:: A Long Drive Cross-Over
While we (im)patiently await the arrival of the forthcoming (like literally any damn day now) Element Driver from long drive powerhouse Krank Golf, I decided to take a look at (and try and put a little hurt on some golf balls) with the company's Rage Black Driver (which, strangely enough, is available in white...go figure). Krank Rage Black - White...yup, that's a real thing.
While The Golf Channel is planning to change a few things, historically, it's not like Long Drive has gotten a ton of airtime. Quick...name one long drive competetor. Sure...you probably guessed Jamie Sadlowski. Can you name 3 more? Didn't think so. The guys winning championships...they aren't exactly household names, and neither are the brands they represent. Those brands...Krank, Geek, SMT; they've dominated the sport for years (Krank drivers have won the RE/MAX Long Drive Championship 3 years running), and yet most golfers still would never consider bagging one of their drivers. Why is that?
I'll tell you why. Brandwashing. It's a vile disease.
Most of us grew up playing what we saw on TV, and consequently what we found on the shelves in our local proshops. One definitely leads to the other, and it does so to the exclusion of everything else. If you're a component company...or worse, you're viewed by the consumer as a long drive component company, finding your way in that guy's bag is tougher than winning an Oscar in a year when Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated.
TaylorMade, Titleist, Callaway, or PING...they all have straws, and they drink the milkshake. They drink it every time (yeah...I know...different year, different movie, but I haven't seen Lincoln yet).
:: A Pervasive Perception Problem
The long drive circuit is all about distance right? If you want to hit the ball as far as nature will allow you to in an open field, Krank makes all the sense in the world. Long drive is all about distance. You want to hit fairways, play good golf, and generally shoot lower scores...you need an OEM club. Long drive is not about accuracy. That's the majority mindset, anyway.
So let's put it out there right now. I didn't exactly have high expectations when it came to the Krank Rage Black. Those long drive guys are bigger than most of us. They hit it farther than most of us, but they're not exactly known for what you might call precision golf.
My thinking was that while Krank would probably be solid for distance, finding fairways might be next too impossible. The upside...300 yards into the woods is still 300 yards. Besides, even if chicks don't really love the long ball, us guys sure like to think they do.
Krank Rage Black drivers are available in lofts of 4°, 5°, 6°, 7.5°, 9°, 10.5°, and 12°.
Retail price for a head only, or the head with the stock Krank exclusive Aldila Authority (high launch) shaft is $299.00 You can upgrade to the lower launch, lower spin Tour or Tour Light (50g) shaft for an extra $99.
You know you're in long drive land when you find a 4° head as a standard option . While I'd politely suggest that very few of us would benefit from a driver with no more loft than the average Scotty Cameron, I'm sure our left-handed friends will be excited to learn that every loft Krank makes, even the 4°, 5° and 6° models, are available for the guys swinging from the other side.
It is my contention that, more often than not, the only two things that separate big OEM products from smaller component brands are paint and polish. While the little guys sink the tremendous majority of their budgets into making sure the products perform, bigger companies have the luxury of investing in performance, and still spending a little extra cash to make sure the clubs look good too. It's rare (though not unheard of) that a reader will suggest a big OEM club looks like it belongs on the shelf at Wal-Mart. With some component brands, it's an issue.
That's not to say everything appeals to everyone. Whether it's Cobra's orange, blue or sliver, Nike's red, TaylorMade's graphics, or the Cleveland Classic's retro look, it's safe to assume that no design is going to resonate with every golfer, but what the majority of big OEM designs have in common is that, even if the designs aren't your thing, the finish is impeccable. They look the part of a $300 (or $400...or $700) club.
Unlike many of the component brands we see, from a purely aesthetic perspective, the Krank Rage mostly holds its own. While like almost anything else that shows up at my office, there are elements that I don't love, the larger point is that nothing about the finish looks cheap or unrefined.
I'm certainly a bit more fond of the black version where the raised portion of the crown is matte while the rest of the crown is the traditional glossy black. The Limited Edition white model utilizes the same matte surrounded by glossy pattern, but with the white the difference in finish is less pronounced, and frankly glossy white paint on a driver has never really done it for me. I didn't like in when Cobra painted the ZL, and I'm not loving the white here either. It's not a bad thing...it's just not my thing.
Any time there's a little something extra on the crown, a few people are going to get agitated. The red accents don't impact me either way. I'm sure some will think they're great, and others will talk about bygone days of yore when crowns were all black, and that's how they're supposed to be, and red paint has ruined the golf industry...or something like that. Personally, I score it no big whoop...out of some amount of whoop.
Generally speaking I like the sole design, the Krank Rage Logo, and everything that goes along with it, but again, I just don't love the glossy white. In this case, I'd personally buy the black model.
The taller than average crown makes for a driver that appears more compact than it's 460CCs suggest it should, which gives the driver a slightly rounded appearance, and if not for the visibly raised middle section of the crown, we might be throwing around the word traditional to describe the general appearance...you know...except for that red paint thing. In two dimensions (and black and white), the Krank Rage would pass for standard issue. In the 3 dimensional, color-saturated world in which we live, the Rage is quite distinct.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the Rage (and upcoming Element) is the lack of distinction on the face. While scorelines on drivers are purely cosmetic, nearly every driver on the planet has them. The Krank Range is one of the few exceptions. The face is entirely devoid of any markings, scorelines, or anything else that might give the face some texture. It's as smooth as a baby's backside, which ironically enough is pretty damn bad-ass.
:: Sound and Feel
Even when you find a component that looks the part of a serious golf club, very often, when sound and feel are considered, the clubs fall flat on their faces. "Tinny", "like a garbage can", "hollow and dead". These are all things we've heard used to describe component clubs...and yeah, in some cases, even OEM clubs that definitely should have been designed better. My predictive opinion on the Krank Rage was "dull and clunky". No way it could hunt with the big dogs of the industry. As it turns out, however, for a company most of you have probably never heard of - where sound and feel is concerned - Krank most definitely is wearing big boy pants.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the Krank Rage is the best feeling driver I've ever hit. I still have my favorites, but on the days I hit the Rage Black I hit a handful (minus the thumb) of other drivers, and Rage was definitely near the top (I'd rank it a solid #2), and infinitely better than the clubs that trailed the pack. Even mishits lacked any clunky, or worse, overly harsh feedback. I definitely knew when I missed I missed, but I didn't get dinged (or clunked) for it.
My point in all of this is that, because of its long drive roots, some of us might be inclined to think otherwise, but Krank has produced a driver that from a sound and feel perspective, is easily competitive with PING, Adams, Nike, and basically everyone else who makes most of the drivers that are in most of your golf bags.
This is the part where most of you might be expecting that I'm going to tell you that the Krank Rage is the longest driver I've ever hit.
It's not, so I'm won't.
The reality is that it wasn't even the longest driver I hit on the days that I tested it. When I test drivers for a club report I almost always hit them along side my current gamer. It's going to be tough for any off-the-rack club, which is what the Krank Rage I tested basically is (even with the Aldila Authority Tour shaft installed). I've spent countless hours tweaking and tuning my current setup, and while I still haven't put a shaft I love in it, it's almost custom fit, and it's almost always going to beat off-the-rack.
The other driver that beat it is something I've been hitting for another project we're working on. While I wasn't fully custom fit for that either, the shaft I'm hitting it with isn't anything you're going to find off-the-rack either, and it's one that generally fits me very well. Like my gamer, it's almost custom fit, and for raw yardage, I expect it too would beat most anything else.
The lesson here: off-the-rack might work, but custom...and even almost custom, is almost always going to be better. That's not a knock on Krank, that's just what we call reality...and the numbers don't even begin to account for familiarity.
So what do the numbers actually say?
The Krank Rage Black, on average, produced only 4 yards less carry than my gamer. 4 Yards isn't insignificant, but neither does it tell the whole story. Remember, the larger mystery here was how well a club widely-regarded as just for long drive guys, would hold up from an accuracy perspective. Hitting it dead straight, I didn't think was realistic. Just keeping it out of the treeline would have felt like win.
As it turns out the Krank was the most accurate of the bunch. On average, I was almost 5 yards closer to the centerline with the Krank than with my gamer (2nd best). That alone was enough to get me thinking...
When I took a closer look at consistency, or what the industry generally likes to refer to as forgiveness, I found that across the board, for every metric that matters...ball speed, carry, accuracy; the numbers were much tighter, and much more consistent with the Krank. While my best shots weren't quite as long as the longest I hit with the other (almost custom clubs) clubs, the results with the Krank Rage were the most repeatable.
Given Krank's roots as a long drive company, I wouldn't have been shocked if the Krank Rage proved to be the longest, but the most accurate and the most forgiving? Huge surprise.
:: The Takeaway
It's going to take more detailed testing to tell you definitively if Krank is producing the best, or even among the very best drivers in the sport. What I can tell you is that the numbers suggest it's every bit as good as those big OEM clubs we test nearly every week. It's definitely a brand to consider.
No doubt some are going to have an issue with the lack of custom offerings, but that's mitigated by the option to purchase just a head. And yeah...Krank is no doubt losing customers because the sole of their club is stamped with "Krank" instead of...well...you know...those names you find on the shelves at Dick's and Golf Galaxy...the same brands that other publication gives gold medals to year after year, but if you're one of the growing number of educated golfing consumers who understands that logos don't always equal performance, then go find yourself a Krank driver. Hit it, and decide for yourself.
:: Much more accurate than expected
:: Extremely consistent (forgiving)
:: Feels as good as most anything else
:: Can be purchased as a component (head only)
:: Limited selection of stock shafts
:: High-gloss white is not my favorite
:: Lack of retail distribution makes trying before you buy difficult
:: $299/$398 price point may cause some to look at better known commodoties