The Cleveland Launcher HB is that rare mainstream driver these days that doesn’t offer adjustability. From the company’s perspective, there’s a simple reason the Launcher doesn’t come with a wrench: It’s better for more golfers not to have a driver that doesn’t change.
That’s right. Adjustability, Cleveland is saying with its new Launcher HB driver, just might provide more answers than most golfers have questions. Providing only what they need might be more valuable.
The Cleveland engineering team believes that an adjustable hosel might provide certain ballflight tweaks that might match up with some segments of the golfing universe. But they say the larger segment of golfers, overwhelmingly so, needs a driver that is a little draw-biased, a little more stable on off-center hits and a little easier to launch higher with a lighter shaft. Features that add weight in the wrong places, like adjustable hosels or the housings for adjustable weights that can move the center of gravity higher and forward or to places that wouldn’t end up ever being used, work against those benefits.
“Anything that functionally improves performance, we added to this driver, we didn’t scrimp on any of that,” said Brian Schielke, Cleveland’s senior product manager. “But anything that hurts or is performance neutral, we left out.”
Of course, by opting out of the adjustability market, Cleveland also has produced a driver that costs as much as 40 percent less than some of the most popular drivers on the market.
Instead, Cleveland’s team focused on elements that improved the flexing of the face to increase ballspeed and distance on the Launcher HB. It starts with wraparound cupface design, which is designed to increase the area of the face that flexes the most. It also includes a thin, slightly recessed crown and fins that fan out along the sole. That allows both the top and bottom of the club to give at impact to allow more face flexing around the perimeter.
The saved weight from the thin crown and not having an adjustable hosel is pushed low, back and slightly heelward to provide more golfers with a higher-flying, more left-biased flight for right-handed golfers. The theory isn’t that the Launcher HB hits only draws and hooks. Rather, the idea is that the weighting means the predominant miss of most golfers—a slice—shouldn’t slice as much.
"If you look at all the possible ballflights, the Launcher is hitting a smaller section than all the sections an adjustable driver might," said John Rae, vice president of research and development. "But we think we're reaching more golfers. By making just one club that's really good for this type of player, we're going to assume that it’s going to get enough people even though we’ll miss some people who need a lot of adjustability. By comparison, we just don’t think there are that golfers playing in those other sections."
Some of those same technologies and the same simple and direct approach is present in the rest of the Launcher HB metalwood family. That includes a fairway wood line highlighted by a cupface, the lightweight recessed crown designed to shift the center of gravity lower and flexible, finned sole design. The hybrid also features the recessed crown to lower the CG, as well as the sole fins, to contribute to ballspeed and launch. Further simplifying the approach are the offerings: Just a 3-wood and 5-wood (15 and 18 degrees) in the fairway wood and a 3-, 4- and 5-hybrid (19, 22, 25 degrees). Like the driver, the fairway woods and hybrids feature the lightweight Miyazaki C. Kua shaft.
The Launcher HB metalwoods line will be in stores Sept. 15 ($300 for the driver, $220 for the fairway woods and $200 for the hybrids).