July 22, 2020
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Xander Schauffele ranks 11th in the FedExCup Standings after a top-15 finish at Muirfield Village. (Callway)
Alice Cooper plays golf six days a week, almost always in the early morning near his home in Arizona. He’s about a 3-handicap – pretty impressive but perhaps fitting for the shock rocker who describes himself as a Golf Monster.
Oh, and he loves Callaway’s MAVRIK driver.
“Unbelievable,” declared the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer.
Of course, he’s not the only golfer – amateur or pro – who has taken to the MAVRIK line, with its Flash Face designed by Artificial Intelligence and touted by Callaway as its best combination of distance, forgiveness and feel. MAVRIK is the No. 1 driver and the No. 1 fairway wood across the major tours this year.
But what about ball speed, you ask? After all, that’s what everybody seems to be talking about right now, a water-cooler topic among the pros at TOUR events as well as your fellow club members at the 19th hole.
Callaway touts Flash Face as promoting optimum speed and spin for both drivers and fairway woods as it “works specifically with the size, shape and CG (center of gravity) location of each head.”
Where it really shines, according to Callaway’s PGA TOUR Manager Jacob Davidson, are on shots that are not perfectly struck. In other words, most golf shots. Whether it’s Alice Cooper or Phil Mickelson swinging the club, any loss of ball speed is minimized thanks to a larger sweet spot. Instead, ball speed remains consistent on mis-hits.
“Where I think we've separated ourselves -- and we see it week in and week out on the PGA TOUR -- is Callaway has a competitive advantage on non-center strike,” Davidson said. “I think across the face we see a jump in ball speed that was kind of pulled in with that compared to our competitors.
“That's kind of the frontier that seems to be popular right now. The professionals at the times they do miss it off the face used to lose a couple miles an hour on a heel strike or a toe strike. But we’re learning that if you hit it exactly center punched where optimal ball speed is, can we get the same on one that's maybe a couple of millimeters to the toe or a couple of millimeters to the heel or higher or lower on the face?
“Ultimately, that’s what we’re going after.”
That advantage with non-center strike shots can make a big impact in performance, even on the PGA TOUR where we assume the world’s best golfers rarely hit such shots. But it’s more frequent that you might think.
“Guys for the most part hit it in the center when they’re playing well,” Davidson said. “But you’d be surprised at how often they’re not. They’re missing it just slightly toe-ward or slightly heel-ward, and then that is obviously elevated because of the speed they’re swinging it at. So it seems to maybe stick out a little bit more.”
Henrik Stenson, the 2013 FedExCup champ and six-time winner on the PGA TOUR, noted in the July-August 2020 issue of Golf magazine that “the ball speeds off of MAVRIK are really high, and I noticed that almost immediately when I first tried it. If I hit it dead center or if I miss the sweet spot, I still know that I’m going to get the speed and distance I’m looking for.”
Having that confidence that a non-center strike can still be an effective shot is a huge advantage for any players, particularly those at the top level. And particularly on fairway woods, which can often be a pesky club to figure out – and a club that many weekend amateurs try to avoid as much as possible.
“People’s confidence gets elevated when they hit a shot that they feel like they’ve mis-hit it and the results are very similar to a good hit,” Davidson explained. “I think that it gives them the confidence to know that, hey, I can still execute the shot that I want without a perfect strike. So they’re more likely to use that club.”
For Davidson, a key indication that Callaway had a winner in the MAVRIK line was the high rate of conversion among its staff pros. Whenever their players tested a MAVRIK club, the increase in speed and the extra forgiveness was quickly noticeable. And the switch was quickly made.
“They would look down at TrackMan and go, ‘Man, I hit that slightly out of the toe’ or ‘I hit that slightly out of the heel” and they couldn’t believe the ball speeds were still that high,” he said. “I think that was a defining moment for us.”
Xander Schauffele was the first Callaway staffer to put a MAVRIK in his bag, back in December while representing the U.S. at the Presidents Cup in Australia. Schauffele won three matches with his then-prototype Sub Zero club that week – including his Sunday Singles match against the home favorite Adam Scott as the Americans rallied to win. A few weeks later, Schauffele was part of a three-man playoff at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Marc Leishman put a MAVRIK in his bag early in the season, then won the Farmers Insurance Open. “Took me only three swings to know it was the right driver for me,” Leishman said.
Of course, Mickelson continues to “hit bombs” in a remarkable display of length for the recently turned 50-year-old who uses a MAVRIK Sub Zero driver. And non-Callaway staff pros such as Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger are using a MAVRIK driver; in fact, Berger won the Charles Schwab Challenge with a MAVRIK Sub Zero.
Now consider Will Gordon, who was ranked 812th in the world after he missed the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Gordon arrived at Callaway’s performance center the Monday of the Farmers Insurance Open and switched to the MAVRIK driver. He finished T21 that week, had a Top 20 finish at the Puerto Rico Open a few weeks later. In his first start after the resumption of play following the TOUR’s pandemic stoppage, Gordon --- playing on a sponsor’s exemption – finished solo third and earned Special Temporary Membership. He’s currently 197th in the world.
“You’re talking about a guy that’s trying to earn his way on the PGA TOUR with limited sponsor exemptions, on a big-boy golf course like Torrey Pines with extremely tight fairways and very penal rough, and he puts the MAVRIK driver in play,” Davidson said. “I think that was a catalyst to his confidence.”
Confidence is a word frequently associated with the MAVRIK driver and woods. Confidence that a mis-hit can still be a solid shot. Confidence that ball speed will be maximized. Confidence in a line of club, no matter if they’re used on the tee box or in the fairway … and no matter if they’re used by a PGA TOUR pro or an aging Shock Rocker.