The Equipment Insider

Ben Hogan impresses with GS53 Max

Once the gold standard for producing blades, Ben Hogan Golf has reinvented itself into a company that combines quality with value. The GS53 Max driver is testament to both

I want to live in a world where I don’t have to spend $500 for a new driver. Thanks for that, Ben Hogan Golf.

As a member of the subset that is senior golfers, I’m one of those guys who remembers the glory years of Ben Hogan golf equipment. Hogan blades were the gold standard then. If you had a set in your bag, you were a stick — or thought you were.

I scored a set of those beauties in the mid-1990s and I was probably in the latter category. The Hogans were a badge of honor, but after a few years of middling results I finally admitted that I needed clubs that were more forgiving for my skill level. So I grudgingly moved on.

Last year, I picked up a set of Hogan irons with dark-colored heads. They looked good in the bag, too, they performed pretty well and they were reasonably priced at today’s levels.

Ben Hogan Golf has remade itself into brand that combines value with quality. That’s what I discovered when I tried out the Hogan GS53 Max driver. Hogan has gone through a couple cycles of revival attempts but the current one under CEO Scott White seems to be working.

Ben Hogan — GS53 Max Driver — Profile

Hogan sells clubs directly to consumers. There is no middle man, no retailer, no tour pro to pay to play the clubs and advertise them. Those costs don’t get passed on to the consumer because Hogan Golf eliminated them.

So I got my wish, a good driver for under $500 — way under $500. The GS53 Max is $355 at BenHoganGolf.com. My field test with the driver went well but I managed only four rounds with it before a problem set in, an annoying thing we call winter here in Pittsburgh.

I’d like to hit it on an 82-degree day because in the chilly fall weather, it seemed as if the ball had just as much juice jumping off the GS53 face as it did off my custom-fit major-brand name driver, which cost hundreds more. There’s one short, downhill par 4 I can almost drive at the low-budget public course I frequent. I had a couple of goes at it with the GS53 and pounded it to the same spot just short of the green. The GS53 goes just as far as my regular driver and it has a better feel.

At least one playing partner has tried to beg it off me, without success.

Ben Hogan Golf came out with the GS53 driver last year. It was meant for better golfers. The GS53 Max is for the rest of us. It has a full-sized 460cc head, an ultra-lightweight carbon composite crown, a tungsten sole weight and an adjustable hosel so you can change the lie angle and face angle and fine-tune it to your game.

Why get into the fiercely competitive driver market with the big advertisers? Because customers want what they want.

“The lion share of our business is forged irons and wedges and probably always will be,” White said. “But we had customers say, I want to carry a Hogan driver or a 3-wood or hybrids, so we’ve gotten into those categories, too. We are methodical about product development. We don’t bring anything out unless it’s darn good and ready.”

Another plus for the GS53 is its classic shape — if it’s possible for big-headed drivers to have a classic shape. The head is a simple and formal black. It looks good.

“We think we have the best looking clubs on the market,” White said. “They’re clean, they’re classic. There are no unnecessary graphics or tech for the sake of take. The driver is very classically shaped, there’s not a lot of stuff going on visually. Some other companies have gotten out of control with colors and shapes. Golf has a certain tradition of elegance and we’re keenly aware of that.”

So the GS53 looks good, it plays well in weather that I wish was warmer and it’s well under the going price for a new adjustable driver. It also has a solid ting. Sound at impact that I liked.

“Our engineers spent a lot of time on internal placement of things so the driver sounds good,” White said. “We call it acoustic tuning. If you’re on a range next to a guy hitting something that sounds like an oil can, I don’t care if he’s hitting it 350 and straight, I don’t want to play that.”

Three-fifty and straight but sounds terrible? I’ll take two. And I’d settle for 250 and sorta-kinda straight. But yes, I don’t want an awful-sounding driver, either. I’m almost getting the 250 (not in the air — full discloslure) and straight with GS53.

The best part of the new Ben Hogan Golf is the pricing.

“People are value-conscious,” White said. “That’s part of our business strategy. There’s no retail market and our driver is $355 with the choice of three after-market shafts. You go into a retail store, the drivers on the shelves are $500, $600, $700—it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

The company website puts a customer through an online fitting process. For buyers who aren’t sure, the company has a try-before-you-buy program. For $20 for one club (and $10 for each additional club), it will send a club to demo. The customer has 14 days to try it/them and return. That’s not the kind of program to set up if you think golfers aren’t won’t like the product.

My GS53 Max driver? It will not be returned to sender. It will, once spring arrives, be doing the sending.

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