One of the mainstays on the US Tour, Grafalloy pride themselves on being the manufacturer of “the #1 ultralight shaft on tour” and as part of True Temper of also being consistently the number one shaft brand on all professional tours globally.
Achieving this position is no fluke but rather the result of hard work and innovation and their latest new shafts are the Tour Concept versions of the phenomenally popular ProLaunch series. When the original ProLaunch Blue was launched it found strong support with golfers looking for a high launching wood shaft that was forgiving at lower speeds while still being not easily over-powered. Following on was the ProLaunch Red, a lower launching version of the original for those looking for a more boring trajectory. Most recently, the Prolaunch Platinum was released earlier this year as the mid launching version to complete the coverage of trajectories.
Key to the success of the original ProLaunch was the introduction of Grafalloy’s proprietary solution to balancing tip stability and torque to reduce club head lag while retaining feel; Micro-Mesh™. While this technology was also used in the ProLaunch Red, the ProLaunch Platinum not only possesses Micro-Mesh technology but also the Smart-Ply™ technology previously seen only the high end Axis shaft (shaft aficionados will recognise the Axis shaft as the one that Tiger Woods used to win the Buick Invitational in 2006 in a rare departure from his normal Diamanas). Smart-Ply is a technology designed to increase cross-sectional stability. Shafts with poor cross sectional stability undergo ovalling which causes energy loss and an inconsistent point of impact with loss of accuracy. Increasing cross sectional stability is seen as a way to increase energy transfer at impact with the result being greater distance and improved shot dispersion. Anti-ovalling technologies are of particular interest to shaft manufacturers and are becoming more commonly seen, examples of these being Triax from Fujikura (basis of the RE*AX and ROMBAX shafts) and S-CORE Technology™ from Aldila (seen in the new VooDoo shaft).
Smart-Ply consists of overlaying single direction fibres orientated in 6 specific directions (-45, -30, 0 ,30, 45, and 90 degrees to the shaft ), each orientation contributing differently to feel and performance. Grafalloy state that using this technology they can produce shafts that have over 50% more cross sectional stability when compared to shafts like the Mitsubishi WhiteBoard or the Aldila SVS Proto (forerunner of the VooDoo).
Smart-Ply cross section
Grafalloy are sometimes unfairly branded as a ‘blue-collar’ shaft manufacturer. Having been at the top so long, they aren’t seen as having the cachet of some of the more exotic shaft manufacters despite making top grade shafts. Their relentless success in Tour shafts counts is ample evidence of the standard of their products. Grafalloy are slightly unusual in that they have a network of authorised golf equipment retailers who offer shafts that would otherwise not be available to retail . This is their Tour Concept program. This essentially gives you access to Tour quality shafts. The Tour Concept versions of the ProLaunch Blue and ProLaunch Red differ from the standard versions by the addition of the Smart-Ply technology to the existing shafts.
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While it is unlikely that someone would mistake these for something silky smooth like a Diamana Blueboard or a Matrix Ozik, they are not harsh feeling at all and gives plenty of that all important feedback. Both shafts feel super stable without even a hint of of stoutness and play true to flex – no vanity flexes here. It might sounds a little odd and may be completely due to the fact that I know that these shafts have the Smart-Ply Technology but they really do feel like they stay completely round (or just more so than a normal shaft) even under high load. This stability means there is no vagueness at the top or at impact and the shafts load beautifully with the Red feeling tauter than the Blue. The Blue has slightly more movement at full load and at impact but that is to be expected due to its softer tip and lower kick point. The heavier 75 versions adds some extra weight for those looking for a little more solidity in their Driver shafts or to match the weight in their fairway woods but otherwise feels very similar to the 65 version.
Tour Design ProLaunch Blue
While there is definitely a high launch, it seems to be slightly lower than the standard ProLaunch Blue. Carry is all with this shaft as the ball flies very high but with a lot of distance as the ball soars rather than floats. The increased torsional stiffness produces great distance and excellent accuracy as the shot dispersion is very much at the mercy of your swing rather than in any inconsistency of the shaft. Spin levels are somewhere in the middle as the Blue is not a low spinning shaft but neither is it super high spin either.
Tour Design ProLaunch Red
Many shafts claim to be low launch but in reality, not many are. The Red is the real deal here. With an initial low launch, the Red produces a very penetrating ball flight that really does bore through the air. The Red is very stable at impact and gives a great sense of location throughout the swing and its dispersion if anything is even better than the Blue. Even at faster speeds, this is not a shaft that will balloon on you and it’s easy to understand why so many Tour players have taken to it. The low spin characteristics can be seen by the way that drives appear unaffected by wind and by the prodigious amount of roll after landing. This combination makes the 75 version a devastating option for a middleweight fairway wood shaft.
The Micro-Mesh and Smart-Ply tech really do seem to work and does seem to make a difference, both in feel and in performance as both shafts offer high feel and great distance from two very different trajectories.
This combination of high launch with mid spin from the Tour Design ProLaunch Blue suggests that this shaft would suit a moderate speed swinger but the stability of the shaft means that it also suitable for those with faster swing speeds looking for more height and carry. For these people, the Blue should definitely be considered as it really does get the ball arcing into the blue (hmmm, I wonder if that is why it got its name) for maximum carry.
The Tour Design ProLaunch Red is a real option for those looking at an alternative to something like a Whiteboard and with its resistance to being turned over, it’s only a little away from the mythical anti-left shaft. In fact the Nationwide Tour Manager for True Temper Sports stated that “ProLaunch Red has won more tournaments and enjoyed greater usage much faster than any other shaft in recent memory”. People have realised that ultra low spin is no longer the be all and end all for woods. If the spin is too low, the ball will simply drop out of the sky and for faster swingers the Red offers a superb balance of launch angle and spin.
All in all, these Tour Design versions offer something extra for golfers looking for something special on a specific trajectory and are great options in an ever improving Grafalloy arsenal.