The Local Knowlege

Equipment

All the Callaway staffers have a latin phrase stitched on their bag at the British Open. Here's why

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

HOYLAKE, England -- If you've been paying especially close attention to the British Open, you might have noticed that the 17 Callaway staff players in the field this week all had a Latin phrase stitched into the bottom part of their Liverpool-themed bag.

Phil Mickelson:

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Henrik Stenson:

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Here's a better look:

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It turns out the expression is part of a special British Open-themed collection of accessories the company put together in honor of the 2014 British Open. Players were given Union Jack-colored headcovers, bags and ball makers, which have an artful image of a coastal bird (the symbol of Liverpool) and the roman numeral XII (a nod to Royal Liverpool hosting its 12th Open).

The saying on the bags -- "Respice et Prospice" -- translates to "Remember the past, look to the future." It's the same phrase featured on Hoylake's coat of arms.

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News & Tours

The real takeaway from Rory McIlroy's course-record 64 at the Scottish Open

By John Huggan

loop-rory-mcilroy-iron-aberdeen-280.jpgABERDEEN, Scotland -- On the eve of this Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen, Rory McIlroy was making strangely positive noises about a Round 1 weather forecast that promised much in the way of precipitation.

"You've got to relish the challenge," said the man who, three years previously, had openly expressed a deep and profound distaste for a similar combination of links courses and less-than-perfect meteorological conditions. "I'm trying to adopt more of that mind-set, especially for these two weeks of the year."

Well, it's working, so far at least. When the predicted rainfall failed to materialize -- there's a shock -- McIlroy took advantage. In a breeze that was strong enough to help him drive the green on the 436-yard 13th, the 25-year-old Ulsterman made eight birdies and one bogey in an opening-round 64. By two shots, it represented a new course record for the glorious Balgownie links.

"I was really pleased with how I controlled my game," he said. "To be able to go out and trust the shots I have been practicing over the last 10 days was great."

That it was. On a classic out-and-back links, McIlroy mastered the more difficult front-nine -- wind blow against and from the left -- to be three under at the turn: "That was a good score today, a really good nine holes of golf."

Four more birdies followed on an inward-half that Phil Mickelson's caddie, Jim (Bones) MacKay, described as "made for Rory." Indeed, it was the helping right-to-left wind that allowed McIlroy, a natural drawer of the ball, to produce that monster drive on the 13th and reduce many holes to "drive and kick."

The differences between the two nines were more than marked, of course, a fact McIlroy underlined with a variety of examples.

"I hit a really good drive into the wind on the seventh," he said. "And they measured it at 255 yards. Then on the 12th I drove it 373 yards. On the third hole I hit a 4-iron and it pitched at 187 yards and ran out another 40 yards. Then on the seventh I hit the same club 160 yards. That's nearly a 70-yard difference."

Most pleasing to the former U.S. Open and PGA champion, however, was his ability to control the flight on his shots, inevitably a key factor on a fast-running links.

"I've always been a natural player in that I can hit a high fade or low draw," he explained. "But today I was hitting little 6-irons from 150 yards and 4-irons 165 yards with the aim of keeping the ball down. I feel very confident with those shots at the minute."

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Gear & Equipment

Vokey's SM5 wedge line turns blue

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By Mike Stachura

Increasingly in today's equipment landscape what used to be thought of as special and reserved only for elite players and extreme gearheads is now nearly as accessible as a polo shirt with an Augusta National logo. In short, if it's desired, everyone will be able to get it. 

Case in point is Thursday's announcement that Titleist will begin offering a new Limited Edition Vokey Spin Milled 5 Indigo wedge. The line extension incorporates the design technology of the SM5 line in a blue PVD finish that previously was only available through the Vokey Wedgeworks site and only in the 400 series Vokey wedges. 

"People went crazy for them," veteran Titleist wedge designer Bob Vokey said. "We took them to the PGA Show this year and everyone was gravitating towards the Indigo finish and asking us when we would offer it in SM5. Even some of the tour guys saw it and loved it, so we've decided to put out a limited release." 

It is available in two of the Vokey line's mid-bounce grinds, M and S, in 54, 56, 58 and 60 degrees. Like all SM5 models, it features a revamped groove that's 7 percent larger in volume for improved control on shots from the rough. The finish will wear over time, but will not rust. 

The Vokey Design SM5 Indigo wedges are available for a limited time through vokey.com ($185).

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Equipment

Dunlop is marketing a naked lady tee. Yes, really.

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

If you're trying to impress your boss the next time you play golf together, you should probably stay away from these. That said, British manufacturer Dunlop's "Nudie Tees" will certainly generate a conversation.

The Nudie Tees, sold in packets of six, are the latest form of naked lady tees to enter the market. The product isn't necessarily new; you may remember Rodney Dangerfield's Al Czervik character in "Caddyshack" buying a set.

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"These Dunlop Nudie Golf tees will spice up your game," the company says in its description of the product. "Add a little humour to your game or, why not get these as a fun present for someone who takes the sport a little too seriously."

Perhaps predictably, but not incorrectly, some people are using this as a stick to beat the whole sport with.

"It’s definitely sexist...you're hitting the ball off a headless, naked woman," one reader told the New York Daily News. "The online sale of such garbage is part of a larger picture, one in which sport is simply the easiest playing field for men to behave badly on," writes Jane Martinson for the Guardian.

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News & Tours

Kevin Stadler isn't going to start putting left-handed any time soon

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

CROMWELL, Conn. -- If the ban on anchored putters went into effect tomorrow, Kevin Stadler would probably start putting left-handed. Either that, or he'd try a non-anchored long putter.

"Putting normally just feels so weird to me," Stadler said Wednesday, a day before the start of the Travelers Championship. "It's so uncomfortable."

Luckily for Stadler, the ban doesn't start until 2016, but it is something he has started thinking about. Stadler was spotted on the practice putting green Tuesday at TPC River Highlands using a left-handed putter, prompting rumors that he'd put the new technique in play this week.

"No, not yet," said Stadler, who started using a long putter back in his college days at USC in the early 2000s. "I was just having some fun, trying out a few different things. I've always loved grabbing lefty clubs and hitting balls, but I'm still a long way from making any kind of switch."

Stadler said he'd need to get more comfortable with whatever new technique he implements before making a switch, and that he'd need to spend time "retraining his eyes" to see the hole from a new angle.

But it's not a process Stadler necessarily frets. On the contrary: in some ways, he actually finds the whole thing quite liberating.

"I get those 'happy hands' when I putt," Stadler said. "When I setup left-handed, I don't know what it is, I just feel freer."

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Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Brendon Todd used to win the HP Byron Nelson Championship

By E. Michael Johnson

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If you were surprised that Brendon Todd came out on top at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, then you might raise an eye or two at some of the equipment he used as well.

Although a TaylorMade staffer with a majority of the company's clubs in the bag, Todd had a couple of sticks from lesser-known companies. Among them was a 60-degree wedge from Fourteen Golf as well as a Rife Titan mallet putter that Todd used to lead the field in strokes gained/putting. 

Below is Todd's bag in full.

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Driver: TaylorMade R1 (Matrix Ozik TP6HD), 10.5 degrees

3-wood: TaylorMade SLDR, 15 degrees

Hybrid: TaylorMade RocketBallz Stage 2, 18.5 degrees

Irons (4-9): TaylorMade Tour Preferred CB 14; (PW): TaylorMade Tour Preferred

Wedges: TaylorMade Tour Preferred (52, 56 degrees); Fourteen RM-12 (60 degrees)

Putter: Rife Titan

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Gear & Equipment

Ben Hogan brand set for return to equipment business

By E. Michael Johnson

It may not be as dramatic a comeback as the one fashioned by the man himself from his near-fatal car accident in 1949, but the Ben Hogan Company is back in the equipment business. A dormant brand for nearly a decade, the Ben Hogan Company is being resurrected with clubs bearing the famed Hogan script scheduled to be return in stores in 2015.

loop-ben-hogan-logo-260.jpgPerry Ellis, which owns the Hogan name, has entered into a licensing agreement with Eidolon Brands, whose president and CEO is Terry Koehler, a former director of marketing for the Ben Hogan Co. Koehler already has assembled a research-and-development department that will be based in Fort Worth, where Hogan clubs were first produced.

In an interview with Golf Digest, Koehler would not give a timetable for when clubs would actually be unveiled but did say irons would be first out of the blocks. "Irons were always the anchor of the Ben Hogan Company," Koehler said. "Mr. Hogan set a pretty high bar for us in terms of quality, hard work and precision so this product will not be driven by a schedule. We have a set of design values and performance values we are pursuing. We are focused on doing it right from tip to tip. As Mr. Hogan would tell you, the grip and shaft are a critical component of it, too."

For Koehler, whose company currently makes the SCOR4161 line of wedges, the chance to reunite with the Hogan brand is personal as well as professional.

"We have a lot of Ben Hogan veterans here, and it's never far from our mind," he said. "My office looks like a Hogan shrine. We believe this has potential to be a very big story because of what the Hogan brand meant to so many people. I've been a 'disciple' of the company all my life. It pained me to resign that position because as a young marketing guy that had been my dream job."

Talks with Perry Ellis started last August when Koehler made what he termed "an inquiry call." Afterward, the dialogue picked up momentum. Koehler admits the original call was "driven by emotion," but the eventual deal was the result of seeing a solid business opportunity. "I believe the Ben Hogan brand still has a strong cachet out there and people will stop and look at what we're doing just because of that," Koehler said.

What they won't see on the irons are some familiar names such as Apex or Edge. Callaway, which purchased the company at auction in September 2003 for $174.4 million, retained the rights to those names as well as some others after selling the Ben Hogan brand to Perry Ellis in 2012. Some, however, transferred over to Perry Ellis and can be used.

"I think there were some great names and if some are available we'll look at them," Koehler said. "We're investigating what those other ones are and whether names such as Director or Producer or Radial still mean something to people."

Whether the irons carry a traditional Hogan name or not, Koehler promises it won't matter. "I can tell you these will be pure Ben Hogan golf clubs," he said. "They will exemplify and deliver on every promise Mr. Hogan ever made."

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Gear & Equipment

Cobra shows you don't have to max out on size with its Bio Cell Pro driver

By Mike Stachura

Just because the rules limit driver size to 460 cubic centimeters doesn't mean the only way to innovate is to max out the size. One example is Cobra's new Bio Cell Pro ($400).

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It's only 440cc, but it features the lowest center of gravity of any Cobra driver. One benefit of a lower CG is less spin, and less spin with a high launch angle can produce more distance.

One player who's already bought into Bio Cell Pro is Cobra staffer Rickie Fowler, who has been playing a version this year. The all-titanium design has eight loft settings between 7 and 10 degrees (including three fade lofts). It's available in three colors: black, blue aster and Fowler's vibrant orange.

Interested in more stories on equipment? Signup to receive Golf Digestix, 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

Titleist offers new models, grinds in Vokey TVD wedges

By Mike Stachura

Ideas for Titleist wedge guru Bob Vokey become real on the grinding wheel. The latest updates are to the Vokey TVD (tour van design) line. New models include the TVD-M grind, with a crescent-shape, mid-bounce sole, and the TVD-K, with a wider, more cambered sole.

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Compared with Vokey's recently launched SM5 line, the TVD-K grind sole isn't as wide, and the TVD-M has more effective bounce. Both grinds use the same TX3 grooves found on the SM5 wedges, which have more depth for better spin and distance control.

The TVD models are available at the WedgeWorks Exclusives line on vokey.com ($160).


 

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Equipment

Golf Datatech: Iron sales stay positive in March

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By Mike Stachura

The first batch of the March retail reports from golf industry research firm Golf Datatech are out, and while the numbers for golf balls and metalwoods reflect the sluggish start to the traditional golf season across much of the U.S., the numbers for the most expensive single purchase a golfer makes, a set of irons, continue to be strong.

According to the just-released Golf Datatech figures, sales of irons in March at on- and off-course shops were up 9.3 percent in units and 10.5 percent in dollars, compared to March 2013. It's the eighth time in the last nine months that iron sales showed a jump over the previous year's monthly figures. The average selling price (approximately $603 for a set of eight irons) also was slightly higher than a year ago, and was the highest for any month since last May. 

Those positive irons numbers reflect a recent Golf Datatech study of golfer attitudes, showing increased enthusiasm for purchasing irons. One reason for the enthusiasm: It just might be the case that the thin-face, distance technology that has crept down from drivers to fairway woods and hybrids and now irons is beginning to resonate with golfers' purchasing decisions.

Metalwood sales showed a mixed bag as units were slightly up (1.5 percent), but dollars were noticeably down (7.1 percent). Average selling price for a metalwood was off 8.5 percent from last March. Golf ball sales, traditionally tied to rounds played, were down a little over 1 percent compared to last March.


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