arizona golf arizona golf arizona golfPRODUCT REVIEW

Alpha Reaction Driver:
Duncan Discovers
the Holy Grail

By Derek Duncan,
Senior Writer

(Jan. 14, 2002) - Make no mistake, the golf club manufacturers' arms race remains in hyperdrive, but its experimentation with "bigger is better" in clubhead size seems to have (temporarily) run its course. Though it might be premature to expect a lasting return to sanity, at least some degree of relative scale has assumed control of the design market.

Having played the brinksmanship game with each other, pushing driver heads to the outer limits of contemporary science (not to mention taste), most mainstream producers have contracted their styles for the time being, scaling down from the mammoth expressions of several years ago to smaller and more traditionally appearing driver heads, most in the neighborhood of 280cc to 350cc. These may still be gaudy compared to the days of persimmon, but who is on that standard anymore anyway? Somewhere in the low-to-mid-300cc range is where the industry seems to be settled.

There do remain a number of softballs-on-a-stick, most notably the Ping TiSI Tec, and evidently their sales are significant enough to prevent the industry from completely abandoning the genre. One outlier company, Kent Sports, continues to tinker with the large format and has recently introduced one of the headiest oversized drivers to date, its new Alpha Reaction.

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Showing the flexibility necessary to compete with the big boys, Kent Sports has released the Alpha Reaction in two club head sizes including a 300cc version to compliment its huge 400cc version. Yet, as the trend of the market retreats size-wise, it is probably with its bigger model that Kent will make the most noise and find its success.

The Alpha Reaction, though grandiose, is classic in shape and well proportioned. I'd never played a truly oversized driver before (I tested the 400cc model), but somehow this didn't appear to be too bulky or gaudy (although one playing partner said it was the largest head he'd ever seen, so apparently size is subject to perspective). The club feels light (198 grams) and balanced, its blue-black metallic finish is stylish yet macho.

Kent Sports' goal in creating the Alpha Reaction is to provide the market with a driver that appeals and performs equally well to both the advanced player and the long handicapper alike.

"If someone can make a driver that is loved by all levels of golfers," says Jim Yeh, President of Kent Sports, Inc., "that would be an amazing club for any manufacturer."

No doubt. But Yeh and Kent Sports believe they have it and their marketing campaign cites testimonials from both average players and long drive champions.

Since achieving additional length is the Holy Grail that drives the golf club arms race, it's only fair to measure the Alpha Reaction's effectiveness against this standard. For starters, the club is quite simply an easy one to hit. I'm a notoriously erratic driver and have had difficulty in the past test-swinging some of the most popular clubs on the market, including the non-conforming Callaway ERC II. The Alpha Reaction was a different, more rewarding experience altogether.

The first swing with the Alpha Reaction, with almost no warm-up, produced a high, prodigious slice but felt nonetheless pure (this was a welcome sight in light of the snap-hook affliction that plagued me off the tee for virtually the whole of 2001). The second swing, with better rhythm and a mental note to release the club head, drove the ball on a low rope down the center of the fairway some 270+ yards. Just for reference, since moving to Florida from the altitude of Colorado several years ago, my drives rarely travel beyond 250 yards anymore, those coming off a variety of clubs including an older model Big Bertha, a Callaway Steelhead, an Orlimar, and a Tommy Armour 845s.

arizona golf arizona golf arizona golf The ball pops off the excessively deep, Beta-Titanium face and wants to run. The feedback isn't direct, more of an approximation of sweetness than the direct sensory melt that smaller clubs can addictively provide, but the solid hits are nonetheless felt. The deep face and the low center of gravity work to push the ball skyward, so getting the ball up was easier for me than has been customary. Lofts for the 400cc right hand model come as flat as 6 and 7.5º, as well as in 9, 10.5, and 12º increments. Imperfect swings, I found, did lead to lower launch angles and drives that ran hot with a great deal of "make up" roll.

Most impressive is the effect of the club's perimeter weighting, evidenced on several drives hit off-center (primarily off the toe) that felt as if they ought to hook left as they do with my other drivers but instead floated in a straight and light, but nevertheless corrected, path.

After 36 holes with the Alpha Reaction I was sold. I never thought I would use an oversized driver, but this one felt so light and balanced in my grip that I ceased to notice its disproportion. Most importantly I found those extra 15-20 yards I'd been missing at sea level that none of my many other drivers could provide (part of the added length is certainly due to the longer 46'' shaft). Not since my first metal driver, the original Taylor Made Pittsburgh Persimmon #1 that I received for a birthday in 1988, have I found a longstick with which I was so immediately comfortable.

The highest overall praise I can give to a driver is that I would play with it, and in the case of the Alpha Reaction, I am.

Specs
Club: Alpha Reaction 300/400 Driver
Manufacturer: Kent Sports
Clubhead: 5A2V Titanium
Clubface: Beta-titanium
Clubhead size and weight: 300cc and 400cc, 196 grams (+/- 3 grams)
Lofts: 6, 7.5, 9.0, 10.5, 12 degrees
Face Height: 52mm (300cc), 60mm (400cc)
Length: 46"
Lie Angle: 55 degrees
Shaft tested: Alpha Platinum, graphite, filament wound, R flex
Also Available: 400cc left handed model in 7.5, 9, 10.5 degree lofts
Info.: 800-222-1186, or 818-725-9720 (customer service)
Web: www.kentsports.com

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