By Mike Stachura
The Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo lineup of metalwoods, and most especially the driver, take their inspiration from a wedge. It isn’t every day the shortest hitting club in the bag inspires the longest hitting clubs, but like the company’s CBX 2 wedges, the Launcher HB Turbo woods are a call for functional simplicity designed to benefit the vast majority of golfers who are not and do not want to be—and even if they did—never will be tour players.
That’s a switch from how woods, especially drivers, are designed across the industry, said Cleveland Golf’s Brian Schielke, who questioned the motivation behind other company's designs.
“They’re really designing for tour players and putting a different shaft in it for everyone else,” he said. “We think we can get better performance by focusing on the specific needs of the average avid golfers, the meat of the market players. Our focus is on these players. They’re not looking to hit fades around the dogleg or flight the ball into the wind. They’re looking to step up there and just launch it.”
That approach may sound simple, but it is far from simplistic, said Jeff Brunski, Cleveland/Srixon’s vice president of research and development. For example, the Launcher HB Turbo driver utilizes a thinner cupface design (approximately 0.2 mm thinner in the center of the face) than the 2017 Launcher HB driver, Cleveland’s first statement about the benefits to average golfers of a non-adjustable driver. The lighter face combined with a lighter hosel and lightweight shaft allows more weight to be pushed deep and low. There’s a slight closed face angle in the standard model (because the ultra-high majority of golfers miss shots due to an open face at impact) and even more anti-slice help in a Draw version, but the point behind those elements is to focus on giving average golfers only what they need to yield a club that launches it high, helps them create speed and reduces the effects and likelihood of their most common mis-hits.
The weight low and back creates both off-center hit forgiveness through a higher moment of inertia (MOI) or resistance to twisting on off-center hits. Pushing more weight toward the back of the club—in this case, some 35 grams, or better than one-sixth the total weight of the head—also helps create dynamic loft at impact for higher launch. The weighting combines with an update of the company’s trademark “HiBore Crown,” which features a prominent step down from the leading edge to a crown that angles down to the rear perimeter. The cumulative effect, Brunski said, is a center of gravity that’s 4.4 millimetres deeper and 2.2 millimeters lower than its predecessor. There also is a draw version of the driver to provide further slice correction than the standard model, which features a measure of draw bias already, as well.
The hosel is not adjustable and there are no movable weight mechanisms, not because those ideas don’t work, Brunski said, but because they’re not what the majority of golfers need. The structure to create movable weight features or an adjustable hosel allocates mass that could be better used toward a lower center of gravity, more forgiveness and draw bias, Brunski said. And you can get that structure for a price that’s maybe $200 less than some other, more complex drivers. Now, having those features and spending that extra money, Brunski said, might allow you “to have the ability to maybe move the settings back one day, but really you’ll never need to do that.”
“If you describe the value delivered equating to benefits minus costs—and we do consider costs being spending money on features that don’t have to be there—I think it becomes much more compelling to do what we’ve done,” he said.
The Launcher HB Turbo driver is similar in approach to the Launcher HB, Brunski said, “we’re just trying to make it faster and better.” The face is a key part of that improvement, which is thinner in the center thanks to support from a stiffer overall structure. “What I would say we’ve done is have a more efficient variable thickness pattern so you can get to a certain stiffness using less material,” he said. “It’s really a case of how do I make it as fast and flexible as possible, and durable, using as little material as possible.”
The club is geared to help average golfers deliver the head more efficiently through a higher balance point shaft that pushes more weight to the hands and at the same time adds mass to the head. The idea is putting more mass in the hitting part of the club for forgiveness and power and less mass in the swinging part of the for better speed and control. It’s an idea originally developed and seen in drivers produced for the company’s high-end XXIO drivers.
The Launcher HB Turbo fairway woods also feature many of the driver’s elements, including the cupface that wraps around the crown and sole, the stepdown crown and the lightweight hosel and lightweight, counter-balanced shaft. A channel cuts into the front part of the sole to contribute to the way the cupface flexes at impact.
The Launcher HB Turbo drivers (standard: 9, 10.5 and 12 degrees; draw: 10.5 degrees) and fairway woods (15, 18 degrees) will be in shops in October 2019.