The Local Knowlege

Equipment

Best ever April in golf ball sales, the one category that drives the whole industry

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The April monthly sales reports from golf industry researcher Golf Datatech show positive signs for revenue, especially in the one category that might best reflect the health of the game: golf balls.

Overall sales of golf balls in April at on- and off-course shops were up 4.9 percent in units and nearly 10.9 percent in dollars, compared to April 2014. According to Golf Datatech, it was the best April for golf ball sales in terms of dollars (just over $48.5 million) since the research firm began publishing monthly sales figures in 1997. Part of the reason is an ever-increasing shift by golfers to play the more expensive, multilayer urethane construction ball preferred by tour players. The average selling price for a dozen golf balls broke the $30-a-dozen barrier for the first time ever. Still, a little more than half of the top 20 selling golf balls retail for less than $25 a dozen.


Balls is an obvious indicator of interest in the game because you’re not buying golf balls if you’re not also playing. Although rounds played data is not available for April, the numbers were up in March by 5 percent and were also up for the year (4.1 percent). According to PGA Performance Trak, 26 states had reported positive year-over-year growth through March. 

Other categories showed mixed signs but clearly positive interest in new products as compared to discounted, older products. Sales of metalwoods were down in units (-3.2 percent) but up in dollars (4.7 percent) compared to last April, while irons were flat in revenue and down in units (-7.6 percent). In both woods and irons, the average selling price is markedly higher, up $10 per iron since April 2013 and $15 per metalwood since last April. 
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Equipment

Callaway's smaller driver not just for tour pros

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On its surface, the category of clubs known as mini drivers seems to service an audience approximately equal in size to those looking for NASCAR engine parts. It would seem to be a distinctly skilled and highly selective group of individuals who generate a lot of speed. 

Essentially, the mini driver is a cross between a fairway wood and a driver. It’s extra size make it more forgiving than a typical 3-wood, while its shorter shaft make it more reliable on tighter driving holes than a typical driver. This year, both Padraig Harrington and J.B. Holmes had TaylorMade Mini Drivers (SLDR Mini and AeroBurner Mini) in their bags during their wins. But perhaps the most noteworthy driver alternative victory was Phil Mickelson’s 2013 Open Championship, where he played the entire event—and in fact much of the entire season— without a traditional driver of any kind in his bag, using Callaway's X Hot 3Deep. 

Among major manufacturers, TaylorMade has introduced a couple versions over the last two years, and Callaway’s line of fairway woods in recent years all have offered a deep-faced, slightly oversized, lower-lofted model, too. Today, Callaway announced its first standalone downsized driver, the Big Bertha Mini 1.5. It’s already made an appearance in the bag of Patrick Reed and Freddie Jacobson, both of whom had it in the bag earlier this year at the RBC Heritage.

But Callaway’s Evan Gibbs, senior manager of research and development for metalwoods, believes these specialty clubs aren’t just for tour players anymore. 

“It really can appeal to such a broad range of player types,” Gibbs says, suggesting it works equally for any player struggling to hit the fairway as well as for longer hitters looking to reach long par 5s in two. “That’s why we really just encourage golfers of all abilities to give it a try and perhaps rethink that part of their bag.”

The Big Bertha Mini 1.5 features a forged Carpenter 455 cup face design, the same metal used in the company’s current XR fairway woods. But the Big Bertha Mini’s head size is 235 cubic centimeters, more than a third larger than typical 3-woods. The large size is made more manageable thanks to the company's lightweight forged composite crown. To make the club more playable off the deck, the Warbird sole design aims to improve turf interaction. The shaft (44 inches, or two inches shorter than the shaft on the XR driver) is the Mitsubishi Rayon Kuro Kage Silver TiNi.

The Big Bertha Mini 1.5 is available in two lofts (12, 14 degrees) and each head features Callaway’s 8-way adjustable loft sleeve that allows loft and lie angles to be changed independently. Loft can be increased by up to two degrees or reduced by one degree, while lie angle is either a neutral or draw setting.

The club will be available at retail May 29 ($300).
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Gear & Equipment

PowerBilt's latest driver reaches a new low (in a good way)

In equipment circles, the push for drivers with extremely low spin is a more common topic of conversation than Tiger Woods' return. Nearly every driver introduced in 2015 has a center of gravity (CG) lower than in past generations. The latest to do so is PowerBilt's new Air Force One DFX Tour.

loop-DFX-TOUR-DR-Sole-450.jpgThe club has a nine-gram weight angled forward in the front of the sole. The result is a lower, more forward CG compared with the company's regular DFX MOI driver to produce tee shots with less spin.

The DFX Tour ($300, 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 degrees) also uses pressurized nitrogen gas in the clubhead to reinforce the metal walls without needing added material for support (the valve houses the nine-gram weight). This helps designers create a more flexible, thin face for more ball speed.

Interested in more stories on equipment? Signup to receive Golf Digest Stix, a weekly digital magazine that offers the latest news, new product introductions and behind-the-scenes looks at all things equipment.

 

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Gear & Equipment

Nearly 10 percent of Japanese golfers are playing with non-conforming equipment

Non-conforming equipment may already have been used in tournament play by amateur golfers in Japan. That's part of a statement provided to Golf Digest by the Japan Golf Goods Association. The organization announced last month its support of the manufacture and distribution of non-conforming equipment in the Japanese marketplace. 

The JGGA says there is "an increasing number" of non-conforming clubs being distributed in the Japanese market "because there is a demand for them among golfers." Its research says that 8.7 percent of golfers in Japan were using non-conforming equipment, and that the demand for non-conforming equipment is even higher in South Korea.  

The JGGA says the intent with last month's announcement was not to recommend non-conforming equipment but to clarify its place in the market. "Even now there is a concern that non-conforming clubs are being used by amateur golfers in local tournaments as they or the tournament organizers do not recognize those clubs as such. Our press release intends to improve the current situation to the extent practicable."

The JGGA says it wants to guide manufacturers "to provide consumers with a clear indication and appropriate explanation when they sell those products to avoid any confusion by consumers." 

Though it took nearly six weeks for the organization to respond to a series of questions sent by Golf Digest via email, the JGGA also reiterated its position that non-conforming equipment strengthens interest in golf. The responses can read somewhat convoluted, but the ultimate direction is clear. The JGGA says, "There is a clear desire or preference among amateur golfers in general for more distance from a driver shot or more back spin from an iron shot that makes a ball stop or come back on a green as professional players do. JGGA believes that it will contribute in the healthy growth and revitalization of the Japanese golf market to create an environment in which each golfer may choose and use golf equipment that matches his or her unique goal and needs."

The JGGA says it offered a proposal to the R&A to regulate non-conforming equipment but the "R&A did not accept our proposal." The JGGA says it is concerned that without any clear distinctions in the marketplace about non-conforming equipment "it could result in the further unregulated, disorganized expansion of the non-conforming golf club market."

In fact, the JGGA is stopping short of endorsing equipment that fundamentally alters the playing of the game, preferring instead that non-conforming equipment remain within the range of clubs that "were previously considered as conforming but became non-conforming only due to the tightening of the equipment rules over the past decade or so."

The R&A, USGA and several U.S. golf manufacturers have not commented on the JGGA's statements. 

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Business

Japan manufacturers endorse non-conforming clubs

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The Japan Golf Goods Association, the trade organization for golf equipment manufacturers in Japan, today announced that it would support the distribution of non-conforming golf equipment. 

“JGGA believes that it is desirable for the stimulation of the golf market to have a wide variety of golf equipment available in the market from which all types of golfers may choose in order to find one that really fits their respective purposes and needs, hoping that more and more golfers will enjoy playing golf as a result of such improvement in the golf equipment market,” an English translation of the JGGA statement reads.

“From this point of view, JGGA has left it to the judgment of each member company whether to manufacture and/or sell golf equipment that doesn’t fully conform to the specifications set forth in the Rules of Golf promulgated by R&A.”

A recent study by Golf Datatech and Yano Research Institute of Japan, the world’s two leading organizations studying the global golf retail market space, Japan is the No. 2 country in golf sales in the world with 24 percent of the global golf market. The JGGA sponsors the Japan Golf Fair, Japan’s version of the PGA Merchandise Show, which will be held Feb. 13-15 in Tokyo.

In its statement the JGGA acknowledges that an influx of non-conforming equipment “could create confusion among golfers and tournament organizers. JGGA considers it very important for the healthy development of the industry that all relevant parties make efforts to prevent consumers from buying nonconforming equipment without knowing that it is nonconforming, and to avoid any confusion or trouble due to the inability of tournament organizers to determine the conformity of each equipment at the tournament site.”

The JGGA is advocating that products be clearly marked as nonconforming, although it has not indicated what specific efforts or product labeling will be made. Its main motivation seems to be to cater to golfers seeking more enjoyment without performance limits imposed by the rules.

Several U.S. manufacturers contacted for this story have either declined comment or not returned inquiries. The R&A also has not returned an e-mail request for comment.

U.S. manufacturers have not embraced non-conforming equipment, and while the JGGA's Japan Golf Fair routinely has nonconforming equipment on display, no major U.S. company has introduced non-conforming equipment to date. Smaller companies have introduced non-conforming clubs and balls, like Hireko, which last year introduced a 515 cubic centimeter driver called the Juggernaut (above). After much talk about non-conforming equipment at the last two years' PGA Shows, fueled largely by former TaylorMade CEO Mark King who launched a grow-the-game, alternative rules golf initiative Hack Golf last year with great fanfare, there was very little discussion on the topic this year. 

This news from the JGGA clearly reopens the discussion.

“For the most of amateur golfers, nothing give[s] more pleasure than long driving distances and control of a golf ball on the green with a back spin as professional golfers do,” the JGGA statement reads. “That is why quite a few of golfers are still using and wanting nonconforming golf equipment and why nonconforming golf equipment is still available on the market in response to such demand. Some golfers may be using or buying nonconforming equipment without knowing that they don’t conform to the Rules.”

What’s not clear is just how much advantage non-conforming equipment might provide for amateur or recreational golfers, or whether there's expressed interest in playing clubs that don't adhere to the rules. A 2014 survey by Golf World suggested less than a quarter of golfers surveyed would be interested in "a nonconforming driver that promised an extra 15-20 yards." John Spitzer managing director for equipment standards of the USGA told Golf World last year, “To think nonconforming clubs would somehow increase participation, I don't see that. It's not 1,000cc drivers or a ball that goes 30 yards farther that's going to grow the game."

But it is clear that there are certain elements within golf equipment manufacturing willing to go down the road of selling clubs outside the rules. In that stame Golf World story, Bob Philion, president of Cobra-Puma Golf, told Golf World, "There is a sense of urgency in the industry, whether from our competitors or the PGA of America, to be less intimidating and more fun. Do I think nonconforming drivers will be out there in 10 years? I do. Three years? I do. I think the street signs for the game aren't positive enough for someone not to try it." 

The JGGA’s statement clearly is endorsing manufacturers be free to take a more relaxed approach to the rules.  It concludes, “Through a variety of actions and initiatives, JGGA is committed to providing a market environment where all golfers are able to choose and use the most appropriate golf equipment for every situation.” 

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Drivers

Callaway's "X" line gets its broadest launch with XR's nine new products

xr-driver-sole-b.jpgCallaway’s “X” family of products goes back to the late 1990s and the introduction of the X-12 irons 17 years ago. Back then, the story was the revolutionary thinned out cavity construction and extreme low center of gravity on the cavity back oversized iron. Big news that almost immediately set sales records for the company.

But there may never have been a broader range of new technologies in the history of the X family than there is this year.

Callaway today announced nine new products under the new XR moniker, including two drivers, three fairway woods, two hybrids and two irons. The theme consistently across each category seems to be speed. Whether it’s the lighter face in the XR drivers or the metalwood-like face cup on the traditionally-shaped, cavity XR irons, Callaway’s engineers are chasing new ways for golfers to produce both more ballspeed and, in some cases, more clubhead speed. 

But the breadth of offerings (at least two styles in the driver, fairway wood, hybrid and iron offerings) also seems focused on helping individual golfers better dial in the size and shape of head that’s going to produce the best results for them.

Evan Gibbs, Callaway's senior manager of product performance in metalwoods, was referring to the new XR fairway woods, but his summary could easily apply to the whole XR family: “We tried to understand where golfers use these clubs, how they use them and how to most effectively design a club for that situation.”

All clubs in the XR line are expected to begin to be available in shops by Feb. 20.

XR/XR Pro drivers
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The natural question with Callaway introducing its fourth and fifth drivers since August is how could it be any better. But Callaway is not shy about making its case with the new XR and XR Pro drivers ($350/$400). First, there’s a move toward improved aerodynamics. The XR features a pair of distinct speed steps at the front part of the crown designed to reduce drag. It also helps boost swing speed potential through a lighter overall weight (just TK grams on the XR model). According to Gibbs, the lighter weight features draw bias to help average golfers square the face and fight a slice. 

Second, the face on the XR is 10 percent lighter, and the center of gravity (CG) is 17 percent lower than last year’s X2 Hot. Similar to this fall’s Big Bertha Alpha 815 drivers, it utilizes a ribbed structure toward the front of the crown and sole to help increase the area of the face that yields the fastest ball speeds. Third, the XR Pro uses a forged composite crown to produce the lowest CG of any Callaway driver ever. 

“The advantage of having forged composite is you can create very aerodynamic shapes, which typically means the crown apex is higher and further aft, without paying a cg penalty,” Gibbs says. “You have such a lightweight material that you can pull the crown up and shape it to be aerodynamically efficient without the cg going too high.”

Each of the four lofts in the standard model (9, 10.5, 12 and 13HT) and two in the Pro (9, 10.5) include Callaway’s eight-way adjustable loft hosel. The hosel allows the user to reduce loft by one degree or increase it by one or two degrees and then also independently alter lie angle. One further benefit of the XR driver is its lighter weight. 

XR/XR Pro fairway woods, hybrids
The distinct shape differences in both the XR fairway wood and hybrid lines grew from how players of different ability levels use the clubs. The fairway wood line includes three varieties (standard, Pro and 3Deep) and the range accommodates 10 lofts, including the only stock 11-wood from a major manufacturer ($230 for the XR, $240 for the XR Pro and XR 3Deep). 

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“The standard XR was designed with an emphasis put on performance and utility from the fairway,” Gibbs said. “The Pro version was designed with more of an equal usage from the tee and fairway in mind. And the Deep version was designed with an emphasis of performance off the tee.” 

The club’s primary technology is a redesigned cupface that’s thinner and lighter to help boost ballspeeds and lower the CG. The internal weighting updates the wave-like feature toward the front of the sole, pushing more weight forward while still freeing up the area low on the face. This helps to reduce spin and improve ballspeeds for shots hit low on the face. 

The XR and XR Pro hybrids offer similar differences to the fairway woods in size and shape (the Pro is decidedly more compact to appeal to better players), and the cupface and low CG design have been updated. Gibbs says the CG on the XR is 46 percent lower than the X2 Hot, while the CG on the XR Pro is the lowest ever for a Callaway hybrid. 

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XR/XR Pro irons
The problem with creating irons with face structures that attempt to flex like drivers is that they end up looking and feeling more like drivers than irons. That means hollow construction irons that often are oversized and excessively wide-soled. 

Callaway’s effort with the XR iron line is to incorporate the flexibility in the face produced by its cup face design but wrap the technology in a more traditional, cavity-back iron shape. Both the XR and XR Pro feature a two-piece construction where the face cup wraps over the entire perimeter of the face and is fused to the sole and back of the iron. This allows for more control of how thin the face can be made to improve rebound across a greater area.

“The benefits of the 360 face cup that we see in an iron are very similar to what we see in a fairway wood or a hybrid,” said Luke Williams, senior director of  product strategy in fitting and irons. 

Within the cavity is an internal wave-like structure that improves performance on low-face impacts and lowers the center of gravity. The XR ($800) features more offset, while the XR Pro ($900) uses a thinner top line and narrower sole.
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Equipment

Ping boosts G30's long game, adds new short-game clubs, too

PING_Cadence_Anser2.jpgAnser2_Heavy.jpgPing enjoyed plenty of success on the professional tours and in the marketplace with long game clubs like the G30 driver this fall, but it's starting the new year off with a focus on where golfers spend the majority of their strokes: the short game. While there will be a line extension to the G30 driver family with the new G30 LS Tec, it's the Glide wedges and Cadence TR putters that are the big splash.

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Glide wedges
The groove rollback’s greatest effect may have been in inspiring equipment companies to rethink every possibility when it comes to generating more spin. The latest example might be Ping’s new Glide wedges, which feature a new chrome-plated finish to improve spin potential. According to Ping engineers, the finish increases the metal’s hydrophobicity, or a substance’s tendency to repel water. A more hydrophobic wedge face is going to provide cleaner contact in wetter conditions like the rough and dew-covered fairways, and the Glide’s chrome-plated finish tests out as more hydrophobic than the dark blast finish of last year’s Tour wedges. The Glide ($130, 13 lofts, three sole options) also matches groove edges and angles to each loft to improve full-shot spin on the lower lofts and chip and pitch shot spin on the higher lofts. The new Dylawedge grip is three-quarters of an inch longer to make it easier for players to comfortably choke down on the grip on partial shots.

On the PGA Tour, Bubba Waston, Hunter Mahan and Billy Horschel have put the Glide wedges in their bags.

Cadence TR putters
With the growing enthusiasm for counterbalanced putters, it’s becoming clear that weight is a solution for balky strokes. But while the extreme weight of a counterbalanced putter may help the shakiest of moves, Ping is suggesting that finding the right weight is a real key in putter fitting for all strokes. 

To that end, it’s rolling out the new Cadence TR line of putters, which give golfers the choice of two standard head weights. Ping engineers have studied data from thousands of putting strokes submitted through its iPing putting app and determined that there are two main stroke tempos. Quicker tempos benefit from a standard to lighter head weight, while slower moves produce better results with a heavier head weight. 

Each of seven models in the Cadence TR line feature two heads (there’s also an eighth model that’s counterbalanced). The standard weight models (340-355 grams) generally feature an aluminum insert, while the heavier heads (365-388 grams) use steel inserts for a 25-33-gram difference in the two heads. 

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Each also features a revised version of Ping’s TR groove pattern on the face. The new faces feature not only variable depth grooves as previously, but now add variable width to improve initial ballspeed compared to the Scottsdale TR groove. The putters are available for pre-order this week and will be in stores next month, starting at around $170. Already Mahan (Anser 2) and Angel Cabrera (the counterbalanced Anser 2 CB) have put the putters in play at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

G30 LS Tec
The new G30 driver, the LS Tec ($350), is aimed at higher-speed players looking for an even lower-spinning option. 

The driver features the same turbulator crown elements to improve aerodynamic efficiency, as well as a similar emphasis on high moment of inertia for stability on off-center hits. 

Ping engineers say the LS Tec's center of gravity is slightly forward of the standard G30 to produce less spin. It will be offered in 9- and 10.5-degree lofts, each with an adjustable hosel that can tweak loft by plus/minus 1 degree.

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Gear & Equipment

TaylorMade makes twin driver debuts with R15 and AeroBurner lines

TaylorMade's Nov. 13 launch of two new drivers -- the movable weight, multi-level adjustable R15 and the lightweight, swingspeed-focused AeroBurner -- makes the same case about what kind of driver you should buy that the company first made nearly a decade. The idea, which hearkens back to previous twin-driver introductions like the R9 and the Burner SuperFast, is that there are two kinds of golfers looking for two types of clubs: the technician and the bomber.

The technician is about dialing in precise launch conditions and navigating his way around the golf course strategically, with planned routes and trajectories. The bomber prefers high, far and straight, a less subtle approach that might be phrased as "swing first, ask questions later."

But both new drivers will build on the company's primary metalwood technologies of a center of gravity positioned more low and forward for less spin and improved energy transfer. Both also will feature a channel in the sole designed to enhance the way the face flexes for improved ballspeed all over the face. 

loop-taylormade-R15-Driver-350.jpgThe R15, which will be made available in both white and black versions, is the technician's driver. It features a sole channel with two independently movable 12.5-gram weights. The sole channel, or "speed pocket," is similar to the predominant feature on the successful SLDR drivers. It allows players to position weight in draw or fade settings, as well as positioning the weights in either a middle position or extreme heel and toe locations for improved stability. Compared to the SLDR, the R15's sole channel has been shifted slightly closer to the face (12 millimeters) to contribute to the way the face flexes at impact. That movement forward also helps further push the center of gravity forward. According to the company, more than 75 percent of the clubhead's total mass is in the front of the driver.

The R15 also utilizes an updated version of the company's adjustable hosel, which now accommodates 12 settings and a loft range of plus/minus two degrees. It's available Jan. 9 ($430, 9.5, 10.5, 12, 14 degrees) and will be offered in both a 460cc and 430cc head size. Golfers can pre-order the R15 starting Dec. 12.

The R15 line includes fairway woods ($280, 15, 16.5, 19, 20.5 degrees) and hybrids ($220). The adjustable fairway woods feature the same sole opening but with one sliding 25-gram weight to effect a draw or fade bias. Like the driver, the adjustable hosel can be set to one of 12 positions at plus/minus two degrees of loft. The hybrid or Rescue features a more compact 99cc head size and the neutral bias preferred by better players. 

loop-taylormade-AB-Driver-350.jpgAlthough the R15 offers plenty of adjustability, some players simply want distance -- and at a more palatable price. That's where TaylorMade's debut of its AeroBurner line fits in. 

According to Brian Bazzell, TaylorMade's senior director of product creation for metalwoods, AeroBurner "drastically improved the performance of the sole's speed pocket and significantly improved the aerodynamics to deliver maximum speed" compared to the successful RocketBallz line from a couple of years ago.

To assist with the aerodynamics, the club features a small fin -- present on drivers, fairway woods and hybrids—in the heel area of the club to reduce drag. A raised center on the crown, as well as a more rounded toe, also are designed to help get the club through the air more efficiently. 

In the driver ($299), the speed pocket is twice as large as on the JetSpeed model. By not adding adjustability, the pocket could extend across the entire sole. Also helping speed is an overall lightweight design -- the total weight is less than 300 grams -- with a 50-gram Matrix Speed Rul-Z shaft.

The fairway woods ($229) and hybrids ($199) continue the company's pursuit of woods with low, forward centers of gravity, as well as a sole slot, something the company has been focusing on since its RocketBallz line. 

The hybrids, called AeroBurner Rescue, also have the speed pocket as well as a shaft length that has been shortened a half-inch from the JetSpeed rescues to provide more consistent contact. 

As with the R15 line, the AeroBurner, also available Jan. 9, comes with a new matte finish, "pearlized" white paint clubhead. TP options are available for all the metalwoods. 

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Gear & Equipment

TaylorMade to debut R15 drivers tonight

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In the era of the global marketplace, there are no secrets anymore, and news embargoes of product launches seem to be about as effective as leaving a bowl of chocolate-chip cookies in a room full of kindergarteners and asking them to wait.

Hence, it comes as no surprise to anyone that TaylorMade will be unveiling a new driver tonight at a special New York City media event at Golf & Body in Manhattan. The R15, which from all previously published accounts and leaked details from TaylorMade’s Japan website, appears to feature movable weights in the familiar sole track made famous by the company's highly popular SLDR driver, which was launched in 2013. 

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The weights appear to slide in a track towards the front of the sole. The SLDR driver emphasized a “low forward” center-of-gravity location aimed at reducing spin and improving the efficiency of energy transfer at impact by placing the center of gravity more in line with both the center of the clubface and the club’s loft. 

Based on the images, the club will be offered in both black and white head styles. TaylorMade first introduced its drivers in white in 2011 with the R11 and RBZ models. It moved off that color in mid-2013 with SLDR, but returned to special limited edition white versions of the SLDR this summer. 

Tom Kroll, TaylorMade product evangelist, described the company's position on white this way last summer: "We still as a company strongly believe in the performance and technology of white and the contrast of a white crown with a black face, and how it aids alignment and the entire aspect that white represents. I think we’re definitely standing behind that. It’s a part of our culture, and people have come to associate TaylorMade with white." 

More details on TaylorMade’s plans with R15 are expected from tonight’s event. Stay tuned. 
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Equipment

Cobra's Fly-Z line pushes weight movement and speed

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Cobra’s new Fly-Z and the Fly-Z+ drivers may not look the same, but both start with the same basic design principle: Saving weight. Both clubs feature a redesigned face structure and hosel from last year’s Bio Cell/Bio Cell+ drivers that combined with a milled indentation around the perimeter of the face saves more than four grams from their predecessors. The Fly-Z+ also incorporates lightweight carbon fiber in the crown and sole to save another 7.5 grams compared to last year’s Bio Cell+. 

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The Fly-Z ($330), which also features a lighter titanium crown design, utilizes the weight savings to produce an oversized, forgiving shape and a high moment of inertia (stability on off-center hits). The saved weight in the Fly-Z+ ($400) makes room for a 15-gram weight chip in the sole that can be positioned toward the front to produce low spin, a flatter trajectory and more roll or toward the back to produce more carry through somewhat more spin. Each model comes in six colors and each features an adjustable hosel with eight loft settings.

The Fly-Z+ is Cobra’s first foray into weight adjustability, and the company’s philosophy is to address the current technology debate in the industry over whether weight should be redistributed to a low and forward center of gravity position or to the more traditional idea of one that’s deeper (farther back from the face). TaylorMade has been the more outspoken advocate of a low and forward setting with its top-selling SLDR driver, while Ping with its equally high-selling G30 has pushed for the higher moment of inertia (stability on off-center hits) design found in many “low and deep” CG positions.

“Many golfers ask why would I need a driver where I could move weight to the front or the back,” says Tom Olsavsky, vice president of research and development at Cobra Puma Golf. “The main reason we want to do this is we want to give you the performance difference that those two weight settings will provide. Some companies say front weight and some companies say back weight. We’re going to give you the choice. We know on tour that some players prefer front settings and some prefer back settings based on the way they swing and what fits their games.”

The line also includes a non-adjustable, offset and draw-biased driver, the Fly-Z XL ($280). It’s available in 9.5, 10.5 and 11.5 lofts. 

All three drivers feature an additional structural element called a “Speed Channel” mirrored throughout the entire line of Fly-Z metalwoods and irons. The emphasis is on building more ballspeed potential through creating extra face flexibility and weight savings. The metalwoods utilize an indent circling the perimeter of the face that reduces face thickness on the front of the club’s extreme outside edges. 

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On the Fly-Z collection of irons (Fly-Z, Fly-Z XL), that same channel moves off the face to an area on the front of the sole and around the perimeter of the cavity. It’s designed to reduce weight that can be redistributed elsewhere, maximize overall face flexibility, as well as minimize sole thickness so that the sole’s flexing can contribute to additional ballspeed. The Fly-Z irons ($800 with hybrids for the 3- and 4-irons) feature an undercut cavity design with a thermoplastic insert fixed in the cavity to control vibration. The Fly-Z XL irons ($500 for eight irons, $600 for the combo set with two hybrids) include a hollow section low in the cavity back on the 4- through 8-irons for higher launch while the shorter irons feature a traditional undercut cavity design. 

The Fly-Z line of clubs will be in stores in January.
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