Alpha is the little company that could, and we're happy to have a few more clubs for review. Normally a big player on the Long Drivers of America (LDA) circuit, Alpha introduced two new hybrids this year: the RX and the V5. We won't see the big boys swinging these off the tee in the long drive tournaments, but you might see them pop up in bags of both high and low handicappers at your local club.
Don't dismiss these clubs because they aren't from TaylorMade or Titleist. Golf Digest mentioned the Alpha C830.2 (reviewed here last October) in their Hot List last year. Long-time readers will remember that I was surprised at the quality of the C830.2, but even the stellar driver could not temper my wonder at Alpha's first foray into the hybrid market. After all, they're known for their drivers, but hybrids are another beast entirely.
After a bit of testing, I'm happy to say that their hybrids match the level set by their drivers. Read on for more…
Aimed at better players, the RX hybrid is made from a soft 431 Stainless Steel. In keeping with the trend of most woods and hybrids, the center of gravity is placed low and deep. This is done to enable a high launch angle and stability through impact, the foundations of a solid club.
The RX also has a uniquely modified weight-redistributed sole. This, along with the low and deep center of gravity, helps achieve an even higher launch angle combined with optimum spin rates. The moment of inertia (MOI) is also very high, adding to the stability of the 110cc head as well.
For the higher handicappers, Alpha has the V5 Hi-COR hybrid. This hybrid incorporates 15-3-3-3 titanium forged in as a face insert. The 140cc V5, according to Alpha, "utilizes a driver-shaped face in conjunction with the chassis of a utility wood to achieve an extra large diameter sweet spot zone along with the appreciated playability characteristics of hybrids."
Alpha is attempting to build a club that has the benefits of both the driver and hybrid. Their goal: a high-MOI, high coefficient of resistance (COR) club that is not only long but straight with a high trajectory.
Look and Feel
Within the past year I've put TaylorMade's Rescue Dual TP in my bag. My first impression of the Alpha V5 Hi-COR is that it feels big. It's hard to imagine 140cc feeling huge, but it is 33cc bigger - over 30% - larger than my 107cc Rescue Dual TP. Most of that size is from top to bottom as the V5 has nearly the same face shape as the Alpha drivers and is surprisingly deep (see below). You can see immediately what Alpha meant by marrying a driver face and utility chassis with the V5.
At setup, the first thing I notice on the V5 is the offset. It is a bit more pronounced than my TaylorMade Rescue TP and is closer to the non-TP version TaylorMade makes. The best way to square up the face is to forward press your hands a bit. Otherwise, the result of most swings is going to be a draw or a hook… which might be preferred for someone that loses the ball right a lot.
The RX is a different story. First off, it is much smaller and closer to what I'm used to in a hybrid. The face is much smaller than the V5, employing a narrow look that comes off as sleek.
While it is nearly identical in size to my TaylorMade TP, the shape is different. Last year I had a look at the Sonartec MD and thought it was an odd looking club. The same goes for the RX. The toe of the club (when viewing at address) has a bit of an egg look to it. I like to have a club that inspires confidence at address and I don't get it in the Alpha. Of course, I don't think that any hybrid is pretty, but I'll let you know when I find one.
The Alpha RX is also a heavy club. I did get the UST iRod stiff shaft, which is 10-15% heavier than the standard shaft Alpha provides, but the heavy feeling is more from the head than the shaft - something I prefer in a hybrid. When addressing the ball with the RX, it may not be pretty to look at but it has a great overall feeling in my hands.
The two different hybrids are not only built very differently, but as expected, they also perform differently as well. I tried out the newly released V5 Hi-COR first with mixed results.
Between the two clubs, I experienced similar feelings as Erik did when he tested the TP and non-TP versions of TaylorMade's Rescue Dual. The offset of the Alpha V5 caused me to hit some pulls and hooks on the first few swings. It was hard at setup to adjust to the club, but after forward pressing my hands a bit, I started to straighten the flight out. I had another golfer try the V5 and he had similar results. The first few balls went left on him before he compensated for the offset.
Once I straightened it out, the V5 produced a decent ball flight. The ball did not flutter much at all and had a lower, penetrating flight. However, my Rescue Dual TP produces a higher-launching, softer-landing shot. If you already have a high, fading, spinning ball-flight, the V5 Hi-COR might be worth a look.
The Alpha RX, on the other hand, was a delight to hit. From the first couple swings and balls I hit, it reminded me of another hybrid I tested out: the Sonartec MD.
The heavy feeling, the way the club set up, and even the not-so-pretty look all reminded me of the Sonartec MD. The ball flight was similar to the MD as well. The RX produces a very penetrating flight similar to the V5, but because of its lack of off-set it did not take off left on me. Instead, I hit the ball quite straight and with my normal little draw.
I wanted to see how the RX would fare off the tee, and it performed admirably. I was able to get the ball in the air much more quickly and made for a great club off the tee on shorter par fours that stressed accuracy over distance. Out of trouble spots and rough, the RX excelled in situations that didn't require tremendous carry. I wasn't able to get the ball up in the air easily from the heavy stuff. Alpha has once again built a solid, solid club in the RX.
One thing to note is that both hybrids had the UST iRod Hybrid stiff shaft in them with a mid-high kickpoint. Most other shafts available from Alpha (covered later) have a low-mid kickpoint that will create a higher flight. Keep this in mind and check your ego at the door when ordering.
Extras and Specs
Both of the hybrids I received came with the same grey headcover. It's pretty stylish and slides easily on and off the club without being so loose it will fly off when you hit a bump in your cart. My only beef with the headcover is that the number on the top is attached by velcro. I like the way TaylorMade handles "number ambiguous" headcovers - with a plastic dial. It feels like it will stand up over time more than velcro. Then a gain, you probably won't be changing the number once you stick it on, so…
While I received hybrids with the UST iRod 780 Hybrid stiff shaft, buyers have a few more options. The stock shaft is the Alpha Platinum 2, which I'm sure is more than adequate. I've tested other Alpha products with stock shafts, and they've all been surprisingly well built. If you want to try something else, Alpha can put in the Aldila NV 85 Hybrid as well.
The RX and V5 hybrids also come in different lofts if are looking to replace something other than a 2 iron. Here's a grid with the corresponding numbers and lofts:
Number RX Loft V5 Loft 2 15 16 3 18 19 4 22 22 5 26 25 6 30 28
As for price, the newer V5 Hi-COR hybrid runs about $180 in various online stores before tax and shipping. The RX can be had for about half of that… a relative bargain.
The hybrid market is one of the hottest right now and Alpha is trying to capture a piece of that pie. The V5 Hi-COR would do well in the hands of someone struggling to hit long irons fighting a nasty slice. Even with the "driver" face, it is easy to hit off the tight stuff and get into the air. The RX Hybrid would fit nicely into anyone's bag, even the low handicappers. Since I already have a lower ball flight, the RX won't be replacing my TaylorMade TP… but at $90 it might be worth it to give it a shot.