If the Callaway Hawk Eye VFT had been anything other than a Callaway driver, we would have dropped it from testing early on. But, since the editorial staff has some strongly negative feelings about the practices of Ely Callaway, we have gone to extremes to make certain that the VFT has received every possible opportunity to prove itself.
In nineteen sessions with the VFT, we have had a total of eleven testers hit well over a thousand comparison drives. The handicaps of these testers have ranged from scratch to 30. All have had swingspeeds appropriate to the shafts in question. Six of those testers involved had been using Callaway drivers for the past year or more. Each of them approached the testing thinking that the VFT might be their next personal; driver. Each has found the VFT to be beautiful and appealing before testing began.
Final results: eight thumbs down and three so-so’s. Not one tester has wanted to take the VFT to the course for a trial run after experiencing it on our target fairway.
Five of the eleven testers have hated the VFT from start to finish and have had virtually no success with it at all. The other seven have had mixed results. Each has left with the same opinion: good hits are good, bad hits are squalid – really squalid. And, they have all felt that the bad hits were far too numerous. Every tester has been able to hit for better overall accuracy, has had longer ‘best hits’ and has scored longer overall averages with at least two of the other drivers being tested. Some have had as many as five or six other drivers outperform the VFT.
Two testers have started their first session with the VFT nicely and have been quite pleased with their results. After extended testing in later sessions with various comparison drivers, each has changed his mind. When “on”, they have excelled with the VFT and some very fine drives have resulted. But, when “off”, they have all had extremely poor results. As to feel, they have echoed what all have said: Center hits feel quite nice – often vibrantly alive; off-center hits feel lousy – sometimes, shockingly bad. Premium balls noticeably improve feel, but this is the case with many drivers.
Several of our testers have the exact same reaction to the VFT. Things have gone well and then each has hit low, weak hooks to shortest, left-hand segment of our target area. A lot of drivers hit hooks, but not this short. Each tester has responded in the same way: They’ve exclaimed, “What the … I never hit there!!” As one tester said, “Those aren’t duck-hooks, they’re ‘lame duck’ hooks.” Another said, “Well, at least the mishits are so weak that they don’t go far enough to get out of bounds. When I hook with other drivers, I end up way over there in the weeds.” Aside from the hooks, shots hit very low in the center of the face have flown weakly and died well short of normal range for such mishits.
Testers, as with most golfers, have a tendency to favor drivers that produce the big, impressive hits over those that produce consistent, but slightly shorter drives. They tend to blame their mistakes on themselves and overlook the errant shots that reduce yardage. It is often difficult to convince them that perhaps they should be hitting a shorter driver for better overall, distance averages. Sometimes, we have to mark balls and drag them out to the target zones to convince them that their perceptions of reality are clouded by emotions. This has not been the situation with the VFT. While it has produced some beauties, its mistake patterns have been so dismally weak that the overall disadvantages of using this driver have been readily apparent to all.
It is not that the VFT can’t hit long drives, because it can. The trajectory that results from solid hits starts flat and climbs moderately with good penetration. Ample roll is created. It is the kind of trajectory that looks good and generates very fine yardages on certain types of fairways – those geared to maximize roll advantage. The problem is that the VFT has very poor, overall averages. It does not produce good hits at a rate commensurate to other long-hitting drivers. We have had many other drivers beat the VFT in both average yardage and best-hit yardage. Many drivers have come through that have been worse than the Hawk Eye VFT, but we have never had one that has produced such a wide disparity of results for so many testers.
One strong, veteran tester who owned a Callaway Steelhead Plus (9-degree, stiff) had great luck with the VFT during his first session. He wanted to trade in his old Steelhead and leave with the VFT. When he returned later for a second session, he included the Wilson Deep Red 9-degree and Taylor Made 360 9.5-degree in the comparison drives. The VFT dropped to third place. In his third session, he achieved better overall patterns with the Butler SS Ti 8.5-degree and ZT Spectra 8 & 9-degree. All four other drivers hit higher trajectories than did the VFT, and all hit longer, except for the Wilson, which was generally equal in length. He has since made the Deep Red his regular driver due to its great consistency. All that being said, the VFT did produce the prettiest, coolest looking drives of the bunch for him – lower and hotter. They just did not yield net results equal to the others.
The VFT can work just fine for some consistent swing types. Trouble is, it is optimized for swings that deliver the required power at a particular point and from a particular angle. This is the limitation inherent to such head designs. Callaway clearly states this in their literature, but apparently knew that readers would not understand its ramifications. Good marketing cannot override fundamental laws of physics. To paraphrase Jesse Ortiz of Orlimar, “Sure, a trampoline works great if you bounce in the middle of it, but we all know what happens if you land near the edges.” The ability to tag the occasional long bomb does not, and will never, offset the inability to produce consistent drives.
We have received some complaints about our original review, but far fewer than we had anticipated given the prideful nature of Callaway devotees. Most interesting was the person who emailed in an earnest complaint about our apparent lack of objectivity. He told us of his great success with the VFT. A few days later, he emailed back to say that his VFT had followed suit and turned woefully erratic on him.
A number of other sources have pointed out that the VFT is far more forgiving in the higher lofts – 10 and 11 degrees – and that it hits lower than its loft designation would indicate. We’d certainly recommend that anyone trying the VFT try a higher loft than that which they normally use. Both the 8 and 9-degree models we have hit have produced adequate height, but rarely enough to provide the kind of carry necessary to generate maximum distance on a consistent basis. The additional loft will also provide some corrective spin to help offset the excess curvature of the VFT’s mistake patterns.