It's been a big week of news from Srixon Cleveland Golf with the 2017 launch of a raft of new products for this year and next. We caught up with Director of R&D Jeff Brunski to find out about the thinking behind the latest range CBX wedge and irons, Launcher HB driver and 2017 AD333 ball.
Hi Jeff. You have got a lot of new products coming out for 2018 and one of them is the Cleveland CBX wedge. Can you explain a little bit about why you created a wedge in this style?
We created the CBX wedge because we saw a really significant hole in the market. Most golfers out there are playing wedges that are blade style wedges and they are playing cavity back irons. They are playing cavity back irons because they are easier to hit and they are more forgiving – they are built for average golfers. So we took the same approach with this wedge and we set out to design a wedge for the average golfer who plays cavity back irons.
So what does that mean specifically from a design stand point?
We set out to put the right specifications in the product. So from a swing weight standpoint we made sure the swing weight matched closely to the swing weight of cavity back irons, not the higher swing weight you find in most tour level wedges.
There’s the overall shaft weight. Most cavity back irons on the market have steel shafts that are under 100g, but most wedge shafts are a 130g, which is a big difference in overall weight so we put a lighter weight steel shaft in it.
In the club head we have a different sole design, there is feel balancing technology, all of which contributes to performance that will improve the overall performance for the average golfer.
I was interested in the new True Temper Dynamic Gold 115 and wondered if it was new for this wedge?
We’ve worked on it from wedge standpoint and to get the wedge flex profile into a 115g package is what is unique as typically that wedge shaft would be up at 125g so we’ve been working closely with True Temper to create this. It is a Dynamic Gold premium shaft but built for the masses rather than being built for a tour player.
When you say a “wedge profile” what do you mean by that?
That’s the flex profile so from an engineering standpoint it concerns where the shaft flexes. We were targeting mirroring the normal profile for a Dynamic Gold shaft, which is typically a mid-kick point average flex. We don’t want something that is a spinner with a higher or lower flex point. This should feel balanced and similar to the feel that players are used to playing their cavity back irons.
The sole of the CBX wedge is quite wide. Is that to add forgiveness?
Yes, this has a wider sole than most tour wedges in the centre of the sole through to the toe of the sole. In the heel, where the performance of the heel width will affect how much you can open up the club face, we haven’t changed it too much there so there is still some versatility, but average golfers want to be able to hit it out of the bunkers and they want to get through the turf and not hit it fat, so having a little bit more width in the sole will make it more forgiving.
As well adding forgiveness does the extra width help increase the MOI too?
Yes, it does a bit of both. We want to move the weight towards the toe because every wedge in history has had too much weight in the heel so the sweet spot is not actually aligned with the centre of the face. Having a wider sole towards toe helps with feel balancing but that is also what contacts the ground so the sole and the width of the sole effects how the sole gets through the turf.
The CBX wedge only has one bounce. Is there a reason for that as in the past you’ve offered the one, two and three dot bounce options?
I think if you are a golfer who is going to get bounce fit to your game and are looking for that level of precision then we would recommend you go for our RTX-3 wedges or our blade style where we have all those offerings.
If you play cavity back irons we can really give you a lot more performance in this overall package without doing that subtle fine tuning. You would be making a large trade-off to play that blade style wedge just to be bounce fit. We are saying if you are a cavity back iron player try this, hit one or two shots and I guarantee you notice that the sole has been designed for you, we have done that specifically for that profile of player.
A lot of low single figure handicappers play cavity back irons so is this wedge aimed at all cavity back players or is it aimed at the mid to high handicapper?
I think we will see what happens in the market because in R&D and around our company before we launched this there are many single digit players who are switching into it. There are plenty of people who think 'why would I not want to have a wedge that is easier to play?'.
Do you think players may take the CBX wedge in the lower lofts and then go the RTX-3 in higher lofts?
You may see some of that, but I still think if you want more forgiveness then this wedge will be the solution for a lot of players even in the higher lofted wedges you use around the greens. When we designed them we looked at the most popular irons in the market and when we built the gap wedges we made them match those popular products so it will blend seamlessly into any iron set.
So going slightly up the bag we also have the new Cleveland Launcher CBX iron which is a cavity back designed to launch higher. You haven’t done irons for quite a while now so what brings Cleveland back into the iron market?
We wanted to bring a new perspective. It is a crowded market with a lot of good products but what Cleveland Golf can do and what we think about is scoring. We know scoring matters and we have designed great wedges for years and we think we can bring that approach to the iron set as well. So better designed soles, better grooves, more spin from the rough, more control. That is what we feel we can bring and what we are focusing on.
So when you talk about fitting into the market is that a price point you are referring to?
I think from a pricing perspective Cleveland Golf has a reputation for delivering good value and we take a strategic approach to what we put in these clubs. If it is just a cool feature and it makes a good marketing story we take it out and that leaves us a little leaner in terms of what goes into the product, there is no fluff and we can price it accordingly.
You are also launching the Launcher HB driver which brings back memories of the Hi-Bore drivers. What was your thinking behind creating this driver?
We’ve seen a bit of an opportunity in the market from both a performance and a pricing stand point. Prices are going up but we are not really seeing golfers hitting the ball straighter and longer. Adjustability has been a big trend and that can help you make a good driver for a lot of people, but what we have done is pick the average swing speed golfer, the guy who tends to play with a fade or a slice, and for that specific golfer we have set about designing a driver that is going to work better than anything else out there.
If you’re aiming at 10 to 20 handicappers with swing speeds of 95 mph or less, is that the main section of the market?
It is a large number of golfers in that segment. We see plenty of people who could benefit from a little bit of a draw in their ball flight and obviously forgiveness is universal. We are not trying to be the number one driver and you won’t necessarily see tour players using it as we are positioning it, and have built it from an engineering stand point, for a specific player.
So there is an inherent draw bias in the head?
Yes, there is a positioning of the weight towards the heel to promote that small baby kind of draw. It is not by any means an offset or a draw bias driver, we could make a more draw bias driver, but if you compare to tour products and the brands you see on tour, those tend to hit the ball with a little bit of a fade, which might be great for a tour player who doesn’t want to turn it over, but that doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of the average golfer.
The driver doesn’t have an adjustable hosel on it and that is quite unique in the market these days so why have you gone down this route?
Adjustability is a great technology if you want to make a product that you can adapt for a lot of different people but there is a trade-off. To build an adjustable driver you have to spend money and you have to use mass, so really from a cost and performance stand point you make sacrifices with the centre of gravity and with the MOI. A tour player doesn’t necessarily care about that but for the average golfer you are getting a less forgiving product.
If you are an average golfer and you have bought an adjustable driver and you haven’t really adjusted it much or you aren’t getting more distance from it than your last driver, you are probably not benefiting from the trade-off that those products are making. So we said 'get that out of there', use the mass more effectively, and design something for the average golfer with a slower swing speed and who tends to slice the ball.
We’ve discussed golf balls with you before and this year you are launching a new version of the AD333, the 8th generation of the ball and a long and successful franchise.
It is a long, storied and popular franchise! Srixon have been the number one brand in this category of golf ball in the UK for 11 years now so it is a pretty special product.
In that case how do you improve a ball that is so successful without messing with the formula that makes it so popular?
That’s a great way to put it, that you don’t want to screw anything up and you want to make fine tuning adjustments that make differences that people can actually see and that brings a compelling new level of performance. For this ball that comes from a new dimple pattern and Spin Skin technology. We have taken a lot of the tour technology we have and tuned it for the average golfer.
This ball has 338 dimples, so is that more than it had previously?
The previous dimple pattern on the AD333 was a 324 dimple pattern so there are more dimples on this latest ball. It can get technical talking about dimples because there a lot of things that can effect performance for example the number of dimples, the depth of the dimples, and the variety of dimples. This dimple pattern is new in many ways but ultimately what it does is produce lower drag so it cuts through the wind and is more aerodynamic which helps distance and also helps keep it on line more.
It’s fine to get technical with us! So if there are more are they smaller or is there a different pattern?
There are five dimple types within the 338 dimple pattern so the coverage across the golf ball is a little higher as well, all of which contributes to the lower drag performance.
Is the lower drag due to the fact that because there are more of them they are slightly shallower with less gaps?
Pretty much. Somebody could probably technically nit-pick it because sometimes as you increase coverage other things change, but yes basically that sums it up.
You have also gone for a slightly lower compression in this generation of the ball at 75. Is this the lowest it has been?
Correct. The little bit lower compression feels better for most people with a little bit of a softer feel, but it will also tend from the tee and on longer shots to have a little higher launch and lower spin that translates to more distance.
Where does the higher launch come from? Is it due to the dimples or is it from the relationship between the core and the outer layer?
It has to do with how it compresses and rebounds from the club ace. So the launch conditions the dimples don’t come into play, but as it is a softer golf ball you can compress it more and that leads to the higher launch.
Thank you Jeff. All these products should be in store from 15 September 2017
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