Every season, there is one club that generates a lot of “buzz.” Whether it’s new materials, a unique design, or a certain Tour player having success with a certain club, some clubs just pique people’s curiosity. It would certainly seem the Cleveland Hi-Bore is this year’s “unique” club, based on it’s creative circumvention of the U.S.G.A.’s 460cc size limit. After all, .830 COR (coefficient of restitution) is .830 COR. So, what is the next frontier of driver design? Creative shapes and new materials seem to be the answer, and the Hi-Bore is providing a look into what could be the future of driver design.
At first glance, the Hi-Bore looks, well, -big. It isn’t until you set it next to more conventionally-shaped 460cc drivers that it no longer seems “huge.” The overall displacement of the Hi-Bore head is said to be 370cc’s, with the chassis or sole of the club being the size of a 520cc head. Given there is room to go up in size in the future, it makes you wonder just what we’ll see next from Cleveland golf. The face size is very similar to that of their previous generation of drivers- the Launcher Comp. Aside from the obvious “scoop” out of the top of the clubhead, Cleveland did a great job to make its appearance to be as unobtrusive to one’s concentration as possible. The matte-finished paint on the crown aids in somewhat disguising the “scooped” area, both in avoiding glare, and seemingly reducing the size by way of optical illusion.
The true engineering marvel is just how far and deep the center of gravity has been moved from the face. 25 grams of discretionary weight is located low and back in the clubhead. This was readily apparent when I first began testing the Hi-Bore. The initial launch angle of the head is very high, while the spin rates remain controlled, allowing for the “high launch, low spin” characteristics that are needed to maximize distance. The beauty of the Hi-Bore is that the “sweet spot” of the face is located in the middle of the clubface. Previously, to attain the desired high launch/low spin ballflight with larger-headed drivers, players needed to tee the ball especially high and make contact at the upper third of the clubface. It never seemed quite right, and brought fears of “popping up” drives for many players. After all- who wants to pay $400 for that new driver and put a skymark across the top of it?
So far, the Hi-Bore has done what Cleveland Golf had promised- achieving the high launch, low spin ballflight without undue alterations to the way we set up to the ball or swing the club. That said, what couldn’t possibly be described in any amount of commercial advertising or press releases is just how straight the Hi-Bore hits the ball. Granted, if you wish to “work” the ball from left to right, or vice versa, this might not be the best stick with which to do so. But, if you are looking to hit the ball long and straight, the Hi-Bore delivers. Even my most pronounced efforts in drawing or fading the ball were in vain. If you are counting on that “baby cut” on the tee box, you might have to re-think where you are aiming, ‘cause it’s not going to happen. However, long and straight are very good things in my book, as is probably the case for the majority of players.
At address, the face angle of the Hi-Bore appears to be slightly closed. Upon actually measuring the club with a face gauge, it turned out to be an optical illusion, as it measured square. The topline of the Hi-Bore does take a little getting used to, as it is quite curved. It took a little while to get my aim down with it. I ended up using the face markings primarily to align the clubhead toward my target. The Hi-Bore has enough going on visually, and I was glad to see Cleveland skipped any alignment aids on the crown. But, it did take a while to get accustomed to aiming the unique shape of the clubhead.
At impact, get ready to be awakened in a big way. The feel of the clubhead is very “immediate” I guess you could say. The feel is not harsh, but you definitely know when you’ve made contact. The sound is quite loud, and has an aluminum baseball bat type resonance to it. I got over it in a hurry when I witnessed the amazingly straight ball flight and experienced just how easy this club is to launch on a high, frozen rope of a trajectory. The face doesn’t feel quite as hot as some drivers, but the distance seemed to be about on par with the competition. But again, the straightness of your drives is what the Hi-Bore is all about.
My test club came with a Grafalloy Prolaunch 65 shaft, which when frequency tested, played true to flex. This was a good fit, and aided in the high launch characteristic of the clubhead. It measured just over 45.25”, and was finished with a Cleveland proprietary rubber grip. The grip size was quite large, and almost felt like a midsize grip. Given the straight-hitting nature of the head, the slightly longer finished length of the club did not pose a problem with consistency, although changing the grip did help me feel more comfortable with the Hi-Bore. The headcover included is well thought-out, and includes a built-in “grip” on the back of it that allows you to “grab on” and remove it in one motion with one hand. It’s a thoughtful design, which also includes a shaft sock for added protection.
Cleveland offers a good range of stock shafts to choose from. The Aldila NV and NVS, Grafalloy Blue and Prolaunch, UST Proforce V2, and a proprietary shaft produced by Fujikura, are all stock options from which to choose in various weights. This is a great selection from which to choose in attaining your desired ball flight at no additional cost. Additional custom shafts are available as well from manufacturers such as Mitsubishi Rayon, Graphite Design, and others.
The Cleveland Hi-Bore is a bold design that is on the forefront of driver design. A little different in the looks department, it quickly becomes apparent that form follows function with the Hi-Bore. Long, straight drives are the norm, with an extreme ease in launching the ball high with low spin that formerly required swing alterations and exaggerated tee heights. The Hi-Bore is still a golf club, and won’t swing itself. But, the resulting ball flight and forgiveness are, without question, very impressive. It probably won’t win the title of “World’s Longest Driver,” but it will keep up with the competition, and perhaps help you to find the short grass more often given it’s extremely straight ball flight. Buckle up, and get ready for takeoff with the Hi-Bore!