By Todd Hibbert, GolfWRX Moderator
I had not been in a Graphite Design driver shaft for years, really back to the YS-6 variants. Discovered years ago that I do better with high launch, low spin characteristics of shafts like the Matrix Altus so I stayed in that category for years now.
Easyyy had been singing the praises of the Graphite Design Tour AD DI for many months, so when I had the opportunity I requested one in my i20 driver. Near perfect combination for me. I can control the height of my ball into the wind, and this setup is as long as anything I’ve hit. Excellence.
HipCheck, our resident equipment tempter, asked if I’d review GD’s latest offering — the Tour AD BB. Sure, why not? I thought it’d be a good opportunity to compare the two. So I installed one in an i20 head with the same specs so we’d be looking at apple to apples: 6S 9.5*, 45″, D3. ( 6S refers to weight & flex, meaning 60 gram range Stiff. The AD BB is offered in various flexes in weights from 55 grams up to 85 grams, so they have you covered.)
The difference between the two shafts was quite evident to my eye on the range. Ball flight was a bit lower, spin was up a skosh. The magnitude of the changes was on the level of a tweak more than a wholesale change. This is a good thing, because the DI is a performer. As far as feel, I can tell there’s a difference but it’s so small as to make it difficult to describe. DoyaknowwhatImean? I could reach for adjectives to label the difference in feel, but that would be disingenuous. All of which is a good thing because I’ve grown accustomed to Graphite Design’s characteristic communication of loading the shaft. I can describe what I mean by feeling a shaft load: borrow your friend’s driver that has a stock shaft one flex or more below what you play — that’s the feel, just to a much lesser extent.
On the course, for me, I’m presented with an unanticipated problem in this comparison. The i20 head is a lower spinning/launching head than comparably marked current drivers. As I’m watching my ball flight on the course I’m coming to the realization that the high launch/low spin characteristics of the AD-DI are just barely keeping me in that 9.5* loft. Changing over to the Blue Bullet, my average ballflight is a tad lower than optimal for me. Too low ball fight hits the ground too early, and we know that the ground scrubs off speed a lot faster than air does — hence, shorter overall distance. So I’m not getting the apples to apples comparison I hoped for. I really need a 10* or 10.5* with this shaft. My bad.
Enter my buddy Tom. Tom is part of my regular Friday group. He’s a middle linebacker built, short-swinging, hands-way-ahead-at-impact shaft bender. He puts a lot more spin on his ball than I do, especially on his misses. Tom picks a driver & keeps it, based solely on performance. His current driver is Ping’s venerable Rapture V2 with the Diamana Blue in Stiff. This is a great combination for comparison: great head, great shaft.
First try, Tom hits a baby cut line drive that rolls to a stop just shy of 300 yards as measured by my SkyCaddie SGX’s Ball Mark feature. His eyes get as big as saucers with a wide grin spreading across his face, “Wow, he he, I could get used to this!” We’re typically neck & neck on length — I beat him on optimized spin, center hits with a draw; he bests me on swingspeed & when his spin is down. But today, Tom’s fades are 20+ yards past me. All day. I’m pissed.
I grab the AD-BB a few times for more comparison drives, and each time my little draw turns into a little lower fade. I’m not sure why, perhaps the BB driver’s face is a bit more closed(?). My feeling is that it’s the difference in the shafts, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense. I’m not any shorter with the BB, I’m just not any longer either. Committing to a fade and adjust my setup accordingly, I feel I’d get better results. But that’s a the polar opposite of what I’m trying to accomplish with my swing these days. Again, my bad.
For the next three rounds, I’m watching Tom bust these Blue Bullet bulletts out well past his gamer. The Diamana Blue has met its match. The V2 is no mo’. We might have stumbled onto a match made in heaven, i20/Ad-BB. And I’m getting poorer.
One thing I can always count on from Tom is the random push cut drive that puts him wayyyy right, often OB. The greatequalizer. Well, no more. The AD-BB has turned his wild rights into mild right. OBs are now in play, way rights are now right rough. Why? Less evil spin on those misses. This is costing me one or two freebie holes a round.
Tom begs to take i20/Blue Bullet on his trip to Kiawah. I relent, happy to take a week off from teebox humiliation. He calls me while out there, but I ignore the calls letting them go to voicemail. I knew it had to be a Guess how far I hit it … ? call. Delete message.
I finally hear the stories upon his return. 1) He’s outdriving a pro buddy of his, who’s asking to take a closer look at that driver, and 2) He drives the green on a 345 yard Par 4 out there! Had to be a mighty gust of wind(?) … or a bounce off a sprinkler head(?) … Tom just grins. I’ve created a monster.
So what do I take away from this?
- First, the quality of the Tour AD-DI is maintained in the Tour AD-BB without doubt.
- Second, matched to the player/head/loft this Blue Bullet is indeed a bullett blaster.
- Third, hitting one to three clubs more into greens can be costly.
Might be time for me to pony up for my own i20/AD-BB in 10.5* to see if I can win some of my money back.
MRC Shaft Shootout: Tensei CK Pro White, Kuro Kage XT and Diamana BF-Series
The Tensei CK Pro White is the latest release from Mitsubishi Rayon Composites (MRC), a low-launch, low-spin shaft with a multi-material design that the company says improves the performance and feel of the shaft. Whereas most golf shafts use between 3-6 different materials in their construction, the Tensei CK Pro White is made from 11 different materials, giving MRC engineers greater precision in the shaft’s design.
Like MRC’s Tensei CK Pro Blue shafts, which produce a slightly higher-launching, higher-spinning ball flight, the CK Pro White uses MRC’s Carbon Fiber DuPont Kevlar Weave in the handle section of the shaft. The company says it increases the strength and stability of that part of the shaft, leading to better feedback.
On the other end of the shaft, the tip section, MRC uses a boron-reinforced fiber. All low-launch, low-spin shafts have stiff-tip designs, but the addition of boron puts the Tensei CK Pro White in a class of its own when it comes to lowering launch angle and spin rate. The boron fiber also reduces torque, which can offer better energy transfer, more accuracy and better feedback — especially for skilled, high-swing-speed golfers.
Connecting and reinforcing those areas of the shafts is MRC’s low-resin content (LRC) prepreg. Prepreg is carbon fiber that’s been reinforced or “pre-impregnated” with resin, a glue that holds the material together when it’s formed into sheets and rolled into the form of a shaft. MRC says that its LRC has 15 percent more carbon fiber and 13 percent less resin than traditional prepregs, which allows MRC to make the Tensei CK Pro White stronger without adding extra weight to the shaft. MRC also uses high-modulus, 40-ton prepreg in the Tensei CK Pro White’s design, which like LRC is thinner, stronger and lighter than traditional prepregs.
In the EI chart below, you can see how the Tensei CK Pro White’s bend profile compares to the CK Pro Blue. The main differences are its slightly stiffer tip and mid sections, as well as its slightly softer butt section. That gives the CK Pro White a higher “kick point” than the CK Pro Blue. Generally, the higher the kick point of a shaft, the lower its launch conditions. That’s why the Tensei CK Pro White is a lower-launching, lower-spinning shaft than the Tensei CK Pro Blue.
Just how much lower launching and lower spinning is the Tensei CK Pro White than MRC’s latest premium driver shafts? I put it to the test against the company’s Kuro Kage XT and Diamana BF-Series, which like the CK Pro White are PGA Tour-quality shafts that sell for about $400 each. All three shafts tested were built to my spec: 70TX, tipped 1 inch at a finished length of 45.5 inches.
I tested the three shafts on Trackman 4 at the Launch Pad at Carl’s Golfland in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. After warming up, I hit 10 drives with each shaft, and whittled my shots down to the most similar five to help illustrate the differences. Premium balls were used for the test, and results were normalized.
As expected, the Tensei CK Pro White was the lowest-launching, lowest-spinning shaft in the test. That’s impressive in its own right, but what will really excite golfers when they try a Tensei CK Pro White is the shaft’s feel. It’s noticeably smoother than the MRC White Board shafts I’ve played in the past. You could likely duplicate the launch conditions of the Tensei CK Pro White with similar products from other premium shaft makers, but I’m not sure its smoothness can be replicated in the category. It’s something special, and I expect a lot of serious golfers with above average club head speeds will be willing to pay a premium for it.
MRC’s Kuro Kage XT uses a stouter iteration of the company’s famed “Blue Board” bend profile, and in that regard it’s quite similar to the Diamana BF-Series. That’s what makes the shafts a little higher launching and higher spinning than the Tensei CK Pro White. The Kuro Kage XT has a much different feel than both, however, due to its use of an elastic wire made of Titanium and Nickel that MRC calls “TiNi” wire.
Related: Learn more about the Kuro Kage XT
In the Kuro Kage XT, the TiNi wire is added to the bottom 13 inches of the shaft, where it adds stability, but it also serves another purpose. Its elasticity allows the bottom end of the shaft to better load and unload during the downswing to help improve energy transfer. That’s what gives the Kuro Kage XT its more active feel, at least compared to the boron-infused tip section of the Tensei CK Pro White, which by design offer no elasticity.
The Diamana BF-Series also uses boron in its tip section, and its combined with a new, aerospace-grade fiber called MR-70 to create what MRC says is a first-of-its-kind hybrid prepreg. MR-70, which is manufactured by parent company Mitsubishi Chemical, is 20 percent stronger and has 10 percent more modulus than similar fibers, MRC says. The handle section of the BF-Series is reinforced with MRC’s Pitch Fiber, which functions to boost energy transfer like the CK Pro White’s Carbon Fiber DuPont Kevlar Weave.
In terms of launch conditions, the best fit for me was the Diamana BF-Series. It launched the ball a little higher than the Tensei CK Pro White, and added a little spin to help keep my drives in the air. It was also easier to swing than the Tensei CK Pro White, helping me more easily hit a draw while offering an even smoother feel due to its less rigid tip and mid sections.
To recap, if you need to lower your launch conditions, the Tensei CK Pro White is one of the most intriguing new MRC options to help you do so. Need a higher ball flight? Try the Diamana BF-Series. And if you want a radically different feel, give the Kuro Kage XT a try.
Have a question? Let me know in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can.
Weights and Flexes
- Tensei CK Pro White: 60 (R, S, TX), 70 (S, TX), 80 (TX)
- Kuro Kage XT: 50 (R, S, X, TX), 60 (R, S, X, TX), 70 (S, X, TX), 80 (S, X, TX)
- Diamana BF-Series: 50 (R, S, X), 60 (R, S, X, TX), 70 (S, X, TX), 80 (S, X, TX)
Review: KBS Tour FLT Shafts
Pros: FLT shafts use a flighted design, which helps golfers launch their long irons higher and with more spin. The FLT short-iron shafts provide a more penetrating trajectory for more control.
Cons: FLT shaft flexes correspond with weight, so golfers may not be able to match their desired shaft weight with their desired flex.
Who They’re For: Golfers who need more spin or more launch from their long irons to optimize their trajectory. Everyone from beginners to PGA Tour players can use the shafts effectively, but they’ll be most popular with golfers with moderate-to-slow swing speeds, or any golfer who generates low-spin launch conditions.
Selecting the proper iron shafts is one of the most important equipment decisions golfers make. It’s an issue of quantity. Most golfers carry about 7-8 irons in their bag, so if they choose the wrong iron shaft, they’ve made the game harder than it needs to be with half or more of their clubs.
The good news is that there’s a wider selection of quality iron shafts than there has ever been, with recent growth in models that are designed to help golfers hit their iron shots higher and farther, while still maintaining PGA Tour-quality consistency and feel.
KBS is one of the leading steel shaft manufacturers, and already offered a wide variety of models prior to its newest shaft launch. Company representatives felt KBS was lacking a product for a particular segment of golfers, however, so it developed its new FLT shafts.
FLT shafts ($31.95 each) have a flighted design, which helps certain golfers optimize the performance of each iron their bag. The long irons shafts have progressively softer tip sections, which helps golfers increase their launch angle and spin rates with those clubs. For the right golfer, the design will help them hit their iron shots farther, and stop shots on the green more quickly. In the short irons, where height and spin are easier for golfers to generate, the FLT shafts are stiffer, which creates the flatter trajectory most golfers prefer with their scoring clubs. The crossover point between the higher-launching long irons and lower-launching short irons is the 7 iron.
Like all KBS shafts, FLT models have a constant weight, which means that long iron shafts and short iron shafts will be roughly the same weight through the set. Shaft weight is dependent on flex, however, as softer-flex models are lighter than stiffer-flex models. So if you’re looking for a really heavy, regular-flex shaft or a really light, extra-stiff-flex shaft, these aren’t for you.
Keep in mind that KBS shafts do not have reinforced tip sections like many other iron shafts, which gives them a slightly higher balance point and can decrease swing weight by 1-2 points. I personally like the feel of KBS shafts and their slightly higher balance point, but some golfers won’t.
For this review, I tested the new FLT shafts head to head against KBS Tour shafts of the same flex and weight (130X) in 4 irons, 6 irons and pitching wedges. Each of the shafts were installed in Callaway’s Apex Pro ’16 irons, and were built to my specifications (standard grips, standard length, 1-degree strong lofts, 1-degree flat lie angles).
I performed my testing at the Launch Pad at Carl’s Golfland in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where I hit the 4 irons, 6 irons and pitching wedges on Trackman IV with premium golf balls. I hit 3-6 solid shots with each iron, and then removed the outliers from the final data in an attempt to compare only the most similar strikes. Results were normalized.
As you can see from the data, there was a significant difference in the flight of the 4 irons with the two different shafts, but less of a difference with the 6 irons and pitching wedges.
As expected, the FLT shafts caused 4 iron shots to launch higher (0.8 degrees) and with more spin (729 rpm) than the KBS Tour shafts. I’m not a low-spin player, which is one of the target audiences for this shaft, so the added launch and spin of the FLT shafts caused my 4 iron shots to fly shorter. Golfers who launch their irons too low or with too little spin, however, will likely see a distance increase when using the FLT shafts.
As I moved closer to the short end of the set, the two shafts started to perform more similarly. Theoretically, the 6 iron shots with the FLT shafts should have launched slightly higher and spun more than 6 iron shots with the KBS Tour shafts, but I actually saw a slightly lower launch angle (0.5 degrees) with the FLT. The spin was higher, though, by 211 rpm. With the pitching wedges, the results were again quite similar. The FLT launched 0.9 degrees higher, but actually spun 271 rpm less than the KBS Tour shafts.
Stepping back from the numbers, I was impressed with how similar the feel was between the KBS Tour and FLT shafts. Yes, I could feel that the FLT shafts were more active in the tip with the 4 irons, but they felt nearly the same in the 6 irons. By the time I got to the pitching wedges, the two shafts were indistinguishable. The KBS Tour is considered one of the better-feeling iron shafts currently available, so KBS’ ability to replicate that feel in the FLT will be a plus for the majority of interested golfers.
Looking more broadly, trends in shaft design tends to go hand-in-hand with trends in club head design, and the FLT shafts are no exception. Equipment manufacturers continue to strengthen the lofts of their distance irons; they have to in order balance the launch equation, as their faster ball speeds create a higher launch angle and more spin.
While the improvements to iron design have allowed golfers to hit their mid and short irons farther, many golfers continue to struggle to hit their long irons high enough or consistently enough for them to be effective. And based on my testing results, it’s clear that the FLT shafts can make long irons more playable for certain golfers, and maybe even keep long irons in a golfer’s bag that might otherwise be kicked out for higher-flying hybrids or fairway woods.
As always, I recommend that golfers get properly fit for iron shafts, which means visiting a reputable club fitter in your area. So if you’re in the market for new irons or iron shafts, you can get started by going through KBS’ Online Fit System, which upon completion lists KBS-certified dealers in your area.
Review: Paderson Driver Shafts
Pros: Four distinct driver shaft profiles are available in a wide range of flexes. Paderson’s filament-wound construction (used in three profiles) offers a unique feel. By premium shaft standards, these are a bargain at $199 each.
Cons: Limited weight options.
Who They’re For: Anyone can play a Paderson shaft.
Buying a golf shaft is like buying a new pair of running shoes. If the shoes don’t fit your foot, it doesn’t matter how good their technology is. You’re going to run slower, and you’re not going to be as comfortable as you could be.
A golf shaft is the same way. If it doesn’t fit your swing, you’re not going to hit shots as far or straight as you could. A mismatched shaft won’t give you blisters like mismatched shoes, but it will wear on your confidence. For golfers, that’s arguably even more painful. So the challenge for premium shaft makers like Paderson, which is targeting both professional and average golfers, is two-fold. The company has to create several types of shafts in an effort to fit as many golfers as possible, but also include technology that has its shafts stand apart from its competition.
While not a household name now, Paderson has the traits of a shaft company that could be. That’s thanks to its filament-wound manufacturing technique, which is used in three out of the four driver shafts the company produces. It’s unique to the industry, and also used in the company’s fairway wood, hybrid/utility and iron shafts. To learn more about Paderson’s claims and technologies, you can read this in-depth Q&A we did with company CEO Jason Horodezky. For the purposes of this review, however, I’ll do my best to explain the company’s technologies as simply as possible.
Most graphite shafts are made from several sheets of carbon fiber and resin, a glue that holds the fibers together. To create a shaft, these sheets, called “pre-preg,” are wrapped tightly around a steel rod called a “mandrel,” which sets a shaft’s geometry. Different types of pre-preg have different characteristics, and sometimes exotic materials are used to change those characteristics, which generally drive up the cost. It’s the thickness, stiffness, torsional qualities and orientation of the materials used that determine the weight, stiffness and bend profile of each shaft. Once the wrapping process is complete, the shafts are put in a special oven, where the sheets are laminated, or melded together, to create a graphite tube. The shafts are then sanded smooth and painted, creating the finished product.
Paderson’s shafts are formed on a mandrel, too, but the filament-wound process used for three of the driver shafts tested (KG860, KG860TP and the upper part of KG972) is much different. They are, in essence, “braided” from two continuous strands of carbon fiber and kevlar, which the company says allows its shaft to not only be more consistent, but create superior energy transfer when compared to other shafts. Paderson says it can actually “pre-load” tension in its shafts, harnessing the energy of the vibrations created during the swing to increase ball speed.
According to the company, one of its four driver shaft models will work for any golfer, as they’re available in a variety of flexes ranging from Ladies to XX-Stiff. Unlike many shafts on the market, however, golfers can’t pick the weight and flex of Paderson shafts independently. Each flex is constructed with a specific weight the company says optimizes ball flight, so weight options depend on shaft model and flex.
Bolstering Paderson’s consistency claims is that the filament-wound process does not require its shafts to be sanded, so the texture seen on its shafts is not cosmetic, but rather the actual appearance of a shaft’s fibers, sealed with a layer of clear-coat.
Paderson also makes shafts that aren’t fully filament-wound, and claims its lamination technique is superior to typical processes. Its KG972 shaft, for example, uses a filament-wound upper portion and a laminated lower portion. The company’s Amorphous shaft, on the other hand, is 100 percent laminated. What’s different about Paderson’s lamination process, according to the company, is that it uses vacuum-curing, a temperature-controlled process that pulls resin through the shaft to minimize resin content, which allows for more fine-tuned designs.
Intrigued? So was I, so I put Paderson’s shafts to the test.
The Testing Data
I sent my launch monitor and swing profile information to Paderson, which in turn sent me four of its latest shaft models to test. My results are above, but I feel that the numbers don’t tell the whole story. For that reason, I’ve included an individual write up about each shaft below.
Testing Procedure: I took the four Paderson shafts, as well as my gamer shaft I was fit for in the fall of 2015, to Carl’s Golfland in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. I tested all five shafts at its Launch Pad custom-fitting facility on Trackman. I used a TaylorMade M2 driver (9.5 degrees, set to neutral) and each of the shafts tested measured 45.5 inches.
KINETIXX Kevlar Green 860TP
Right now, the graphite shaft market is trending toward the tip-stiff, low-torque designs shafts that are regularly finding the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour. If those shafts have worked successfully for you, then the 860TP could be the Paderson shaft that fits you best. It is the lowest in torque of any Paderson driver shaft, and has also has the stiffest tip section. That makes it a good fit for golfers with an aggressive transition, or those who tend to hook the ball.
I tested all the Paderson shafts in a D40 flex, which equates to an X-flex, and more than the others, the 860TP felt very stout and stable. I was impressed with how smooth and balanced it felt for a high bend-point shaft, though.
With the 860TP, I had the highest average swing speed, which gave it the greatest potential for maximum distance. I struggled to find the center of the face, however, which is why I didn’t generate as much ball speed with it. The shaft did create the highest launch angle, and like all the Paderson shafts, it outperformed my gamer, a low-torque, tip-stiff 70X shaft that was most similar to the 860TP.
KINETIXX Kevlar Green 860
The Kevlar Green 860 is Paderson’s “baseline” shaft. It fits the widest segment of the golfing population as a whole, and suited my swing better than the 860TP due to its slightly softer tip section and higher torque. I liked the way it felt, and as you can see in the dispersion graphic above, I hit it the most consistently.
My angle of attack was also the most up, or positive, with the 860, which helped me create the longest total distances with the shaft. If I was playing in a tournament tomorrow, this is the shaft I would play.
KINETIXX Kevlar Green 972
To me, the the KG972 is Paderson’s most interesting shaft, with a filament-wound upper half and a laminated lower half. The multi-construction approach gives the shaft a slightly higher balance point than Paderson’s other driver shafts, or “counterbalancing” effect. It tends to fit golfers with a smooth transition, according to the company, and felt extremely easy to swing in testing.
While the 972 created the fastest ball speeds and longest carry distance, its comparatively softer-tip design didn’t suit my swing. I felt a lot of “kick” at the bottom, and I felt as though it had more draw bias than the others.
KINETIXX VMT Vacuum Cured KVMT870
The 870 has gained traction in the long-drive community. It’s a fully laminated shaft, and does not use the company’s filament-wound technology.
The 870 has a dual kickpoint, according to Paderson, which causes the shaft to bend low in the butt and high in the tip to improve energy transfers for certain players. At 66 grams, it was also 5-10 grams lighter than the other Paderson shafts I tested. The 870 felt more active than all but the 972, however, and I preferred the heavier weight and more stable feel of the 860 and 860TP shafts.
At $199 each, Paderson’s shafts are more affordable than most premium shafts, and my testing showed that one of the company’s shafts has the potential to meet, or in my case exceed the performance of your current shaft. If one of Paderson’s shafts suits your swing, and one likely will, it deserves serious consideration — even among shafts that cost hundreds more.
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