For Wilson, today is all about family. The Launch Pad family, to be specific.
As a family, the Launch Pads are more Mike and Carol Brady and less Al and Peg Bundy – that is to say, it’s all about forgiveness.
Wilson says Launch Pad is a problem solver for your average Joe golfer, the guy who plays golf once a week with his or her buddies for, you know, fun. The irons are all about eliminating the chunks, while the metal wood family attacks a problem with which many of us are all too familiar: the score-killing, ball-losing, soul-crushing, fun-sucking chronic slice.
Yeah, yeah, get lessons, practice, fix your swing, yadda, yadda, yadda. And yeah, OEMs are just trying to sell you stuff. None of that, however, means equipment can’t help a golfer enjoy himself a little more. And if that equipment can help turn the woods on the right into the rough on the right or maybe even the right side of the fairway, well that, according to Wilson, is the whole point behind the Launch Pad metalwoods.
The Slice Killer
“Part of the Launch Pad metalwood DNA is we’re trying to promote a left-bias or an anti-slice,” says Wilson Golf Club Innovation Manager Jon Pergande. “If you pick up the driver and look at it, it has all the features that promote a ball going left.”
Or right, if you’re a lefty.
The Launch Pad metal woods are unabashedly Super Game Improvement clubs, and Wilson is using every trick in the book to create woods to kill that slice.
“We’ve tried to subdue the hosel offset as much as possible to get a nice, clean look,” says Pergande. “But we also looked at weight biasing in the head, the spec of the face angle as well as the bulge of the face angle. We also have an upright lie. So when you add all those things together, including a lightweight shaft, you have a series of features that help promote the ball going left without pronouncing to the world based on visuals that this is a super anti-slice type club.”
Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. All three members of the Launch Pad metalwood family are attractive in styling, but it’s important to keep the term relative in mind. While Wilson has dressed them up nicely, there’s no mistaking it: the Launch Pad faces are very closed. If you’re the Elihu Smails of your group (“I never slice”), there’s nothing for you in the Launch Pad lineup. But if you’re a mere mortal and find yourself aiming way left to keep the ball in play (or right, if you’re a lefty), Launch Pad can give you some help.
Launch Pad Driver
Wilson is calling the hosel offset on the Launch Pad driver moderate. Okay, we’ll go with that, but as Pergande mentioned above, there’s more to the anti-slice recipe. Let’s start with 13 grams of weight located in the heel side of the sole largely the result of the doing away with the adjustable hosel.
“This type of golfer is looking for help in his game, and adjustability is a weight penalty,” says Pergande. An adjustable hosel is also a cost penalty that doesn’t necessarily help the target golfer. The extra weight in the heel helps with face closure and, when combined with all the other ingredients mentioned earlier, can help mitigate a slice.
“We did a bunch of testing with self-described slicers,” says Pergande. “What happens is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you think you’re going to slice the ball, you start aiming left. And the more you aim left, you start slicing the ball more. If you can hit it straight and get the spin axis down to zero, you won’t slice, and you can pick up 10 yards or so in distance.”
From a tech standpoint, there’s no carbon fiber in the head, but there is a variable thickness face made from 6-4 titanium. Overall, the Launch Pad driver is very light, weighing in at 272 grams overall.
“The math works,” says Pergande. “We’ve had Right Light technology going back to D100 and D200. For a large number of players who can’t create as much clubhead speed, this is an easier solution.”
Wilson is using the lightweight and high launching UST-Mamiya Helium shaft in black, which matches the black-white-chrome color scheme of the head very nicely, and is using a lightweight Wilson Staff Microlite grip, as well.
“We need this player to have a very light shaft,” adds Pergande. “The ease of swing matters. The lighter weight helps this person swing the club in a more relaxed fashion, which helps them put a better swing on it.”
The men’s driver comes in 10.5- (LH and RH) and 13-degree (RH only) models and play at 45.5 inches with a D1 swing weight. The women’s model is available in 14-degrees only (with purple-ish highlights) and plays an inch shorter and at a C4 swing weight.
Both will retail at $299.99.
Fairways and FYs
Remember the Wilson Fybrid? It was a circa 2008 cross-breeding of fairway woods and hybrids (think Callaway’s Super Hybrid, sans Jailbreak), and the line was more hybrid than a typical fairway wood, while at the same time being more fairway than a typical hybrid. The cornerstone of that line was the 19.5-degree degree FY club. Wilson’s bringing that name back not for an entire line, just for one club: the 19.5-degree Launch Pad FY.
“The FY club, at 19.5-degrees of loft, is about the ideal spec to have a place in most people’s bags,” says Pergande. “When we designed the Launch Pad 4 iron (at 21 degrees), we started to bridge the gap from a traditional iron set to a hybrid club. You have a very easy to hit long iron right next to where the FY is, so there’s no need to pull the long irons out of the set. The 4- and the 5-irons in the iron set have the performance that hybrids might otherwise take the place of.”
Wilson says the FY’s optimized loft to length ratio of 19.5 degrees and 41-inches is the easiest to hit combination for men with a handicap of 10 and above, while the women’s FY is optimized at 40 inches and a 20.5-degree loft. Both models feature the UST-Mamiya Helium shaft in black and the Wilson Staff Microlite grip. As with the Launch Pad drivers, the men’s FY has a swing weight of D1, the women’s a swing weight of C4.
Both the FY and the Launch Pad fairway woods feature a 455 Carpenter steel face, and the fairway, like the FY, shares the full line’s anti-slice DNA. The fairways are your standard 15-degree 3-wood, and 18-degree 5-wood (women’s models are 16- and 19-degrees), and the stock shaft and grip are the same as the FY, which begs the question: when would you go with the 5-wood and when would you go with the FY?
“That depends on the player type,” says Pergande. “You’ll get a slightly higher launch angle out of the 5-wood, but it is a longer-shafted club. When you consider the specology, the lofts line up nicely, but there’s that extra inch-and-a-half of club length with the 5, so you do get a gap. It comes down to what kind of shot are you trying to hit. If you’re a long way from the green, you need to find the club you’re most confident in to advance up the fairway.”
The Launch Pad FY will retail for $179.99, and the Launch Pad fairways for $199.99. The men’s clubs will be available in left- and right-handed models, but the women’s clubs will be right-handed only. They’ll be available for pre-order December 17th and will be in stores on January 13th.
Wilson’s offerings in irons and metalwoods are in a state of flux as we close out 2019. The FG Tour V6 and C300 irons – both standard and forged – are either at or nearing the end of their product cycles. The C300 driver is gone from the website, while the C300 fairways and hybrids are on closeout, as is the Cortex and the D300 driver. Once the dust clears, only the sneaky-good D7 and the Launch Pad will be in Wilson’s driver stable, meaning two non-adjustable drivers at the $299 price point and no drivers sitting in what you’d call the premium, adjustable category.
“This is taking a distinct look at where the market is for us,” says Pergande. “When you consider the D7 and the Launch Pad drivers, we’re offering great products at a great value.”
Wilson insists the Cortex, the winner of Driver vs. Driver 2, was always intended to have a one-year life cycle and that the discount structure (first discount in May, second – and final – discount this fall) was all part of the plan. Although no one really likes the $400- to $550-dollar price point for premium drivers, it’s where the market is. Considering 85- to 90-percent of the drivers sold in that price range is from Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist, Ping, and Cobra, it’s a pretty crowded market, one Wilson appears to be punting on – at least for 2020.
“We could join that fray and maybe get a little bit lost because we want a unique way to deliver performance and adjustability,” says Pergande. “Or we could take an approach that we know the consumer for D7 and Launch Pad exists, and this is a consumer that doesn’t want to spend a lot of money. They want a lighter, easier to hit product they can swing easy in the D7, or they have a left-to-right problem that we can solve with Launch Pad, so let’s go chase the space we can win at.”
With Launch Pad, Wilson appears to be transitioning away from its Distance-Crossover-Feel (D-C-F) equipment categories. The Launch Pad line is aimed at the 90+ golfer, and Wilson is all-in on Staff Model for its premium line. The guess here is if Wilson chooses to re-enter the premium, adjustable metal wood game, it would be in the Staff Model family. We will see a few more product launches from Wilson between now and the PGA Show, so it will be interesting to see how the line shakes out.