Cleveland Launcher XL Drivers – Key Takeaways
- Three new models: adjustable XL, fixed-hosel XL Lite and XL Lite Draw
- Highest MOI ever for Cleveland drivers
- $399.99 for XL, $349.99 for Lite versions. Available Aug. 20
The XL in the new Cleveland Launcher XL driver must mean something. A marketing whiz might say it means X-tra Long. A Roman numeral scholar would say it’s 40, although “40 what” we don’t know.
But if you have eyes, it likely means X-tra Large.
Yep, it’s a big-looking head. And for Cleveland’s target demographic, that may be a good thing.
Cleveland returned as a full-line game improvement OEM four years ago. In that time, its irons have rated and sold well. Drivers? Not so much.
Can the Launcher XL lineup change Cleveland’s fortunes? That, dear reader, depends on whether size really does matter.
Cleveland Launcher XL Drivers: Overhaul City
Cleveland unapologetically targets the golfer for whom a day on the links is not a test of their competitive mettle. In other words, the recreational golfer.
The Launcher XL series is Cleveland’s third driver iteration since coming back (you’ll have to wait a week for the fairways and hybrids). And one thing about Cleveland, when it changes drivers, it changes drivers.
We’re talking full teardown and rebuild of the 2019 Launcher HB Turbo, which also may be a good thing. In MyGolfSpy’s 2021 Most Wanted, the HB Turbo finished 33rd in strokes gained, 27th in distance and 35th in forgiveness. Performance with low and mid swing-speed golfers—Cleveland’s target demographic—wasn’t any better.
In a word, woof.
In fact, Cleveland never references the HB Turbo by name in the Launcher XL launch literature, instead calling it “the previous generation.” In other words, it’s The Driver That Must Not Be Named.
Cleveland clearly wants back in the game. And the game, in a word, is forgiveness.
Go Big or Go Home
“It’s an extremely large head,” Cleveland Engineering Director Dustin Brekke tells MyGolfSpy. “The footprint is at maximum USGA dimensions.”
At address, the new Cleveland Launcher XL lives up to its XL name. Cleveland says it’s nearly seven percent bigger than the HB Tur … I mean, The Driver That Must Not Be Named. Bigger, in this case, is better. A bigger head means more mass as far from the club’s center as possible. That means less club rotation at impact which, in theory, means straighter drives.
There are three new Launcher XL models. The standard Launcher XL is the heaviest, featuring Cleveland’s first adjustable hosel since its market re-entry. The Launcher XL Lite and XL Lite Draw should be self-explanatory, but we’ll discuss both in a bit just in case.
The adjustable Launcher XL is all about MOI. Cleveland rates it at 5,200 g-cm2, an 11-percent increase over the HB Turbo and the highest MOI Cleveland driver ever. While not at PING/PXG MOI levels, the Launcher XL is at the higher end of the middle of the pack.
And while adjustability carries a weight penalty, Brekke says head size helps offset that.
“Hosel adjustability brings a lot of mass forward and up. But our crown is extremely thin, in some sections less than half a millimeter. That helps lower CG and frees up mass to be moved to the perimeter.”
Cleveland Launcher XL: Rebounds and Deep Faces
One benefit of the Cleveland-Srixon-XXIO ménage à trois is technology cross-pollination. What shows up in a Srixon or a XXIO driver eventually makes it way to Cleveland. That’s the case with Rebound Frame.
We’ve given you a deep dive into Rebound Frame in this year’s Srixon drivers so we won’t belabor the point. But that technology now moves over (Cleveland is very careful not to say “down”) to the Cleveland Launcher XL. The Cliff Notes version goes something like this:
Imagine a world where a big trampoline is supported by a thick, rigid frame which is connected to a thin, flexible ring which is then connected to another rigid frame. That, in a nutshell, is Rebound Frame. And it’s all done in the name of ball speed.
Brekke says Cleveland used its artificial intelligence system to optimize Rebound Frame in conjunction with the rest of the high MOI design.
“We studied all combinations,” he says. “Larger face, deeper body, larger volumes, the shape of the face. The computer iterates all those combinations you otherwise wouldn’t have the CAD or modeling time to explore.”
What Cleveland found is face height has a direct correlation to COR.
“If a player’s impact distribution is all over the face, the face height is going not only make the trampoline bigger, it’s also going to allow for more of those strikes to be captured on the springy part of the face,” says Brekke. “It could turn a 100-yard sky-ed shot into a 170-yard high-on-the-face shot. It’s not as good as a 200-yard center-face shot but it makes a difference.”
Classics, HiBores and Action Mass
The deep face on the Cleveland Launcher XL drivers might bring you back to an old Cleveland classic, the Cleveland Classic XL.
“There was an extreme push for face size in those models,” says Brekke. “But they didn’t have the same front-to-back depths as Launcher XL so they wouldn’t have been as forgiving.”
You’ll also notice Cleveland ditched the HiBore crown, a staple of its previous two models and a nod to the old HiBore drivers.
“HiBore was about lowering the mass of the crown but there’s a tradeoff,” says Brekke. “You definitely get a jump in sound when you have that inverted crown.”
Anyone who gamed the original HiBore can’t forget the noise it made. It wasn’t Nike Sasquatch loud but it was an attention-getter. The Launcher HB Turbo, while nowhere near as loud, would still make its presence felt. And while we can’t call the Launcher XL a great-sounding driver, it is a noticeable improvement.
“Compare this to a smaller head with a carbon fiber crown, it’s going to sound different,” says Brekke. “But it’s much more in the acceptable range.”
The Cleveland Launcher XL drivers also feature Action Mass CB which is Cleveland-speak for shaft counter-weighting. But instead of a couple of extra wraps of graphite around the butt end of the shaft, it’s an actual eight-gram weight in the butt end of the shaft.
“It’s in all three models and it helps the target player cock the club into position a little easier,” says Brekke. “It helps that player resist casting, which helps improve consistency as well as clubhead speed.”
Cleveland Launcher XL: The Lightweights
Both models go full Jenny Craig to shave roughly 12 grams off the standard Launcher XL. As mentioned, they have bonded hosels, saving weight while allowing for an even lower and deeper CG in the same basic footprint. The Lite models also use a lighter, albeit slightly longer, version of the stock Project X Cypher shaft.
While light is great for the golfer who needs help generating clubhead speed, it does come at a price.
“There’s a tradeoff for maximizing head speed,” says Brekke. “The MOI (5100 g-cm2) is lower because of the lower head weight. In the end, MOI or head speed, either one is going to make a mishit go farther.”
Additionally, all three models will be available in what Cleveland calls an “accuracy build.” It’s a custom option featuring a one-inch shorter shaft and no counterbalancing. Shortening the shaft slows down the clubhead but offers more control.
“If we kept the counterweight, the head might feel too light compared to the build and the swing weight might get too low,” says Brekke.
Cleveland believes the accuracy build option is a simple fitting solution for target golfers who may not want to invest in a Full Monty driver fitting.
“Srixon and the other leading brands need the full fitting experience and those are extremely beneficial for those types of players,’ Brekke says. “But something simple and straightforward is better than nothing, which is often what our target player is considering.”
Notes From The Field
If you’re a single-digit bomber looking to optimize dispersion 280 to 300 yards downrange, Cleveland Launcher XL drivers aren’t made for you. It’s a game improvement driver designed to help slow to moderate swing-speed players keep the ball in play and maybe get it a little farther down the fairway.
As a poster child, may I submit my buddy, Brett? He’s 63 and the quintessential recreational golfer. He hits his ill-fitting Callaway Diablo maybe 180 yards. Sometimes he can find it, sometimes he can’t. You could type GET LESSONS in the comments section but you might as well be speaking Klingon to Brett. He’s not one of us. He just wants to have a little fun.
Brett is trying out the Launcher XL Lite. So far, he’s noticeably longer—maybe 190 to 200—and he’s in play more often than he isn’t. Could he do better with lessons and a custom-fitted high-end driver-shaft combo? No doubt but golf doesn’t rule Brett’s life. Believe it or not, there are people like that.
And, no, the Launcher XL won’t fix Brett’s crappy swing. But it can help make his crappy swing more playable. For Brett, that’s a big win.
I’ve gamed the adjustable Launcher XL for nearly a month. It’s not the longest driver I’ve ever hit and while my swing remains a post-knee surgery work in progress, I am hitting fairways with it. That includes 11-of-11 fairways in which I hit driver a week ago, something that hasn’t happened in a generation.
Cleveland Launcher XL Specs, Price and Availability
The standard Launcher XL will be available in 9-, 10.5- and 12-degree options, and can be loft-adjusted up or down 1.5 degrees in half-degree increments. The Project X Cypher 50 is the stock shaft and weighs in at 56 grams in the 6.0 stiff, 54 grams in the 5.5 regular and 52 grams in the 5.0 A-flex. Project X describes the Cypher as mid-launch and mid-spin.
The standard build is 45.75 inches with the optional accuracy build one inch shorter. The Launcher XL will be available for both left- and right-handed golfers.
The Launcher XL Lite and XL draw models have bonded hosels. The XL Lite will be available in 10.5 degrees for both lefties and righties and in 12 degrees for righties only. The XL Lite Draw will be available in 10.5degrees for righties only. The Cypher 40 is stock, weighing 50 grams in stiff and 48 grams in both regular and A-flex.
The stock grip is the 52-gram Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360.
For women, the 12-degree XL Lite in right-handed only is standard. The 10.5-degree standard (LH and RH) and draw (RH only) versions are available via custom order as is a women’s accuracy build. The Cypher 50-gram 40 Ladies shaft is stock along with a 35-gram Winn Dri-Tac Ladies grip.
They’ll be available in stores and online starting Aug. 20.
For more information, visit Clevelandgolf.com.