While I’m not what you’d call a fan of dropping temperatures and falling leaves, I do appreciate that autumn almost invariably brings with it the release of a new Tour AD model from Graphite Design. For the 2019 season, it’s the Tour AD VR.
Cosmetically, the VR (which, FYI, stands for Vanquish All Rivals) is everything you’d expect from the AD line. Colors may change, but Graphite Design maintains a consistent look. You know it’s an AD because it looks like an AD. While that means the graphics might not be as bold or ostentatious as others, it’s a dependable no-nonsense approach that seldom results in a color scheme anyone would consider an eyesore.
Now, I imagine you might be looking at the AD VR’s blue colorway and thinking that the AD VR must be a replacement for the popular AD BB. Not so fast, cowboy. While some of us would be totally onboard with that, Graphite Design describes the Tour AD VR as a slightly tweaked Tour AD IZ (which is a slightly tweaked Tour AD DI). Fans of the IZ (or the DI for that matter) shouldn’t freak out. Nothing is moving out of the lineup to make way for the new model. That’s not how Graphite Design does things. It can take fitters a couple of years to get comfortable with a shaft, so the company doesn’t find much value in yanking trusted models to make room for something unfamiliar. The Tour AD DI, for example, turns 9 this year, but it’s still in the lineup because the performance still holds up and it still moves the needle with golfers and fitters.
AD VR Performance Characteristics
Given how Graphite Design describes the VR, it’s reasonable to base our comparisons around the Tour AD IZ. The company says the AD VR has the softer tip of the two, but it’s important to remember that butt, middle and tip section measurements can vary tremendously based on how each section of shaft is defined by those taking the measurements. Using the Cool Clubs S3 data as our standard, you’ll see, the AD VR comes out slightly firmer in the butt and tip sections with a mid-section that’s just a bit softer. According to Graphite Design, the kickpoint on the AD VR has been pulled up slightly to promote lower launch. The collection of changes makes for a shaft that the manufacturer describes as offering mid/high launch and low spin.
As with last season’s IZ and 2017’s AD TP, the AD VR features FTT (Fast Taper Technology), which, according to Graphite Design, “incorporates a faster taper rate from the grip to the lower mid-section of the shaft, providing the overall feeling of greater clubhead control at impact and an increase in clubhead speed.” The AD TP (first to incorporate FTT) was included in low spin shaft test, and our results suggest FTT may contribute to tighter dispersion.
While I would actively encourage you not to obsess over materials, I’m obliged to tell you that the AD VR, like other recent AD models, is made primarily from 50T carbon fiber and uses T1100G to strategically stiffen sections of the shaft without adding weight.
For our CoolClubs S3-powered comparisons we’ve chosen the to show the VR alongside the IZ. We thought that made the most sense given how Graphite Design describes the VR. It’s also worth noting that in July of this year, IZ was the best-selling shaft in the Graphite Design lineup. It’s the first time in the better part of a decade that anything in the lineup has outsold the iconic AD DI.
GRAPHITE DESIGN TOUR AD VR: THE COOL CLUBS S3 COMPARISON
“S3 Technologies utilizes the most advanced shaft testing technology in the industry. The Shaft Simulation System (S3), which was developed in 2013, is a fully-automated, all-in-one shaft profiling machine. In a matter of minutes, the S3 determines the following shaft specs: (Straightness, Consistency Profile, EI Profile, CPM Analysis and Torque. While some of the aforementioned specs can be obtained from shaft manufacturers, a lack of industry standards prevents that data from being used for accurate apples-to-apples comparisons. S3 Technologies, solves this challenge by testing all of our production in-house using the S3. This gives S3 Technologies a unique and in-depth understanding of the quality and performance of the industry’s shafts.”
Not only does S3 give us standardized quantitative information about the shaft(s) being reviewed, the data we share will provide you with a much better sense of how those shafts compare with similarly spec’d offerings on the market today.
TOUR AD VR LAUNCH CHARACTERISTICS
Cool Clubs S3 classifies the 65g stiff AD VR as a mid launch shaft. By comparison, the AD IZ is classified as a mid-high launch shaft. In this comparison, Neutral (the Mid reference point used to classify launch parameters) and the database average for similarly spec’d shafts are almost identical. The takeaway is that the AD VR can be expected to launch a bit higher than similar shafts, but a bit lower than the Tour AD IZ.
Tour AD VR ZONE EI
The following chart compares the stiffness of the Tour AD VR to the Tour AD IZ in the butt, mid, and tip sections. Measurements are based on the stiff flex versions of the 65-gram model.
Because each shaft manufacturer defines zones a bit differently, it’s not unusual for S3 measurements to deviate from OEM descriptions. In this case, we see a stiffer handle section relative to the AD IZ with a slightly softer mid-section and a slightly firmer tip. The frequency measurements (not shown) are effectively equivalent.
This is the first time we’ve included a compared EI profile in a shaft review, but in this case, I believe it’s especially helpful for visualizing the differences between the two models discussed. Note that the curve is depicted from the butt (left side of chart) to the tip (right side of the chart).
The stiffer handle section of the AD VR is readily apparent, as is the slightly softer mid section and the slightly firmer tip.
The profile shape is indicative of a good portion of the of the Tour AD lineup. Individual models are more similar than different and most share the sloping profile depicted. The shape isn’t dissimilar to what you’d find in most Speeder models or the Diamana Blue. For what it’s worth, it’s a shape that generally works well for me.
What you should glean from all of this is that it is subtle differences in zone stiffness, balance point, and torque that truly differentiate the individual AD models.
AD VR BALANCE POINT
The following chart compares the balance point of the AD VR to the AD IZ. Measurements are based on the stiff flex versions of the 65-gram model.
The S3 data suggests that the balance point of the AD VR is the same as the AD IZ. Both the VR and the IZ have balance points that are slightly higher than the S3 Database average for shafts with similar specifications.
As you may recall from our Golf Geeks Story on Shaft Performance, a higher balance point allows for more head weight without drastically impacting the swingweight. For golfers seeking more distance (admittedly often at the expense of accuracy), this allows drivers to be built to longer playing lengths.
Swing Speed Recommendations
The chart below provides swing speed recommendations for the entire Tour AD VR lineup.
Note that these recommendations are based on the full range of Cool Clubs‘ building and fitting capabilities, including factors such as tipping and build length which can cause a shaft to play either softer or stiffer.
To simplify things a bit, you may wish to narrow these ranges. The sweet spot from a fitting perspective begins 25% from the slow end of the range. As a general rule, players with faster tempos, particularly in transition may fit into a stiff flex, while smoother swingers often fit into a softer flex.
From the Cool Clubs Fitting Team
For this discussion, we chose the VR-6 Stiff flex which is in the middle of the weight range for this shaft and compared it to Graphite Design’s IZ-6 S. The shafts both weigh 64.9 grams.
Consistent with their other shafts, the VR is made with high performance, high quality 50t carbon-fiber materials. They have continued to use their Fast Taper Technology, which differs from typical shafts in the amount of taper from the butt to the middle of the shaft. The iconic Graphite Design stripes are still readily visible and the rest of the shaft is very good looking in a deeper blue color with silver accents.
The GD Tour AD VR is designed as a mid-launch and mid to lower spin shaft. Available in a broad range of weights from 40 to 80 grams and flexes from R2 to X this shaft will fit a variety of players. The lighter VR-4 will launch the ball higher and spin more than the mid to heavier weight models.
When comparing launch the VR-6 is slightly lower than the IZ-6 but both are a little higher than the average launch of shafts in our database. Of these two shafts the VR-6 is stiffer than the IZ-6 in both the butt section and tip section. The shafts mirror each other through the mid section. The balance point is identical while the frequency is just slightly stiffer in the VR-6.
If you like the IZ-6 but want slightly lower launch and spin then the VR-6 is for you.
For more information on the Graphite Design Tour AD VR, visit Proschoicegolfshaft.com.