Key Takeaways

  • Wilson Staff D9 driver features computer-designed Peak Kinetic Response (PKR) variable-thickness face.
  •  Fairways and hybrids are Wilson’s first to combine variable-face thickness and 455 maraging steel.
  • All are non-adjustable, fixed-hosel metalwoods.
  • Real-deal Tensei CK Blue (driver, fairways), Tensei AV Silver (hybrids) are stock.
  • Driver ($349.99), fairways ($219.99), hybrids ($199.99) for sale starting Jan. 26.

The new Wilson Staff D9 driver, fairway woods and hybrids probably won’t lead the pack in innovation, technology or style. But it would be wrong to presume they’re lacking in innovation, technology or style.

Specifically, Wilson shifted its supercomputer into overdrive to design the new D9 driver. The new D9 fairway woods and hybrids didn’t get the full UNIVAC treatment but they are the first Wilson metalwoods to combine variable-face technology with 455 maraging steel.

For a company fighting for metalwood relevance, it’s a step in the right direction. And while the D9 probably won’t be causing the Big Five any sleepless nights, there’s plenty here for your average golfer to ponder. Especially if he or she doesn’t want to ante up the five bills for a new TaylorMade, PING, et al.

Wilson Staff D9 Driver – Fire Up The Computer

The Wilson D7 was a sneaky-good driver. It didn’t get much fanfare but it was a solid performer for us in both 2019 and 2020 Most Wanted testing. In fact, the D7 copped Best Value for Mid-Swing Speed last year.

To make a sneaky-good driver a sneaky-better driver, Wilson is firing up its computer.

Wilson is one of a growing cadre of OEMs making use of computerized intelligent design. Wilson is using its own supercomputer and iterative software to design, test and optimize components faster. The software can ultimately come up with an optimal design over a single weekend that an entire team of engineers might never find on their own.

Wilson Staff D9 driver

Callaway first made hay with its AI-designed Flash Face. Wilson’s Golf Club Innovation Manager, Jon Pergande, says what his team is doing is similar but not exactly the same.

“Our technology and how we use it might be a little different (than Callaway’s),” he says. “We have about 150 CPUs of power dedicated to running simulations and evaluations to yield better products. With this generative design process, we can get 80 to 90 percent down the road with a new technology that we probably would have never thought of in the first place.”

In the old days, R&D would come up with an idea, make prototypes and put them in play for several weeks. They’d gather feedback, make changes and do it all over again. Now that process goes quite a bit faster and allows for more feedback, especially from an OEM’s Tour staff.

Wilson Staff D9 driver

PKR Power

For the Wilson Staff D9 driver, the computers came up with something called Peak Kinetic Response or PKR.

“PKR is face technology,” says Pergande. “I call it ‘Packer face’ because I’m from Wisconsin.”

This weekend’s NFC championship game aside, PKR is about maximizing ball speed across a wider swath of the face. You’ve probably read something like that here before since every OEM on the planet is working toward that same goal. Traditionally, growing the sweet spot meant moving around a raised oval area in the center of the clubface to change overall performance. Pergande says the computer allows them to venture outside that box, so to speak.

“We divided the face into a bunch of different zones and then had the computer manipulate the size and thickness of those zones and the transitions between those zones,” says Pergande. “That led to some non-uniform thinking. We have thicker and thinner areas across the face. There are no flat or parallel surfaces or even any concentric design on the back of the face.

“It’s very organic in appearance but that’s what the computer decided would give us the best overall face from a heel-toe, high-low and center performance perspective.”

The PKR face itself is form-pressed and made of 6-4 titanium.

Crowns and Weights

Aside from the PKR Face, the Wilson Staff D9 driver departs from D7 in a couple of other ways. First off, Wilson is moving away from its tradition of lightweight drivers. Going all the way back to D100, the “D” driver in Wilson’s lineup was always its lightweight version. D9, however, is more traditionally weighted from grip to tip.

“Our goal is to attack a broader consumer base and not limit ourselves to just lightweight,” says Pergande. “One of the challenges with lightweight clubs was getting it into the hands of better, higher swing speed players.”

Actually, Wilson is giving it to you two ways. The standard Wilson Staff D9 driver will come in what can be considered more traditional weighting. The D9 features a 10-gram sole weight that’s ever-so-slightly heel biased to move CG low and back. The stock Mitsubishi Tensei CK Blue shaft comes in lighter versions for both the A- and R-flexes while the S-flex is much heavier at 67 grams. In addition, the A-flex model comes with a three-gram heel weight instead of the 10-gram weight.

One D7 holdover is the composite (Wilson calls it [K]composite) carbon fiber-Kevlar crown. The lightweight crown not only helps with CG placement but also helps improve sound and feel.

“The sound of the driver comes from three surfaces,” says Pergande. “You have face impact which is high frequency and not usually a concern. Then there’s the sole which provides the largest feedback. That’s the noise that makes everyone look at the driving range. And, finally, there’s the crown. That’s what you as the golfer experience most directly. And we try to dampen those vibrations as much as possible.”

Wilson Staff D9 driver

Specs, Price and Availability

The Wilson Staff D9 is a fixed-hosel driver, meaning it’s not adjustable. It comes in three lofts: nine, 10.5 and 13 degrees. As mentioned, the Mitsubishi Tensei CK Blue is the stock shaft in A-flex (53 grams), R-flex (54-grams) and S-flex (67 grams). The CK stands for the carbon fiber-Kevlar weave used in the shaft to promote a smooth bend profile. Mitsubishi categorizes the CK Blue is mid-launch, mid-spin.

The Lamkin Crossline Genesis grip is also stock.

Pricewise, the D9 should make you smile just a little. It will retail for $349.99 and it goes on sale Jan. 26 at retail and at Wilson.com.

Wilson Staff D9 Fairways and Hybrids

OEMs throw around terms like “maraging steel” and “Carpenter Custom 455 steel.” Maraging steel is a strong, low-carbon alloy containing nickel, small amounts of titanium and chromium to prevent corrosion.  Golf club designers love it because it delivers their Holy Trinity: superior strength, durability and lasting ductility.

The 455 represents the specific grade of the maraging steel. 455 is soft and formable in the annealed condition. After heat treatment, however, it becomes golf club strong and ductile. “Carpenter Custom” is actually a brand name of Carpenter Technologies, a $2-billion worldwide steel manufacturer.

Now that we’ve had our metallurgy lesson, let’s look at the Wilson Staff D9 fairways and hybrids.

“This is the first time we’ve used variable-face technology and Carpenter Custom 455,” says Pergande. “Prior to using variable-face technology, it was just the Carpenter Custom steel. We’d make it as thin as possible to get the best response we could.”

Variable-face thickness in the smaller fairway and hybrid heads has a couple of benefits. First, obviously, is better ball speed across a bigger face area. The other is that the variable-face thickness can take a few grams out of the face and be used elsewhere in the head. It’s not a lot but with heads that small, any little bit helps.

Sized For Distance

The Wilson Staff D9 fairway metals aren’t what you’d call petite but you can’t really call them oversized, either.

“The fairway woods serve a purpose. They were designed with our Tour staff for performance,” says Pergande. “If your goal is distance, bigger is better and more forgiving. Even ‘better player’ fairway woods are getting bigger. It’s a race for ball speed and distance, similar to where drivers were a few years ago.”

Like the fairway metals, the D9 hybrids fill that space between smaller, better player iron-replacement hybrids and the ultra-forgiving mini-fairway wood type hybrids.

“You do have to consider that you do have to hit the ball off the ground most of the time,” explains Pergande. “We do have to be conscious of overall size. If you want a little bit larger face, you have to pay extra attention to where the weighting is so you can get the club to the ball and make sure the ball gets up in the air.”

In our limited testing, we found the 15-degree 3-wood – with a 10-gram weight low, back and a touch to the heel – easy to launch. The hybrids don’t have any added weight but those, too, were easy to launch high and land soft.

Specs, Pricing and Availability

As with the Wilson Staff D9 driver, the fairways and hybrids are both fixed hosel so there’s no adjustability. The D9 fairways will be available in three loft options – 15-degree 3-wood, 18-degree 5-wood and 21-degree 7-wood. The Mitsubishi Tensei CK Blue shaft is stock in the same flexes and weights as the D9 driver.

The D9 hybrid line features six lofts – 17, 19, 22, 25, 28 and 31 degrees. The stock shaft is the Mitsubishi Tensei AV Silver in A-flex (61 grams), R-flex (64 grams) and S-flex (77 grams). AV stands for the Aluminum Vapor coated fiber coating that Mitsubishi says adds stability to what it considers a mid-launch, mid-spin shaft.

The Lamkin Genesis grip is stock.

The Wilson Staff D9 fairways will retail for $219.99 and the hybrids for $199.99.

Both will be available in stores and online on Jan. 26.