By Neil Wolkodoff
You’d think that , as golf gear technology has become less expensive to produce, we’d be getting more club for our money. The Hot Launch 2 line from Tour Edge might have taken advantage of manufacturing technology to bring what might have been tour-level clubs five years ago to the average golfer at an accessible price.
What has changed? Shafts are much better than they were 10 years ago, both in consistency and price. Sure, there are tour shafts that cost $900, but you probably don’t need that level of precision. Add to the techno edge the advances in face technology and materials to achieve a spring-like effect on distance with combined forgiveness.
For the last 15 years, Tour Edge has made a name as a player’s club with their fairway woods and hybrids, carried by many players on tour. Those are great clubs that deliver performance for the precision golfer, but they’re not all that forgiving for the recreational golfer.
The Hot Launch 2 series has taken the performance aspects of their tour-level products and enabled the average golfer to improve their results with clubs that are easy to hit and custom fit. The clubs are hand-built in the U.S. and come with lifetime warranties, which is unheard of with custom clubs at this price point.
Tour Edge incorporated some of their upper-end features into these clubs to make them perform close to their tour counterparts. The hybrids through driver feature a variable face thickness design with a rear sole weight to move the center of gravity within the head for ease of getting the ball into the air. The drivers, and both the adjustable and non-adjustable versions, sport a 460cc titanium, four-piece, forged club head.
One recent trend in irons was for clubs to be shaped more like hybrids, which made solid contact a breeze. The Hot Launch2 version of this idea sports many features only available on tour level clubs in the past. Besides custom fitting, the super thin steel face with variable face thickness (why drivers are so long these days) really zings the ball. Their more conventional irons placed an undercut cavity in the back of the club for a higher launch, and also repositioned weight for forgiveness combined with the spring-like effect of the face.
Everyone is skeptical of whether a new club will do what the manufacturer says it will, so I went to the local PGA Tour Superstore for club testing. I play enough golf that I know my specifications and average performance with clubs, so it’s easy to compare when I try something on a launch monitor. I started with their adjustable driver, which retails at $199. It was almost as good as, if not better than, my current drivers, which range in price from $350 to $450. Very impressive for a club that is less than half the price.
I went to the other end of the spectrum and compared the irons, normally done 6 iron to 6 iron. My current iron set was $900 and performs solidly round after round. The Hot Launch 2 iron got me about the same distance as my custom set. The dispersion — or how far off it was from center — was almost identical to the more expensive iron. And surprisingly, they are about $50 per custom fit iron versus the $110 per club for my current set.
If I were on tour, would I play with these clubs? Probably not, as someone would be paying me to play those $900 shafts and the latest club head. Like other golfers, I’m after distance, consistency and the elusive easy-to-hit shot with minimal practice. The Hot Launch 2 products delivered all that at about 45 percent of what I paid for my other custom clubs. I am sure if they were covered with tape I could not tell the difference between the two sets, despite the large price difference.
Neil Wolkodoff, PhD, is a Sport Scientist in Denver, Colorado who has worked with golfers over the last 15 years. During free time, he travels to exotic golf destinations to see how golf, culture and local geography mix with cigars in different locales. He has penned articles for Colorado Avid Golfer, Golf Digest, Everett Potter, Travel World and Golf Magazine. In his travels, he has golfed with royalty, tour professionals, the local duffer, and the occasional goat.