Cleveland HiBORE XLS Driver Review

Is Cleveland Golf’s latest HiBore incarnation the best of the series?

HiBore XLS DriverWhen the original HiBORE driver hit store shelves, I was among the first in line to pick one up. Frankly, it didn’t work out well. The driver was supposed to hit the ball high, straight, and long. My typical swing with the original HiBORE produced drives that flew wedge-shot high, very straight… and about as far as a 3-wood.

As it turns out, two out of three can be bad. That original HiBORE lasted two weeks in the bag. High and straight are good, but what fun is there in hitting a driver if you don’t get reasonable distance out of it?

I must not have been alone. Cleveland soon replaced the HiBORE with the HiBORE XL. Unlike most movies, in this case the sequel was far superior to the original. Now Cleveland has introduced the third rendition in the HiBORE trilogy. The HiBORE XLS is billed as the hottest, largest faced, and most forgiving yet. Great claims, but do they hold up?In addition to the standard XLS, the line also includes the XLS Draw and the XLS Tour. The XLS Draw, naturally, is for golfers who fight the “power fade.” It features a draw-biased face, offset hosel, and internal heel weighting to help mid- to high-handicappers straigten out their fades to hit more fairways without sacrificing distance. The HiBORE XLS Tour boasts a more traditional and compact pear shape, while its 2° open face and toe-biased weighting will help better players work the ball off the tee.

For this review, we looked at the standard model only.

Design and Construction
The Cleveland HiBORE XLS is the third generation in the HiBORE line. The XLS features a 17% larger clubface than its predecessor, the HiBORE XL. According to Cleveland Golf, the XLS has an MOI of 5300, 13% more than the XL.

Rearview of the XLS

Cleveland has a laundry list of technology crammed into the XLS, some of which is new, others like the “Distance Driven Geometry” just put a fancy name on something we’ve seen before. Simply put, Distance Driven Geometry moves weight low and back in the clubhead. Every manufacturer has been doing this for the last several years. MOI and redistributing weight low and back are the primary reasons we now have geometrically oriented clubheads in the first place.

Cleveland’s “Full Face Performance” is similar marketing jargon for the alignment of the sweet spot and maximizing the C.O.R. to produce optimal launch conditions. It’s also not particularly revolutionary, but it is a good idea.

The “Energy Transfer Core” is something I haven’t quite seen before. Cleveland is placing titanium spines inside the clubhead to direct impact energy to the ball to create more efficient energy transfer and high ball speeds from impact locations. Unlike the double-faced drivers that a few second-tier manufacturers (Bang, among others) experimented with a couple years ago, the spines in the XLS run perpendicular to the clubface.

There is no central alignment mark on top of the clubhead, though the crown plaque and “stability foils” are intended to aid alignment. Still, with the elongated clubhead and that big clubface, players shouldn’t have much trouble aiming the driver down the fairway.

XLS toe view

Cleveland has even added a measure of protection against knockoffs. To check to see if you have an authentic HiBORE XLS driver, just check out the toe in daylight or under UV light. The toe graphics will change from white to yellow on the real thing. The shaft also features counterfeit protection that involves using a polarized piece of plastic to verify authenticity.

I’m starting to get used to the look of the “geometric” style drivers, those that seek straighter drivers through elongated, triangular, or square shapes. Some still look odd to me, but for the most part I no longer chuckle when I look at one of these drivers at address.

The HiBORE is not a bad looking driver, provided you can get over the scooped-out look of the head, presumably inspired by the old Halo hybrid. The head is a little stretched out, but not grossly so (at least to my eyes). The charcoal finish helps minimize any shock to the senses that the size of the head and its shape might cause. The sole of the club features large graphics, though it’s not as busy as the TaylorMade Burner, for instance.

When it comes to auditory impressions, the XLS makes one in a big way. The first time I hit a ball with the HiBORE XLS I felt the urge to check myself for shrapnel wounds. It sounded like something had exploded at the bottom of the swing. Perhaps, “XLS” actually stands for “eXtra Loud Sounding.” If you want to scare everyone in your group on the first tee, this might be the driver for you.

Having played an SMT 455 Deep Bore a few years ago I don’t think I’m overly sensitive to loud drivers, but the XLS definitely surprised me. It seemed louder than most drivers I’ve hit, including the square headed drivers that are notorious for being loud. Of course, if you hit a driver long and straight, it probably won’t take you long to get used to the big bang on every tee shot. And you could always wear an ear plug to keep the hearing in your clubside ear.

The business end of the XLS

The head cover for the XLS is also loud, but that seems to be a trend with most of the manufacturers. It also provides a feature that at first seems silly, but is actually pretty nice to use. The built-in “E-Z Grab” pocket gives the player a little extra leverage to pull the cover off. Like I said, it doesn’t sound like much, but it works. In a day where so many head covers have to be zipped and unzipped, the ease of the Cleveland solution shouldn’t be sneezed at.

When I first started hitting the HiBORE XLS, my normal swing did not get along very well with it. Though the standard XLS is supposed to have a square clubface, it feels closed. My swing closed the face even more, delofting the 9.5° face to 7 or 8°. Suffice it to say that, at first, all I could hit were right-to-left-moving bullets that reached a maximum height of about 20 feet.

The XLS at address

So I temporarily changed my swing to fit what the driver seemed to want to do. I purposely came over the top and held off my finish a bit. The ball started going straight and gaining the typical height of my drives. Distance was average, with the rare zinger mixed in there.

It was difficult to tell center contact, because every hit felt pretty much the same. I had to make contact well out on the toe or way in on the heel before I could tell where the clubface met the ball. I felt like my average distance was hurt by not being able to freely release the club (for fear of the hook). Your mileage may vary.

Next, I handed the driver to a few friends who struggle with slices. Every one of them started smacking straighter drives immediately. And remember, this was not the XLS Draw. I quickly concluded that Cleveland did not have anything like a draw swing in mind when they created the XLS (the XLS Tour may be a better match for those who currently hit draws or straight drives with a square or open-faced driver).

Once I started setting up for a big cut (but lining it up to go straight), I began to hit fairways pretty consistently. My misses generally came when I did not hold off the finish and drew it into the left rough. Overall, the XLS only wants to go straight (via a cut swing). Any other shot seemed to make the XLS irritable. Trying to hit a draw resulted in a duck hook often enough to make it a very uncomfortable undertaking on the course. Fades became straight shots, and only when I really emphasized the cut swing could I get it to move appreciably to the right. If finding fairways is your primary goal, the XLS does a good job of it once you find the groove.

Specifications and Options

The HiBORE XLS is available in 8.5, 9.5, 10.5, and 11.5° lofts; however, only the 9.5 and 10.5 versions are available for left handers.

The Fujikura Fit-On M Gold shaft

The XLS driver comes standard with either the Fujikura Fit-On M Gold or Red shaft (ours featured the Gold). The Red is the heavier weight, lower torque version with a higher kick point than the Gold. There’s quite a bit of difference between the two shafts so players would be well advised to demo each before buying. Cleveland also offers an impressive selection of custom shaft options, including additional models from Fujikura as well as offerings from Aldila, UST, Mitsubishi, and Graphite Design.

The HiBORE XLS driver carries an MSRP of $299.

Players who struggle with over-the-top swings that result in slices may find some measure of salvation in the XLS driver. It minimizes cut sidespin substantially. If you’ve tried to fix your swing and couldn’t, or like many players these days you simply don’t have time to work on your game, the XLS may be worth a look. It’s forgiving nature and good distance are likely to keep you in the fairway more than your current driver. Those who naturally draw the ball or who want to work the ball off the tee should look to the XLS Tour or elsewhere entirely.

The HiBORE XLS is a huge improvement over the original HiBORE. Even though feel is distinctly dampened in this model, compared to the original this is practically a forged muscleback. Distance is much improved… and it’s far louder. Well, in this case, maybe two out of three isn’t bad.

33 thoughts on “Cleveland HiBORE XLS Driver Review”

  1. I demo’d both the XLS and XL model this week on a launch monitor, and with the correct shaft (red in my case to help control spin and launch angle) I was making much better numbers than my old driver. I decided that the increased MOI and face-area were not enough to out weight the 50% increase in price, and picked-up an XL model for half the XLS’s retail price. Overall, both hit very well, and if you can find either with a stock shaft that fits your swing, you can’t wrong between the two.

  2. Great review!

    You mention that The HiBORE XLS is a huge improvement over the original HiBORE.

    Would you say it is a huge improvement over the HiBore XL?

  3. Your review is absolutely correct! I play a draw and could not deal with this club at all. Seems to sit very closed unless you open it up to sit on the back sole of the head. Turned mine back in to the shop.

  4. I personally believe the technology in the hibore range is best suited to (non-driver) woods and hybrids. Even a hard practicing pro like Vijay Singh had trouble with his driving once he switched over to the hibore (from the launcher) range. I would gladly play the hibores in 3W, 5W, 7W or 3H and 4H, but never as a driver. The best drivers for mid-high h’caps are still the callaways, tm and nike sumos.

  5. Great review!

    You mention that The HiBORE XLS is a huge improvement over the original HiBORE.

    Would you say it is a huge improvement over the HiBore XL?

    I would not use the adjective “huge.” In my estimation, the original HiBore was not a very good driver in comparison to other models available at the time (I exchanged mine for a Ping G5 and got much better results). The XL corrected many of the deficiencies found in the original. The XLS is an improvement over the XL, but as Andrew indicates, deciding whether it’s enough of an improvement to justify paying the “current model premium” is a subjective decision.

  6. I got the XLS Draw 9 degree with the stiff red shaft. My slices/fades have been eliminated, except for the real bad swings. The yardage increase from the straight and draw (never have had before this club) is huge. I’ve tried the Ping G10 draw and the Burner Draw. This club give me the the lowest spin and the best trajectory. Hitting 230-260 consistant now, and hitting 270-290 every now and them. This club is killer……..AND I’M A PING GUY……..

  7. I absolutely love this driver, it’s straight and long and easy to hit

    Driving off the tee has never been this easy 🙂

    Btw, it’s only selling for RM790 which is around like 250USD, not bad for a 2008 model driver, but i suspect the slash of price is becos Cleveland might introduce a new driver ?

  8. I acquired the xl tour off ebay with the grafalloy blue tour stiff.
    i really like the blue in it’s original stiff shaft but the tour blue stiff played way to soft. i see you did not test the xls tour with the 2-3 degree open face which probably would have changed your whole set-up to the better and maybe you wouldn’t have had to change your swing. i think i am going to try the xls tour with the blueboard 73 stiff since i cannot seem to find the grafalloy blue stiff. that seems like a great choice because of the blueboards dispersion and the xls tour open face to work the ball. guess i’ll find out. keep it down and long. 😎

  9. I have an XL Driver, 10.5 loft, regular flex stock shaft. I’ve tried six or eight other drivers, including the XLS, and found none that I hit more consistently straight than the XL. The drivers were tried on a computer setup that checked launch angle, spin, carry distance, and total distance. For me, the best ball/club combination is the Cleveland HiBore XL 10.5 degree, regular stock shaft in combination with the Bridgestone e5+ ball. As long as any other combination and more accurate than any other. I love the XL. I do have the XLS in 3h and 4h; they are MOST superior to the XL versions. Much more solid than the XL hybrids which were, truly, a disappointment to me. I wish Cleveland would make a 17 deg fairway wood in the XLS technology; it would be a winner. I still hit my old Launcher 4W although with a new Fujikara E150 shaft. You may guess I’m a Cleveland junkie – well, you’re right. Only my Odyssey putter is not Cleveland. CG4 irons and CG11 wedges.

  10. ParroHead – This is spooky! I have the same experienced went throu. all those drive and balls combination then settled for the XL with Bridgestone e5+. I’m Vietnamese, 5’3′ , 130lbs just get in to this game 3 years ago, and this summer i play better than most of my neighbors and co-workers! I out drove them all. my avg. 255 – 275. My handicap for my leage went from 22 last year to 12 now! Last week I drove the green on a par-4 320yds! 2 single digit handicapers at my neighbor know my secret and they both switched to XL/BS.e5+ and the other one XLS/BS.e5+.

  11. Nice review. I’ve found what you said to be spot on with the XLS. I purchased it at the beginning of the year as I had heard nothing but how long it was and since I was still using the original Cleveland Launcher 460, I needed an upgrade.

    I’m a decent golfer and I like to draw the ball on most every shot. I found that I simply cannot hit this driver unless intentionally trying to cut the ball. If I use my normal swing, I usually hit a low roping hook that goes about 200 yards in the air and that’s just not acceptable. I’m on the market for a replacement and SOON! I’ve had the Taylor Made v-steel fairway woods for a while now and love them, so I’m thinking a TM driver to compliment them is in order. We’ll see.

  12. i had the original hibore and i also had a little fade on the ball .i am a low handicap player all i use is cleveland clubs i love them as i loved my original hibore so i wanted to get the xls tour model with the red shaft this is what has happened with my original hibore i averaged 330 to 375 sometimes i could ripp one 400 yards and whenever i got the xls my driving distance has suffered greatly i have always been accurate so no changes there but my farthest drive with xls 315 to 320 now my average is about 290 which is still good but i am use too driving par 4’s and now i cant which i don’t know why no swing changes hitting dead center swing speed 155 club head 125 my problem is i wanted to try for long drive championship does anyone have the same issue and did you get it fixed and how thanks

  13. I used to hit a low cut with my nike sasquatch but now i hit a high draw 30 yards further this club. it is amazing !

  14. 😆
    I have the Cleveland Hibore XLS 10.5 Draw Driver. This thing is off the chain. I have played two rounds with it already and it is a perfect fit for me. I am crushing my drives and they are going very straight. I used to always go left to right but this driver has kept me in the middle of the fairway about 90% of the time. I can’t forget to mention the sound on impact. This driver sounds like a shotgun and I love it. It gives you the confidence of a crushed drive and it gets people’s attention. Won’t be buying another driver for a long time

  15. Bought a HiBore XLS Draw 10.5 deg R flex since it is a given that 460cc is harder to square. My god what a club. I love the forgiveness and the feel of the club once you get aquainted with shaft’s kick point.

    Sometimes I wonder if 10.5 deg is too much loft for this driver, on down hill fairways the ball flight is very high and doesn’t maximise roll, but you can work the ball nicely and from a player who usually hits dead straight it’s nice to be able to draw the ball without setting up inside out.

    Average distance? Well about 230-240 metres on the fly is achievable with this beauty, so depending on fairway conditions you are considerably shortening holes.

    Oh and as for mishits, you can achieve up to 200 metres. Strongly recommend this club as a game improvement choice.

  16. Excellent club!

    Prior to buying this club, I had been playing a Titleist 983k. I have always been a long ball hitter, but sometimes when I would really try to rip one (and I mean really, really rip one) I would get really wild and end up with a ton of spin on the ball resulting in either a huge fade, huge draw, or a ball that climbed to the stratosphere. I loved the 983, but I had to hold a lot back and really make smooth swings to keep myself in play.

    As for the XLS, it has eliminated the majority of the side spin and it carries even further than my 983 did! Before purchasing the club, I got on the good ole swing monitor and did some comparisions. The XLS literally had half the spin rate of the 983 (5800 revolutions to 2600 revolutions) and maintained the same launch angle. What this translates to is straighter shots, regardless of how hard I swing! My first swing with the XLS was a solid 300+ yard shot. It was straight as an arrow too. The trend continued throughout the round and, needless to say, I fell in love.

    For what it’s worth, I play to a 10 handicap, am a longball hitter, and tend to play a 5-7yd draw.

    This club is a “must” for a player looking to hit straight shots. If you like to work the ball a lot, I would strongly suggest looking in another direction, but if you’re interested in hitting some bombs, this club may be perfect for you.

  17. 😀

    I just got an XLS with the gold shaft today. I didn’t really get to shop it, as I would never spend that kind of money on a club…I’m just too damn cheap. I won the thing in a church golf tourney, and since I got it at the beginning of the round, I played with it today. Long story short, I notice some of the same problems you mentioned for a fade shooter, but it had more to do with my swing than the club, as I made a couple of adjustments and was hitting the ball straight and longer than I am used to by about 30-40 yards with what felt like about 30% less effort. I’ll need to go to the range to get into a rhythm with it, but overall I feel it’s an improvement for me. Would I spend $299 on it…probably not, but then again I play with fifteen year old irons and Tommy Armour knock off woods.

  18. I just went out today to pick up a new driver. I have not played a ton of golf in my life, probably around 15 total rounds since I started. The hardest club for me to hit has always been my driver. I bought the HiBore XLS today and took it to the range. My average drive was probably about 220-230 yds. which is normal for me. I did notice however that almost every hit I took felt good. The club is very loud as the review says, but that shouldn’t be a problem as it just draws attention so people can see you hit straight high drives. I did open the club face on a couple of drives and sliced the ball, probably about 10 to 15 yds off the target, but that was user error and not the club. If you are interested in this club I would check out Golf Galaxy. I just bought the club there today for 119.99. Great price for a very good driver.

  19. I bought the XLS 9.5 S (red) at Dick’s this week for only $119 as well. I’ve been playing TM R7 425 8.5 set-up for draw-bias the past couple of years. With my usual swing I noticed I was hitting low bullet hooks with the XLS. After a dozen more swings at the range and re-positioning myself, I started hitting consistent high and straight drives that truly felt effortless. The club feels much lighter than my TM and that took a little getting used to. I found moving the ball an inch back off my left heal and having the clubface slightly open at address worked well for me. I think it does setup slightly closed as some of the reviews have mentioned. Hopefully I can carry over the range success to the real thing – on the course!

  20. I Bought the XLS Regular with an Adila shaft and got a great deal from dicks sporting goods. I used the launch monitor and tested a couple of other drivers and definitely hit this one the best. Took it out on the range and had a problem slicing it. But that was my fault and corrected and have been hitting it great.

  21. I just got the xls today and took it out to the driving range, it was amazing 25 yards farther and tons less spin than my old ram driver. the first drive I hit was the farthest of my life. This driver is a must have. nice feel and great sound!!!!

  22. Greetings from Fiji. 😎
    I purchased this club as my idol ,Vijay Singh, has had it in his bag recently . As a 3 handicapper, distance is crucial yes, but why have distance when its not going straight? I gave it a go at the range and the first shot when to the ‘back fence’ (300 yards) I was extremey happy with this so i gave it a few more swings.
    1st shot, 300 yards draw
    2nd shot, 210 slice
    3rd shot, 85 skied
    4th shot 300 yards draw…

    Now what im trying to say is if every shot was like the first, then it would suit my game well. Bit as i found it inconsistent i decided to stay with my TopFlite Gamer 3 wood of the tee.
    Good club- Average price

  23. Went to the PGA Super Store in Duluth, GA and Demo’ed a bunch of drivers with their simulator. The Taylormade Burner and R7, The Ping Rapture and G5, Nike Sumo, and this club. I would say that this club was my favorite. I did hit it a couple of yards further with the G5 but I hit it much more straighter with this Cleveland Hi-Bore XLS. I purchased it and didn’t get club fitting but I don’t really need it because I’m hitting it very straight without it. I got it on sale for about $130 so I would highly recommend this club.

  24. I purchased the Cleveland HiBORE XLS and couldn’t be happier with it. I hit a 460 Launcher before and had tried other drivers but couldn’t find one to take the place of my 460. I have no problem working this club on the tee box. I usually hit a small draw but now I am hitting the ball longer and straighter. If I need to play a draw or a fade I can also do that easily with this club. If you get the right shaft in this driver it seems impossible to miss the fairway!!!!

  25. I’m contemplating buying a HiBore XLS 9.5 degree with the gold shaft. I hit it today in the simulator at Dick’s and loved it. However, I currently have a Taylor Made R580 10.5 degree driver that I love. The problem is that I hit the ball very high off the tee with the R580 and sometimes too much spin. I feel that I can get more distance while hitting the ball lower with the HiBore. What do you guys think?

    I’m a 6 handicap and I routinely hit the ball 250-270 off the tee, but can crank it up to 300 if I hit the ball perfectly and have the right conditions. Do you think I would benefit from the HiBore?

  26. I’ve gone crazy for over a year trying to find the right driver, I tested a bunch of drivers recently and to my surprise, the HiBore XLS worked great for me on the launch monitor. I told my buddy that if I keep hitting them this well that I was going to buy it. I did but, the real test was at the golf course, that’s were everything usually goes south for me. To my surprise, I hit more fairways than I ever have before. My off line drives were still playable and my poor shots were due to a bad swing ( not the clubs fault ). The sound of the club is ear piercing when you strike the ball and I LOVE THAT. If you suffer with a slice like I do, this may be the club for you. All I did was slow down my swing, kept a nice smooth tempo and the ball went were I wanted. Love it.

  27. Had this driver for about 1.5 years now….LOVE IT! Even my off center hits get out there. Nice to have a go to club where all you have to remember is “keep your head down”. I’ll admit the scoop in the back was kind of bothersome visually but heck I’ll swing a 2×4 if I could get the same results.
    My only question is what kind of shaft are yall using? I have a YS8 stiff but was wondering what the masses are using. OZIK X-con….Fujikura…..Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

  28. Just picked one up and love it. I had been using an r7 Draw driver which was very good but I was looking for something new. Tried all the newest stuff out there on the launch monitor and the Hi Bore XLS was showing the best results for me. Well I am not a big hitter but when I took her out to the course I could not believe it straight down the middle and 30 yards further on average. I measured the distance with my GPS unit and had to just keep checking it. I must say it feels great to be able to hit the ball this good. I had never used a Cleveland driver before but with these results I will always keep them in mind. This is one good driver.

  29. I just bought the XLS 9.5 loft with the stiff Gold Cleveland shaft today at Dicks for $119.99, and Golf Galaxy had them for $99.99 March ’10.
    I hit it a few times inside the room, it’s definately loud but not ridiculous.., it has a nice solid ping to it. I like the club, I wanted a Burner but went with the XLS cause it was a better deal.

    I’m going to the range Wednesday, I can pull the ball & hit fades depending on how I swing… Usually a fade or slight slice around 240 on a fly with a cheap $30 “Knight” oversized driver I bought 4 years ago, so this driver should add distance & control compared to what I’m used to hitting.

    My swing speed is around 100mph, I’d like to reduce ball spin so I’m glad to hear this club will help. I’m excited to try it out, hopefully it’ll take me up to the 270-280 range on the fly. For $119 I’m happy.

  30. So I bought this from Dicks sporting goods on friday for 99$ with a aldia NV 350-R shaft. my swing isnt fast enough for a stiff flex. when i hit this thing it really goes like everyone says, the noise doesnt bother me any. i cant really put anything on it though when i try to swing my normal speed i would usually do with a driver i hit it LONG but it goes way right, but if i swing as slow as a senior i still hit it LONG and it goes straight, about 270. i cant wait to work with it more to learn how to be able to hit with more power so i can finally try to go for a green in two!

  31. Just purchased the Hibore HLS 10.5 degree with a custom Aldila Regular flex shat! I LOVE It! Played my first round today with it and I absolutely crushed it down the middle! One drive on my Skycaddie read 289, for me thats unbelievable!!! Great club! I would recommend it to anymone who wants to improve there driving of the ball!

  32. I purchased mine a few years ago. Every other club I own is a Nike model. I have the XLS 10.5 draw. I aim down the right side of the fairway and mash this thing. I’ve always been a big driver and this gets me 290-300 yards on a slight mishit. I’m usually 320-340 yards and sometimes I’m embarrassed that my playing partners reach my first ball in two. I love this club. To each their own though. The only thing I don’t like is the sound when I really hammer one. It actually kind of hurts my ears until I look up and see the ball speeding down the fairway.

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