By Mike Stachura
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Cleveland released its forgiveness-focused Launcher XL driver lineup last week and now is adding fairway woods and hybrids with the same singular purpose. Targeting golfers who battle inconsistent impacts, the Launcher XL Halo woods and hybrids are oversized in their footprint and volume to produce more perimeter weighting for better stability on off-center hits. Rails along the sole aim to make the clubs more forgiving going through the turf, as well. Included in the mix is a new “Hy-Wood” that features the same loft as a 3-hybrid and a 5-wood but utilizes a shaft length that’s between the two.
THE DEEP DIVE: Forgiveness in metalwoods seems an easy enough design directive: Make the club bigger and it becomes more stable so less-than-perfect hits are less penalized. That’s all well and good when you’re hitting a driver off a tee. Try to do the oversized thing with a fairway wood or hybrid that you have to hit off the ground, however, and it’s not so simple. You’ve got a lot more work still to do to achieve your primary directive of making the game easier for those players who have a consistent ability to make the game harder.
But the designers of Cleveland’s lineup of fairway woods and hybrids in the new Launcher XL Halo franchise, while following the outsized lead of the family of Launcher XL drivers that debuted last week, believe the bigger size of their metalwoods lineup can play strategically smaller in the most crucial of ways: Specifically in how little they disturb the turf while going through the ground.
The Launcher XL Halo woods and hybrids feature two (fairway woods) or three (hybrids) rails on the sole designed to provide an easier ride through impact, said Dustin Brekke, director of engineering. The key is something often talked about in wedges, the bounce angle, or the way the trailing part of the sole angles up from the leading edge.
“Probably the biggest influence on performance we’ve seen is to help these players who are hitting the turf too early,” Brekke said.
“They’re losing head speed or they’re chunking it entirely, and the rails really counteract that by providing some added leading edge bounce, which really provides extra forgiveness with the turf to allow your clubhead to carry into impact without a loss in speed.
“From our simulations, this leading edge curvature, how blunt it is, is a huge parameter in how much it’s modifying the head speed.”
Brekke said the rails not only mitigate the loss of head speed on shots hit slightly fat but that smoother turf interaction they create also improves the impact location on the face. Better impact location means better energy transfer for higher launch and more distance.
Both the fairway woods and the hybrids feature the highest MOI of any Cleveland metalwoods in the past. That stability on off-center hits comes from their large size. The Launcher XL Halo 3-wood is 190 cubic centimeters, while the Launcher XL Halo 3-hybrid is 143cc.
By comparison, sister brand Srixon’s ZX 3-wood is 176cc and the ZX 3-hybrid is 110cc.
“Shape is really the biggest dial in how you can distribute that weight, how much you can increase the moment of inertia,” Brekke said.
The Launcher XL Halo metalwoods also feature a similar flexible frame that is part of the driver’s technology platform, too. By selectively mixing thick and thin sections at the front of the crown, Brekke said a kind of second spring is created to improve the way the face flexes at impact for better distance. Also helping to improve launch on these metalwoods is how the crown steps down from the front section to lower the head’s center of gravity.
Also like the drivers, the lineup incorporates an eight-gram weight in the butt end of the grip to counterbalance the shaft for a more controlled motion on the downswing.
New to the lineup is a transition club between fairway woods and hybrids, the Launcher XL Halo Hy-Wood. It features the same hybrid-style and size head as the 3-hybrid, but uses a lightweight 50-gram shaft at 41.5 inches, or one inch longer than a 3-hybrid and 1.125 inches shorter than the similarly lofted 5-wood.
“There’s been this opportunity because there is this gap between fairway woods and hybrids in the choice between distance vs. accuracy,” Brekke said. “We think this Hy-Wood is hybrid-looking but built closer to a fairway wood. We’re really trying to dial in the performance to be the distance of a fairway wood with the accuracy of a hybrid.”
The Launcher XL Halo fairway woods are available in three lofts (15, 18 and 21 degrees, in men’s and women’s swing weights), while the hybrids come in four options (21, 24 and 27 degrees, in men’s and women’s swing weights). The 18-degree Hy-Wood is. Each fairway wood and hybrid is offered in an “Accuracy” build that’s a half-inch shorter. The Launcher XL Halo metalwoods will be in stores Aug. 20.