UPDATE: Click here to read our 2013 Callaway X-Hot driver review. Or click here to see our 10 best golf drivers of 2013.
Callaway Golf says that in its never-ending mission to find more distance and accuracy for golfers, its engineers used an entirely new design to produce the FT-iZ driver which it revealed at the PGA Merchandise Show last week.
No price has been set for the club but standard versions will be fitted with Aldila Voodoo shafts and loft options will be 9, 10, 11 and 13 degrees .
When it comes to Callaway drivers, I’m more of an FT-9 man than FT-iQ, and although I certainly recognize the benefit of the crown’s unique shape on the Draw version, I’m not terribly keen on the original Diablo which I'm sure will be usurped, surpassed and become outdated with the launch of the new Diablo Edge in a few weeks’ time.
With TaylorMade clubs, I’m still perfectly happy to tonk it in the general direction of the fairway with my old r7 425, rather than the newer R9 or R9 460 which, too, will be more or less swallowed up when the R9 Super Tri, already a hit on the pro Tours (‘We’ve optimized the world’s most optimized driver’), arrives at a store near you later this month.
You see where I’m coming from? Head shape and a sense of familiarity are far more important to me than the very latest technological ‘breakthrough’ which, as we all know, might be no more technological than a slightly different color paint and new graphic.
A golfer would be foolish though to reject every new club that comes along, and definitely shouldn’t pass up the possibility of carrying the ball an extra couple of yards just for the sake of being a traditionalist – as if hitting a TaylorMade r7 425, Nike SQ DYMO, Callaway FT-i or Big Bertha 460, for instance, makes you a traditionalist.
The question remains though: is the new flagship of Callaway’s range of drivers, the FT-iZ, worth your attention? Does it offer more than a quick, but well disguised, restyling job? Should even staunch traditionalists shelve their aversion to innovation and check it out?
It’s perhaps a little early to tell, and you certainly won’t find me making any claims based on a session at an indoor range. But if you believe what Callaway is saying, for example 'the FT-iZ is longer and straighter than any driver we’ve ever made’, it definitely sounds like you should be heading to your pro shop for a test drive at least.
The biggest innovation is Polar Weighting in the head. This means, basically, a heavier face than is typical and a back weight.
"74% of the head’s weight is found at the face and in the back weight port," says Director of Product Design Luke Williams. "Polar weighting will make the head noticeably more stable on off-centre hits, meaning greater distance when you miss the sweetspot.
Next up is the ‘Chemically-milled Hyperbolic Face Cup’, made possible by a chemical reduction process that uses acid to remove the brittle alpha case, a by-product of the casting process and on which cracks are likely to propagate.
‘This allows us to control the thickness of the face,’ says Williams, ‘which, in turn, means we can control the club’s CT (formerly COR) and position very precise weights.’
Fusion technology - a combination of aluminium, steel, carbon-fibre and titanium, allows the weight to be positioned where you need it, makes the club lighter and dampens the sound without the explosive ‘crash’ of an all-titanium driver being lost entirely. The result is an impressively high moment of inertia.
It’s a compelling collection of technologies that will have the tech-heads salivating. Ernie Els has also appeared pretty keen since putting it in play at the Sony Open, three weeks ago. Though he admits he's not technically-minded like Phil Mickelson, he knows what he likes.
My only reservation when I first clapped eyes on the FT-iZ was the shape of the head – the now seemingly standard ‘progressive’ shape that features a wide face tapering towards a point at the back, making it look almost triangular. With the fairly low-profile face and this tapered design, the FT-iZ creates 11% less drag than the FT-iQ (mind you, a London bus probably cuts through the air more efficiently than the FT-iQ) - another aid to greater distance.
For now, however, it’s not for me. I’m having a hard time adjusting to this new shape, and still drive it best with rounder, pear-shaped models. When you’re concerned with the look of the club, it seems inevitable your muscles tense up just enough to affect your tempo, resulting in a loss of consistency.
Sure enough, I hit plenty of solid shots that launched high and flew off the face with a healthy-sounding thwack, but also a fair few that were less than impressive – shots resulting from that mild apprehension at address.
Williams says the FT-iZ is aimed at ‘anyone who wants to hit longer, straighter drives’, a group, it’s fair to say, to which most golfers belong.
He told me: "It may seem like this design would appeal more to higher handicap players but there is a FT-iZ Tour model (8.5, 9.5, 10.5 degree loft options) which has already attracted quite a bit of attention. Believe it or not, some players who like to work the ball a bit don’t use it because they say it goes too straight for them."
Too straight? Can there be such a club?
Scratch players and low-handicappers who play the FT-9, and who have the inclination and time to test the FT-iZ in all its i-Mix variations, will no doubt discern what affect the Polar Weighting, Chemically-Milled Hyperbolic cup face and aerodynamic body design have on their drives. I wonder, however, just how many extra yards the mid-handicapper will generate and how much straighter he’s going to hit his ball than he does (or did) with the FT-9.
Don’t bank on the same increase in distance you got when you swapped your last persimmon driver for the new Callaway Big Bertha 19 years ago, but if you’ve adapted to the progressive head shape better than I have, and are in the market for a couple of extra yards (and maybe one more fairway) then the FT-iZ is sure to impress you.