After snapping my old driver I needed a new one, so for the first time in 25 years I decided to get a custom fitting rather than picking a club based on looks or price, as a concequence I will never buy any club again without a custom fitting, WHAT A DIFFERENCE.
The brand new Cleveland Launcher DST, released in this country at the end of November is marketed as the lightest driver on the market at sub 300grams and although only approx 25grams lighter than most of it's competitors, it feels alot lighter than that. By trimming weight from the Head, shaft and grip (in equal proportions), Cleveland have managed to still keep a balanced feel to the club overall, however special mention must be made of the Diamana shaft, which at only 44g you would rightly expect to be ultra whippy and have everyone rushing for the Stiff option, but no need, In regular flex it is no more whippy than any normal weighted shaft and is a top quality item to be fitted to a club that can be bought for sub £200. The whole idea being that lighter weight translates to extra swing speed which translates to more distance, I personally added an avaerage 4-5mph extra, up from 90 to 95mph.
Perhaps because I am of the 50+ brigade, I tend to dislike all these fancy square, oblong or block shaped heads that manufactures are trying these days, so it was so nice to see a new driver with a classic pear shaped head, a veritable thing of beauty, and whilst I realise that looks shouldn't have a bearing on performance, seeing that head looking so beautiful sat behind the ball fills you with a surge of confidence that this baby means business.
A golfing buddy of mine used to own a Cleveland Hi-Bore and he actually got rid of it because of the noise it made at impact, not so the new Launcher, I don't know if Cleveland conciously worked on the acoustics of this big dog but it has a lovely sound, so clean and sharp without feeling as though you need to wear ear protectors. The feel of the club on off-centre hits is nothing short of amazing, I had disclosure tape on the face of the demo club so I could monitor where I was striking the ball and even though several shots came out of the heel, the ball flight was just as true without any noticable loss of distance.
I have never played with anything less than a 10.5 degree loft but the launch monitor indicated that this was launching the ball at about 19 degrees which with my swing speed of around 96mph was about 2 degrees too high, the 9 degree did the trick, averaging between 16-17.5 degrees, this resulted in a much better penetrating ball flight which in the summer will give me an extra 15-20 yds of run.
Another trade off of the overall lighter club, or at least for me is the fact that for years Iv'e had a marked overswing, the lightness of the head has allowed me to control the lenght of swing better and as a result has given me more consistent strikes, I even manage to get a slight draw on a few shots, something I have never been able to do in 25yrs.
In a nutshell, if you are looking for a quality driver, made with quality components by a quality company then give the Cleveland Launcher DST try, I can't see how a PING or Taylormade is worth £100 more, in fact I tried both of them and the Cleveland performed better.
One last point, if your going to spend £200 plus on a new Big Dog then get it custom fitted or it could be the worst £200 you ever spend.