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|The HiBore XL's slightly squashed profile is not nearly as unique as it once was. (Courtesy Cleveland Golf)|
The Cleveland Golf HiBore XL Tour driver looks funny to some, lovely to others. Likewise, this golf club's performance seems to rack up impressive stats while leaving some testers less than overwhelmed.
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. - Cleveland Golf started out in 1979 producing replicas of classic golf clubs, but made its name with wedges - excellent, PGA Tour-preferred wedges. Since the turn of the century, Cleveland has expanded its offering to include some of the most innovative designs in golf, including the groundbreaking HiBore line of drivers and fairway woods.
These clubs are immediately identifiable by the "scooped out" crowns of their club heads. The theory behind the swooping, flowing design is one of weight redistribution from the crown to the sole, resulting in a lower center of gravity and a higher ball-flight with less backspin but more carry.
The newest incarnation of the HiBore, the HiBore XL, is engineered to alleviate one of the reported weaknesses of the original model: club head stability. The HiBore XL features a larger, wider, deeper sole plate, shifting weight farther back and distributing the mass of the club head a bit, for more torque-resistant MOI.
The result is a solidly performing driver that can run with all the other big dogs on the market.
We tested the HiBore XL Tour model ($349), which has somewhat different specs from the standard HiBore XL ($299). The Tour model features a 440cc club head (rather than the 460cc size of the standard model), a 3-degree open face, a 1-degree flatter lie angle and neutral internal weighting, whereas the standard model offers slicers a slightly closed face and a draw bias.
At setup, the slightly open face was very easy to square down the line and the matte-black squashed-looking head bespoke an understated power. The combination of the open face and the stiff-flex Fujikura shaft produced a pronounced fade on my first half-dozen or so swings until the winter rust wore off, but that was expected with any driver.
Similar results were obtained by painter James Hull, an avid golfer and watercolor artist specializing in golf courses. Hull plays a TaylorMade R7 with a regular-flex shaft and hits a natural gentle fade. When he hit the HiBore XL Tour, the distance was equal to his driver, but the fade came close to morphing into a slice. Presumably this result could be easily addressed with an R-flex shaft and/or a standard, nonopen clubface.
More pointedly, though, Hull said, "I would say that although the result was satisfactory, the club itself is ugly." Ah, beauty is after all in the eye of the beholder, in golf as in art.
Indeed, the profile of the scoop-backed club head was nothing short of revolutionary when the HiBore line first appeared on the market. Now, however, with geometry taken to almost comical extremes by many equipment companies, the overall shape of the HiBore does not strike me as distracting at all.
More importantly, once the rust was shaken off and the swing was back up to speed, the HiBore XL Tour was easy to control, producing towering dead-straight drives. With respect to length, the HiBore produced distances easily in the top 10-15 percent of all drivers I have recently tested. As for feel, when the ball clicked off the sweet spot, the feel was almost as if the ball hadn't been there - no overly distracting noise or even a hint of vibration to signal its speedy departure from the tees.
Nevertheless, something unquantifiable lingered ...
In the 2007 Golf Magazine "Club Test," the careful reader will notice a curious inconsistency (well several, but let us not get distracted): The HiBore XL racked up some impressive numbers: third-lowest (out of eight drivers compared) in backspin and sidespin, and tops in ball-speed off the clubface and carry distance.
These stats not withstanding, the magazine's panel rated the HiBore second to the bottom overall.
I will go on record that the magazine's testing criteria appear utterly baffling. However, it is also true that there was likewise in my experience something vaguely less than totally awe-inspiring about the HiBore XL Tour - and not at all related to the way it looks.
It seemed that perfect swings resulted in flawless, effortless, majestic drives. Less-than-perfect swings resulted in somewhat ungainly, unsightly shots that failed to match up to the results of similarly ungraceful swings with certain other drivers. It is very likely, though, that the standard model is more forgiving.
In sum, the HiBore XL Tour incorporates all manner of revolutionary technology, and produces results that are in the top tier of next-generation geometrically engineered drivers. The ultimate impression it makes on any given individual golfer, though, can vary dramatically.
For more information, visit ClevelandGolf.com.
April 30, 2007
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, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.
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