The Wilson Launch Pad family of woods and irons make a concerted effort to deal with a problem many golfers face and few like to talk about. It’s not a topic manufacturers like to discuss either. But Wilson’s engineering team has studied the issue extensively and come to a pretty clear conclusion: Golf is embarrassing.
Probably not a revelation to many double-digit handicappers, but solving this problem isn’t a casual undertaking. While the equipment world routinely markets power and distance in selling its latest inventions, Wilson developed the Launch Pad clubs to deal explicitly with the symptoms of embarrassment that plague a huge segment of the golfing public: slicing tee shots and fat iron shots. It’s what Bob Thurman, Wilson’s vice president of research and development, calls a mission to counteract “the worst feeling in golf”—those shots where a divot might fly farther than the ball or a tee ball that brings houses, parking lots and side streets into play.
“A lot of what these clubs are about is golf is a hard game for a lot of people,” Thurman said. “It’s frustrating as all get out when you can’t advance the ball toward the hole when you hit a fat shot. What we want to do is help people be more consistent by getting the ball up off the grass, hitting fewer fat shots, and just moving it forward. If you can just move it toward the hole, you just feel better about yourself. So let’s see what we can do to build confidence in your game because building confidence in your game helps you enjoy golf more.”
The Launch Pad collection includes lightweight metalwoods with a distinct draw bias. The driver, which is aimed at “high-frequency slicers,” uses a full palette of slice-fighting tools, subtle and in many cases slightly hidden but effective nonetheless. There’s a distinct upright lie angle (plus-2 degrees) to help mitigate the over-the-top move slicers make. There’s also 13 extra grams stored in the heel to help improve the ease of squaring the face at impact. Also, while the overall weight of the club is light, the internal weight is shifted forward to keep the center of gravity in line with the head’s neutral axis for reducing overall spin. A variable face thickness helps improve off-center speeds, too. Slightly hidden is a moderate offset that further reduces the slicer’s tendency to leave the face open at impact. As well, the larger bulge radius curvature disguises a closed face angle.
“We don’t want to make a driver that looks like an anti-slice driver,” Thurman said. “We don’t want to embarrass anybody. We want them to hit the ball better and look like they’re doing it with equipment anybody would want to use.”
Those ideas are in place with the Launch Pad fairway woods, as well as the hybrid-fairway wood crossover that Wilson calls the Fybrid. Introduced in various iterations by Wilson over the past two decades, the Fybrid in the Launch Pad family is a 19.5-degree oversize hybrid head at a 41-inch shaft length. Thurman said the company’s research shows this to be the “easiest-to-hit combination of loft and club length for 10-plus-handicap players.”
The Launch Pad irons might be even more direct in their mission. The wide-sole collection of hollow hybrid-like irons aim to make even the most egregious of chunked swings produce forward ball flight.
“Our research shows that at minimum this was a 10-yard problem but because some shots in our test couldn’t even be recorded because they didn’t go anywhere, this could be a 50-yard problem,” Thurman said. “Everybody wants to get longer, but we think by simply putting more of these players in position to hit it cleaner, that will effectively make them longer.
“We’re trying to almost give people the sensation that they are hitting off a mat. Almost skipping the club into the ball a little bit.”
While the soles are wide, it is not a one size fits all approach. The lowest lofts have the widest soles, and the sole widths get progressively shorter. According to Thurman, the Launch Pad 4-iron has a sole that’s 58-percent wider than the company’s D7 4-iron, but the sole width is only 16-percent wider on the 9-iron and pitching wedge. As well, the sole features a slightly raised leading edge designed to reduce fat shots but not so high that it inhibits solid contact for center face shots.
“It allows them to either hit it thin with success, or if they get down after it, they hit it perfectly,” Thurman said.
A thin face and a light D-0 swingweight provide extra speed elements for the iron set.
The Wilson Launch Pad clubs will be available for pre-order Dec. 17 and will be in stores Jan. 13. Offered in both men’s and women’s options, the driver comes in 9-, 10.5-, and 12-degree lofts and 14 degrees in women’s ($300); the fairway wood in 15- and 18-degree lofts and 16- and 19-degree lofts in women’s ($200) and the Fybrid at 19.5 degrees and 20.5 degrees in women’s ($180). The Launch Pad irons run from a 21-degree 4-iron to a 44-degree pitching wedge, with gap and sand wedges available as custom offerings ($800 for a seven-club set).