We Tried It: Cleveland Classic
Cleveland's new classic driver
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When we first saw the new Cleveland Classic driver in person—better yet, in sunlight—we were amazed. Amazed first at how big a risk Cleveland was willing to take on a retro finish, and second, at how starkly different it looked from most modern-day driver iterations. Nonetheless, as you're about to read, we found the Cleveland Classic to not only be among our favorite new clubs for 2012, but also be a bona fide leading contender for a GT Tech award.
Obviously, we were enthusiastic to take a look at this new driver out on the course, with its deep crimson-colored crown, gold-colored soleplate and trapezoidal face coloring. In our opinion, it doesn't exactly look like a persimmon head, more so an homage to the good fashion taste and designs of the late 1950s and early '60s. We love that big "1" on the soleplate! As for the shape and size, the Classic is a traditional pear-shaped driver with a deep clubface, two traits in driver design that have stood the test of time. We tried the 290g version, but there's also a 270g (shown here) and 310g (Tour) version, as well (the 270g being the über-lightweight option for more clubhead speed, the 310g being suited for faster swingers who want added maneuverability). The shaft we tried was the Miyazaki C.Kua 43 shaft, which has a gold color that paired well with the clubhead design. Our only gripe is we wish the lightning graphic on the shaft better matched the retro look, but it's a minor detail. (The stock shaft is black.) Oh, and the faux black leather headcover is a great touch. The club looked great in our golf bag.
The 199g head and the 43g shaft seemed to complement themselves perfectly (with the grip, the driver rounds out at around 290g total). In other words, it felt light (A D2 swingweight) but balanced and easy to swing. Upon our first trial, we found this driver to perform exceptionally well, with shots fired off the center of the face flying high and far with moderate spin. We'd contend that the driver we tried launched the ball higher than most other drivers of the same length and loft, possibly because we were able to clear and release our hands quicker (the lightweight factor makes a difference). The gold trapezoid on the face is detectable by the eye at address and knowing it's there seemed to help us concentrate more on hitting the center of the clubface. As for acoustics, the club sounded like a modern-day driver, without too much high-pitch clang. Our ears were greeted with pleasing pop sounds that seemed to vary, depending on which ball we used.
The Classic driver is here to stay. Not only is it a top performer among lightweight drivers for 2012 (we also love the even lighter Cleveland Black driver), its nostalgic look reminds us of the steep history and heritage the game of golf has. Is it the longest driver we tried in 2012? No, but it probably could be with an even lighter shaft and grip, or if we tried the 270g version. Instead, the Classic is the optimal blend of forgiveness and distance, which is exactly what mid- to low-handicappers want. We hit high, bombing shots that seemed easy to control—we were able to hit a few draws and fades on command (despite our limited single-digit handicap skills).
What's next for Cleveland? We're not sure, but we hope to see this retro-look/modern-day performance trend to continue. The Classic is our favorite Cleveland driver to date. It's just that good.
Cleveland Classic 290g
Miyazaki C.Kua 43 graphite shaft