CARLSBAD, Calif. – Callaway Golf’s new FT Optiforce drivers and fairway woods are scheduled to be available at retail on July 12. Callaway officials have high hopes for Optiforce, but a more important strategy story is emerging at Callaway headquarters even as Optiforce claims its spot in the equipment spotlight.
Chip Brewer, in his second year as Callaway president and chief executive, is going public with an aggressive product introduction and marketing plan.
“We are not waiting for any traditional dates to release products,” Brewer said. “We are not following other people’s expectations. We are designing great products, and our touring pro staff is testing them, and we’re going to bring these products to the public whenever they are ready. We are not waiting around.”
Thus Callaway introduced Mack Daddy 2 wedges by Roger Cleveland on June 27 and the Optiforce family of metalwoods on July 1.
Alan Hocknell, head of research and development and father of the Optiforce, echoed Brewer’s sentiment: “We want to be less predictable…. More news, more often – that would be a good thing.”
Hocknell and his team have created two Optiforce drivers – 440 CCs and 460 CCs. These $399 drivers have more adjustability than any previous Callaway driver. And they also are the lightest modern-sized titanium drivers ever produced by Callaway.
But light wasn’t the objective. More distance was the goal behind Optiforce. Translating light weight into more clubhead speed and ultimately more distance was the target of this complex project. Validation for this approach appears to be forthcoming, as several Callaway touring professionals have been testing Optiforce. The official launch is scheduled this week at the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic.
“Fairway wood technology has taken a big leap forward,” Hocknell asserted. “Maybe the driver hasn’t kept pace to some degree because it is already constrained by the rules. We viewed this as an opportunity to get some of that back.”
Each of the two Optiforce drivers features eight different hosel-adjustability settings, although each has its own unique personality, according to Callaway. New $229 fairway woods (3, 4, 5, 7, 9) also carry the Optiforce name. The fairway woods were designed separately from the drivers and do not feature the same adjustability.
“The fairway woods are not an after-thought or an add-on,” Hocknell said. “There would have been a weight penalty (too much weight) to pay for adjustability. So we didn’t do it.”
One important note for Callaway fans: They will not be able to use their current driver shafts in the new Optiforce drivers. The existing adjustable hosel, used in Razr Fit and Razor Fit Xtreme drivers, will be replaced by a new adjustable hosel in the new Optiforce.
The change was necessary because the two Optiforce drivers are adjustable in a range of four different loft settings and two independent lie settings (standard and upright). The loft range for the 440 driver is 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 and 11.5 degree. The range for the 460 driver is 9.5, 10.5, 11.5 and 12.5.
The short explanation: There is one Optiforce 440 head and one Optiforce 460 head. Each can be tuned to one of four different loft settings and two different lie settings.
In discussing the dual drivers, Hocknell said: “Our competitors say they can give you one head, then you adjust it, and it will work for all golfers. We feel that’s not the case. Our two drivers are not at all the same, and we believe this is necessary for our audience. We are saying there are more sophisticated options here.”
The Optiforce 440 has a smaller head and is not designed to be a super game-improvement driver. Most golfers will see a lower, more penetrating trajectory.
The more forgiving Optiforce 460 has a larger head with additional draw bias, increased moment of inertia (resistance to twisting), and a center of gravity that is located more to the rear of the clubhead and slightly higher than that of the 440. Even the bulge radius of the face is different on the two drivers.
Carried over the from the Razr Fit Xtreme are the forged composite crown and the Speed Frame face. New for Optiforce is an aerodynamic package that came, at least in part, from extensive testing and communication with Formula One race car experts.
Two stock shafts are available – True Temper’s Project X Velocity, weighing 43 grams with a beefed-up tip section, and Mitsubishi’s Diamana S+ at 62 grams. With the Velocity shaft, total driver weight is approximately 290 grams. Both drivers have a standard length of 46 inches and a standard swingweight is D0.
Hocknell acknowledges that lighter drivers are sold in the marketplace, but he is steadfast in maintaining that the trick is to convert any additional swing speed into extra ball speed and more distance. “A lightweight driver in itself is a detriment to golfers if they can’t feel and control the clubhead,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Optiforce fairway woods take advantage of Callaway’s X Hot fairway wood technology, only with a higher trajectory. “The distance of X Hot and the trajectory of Razr Fit Xtreme,” said Hocknell, adding that “the 9-wood and the 4-wood attracted a lot of attention from our testers.”