Cleveland Launcher DST Driver – Club Review

| February 15, 2010 | 21 Comments

Cleveland Launcher DST DriverSince 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!)

Appearance

Cleveland Launcher DST DriverAs 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.


Technology

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

Miyazaki Kusala Black 61x ShaftThe 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.

Performance

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.

Cleveland Launcher DST and DST Tour Driver

DST (Left) and DST Tour (Right)

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.

Cleveland Launcher DST Tour DriverThe 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.

Cleveland Launcher DST DriverWarning 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.

Overall Impressions

Cleveland Launcher DST and DST Tour DriversThe 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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  1. Cleveland Launcher DST Driver - Review | May 6, 2010
  1. DF says:

    I thought I read you say before that the Bridgestone J38 was the best driver you have hit this year and it is the same price as this one at 299. Then you say this one is the best deal at 299. I am in the market for a new driver, which one is the best deal? I am confused by you saying that they both are.

  2. John Duval says:

    DF,
    The Bridgestone is one of the best I have hit so far along with the DST. They are both probably in my top 4, along with the Ping i15 and Titleist 909D3.

    The DST is $299, and the J38 is $399. That makes the DST a better deal in my opinion, because for $100 less you are getting a club that performs as well as anything else out there.

  3. Christina says:

    What a great review of the Cleveland DST! I play Cleveland irons and woods but I never did like the HiBore. My old driver is the Launcher Comp which I loved but this year my husband and I were in the market for new drivers… we both decided to purchase the DST and cannot wait to try them out! Good review, thanks!

  4. JOE KEELEY says:

    YOU SAY THE DST DRAW DRIVER AT 10.5 DEGREE WILL BE LIKE 12 DEGREES AT IMPACT BECAUSE OF THE CLOSED FACE. SO IF I WANT 10 DEGREES OR SO AT IMPACT I SHOULD GET A 9 DEGREE ? I HIT THE TEE BALL HIGH,SO I DON’T WANT ANYTHING NEAR A 12.THANK YOU

  5. John Duval says:

    There are other factors to consider of course, like your golf swing and the shaft selection, but all other factors being equal – A 10.5 degree driver with a 2 degree closed face will hit the ball higher than a 10.5 degree driver with a square face because of the effect of dynamic loft. You should probably consider a 9 degree loft in the DST Draw, but of course your best course of action is to attend a demo day or get a demo from your local retailer or golf shop and try out different lofts and see for yourself.

  6. kevin carey says:

    NF,

    The 61g Miyazaki black, that was in the standard DST 460 head, right? With more weight than the 47g, Diamana, was the overall length shorter to maintain the D4 swing weight? Do you know the length this combo played at for your review?

    How did that 460 DST/Black combo compared to the 430 head (2 degree open) with a Miyazaki Black?

    I having been hitting the standard DST with the stock 47g Redboard, and like it, but thinking I would much prefer the 430 Tour with a 61g Miyazali Black. Did you try this combo? My SS is 102 – progressive loader.

    Any comments greatly appreciated.

    thanks,
    Kevin

  7. John Duval says:

    My test units were as follows: 7.5 DST w/ Miyazaki Black 61x, 8.5 DST Tour w/ Miyazaki Black 72x, and 8.5 DST Tour w/ Diamana Red 47x. I hit them all well, but the best performer for me is the 7.5 w/ 61X. Of course, the 7.5 head isn’t available to the public that I know of. It’s a tour van issued driver. The open face of the DST Tour is nice at address, and if you compare it to the standard head you’ll probably hit it a bit lower, given the shafts are the same. If you are a strong player, the Miyazaki Black (Low Launch) shaft is awesome. Very stable and consistent, but without feeling too boardy. The other Miyazaki shafts – the Blue and Silver series, are designed for mid launch and mid-high launch. They are worth a try for sure.

    The Diamana Red 47x shaft performed well in the DST Tour 8.5, but was a bit weak for me. I could really feel the shaft working at impact and the tip section is just a bit too weak for my swing. I’m usually in the 115-120 swing speed range, so the Miyazaki 72x in the same head felt more stable and much firmer without sacrificing distance.

    To answer your question: I like the look of the 430 open face in the DST Tour, but the standard DST isn’t much bigger, and the face sits nice and square so it’s not a big problem. Both clubs are very hot, but the standard DST head is actually a lower spinning head than the DST Tour, according to my contacts at Cleveland. So, if you need more carry go with the DST Tour. If you want a flatter trajectory with more roll, opt for the DST. By the way – most of the Cleveland Tour staff are hitting the standard DST… Many with the stock Diamana shaft too!

  8. wayne says:

    John

    When you say the shaft in this dst has a soft tip how soft is that?? Also what is the difference in the A and Regular flex shaft and is the tip softer in the regular then the A flex. Also what happens if use a flex that is too soft being ordering a A flex when you should be using a regular flex. Lastly on a 12 degree draw what loft would this play like 13.5??????

    Please advise
    Thanks, I think imbetween shafts not sure which to get.

    Please comment.

  9. John Duval says:

    The tip felt soft on the stock shaft, compared to the Miyazaki shafts, but typically the Diamana shaft is pretty stable. I swing the driver in the 115-120 MPH range, so anything but a stiff tip shaft will feel soft. My test unit had an extra stiff shaft, so I couldn’t tell you the way the A and R shafts feel. If you play a shaft that is too weak for your swing, you will give up consistency and your misses will likely vary greater from left to right. I would highly recommend a proper fitting to get the right shaft. A 12 degree draw driver with a closed face will hit the ball higher than a 12 degree square or open face driver. The actual trajectory you achieve will depend on your swing and launch conditions.

    If you are between shafts and don’t have the chance to get fit, I would go with the stiffer shaft in this driver.

  10. wayne says:

    John can you exlain the dynamic loft concept and how it effects loft if you purchase a closed or draw faced driver. Would a 12* degree draw faced driver actually be a 13.5* degree lofted face driver?????

    Please confirm,can you explain the dynamic loft concept in more detail. Please comment.

    Thanks

  11. John Duval says:

    Wayne,
    I’m trying to put together an article explaining these concepts. There isn’t much information available out there about it and it’s confusing. However, to be properly fit for a driver these days it’s important to understand it. I’ll keep you posted!

  12. John says:

    I love the “straightness” of the XLS HiBore. I can’t hit it anything but straight but am intrigued (as I get older – 61) of a lighter driver. Does the DST have as good a MOI as the XLS? It seems the higher the MOI of the driver the straighter the ball flight, Does this make sense?

  13. John Duval says:

    MOI helps mostly on off center hits, but should contribute to hitting the ball straighter. If the face of the club is open, the ball will go offline, no matter what the MOI. The DST is worth a try if you like the XLS!

  14. John Duval says:

    MOI helps mostly on off center hits, but should contribute to hitting the ball straighter. If the face of the club is open, the ball will go offline, no matter what the MOI. The DST is worth a try if you like the XLS!

  15. craig robinson says:

    Great review! I have a relativley slow 96 97 mph swing, with a smooth tempo. carry the ball around 220 yds in air, and am pretty straight. I Am looking for a little more distance without having to try to swing out of my shoes. would the stock diamana red be better for my swing than a miyazaki shaft? thanks

  16. John Duval says:

    In a word, yes. The Miyazaki shaft is more or less for stronger players, but the 45 Gram stock shaft will allow you to swing the club faster and hit it further. I would try it out and see what you think of course before making a decision.

  17. Dale Burger says:

    The DST draw 10.5 degree was purchased based on this review to replace my Ping G10 draw 12 degree, both with regular shafts. The DST was very disappointing first time out, the distance was about equal, maybe a slight edge to the DST, but accuracy was Ping by a wide margin. The DST feels Head heavy and I hit many slices and knuckleballs. On my old swingweight scale the Ping G10 is about D1 and the DST was D4+.I haven’t given up on the DST, but first time at driving range was not impressive and I would rather loose a yard or two and be in the fairway with my old Ping G10.I am 67 yers old and play to a 19 handicap and driver swing speed is at border line of regular and senior flex. Have tried both flexes and best results with regular flex.

  18. paul meadows says:

    hi i have a dst to test, i’m using a nike sumo2 at present ive got used to the strange looks as i just line up to the sweet spot in th ecentre of the face and this takes the odd shape from view however i love the traditional cleveland despite this my experiance of the nike has taught me that the moi rating is a major thing in overall performance i understand your remarks above that the ball can still be hot off line but know from experiance the more stable the head at impact the straighter the flight, im lucky as i tend to hit the ball straight as a rule anyway, but i know the moi of my existing nike is 5000, can you tell me the moi of the cleveland dst ? many thanks, (i’m hitting the cleveland for the first time tomorrow.

  19. dermot graham says:

    Hi am hitting a 9 degree launcher with a Fujikura stiff shaft. love the club and want to know what should I upgrade to? Want to stay at 9 degree. So what is the best shaft for me going forward?
    Regards
    Dermot.

  20. John Duval says:

    Dermot,
    Have you tried the Cleveland Classic driver? It is a great low spinning driver and looks awesome. You can probably pick one up online for $149 to $199 with a Miyazaki shaft. If you want to go custom, I currently recommend the UST Mamiya ProForce VTS series. I just put one in my Adams Super LS driver and it is awesome!

    - JD

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