One of the first geometry-based drivers on the market, the Cleveland HiBORE has changed the shape of the tee game and set the tone for what has become a new era in driver head shape. Now in its second version, the HiBORE XL and XL TOUR attempt to prove once again that Cleveland is “Taking Distance Driven Geometry to a New Level.”
The HiBORE XL gets a lot of attention. After all, a former #1 ranked golfer and two-time winner in 2007 plays it: Vijay Singh. As most of you know, Vijay ditched the original HiBORE last year in favor of the 460 Comp only to come back and win with the XL this year at the Mercedes Championships and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Whether or not the original HiBORE was to blame for Vijay’s down year in 2006 we may never know, but the driving show Vijay put on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer is proof that the HiBORE XL can earn its keep.
Of course, I am no Vijay Singh. I am a simple-minded golfer with a 5.4 index who gets off the tee fairly well with a slight fade. On average, I hit around five fairways and ten greens per round. The strength of my game is the tee ball while my achilles heel is my putting. I currently am playing a Titleist 983E with 8° loft and a stiff flex shaft.
I was able to test out both the regular and Tour versions of the HiBORE XL, each with the Red “Tour Trajectory” shaft, and I’ve come out of the experience a fan.
Design and Technology
Cleveland touts the “Distance Driven Geometry” of the HiBORE XL clubhead. From their site: “[Distance Driven Geometry] moves weight lower and deeper in the clubhead. This optimized CG location aligns the Center of Gravity Projection with the COR Hot Spot in the center of the face, resulting in optimal conditions for greater overall distance.” Of course, we all know this is straight out of the marketing department, but there is some truth to it.
The HiBORE XL is a rather significant upgrade to the original HiBORE. Like the original HiBORE, the XL features a precision cast aerospace-grade ultra-thin titanium alloy body with a high-grade SP700 face titanium and follows the same general design, though the XL has a deeper face, which should allow you to tee the ball higher. Also, the squarer face (one of our larger complaints in last year’s HiBORE review), and the black pearl finish really pull together the rest of the club.
In the image just above, note the longer body on the standard version, meant to increase stability on off-center hits (like the FT-i, the SUMO2, or the 907D1). The Tour model has a shallower body to allow for more workability.
Look and Feel
The first time you pick up a HiBORE XL you will first notice the clubhead. Yes, it’s oddly shaped, but I found that the “bullet” and “swooped back” look at address gave me confidence standing over the ball. When you take your first practice swing, you’ll discover the weight of the club. Both versions have a D5 swing weight – about two or three notches above the standard D2. Because of this, some of us may have to throttle down on the swing speed because the extra weight of the club will actually give you a bit more back.
If you are using the Tour version and you have a keen eye, the next thing you would notice is the 3° open face. I wasn’t able to see it immediately, but upon comparing it to the regular HiBORE XL it is quite noticeable.
Despite the super-shiny finish on the sole, and contrary to popular belief, the sole is not easily scratched. After playing with the clubs for several round as well as using them on mat and grass driving ranges, the scratches on the bottom of the club are very minimal. Another interesting tidbit I discovered was that the “sweet” spot of the club was not moved higher as most people believe. In fact, if anything, it has been moved a little lower than its predecessor.
The standard grip for each club isn’t nearly as bad as most of the stock grips that come with drivers. In fact, I would be willing to say I wouldn’t change this grip out until it was worn out. That is saying something as with every driver I have purchased, the first thing I do is change out the grip.
During testing on the range, I put each club to my ultimate test. With the Tour version, as stated, I hardly noticed the 3° open face. My very first swing with the Tour version resulted in a pure strike dead straight at my target. As I said at the beginning of this review, I normally play a fade, so this was a welcome surprise.
Once I hit a second ball with it, I noticed how loud the club sounded at impact. Don’t let this deter you, however, as it isn’t nearly as loud as some of the other drivers on the market. I believe the only reason I really noticed it was the close quarters of the driving range I was on as well as the almost lack of sound out of my Titleist.
Once I was comfortable with the clubs I hit each of them off the extreme toe and heel to see how they would perform. If you hit a ball off the toe with either driver, you know it. The clubs noticeably twist in your hands, but the ball is still launched at a reasonable angle and there isn’t a huge loss of distance or accuracy. This is a huge bonus for me as if I mis-hit my current driver I am in the woods.
The balls I hit off the heel of the club produced quite a vibration of the club in my hands, but alas, the ball still went straight as an arrow. It did, however, reduce the total distance of the shot a bit (which really isn’t that surprising).
Overall, both models produced an extremely consistent ball flight. As advertised, the Tour Trajectory shafts came through with a more penetrating ball flight than I am used to, which is definitely a good thing. The open face on the Tour version combined with the shallower profile allowed me to work the ball, while the elongated non-Tour version did quite well at keeping my drives straight.
One of the biggest benefits in purchasing a HiBORE, in my opinion, is the stock shaft. Cleveland has gone the extra step and has brought on Fujikura shafts as the standard for their clubs. They then go another extra step in providing two different types: Red – Tour Trajectory and Gold – Standard Trajectory.
The clubs I tested both had the Red Tour Trajectory shafts in them and there was a noticeable difference in the ball trajectory over my current driver. With the Tour Trajectory shafts my ball flight was more penetrating and got more roll than what I currently get. Cleveland says the Red is designed for strong players with fast swing speeds. These shafts have a high kickpoint and low torque for trajectory control. The Gold has a lower kickpoint and an active tip section for increased launch angle, higher ball speed, and a smooth feel.
Extras and Specs
The HiBORE XL ships with one of two headcovers depending on whether you purchase the Tour or standard version. The Tour headcover is a bit nicer than the regular sock-type standard headcover. However, the Tour cover feels as though it has some strong cardboard inside it along with a magnetic strip that attaches to its mate on the other side of the cover after wrapping around the bottom portion of the shaft.
The Cleveland HiBORE XL is available in five lofts for righties (8.5°, 9.5°, 10.5°, 11.5°, and 16.0°). The Tour version is only available in three lofts (8.5°, 9.5°, and 10.5°). Lefties will find that the 9.5°, 10.5°, and 9.5° Tour versions are available. All versions are available with both the Red and Gold shafts.
As a final rating I have to give the Cleveland HiBORE XLs a big thumbs up. Both clubs exceeded my expectations by delivering on the company’s promises. I may not be hitting it thirty yards past my current driver, but is very noticeably straighter. I also found that with the HiBORE’s I had more confidence over the ball, even after the “honeymoon” phase of having the drivers was over.
If you want a technologically advanced driver that, with it’s new shafts, provides you with a more penetrating ball flight, you will definitely want to at least try out the HiBORE’s.
This article was written by guest author Harry Solomon, an active member of our forum.