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Cleveland Golf's Classic Driver: Blending technology and tradition

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer
Cleveland Classic Driver
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The Cleveland Classic Driver features faux-brass sole plate and face insert to recreate a classic look. (Courtesy of Cleveland Golf)

One of my pet peeves in golf announcing is when people like Johnny Miller refer to fairway woods as "fairway metals."

Yes, clubs that used to be made from wood are now made from metal, but it's not like anyone will think Tiger is swinging a persimmon 3-wood if we call it a "3-wood." (Note that these same announcers still call irons "irons" rather than "steels." So their stuffy precision is actually quite arbitrary.)

Using the term "woods" to describe drivers and fairway woods is a nice tip o' the tam to the not-so-distant equipment past. Many of us -- including, I suspect, Mr. Miller -- have fond memories of using wooden woods: the rich sheen of shellacked persimmon against the background of the green turf, the voluptuous pear-shaped heads, solid "thwack" on a well struck shot.

All of these features have been sorely lacking since the advent of the titanium driver, especially the "thwack," which has been supplanted by every "clink," "clank," "tink," "tank" and "crash" imaginable.

Until now.

New for 2012, Cleveland Golf is introducing the Cleveland Classic Driver (MSRP $300). The newest horse in the Cleveland stable has a mahogany-shaded crown, traditional pear-shaped head, faux-brass sole plate with an old-timey "1" on it and a brass-colored titanium face insert. It's even shipped in a heavy-duty cardboard tube with brass endcaps and a riveted leather handle and comes with a black-and-white pleather headcover.

Lying beneath the classic camouflage is only the latest high-tech engineering. The Classic has the deepest face of any driver Cleveland has ever produced. The Classic also comes in 270g and 290g weights, for slower and faster swings, respectively. The shaft is also fully modern: Miyazaki C. Kua Special Edition.

The Cleveland Classic is sort of like a Terminator wrapped in Ben Hogan's skin.

How the Cleveland Classic Driver plays

I could not wait to hit the first tee with the Cleveland Classic in my bag. When the first swing with a club results in a 280 blast into the wind straight down the fairway, it's hard to complain. Such was the case with the Classic.

And every bit as satisfying as the result of that first swing was the sound, the beautiful, beautiful "thwack" of contact -- the closest thing to a persimmon wood I've heard on a golf course since true woods went the way of the stegosaurus.

The faux-brass face insert is excellent for tracking where you make contact with the ball. The enormously deep face makes it extremely easy to find the sweetspot. It wasn't until the sixth hole of my home course until I missed the sweetspot, which is quite a feat for me.

Interestingly, when I missed the sweetspot, the contact out toward the toe resulted in a dead-straight shot, with nearly no torque in the clubhead. It's pretty nice after a semi-mishit to have only a 9-iron (or should that be a "9-steel," Mr. Miller?) into the green on a par 5.

The verdict on the Cleveland Classic Driver

The Cleveland Classic is for any golfer looking for the best new technology in a club that looks like it belongs in its own display case in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

At one point during testing, I handed the Classic to John Beckwith, a 61-year-old 7-handicap who still putts with an original Bulls-Eye putter. After he knocked a drive down the 18th fairway of our home course, Beckwith simply said, "I could play with this one."

Power and playability are both top-rate. I was able to shape shots as effectively as with lower-profile or smaller-headed drivers. The extremely deep face is forgiving, too, and launches the ball higher than might be suggested by the stated loft on the sole.

For this reason, it would be wise to test a few lofts out at a demo day or pro shop before buying to make sure you get a loft that delivers your preferred ball flight.

All in all, among golfers with a sense of history -- and for whom looks, feel and sound rank as high priorities -- I predict that the Cleveland Classic will be the "hot" driver for 2012. Keegan Bradley's win with the Classic at the 2011 Franklin Templeton Shootout augers well for both the driver and this prediction.

For more information, visit www.clevelandgolf.com.

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Cleveland Golf - Classic Driver

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • metal woods

    dennis williamson wrote on: Apr 22, 2012

    I couldn't agree more. I cringe everytime I hear the term "fairway metal". Apparently, Mr Miller and his cohorts can't understand that in the english language there are words that are the same that have different meanings. This is simply a matter of nomenclature. History and tradition has named this type of club "wood". It doesn't mean the club has to be made of wood to be called a "wood".
    So, smarten up, Mr Miller (et al)and quit trying to threaten the nostalgia that is golf history and tradition.


  • Cleveland retro driver

    Frazer wrote on: Mar 22, 2012

    I am just old enough to have started golf with a persimmon driver. At the time that the oversize (460cc) drivers cam into being, I was about a 14 handicap and did struggle with the driver. When I first hit the 460 (actually a Tiger shark 410 cc model) I couldn't believe how forgiving it was.
    I think it is very clever of Cleveland to make a retro model as it will appeal to people like me who have nostalgic memories of the old kit, but need (like everyone) the advantages of modern technogy.
    Very good article too I might add. Never a bad thing to poke fun at Johnny Miller.


  • Cleveland Classic

    Bill wrote on: Mar 8, 2012

    Until about a year ago, I still played a persimmon driver. However, it is made by Louisville Golf,which, to the best of my ability to determine, is the only company still making such clubs. Since they equipped it with a state of the art shaft, I got very good distance and with the gear effect of real wood, very little dispersion. I tried numerous titanium drivers but never found one that was so substantially better that I could bring myself to give up the look, sound & feel of real persimmon. However, about a year ago I started using a Mizuno 630 (the 440cc, very compact model) that someone gave me to try & am still using it. Very classic in shape, about 15 to 20 yards more distance and only slightly more dispersion than my Louisville. Still, I continue to practice with the Louisville because I believe hitting with the smaller clubhead makes me a better ballstriker and I still love the look, sound & feel. Therefore, I will definitely give the Cleveland a try. You should check out the Louisville Golf website if, as you say, you still have a warm spot in your heart for persimmon. The folks there are truly proud American craftsmen of the first order.


      • RE: Cleveland Classic

        Jeff wrote on: Mar 25, 2012

        Great looking driver. Currently play the Cleveland Comp Tour model, and this new Classic has a very similar head shape. Looking forward to trying this out. Bill, its too bad that Wood Brothers had to go out of business. Played their 'Texan' driver in college golf and it was a great looking and performing club


          • RE: RE: Cleveland Classic

            jontyrees wrote on: Apr 13, 2012

            I still have a Texan in my attic. Bought it from my friend Don Wood, of said Wood Bros. Haven't hit it in a LOOONG time!


              • RE: RE: RE: Cleveland Classic

                painter33 wrote on: Apr 20, 2012

                I have a pretty nice Wood Bros. Kool Kat driver w/a reg. G. Loomis shaft just sitting in my garage. When I bought it I was trying to find my swing again after recovering from an 11 hour back surgery and thought the cork-filling could temporarily get some distance back. All I did was push shots right - I guess I wasn't finishing not getting to my left side, so everything was blocked. I went to a 983 K and hit it well for a few years until I bought and have played a Ping G2, but keep thinking about how solidly I hit the Titleist. But, this new Cleveland is intriguing in looks, sound, and apparent feel.


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