By Kiel Christianson,
Vulcan Golf's Speedlite V14 driver is 30-60 grams lighter than anything you've ever swung before. The result is amped up clubhead speed and distance, which benefits big-hitters and slow-swingers most.
It's pretty simple, really: The faster you swing, the harder you hit the ball. The harder you hit the ball, the farther it goes.
Well, actually, it's more complicated than that. You can swing a Wiffle Ball Bat really freakin' fast, but it won't hit a golf ball very far. Nor will you have much control over it.
What you need is a balance between lightness to amp up your swingspeed and mass to generate distance and feel. A delicate balance, it is. And far from simple to attain.
Vulcan Golf introduced the Speedlite V14 driver ($199) at the end of last season to a few long-drive competition types, and according to Vulcan President Gary Hansberger, they were starting to get over 20 yards more distance, despite the club's 430cc head (30cc smaller than most drivers on the market).
Yet Hansberger's enthusiasm over the driver came with a warning:
"Please understand," Hansberger implored before sending me one to test, "this is an exceptionally light-weight golf club. Maybe 30 to 50 grams lighter than others you have tested. You may want to be a little patient with it and not try to hit it hard at first. It swings easier right away, so you will want to build your move with it."
Me? Patient? Bah ...
When I took this driver out of the box, I thought part of it was missing. It was so light, it really did feel like a Wiffle Ball Bat. With a 40 gram Winn grip, 45 gram Graffalloy ProLaunch Blue shaft and a 185 gram Beta-Ti head (complete with air-filled "speed slot" channels on the perimeter of the clubhead, which look cool, but whose function I cannot figure out), this is easily the lightest driver on the market.
When I hit the range for the first time, though, I failed to take Hansberger's advice. I was swinging other drivers pretty well, and the trees beyond the end of the range at the University of Illinois Golf Courses were taking a beating.
So, I pulled off the headcover to reveal what looked like a tiny head in comparison to the others in my bag, and let fly a mighty rip ... which smacked into the ground some eight inches behind the ball.
What the ...?
Another full-bore swing, and another divot behind the ball.
Okay, so Hansberger was right. This club is so light, it completely threw off my timing (such as it is).
After a few more failed attempts, I began taking half-swings and making solid contact. The ball flight was low and penetrating, and surprisingly, distance was not much shorter than what I was getting from the full swings with other drivers.
After a little more practice, I was taking full swings, but the results were inconsistent. A massive bomb would be followed by a wicked hook or evil slice. Worst of all, I could not feel what I was doing wrong when things went afoul. I simply could not feel the clubhead on full swings.
Half-swings were fairly consistent and quite long. But it seems that any slight variation in hand rotation or swing plane was magnified 10 times due to the lightness of the Speedlite. Every flaw was more pronounced. For a guy with a somewhat handsy swing, this spelled trouble.
To double-check my impression, I asked Aaron Benjamin and Dave Irwin, both from Urbana, to take some swings with the Speedlite V14. They both reported the same lack of feeling for the clubhead. Benjamin gave up almost immediately, but Irwin, whose swing was naturally somewhat slower, began grooving it a bit and found the Speedlite to compare favorably to his own driver with what felt to him like easier swings.
Those easier swings, however, were generating more clubhead speed and distance, just as the driver was designed to do.
The Vulcan Speedlite V14 driver is ideal for golfers at the two extremes of the player-profile spectrum.
On one end, you have long-drive champs and pros who generate tremendous clubhead speed to start with, who have almost super-humanly sensitive hands and consistent swings. These guys could swing a flyswatter on plane in a hurricane.
On the other end are high handicappers, seniors, and (some) ladies who do not generate much clubhead speed. The ultra-light Speedlite V14 will boost clubhead speed for these players and shouldn't be too hard to control, given their smoother swings.
In the middle are players like Benjamin and myself: Guys who swing aggressively and with enough faults so as to need a bit heavier driver. Guys who need some mass back at the end of their shaft to provide enough inertia to inhibit over-rotation, under-rotation, and, in my case, a down-swing that is apparently so violent, it simply cannot be trusted with a super-light driver.
For more information, or to purchase a Speedlite V14, visit vulcangolf.com.
July 29, 2008
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.