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The Best Golf in the
Midwest & and Throughout the World
with
Kiel Christianson

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Check out more of Kiel's great Midwest Golf content on his site: www.midwesterngolf.com

Kiel Christianson Bio

In April, 1998, Kiel Christianson answered a small ad in the Michigan State University student newspaper: “WRITERS WANTED. No pay. Free Golf.” He emailed the address in the ad and began what has turned into a 25+ year career in golf writing. The ad was to write for MichiganGolf.com and TravelGolf.com, along with dozens of other websites under the WorldGolf.com umbrella. Eventually, he became the editor of GolfInstruction.com (with pay) and started two regular golf blogs (two of the first in the industry), as well as contributed regularly to the TravelGolf.com podcast (also one of the first in the industry). Those websites were purchased 10 years later by The Golf Channel, where Kiel continued writing as a freelancer until 2019, when The Golf Channel released their freelance writers and consolidated their websites (though he continued blogging for them until 2021). Since 2020, he has published MidwesternGolf.com, a website devoted to the courses and resorts of the Midwestern US along with equipment and travel sections. He also contributes to several other online golf publications and occasionally to traditional print publications. When not playing golf, he is a professor and department chair at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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Cleveland Golf HALO XL Hy-Woods: Blurring the lines, filling the gaps

Twenty-five years ago, I could really bomb my fairway woods. I didn’t know where they were going, but I knew they were going far in some direction. The rare occasions they went straight were the rare occasions I scored well.

Then something happened. Slowly, sort of like how you gain weight. Doesn’t seem bad at first. But while the rest of my game improved, my fairway woods deteriorated so badly two years ago, I took them out of my bag completely. What’s the point in risking a top or a pull-hook OB? Lay up with a mid-iron and trust the wedge game, right?

 

Then I read the quotes below from Casey Shultz, Sr. Product Manager at Cleveland Golf, about the company’s new HALO XL Hy-Wood line ($240), and it was like he was talking directly to me:

 

“Picture this – You’re in the middle of the fairway on a par-5 with a chance to get on the green in regulation. You pull out a long-game option in your bag because it’s the one you always use, and proceed to duff it 20 yards in front of you and now you’re struggling to save par. This new system and our unique lineup will fill in those gaps where the mishits tend to happen and help golfers love their long-game again instead of dreading it.”

 

“Golf’s unique that way. What fits one player doesn’t fit all. If the Fairway Wood isn’t cutting it and you feel it’s hurting your game, why is it still in the bag? Finding the right Wood type for your swing, whether it’s using Hybrids instead of Fairways, or something new like our Hy-Wood, will ultimately lead to better results.”

I don’t think Casey and I have ever played together, but holy hell, it’s like he was watching my struggles with my 3-wood.

What, pray tell, is this magic wand he’s describing? I had to get my hands on a Hy-Wood. When my 3+ Hy-Wood showed up, I couldn’t wait to test it out, first on a simulator and then on the course.

Playing the Cleveland Golf HALO XL Hy-Wood

The HALO XL Hy-Wood 3+ is 17 degrees, exactly between the lofts of my 15-degree 3-wood and 19-degree 5-wood, both of which have been collecting dust in my basement since their banishment form my bag. Removing them left quite a gap between my 4 hybrid and driver. The 3+ Hy-Wood fills that gap.

 

The first thing you notice about the Hy-Wood out of the box is that the head is larger than a typical hybrid, but smaller than most fairway woods, and the Aldila Ascent 40gr shaft is a bit shorter than most fairway woods but a bit longer than most hybrids. So not only does the loft fill a gap, but the clubhead sort of fills a mental gap in confidence – “Not a fairway wood. I can hit this!”

My very first swing in the simulator reinforced this confidence – right down the center line of the virtual range, 225 yards – a yardage I had sorely missed in my bag these past seasons!

 

When winter decided to take a break and suddenly it was 50 degrees in Illinois in February, I headed out to a sloppy, windy, yet still open course for some real golf. In the cool, wet conditions, my drives came up much shorter than usual, so there were plenty of opportunities to hit the Hy-Wood. And where my 3-wood would have come off low and left (based on recent history), the Hy-Wood sailed high and true. I cleared trees, I shaped a butter-cut, I carried it past a new “pond” (blind, flooded area filled with confused ducks) right of a par-5 green and got up and down for the first birdie of the year.

Casey Shultz was not lying.

 

Nearly 30 years ago, I reviewed some of the first hybrid or “rescue clubs” (as they were often called) when they started to go mainstream. Back then, they didn’t really fit into my bag, as my fairway woods were dependable and I hit everything longer than I do today. But time and tide wait for no man, and neither do swings or strength. Things change, needs change, and equipment changes.

Cleveland has blurred the lines between fairway woods and hybrids. Frankly, who cares what you call any given club? The Hy-Wood fills the gap between traditional hybrids and my driver, both in terms of yardage and reliability. I don’t need a 3-wood to go 270 anymore (in some direction) – just not going to happen. What I do need is a dependable 220-230 club that’s going to go straight and carry trouble. In the Hy-Wood, that’s exactly what I’ve found.

Shultz said he wanted to, “help golfers love their long game again instead of dreading it.” Mission accomplished. Maybe I’m just suffering a sappy Valentine’s Day hangover, but “love” doesn’t seem like too strong a word.

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