Sumitomo Rubber Company? Who or what is that? The answer- They are the makers of the driver that is flying under the radar like no other driver on the market. No adjustable weights. No carbon-fiber composite tops. Having already captured 2 victories on the LPGA Tour, including a major, in the hands of staffer Karrie Webb, and another victory on the PGA Tour by way of staffer Jim Furyk in 2006, it really begs the question: Just what is this W-506 driver? The answer is seemingly both very simple and complex at the same time.
When the Srixon W-506 arrived, I honestly can’t say it really made much of an impression on me. It looked like a 450cc driver. It had a nice shape to the head. The finish was attractively done in a black with blue metal flake paint with a polished sole. It had a shaft. There was a cool retro-styled red and black headcover complete with shaft-protecting sock. But where were all the gizmos and flash? After all, you can’t just own a new driver; it has to be a driving experience, complete with wrenches and wheels and instruction manuals. Gone are the days of being excited about a driver because it looks big and is constructed of titanium.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that there was a whole lot more in store with the W-506 than I was seeing initially. I decided to do my homework and read up on this mystery club. Srixon’s web site touted the virtues of “Power Impact Body Construction.” P.I.B.C. doesn’t make for the coolest of acronyms, but it does make one heck of an impression when clubface meets the ball. Srixon claims the technology allows for the entire clubhead to deform at impact, allowing for longer contact time between the clubface and ball. When I first tried the Srixon side by side with other drivers, this phenomenon quickly became apparent. The ball seemed to feel as though it was almost “adhered” to the clubface just a little longer. It’s tough to judge one one-thousandth of a second with mere human sensory perception alone. But, the ball did seem to go especially straight for me with the W-506, and had a unique feel that was at the same time both spring-like and a muted thwack.
The clubhead of the W-506 is a unique shape. Very angular lines flow from the clubface back to almost a “point” at the rear of the clubhead. It was a very reassuring shape that inherently pointed me to my target. There is a small gold-colored alignment “arrow” on the crown that also aids in aiming. The face appears somewhat small in size when viewed straight on, but is not noticeable at address, and I seemed to find the middle of it very consistently. The face angle is slightly closed at address, but I didn’t find there to be a hook tendency with this clubhead. I was able to hit controlled draws and also to fade the ball slightly. The launch angle was fairly high (my test club was a 10.5º) although my shots didn’t tend to balloon due to excessive backspin. Srixon describes the weighting of the head to be “low and back” to launch high and reduce spin.
The W-506 also utilizes a technology called “Power Impact Face.” Again, “P.I.F.” makes for a lousy acronym, but provides a sweet feel at impact. Srixon is smart, and knows weekend warriors like us miss the ball high on the toe and low on the heel of the clubface. So, they made the “sweet spot” accordingly, and positioned it almost at an angle along the clubface from low on the heel side, to high near the toe. Heel and toe hits did seem to go very straight, and didn’t evoke tooth-chipping reverberations to travel up the shaft into my hands. If anything, it was almost too sweet-feeling on mis-hits. It was tough to tell when I hit it on the heel or toe because it still felt pretty good and went straight. When it comes to complaints about a driver, I’ll take that any day!
The shaft installed in my test club was a proprietary shaft made for Srixon by Mitsubishi Rayon. Dubbed the “SV-3004,” it is a lightweight shaft at 59 grams, with a relatively high torque value of 4.1º. It featured a high kickpoint that helped to keep the shot trajectory down just enough. It seemed to be true to flex, and was easy to load. It was a little lighter than I prefer, but options such as the Grafalloy Prolaunch and Aldila NV are also options. The grip is a Golf Pride New Decade design with reminder rib on the back. It provided good traction and made for ease of use when placing my hands on the grip.
In a time when driver “experiences” are touted, the actual performance of a club sometimes seems to take a back seat to flash and gizmos these days. The Srixon W-506 is about performance and results. It’s the quiet kid in the corner that aces the exam on test day. I wasn’t expecting such straight drives and ease of use when the W-506 arrived, -but it delivered. The beauty of this club is the complexity of the design is hidden from view of the golfer. I can’t say it’s the longest driver I’ve hit, but it is definitely one of the straightest. Tour victories often mean big-time recognition for a driver, but Srixon’s latest driver seems to be lost in a sea of adjustable weights and carbon tops. Do not overlook this club if searching for a driver. Straight drives are the norm, and forgiveness is the name of the game. If you can find one at your local pro shop, give it a try. You might just be as surprised by this “unsung hero of the tee box” as I was.