Pretty much every year in the last 15 that I have attended the PGA Merchandise Show in the USA, I would go to the Bridgestone stand and caress their sleek, classy looking clubs and wonder why they never bring them across the pond to the UK, like they do with their golf balls.
However, I need not fret anymore because I am pleased to report that the recently created Bridgestone Golf UK subsidiary is bringing in the full range of woods and irons from 2015.
Leading the way in the Bridgestone range is the J715 460 driver that carries the looks to justify a very premium price tag.
The black gloss, titanium head is clean and doesn't feature any logos or alignment aids and has a lovely, large 460cc head profile at address.
What you can see at address is the white lines on the face that are part of a Power Milled Face, which is slightly rougher to the touch than the rest of the face. Bridgestone say that this helps grip the ball more at impact to stop it slipping up the face and therefore reduces spin by 200-300rpm. Without a smooth J715 to compare against I will just have to take their word for this, as anyway it all depends on the spin the rest of the driver head creates in the first place.
The Flex Action Speed Technology (FAST) crown not only makes a nice abbreviation, but also increases the launch angle and ball speed, because it is thinner near the face and thickens towards the rear of the head to create a spring-like effect at impact.
All this made the Bridgestone J715 driver sounds and feel really good at impact, with a subtle zing noise that I think will please any golf purist. The flight was just the right medium trajectory, so all the design features combined well to deliver a quality performance.
However that is not all, as the Bridgestone J715 driver also features a couple of adjustability options.
First up is a Variable Adjust System adjustable hosel that doesn't make a nice abbreviation, but which allegedly varies the loft by +/- 1° and the lie to 1° or 2° upright. It's simple enough to change, but the only thing is that instead of the numbers, the hosel sleeve only has Neutral, Right, Upright and Left marked on it with a hash mark in between.
Unless you know that Left means closing the face and that will add the loft, I am not sure how you are supposed to know if you are adding or reducing the loft by 1° when you rotate the shaft and whether that involves moving one hash mark or two.
Unlike the J715 fairway and hybrid, the driver does not sit as closed at address, but moving it to the Left setting closes the face so much it looks like it is doing a bit of navel gazing.
When it was in the Right, or open setting, the head did not seem to feel as comfortable through impact to me, as I presume the internal dynamics started working against the flow of the club, or something like that.
The J715 comes in four lofts of 8.5°, 9.5°, 10.5° and 12° so you have a good choice of starting loft. You may wonder why there is a 1° gap in head loft when you can adjust this by 1° using the hosel, but as I found here and also in wider testing, getting the correct initial loft on an adjustable head and the right shaft are the two keys to selecting a successful driver.
The other adjustable element is the two sole weights of 8g and 2g that can be swapped between a front/centre position and a back/heel position.
Putting the heavier weight front and centre will reduce the spin a little, whereas putting it in the heel will give it a little draw bias and either could be used to fine tune the J715 driver to gain a little extra distance depending on your swing.
I preferred the 8g weight forward as not only did it sound and feel meatier, but it gave that penetrating, mid to high flight that I think most amateurs with a swing speed of 100mph or more will prefer.
If you want more options, then for around £40 you can buy a pack of a 2g, 4g, 6g, 8g, 10g and 12g weights to fine tune the balance of your J715 even further.
The Bridgestone J715 460 driver in the UK comes with a 45 inch red Graphite Design Tour AD shaft that is 65g in a stiff flex and really helps add to the light and easy feel of the club.
So now comes the tough bit. Rating it.
There are any number of reasons I could use to justify why I am going to knock a star off, from the price, the parade gloss headcover, the slightly confusing hosel, or the fact the head didn't seem to like being adjusted by me anyway.
But I'm not going to, because sometimes you have to go with your gut feel.
Find the right initial loft for you, leave the shaft alone and just play with the sole weights and you will be rewarded with a driver that is great fun to use and gives you lots of lovely sound and feel feedback from a large, classic, clean head.
And there is not much you can say that is wrong with that.