especially a Sonartec customer, if they want something we’ll get it. If we have a relationship or if we don’t we’ll find a way to get it. Golf is almost 80% mental, so we want someone to stand over the ball knowing that the equipment he ordered is exactly what he wants and he’s getting the performance out of it."
So if you are planning on ordering a GS Tour, be aware that Sonartec is willing to go the extra mile to fit you into the correct shaft, which is a major benefit to their customers.
Despite a long history of making specialized fairway woods to suit the better caliber player, with the GS Tour, Sonartec has taken some major steps towards being the holy grail of fairway woods for all golfers. The ease of launch and controlled spin rate make this the sort of club that’s easy to use for any golfer. Off the deck or tee, the club flat-out performs well. However, its one drawback is there are other fairway woods on the market which are more forgiving on mishit shots. Although it may not be the perfect club to fit all golfers right now, the GS Tour is a big improvement over previous Sonartec fairway woods and is worth considering for the capable ball striker looking for a new fairway wood.