Brains vs. Brawn in Camp Callaway: the FT-iQ vs. the FT-9

Its a little bit like the difference between a surgical strike and a blow with a blunt instrument.

For the bludgeoner, theres the FT-iQ _ Callaways less-than-subtle premium tee-ball offering for 2009, a square-headed, perimeter-weighted,

The FT-iQ: All it needs are tail lights (but don't bother with turn signals).

The FT-iQ: All it needs are tail lights (but don't bother with turn signals).

MOI-maximized weapon thats indisputably long and remarkably hard to hit off-line, sort of like a mallet putter for the tee box.

The FT-iQ, while sporting Callaways i-Mix interchangeable shaft technology, ships with a premium proprietary Fubuki shaft from Mitsubishi Rayon, with a Tour iteration for those less inclined to slice it right (the Tour model of the FT-iQ boasts a clubface thats open by half a degree, a moderately stiffer shaft and a swingweight of D4 rather than the standard-issue D2).

And in the other corner, a sleeker, (slightly) more subtle club – the FT-9, a decidedly less sharp-edged offering that features a more traditional shape, models that come in a greater variety of loft and lie angles, and an offering of two different centre-of-gravity configurations to either promote a draw or a more neutral ball flight.

And in this corner, the club with no corners: the FT-9.

And in this corner, the club with no corners: the FT-9.

So, which is it going to be?

First, a word or two about aesthetics. The FT-iQ definitely cuts a striking shadow, but the unconventional square shape is going to be the most troublesome burden to get past. With its perimeter-weighted Ëœfins that run the length of the clubhead, culminating in a cool tail-light look in the back, the iQ looks like the trunk of a 1957 Chevy on the end of a stick _ with what the untrained eye would probably consider dimensions to match.

The FT-9 is a more conventional, rounded shape, but with the same junk-in-the-trunk look at address thats become standard fare among round drivers of late _ the big, bulgy backside designed to help maximize the moment of inertia and widen the sweet spot on the clubface. One cool addition to the 9, however, is the external web weighting visible on the sole of the clubface, a feature that resembles screened-in vents on the back of the club and gives the sole a cool, modern look.

The 9 ships with a Fujikura ZCOM shaft, and comes in Neutral and Draw configurations as well as lofts of nine through 11 degrees as well as a 13-degree model. the Tour iteration boasts a clubface thats one degree open, configured as Neutral and in three lofts – 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5 degrees.

Players who are familiar with the setup and playability of Callaway products over the years will likely find themselves comfortable over the FT-9, which sets up with that same lovely sense of confidence that has long made Cally a brand players associate with playability.

It is also the most workable driver of the two, provided you set yourself up with the neutral configuration; the Draw version, aimed at players who tend to lose the ball right, is set up with a pre-established right-to-left bias and is therefore not the best choice for a more accomplished golfer who wants the versatility of moving the ball in either direction.

ft-iq-sweet-spot If, on the other hand, youre mad for power _ the kind of golfer whos looking to maximize distance while keeping it in the fairway, and the option of feeling the ball around doglegs isnt high on your priority list, then take a long, hard look at the FT-iQ.

The thing is a cannon, a shock-and-awe bomber that instils an unmistakable sense over the ball that no matter where on the clubface you strike it, its going to leave you with a serviceable result. It lacks in most respects any sense of subtlety and finesse one might find with its rounder cousin; while its still possible to hit the thing off line (the specs say the Tour edition has a square face, but our tester seemed to me to want to look left a lot), the sense of power and confidence that it conjures up at address is considerable _ provided all youre hoping to do is bomb it in a straight line.

Part of the iQs inflexibility when it comes to working the ball is the result of the clubheads shape, which doesnt lend itself to an open clubface (the curse of every double-digit handicapper). Instead, sole the club and it immediately looks square, or even a little closed if youre more accustomed to looking at an open face. Resist the temptation to steer – or to stare. Its odd looks can be strangely hypnotic.

The FT-9, on the other hand, is a gorgeous players club that carries on with the traditions of its FT-5 predecessor, providing more accomplished golfers with more ability to manipulate ball flight. It, too, conveys a sense of power and confidence over the ball, but with a bit more leeway for a player who likes to shape tee shots to meet the demands of each particular hole.

Let it be said that in sheer clubhead dimensions, the FT-9 isnt too far off from its boxier cousin, which means its at least as capable of straightening out ball flight as any other high-tech oversized clubhead out there. The 9 simply makes it a little easier to hold the clubface open through the ball or turn the club over through impact, thus making it a little easier to manage those prodigious tee balls on holes where a straight shot is liable to run out of fairway.  ft-9-driver

The bottom line is this: either of these two premium driver offerings would be a good choice for the serious player, regardless of ability, who is looking for a tee-box upgrade. Which you might choose depends on what youre trying to accomplish.

If youre trying to straighten out a wonky long game and throw a few extra yards into the bargain, and aesthetics are less important than conjuring a sense of raw power behind the ball, the FT-iQ is the club to consider. If, on the other hand, youre already rocking a pretty strong driver game and want to keep all of your ball-flight options in play from hole to hole, look take a whack at the FT-9.

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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.

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