Cleveland Classic Driver Review
Review by JokerUsn:
Long, Solid, Long, Low Spin, Mid Flight and LONG! And, it’s long too.
I don’t need to elaborate on all the aesthetics of this club. You’ve seen tons of pics. You’ve all probably seen a bunch in the store and held them up close and gotten drool on them. From a playing perspective, the color is not distracting. It’s dark enough to stay unobtrusive in bright sunlight. What you do need to see is the Kusala White. If it’s not the best looking shaft on the market, I don’t know what is. Next to a Fubuki, a similarly white shaft, the Kusala gleams. The paint has flecks of metal or glittery stuff in it so when the light hits it, it sparkles. It makes you feel like you’re holding a magic wand in your hand (which you actually are – see feel and performance below). Some people might think it’s busy or distracting because of all the blue graphics at the grip but I don’t notice it once I’ve addressed the ball. The bottom 2/3 are all white so there’s no graphics in your field of view when looking at the ball. Even my playing partners, who aren’t into clubs at all (2 were still playing the old orange burner bubbles), commented on it saying it looks cool. If you’re into the basic black or “stealth” club, this setup is surely not for you. Even in a stock setup, with its black shaft, it’s not for the stealth/murdered club fan. BUT, if performance is your priority, please continue to read on…
“Feel is subjective.” “Everyone has different preferences.” Blah blah blah. You know those new Cleveland commercials with the tag line “This is how the game should feel”? Well, This IS how a driver should feel. I’ve played my share of drivers from the venerable 975D with it’s solid feeling when pured but harsh off-center to the FT-3 that sounds like you’re hitting an aluminum can at the end of a stick but feels hot. The Classic combines the best of both worlds. There’s no offensive sound like a lot of newer drivers. Balls hit ANYWHERE on the face feel solid and hot. And mishits are noticeable but don’t send a jolt up arms. The XL Tour I was playing had a distinct sound that people have remarked “sounds like a gun shot” but it feels solid and hot. For those that have experience with the XL Tour, the Classic 290 still has that same feel but a MUCH better sound.
The Kusala White is like no other shaft I’ve played. The specs show that it has a softer butt section, EXTREMELY stiff mid-butt section that gets softer as it transitions to the tip and it feels similarly. The best way to describe it is like you’re swinging a whip that only rebounds in one direction. You can feel the shaft release into the ball with power. Most shafts with that whip feel are uncontrollable for me but this one is point-and-shoot. Not only is it stable but it’s also very smooth. There’s no harsh release or impact feel. No noodle or looseness. It’s just right. It’s an amazing product.
After hitting the Classic, there’s no surprise why all the Cleveland staffers have quickly switched to this club. This is the area where the Classic shines.
I’m 6’2″ and 245lbs with a ss of ~115 cold to ~120 warm with a medium to quick transition. If I could compare how my swing looks to a known pro’s swing, I’d say it looks closest to Jason Gore’s (and I also have a similar build to him). My setup is a 9.0 290 T3 (full explanation of what that signifies is in my original topic – basically it’s a head cast ~3° open) with a Kusala White 72x tipped 1″. At least 2 players on tour using the White in their drivers have it tipped 1″ or more (Bradley – 61x tipped 1.5″; Kokrak – 83x tipped 1.75″) as it tends to play a little soft to flex. For this round, I was using a Bridgestone B330 as my ball.
Like I said, the course I played on was a little short so I didn’t get to play driver on as many holes as I’d like but I did get a good feel for it’s performance based on the 4 holes it was used. The course was also in very good shape and a little firm. (The greens were playing around a 13-14 on the stimp but that’s for another topic.) The 4th hole was a 520yd par 5 that was pretty straight and went uphill from the tee and then downhill at the 200yd point. This was the first time I was able to pull the driver out. I caught this one a little out toward the toe but it gave me a nice mid height draw that stopped rolling at about 340 (I had ~180 left). I’m not sure where it landed because I couldn’t see over the rise. The next hole was a downhill 380yd par 4 and I pulled my driver again. This time, I swung a little easier and caught it in the center. Again, it took off with a mid height draw that stopped in the rough about 30yds from the green (~350). Both of these shots had a flight I only saw with my XL Tour occasionally. They started off rising but flattened out and continued down range. My XL Tour never ballooned but it looked like the ball still climbed during its flight. I could only imagine the spin numbers I was getting. The rest of the holes on the front were either Par 3s, short Par 4s or had hazards around 300yds out.
On the back, it was the same story with shorter par 4s and par 3s until I got to the first par 5 on the back. This one was probably my worst swing with my driver. I was playing for that draw so I aimed at the right side of the fairway and swung away. Instead I pushed it right over the trees. On the plus side, it was heading over the trees very quickly. The last hole I could play was a 500yd uphill par 5 with bunkers on the right side of the fairway at 280. This was probably my best swing of the day with the driver. Again, I aimed at the right side of the fairway preparing for the draw. This time the ball started on line but didn’t draw that much. The ball carried the bunkers by about 5 yds (~300yds – 195 left to the front) but landed in the rough so it didn’t roll out. When I got up to the ball, there was a maintenance guy doing some work right there. He said that he’d never seen anyone carry that bunker. The rest of the hole went 5-iron, chip, putt for the only birdie of the round. It ended up being a nice consistent 85 (43/42) with only one 6 per 9. I was pretty happy seeing as how this was the first real round of the year for me.
What really surprised me with this club is its forgiveness. With a head this deep and shallow front-to-back, you would think forgiveness wouldn’t be one of its features but I had some really good drives with impacts outside of the center of the face. Shots out high on the toe or closer to the heel still produced some really good distance. My favorite aspect, though, isn’t its length or low spin but rather its neutrality. It’s not a hook machine nor fade biased. It just wants to go generally straight.
Listen to the hype and try one. The Classic is the real deal. It is the newest member of great Cleveland drivers – OG Launcher, Launcher Comp, Hibore XL/XL Tour and now the Classic. It’s everything I’m looking for in a driver – Low spin, Solid, Neutral biased, LONG and Forgiving. Do not feel bad for “going against Cleveland’s light weight design” and getting a heavier shaft in that head. It works and works well.
Just got back from the launch monitor session. Confirmed some things and opened my eyes to some things.
First and foremost, it showed that I’m not as young or strong as I used to be. My swing speed topped out at 116 which is where I used to start at with a heavier shaft. And I need to get back to the gym. Posted Image
The session started off horribly. I couldn’t hit the face of a wedge no matter hard I tried. Then I stopped trying so hard and was finally able to hit solid shots. We started taking measurements with the Hibore XL Tour/Fubuki combo. Shots were “Eh” consistent but they basically showed that I launched it too low and with a little too much spin.
I didn’t write down the exact numbers but here is general average.
Hibore XL Tour Averages (solid shots only)
LA – 10 (range: 8-13)
Backspin – 3000 rpm (range: 2500-3800)
Ball speed – 162 mph (range: 158-168)
Carry – 260yds (range: 250-288)
SS – 108mph (range: 106-111)
Then, we moved to the Classic… We were getting some strange numbers and even obviously hooked shots showed up as fades or slices so we moved to the Callaway Performance Center bay. There the swings got better (it was a larger space) and the shots seemed more accurately displayed. I was also able to use some Hex Blacks and Tour is so the balls were closer to what I use on the course. Here are the numbers:
LA – 13 (range: 11-15)
Backspin – 2600rpm (range: 2100-3000)
Ball speed – 168mph (range: 165-172)
Carry – 285yds (range: 275-297)
SS – 114mph (range: 112-116)
As I kept hitting, the numbers started getting more and more consistent. I was hitting about a 5 yd fade (approx 350rpm left to right spin) and I was seeing 300 yds show up in the total distance a lot. On top of that, I saw a smash factor of 1.5 and a ball speed greater than 170mph a few times. One time, they both came up together – 1.5 smash and 171.8mph ball speed (ss was 114.something). I have NEVER seen 1.5 smash factor and I’ve only seen 170+ ball speed with the FT-3. It was amazing to see numbers confirming of what I was seeing on the course. Also, toe hits weren’t nearly as punishing as heel hits.
I have finally found THE driver that fits me perfectly.
2012 Cleveland Golf Classic Driver interview with Cleveland Golf-