Cleveland Launcher XL Halo Irons – Key Takeaways
- The 2021 iteration of Cleveland’s signature Super Game Improvement hybrid irons
- Artificial Intelligence-designed MainFrame face and CG/MOI optimization
- Available Aug. 20 in graphite ($899.99), Sept. 17 in steel ($799.99)
To fully understand the new Cleveland Launcher XL Halo irons, it may be best to grab a dictionary.
And look up Halo.
Merriam-Webster defines Halo as either a circle of light appearing to surround the sun or moon, a differentiated zone surrounding a central zone or object, or the aura of glory, veneration or sentiment surrounding an idealized person or thing.
I’m guessing that’s the one Cleveland likes.
In reality, Halo is an acronym. In Cleveland-speak, it stands for High Angle Lift Off.
And that, brothers and sisters, is exactly what these things do.
Cleveland Launcher XL Halo Irons – Ready For Lift Off
Cleveland has been making super-forgiving hybrid irons since at least 2007 and the new Launcher XL Halo irons stick to the recipe. They’re big, wide-soled and more forgiving than a puppy. They launch high and are designed for those weirdos out there who just play golf for fun.
“Getting out there and enjoying the heck out of your round is what we think golf should be about,” says Cleveland in its usual well-written and informative Product Launch Manual. “We play golf for the important things. Like laughing at your buddy’s breakfast ball, going for the green no matter the hazard and, occasionally, pure-ing it right down the middle.”
If you think jacked lofts are a crime against humanity or if you’re inclined to comment GET LESSONS or NO CLUB WILL FIX YOUR CRAPPY SWING, skip this article. These clubs aren’t for you and they won’t make you happy.
If, however, you do play golf for fun and you do laugh at your buddy’s breakfast ball and you would like to pure it down the middle maybe more than occasionally, you very well may find a friend in the Cleveland Launcher XL Halo.
The 2017 Cleveland Launcher HB irons were part of Cleveland’s return as a full-line equipment company. That model blew away the field in MyGolfSpy’s 2018 Most Wanted Super Game Improvement Iron testing. Its replacement, the Launcher HB Turbo, was also a top performer, finishing second overall in the 2020 testing. In both cases, it was at or near the top in Strokes Gained, accuracy and forgiveness. Unfortunately, both irons finished near the bottom for distance.
A 30-degree 7-iron in the Super Game Improvement category will do that to you.
And, to Cleveland’s credit, it’s not resorting to loft-jacking to fix it, either.
A.I. Meets SGI
We told you about MainFrame Technology last November in Srixon’s new ZX irons. Cleveland is bringing that same super-computer-fueled technology to the Super Game Improvement category with the Launcher XL Halo irons. Cleveland’s A.I. system has designed an HT1770M steel face with a network of grooves and channels milled in the back to optimize flex and, by extension, ball speed.
And, by extension, distance.
“It’s not the same solution for a game improvement club versus a Srixon club because it’s a different clubhead shape,” says Cleveland R&D VP Jeff Brunski. “Impacts happen in different areas so what we’re doing is optimizing for the impact pattern of a target golfer.”
And how, you may ask, does Cleveland know where on the face the target golfer actually impacts the ball? For that, you can thank the Launch Squad.
“It’s thousands of local players and we’ve been using them ever since we’ve been able to capture data on launch monitors,” says Brunksi. “We have an enormous data set so we know where a 15-plus handicap tends to hit his or her 8-iron. And, if you know that, you can design for that.”
So A.I. can do a buttload of iterations in a day and come up with something it might take a buttload of engineers a decade to design. In addition, Cleveland turned its computer loose on a new and potentially more fulfilling target.
“We’re also using it to figure out what CG and MOI combination will result in both maximum ball speed and maximum forgiveness,” says Brunski. “That’s literally millions of iterations of the entire inside of the club and where you’d want to put mass.
“No engineer could go through the process of considering all those combinations and then running impacts to see how the club performs.”
Cleveland Launcher XL Halo Irons – The Details
Cleveland is touting MOI throughout this month’s Launcher XL launches. And the XL Halo irons are no different. Specifically, Cleveland says the 7-iron MOI is 2,908 g-cm2, which is a 17-percent increase over the previous HB Turbo. It’s also the highest MOI ever in a Cleveland hybrid-style iron.
In plain speak, an iron as large as the XL Launcher will by definition have a ton of mass away from the center. The more the mass is extended, the more clubface rotation at impact slows. That’s good for the target golfer who tends to hit the ball on the toe or heel more often than they’d like. If the rotation is slowed, then in theory those shots won’t lose quite as much distance and should, in theory anyway, fly straighter.
Not straight, necessarily. Just straighter.
Another hybrid-iron benefit is they tend to be anti-chunk. Nothing turns a golfer into Norman Bates-in-a-dress faster than a Saturday spent with a case of the chronic chunks. To keep us all safe, the Launcher XL Halo irons feature progressive sole technology to keep Norman at bay: Gliderails on the long irons, V-Soles on the mid-irons and three-tiered soles similar to those on Cleveland’s Smart Sole wedges on the short irons.
“This is the biggest clubhead in this model we’ve made in any of the generations,” says Brunksi. “We want to make sure the turf interaction is working in the player’s favor. It’s a big old clubhead but we’re trying to give it very nice, Tour-like turf interaction.”
Another interesting touch is loft-specific grooves. The 4- through 7-irons have wider and flatter grooves for a little less spin and a little more distance. The 8-iron on up have thinner, deeper and higher-spinning wedge grooves.
Lofts: To Jack or Not to Jack?
In our Most Wanted Testing, Cleveland’s previous generation hybrid-style irons scored brilliantly in forgiveness, accuracy and Strokes Gained. As mentioned, they were well back in the pack for distance and lofts are the key reason why. The Super Game Improvement Category is packed with 26- and 27-degree 7-irons. Cleveland has stayed steady at 30 degrees. It won’t be the longest SGI iron you’ve ever hit.
“It’s a challenge to keep up with the market and give people maximum distance,” says Brunski. “But we want to make sure people get the ball up in the air. Everyone fights that battle but we have an advantage with these larger clubheads and the ability to get weight low and deep to offset some of those stronger lofts.”
As with its driver, fairway wood and hybrid siblings, the Launcher XL Halo irons come standard with Action Mass CB counterweighting. Cleveland is sticking an eight-gram weight in the butt end of the shaft.
“Golfers who tend to cast the club are going to see some benefit,” says Brunksi. “It helps you get into a better position at the top of the swing. And that helps you deliver the club more efficiently.”
Cleveland is also offering its Accuracy Build option for the XL Halos. Each club is built one-half inch shorter than standard. The ball won’t go as far but it will help the golfer who wants more consistency. Cleveland’s fitting carts will feature Accuracy Build shafts but the clubs will have to be custom ordered.
The Big Easy
You can call these irons The Big Easy, even if Ernie Els doesn’t play them. Cleveland says they’re for 15-handicappers and above. But no matter your handicap, if you’ve never hit one of these you should, at least once. It can be addictive.
“Getting the ball up in the air is key for distance and forgiveness keeps the ball in play,” says Brunski. “These clubs are not only for people who struggle with distance, though. I think that might be a misconception. They’ll work for a variety of swing speeds because they’re maximum forgiveness.”
As with the Launcher XL driver, I’ll submit my friend Brett as Exhibit A. Brett plays maybe 10 to 15 rounds a year, is an on-course chatterbox and is about the friendliest guy you’d ever want to meet. Don’t “GET LESSONS” him; he plays for fun. After trying a demo 5-7-PW set of the Launcher XL Halos, he said I could have them back after he dies or when Hell freezes over, whichever comes first. Granted, he was comparing them to an ill-fitting 20-year-old set of Titleists but he was hitting these higher, farther and a lot more consistently.
Sounds like a recipe for fun to me.
Cleveland Launcher XL Halo Irons: Specs, Price, Availability
The Cleveland Launcher XL Halo irons are available in 4-iron through sand wedge. The standard set, however, will be seven pieces, either 4-PW or 5-DW (D is Cleveland-ese for Gap). The men’s 4-iron through DW will be available for both lefties and righties. The optional sand wedge comes in right-handed only.
The same set makeup is available for women, although only right-handed models will be available at retail. Left-handed women’s sets will have to be custom ordered.
Cleveland head covers will be sold separately. Really.
Cleveland is releasing graphite-shafted models this weekend while the steel option will be released on Sept. 17. Whether this is due to COVID-related shaft availability or just a Cleveland nod to the target golfer is anyone’s guess. Either way, the Project X Cypher will be the stock graphite shaft in S-, R- and A-flexes. The 47-gram Cypher Ladies shaft will be stock in the women’s models.
When the time comes, the stock steel shaft will be the 98-gram True Temper XP90 in S- and R-flexes.
The Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 is the stock men’s grip while the lighter (35 gram) Winn Dri-Tack is the stock ladies’ grip.
A seven-piece Cleveland Launcher XL Halo set will retail for $899.99 in graphite and $799.99 in steel.
For more information, visit Clevelandgolf.com.