I finally got out for my first round of golf of 2011. Whenever my neighbor across the street invites me to go to Hirakawa Country Club, I can never say no as its a top level private club that hosts the JPGA's Senior Open every year. Its the only time I get to golf with a caddy and walk the course as riding carts in Japan is the norm. So I bagged the Ryoma D-1 and Quelot RE10 and I decided to leave the V-Spec and D1- Premia at home as the 46.5" length simply is not my calling. I decided I would play the Ryoma for the first 9 holes then the Quelot after lunch for the second half of the round. With a caddy in tow, I did not bring my GPS this time around which I usually use for measuring distance performance. I decided I would just wing it and measure up the performance against my 2 playing partners who I've been playing with 2 times a month for the last 2 and a half years. After all, technical numbers and launch monitor performance aside, the true tale of a drivers performance is on the course when you not only have to hit the ball far but you also have to plan where to hit the ball and battle elements as well as pressure and your mates.
Even though we walk the course, the pace is always very good as the caddies at Hirakawa are very professional and keep the game flowing very well. Because of this I did not bother bringing my camera today as it would just be a distraction and hold up the group. At lunch however I did get the chance to try my new Docomo SC-02B android phone and its camera and snapped the above shot through the clubhouse restaurant window. Not bad. (^_^)
The weather was on the cool side especially teeing off in the morning when it was around 6C. I'm thankful that we've got a very strong sun here in Japan in the winter and when it's a clear day it never feels as cold as it really is. I was very excited as this would also be the first time I hit the Alpha Spec non conforming Quelot which I had built with the XDB55 50t shaft I posted about earlier on the blog. In fact both the Quelot and the Ryoma have very similar goals and target audiences. They are both designed for max distance, forgiveness and ease of use. So this would certainly make for an interesting comparison (I won't compare the V-Spec directly as that is made for the faster swinger and features a square to open face). One thing I must make clear though, is that there is a huge pricing difference between these drivers. Cost performance is also a very big factor. Not all golfers have unlimited budgets and as some customers put it, "sell the house to buy a club".
Spec wise both the Ryoma D-1 and Quelot RE10 are 10.5* lofts. They are very similar lengths, the D-1 45.25" and the RE10 though when I put them side by side they were practically the same length. Their head sizes are similar at address as you can see in the above picture I took and both feature closed face angles though the D-1 which is spec'ed at 0.5* closed looks quite a bit more closed than the RE10 which is spec'ed at 1.5* closed. The more I look at the picture and the clubs in real life you'd think the specs are the other way around. The obvious hook face of the Ryoma D-1 scared me during warm up and I was sure I'd pull my first drive to the left.
Weight wise the Ryoma is a very manageable 290g which is still considered lightweight even for R flex players. The Quelot RE10 on the other hand has to be considered an ultra light at 272g. In the hands both clubs felt similar due to very close swing weights of D1 and D0 respectively. Shaft wise the Ryoma comes with its stock shaft, a Tour AD FS-1 shaft made in Japan specifically for the D-1 driver. The FS-1 features a slightly firmer butt end but a very active mid and tip section. I shafted the Quelot RE10 with Geotech's XDB55 50t shaft which features a firmer 4 axis weave butt and mid and tip section enforced by 50t grade carbon. As I noted in my previous Quelot build post, the XDB55 Regular CPM'ed out lower than I had hoped for so today would be the true test of the shafts stability and performance.
The Ryoma D-1 has a deeper face and a higher back, it also has a longer hosel which translates into a more active tip section as the end of the tip is further away from the sole thanks to a higher bore. This increases the possibility for more distance but also decreases control due to less stability. Even with the shallow face and shallow back head of the Quelot, the Ryoma actually packs more weight in the back thanks to the 60g weighing and 0.35mm monocoque body.
I'll be honest and say when I stepped up to the first tee with the Ryoma D-1 I was not expecting anything spectacular. Many companies boast miracle distance and slice cures that don't live up to the hype. This is why I've typically stuck to mainstream drivers like ONOFF, PRGR, Yamaha and focused on optimizing performance by getting the right shaft. However, the Ryoma SURPRISED me. At the first hole I lead off the group with what I thought was a very average drive, the feel was good but the trajectory was high (it started low then climbed however it was not ballooning). My partners said nice shot and then proceeded to hit their drives. Both players have faster swings than me and typically out drive me with one player playing a Tourstage X-Drive 703 Limited and DI-6 Stiff and the other a PRGR GN502 Tour and M-43 shaft. As we walked down the fairway towards our balls, my partners were surprised to proclaim that my ball was 10 yards past theirs. Taka said to me, "I thought you didn't hit it that good". I agreed and was pleasantly happy that I out drove both of them. On the next few holes I proceeded to out drive or equal my playing partners' drives even on off center hits. They were beginning to ask me, what is this "Ryoma" driver? I could only conclude that the high trajectory was resulting in very good carry and the low spin in very good run, especially with the winter hardened ground. I felt pumped up like the way I did over 3 years ago when I tried the Epon Technity 460ZR for the first time.
I was teeing the ball up reasonably high to as there was no wind during today's round. The Ryoma is certainly mid to high trajectory which may turn some players off. Recently I've experimented with going to lower lofts for stability and more control, counting on run out rather from a more penetrating trajectory rather than carry. So I was concerned when I first saw that the D-1 launched quite high however the hang time is superb and it just keeps going. As for the stock shaft, I swing around 90mph with a slow take back and a bit of an aggressive transition accelerating through the downswing. My bad shot is either releasing too early and pulling my drive or turning too quickly before release and leaving the face open for a push slice. I always play regular flex to maximize feel and distance and I'm glad to say the stock shaft held up well and I had no bad shots left or right. As I mentioned earlier I did tee up higher with the deep face and had one drive where I came very close to the top line and it was probably the worst drive with the Ryoma but even a pop up miss hit like that still carried over well over 200 yards. (good drives were reaching 240+).
I took 7 drives with the Ryoma D-1 and purposely did not have the caddy clean the face so I could track the impact pattern. (though at the end of the round, my caddy forgot and wiped off the Quelot driver face!! so no Quelot impact image...) The reason why I like this driver is due to the 60g weight in the back and the body design, the sweet spot is huge. Even though I was not dead center on the driver, everything in the red area pretty much traveled the same distance AND STRAIGHT. I had one shot as I mentioned near the top but even that traveled safely over 200 yards. I really think the forgiveness is above any other driver I've tried. The closed face was of no concern as the driver and stock shaft stayed in the fairway for the whole morning.
After lunch, at the first hole of the afternoon, my caddy immediately handed me the Ryoma but I said I'd be going with the Quelot for the afternoon resulting in a cry from my play mates "WHY?". I told them the Quelot supposed to be just as good! I was feeling pretty good after a delicious lunch at the club house and proceeded to hit my first afternoon drive right on the screws with the Quelot and it went just as far as the Ryoma. The feel was more hard off the face but the trajectory quite similar with great carry. However the success didn't last as the next hole I pulled my shot into the trees just left of the hole. On the hole after that I again pulled a shot to the left rough. I was beginning to think that the Quelot's overall lighter weight as well as softer shaft was being overpowered by my aggressive downswing and release. Sure enough I slowed it down on the next hole and was back in the fairway with a soft draw. One thing I did not like about the Quelot was the Winn Lite Xi5 grip. I felt it did not provide a good connection to the club and even twisted in my hands. The stock grip on the Ryoma, made by Perfect Pro in Japan was much tackier.
So at the end of the day, I got to play two very good drivers. Both the Ryoma D-1 and Quelot RE10 hit right on the screws produces premium type distance. The thing is the sweet spot is much larger on the Ryoma D-1, perhaps the largest I've ever seen making it feel and seem like you are always hitting it right on the screws even if you're not in the center. The feel edge goes to the Ryoma, it is pretty soft. Both spin quite low but I'd suspect the Ryoma to spin even lower than the Quelot. The Ryoma matches or outdoes the Quelot distance wise even though the Quelot is non conforming and this is most likely due to that larger sweet area. The catch is, the Ryoma is more than twice the cost of the Quelot and that's with an upgraded 50t shaft in the Quelot. So for less than half the price, the Quelot is still a great option with great distance.
There are a lot of good drivers out there. Most drivers from Japan are high quality and give top ranking peformance however, with specs and designs maxed out there hasn't been one driver for me that has clearly stood head and shoulders above the rest like the way the PRGR egg Spoon has for fairway woods. In the last 3 years I've tested every driver from Tourstage, Srixon, XXIO, PRGR, Yamaha, Royal Collection, ONOFF, Honma, and others and many of them wonderful feeling and performing drivers but the Ryoma D-1 is certainly the most forgiving driver. Was it long for me, very. Did I like it? Surprisingly yes. Is it the best driver out there? There is no such thing as the best driver out there. The Ryoma models really suit a specific type of player, one who wants maximum forgiveness and does not care for workability. If you choose the Ryoma, get ready for a mid launch which climbs high and keeps going with big carry plus run though you could suffer a bit on windy days (unless the wind is behind you!). The D-1 Premia is for those who are capable of hitting a 46.5" driver and want to gain 20 yards or so. The D-1 V-Spec is for the faster swinger who also only cares for distance but wants to take out the left side. After wards at the driving range, my playing partners tried the D-1 and D-1 V-Spec and the things that stood out for them was feel and forgiveness. They felt the drivers were at least as long as their current drivers if not longer but more forgiving. When I told them the price they were surprised but not shocked as they are Japanese after all and used to paying big yen for clubs.
The bottom line is both drivers will give you great distance performance suiting two different kinds of budgets. A Quelot Silver can be built for around 460.00 while the Ryoma D-1 and D-1 V-Spec will run 1200.00 with the Premia and its IP Gold and higher grade Ti at a cool 1575.00 (yes these prices are the set prices from Ryoma Golf). These kind of prices for Ryoma will pretty much get you any driver in Japan, but none will probably have the forgiveness that the Ryoma has.
The new drivers are in the TSG pro shop and we are already taking orders ! Maybe some of us do have to sell our houses to buy premium distance like this! (~_^)
EDIT: I just found out from Ryoma that both the D-1 PREMIA and D-1 VSpec can be ordered as head only with weight ranging from 188 to 200g. Please contact us for more details. Both are also available with Crazy or Quadra high carbon shafts.