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Gear & Equipment

Mizuno's JPX-850 driver is all about adjustability

Over the years, Mizuno has delivered drivers worthy of attention, including its new JPX-850.

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This latest club ($400) has a sliding adjustable-weight system with three weight ports (one on the heel, toe and center of the sole). You can move a pair of eight-gram weights into any port, allowing players to set up the club for a fade or draw. The adjustable hosel provides eight loft settings from 7.5 to 11.5 degrees.

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"This club allows players to adjust loft, shot shape and spin," says Chuck Couch, Mizuno's VP of product development. "Loft is the dominant factor, but to just do loft without dialing in shot shape and spin is giving the golfer less than they should get."

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Gear & Equipment

Callaway pursues lighter weight for a faster driver

By Mike Stachura

In the latest version of golf equipment's worst-kept secret, Callaway today officially unveiled the Big Bertha V Series driver. As expected, the club, which has been on the USGA's list of conforming drivers for more than two weeks and was put in play by several players at the recent WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, reflects an approach to helping the golfer create more distance through increased swing speed.

BB-v1.jpgTaking a cue from the formula for kinetic energy, which is engraved on the sole of the clubhead, the Big Bertha V Series ($400, available in stores Aug. 22) is a lighter total weight driver. The key idea behind enhancing the club's kinetic energy, whose formula is one-half times the mass times the velocity squared, is that by increasing swing speed you can have a greater effect on the energy delivered to the ball at impact than if you choose instead to increase the weight of the head. One way to increase swingspeed is to slightly reduce total weight.

At its lightest configuration, the Big Bertha V Series is around 290 grams, or about 20 grams lighter than the current standard Big Bertha driver and 30 or more grams lighter than several other drivers being played by many players on the PGA Tour. According to Evan Gibbs, Callaway's senior manager of product performance in metalwoods, the V Series is one possible solution among many kinds of driver and many kinds of players.

"One of the philosophies behind this driver is there are a lot of different recipes for distance," Gibb said. "Some players benefit from having a very low spinning driver, a lot of players need a little bit more MOI [moment of inertia, or improved stability on off-center hits for more consistent ballspeed and spin across the face], and another segment of players can really benefit from a lightweight driver. It helps them generate more head speed and in turn get more distance.

"The focus on this driver is really about optimizing the properties of this head, but constraining it to a very lightweight configuration."

The Big Bertha V Series achieves this goal by fashioning the crown out of the company's lightweight "forged composite" material. In addition to a lightweight grip, the standard shaft on the higher lofted versions (10.5 and 13.5HT models) is just 42 grams (Mitsubishi Rayon Bassara).

Furthering this idea that there are different drivers for different players, the V Series' 9-degree model features a slightly lower center of gravity position (for decreased spin) and a heavier shaft. The total weight of the 9-degree model is just above 300 grams and features the heavier Fujikura Speeder 565 shaft.

"One of the unique things is how we've optimized the design progression through the lofts," Gibbs said. "We understand that all these players are looking for more head speed and a lighter weight. It's a question of how do we translate that head speed into more distance. That's a little bit different in the 9-degree head than in a HT head because it's really a different golfer type."

The Big Bertha V Series also features a similar face technology as found in the company's Big Bertha and X2 Hot drivers. The "Hyperspeed" design aims to save weight in the face insert (traditionally the heaviest section of a driver) yet still improve deflection on off-center hits through more precise thickness variation. 

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All three lofts (9, 10.5 and 13HT) feature the company's eight-way adjustable hosel, which allows the user to change independently between four lofts (minus-one degree, standard, plus-one degree and plus-two degrees) and two lie angles (neutral and upright).

The Big Bertha V Series also will be available in fairway woods ($250), including the return of the Heavenwood. The Heavenwood is a fairway wood featuring a 7-wood loft (20.5 degrees) with a 4-wood shaft length. The stainless steel fairway woods continue the lightweight design of the drivers and utilize Callaway's "Warbird" sole, whose slight V-shape and recessed heel and toe regions are designed to improve versatility in various lies and turf conditions. The fairways feature a variable thickness face similar in concept to the "Hyperspeed" design in the drivers. In addition to the Heavenwood, the V Series is available in 3-wood, 7-wood and 9-wood lofts. 

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Gear & Equipment

Callaway offers physics lesson on the clubhead of its new V Series driver

By Mike Stachura

loop-callaway-vseries-driver-518.jpgCallaway isn't saying much about the Big Bertha V Series club that showed up on last week's USGA list of conforming drivers. But given the timing and some of the clues on the clubhead itself, you can make a good guess as to what this driver is all about.

Making the rounds on tour this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (Thomas Bjorn is said to be one interested candidate), the club definitely emphasizes less weight. You can see slight indentations in the sole that are reminiscent of the old Big Bertha Warbird sole.

Most telling, however, are the words and formulas emblazoned on the clubhead. Included is the phrase Speed Optimized Technology and the formula for kinetic energy. The latter is a clear reference to the importance of increasing velocity (swing speed) to generate more energy at impact.

The adjustable driver is available in three lofts, according to its listing on the USGA website (9.5, 10.5 and 13.5HT). The company plans to introduce the driver formally next week.


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Gear & Equipment

Letter from Japan: Honma refocuses brand with new driver

By Mike Stachura

loop-letter-from-japan-honma-300.jpgEvery so often we get an update from our expert in Japan, Yasuko Mukai, editor in chief of Golf Digest Online. Recently she said Honma is changing from a luxury brand for older players to an athlete-oriented tour-player brand. (Honma has limited U.S. availability but can be found through authorized distributors Premier Golf in North Carolina and Golden Pro Golf in California.) The company has signed more than 10 tour players, including Komei Oda and Bo-Mee Lee, the No. 2-ranked players on Japan's men's and women's tours, respectively.

The shift is reflected in its latest driver, the Tour World TW717, a compact (430cc) design constructed of three kinds of titanium. "Lee and Oda won on consecutive weeks with the TW717, and that has started to shift the Honma image," Yasuko says.

Also, Honma believes athletic golfers are less interested in adjustable drivers. So the TW717 isn't adjustable. However, the company plans to open more fitting studios to serve these players. 

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Gear & Equipment

Ping explains the turbulators on its new G30 driver, and why you might like them

By Mike Stachura

Ping officially unveiled its G30 driver to the public Thursday, and while the club's shape and its emphasis on stability continue the tradition of its G-series drivers dating back to the debut of the G2 in 2003, this iteration makes a fundamental and immediately visible change. 

It's what Bubba Watson, who is expected to put the driver in play this week at The Greenbrier Classic, recently called "speed humps," but the scientific community recognizes as "turbulators."

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The turbulators are a series of angled ridges on the crown of the G30. They are designed to improve the way the air flows around the clubhead. The result, according to a study Ping engineers will present at this month's Conference of the International Sports Engineering Association, is an average increase in clubhead speed of nearly 1 mile per hour when compared with a similar G30 head design without the crown features. 

Why is that an especially important achievement? In simple terms, the G30's large footprint and low and deep center of gravity allow it to feature one of the highest moment-of-inertia readings of any driver on the market. (Moment of inertia refers to the clubhead's ability to remain stable on off-center hits. That stability means mis-hits will lose less ball speed, so they're likely to lose less distance.) But oversized drivers with large faces and long front-to-back measurements can be less aerodynamically efficient that more compact designs, such as fairway woods. Engineers at Ping wanted to maintain G30's forgiving size, but not compromise on the efficiency of the swing. 

Related: Bubba Watson buys every Ping employee Chipotle

"Let's get the clubhead speed gains we might see with a smaller head, but not give up any of the advantages of a driver with maximum volume," says Marty Jertson, senior design engineer at Ping. "Essentially what we're after is the stability of a pickup truck with the aerodynamics of a Prius."

Ping's efforts to improve the aerodynamics included wind-tunnel testing conducted at Arizona State University's School of Engineering, Matter, Transport and Energy. The results were documented in a research paper titled, "Experimental investigation of golf driver club head drag reduction through the use of aerodynamic features on the driver crown." Among its conclusions, "The use of these aerodynamic features has shown significant decreases in energy loss due to aerodynamic drag, which has led to significant increases in delivered club head speed and total distance. ... [Turbulators] are proven to delay flow separation over the driver crown by influencing the behavior of the boundary layer. The quantitative drag measurements indicated about a 25-percent reduction in drag for orientations and speeds toward the end of a typical downswing with a 100 mph impact club head speed."


That's a lot of science, but the gist is the clubhead with turbulators moved through the air with less turbulence. These are not drastic changes in clubhead speed, but a 1 mph increase in clubhead speed can lead to approximately 2-3 mph in ballspeed. That kind of increase could lead to 6-8 additional yards in driving distance.

While the aerodynamic effort is the most notable enhancement to the new G30 driver, the club shows several new features. First, the G30 expands its range of adjustability, offering five settings that change the loft by plus/minus one degree. Second, the G30 utilizes two kinds of titanium in the head. There's Ti 8-1-1 in the body and crown, while a new, higher strength-to-weight ratio T9S titanium used in the face means it can be made thinner and lighter, saving four grams to be redistributed throughout the head. Third, the saved weight allows for the club's center of gravity to be lower and farther back than any previous Ping driver. Fourth, the G30 line includes a heel-weighted and lighter swing weight SF Tec version of the driver that's designed to combat a slice. Finally, the G30 continues the company's high-balance-point shaft technology, which features a center of gravity in the shaft that's closer to the hands to increase a player's ability to swing the club faster. 


The G30 driver (MSRP: $385) is available in 9- and 10.5-degree lofts, while the SF Tec version comes in 10- and 12-degree lofts.

loop-ping-G30-fairway-290.jpgThe G30 line also includes adjustable fairway woods (five settings that range between plus or minus one degree of loft), which for the first time in company history will feature a thin Carpenter 475 face insert for improved ball speed. In addition to the faster face design -- for those who want to get really technical, Ping engineers say the characteristic time reading has improved from 160 to 225 -- the club also includes turbulators on the crown for improved aerodynamics. The adjustable G30 fairway woods (right, MSRP: $275) are available in 14.5-, 18- and 21-degree lofts.

There are also new G30 hybrids (MSRP: $242.50), which are constructed of a special 17-4 stainless steel that's been processed with an H900 heat treatment to improve face deflection for more ball speed. The five lofts (17, 19, 22, 26, 30 degrees) feature progressive offset and CG locations to optimize ballflight. 

The G30 line of drivers, fairway woods and hybrids can be pre-ordered starting Thursday.

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Gear & Equipment

PGA Tour pros testing new Ping prototype driver at The Greenbrier

By Mike Stachura

For more than a decade, observers have known what to expect from Ping drivers: A consistent, oversized shape that emphasizes forgiveness on off-center hits, all with a relatively traditional look. But starting with the alignment stripes on this year's i25 driver, Ping is expanding its horizons.

That trend continued this week as the company unveiled its G30 driver on the PGA Tour. Like the i25, the G30, which according to the USGA's list of conforming drivers includes the word "turbulators" on the top of the club, employs what appears to be a crown technology. Generally, a turbulator is a means of improving the air flow around an object like an airplane wing or car. Clearly visible are a series of ridges on the crown of the G30. 

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The G30's crown ridges have the look of airfoil turbulators and could play some role in improving the club's aerodynamic efficiency during the swing. In fact, Ping engineers led by Dr. Erik Henrikson, head of fitting science, are presenting a paper at the 2014 Conference of the International Sports Engineering Association this month in England. The title, "Experimental investigation of golf driver club head drag reduction through the use of aerodynamic features on the driver crown," may say something about what the G30's crown ridges might be trying to do. The presentation is listed here in the Programme Schedule for the conference.

Several players began testing the G30 on Monday at The Greenbrier Classic, including Mark Wilson, Derek Ernst, Jason Gore and David Lingmerth. Angel Cabrera already put both a G30 driver and 3-wood in his bag, and Bubba Watson, who has been testing the driver since mid-May, also is expected to put the club in play this week in West Virginia. 

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More details on G30 and its technology are expected to be available later this week.

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Gear & Equipment

It's June in an even-numbered year. Of course Titleist has a new driver for its tour pros

By E. MIchael Johnson

To borrow from an old saying, there are some things you can rely on: death, taxes ... and Titleist introducing a new line of metalwoods every other year at the Quicken Loans (formerly AT&T) National.

loop-titleist-915-driver-518.jpgThe Fairhaven, Mass.-based company debuted its 915D2 and 915D3 in Bethesda, Md., on Monday. And unlike previous years, Titleist is saying nothing about the clubs, leaving us to go by what we can see.

The most noticeable change from its previous driver, the 913, is the addition of a channel on the sole of the club. (Channels, which have been around for about five years, are typically intended to help shots hit low on the face.) The 915’s alignment aid is also slightly different (triangle-in-a-triangle appearance).

What remains is a rear weight that can help dial in the swingweight and an adjustable hosel to change the loft and lie angle. If form holds, expect the clubs to be at retail this fall.

I discussed the new driver, among other equipment topics, during an appearance Wednesday on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive."



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Gear & Equipment

The new club in Rory's bag that helped him win at Wentworth

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-rory-mcilroy-wedge-300.jpgWhen Rory McIlroy signed his mega deal with Nike last year, everyone had an opinion on his choice of bats and ball. Of course, the only opinion that really matters is that of McIlory himself. In a conversation with GolfDigest.com on Monday, McIlroy discussed some of the key clubs in his bag during his win at the BMW PGA Championship.

You put the new Nike VR X3X Toe Sweep wedge in this week, a 59-degree (pictured). What appealed to you about that club to make the change?
The Toe Sweep is something I've been messing around with for a while and I felt like last week was a good time to put it in play. The one thing I really like about it is how well it goes through the rough. Some of those shots on the way in Sunday were key up and downs. The chip-in on 10 and the flop shot that I played on 14, those two were out of the rough. The way the club is designed it feels that it slides through that longer grass really easily and the ball comes out that much better for me. If there was one area of my game that I needed to improve this year it was probably scrambling, and this wedge helped a lot this week with that.

Getting the right ball/driver combination is a big key and you've done some experimenting. What is it about the VRS Covert 2.0 and RZN Black pairing that works for you?
This driver, the Covert 2.0, actually spins a little more than the original Covert, and that's a good thing for me. With how I like to shape the ball from right to left I want to see that ball stand in the air for a bit so it was good to get a little more spin. I know some guys like to be on the lower side of spin, 2,100, 2,200 [rpms]. That's great on TrackMan and great on the range and everything, but when you're out on the golf course it never hurts to have a little more spin. It's nice to hit it long and maximize your distance, but I like to be on the higher side of spin because I feel like I can keep my ball flight a little tighter. Out on the golf course with the length that I'm hitting it, it's key for me to hit fairways. But I have picked up some ball speed with this ball-and-driver combination that I've been using for about eight months now. Driving the ball well is the foundation for my game, and whenever I'm driving it well I generally tend to produce good results. It's been a huge improvement.

How key is the driver shaft in that equation?
I'm using a Mitsubishi Kuro Kage shaft. The thing about shafts is that it really is a process of elimination. You try a lot and you trust the guys you work with that they're going to come to you with some good options that will produce what you like to see with your ball flight. I used the Diamana for a while and that worked well, but I felt like that shaft with the new driver head was spinning a little too low for me so we went to the Kuro Kage and I saw the spin rate come up just slightly, which I felt was more playable. Obviously shaft is very important and there are so many shafts out there that there's a lot of trial and error, but eventually you're going to find the right one that fits you and this one does.

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Gear & Equipment

Cobra the latest to join the DIY driver movement with Design Lab

By Mike Stachura

No manufacturer has done more to stretch the cosmetic limits of driver design than Cobra. Even so, the company no longer seems content to hold customers to just five colors.

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Starting this week, the Cobra Design Lab lets golfers aesthetically reconceive the company's Bio Cell+ driver ($450). An online menu provides options that go beyond shaft and grip to include choices between two head colors, eight crown and accent colors, and four crown patterns, including marble and digital camo. (A total of 46 clubhead combinations are available.)

The customizable driver features the same technology as the original Bio Cell+, including a weight-saving multimaterial alloy in the crown and a hosel that adjusts to one of eight settings.

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Gear & Equipment

Adjustability is the watch word with Mizuno prototype driver

By E. Michael Johnson

When it comes to the driver category, Mizuno isn't one of the first brands that comes to mind. That not to say, however, the company doesn't make an earnest effort with its big sticks.

Mizuno's latest, now only in the prototype stage, is the JPX 850, a club that wasn't added to the USGA's list of conforming driver heads until May 5. The first public look at the club came when Luke Donald tested it on the range at TPC Sawgrass during last week's Players Championship, then put it in play during the tournament. Donald finished T-38 while ranking T-34 in driving accuracy, slightly better than his year-to-date rank of 58th in that stat.

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Photos of the club reveal it to have a blue-colored crown with multiple adjustable elements. The hosel allows for loft adjustments in 1-degree increments while heel and toe weight ports are designed to affect directional ball flight (Leaving little room for confusion, the word "fade" is on the toe area of the club and the word "draw" is on the heel portion, indicating where the heavier weight should be placed for the desired trait).

Still, the most intriguing aspect of the club is its "Fast Track Technology" channel, where a pair of weights can slide forward, middle and back -- or be taken out altogether -- to alter the club's center of gravity.

Although the company is mum on details of the official launch, it is reasonable to expect the club to be among its driver offerings for 2015.

Photo: Greg Moore/GolfWRX


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