SL290 10.5_¡ and TL310 8.5_¡
Shaft: Miyazaki C. Kua 43 (SL290) and 59 (TL310) Series.
For this month's We Tried It section, we tested four new offerings from Cleveland Golf and Never Compromise: two drivers in Cleveland's second-generation Launcher Ultralite Series and its new "throwback" Mashie hybrid, and Never Compromise's limited-edition Gambler putter.
One GT staff member, Charlie Schroeder, and one "regular Joe" golfer, Loren Tarquinio, spent an afternoon testing all four offerings, trying them in real playing conditions and with different ball types. Both men play to a six-handicap and swing approximately 100 miles per hour.
Cleveland Launcher Ultralite Series
Clubhead Size: At first, the SL290 and TL310 drivers looked pretty similar at address, but upon closer inspection, we noticed some subtle differences. First, the SL290's clubhead is 20cc larger than the TL310, as evidenced by its teardrop-shaped back. The TL310 clubhead is pear-shaped, which will appeal to better players.
We felt confident standing over both. Nothing too techy to look at, just good, traditional looks.
Club Weight: Overall club weight is the story of the Ultralite Series. (The club numbers correspond to their total weight in grams. So, obviously, the 290 weighs less than the 310.)
That weight difference was evident the first time we picked up the clubs (20 grams may be equivalent to 20 paperclips, but the difference is palpable). It's this lack of weight that makes the clubs easier to swing fast. That said, we liked the 310 the most because we already swing the club pretty fast and don't need a lighter option. Most golfers aren't as fortunate however and will benefit from the featherweight 290 (and super-featherweight XL270). Try all three to find the one that feels right for you.
Club Length: With more forgiving clubheads and superlight clubs comes the ability to make longer clubs. And longer clubs should yield longer drives.
When we stood over the ball, the length difference was slight (consider that the SL290 measures only half an inch more than the TL310–45.75 inches vs. 45.25 inches). Still for shorter-height players, the 270, which measures a lengthy 46.25 inches, might take some getting used to.
Shaft: If there's one thing that you learn from testing golf equipment, it's that a golf club is three different parts: a clubhead, a shaft and a grip (and that, sometimes, stock shafts just don't cut the mustard), From our experience hitting the new Launchers, we couldn't be happier with the Miyazaki shafts. Again, their design came down to weight and length. The TL310 had a 59-gram shaft, while the SL290 tipped the scales at a mere 43 grams, all the more impressive when you remember that it measures half an inch more.
Who They're For: The SL290 is built for someone with a medium-range swing speed who wants extra distance and forgiveness off the tee. That's why we both generated more spin with the SL290 and actually lost distance. The 310, however, was the perfect match for our faster swing speeds.
Summary: You can sum up the differences between these two clubs in a few words:
SL290: longer, lighter, bigger clubhead
TL310: shorter, heavier, smaller clubhead
20.5_¡ (five other
Shaft: Miyazaki C. Kua Series 59
Cleveland Mashie Utility Club
The new throwback Mashie has been getting a lot of buzz because of its Retro-Raw finish. (Remember those metal woods from the 80s? They're baaack.) Still, the 3-iron replacement we tried may look "old school," but it's got a lot of new-school technology "under the hood."
Appearance: The first thing we noticed at address (in addition to its "rugged, bulletproof look" as Cleveland puts it) was its slight offset. While we were surprised to see that, it was a comfort on tight lies. There's just something about a little bit of offset that builds confidence. It's also easier to see the club's loft, and that made us feel like we had a 7-iron in our hands, not a "3-iron."
Technology: There was never any doubt that the ball would get airborne in a hurry and land soft. That was due in part to its offset, but also to the Gliderail sole that features a dual-rail design. It takes the danger out of just about any difficult lie. Golf clubs don't swing themselves, but the Mashie certainly gave us that impression because we felt that confident standing over the ball. The Gliderail cut like a knife, but didn't stick. It really did feel effortless.
Summary: We tested the 20.5_¡ 3-iron replacement, but really, it could easily have replaced our 2-iron. It flew with a nice boring trajectory off the deck and higher when slightly teed up. One of the reasons for this is that the Mashie is, like the Ultralite driver series, lighter and longer. With a Miyazaki Series C. Kua 59 (gram) shaft, the engineers at Cleveland could place a longer shaft in it for greater distance. Consider the extra yards you'll get with it, because you may be replacing the wrong club.
Royal (three other models available)
Never Compromise Gambler Putter
First Impression: "It feels heavy," Loren said, when I handed him the limited-edition Never Compromise Gambler Royal. "Not to me," I said. And that's the nature of testing golf clubs. What feels "heavy" or "light," or "long" or "short," or even "good" or "bad" depends on who's swinging it. Case in point: the Gambler. While I tend to use heavy face-balanced mallets, Loren putts with one of those old (and I mean really old) Ben Crenshaw blades. So to him, the Gambler was a significant change in feel, while for me, it was a significant change in looks. Ah, golf–so many choices.
Cosmetics: You'd think that our first impression of the Royal would have been its cosmetics. After all, the heel-toe weighted blade features flashy, Vegas-style artwork (spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds) on its sole and crank-neck hosel. However, when you stand over the ball, the playing-card motif vanishes. All you see is its classy "Anser-style" head made from very soft 303 stainless steel.
Feel: As a lover of mallets and urethane inserts, I often find blade-style putterfaces too hard. The ball usually just smacks the face and registers little feel, so I was surprised–shocked really–to not notice any of that with the Gambler. It's got one of the softest milled-face putters I've ever used. With the Winn Grip on the end of the club, it also felt really good in my hands.