There’s been much wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth this month about 2019 driver pricing. If you’ve been one of those wailers, moaners or gnashers, here’s some good news: there’s a 2019 metal wood lineup that’s actually priced lower than the 2017 line it’s replacing.
I cannot wait to see what Twitter does with this.
Yep, Wilson’s new D7 metal woods lineup – from driver to fairway to hybrid – is priced lower than the D300 metal woods they’re replacing. You are giving up a little something that you may not want to live without, but you are getting clubs that are, by any standard, a hell of a lot better looking that their predecessors.
The D7’s are companions to the D7 Super Game Improvement irons announced last month. The irons have some neat tech, but the biggest takeaway is the look – an SGI iron with precious few hints of shovel or bling (Power Holes not withstanding).
That same ethos is in the D7 woods. If you remember the, uhhh, distinctive styling of the D300 metal woods, The makeover will have you jumping with glee and singing several verses of “Walking On Sunshine.”
The Eye Candy Factor
MyGolfSpy’s testing consistently shows no correlation between performance and looks. You don’t have to like the looks of a club to hit it well. But when people say they have to like the looks of something, they mean just that: they want what they consider a good-looking piece of eye candy in the bag.
In other words, you’re likely to feel better and happier hitting a club you find pretty, even if you hit something less pretty better. You may be happier, but you also may wind up swapping irons sooner, too. Again, no blanket statements, just some observations.
With the D7 release, Wilson is trying to thread the needle by combining pretty(er) with playable for the mid- to high-handicapper. While the D300 ranked near the bottom in terms of ball speed, it performed well in other categories in last year’s Most Wanted testing. It was the lowest spinning driver tested – odd for a Game Improvement driver – while Wilson’s C300 finished a close second. While neither driver was anywhere close to the longest, both finished near the top in terms of accuracy.
The problem with D300 was that it was, in the eyes of many, just plain butt-ugly. The grainy, matte-black crown was dotted with a monstrosity known as Micro Vertex Generators – little nubbies designed to promote aerodynamics but only succeeded in making the driver (and fairways and hybrids) look like it had a bad case of back acne.
Jon Pergande, Wilson Golf’s Global Innovation Manager, admits the Micro Vortex Generators were a bit polarizing.
“It comes down to overall consumer experience,” he says. “It’s seeing something on a shelf or seeing something online that looks good. You take it off the shelf and set it down; it has to appeal to you.”
When you’re a Wilson, and firmly in the challenger brand category, you can’t afford polarizing.
The Shape of Things to Come
While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, looks-wise, the D7 is a major, vast, largely huge and pleasing upgrade from the D300: a more traditional black with just a whisper of blue on the crown and sole, and no Micro Vortex Generators anywhere. It features a deep face and a styling that’s a bit of a departure from previous Wilson drivers.
“The design mantra for D7 is to reset what people consider to be a Wilson driver shape,” says Pergande. “I don’t think we’ve had a lot of consistency over the last several product cycles, and the goal was to establish our look, so in the future, we’ll have a look that can be recognized as a Wilson shape, unless there’s some compelling reason to change those shapes.”
At address, the D7 sits a wee bit closed, but wouldn’t look out of place in a better player’s bag. Two things do jump out at you: a carbon fiber crown and a bonded hosel.
“The average player wants help swinging the club faster,” says Pergande. “Weight management is large part of that. There’s a penalty to having hosel adjustable features built in. By taking out the adjustable hosel, that’s about 15 grams of weight we can use better.”
That’s also a tough marketing decision to make, as hosel adjustability is like jacks or better to open in poker. In 2019 it’s pretty much expected. Pergande says Wilson’s research shows 84% of the players surveyed adjust their drivers no more than twice. And many of those either never adjust it at all or adjust it only once at the point of purchase and never again.
“If that’s the case, then let’s see if there’s a better way to use that weight,” he says.
To save more weight, the D7 features a carbon fiber crown – whereas the D300 was all titanium. You’d think there are some weight savings there as well, but Pergande says it’s really not that much.
“Carbon fiber does save you a couple of grams, but casting techniques with titanium allow you to create some really thin structures,” says Pergande. “By going carbon fiber, we’re not saving a ton of weight, but we are getting a huge savings in sound.”
A secret ingredient in the crown, and a factor in improving both sound and feel is Kevlar – yes, Kevlar – woven into the carbon fiber layers. Wilson is calling it (K)ompsite Crown Design.
“The inspiration came from our tennis group,” says Pergande. “The Pro Staff racquet we’ve had for probably 25 years has Kevlar fiber to dampen vibrations. Roger Federer plays a Kevlar-infused racquet because he knows it has the best feel.”
After the Trident kerfuffle, Wilson is paying more attention to sound than ever before, and Pergande says the crown plays an important role.
“We did FEA analysis, computer simulations, modal analysis on the crown, face and sole to avoid any clunky sounds,” he says. “The head shape dictates a lot of that, the support structure dictates a little more, and then the icing on the cake is the crown.”
Dynamic Launch Control
With an adjustable hosel and adjustable weights, you can move weight forward or backward and from heel to toe while adjusting loft to find the best fit. But weight adjustability isn’t free, both in terms of dollars and in terms of grams. Wilson’s D Series has always been about lightweight drivers that can be swung fast, and saving weight here means you can move it there. In D7, Wilson is calling it Dynamic Launch Control.
“Clubs with adjustable features don’t have to be as mindful of internal weighting properties,” he says. “What Dynamic Launch Control does is identifies who a 9° player is, who a 10.5° player is and who a 13° player is and place the weight in the head accordingly.”
What that means is kind of obvious. Someone gaming a 9° head is typically a stronger player with plenty of clubhead speed who’d benefit from lower spin, so the internal weighting is low and forward. That’ll keep spin down and reduce launch angle.
On the other hand, a 130 player probably has a slower swing speed, fights a slice and could use help getting the ball up in the air and to the left. Toward that end, the internal weighting is back and toward the heel. The 10.50 head is somewhere in the middle.
No matter where the internal weighting is, the D7 head comes in at 192 grams overall, and as with its D Series predecessors, it’s coupled with a lightweight shaft: an aftermarket equivalent UST Elements Helium. UST bills the Helium as a low resin carbon fiber shaft that’s light, counterbalanced, high launching but not overly whippy. The A-flex is 45 grams, the R-flex 46 grams and the S-flex 57 grams. A new Wilson Staff MicroLite Lamkin grip is standard.
“The heavier S-flex shaft is usually coupled with the 9° head,” says Pergande. “With Dynamic Launch Control, we have very good launch angles and very low spin with the 9°, and we have higher launch angles and more spin when we use the R-flex.”
Pricing and Availability
The Wilson D7, in all of its non-adjustable glory, is $50 less than what it’s replacing. The D300’s sold for $349.00, but the D7 comes to you at the very 2007 price of $299.99.
“The D7 is a good complement to the Cortex because there are multiple consumers,” says Pergande. “We have a product with lots of adjustability and different design features for the customer segment that wants that. But there are also people who don’t need all that stuff, and if you don’t need it, why would you want to pay for it?”
It will be in stores one week from today, on Monday, January 21st.
Fairways and Hybrids
If metalwoods launches were The Police, the driver would be Sting, and the fairways and hybrids are the other two guys in the band that no one remembers. It’s the way of the world.
As with the driver, the first thing you notice about the D7 fairways and hybrids is the blessed and merciful absence of Mirco Vortex Generators. It turns out, there’s a practical – as well as an aesthetic – reason.
“The funny thing about aerodynamics, the faster a body, is moving through air or water, the more aerodynamics matter,” says Pergande. “With drivers, it’s more important. There’s a bigger premium there than on fairway woods and hybrids.”
The fairway story is familiar: save a few grams here and another few grams there, move that weight lower and, with a Carpenter 455 Stainless Steel face you’ll get a fairway wood that launches easier and flies farther.
Wilson has done a nice job with D7’s visuals. Overall, the head is larger than the D300, but it doesn’t look it. Part of that is the noticeably shallower face, and part is what Pergande calls a different aspect ratio in terms of heel-toe length, transition of the face to the toe area and overall depth. It just looks more low-profile than D300.
“Geometry tends to rule the roost,” says Pergande. “If you want that center of gravity low, you can only do so much with a tall club. Typically a fairway wood or hybrid is hit off the ground, so you have to get the middle of the face behind the ball.”
The D7 fairways are also non-adjustable and come in three lofts: a 15° 3-wood, an 18° 5-wood and a 21° 7-wood. The 3- and the 5-woods are available for lefties. You’ll note there’s no Strong 3 option – Pergande says your typical D player isn’t really a Strong 3 target.
The UST Mamiya Helium shaft is stock in the fairways as well, as is the Wilson Staff MicroLite Lamkin grip.
It sells for $199.99, which is $20 lower than the D300 fairways.
The D7 hybrid checks all the boxes in the straightforward, no apologies Game Improvement club category: large, forgiving head with plenty of left bias.
“I’ll say it again, we always look at what levels of offset and what levels of size do we need for a particular type of player to have the best experience,” says Pergande. “tour players want a face-open structure, but most players can’t deal with that. The average player wants more square or, if anything, cheating a little closed.”
In the wrong hands, the D7 has the looks of a major hook machine. If you need the help, however, the D7 hybrid will offer it.
Wilson changed up the shaft for the D7 hybrid, choosing to make the 65-gram UST Recoil 460 stock, and the stock grip is the standard Wilson Staff Lamkin Crossline. It’s not a super lightweight shaft and does match up better as a transition to the D7 irons, which feature the KBS Tour 80 shafts.
The D7 hybrids will be available in 19-, 22-, 25- and 28-degree lofts for righties, and in 19-, 22- and 25-degree lofts for lefties. They’re priced at $179.99 (also $20 less than the D300 hybrids) and, along with the fairway woods, hit the stores January 21st.