ClubTest 2022: The inside story behind Cleveland’s Launcher XL driver line (plus reviews!)
This year’s ClubTest is bigger and better than ever. To help you make sense of the mountain of high-tech new clubs on the market, we put all of the latest offerings from the top golf club manufacturers to the ultimate test, making use of a state-of-the-art swing robot to put each club through its paces. Below you will find our deep dive into Cleveland’s Launcher XL driver line, including full reviews and test results toward the bottom of the page.
You can find the full list of ClubTest driver reviews here.
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We appreciate the strides Cleveland has made in the last few years to make golf more friendly. The company has fully embraced its commitment to make the game more enjoyable for more player types, from experts to beginners, and this holds especially true in its latest iteration of Launcher XL drivers and woods engineered, simply, to make golf more fun.
Fun, in our mind, and probably in yours too, is hitting longer and straighter drives, and the Launcher XL is carefully designed to do just that without any frills. And while the technology used in these woods may appear simple, that’s the illusion Cleveland wants to project.
“The focus of the technology we put into the Launcher XL series was to make golf a little bit easier for those of us who are not professionals,” says Casey Shultz, product manager at Cleveland Golf. “With that mindset in place, we went about creating designs that would accomplish that goal and achieve the type of performance that will benefit players who may struggle a bit with consistency. Most woods are designed for pros first and then adapted to work for the average Joe. We put the average Joe first when working on Launcher XL.”
It, no doubt, took tons of R&D time at Cleveland to come up with a driver that’s this easy to swing and with this high a moment of inertia (MOI) to help produce consistently long and straight shots across more points on the clubface. MOI, for the uninformed, refers to the club’s resistance to twisting at impact, helping golfers hit straighter bombs off the tee. Previous Launcher drivers had an MOI of 4,660 g-cm2. That’s high to begin with, but the new Launcher XL has a 5,200 g-cm2 rating. That 11 percent increase is significant, meaning Cleveland was able to increase an already forgiving clubhead by a significant margin.
How did Cleveland beef up the Launcher’s MOI? Some design revisions, a 7 percent bigger size than its previous driver, new shaping, revised internal weighting and, most notably, the club’s Rebound Frame—a piece of tech shared with the Srixon and XXIO brands.
To understand how it works, think of the trampoline your kids use in the backyard. The trampoline wouldn’t work too well if it didn’t have a flexible surface, springs and a rigid frame around the perimeter. The Rebound Frame is similar to that—the flexible region is the clubface, supported by a rigid region around it. But, unlike a normal trampoline, there’s another flexible and rigid zone underneath it. This doubling down of flexible/firm/ flexible/firm zones is what makes the Launcher XL driver so easy to hit and forgiving away from the sweet spot.
But wait… there’s more! The Rebound Frame is supported (literally) by a larger, deeper face—a design trait not usually found in drivers made for the masses, rather for players who want a clubhead that produces a flatter ballflight. This deep face design means hits off the top area of the clubface fly farther and straighter. And, let’s be honest, it also means fewer pop-ups for you steep swingers out there and way fewer scuff marks on the top of the clubhead.
Also in the Launcher XL is Cleveland’s Action CB—a counterbalancing weight located in the butt end of the shaft. For those of you familiar with counterbalancing, you know that it’s less of a performance feature and more geared around how a driver feels in your hands. The more weight you add to the grip end, the lighter the clubhead feels, effectively lightening the swing weight without reducing the club’s overall weight. Why does this matter and why do it? According to Cleveland, counterbalancing helps make the driver not only feel more balanced but also easier to set into position in the backswing and release on the downswing at just the right time. This means a more loaded wrist position sooner in the backswing and less casting on the downswing for greater control and faster clubhead speeds through impact.
Some additional key details in the Launcher XL include an adjustable hosel for a customized trajectory and the lack of a HiBore crown—a stepped design found in previous driver models from Cleveland. This design change improved the driver’s aesthetics and, furthermore, helped change the way Launcher drivers sound and feel. What was once a louder thwip at impact is now a more solid thwoop.
The Cleveland Launcher XL crosses over into a line of fairway woods, as well as two additional models that share the aforementioned technologies, sans an adjustable hosel: the XL Lite and the XL Lite Draw. Both are 12 percent lighter than the Launcher XL and come with quarter-inch longer shafts. An optional “Accuracy Build” is available in all models—the shaft is an inch shorter without counterbalancing for maximum control off the tee. — Ryan Noll
Cleveland Launcher XL Review
We tested: Cleveland Launcher XL: 9°, 10.5°, 12°; Launcher XL Lite: 10.5°, 12°; Launcher XL Lite Draw: 10.5°
Our take: According to our testers it’s “one of the loudest drivers out there” and “the ball jumps off the face,” making it a top choice for golfers who want to make an audial statement on the first tee. The shorter length as a hit, too, meaning it was easier to keep the ball in play and hit straighter/longer shots. Hey, more driver distance combined with added forgiveness to keep the ball on the fairway always sounds fun to us.
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Cleveland Launcher XL driver
Robot’s take: There was minimal distance loss on shots hit on the upper-third portion of the face, and the XL Lite showed a stronger draw bias off the heel and high center — two zones where slicers are prone to make contact.
The details: Cleveland’s take on hitting the driver is a simple one: to make it as fun as possible. The Launcher XL headshape has a staggering high MOI, and what the company calls a Rebound Frame for enhanced energy transfer back into the golf ball. Also, the driver comes with an adjustable hosel for ballflight control and an optional 8g weight placed inside the grip end of the shaft (the option includes a one-inch shorter than usual) for added feel and an adjustable hosel for even more customized control. The Lite version weighs in at 12 grams lighter with a 1/4-inch longer shaft, and can be outfitted with or without the counterbalancing if preferred. Alas, an XL Lite Draw option is also available.