Cleveland Launcher XL Irons – Key Takeaways
- Cleveland Launcher XL replaces two-year-old UHX game improvement irons.
- A.I. designed Mainframe face and optimized CG/MOI
- $799.99 steel, $899.99 graphite, available Sept. 17
The new Cleveland Launcher XL irons are the fourth and final installment of Cleveland’s rather unique 2021-2022 equipment release. Rather than announce the new lineup all at once, Cleveland chose to spread the driver, fairway woods and iron set launches out over a five-week period.
Hey, four blog posts are better than one or two, amiright?
There may be a method to Cleveland’s madness, however. The Launcher XL Halo fairway wood ranked fourth overall in last month’s Most Wanted testing (its older cousin, the Srixon ZX, lapped the field) while the XL Halo hybrid irons are a high-performing Cleveland staple. And the Launcher XL driver is proving to be a late-season revelation, at least in my bag.
But the Launcher XL irons? They may wind up being the surprise of the bunch.
Cleveland Launcher XL Irons
The new Launcher XL irons replace the two-year-old UHX game improvement irons in the Cleveland lineup. The UHX proved to be a solid performer in last year’s Most Wanted testing, finishing eighth overall with the mid-irons finishing second in Strokes Gained.
When you demo the new Launcher XL irons, you’ll notice two things right away. They may very well be the most forgiving traditional-looking irons Cleveland has ever produced. And, most surprisingly, they may be one of the best feeling non-forged irons you’ve ever hit.
“I can’t claim there’s a magical new technology we’ve sprinkled in there to achieve it,” Cleveland R&D VP Jeff Brunski tells MyGolfSpy. “But it is something we paid close attention to.”
Specifically, Cleveland used artificial intelligence as well as good old-fashioned human smarts to optimize both MOI and feel.
A.I. and Mainframe
Artificial Intelligence is rapidly becoming a mainstay of OEM R&D. Cleveland-Srixon’s particular mainstay is Mainframe, an optimized series of channels and cavities milled into the back of the clubface to improve COR and maximize ball speed.
It’s a unique twist on variable-face thickness. Cleveland’s supercomputer can iterate more design options in 24 hours than a team of engineers might be able to come up with in a lifetime. The end result, says Cleveland, is a face optimized for the game improvement golfer.
“We have an amateur test group called the Launch Squad,” says Brunski. “We’ve been collecting data from them ever since we got our first launch monitor. We compile as much data as we can, like where on the face does a 10-handicapper hit his or her 8-iron. If you know that, you can design accordingly.”
As with the Launcher XL Halo hybrid irons, Cleveland is also using its A.I. capabilities to optimizes CG placement and MOI. After millions of iterations, the Launcher XL has an MOI 15-percent higher than its predecessor. And what’s even more fascinating, its MOI is actually a tad higher than that of the ultra-forgiving super game improvement XL Halo hybrid-irons.
“The overall chassis is pretty important,” says Brunski. “Blade length plays a role (the XL blade length is a few millimeters longer) and hosel length even plays a role. You get a lot of heel-toe MOI and weight pad optimization is a main component of that.”
While it may be true that nothing feels quite like a forged iron, the new Cleveland Launcher XL irons might make you think twice.
Yeah, they feel pretty sweet.
“As you thin faces out and make them hot, it can be a challenge to keep feel solid,” says Brunski. “You need some engineering know-how to solve that challenge. You’re putting stiffness in, you’re controlling vibration and you’re using medallions and plaques. I’d attribute it more to experience in this category than anything else.”
Like its UHX predecessor, the Cleveland Launcher XL irons are progressive in nature: hollow body in the 4- through 7-irons and cavity back in the 8-iron through gap wedge or D-wedge in Cleveland-ese. If you liked the clean looks of the UHX irons, prepare to be a bit disappointed. Cleveland has intentionally busied the Launcher XL irons up a bit to make them look more game-improvement-y.
“That was a correction we had to make,” admits Brunski. “The UHX irons were all metallic and monochromatic. Retailers told us customers thought they looked more like player’s distance irons than game improvement irons. We’re trying to do everything we can to signal that the Launcher XLs are really forgiving.”
Several range sessions can attest to that. The Launcher XLs are a seriously easy iron to launch. And, as mentioned, the sound and feel are exceptional for the category. We tried out a 5-7-PW demo set and, while the 5- and 7-irons are both hollow, both sounded solid. All three irons provided a nice solid feel and a pleasing crack at impact.
Cleveland Launcher XL Loft Alert!
Yes, these are game improvement irons and, yes, the lofts are strong. And, yes, as a result, they go like hell.
And like the UHX irons and the CBX irons before those, Cleveland is casting both the iron number and the loft on the Launcher XL soles. So at least you know you’re hitting a 29-degree 7-iron or a 44-degree pitching wedge.
“We’ve gotten good feedback from that,” says Brunski. “It has a lot to do with building out your full set and finding the right wedge package. A lot of golfers in this category don’t quite know what they might need in their bags so having the lofts on the clubs makes their lives easier.”
Cleveland also made sure to design the scoring irons in such a way so they’d flow nicely into Cleveland’s CBX game improvement wedges.
“As you flow through the set, the shaping becomes consistent with our wedges,” says Brunski. “That was definitely a design goal.”
Active Mass and Progressive Grooves
As with the Cleveland Launcher XL metalwoods and the Halo XL hybrid irons, the Launcher XL irons feature Action Mass CB, which is a fancy name for counterweighting.
“We’ve used it in the XXIO lineup and now in the XL lineup,” says Brunski. “It helps golfers who cast the club and it helps them get in a better position at the top of the swing so they can deliver the club more efficiently.”
While shafts with a few extra wraps of graphite on the butt section are classified as “counterweighted,” Cleveland inserts an eight-gram weight in the butt end of the shaft. “It ain’t fairy dust,” says Cleveland’s informative and always entertaining product manual. “Think of it as the pommel of a sword. It helps your swing feel more controlled.”
As with the entire Launcher XL line, the Cleveland Launcher XL irons will also be available in an optional Accuracy Build. Each club is ½-inch shorter than standard.
“It won’t have the counterweighting,” says Brunski. “But for the game improvement player, it’s a really big fitting dial. Going through a full shaft and loft/lie fitting is important. But for this player, if you want to be more accurate, you want the club a little bit shorter.”
Also new to the Launcher XL are what Cleveland calls Progressive Grooves. Srixon introduced Progressive Grooves last winter in the ZX lineup. They’re essentially loft-specific groove patterns. The hollow-body 4- through 7-irons are built for distance and feature wider, flatter grooves for lower spin. The 8-iron through D-wedge have thinner, deeper grooves and laser face-milling for more spin and control on approach shots.
Finding a Niche
On a certain level, the Srixon-Cleveland duo makes sense. Srixon is the better-player lineup with a slight crossover into game improvement with the ZX4 irons. Cleveland is unabashedly game improvement with a value-priced approach. Unfortunately, other than with its hybrid-iron offering, Cleveland is still a face in the market share crowd.
“With our UHX irons, we had a top retailer in our headquarters. One of their buyers said they were going to be the No. 1 irons in the country,” says Brunski. “Well, they weren’t.”
That’s no doubt attributable to the combined power of the Big Five to maintain the status quo. TaylorMade, Callaway, PING, Titleist and COBRA spend an awful lot of money to remind you that they are, in fact, the Big Five. That leaves precious little room for everyone else. So goals and objectives have to be adjusted.
“We definitely see them starting to take off and we’re going to struggle to keep up with demand over the next two years,” adds Brunski. “A lot more accounts are taking them in but I don’t think we’re satisfied with what we’ve seen.
“Years ago, there weren’t websites; there weren’t places where fact could come out. If you saw something on Tour, you just assumed it was best for you. But I think more knowledge is getting out there and the buyer is becoming more sophisticated. That’s a good thing for us.”
Cleveland Launcher XL: Specs, Price and Availability
The Cleveland Launcher XL irons will be sold in seven-piece standard sets at retail for both men and women. You can always order a customized set through Cleveland that can include a set matching 48-degree gap wedge. For men, the 4-iron through D-wedge will be available for both righties and lefties.
Women’s sets will be right-handed only at retail. Left-handed women’s sets are available by custom order only and there will be no left-handed sand wedge for women.
With the UHX lineup, Cleveland sold 3-, 4- and 5-irons separately as utility irons. That won’t be the case with the Launcher XL irons, however.
Stocks shafts for men include the versatile True Temper Elevate 95 in steel in regular (103 grams) and stiff (104 grams). The men’s stock graphite is the Project X Catalyst in A flex (57 grams), regular (62 grams) and stiff (67 grams).
The stock women’s shaft is the 47-gram Project X Cypher.
The Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 is the stock men’s grip while the lightweight (35 grams) Winn Dri-Tac Ladies is the stock grip for women.
For more information, visit Clevelandgolf.com.