Cleveland Golf Club Reviews
Launcher HB and CBX have Cleveland back in the iron game with a splash
TGW Review of the Cleveland Launcher CBX and HB Irons
While Cleveland is best known these days for its wedges, through the years the company has released some highly popular iron sets, including PGA Tour favorites like the TA-1 and TA-3, as well as game-improvement models such as the HiBore and TA-7.
It had been a few years since Cleveland released new irons, having left that distinction of late to parent company Srixon, but that has changed with the introduction of brand new Launcher CBX and HB irons.
As it relates to what Cleveland and Srixon will do as brands from an iron standpoint going forward, to put it most succinctly, Srixon will focus its attention on players irons and Cleveland will focus its attention on game-improvement irons.
“These irons are going to be more for that average golfer who needs more forgiveness and who is looking to be more consistent,” said Cleveland Product Manager Zack Oakley of the CBX and HB. “And the thing that’s really nice about this launch is that it really helps separate the two brands.”
In terms of the two new models that Cleveland has unveiled, they will offer golfers two very unique looks but some common playability and performance attributes.
“The HB irons are kind of modeled after hybrids, while the CBX is a more of a typical cavity back shape,” Oakley explained. “These irons will help golfers hit the ball higher and longer, but they’re not just distance irons. They were meant for golfers who are looking to be more consistent, and irons are supposed to have accuracy, control, and distance.”
As mentioned, the CBX irons have a traditional cavity shape but interestingly enough use technology from Cleveland’s highly successful wedge line to promote control.
For starters, Feel Balancing Technology takes weight from the hosel region and repositions it to create a CG position that’s more in line with the center of clubface, which has two advantages. First, it improves feel at impact, as the name would suggest, and second, it promotes tighter shot dispersion on full shots and more consistent distance results.
Additionally, as it relates to wedge technology, the Launcher CBX irons utilize Tour Zip Grooves and Laser Milling to promote optimal spin rates with each club in the bag, and their Dual-V soles offer enhanced turf interaction for better results on slight mis-hits.
While the CBX irons deliver in terms of control, they also provide ample distance thanks to Launcher Cup Face Technology.
“In the CBX irons, from a distance standpoint, we used a high-strength clubface and Face Cup design in the 4-7 irons to get more distance,” said John Rae, Cleveland Golf Vice President of Research and Development. “We also have progressive shaping. The longer irons are more low-profile to get the ball up in the air and the short irons have a more traditional shape for scoring.”
Launcher CBX irons are being offered with either the True Temper Dynamic Gold 98 steel shaft or the Miyazaki C Kua graphite shaft as stock options, and the standard grip is the Cleveland Blue Cap by Lamkin.
In terms of the new HB irons, their hybrid-like look will take golfers back to Cleveland’s original HIBore irons, which had a cult-like following because of how easy they were to hit.
That’s going to be the case again with the Launcher HB irons, which feature a fully hollow construction and HiBore crown that work in unison to enable a low, deep CG position. They also allow for significant perimeter weighting, a combination that leads to high launch conditions, incredible stability at impact, and improved performance on shots hit from the heel or toe.
High-strength face inserts also have been utilized to create more flex and ball speed at impact, and internal ribs provide soft, solid feel and acoustics.
Also of note, the HB irons feature progressive shaping, as the short irons have a more traditional game-improvement iron look and the longer irons look like hybrids.
“With the HB irons, one of the features that really sets us apart is that we have the HIBore crown design,” Rae said. “Because of the HiBore, we get a nice, smooth transition through the set from a shaping standpoint and golfers get a set that gives them great forgiveness.”
Certainly, the look of the Launcher HB is quite a bit different than the majority of the irons on the market today, but TGW staff writer Chris Wallace cautions that ignoring this iron based solely on aesthetics would be shortsighted.
“There are going to be people who will look at the (Launcher HB) and discount it because they’ll say ‘I don’t like the way it looks’ or ‘it‘s not traditional enough’ and that would be a terrible mistake,” said Wallace after hitting the HB irons.
“These legitimately will make golf easier for the player who needs that. If you’re a higher-handicap golfer and you’re looking for something that’s going to make the game more enjoyable, you need to get over the looks if that's a hang-up for you because these flat out perform.”
Wallace’s comments were also echoed by one of TGW’s customers who recently had the chance to test the Launcher HB irons.
“The Launcher HB does kind of remind you of a hybrid when you hit it, but it has amazing forgiveness,” said 62-year-old Cliff, a 5-handicapper. “I hit some of the toe and (the ball) still held the line very well. And the feel was outstanding. It didn’t have any clicky sound; it felt very soft. I think these irons would be an outstanding option for people who haven’t played a lot of golf or who are looking for maximum forgiveness in their game ”
Like the CBX irons, the Launcher HB irons are being offered with a choice of the True Temper Dynamic Gold 98 steel shaft or the Miyazaki C Kua graphite shaft, and they come standard with Cleveland Blue Cap grips by Lamkin. A ladies model of the Launcher HB irons is also available.
Launcher HB woods: Launch it higher, hit it farther, hit it straighter
TGW Review of the Cleveland Launcher HB Woods
With its first release of a new wood line in a few years, Cleveland is targeting golfers who it believes have different needs than what is being provided by the majority of golf clubs that are being offered each year.
More specifically, with its new Launcher HB drivers, fairway woods, and hybrids, Cleveland is hoping to make it both less confusing and easier for the average golfer to hit higher, longer, and straighter golf shots, with the end result being more fun on the course.
“We basically know that there are some holes in the market, and there’s still a lot of demand for Cleveland woods,” said Zack Oakley, Cleveland Golf Product Manager. “There’s an opportunity to help golfers out, and these clubs are for the average golfer that needs more forgiveness. But we’ve also packed a lot of technology into these products, and it’s functional technology.”
Most unique about the new Launcher HB wood lineup is that none of the products utilize adjustable hosels or moveable weights, a decision that was made for specific reasons.
“Hosel sleeves and weight ports offer versatility but don’t maximize distance,” said John Rae, Vice President of Research and Development at Cleveland Golf. “In fact, while adjustability has become increasingly popular over the last five years, the average driver distance is down 10.7 yards.”
Rae cited research conducted by Cleveland for those aforementioned statistics, but he also revealed that his company’s research showed that many golfers don’t use an adjustable hosel even if they have one and that the added weight that comes with using adjustable sleeves isn’t ideal when it comes to club design and performance.
“For many golfers, they might never use an adjustable hosel, and in that case you’re throwing weight away where you don’t need to,” added Rae.
Instead, Cleveland has opted to use a lightweight, bonded hosel in the Launcher HB woods, which along with their HiBore crown helps create an extremely low, deep CG position that promotes high launch and low spin to maximize distance while also establishing higher MOI for more stability at impact and improved forgiveness on mis-hits.
“The first thing we did was bring in HiBore Technology,” added Rae. “That allowed us to get the CG low and deep in the clubhead and create higher dynamic loft to launch it higher.”
Also adding to the impressive distance that the Launcher HB woods offer is Cup Face Technology, which Cleveland says is helping create the hottest faces it has ever produced.
“We use Cup Face Technology to get high COR across the face for more ball speed,” Rae said. “And we’re seeing really good ball speeds.”
Cleveland has also taken additional measures to not only create more ball speed but also protect it, and that comes in the form of Flex-Fin Technology, which utilizes Flex Fins that are positioned near the toe and the heel on the sole of the club.
The Flex Fins compress and decompress at impact and through launch to create more speed, but equally important is that they help maintain those higher ball speeds on shots struck low on the face or off of the heel or toe.
Impressively, all of the aforementioned technologies are available across the entire Launcher HB wood line, drivers, fairways, and hybrids included.
In terms of the specific clubs that are available in each category, all are being offered in both men’s and women’s models.
Launcher HB drivers are being offered in lofts of 9, 10.5, and 12 degrees, while there are 3-wood and 5-wood fairway models available at 15 and 18 degrees, respectively.
The Launcher HB hybrids, meanwhile, are available in lofts of 19, 22, and 25 degrees.
Also of note, all Launcher HB woods are being offered with high-end, aftermarket Miyazaki C Kua shafts, which offer a mid-to-high launch but mid-to-low spin profile. And the Miyazaki shafts proved to be a big hit with TGW consumers during testing.
“The thing that jumps out at me with all these Cleveland clubs is the (Miyazaki) shaft they put in them,” said Cliff, a 62-year-old who plays to a 5-handicap. “It’s a tremendous shaft. I could absolutely play these clubs.”
The Launcher HB woods also come standard with Cleveland Blue Cap grips by Lamkin.