S-Yard drivers have been a hot topic at Tourspecgolf since we re-introduced the brand back in December and wrote about how respected Japanese golf club design guru Kenji Kobayashi was now heading up the company. His first official release as the CEO of S-Yard was of course the very popular T.388 forged driver. Last week I introduced the new XV Forged driver also designed by Mr. Kobayashi and a lot of customers and forum members started asking me how the XV fit into the S-Yard line and how does it compare to the already legendary T.388?
I thought I would take the opportunity to make a comparison between S-Yard’s 3 most current models, the newest XV, the T.388 from December and last years XT driver. Of the 3 drivers, the XT may very well be the least known from S-Yard. It was designed by Mr. Kobayashi BUT while he was still the chief designer and President of Endo Manufacturing. The XT wields all of Endo’s top materials and manufacturing processes. It is available in two flavors, the XT and the XT Hi-Cor. The 8 piece forged XT features a two piece face which is designed to increase ball speeds by transferring the maximum possible energy at impact. The XT Hi-Cor model is a 7 piece head and the only difference is the face which is a single piece forged face made thinner and hotter thus non conforming and with more spring effect closer to 0.88 COR and 270CT. On Friday night, our sales rep from S-Yard, Min gave me a call to let me know there would be an S-Yard demo day, about 15 minutes from my house at Honda Golf Center. So on Saturday I headed over with the intention of comparing the XV and T.388.
I met Min at Honda Golf Center which has 150 mats with auto tee up and is 250 yards to the back net. Min had all of S-Yard’s latest clubs on hand for patrons of the driving range to demo at the range. I decided to have Min hit the clubs for me as his swing and playing level are a good match for both the T.388 and XV. The only problem was that he carries the ball around 270-280, hitting halfway up the net so we did not get to assess the run. However we hit plenty of balls to be able to get sound and feel impressions as well as ball flight and tee height and forgiveness.
While I believe an amateur is the best at judging a club’s forgiveness, having Min hit the balls consistently was very helpful in understanding the trajectory of each driver as well as the sound at impact. With the deep face of the new XV, Min had to constantly change the tee height between both the XV and shallower T.388, teeing higher for the XV and lower for the T.388. Watching Min hit both drivers as I evaluated their trajectory was a pleasure to do. I have seen way too many drivers in past years with the high launch design hit high arching bombs in the air intended for max carry. The T.388 and XV are a breath of fresh air. Both launch very powerfully and climb with authority and have absolutely no ballooning whatsoever. Very penetrating trajectories. One would think though with the lower trajectory that the drivers would not carry as much but they do and more. Min pulled out the GT Type S driver which has a lower and deeper CG which is designed to produce a launch with more carry, yet the T.388 and XV carried more even though the ball flight was lower. As Min and I discussed, this is due to the shallow and short CG and overall design of the heads which creates lower spin.
I had wanted to shoot video and photos at the range but with the hitting area covered by a roof the difference in lighting caused severe exposure issues as the mats were much darker when facing outwards towards the range. I tried capturing the flight of the XV with my iPhone5 and you can briefly see the ball flight after impact though the tail end is too hard to see – I suggest switching the videos to HD for viewing (Min hits it too far and too fast!).
In the next video, I have Min hit the XV followed by the T.388 and we comment in between shot on feel, trajectory and spin (sorry if the sound is not so clear – it is just an iPhone). As you can imagine, with all S-Yard drivers being forged at Endo from Endo’s best titanium, they all feel pretty good and soft. None of that high pitched metallic “tink” sounds for S-Yard drivers. Min notes that the XV feels more light off the face which he explains as being a bit more crisp. The ball seems to leave the face faster most likely due to a larger more flexible face area. The T.388 on the other hand he describes as more spongy at impact, as if it absorbs the ball and shoots it back out. Trajectory wise, the XV is a tad higher but not by much. Both are considered low to mid trajectory drivers, the type of ball flight that will not lose out to the wind. While the Center of Gravity distances are similar, the XV and its higher back head allow the player to tee the ball higher and strike the ball higher on the face. The T.388 and its low tee, is best with a level blow minimizing spin, and maximizing carry and run.
Min admittedly said the sweet spot for the T.388 is smaller, but what do you expect from a 388cc head. I told him that many customers who have gotten the T.388 have been pleasantly surprised by its forgiveness. Min was very happy to hear this and exclaimed that if this was the case, they would find the XV even more forgiving thanks to the bigger face and sweet spot. So we went away from the hitting session with the following: both lower launchers with penetrating trajectories. The XV a tad higher trajectory. Both soft feel but slightly different with the T.388 having a thicker more spongy feel and the XV more crisp and light at impact. After the session I decided to borrow a bunch of drivers and took home 3 XV’s and some T.388’s as well so I could o a physical comparison with XT which is in my bag now.
My first image above shows the face height of each driver. Please note this is not exact, it is only to give an idea of how they compare. I measured the face height from the sole leading edge to the top line of the face. As I’ve mentioned already, the height of the face dictates how a player will tee the ball. Mr. Kobayashi thinks this is one of the factors in how players will choose between the XV and T.388. Those who prefer a low tee height and hit the ball with a level blow will prefer the T.388 while those who tee it higher will like the XV. The XT is kind of in between but with the design of the XT, it is more of a driver that catches the ball on the upswing for max carry thanks to its shallow back design which you will see later.
When I shot photos of the drivers at address the XV really surprised me. At 450cc it is 16% larger than the compact T.388 but at address it is not much bigger – at least to the naked eye. The XV really hides its 450cc well thanks to its high back design. Both use matte black finishes but they are slightly different. The XV is a deeper black while the T.388 is almost an off black. The XT next to these 2 really shows what an advantage the matte black has when it comes to reflections and light. The shiny and metallic pearl finish of the XT reflects and mirrors everything. While the 460cc XT is obviously larger, its not huge by any means considering it is setting up next to two pear shaped compact heads. All 3 heads in the photo above are 10.5* heads and the XV and T.388 really show their true loft/specs. The XT and its closed face is probably more than 10.5* real spec which is not surprising considering its different target audience.
Looking from the side view, its interesting to note that the T.388 is in fact the most shallow head though it is not as long back as the XT. The XV is very tall here and this design is what keeps the 450cc head looking and performing like a 400cc head while still maintaining its forgiveness. The green dots illustrate approximate position of the CG point depth wise. In this day and age where most drivers feature CG along the lines of the XT its amazing to see Mr. Kobayashi’s concept of having a CG point right up and closer to the face. Today I took all three drivers to the driving range here in the community to see how forgiving they would be head to head for an average golfer like myself. I had hit the T.388 before and found it very forgiving especially for its size but now to have it side by side with the XV and the very easy to hit XT… While typically a pear shaped compact head like the XV and T.388 aren’t aimed at giving average golfers confidence, I quite like the look at address and the way the ball frames the head.
I for one like to tee the ball high so the T.388 was a bit adjustment for me. I think many make the mistake of teeing it too high and then dismissing it after one short range session which is certainly not enough to truly see any club’s potential. The XV which I have been testing for a week now played well with my usual tee height and was simply a pleasure to hit. It is quite forgiving and in all directions thanks to the larger face. The T.388 is surprisingly forgiving towards the toe and heel but you can’t miss really low or high since the face is not tall. The XV is strong in all directions for miss hits thanks to its double flange face design matched on a bigger face. Hitting it high on the face which usually results in a high shot or ballooning drive for me still created a strong trajectory. I should note that both stock shafts are very stable, I go into each shaft in each respective blog post that I made on each driver but the bottom line is, if you don’t want to spend extra on any upgrade shaft, you probably don’t have to unless you swing too fast or too slow for the shafts intended range.
– You love small heads and this is the smallest of the bunch volume (but not by much at address)
– You like to tee the ball lower
– You want the lowest launch and lowest spin
– You prefer stability and control
– You like a more spongy kind of feel
– Your course is dry and hard which will allow the T.388 produce the most run
– Your course is softer and you need max carry PLUS all the run you can get
– You want a traditional shaped head
– You like the idea of 450cc that does not look like 450cc
– You want a low trajectory with low spin
– You like a deep face
– You like to tee the ball up higher
– You prefer more balance of control and forgiveness
– You prefer a slightly more crisp feel
– Your course is dry and hard which will allow the XV produce the most run
– Your course is softer and you need max carry PLUS all the run you can get
So why choose the XT?
– You are an average golfer who needs lots of forgiveness
– You slice the ball/have trouble squaring the face
– You need help getting the ball in the air/you need high launch
– You are a slower swinger
– You like the having the option of a Hi Cor/Non Conforming driver
– You feel more confident with a larger head
All three drivers are current in the S-Yard lineup and have their intended audience with some overlap of course. The T.388 is a very specialized head that has shocked many by its unexpected ease of use. The XV is perhaps he most well rounded. It gives the performance of the XV but with a slightly higher launch and more forgiveness perhaps with a tad more spin and a bit less control. Both of these are aimed at better players but improving mid cappers can play these surprisingly well especially if low launch and low spin is what they need. All three drivers are premium quality you would expect from a brand like S-Yard and produced at Endo. All in all it was a fun day checking out the new drivers side by side. I have a round tomorrow at Hirakawa country club and will take all 3 drivers with me to use in different situations. If you need help choosing you can always contact us for recommendations and a fitting.
PS. One of the most fun parts of the day was also parking my plasma blue STi next to Min’s Silver LanEvo 6 Tommi Makinen Edition. Of course we also test drove each others cars before heading home. (^_^)