Since being purchased by SRI Sports in 2007, Cleveland Golf has been hard at work developing new clubs and products and they have seen a nice resurgence in the market and on the professional tours. Anchored by their ever-popular wedge offerings like the new CG15 Wedges and solid and playable irons like the new CG7 Black Pearl and the new HB3 Hybrid irons, Cleveland is making a comeback in the driver market in 2010. Cleveland’s previous driver offerings didn’t make a huge impact and while they were solid clubs, they were not very popular with consumers. The HiBore and HiBore Monster drivers just didn’t appeal to players visually, even though they performed well.
For 2010, Cleveland Golf has answered the call and is introducing three new driver models – the Launcher DST, DST Draw and Launcher DST Tour. Switching gears and going back to a more traditional looking club will help, and if that doesn’t get you interested, the performance of the new clubs certainly will. So, let’s see how the Launcher DST performs! (Click on the pictures for a closer look!)
As I mentioned before, Cleveland went with a more traditional look for the DST. The new driver is a standard pear shape with a black paint job on the crown and some blue highlights around the chrome sole plate. The face area has just a few score lines arranged in a semi-circle around the sweet spot. The top line has no alignment marks or badges which makes for a nice clean look, focusing your attention on the ball that is about to be punished. This club has a very classic, simple look and to me it’s a nice departure from the odd shapes and weird materials and colors in use by some club companies these days. Some drivers look more like spaceships than golf clubs.The DST is a 460cc driver, but the black paint job and classic shape doesn’t make it look that big. The DST Draw sits three degrees closed and is draw biased via internal weighting. The DST Tour comes in at 430cc, and again it looks more compact, which is a feature some people prefer. Sitting two degrees open, it should appeal to better players and players who move the ball from right-to-left. As it is important to some, even the head cover looks nice. It’s made with a white vinyl with a dark blue sock, and a bright red Cleveland logo on the top. I’m not sure what the “E-Z Grab” handle is there for, we don’t really need that on a head cover, but I’ve seen weirder things on head covers before.
The Launcher features Cleveland’s Sub 300g Technology, which makes it one of the lightest drivers in golf. The overall club weight is below 300 grams, which is 25 grams lighter than standard drivers. They achieve this in part by using a lighter grip and a new Mitsubishi Diamana Red shaft that weighs only 47 grams. This allows the shaft to be lengthened to 45.75″ for more swing speed and the overall weight allows golfers to swing it faster for more distance. Cleveland’s claims of increased distance are from 3 to 10 yards. The DST uses variable face thickness to create a larger C.O.R. on off center hits, so that mishits fly further. A lower and deeper center of gravity also helps get the ball in the air faster with higher MOI for straighter drives.
Specs and Options
The Diamana Red 47g is the stock shaft, but by no means is it the only shaft available for the Launcher DST and DST Tour. In fact, Cleveland has a very large selection of custom shaft options available from companies like Aldila, Fujikura, Grafalloy, Graphite Design, Mitsubishi, UST, and SRI Sports’ hot new Miyazaki shafts. The Launcher DST is available in lofts of 9, 10.5 and 12 degrees. The Launcher DST Tour is available in lofts of 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5, and the stock shaft length is 45.125″, rather that the stock length of 45.75″ for the Launcher DST and DST Draw.
Cleveland was wise in keeping the Launcher name for these drivers, because its a great way to describe them! These clubs launch the ball. I have four demo units – a DST Tour with the stock Diamana 47g shaft, a DST Tour with the new Miyazaki Kusala Black 72x, and 2 standard DST drivers – One with the Miyazaki Kusala Black 61x, and the other with an orange colored Miyazaki C. Kua 43X. The Diamana Red is very light, and is designed for high launch conditions. It features a low torque, softer tip section to launch the ball higher with low spin. The Miyazaki Kusala Black shaft is designed with a firm tip section for lower launch and very low spin. The Miyazaki C. Kua series are extremely light, while still offering high performance for all golfers. The C. Kua series shafts have been very popular on the professional tours.
The DST Tour with the Diamana Red was noticeably lighter than the others, which had 61 and 72 gram shafts, compared to the 47 gram Diamana. Despite it’s light weight, this is no wet noodle shaft. Diamana shafts are widely played on the PGA Tour in heavier weights like 75 and 85 grams, but several of the Cleveland Staffers were playing with the 47 gram Diamana shaft before switching to the hot new Miyazaki C. Kua shaft. A few years ago, shaft companies couldn’t make a shaft that light because it couldn’t stand up to the strength of a fast swinger. However, with the advances in shaft technology and materials, both the Diamana and C. Kua shafts perform very well. In fact I was quite impressed at how stable the C. Kua 43X was at impact for such a light weight shaft. My DST Tour 8.5 had no trouble getting into the air, and while the shaft could be felt working at impact, the ball didn’t balloon as I would have expected. For most golfers, this shaft will be the best option, as it produces a mid to high launch with mid to low spin. The lighter weight will allow most golfers to generate more club head speed without swinging faster.
For players seeking the pinnacle in shaft technology and stronger swingers who desire tour-like performance, the new Miyazaki shafts are a must hit. One of the fastest growing shafts on tour, Miyazaki already has more than 100 players using their shafts! Made in Japan and owned by SRI Sports, the parent company of Cleveland Golf/Srixon, Miyazaki shafts feature artwork from an artists by the name of Kusala and C. Kua. The Kusala series has three models, the Black series (Low launch), the Blue series (Mid launch) and Silver series (High Launch), all producing different ball flights. The C. Kua series are the ultra-light weights, and feature shafts ranging from 59 grams, to 43 grams and even a 39gram shaft! I’ll go into the technology of these new shafts in a spotlight very soon. For now, all you need to know for the purposes of this review is that they are very high-end premium shafts and they perform brilliantly.
The DST head and Miyazaki Black 61 shaft are a great fit together, and the result is a high launching ball that carries far without excess spin. Where my current driver (Titleist 909D2 w/ Grafalloy Epic) lands and stops, this one lands and hops forward with a bit of roll. I was testing on a wet golf course, but just the fact that balls were not backing up out of their pitch marks was a great sign. A few more drives, this time on a downwind par four with a dry fairway, and the ball shot forward from the landing spot with little discernible backspin. It was a breezy day and several holes were into the wind. Despite the high launch, my ball didn’t balloon at all. (Update – I have been gaming the Cleveland Launcher DST driver with the C. Kua 43x shaft for several months now and it’s easily the best driver I’ve hit in years.)
Feel and Forgiveness
The DST and DST Tour drivers are both about as forgiving as you would expect. Off center hits can be felt, and the gear effect helps to bring the ball back into play, but these are not game improvement drivers. If you struggle with a slice, the DST Draw will certainly help mitigate that, with a three degree closed face at address and draw-bias internal weighing placed low and towards the heel to help square the face at impact. The feedback is perfect. You know it when you miss hit them, and the loss of distance isn’t too bad. The sound is a high-pitch click, but doesn’t over power with the sound of shattering glass like some drivers. The video above can give you an idea of what the club sounds like at impact. The stock shaft, being designed for high launch, feels like it’s kicking at the bottom, as designed. This makes it feel too weak, but the low torque prevents the club from twisting and the dispersion was very good. You can see the deflection in the shaft in the video. That’s an Extra Stiff shaft too! By comparison, the Miyazaki Black shaft felt very strong and stable but not too boardy. A big swing is required to really bend these babies if you go with the Extra Stiff flex. Personally, I think the Miyazaki shafts will be a huge success.
Warning to DST Draw buyers: Be careful when selecting the proper loft for a closed face driver. The more you close the face of a club, the greater the dynamic loft at impact becomes. For example, a 10.5 degree driver with a 3 degree closed face will be more like a 12 degree driver at impact. Conversely, the DST Tour driver with a two degree open face will tend to hit the ball lower. An 8.5 degree loft at impact becomes more like a 7.5 loft. If anyone wants a better explanation of dynamic loft, just let me know and I’ll write an article about it. It’s a subject that hasn’t been talked about much, but needs clarification since the advent of adjustable heads.
Given the three different heads and lofts, combined with the multitude of custom shaft options, I would highly recommend a proper fitting to get you into the best driver for your game. Cleveland has a number of Demo Days planned throughout the country. Just check out the schedule on their website, or visit a retailer near you for a fitting. A few years ago I switched to a properly fit driver and shaft and gained 20 yards. I picked up the Launcher DST with the Miyazaki Black 61x shaft and hit it 10 yards past my current driver.
The Launcher DST drivers are very solid, long, and classic looking. Cleveland Golf has managed to pack a lot of technology into a club that doesn’t look very technologically advanced. With clean lines and paint job and the great shaft options available, Cleveland has a big winner on their hands with the Launcher DST. Available now with prices in the $299 range, this is the best driver deal I’ve come across so far this year. If you haven’t hit a Cleveland driver in a while, give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed. For a second opinion (and a lefty’s take) on the Cleveland Launcher DST Driver, check out the review by my friend Dave!
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