Written By: John Barba

Wilson Staff has been on a bit of a roll the past couple of years. While Wilson’s glory years remain a distant memory, the new attitude and equipment coming out of Chicago are making the brand relevant again.

If anything’s been missing from the Wilson Staff lineup, it’s been a flagship “better player’s” driver. The current D200 has been a success, but it’s firmly in the Game Improvement category. The 2014 series of players woods, the M3 line, was Wilson’s first foray into the world of adjustability. Despite Wilson’s commitment to 2-year product cycles, the M3 line wound up in the discount bin before its first birthday.

But ‘tis the season for new beginnings, and Wilson is joining the party by announcing its new entry into the players driver market, the FG Tour F5.

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We first showed you the prototype back in June. At the time, Wilson Staff director of R&D Michael Vrska said the FG Tour F5 would be the company’s first entry into the low/forward CG driver world.

While there are no flippable cores, sliding gizmos or escape hatches, the FG Tour F5 (F5 for short) isn’t lacking for buzzwords. According to Wilson, its proprietary Reactive Face Technology maximizes CT, or “Characteristic Time” (how long – in microseconds – the ball is in contact with the clubface at impact. Think “springiness”), as well as ball speed and forgiveness, and the new Fast Fit adjustable hosel system may be the lightest, smallest and easiest to use adapter around. It’s not, however, backwards compatible with the D200 or the M3.

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“We essentially started from scratch”, says Vrksa. “We worked extensively with our Wilson Advisory Staff PGA Tour players from the beginning to refine the shape and set-up. We now have an adjustable hosel that is as small as anything in the marketplace to help with that.  We moved both the adjustable weight and internal weighting forward, to reduce spin, and lower, to maintain launch angle.”

The F5 has 3 interchangeable weights (3, 7, 11 grams – the 7 gram weight is factory installed) for the low/forward weight port, so you can customize for, of all things, swing speed.

“According our data, most players, about 60-65%, will swing fastest with the 7 gram option,” says Vrksa. “But 15%-20% each will swing faster with the lighter and heavier options.”

LOOKS, ETC

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From the top down the F5 is a classic, glossy-black pear shaped driver. It’s fairly deep-faced, and the 460CC head has a chemically etched crown. Wilson says the etching saves weight that can be redistributed to help with launch and spin.

There’s a lot happening on the sole, with the black accented with swatches of FG Tour gold and a chrome sole plate.  There are some nice cosmetic touches as well, including the Wilson Staff shield on the toe.

Headcovers for Wilson’s most recent offerings have been, shall we say, functional.  For the F5, Wilson has very much upped its game with this leather-ish beauty.  It’s black, gold and white on the outside, with soft red felt on the inside.  It’s a nice touch and is an attention-getter in the bag.

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One of the issues with the M3 driver was sound – some found it off-putting, which didn’t help with sales. Vrska says Wilson went through extensive sound testing both indoors and outdoors with amateurs and professionals to get the sound right. The end result is a unique sounding driver. Whereas the D200 has a definite metallic klink to it, the F5 has a distinctive klock sound – definitely not muted, but not Cleveland-HiBore-what-the-hell-was-that sounding, either.

The F5 comes in 9 and 10.5 degree heads (9 degree only for lefties), and is adjustable 1 degree down and 2 degrees up in ½ degree increments. The stock shaft is a real-deal Fubuki Z 50, although the color scheme has been customized to better match the head.

Additional shafts will be available through Wilson at an upcharge.

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Where The F5 Fits

So who’s the target for the F5? Well, the F part should give it away.

“It’s in our ‘F’ or ‘Feel’ category in our F-C-D (Feel-Control-Distance) system,” says Vrska. “But it could be great for any F or C player from around an 18-handicap on down if it fits his or her swing profile. The D200 Driver, which is still in the line for 2016, is a more forgiving, slightly higher launching/spin alternative.  As with all our products, we recommend players try and get fit.”

So does the F5 achieve its goal as a low spin, lower launching driver? Early launch monitor sessions indicate that for the most part, it does.

Comparing an off-the-rack F5 with an off-the-rack TaylorMade R15, both set to 9 degrees, we see roughly 27 percent less spin and a slightly higher launch angle with the Wilson, resulting in more carry and roll.

On course testing shows a driver that desperately wants to keep the ball in play, either hitting the fairway or playable rough in 20 of 25 holes where driver was used over a two-day, 36-hole trial with respectable distance.

Could an 18 handicap succeed with this driver? As usual, it depends on why a given golfer is an 18. An 18 handicapper who generally handles the driver well may find a friend in the FG Tour F5. An 18 who truly struggles off the tee may find the F5 only offers a first wife level of forgiveness, and may want to consider something more willing to tolerate mistakes.

The FG Tour F5 driver will be available in early January, and will list at $379.99.

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FAIRWAYS & HYBRIDS

The F5 fairway metals and hybrids also incorporate the Fast Fit adjustable hosel, while the fairway metals feature low/forward interchangeable weights.

The fairways are available in 13.5, 15 and 17 degree models, adjustable 1 degree down and two degrees up in ½ degree increments.  List price is $229.99.

The F5 hybrids will be available in 17, 20 and 23 degree models.  They’ll be loft adjustable 1 degree up or down, and lie adjustable between standard and 2 degrees upright. List will be $209.99.

Availability for both will be early January.