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ULTIMATE REVIEW! – Cleveland Launcher DST Driver

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The Cleveland DST Driver was part of our New! Ultimate Review System … from here on out at MGS you can expect to have the most thorough reviews in golf. No need to go searching from site to site or from magazine to magazine anymore…because we have come up with a system that is not only the most un-bias and painfully honest but also the Most complete, Comprehensive and Detailed Golf Gear Reviews PERIOD!

The Cleveland Launcher DST Driver Review!

In my review of the Adams Speedline Fast 10, I discussed the fact that with driver head sizes and COR maxed out (at least as far as the USGA is concerned), golf equipment manufacturers are looking for alternative methods to squeeze out another 5-10 yards from what they hope will be your next driver.  With Adams it’s all about aerodynamics. Cleveland, on the other hand, with their latest offering,  has chosen to take a slightly different approach.   While I won’t go so far as to say they’ve thrown aerodynamics to the proverbial wind, what is clear from the new Launcher DST (the latest offering from the company’s popular launcher series), Cleveland is putting the emphasis on weight; that is to say they’re eliminating it as much as humanly possible.

The Launcher DST features what Cleveland calls Sub 300G Ultralight Technology (quite a mouthful).  Cleveland worked with Mitsubishi to develop a slightly longer (45.75″)  ultralight (47g) Diamana shaft.  They paired that with an ultralight (40g) grip to create a driver that produces higher clubhead speeds, which of course translates to higher ball speeds, which of course further translate to more distance.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Lancher DST Technical Specifications

  • Loft: 9°, 10.5°, 12° (RH Only)
  • Length: 45.75″
  • Volume: 460cc
  • Swing Weight: D4 (Assumes stock shaft and grip)
  • Stock Shafts: Mitsubishi Diamana Red Ultralight 44

What We Tested, and How We Tested It

Cleveland sent us a Launcher DST for testing.  Our sample has the following specifications:

  • Loft:
  • Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana Red Ultralight 44
  • Flex: Stiff
  • Grip: Cleveland Ultralight (40g) by Lamkin

Like we always do when we receive a new club, we tested the specifications against the manufacturers stated specs.  I then taped the crown and sole with Ghost Tape to protect the clubs during our testing process and finally, I invited some guys to stop by, take some swings, and provide their opinions, and of course, provide us with actual performance data.

All performance testing was done using PGA TOUR Simulators, powered by 3Trac, from aboutGolf.  Testing took place at Tark’s Indoor Golf Club; a state-of-the-art golf training, club fitting and repair facility located in Saratoga Springs, NY.

With our simulator’s data capture capabilities disabled so that distance and accuracy wouldn’t influence our subjective opinion polling, we asked several golfers to provide us feedback on the look, sound, and feel of the club.  We also asked for their opinion on the overall value of the club, as well as their opinions on the overall quality and performance of Cleveland golf products in a more general sense.

A subset of testers including golfers with low, middle, and high handicaps, was asked to participate in more thorough tests where not only was data collected for the shots they hit with the Cleveland Launcher DST, but also for their current driver.

For full details of MyGolfSpy’s testing methodology, see our testing details page.

Performance Rating

For the performance portion of our review, we had 5 golfers of varying skill levels hit both their own driver, and the Cleveland Launcher DST.  In almost every case our testers increased their ball speed, as well as both their carry and total distances.  Only one golfer (Ron) actually lost distance with the DST.  Conversely, one could infer that the additional shaft length has a negative impact on the accuracy of the driver.  Of our 5 testers, only Kent was equally as accurate with the Launcher DST as he is with his own driver.  On average, our testers lost 6.5 yards of accuracy, which, while not as substantial as some accuracy losses we’ve seen, it’s certainly enough to add up to a couple extra missed fairways over the course of a day.

Tossing our Ron’s results for a moment, our testers gained between 3 and 9 total yards of distance compared to their present driver.  The decision a potential buyer will need to make is whether or not that extra distance is worth risking a measurable loss in accuracy.

The Numbers For The 5 Golfers:

>> Performance Score: (53 out of 60)

Subjective Rating

Looks

If there’s a word that sums up the general consensus of our testers as far as the looks of the Launcher DST are concerned, it’s simply “ordinary” which is not a bad thing nowadays.  Overall, our testers approved of the simple, understated appearance of the DST.  Despite being described as having “no major bells or whistles”, our testers like what was described as a “simple, classy looking club”.  One of 2 golfers named Dan to test the Launcher DST said that in his opinion, “some drivers out there are getting too crazy with their head shape.  The Launcher has a classic look to it – not distracting in anyway.  As one of the testers, I’d agree with that assessment, and another one of our testers was dead on when he described the Launcher like this:

“Very attractive club, classic pear shape, nothing weird about it. Set up square and looks wonderfully simple.”  – Ben, 10 Handicap

Sound

As with Looks, our testers consistently rated the Cleveland Launcher DST as average.  While nothing negative was said about the sound, a couple of our testers thought the Launcher DST has “no real wow factor” at impact.  Others said it sounds “fine”, and “average for the state of the industry”, adding that it’s “nothing surprising in either a good or a bad way”.    Although one tester rated the Sound as a 9, most of the scores were in the 5 to 7 range.

Surprising to me at least, several of our testers commented that they don’t care about sound one way or another.  One of our Dans summed up his feelings like this:

“Sound is not the most important factor involved in picking out a driver for me, unless it had a really obnoxious, piercing sound to it which the Launcher does not have.” – Dan (6 Handicap)

Feel

While our testers generally liked the feel of the club, there were some who pointed out that the feel is so consistent that the club doesn’t always provide the desired feedback on mishits.  Our 6 handicap said “the ball really seemed to explode off the tee”, but like others suggested there is a “lack of feel”, specifically citing mishits off the toe which “did not feel missed at all”.  Our testers were willing to overlook a bit of lost feedback; consistently rating the feel in the 7-8 range, but our 10 handicap, Ben, expressed the prevailing opinion when he said:

“Felt solid on just about everything, but that’s par for the course these days. Wish it was a bit more obvious where you mishit the ball. Mistakes show up on the launch monitor, but it’s hard to feel them”. – Ben, 10 Handicap

Value

Finally, I shared with the testers the retail price of the Cleveland Launcher DST and asked them to rate the overall value of the club.  At $299, the Launcher DST is one of the more reasonably priced drivers on the market so it comes as no real surprise that it received its highest overall marks for value.  While the scores ranged from 6 to 9, the average was roughly 8 out of 10.  Tester Ron said that “based on price, the DST is a good club to round out your Cleveland set”.  Some testers rated it among the best they’ve tried this season, and I find myself agreeing with tester Mark:

“Compared to what else is available at $300.00, it’s one of the best clubs available at that price.” – Mark, 14 Handicap

>> Subjective Score: (29 out of 40)

SpecCheck Rating

For woods and hybrids, our current SpecCheck involves verifying length, Swing Weight, and Flex.  The Cleveland Launcher DST we received was within tolerances for length.  We measured Swing Weight a tad lighter than advertised, but we’re willing to chalk that up differences in our scales.  In the grand scheme of things, 1 swing weight is nearly imperceptible.

When measured on the DigiFlex (butt clamped 5″), the Diamana Ultralight Shaft measured 260 CPMs, which puts it right on the cusp of X-Flex (call it a strong stiff) on MyGolfSpy’s Flex Chart.  Given how many of the shafts I’ve seen (both as a reviewer, and as a guy who helps out with set analysis), that measure significantly softer than advertised, I’m absolutely delighted to find a shaft that’s every bit as strong as it’s supposed to be.  Kudos to Cleveland and Diamana for getting it right.

(UPDATE:) – After discussing our review procedures with several OEMs, we’ve decided that, while still included in the review, SpecCheck will no longer be part of the total score.  The methods and tools use to measure the specifications we track vary greatly from one manufacturer to the next.  Because of these differences, SpecCheck, as it was originally conceived, was perhaps overly strict from a scoring perspective (though I still think it’s a good idea).  With that said, SpeckCheck will continue to be included in every review in order to provide a baseline for you to compare clubs from the various manufacturers.  To account for the change in our review procedures, the subjective portion of our review will now count for 40% of the total score, while performance accounting for the remaining 60%.

Our Conclusion

Based on my observations and conversations with my testers, I’m inclined to say that although the Launcher DST performed admirably, there wasn’t a whole lot of excitement for the club itself.  The enthusiasm level of golfers we brought in to test the Launcher were, to a man, luke warm at best .  The testers appeared more interested in what they might get to test next as opposed to what they were actually testing.  Interestingly, one of the questions we asked (although we didn’t calculate any portion of the score based on the answers), is “With respect to overall quality and performance, how would compare Cleveland Golf to others in the industry”? With respect to overall quality and performance, how would compare Cleveland Golf to others in the industry”? With a baseline of 3 for average, or no opinion, the overall majority of our testers rated Cleveland a (4 out of 5)

The slightly favorable opinion is not surprising considering the the assortment of Cleveland wedges scattered throughout our tester’s bags. My suspicion is some preconceived notions about Cleveland woods vs. Cleveland wedges might have skewed the subjective testing a bit, although I have no actual proof. My personal takeaway from the testing experience is that, although they make a quality product, and a better than competitive price, Cleveland appears to have a marketing problem on its hands; insomuch as the level of buzz surrounding new, non-wedge, products doesn’t appear to be nearly at the same level of products from its competitors. Not one tester indicated he would definitely purchase the Launcher, although we did have one tester ask to take it out on the golf course for some additional testing. All of this speaks to the notion that in many golfers mind, Cleveland is still considered primarily a wedge company.

With respect to overall performance, the Launcher is a pure distance machine. The ultralight design appears to have a measurable (although not necessarily substantial) impact on overall distance, and despite some loss of accuracy that we think is tied to the increased shaft length.  Yet it’s worth mentioning that while longer than standard, at 45.75″ the Cleveland Launcher DST is shorter, and measurably more accurate than many of the comparable drivers we’ve looked at thus far.

At $299 the Launcher DST is competitively (if not bargain) priced considering its high overall performance (particularly the distance portion) score.   There’s not a doubt in my mind you could spend a lot more, and walk away with a whole lot less.

>> Total Score: (82 out of 100)

RELATED ARTICLES:

- ULTIMATE REVIEW! – Adams Speedline Fast 10 Driver
- ULTIMATE REVIEW! – Callaway Jaws Wedge
- ULTIMATE REVIEW! – Dynacraft Prophet Tour Iron

Review Summary

B
82.00

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Rowland April 24, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Sounds like a Taylotmade Burner Superfast Spec

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Justin April 25, 2010 at 6:44 pm

“After discussing our review procedures with several OEMs…” sounds like “stop showing people that we screw up or we won’t send any more products!” to me. Screw them- keep doing what you do, and keep SpecCheck as part of the overall score. Obviously, there will be tolerances- that’s what happens when companies mass-produce millions of clubs for millions of people, whether those people fall into the manufacturer’s “standards” or not.

In my opinion, SpecCheck reminds me how important a custom fitting truly is.

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Jim Freels April 26, 2010 at 6:11 am

I agree with you, Justin. Sounds like MGS got told “…if you actually tell people how poor our quality is, we won’t give any more free clubs to test.” Actually, I am wondering if thoes cheap chinese conterfeits you get on ebay won’t score just as well.

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GolfSpy T April 26, 2010 at 9:45 am

I certainly can understand why one might think we “got told” to change our review process or else, but I can assure you that wasn’t the case. Let me first reiterate that we have never, and will never change or compromise our review process based on pressure, threats, or what have you from OEMs or component manufacturers. Simply put, there are other ways to obtain clubs.

Just as there is no standard definitions around the notion of flex, there is really no true industry standard with respect to the tools that each manufacturers use to measure/spec their clubs. In many cases, major OEMs have their own proprietary equipment they use – equipment we could never hope to get our hands on. The bottom line is, Nike’s 46 inch shaft, isn’t the same as Cobra’s 46″ shaft, and neither is the same as TaylorMade’s.

When I conceived SpecCheck, I had a fairly bull-headed notion of how things should work, but through a couple rounds of tests, it became painfully clear that just about everyone in the industry is measuring things differently than we do – and differently from one another.

While not a single OEM threatened to withhold product (our readership is strong enough that an OEM choosing to exclude themselves from our reviews, when all of their major competitors willingly participate doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either), we did discuss our review procedures with some, and in all cases, the questions weren’t about the validity of the measurements themselves, but instead it was all about their tools vs. our tools.

In the end, after careful internal discussions, we at MGS decided the most fair, and universally applicable approach was to continue our SpecCheck, report the results, but not base any portion of the final score on those results. Without industry standards (and I certainly wish there was a governing body, or a standard set of tools which all manufacturers must use), all we can reasonably do is provide the information, and let the readers determine if SpecCheck is important. From our perspective, we want to provide as much comparative information as possible, but at the same time, we’d had to see (as an non-specific example), and driver score well for both subjective and performance testing, only to take a hit because our tools don’t agree with the tools of the manufacturer.

With that in mind, the restated goal of SpecCheck is to provide a baseline comparison for similar products across all manufacturers. We’re not in a position to say whose method for measuring shaft length, or lie angle is correct (I wish we were), but we can apply our standard so that you can see differences between manufacturers.

We knew SpecCheck as originally conceived would have a limited shelf life. Our estimation was that it wouldn’t take long before we started receiving near custom built tour van quality clubs. What good would it do to report that every club we get is perfect, when we know the off the rack stuff probably isn’t as tightly spec’d? We hope that by eliminating SpecCheck as a scored piece of the equation OEMs won’t feel any pressure to send us better-than-what-the-consumer-gets product – and that benefits everyone.

-GolfSpy T

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John Barry April 26, 2010 at 7:40 am

Spec check must stay, it’s a perfect measuring tool for club testing.

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Jimmy Lett April 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

Still much better then any magazine I get. Great job MGS. I have tried this driver and agree with everything you said about it. It performs well.

Once again, very thorough and informative. Keep up the great work.

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BTO April 27, 2010 at 4:59 am

What does DST mean? The letters DST (Dynamic Sole Technology) has been use on our putter heads for 8 plus years and is copyrighted….

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Preston April 27, 2010 at 9:31 am

Although this testing and review method does seem much more comprehensive than other publications and sites, I do have a concern. Since we all know the benefits of club fitting and that a golfer who has a high swing speed should be using different specs to the same club as a slow swinger, why are all the testers using the same loft and shaft combination despite the fact that those not being appropriate to their swing? Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the companies aren’t going to send you a club in all of the various head and shaft combinations, but I am still slightly concerned. What if the testers are gaining performance because the test club just happens to be closer to what they need in loft and shaft flex and not because of the club head itself. I know plenty of people with clubs lofted way to low and too stiff that would almost certainly benefit from a 9.5 loft and stiff flex in just about any driver, not just the one being tested. Again, I want to applaud the efforts to be more objective in testing than others, but since I love this site and the idea of these reviews, I just want it to be the best it possibly can.

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GolfSpy T April 27, 2010 at 11:16 am

Preston, we don’t disagree. I can’t recommend enough that everyone get custom fit for absolutely every club in their bag. That said, as we’ve discussed in the past, with the exception of irons (which almost nobody stocks anymore) the majority of golfer still buy off the rack. Even with irons, fitting often doesn’t advanced past length and lie.

Unless otherwise specified, we request the most commonly purchased head/shaft combo (almost always 9.5 degrees, stock shaft, stiff flex), from the manufactures. In most cases this proves to be the best “off the rack” fit for the majority of our testers. Where the club is clearly not a good fit, we’ll point that out.

In a perfect world, we’d be able to get all of our testers fit, but we’re not there (yet). It it extremely difficult to do a true apples to apples comparisons when every manufacturer is offering a different stock shaft, and different selections of custom shafts. Again, the off the rack combo offers the best compromise, and for what it’s worth, represents the shaft/head combination that the overwhelming majority of golfers purchase.

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Preston April 28, 2010 at 5:52 am

Despite my nitpicking in the previous post, I think this is the best review format I have seen. Although in a perfect world you would be able to give results for all loft/ shaft flex combinations, it is just not at all practical. I only hope that your staff and resources will continue to increase so that you can provide even more of the great info than you already do. I believe this to be the best source for golf equipment news and info, web or otherwise. Keep up the good work guys and I will continue to direct eyes to your site whenever I can. I am not one to give out unsolicited advice or recommendations to other golfers, but I always direct people to you if equipment is ever the topic of conversation.

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Austin May 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm

I Bought this driver as a result on my older Ping G5 being stolen. The specs on my driver match exactly the one that was tested. Just like the testers I have lost accuracy with the driver compared to my previous one (also a 9 degree with stiff shaft.). I seem to be slicing the ball quite a bit more. Would I benefit from having the shaft shortened a .5-1.0 inch? If so would I need to have my swingweight changed?

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joseph May 16, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Hi – I would like to query the results of accuracy testing for the DST. I notice your users tested the stiff shaft version – yet only one tester carries his drive more than 250 yards. Yet, you also noted in the spec check that the stiffness is almost like an x-stiff. I have now had some experience with this club and I have found that it plays very stiff. As anecdotal evidence, I bagged the stiff shaft version for a while. I found the weight to be good and could swing faster than normal – average is 98 mph but good swings can be 102. I carry the ball a similar distance to 4 out of 5 of your testers. But I just found the stiff shaft to be too stiff. The result was a push or sometimes a pull as I compensated with the stiffness by pulling with my shoulders. As further evidence, I had an Asian Tour Pro, who is top 100 on Asian Tour and has tour registered stats of 297 yard carry distance hit the same specs that you tested, 9.0 deg/stiff. he absolutely striped it (About Golf simulator, radar version). Cleared 300 yards consistently, straight flight. His average swing speed is 112-116mph, usually plays x flex.

I believe that since it came out, people looked at the weight of this shaft and assumed it would play soft to flex. In fact I have found it to be the opposite. I now have the 10.5 in regular and like the flight on my good swings.

Could the stiffness of the shaft not account for the loss of accuracy in your test?

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