Callaway FT-iQ Driver Exclusive: Hitting, Not Seeing, is Believing

If youre over the age of 35, you probably heard long ago the angry rumour that ended the fledgling music career of High-Fi _ Fred Flintstones one-hit-wonder rock Ëœn roll alter ego.

If not, it goes something like this.

Theres one thing thats unforgivable to teenagers, says conniving Wilma as her pageboyed, bespectacled husband twinkle-toes on stage before an adoring young audience.

Then, that devastating finger-motion. The four-cornered, dotted-line shape, hanging in the air like the stench of stale beer and tobacco.

The rumour spreads, a mass exodus of the paying public ensues, and Rockin Bird ends to an empty house. Wilma _ not the least bit interested, it seems, in cashing Freds rock-star paycheque _ smiles with satisfaction.

Its the worst word in the teenage language.


For those who remain committed disciples of the square-driver movement, Callaway Golfs new FT-iQ is a no-brainer.

For the rest of us, the latest flagship offering from the Carlsbad colossus is the most compelling argument yet for square drivers _ a dramatic departure from convention, one that’s perched on the thin line between paradigm shift and passing fad.

First, the asthetics. At address, no one is going to mistake this look _ distinctive, but still very reminiscent of Callaways original square driver, the FT-i _ for a traditional golf club.

The massive crown of the FT-iQ looks like the trunk on a 1957 Chevy, complete with elevated side fins that run the length of the clubhead, culminating in stabilizing Ëœvents at the back where the tail lights would be.

Despite the bulk, however, the lines flow smoothly to the back of the clubhead, creating a sleek, aerodynamic profile that gives the appearance of sheer speed. Even the sharp graphics on the sole of the club look fast.

With all that junk in the trunk, the clubface looks small by comparison; Callaway has done little to mitigate the clubs proportions and unconventional shape. But theres nothing ugly about the FT-iQs ball flight, which is easy enough to see and repeat, provided you don’t try to kill it.

FT-iQ is a smart driver because power without precision is useless, said Jeff Colton, Callaway’s senior vice-president, research and development.

Not only is the FT-iQ the longest driver we’ve ever developed, it’s also 35 per cent straighter than the FT-i, our previous benchmark for accuracy.

Callaway bills the FT-iQ as incorporating “Complete Inertial Design” _ a design principle optimizing all of the club’s characteristics “ moment of inertia, centre of gravity, CG bias, face design, loft and lie “ to optimize the club’s overall performance.

At impact, the ball leaps hot off the FT-iQs clubface, although it does so with a muted, hollow “thonk” _ a sound common among the highest of the high-tech, modern-era drivers.

Despite the size of the clubhead, the FT-iQ is still workable, and the proprietary 60-gram Mitsubishi Rayon Fubuki shaft _ part of Callaways I-Mix interchangeable shaft system _ makes it easy to hit a smoking draw or a high, soaring cut with only a few minor adjustments to setup and swing.

I-Mix, introduced at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando earlier this year, should help make the search for the perfect combination of clubhead and shaft as easy as a visit to the nearest Callaway Performance Centre.

Whether the concept has caught on as anything beyond a handy clubfitting feature, however, remains an open question.

On paper, the whole interchangeable-shaft concept seemed a good one: no more costly trips to the club tech to try (read: buy) a new shaft, only to decide you liked the old one better.

In practice, however, even the most committed gear head is likely to find themselves more inclined to stand pat than to switch up shafts on a day-to-day basis. Still, its nice to know you have the option.

Callaways system seems to work well enough, although one cant help but wonder whether the bells and whistles _ proprietary flanges on the shaft mesh only with a specialized, pre-calibrated torque wrench to ensure a proper connection and prevent any mixed-manufacturer mischief _ is a bit of overkill.

Still, the whole thing is fairly intuitive; the wrench is pretty much idiot-proof, from the This side towards clubhead/This side away from clubhead markings to the preset torque release, a built-in clutch of sorts that lets go and changes the colour of a little indicator window when youve reached the desired tightness.

The Mitsubishi shaft produces a boring, low-to-average ball flight, a penetrating trajectory which _ when combined with a muscular draw _ definitely results in impressive distance.

During a recent round at Ottawas classic Royal Ottawa Golf Club, a well-struck draw on the strapping 450-yard par-4 13th hole left little more than a nine-iron approach, an instant improvement of about 25 yards over my current gamer.

As well, theres definitely a high degree of forgiveness on off-centre hits, both in terms of distance and accuracy, as one has come to expect from Callaway. Even so, the company’s boast of a 35 per cent improvement over the FT-i is a pretty bold one.

Make no mistake, the FT-iQ features plenty of long with minimal wrong. But theres little doubt that all that technology goes for naught when the person wielding it either starts swinging out of their shoes or starts trying to pull off shots they simply don’t have in their repertoire.

So while you can still still snap-hook or push-slice this bad boy with the best of them, it straightens out beautifully once you stop trying to overpower the ball and just swing easy, making it an excellent choice for players who occasionally find themselves forgoing all manner of control for the sake of a couple of extra yards.

In high school, nobody wanted to be called square. In golf, it remains unclear just how many disciples the movement has attracted. Its detractors, on the other hand, are plentiful.

The square-headed driver phenomenon will be over in about 90 days, TaylorMade Adidas chief executive Mark King famously said when the first versions hit the market last year.

So far, square drivers have outlasted Kings decidedly bearish outlook; even those manufacturers who eschew the idea have nonetheless made equally dramatic _ sometimes jarring _ changes to the shape of their own offerings.

Whether genuinely square drivers are around to stay is another matter entirely _ but whatever happens, Callaway is clearly going to have a thing or two to say about it.

The FT-iQ hits North American stores Nov. 15.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I have had the good fortune to play with this driver for the past couple of weeks and I second Jame’s sentiments. This thing drives as advertised! I put the traditional driver back in the bag on Monday and was terribly disappointed with the results. If you want dead straight, solid feel and consistent trajectory, try out the FT iQ as soon as you can. Meanwhile, get out of my way!

  • I’ve had the great fortune to win this club in the US (Cally wasnt too happy about that). I have the Tour 9.5* I-mix version…with the new Fubuki Shaft (insane setup!) and let me just say, WOW.
    Firstly, just this same setup is about $900usd..add the Imix customizations…well over a grand…obviously more than i could ever afford to pay for 1 club.
    The performance is indeed better than my current FT-i with Epic shaft and the more i relaxed and swung…the better the results….

    GREAT JOB CALLY! this is game changing technology

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