Maruman's Shuttle lineup of fairway woods have always featured some pretty shallow faces and heads but when the new demos of the i4000AR for 2012 showed up, the face height simply blew me away. I know shallow faces are popular nowadays to help average golfers launch the ball in the air but the Shuttle is beyond shallow. I had to get out and do some testing with the Shuttle i4000AR just to see the effectiveness of its design.
The Shuttle line is available from a 2 wood all the way up to a 13 wood! That is quite a broad offering. The 2W is a 13* 210cc head designed for maximum distance and to reach par 5's in 2. The "smallest" head is the 30* 160cc 13W. All the Shuttles are made of maraging steel bodies with honeycomb variable thickness Custom 465 steel face and an ultra thin 0.3mm CH-1 steel crown. This makes for a very hot but soft feel at impact as Maraging is strong but elastic and Custom 465 steel has very high tensile strength for maximum ball speeds off the face. The head is quite advanced and as you can see from the picture above the face profile is like no other fairway wood.
Now because the head is so shallow, at address it looks absolutely huge. 210cc is big for a fairway wood but at setup it could pass for a 360cc or more driver. The good news is that with its ultra shallow design, its MOI actually exceeds many drivers on the market today at over 4000gcm2! This equals a huge amount of forgiveness across the face - most of the area is the length from heel to toe. Now the question is with all this MOI, is the ultra shallow face a benefit or a detriment to its performance?
With the huge head, there is a lot of sole area that can come into contact with the turf at or even before impact. All that friction could easily slow down the head and create less than square impact so Maruman implemented what they call Razor Furrows (the definition of a furrow is a long shallow trench or groove) which are essentially channels in the sole that reduce friction with the ground. These furrows allow the turf to pass through and to maintain head speed and direction of the head before impact. So how does this all come together when I actually tried to play it? I must admit, I was concerned about the shallow face and the larger head can be a bit distracting though it is comforting as it looks like you can't miss. But with a head design like this you CAN indeed miss. Teeing off is quite scary. You pretty much push your tee all the way into the ground and sit the ball on it and even then, the fear of coming under the ball is still a real possibility. Off the deck it is very easy to launch the ball in the air. If you can square the face up, you are pretty much guaranteed to hit it dead center and boy it launches high. However if the ball is in any kind of taller rough, players again have a very big possibility of coming under and skying the ball.
This club is definitely aimed at the less powerful player who needs help getting the ball in the air and is looking for distance. I would not recommend it for the faster swinger and physically strong player as the club is very light (the 2W static weight is 293g - less than many drivers!!) meaning besides skying the ball its also very easy to top the ball without that added weight to feel the club head coming down. The good news is I am a slower swinger and it gave me added distance. The face is quite hot, though not the greatest feeling and sounds and feels very much like a driver thwack. It is right up there with the Ryoma and egg distance wise and launches even higher than both. The difference is it may not be as versatile as the other two, especially the Ryoma which can be tee'ed off with and hit in rough with its deeper face. The egg has better feel and looks in my opinion but it also shares some of the negatives of the Shuttle which is a shallow face (though not as shallow as the Shuttle) and weight on the light side.
One thing to note is that as the clubs progress to higher lofts, not only do the heads get a tad smaller but the faces also a bit deeper. The sound is also less menacing a hitting the 5W was not as loud as the 2W, or maybe its just my imagination. The Shuttle can definitely work for the right player but its not for everyone. For those who rely on shallow faces, ultra light weight and only care for distance and forgiveness, the Shuttle is worth a try. For anyone who wants to tee off with their 3W or the don't like big heads or ultra light clubs, they best look elsewhere. If you are willing to give it a shot, its here in the pro shop!