While no doubt some of you are already long past tired of hearing about Callaway's new FT Optiforce driver (I'm getting tired of writing about it), we've had several requests from readers asking how Callaway's new firecracker driver (Happy 4th everyone) the Optiforce compares (PERFORMS) against Callaway's dynamic duo of RAZR Fit Xtreme & XHot. Has Callaway created a dynamic trio, or just another ultralight flop (the market has seen plenty over the last few years)?
As you're probably aware by now, the marketing campaign for Optiforce is built around the premise that Lighter = Faster and Faster = Longer. Essentially, the FT Optiforce is so stupid light that you'll swing it faster. And if you swing it faster you'll hit the ball further.
In the FT Optiforce Gets Officially Official post I wrote, I said that one of the things I appreciated about the launch of the Optiforce (at least for those who watched the Callaway Talk's Segment on the new driver) is that Callaway wasn't going all in stupid in pushing the notion that absolutely EVERYONE will benefit from an ultralight driver. The reality is that while lighter is better for some, for some guys, particularly those with quicker tempo and faster transitions, lighter may not produce better results or even more head speed.
Lighter might actually suck.
A good deal of swing speed is derived from what you might call efficiency. If a club is so light that the golfer can't keep it on plane, or feel the head, or any of those other things (real or imagined) that happen during a swing, the golfer may not generate the same quality swing he might with a heavier driver. He might actually swing it slower.
Think of it this way:
Heavier = Faster = Longer.
As with nearly everything in the complicated equation that is golf club fitting; nothing is absolute.
You find me 5 well-informed guys who believe that lighter is better, and I'll find you 5 more equally as informed guys that will tell you heaver is better.
With Optiforce, as with any other driver, you need to figure out if the intended performance characteristics gel with your game.
Optiforce vs. XHot & RAZR Fit Xtreme
We had a some time left over at the end of yesterday's testing session for an upcoming driver review, so we asked our testers to spend a little bit of time hitting the Callaway FT Optiforce. Before we get to the data, let me be clear about one thing:
This is not a review.
We didn't have the full compliment of shafts and flexes at our disposal that we would for a full review. We also didn't hit the same number of shots as we normally would. The primary goal of our quick test was to see if our golfers would actually produce more clubhead speed with the Optiforce.
The Test Conditions
Our two senior testers hit an 11.5° XHot with the stock Project X shaft against the FT Optiforce 460 (configured at 11.5°), also with the stock 43g Project X Shaft. Our higher swing speed players tested with an 9.5° FT Optiforce 440 with the stock Diamana S+ shaft against a 9.5° RAZR Fit Xtreme with the stock Aldila Trinity Shaft.
Lower swing speed players tested R flex models, while our higher swing speed players tested with S flex.
We used a FlightScope X2 Launch Monitor to gather the data. As usual, mishits, misreads, etc. were dropped from the averages shown in the tables.
Slower Swing Speed Players
Lou's data is interesting. As you can see from the height field, he struggled to get FT Optiforce airborne. Whether that's an anomaly, or there's simply something about Optiforce that doesn't agree with Lou is something we'd have to investigate further.
You'll also notice a huge difference in total yards. We have our Flightscope set for dry ground, which results in excessive roll. Couple that with Lou's extremely low ball flight, and Louie's ball rolls like it's on the PGA Tour.
Really the key number in all of this is the clubhead speed. Lou was 2 MPH faster with the Optiforce. Given the difference in smash factor and ball speed, it's safe to assume that Lou made more centered contact as well. There's not a whole lot to be inferred there given the limited sample size, but worth nothing is that both drivers Lou tested have 46" shafts.
Joe's numbers are also compelling, but for different reasons. Despite being sufficiently warmed up, Joe's swing speed numbers went through the roof the moment he picked up XHot. Once again, this could be an anomaly, but given that Joe swung two other drivers consistently in the 84-86MPH range, it's intriguing to say the least that his numbers jumped the way they did.
We have seen this sort of thing before. For whatever reason, one driver can simply pop for a tester, on this day, for Joe anyway, it was XHot.
Swing speed aside, Joe produced a higher smash factor and less spin with the Optiforce. Other than the spin axis, all other numbers are remarkably similar for both clubs.
Higher Swing Speed Players
Arguably Blake produced the best argument for the new Optiforce. While he tends to be a high spin player, he's not overly quick to the ball, so on paper anyway, he's a guy I think could benefit from Optiforce.
As you'll note from the table above, Blake produced more clubhead speed, significantly more ballspeed, and a higher smash factor with the Optiforce 430 than he did with RAZR Fit Xtreme.
Differences in spin rates and axis tilt are marginal, however; not too surprisingly given the longer shaft, he proved less accurate with the Optiforce than with the RAZR Fit Xtreme.
Absolutely worth pointing out is that Blake's launch angle and apex (height) were substantially higher with Optiforce.
I can't say I'm the least bit surprised I didn't hit the Optiforce as well as the RAZR Fit. I've written at length about my quick, violent, Captain Caveman-inspired transition. Ultralight, even kinda-light drivers haven't proved a good fit for me in the past. Sure...on any given swing the results can be astounding, but time and time again I've proven to be a guy who's simply better off in the mid-70s, even into the 80 gram range. I'll argue until somebody proves otherwise, that I'm part of the heavier is better...maybe even faster crowd.
As you can see, I produced much better clubhead speed numbers and slightly better ball speed numbers. Like everybody else, I did produce a higher smash factor with the Optiforce, which I think is the most compelling bit of info to come out of our small test.
4 out of 4 testers produced a higher smash factor with the new Optiforce driver. Obviously that didn't always translate to more distance, but it's definitely a selling point.
Not surprisingly (to me anyway), the RAZR Fit Extreme produced less spin, while launching slightly higher.
What's the Takeaway from All This?
The answer remains the same: There are no absolutes. If you're a guy who has done well with 60 gram or lighter shafts, and you're not held back by a fear of needing to feel the head, then the Callaway FT Optiforce is definitely worth a look.
Even if we very quickly dispelled any notion that EVERYONE will swing FT Optiforce faster, the smash factor numbers are compelling. They suggest an extremely forgiving driver with the potentially to be an absolute beast among what our previous numbers suggests are some pretty damn beasty drivers from Callaway.
Guys who have been legitimately fit into heavier shafts (mostly for reasons of tempo and transition) I suspect will be better off in one of Callaway's other drivers. For those guys (guys like me), the RAZR Fit Xtreme, despite appearing almost ancient in the Callaway lineup, remains one of the safest bets for distance on the market today.
Not one to ever stop tinkering...at some point I'm going to drop a Matrix 7m3 into the FT Optiforce to see how it performs with a shaft that I know works well for me. I'll be sure to let you know what I find out.