:: A Long Time Coming
I'd be lying if I said anything other than the Krank Formula 5 was at the top of my "Must Try Drivers" list for 2013. The damn thing just looked so cool (a subjective assessment, I know), and given Krank's long drive roots, we were working off the assumption that it would prove to be one of the longest clubs in our 2013 Most Wanted Driver Test.
We didn't get to test it - nobody did.
Unfortunately for basically anyone interested in the new driver, 2013 probably didn't start off as smoothly as the guys at Krank Golf had planned. Release of their latest model got pushed back because of some legal issues with UST-Mamiya (the Formula 5 was originally called the Element; a name UST uses for a line of shafts).
Krank got that sorted out only to run into more delays receiving their shaft inventory from Fujikura. If that wasn't enough, Callaway, in their bid to all but own the long drive circuit signed away key Krank staffers including 2011 Champion Karl Wolter.
By summer Krank had weathered the worst of the storm. Orders for the new Formula 5 driver were shipping (finally). The accessory weight kit was in stock, and most importantly, Krank was able to finally give us a hands-on look at their latest creation.
Krank Formula Five drivers are available in lofts of 5°, 6°, 7.5°, 9°, 10.5°, and 12°.
Retail price for a head only, or the head with the stock Krank exclusive Fujikura Inertia shaft is $399.00 You can upgrade to the lower launch, lower spin Tour or Light Tour (50g) shaft for an extra $99.
For those ordering fully assembled clubs, Krank will build your club anywhere from 44" to 47". There is also an option to build your Krank driver with a long drive shaft (Fujikura Livewire, or Fujikura Firewire) for an extra $149. The long drive model can be build from 44" to 48".
An optional weight kit allows you to alter swingweight and create a fade or draw bias based on the positioning of the weights.
Obviously competing with known commodities while coming in at the same or higher price point is a challenge for Krank, but as one of the more popular component drivers on the market, it doesn't seem to be hurting them.
Once again, let's start with the obvious. Sure it's mostly black, but there is that neon green thing. And yes, there's also that periodic table, element-type stuff that carried over from the original name. On the sole of the club, it's not big deal, but that fact that both spill over and are visible on the crown; I think it's reasonably safe to say that the color scheme probably isn't going to work for everyone (I can basically say that about anything and look mostly smart).
The radioactive symbol (also in neon green) that's used as the alignment aid will also, almost certainly, turn some golfers away - as will use of the same symbol on the face. In the interest of, from one perspective, color coordinating, or from another, making the Formula 5 look totally bad ass, Krank also had Fujikura make the the Krank-original Inertia shaft match the head perfectly.
My thinking on the subject; If TaylorMade can do white, and Cobra can basically do anything they want, what's the big deal about a little bit (or lots) of neon green. If the whole head was that color, I'd probably love it. But hey...if it's not your thing, it's not your thing and that's cool.
Even with all that neon, the single defining physical feature of the Krank Formula 5 Driver is the incredibly tall face. While the trapezoidal shape no doubts creates an illusion that the face is taller than it actually is, I'd still wager that the Formula 5 has more face than any driver you've seen in quite some time. On the positive side, it creates the illusion that you've got an infinite amount of space to work with. The one negative that I experienced personally was a tendency to hit the ball low on the face (which isn't so good for spin numbers). I'm sure in time, through familiarity, tee height adjustment or both, it'd be easy to resolve, but it's something that, for me anyway, took a little big of getting used to to.
While I find the Formula 5 to be visually stunning - arguably one of the coolest designs we've seen over the past several seasons, I wouldn't be the least bit shocked by anyone who told me they hate it. Polarizing is probably the right word.
:: Sound and Feel
If I was given only one word to describe the sound of the Krank Formula 5 driver, I'd probably keep it simple and go with LOUD. And while I will maintain until my last breath that the Krank Formula 5 is in fact as loud as nearly anything we've tested, it's also a very different kind of loud.
Looking back at our Most Wanted Driver Test, both the TaylorMade R1 and Adams Super S were high-pitched loud. Early versions of Cobra's composite drivers had sort of a hollow-loud thing going on. Most other drivers that feel more metal than others have sort of a ting-y thing going on. The Formula 5 is different. It's metallic, solid loud. If I didn't know otherwise, I might be inclined to think the head was solid. If you were strong enough to hit a golf ball with a solid steel i-beam, it might feel like the Formula 5.
With sound and feel being closely related (they're basically the same), it won't shock you to learn that the Krank feels very solid, and not the least bit muted. Me...I don't love it. I tend to favor softer, more muted drivers like the Cobra AMP Cell Pro, or Callaway's Optiforce. Those are arguably at one extreme of sound and feel, and the Krank Formula 5 is at the other. It's not bad, it's simply a subjective preference. Guys who have an affinity for more recent designs from PING and Adams might very well love what the Krank Formula 5 brings to the table.
The Krank Formula 5 is a driver, it's not a magic wand. Despite all this long drive stuff, Krank still has to play by the same USGA rules as everybody else.
While I do believe it's still possible to engineer distance, and it's definitely possible for a guy to pick up 20 yards just by switching his driver, I also think that more often than not, you're going to see much more improvement through custom fitting than you will from swapping out your off the rack driver for dream of more distance from another off the rack driver.
It's no different with Krank.
A majority of the guys who took part in our Most Wanted Driver Test also hit the Krank Formula 5 for this club report. Surprisingly, I suppose, almost no one was blown away by the distance. While my suspicion that our higher swing speed player would absolutely thrive at 7.5° proved correct (he killed it with the Krank), the other guys produced what I suppose qualifies as average (and in once case, below average) distance.
Some of that can almost certainly be chalked up to a total lack of familiarity with the Krank shaft offerings. There will always be performance variances from head to head, even with known shafts, but generally speaking, it's much easier to get guys closer to optimized when you're starting with a known commodity. Getting guys dialed in with the Krank Formula 5 took a bit more trial and error than usual.
One of the things we observed is that the Krank Formula 5 tends to spin a little bit more on average compared to drivers of similar loft, while launch angles are inline with averages (again, compared to drivers of similar loft). It's definitely a fitting consideration, but one that can often be mitigated (we're not talking about extreme spin here) through the right combination of loft and shaft.
Where the Krank Formula 5 really shines, and this is perhaps in direct contrast with many perceptions about a company with long drive roots, is with accuracy.
We compared the numbers for the Krank Forumula 5 to those of the 17 drivers we hit during our Most Wanted DriverTest, and we're basically shocked by the results.
Here are the really compelling bits:
- The Krank was on average closer to the center line than any other driver we've tested this season.
- For individual fairway percentage, the Krank Formula 5 was in the top 3.
Even allowing for day to day variances, I'm fairly confident in my assessment that the Krank Formula 5 is absolutely one of the 5 most accurate drivers we've tested this year, and quite possibly is in the top 3.
Like I said...pretty unexpected stuff from a company most associate exclusively with distance.
I've said it countless times; fairways are infinitely more important than 5 or even the mythical 10 more yards off the tee. And the thing is...I'm fairly certain that once you find the right Krank 5 Combo, you're not going to be losing anything off the tee (you might even gain some), and the accuracy...damn.
Hitting more fairways is essential part of shooting lower scores.
Based on the feedback from our testers, the Krank Formula 5 fell victim to HUGE expectations. More than one of our testers incorrectly assumed that they'd pick up massive amounts of distance simply because Krank is still regarded as a long drive company. Instead what our testers experienced is a driver that proved to be average for distance (though easily one of the longest for our high swing speed tester), and anything but average, I'd call it exceptional, for accuracy.
That combination of solid distance, coupled with obscene accuracy easily places the Krank Formula 5 in the top handful of all drivers we've tested this season.
+ More more accurate than you would expect from a long drive company
+ Extremely consistent (forgiving)
+ Among the tallest, if not the tallest face of any driver on the market
+ Can be purchased as a component (head only)
- While plenty long, some may have unrealistic expectations because of Krank's Long Drive heritage
- Neon graphics and Element theme not likely to sit will with traditionalists
- Lack of retail distribution makes custom fitting and trying before buying difficult
- $399/$498 price point will cause many to reconsider known commodities