I was one of the first outsiders Ely Callaway allowed to see the Callaway Big Bertha driver. That was in 23 years ago this month. When Big Bertha was unveiled to the public in January 1991, it the set the golf industry on fire as the first “oversized” driver. At that time, “oversized” meant 195cc – a far cry from today’s 460cc behemoths.
Since 1991, Callaway Golf has produced some great drivers, such as the Great Big Bertha, FT 5 and RAZR Fit. But overall, its history with drivers the past several years has been erratic – one of the reasons it’s been losing the metal woods race to rival TaylorMade.
Judging strictly from performance, the new Callaway FT Optiforce driver could close the gap. It’s the best Callaway driver I have hit in a long time – perhaps ever. Simply stated, the FT Optiforce lives up its marketing billing as a driver that brings extra club head speed and extra ball speed, each of which translate into greater distance.
I have the 460cc FT Optiforce driver (there also is a 440cc version) with 10.5 degrees of loft and a 43-gram Project X shaft. It has a great pear shape that is pleasing to my eye at address. I tried several loft and lie adjustments on the driver before settling on 10.5 Neutral. I generally prefer a Draw setting, but with the FT Optiforce, the Draw setting promoted a pull hook, probably because of the lightweight shaft.
Callaway says the FT Optiforce (suggested retail price $399) has been measured with 23 percent less drag than a conventionally shaped driver, which sounds like marketing hype until you hit it. I’ve played with other lightweight drivers (the FT Optiforce is less than 300 grams) that promote increased club head speed, but none have felt as good as the FT Optiforce. I can feel the club head drop in the “slot” when I put a good swing on it and the result is a straight, long drive directly on the target line.
And with the FT Optiforce, Callaway is right on target, too.
Here’s a link that helps explain the differences and between the FT Optiforce drivers and what type of player each might work best for: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=US9eqXP6-h4&feature=player_detailpage