COVID-19 may have stalled this spring’s retail business, but OEM R&D teams are still hard at work. A new Wilson driver hit the USGA Conforming List this week, with the code name WLabs. All signs indicate this driver could fill a glaring hole in Wilson’s lineup.
“We’ve been working to get drivers in play with our Tour players,” Wilson Golf Club Innovation Manager Jon Pergande tells MyGolfSpy. “We’re doing some testing with our guys with that club, and getting it on the USGA website means if they wanted to put it into play, they could.”
The WLabs driver is listed only in a 7.5-degree loft, but it is adjustable. Pergande confirms WLabs is a prototype for an unspecified tour player or players.
“Working with our Tour players to develop product is an ongoing project,” he says. “We value their opinions and their judgment, and ultimate judgment is to get something into play.”
None of Wilson’s top Tour players carry a Wilson driver. Gary Woodland and Padraig Harrington both game TaylorMade SIMs, while Kevin Streelman games a PING G410 LST. As of last season, Brendan Steele bagged a PING G400 MAX.
“WLabs is a prototype, and we’re getting feedback from our players,” says Pergande. “We’re doing what we can to get a driver into their bags.”
A New Staff Model?
The Staff Model lineup, according to Wilson, is designed for – and with – the best players in the world. Steele played a crucial role in developing the Staff Model blades, while Woodland bagged a Staff Model utility iron prototype while winning the U.S. Open last year (they were released in November). Staff Model wedges came out in December, so the only empty boxes on the checklist are metalwoods.
Wilson wouldn’t commit to saying WLabs will eventually become the Staff Model driver, but the blueprint seems to fit. Wilson told us last winter to expect a better-player focused driver under the Staff Model banner at some point. The catch, however, is getting into a Tour player’s bag. As mentioned, none of Wilson’s PGA Tour staff bags it drivers (although – oddly – they do use Wilson head covers), but then again, none of Wilson’s current driver lineup can be considered better player-centric.
The year-old D7 driver is a non-adjustable, lightweight game improvement driver. The new Launch Pad is a non-adjustable, lightweight, anti-slice super game-improvement driver. Neither screams Tour.
As for the Driver vs. Driver winning Cortex, Wilson insists it was always intended to be a one-year and done product. It’s officially discontinued, although you can still find them at retail.
Wilson has done an okay job at developing drivers for the masses. The D100, 200, and 300 drivers all performed adequately in past Most Wanted testing. This year the D7 finished fourth overall in carry distance and 5th overall in total distance. Wilson has struggled to develop a Tour-level driver, although then-staffer Troy Merritt did win the 2018 Barbasol Championship bagging a D300. It would seem for the WLabs to evolve into a Staff Model, someone on Wilson’s Tour Staff will have to actually game it.
On a quasi-related note, it would appear an update to the now four-year-old FG Tour V6 irons may be closer to becoming a reality. We learned last winter the update would also fall under the Staff Model banner.
“We’re working on a good replacement for that,” says Pergande. “You’ll probably hear more about that later this year.”