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Equipment

Jack Nicklaus was so good he used the same 3-wood for 37(!) years

Of all Jack Nicklaus' accomplishments -- 18 professional majors, 73 PGA Tour titles, etc. -- one number might stun golf fans more than any: 37. As in the 37 years Nicklaus used the same MacGregor Tommy Armour 3-wood.

Related: The most important clubs in Masters history

The magical club is on display with other artifacts from Jack's storied career at the USGA's new Jack Nicklaus Room in Far Hills, N.J. Nicklaus used the 3-wood from 1958 through 1995, meaning he won all of those majors (beginning with the 1962 U.S. Open and ending with the 1986 Masters) and PGA Tour titles with it in the bag.

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This would be incredible in any era, but in an age when even amateurs update clubs on an annual basis, it's downright astonishing. Can you imagine Rory McIlroy winning the 2035 Masters with the same 3-wood he had in the bag to win his first major at the 2011 U.S. Open? Will the 3-wood even exist in 2035?

And it wasn't just that 3-wood. Our Mike Johnson wrote about Nicklaus' tendency to stick with clubs he liked in the June 7, 2010 edition of Golf World.

"Jack hardly changed anything," said Clay Long, who worked on Nicklaus' equipment at MacGregor.

Sounds like an easy gig.

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Equipment

A driver designed only for Tiger Woods now can be yours

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There are many aspects of Tiger Woods that remain distinct, anomalous and separate from the rest of professional golf. One of the more complicated and unique might be his driver.

Nike announced today that it is making available a limited edition version of Woods’ specific Vapor Speed driver, a club that director of engineering Nate Radcliffe says is “very different” in terms of its properties compared to the stock versions of the Vapor Speed and Vapor Pro drivers.

“Certainly anybody on our staff who wanted to play this driver could,” Radcliffe says. “But Tiger is so unique from an athlete perspective that he is really the only player that this driver appeals to. Most of our tour players have moved to larger parts.”

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The new Vapor Speed TW is a 420cc model, smaller than the standard issue Vapor Speed  or Vapor Pro (460 cc), the latter preferred by Rory McIlroy. Its center of gravity is both closer to the face and to the hosel axis compared to the standard clubs. Players with a little more hand action in their swings are likely to prefer a center of gravity that’s more forward. When the center of gravity is positioned deeper, those types of players tend to have a sense that they have less effect on how the club moves in the swing.  

While Woods has played and had success with full-size 460cc clubheads before, he believes he is better able to shape shots with a smaller head that has less moment of inertia, or stability on off-center hits. Radcliffe says Woods remains that rare player today who “shapes shots by intentionally missing the center of the face. He’ll hit hold-off cuts by teeing it lower and then heels it a little bit. You just don’t see very many modern guys doing that, but he will strike the ball at different places on the clubface.” 

That’s where Woods believes he can take advantage of some of the baseline technology in the Vapor Speed driver. Specifically, the channel in the sole behind the face on all the Vapor drivers is designed to improve the face’s flexibility on off-center impacts. It’s an idea Nike originated in its VR line of drivers, and one Woods encouraged the design team to bring back with the Vapor drivers.

Originally, Nike’s designers built the shape and size of the Vapor Flex driver thinking Woods would gravitate toward it. As it turns out, the shape is correct, but the center of gravity locations on that adjustable driver is different. The Vapor Speed TW’s CG is actually located more forward than any other Nike driver, with the exception of the more forward position in the  Vapor Flex, which adjusts between a forward and rearward CG. 

“He’s certainly impressed me more than a few times in what he can feel,” Radcliffe says. 

Unlike the standard Vapor drivers, the Vapor Speed TW is only offered in Woods’ loft (10.5) and is a bonded, non-adjustable head. It comes standard with the Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana Blue 73X, Woods’ preferred shaft. 

“I think this is fair to the player who wants exactly what Tiger has,” Radcliffe says. “Everything is exactly the same as what we give to him.”

The limited edition club will go on sale June 1 ($400).
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Equipment

Winner's bag: The putter that propelled Chris Kirk to a win at Colonial

At a shorter course such as Colonial C.C., putting is at a premium and Kirk did well on the greens with his Odyssey ProType 10 putter, ranking third in strokes gained/putting and first in putts per GIR. Kirk needed all the help he could get picking up strokes with his putting as he was below the tour average for the week in driving distance, driving accuracy and greens in regulation.

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Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Driver: Callaway XR Pro (Mitsubishi Diamana S+ Blue Board 60x), 8.5 degrees
3-wood: Callaway X2 Hot, 15 degrees
Irons (2-3): Callaway Apex UT; (4-9): Callaway RAZR X MB; (PW): Callaway Mack Daddy 2
Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy 2 (52, 58 degrees)
Putter: Odyssey ProType 10 Putter

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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

Titleist to start exclusive equipment program

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In an era of increasing specialization and customization in golf equipment, Titleist announced today a program called "made only to order," or MOTO. Although no details were made available, an email from the company to those signing up for the service indicates it will be about a "classification for Titleist metals and irons with specialized performance characteristics." 

An email sent to those signing up for the offer suggests the program will provide details on multiple products in the future. It is also not clear how or if these products will be made available to the general public.

That said, the announcement of the program today on Twitter was accompanied by a photograph of the Titleist 915D4 driver. The club debuted on tour in March but has not been introduced to the retail market. A line extension of the 915 driver family, the D4 moves its sole weight closer to the face for a lower more forward center of gravity to further reduce spin. The 450cc head features more curve in the crown for a rounder overall appearance. It has a similar face height as the 915D3, and also employs the 915’s platform technologies of a sole channel for enhancing face rebound and 16-way loft and lie adjustability. 

Among the handful of players who have used the 915D4 are Justin Thomas, 19th in driving distance at 300.6 yards. Thomas also currently ranks 7th lowest in spin rate (2,281 rpm), about 12 percent below the tour average. 

It is not clear whether the clubs will be exclusively available directly through Titleist’s website. The company does have a long tradition of custom fitting through its network of retailers and club professionals. It also isn't clear if these clubs will be available in a limited capacity prior to being released wide scale. The 915 line did not appear at retail until late fall, but drivers were in player's bags as early as June. 
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Equipment

Those Ryan Moore prototype irons are coming to a fitter (sort of) near you

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It is beyond unusual for a tour player, especially an established tour player, to endorse an equipment company that technically isn’t ready to sell any of its designs. But that’s what Ryan Moore has been doing from the beginning of the year with a startup company with big plans and seemingly even bigger stores of cash behind it.

Now, Moore and Parsons Xtreme Golf are ready to begin the next stage of their public phase. PXG announced today that it will begin selling limited sets of its PXG 0311 irons and wedges at Cool Clubs. The high-end clubfitting retail chain has 18 locations worldwide including a dozen in the U.S.

The startup company was founded by entrepreneur and philanthropist Bob Parsons, the man behind GoDaddy.com who’s also building the world’s largest Harley-Davidson dealership in Scottsdale, Ariz. Parsons, whose net worth has been estimated by Forbes at $2.1 billion, is the owner of Scottsdale National, which is also the home to his nascent golf equipment company. That company is led by two noteworthy equipment minds, Brad Schweigert and Mike Nicollette, both formerly longtime veterans at Ping.  

Moore started the year playing the PXG 03x prototype irons (now known as the PXG 0311), telling GolfDigest.com in January at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, “I knew some of the guys involved in it, and they kind of asked me to look at some prototypes and sets to try. 

"I'm someone who they like to get an opinion on things. They sent me some, and I tried them and I really liked them. I've been searching for a set of irons, and these are the best set of irons I've hit in a really, really long time. I was excited and from the second I hit them I couldn't put them down."

The irons also have been put in play by Rocco Mediate on the Champions Tour, and Moore also has played the PXG 0811 driver.

The PXG 0311 irons are a unique multiple-piece construction. While they take on the shape of a traditional muscleback blade, they’re actually hollow. The clubhead starts as an open face forged body. Then, designers milled an internal cavity and plasma welded a thin HT1770 maraging steel face insert out front to create more face flexibility. The PXG 0311 then adds  a ring of tungsten screw weights on the back of each iron, while the internal cavity is also filled with a thermoplastic elastomer. 

PXG is looking to expand availability of the irons by adding more retail partners, but its emphasis will be on locations that offer high levels of custom fitting, like Cool Clubs. 

“PXG is committed to building the best golf equipment on the planet,” Parsons said in a company statement today. “While the equipment will speak for itself, we want to make sure that every golfer is fit for his or her clubs by a professional. Cool Clubs’ commitment to fitting their customers with the very best golf equipment makes them an ideal first partner."

That complex construction and high-performance fitting means the PXG 0311 irons and wedges will not be a purchase every golfer can make. In addition to the $175 fitting fee, each individual club’s starting price will be $300, or $2,400 for a set of eight clubs. The irons are available 3-iron through pitching wedge, while the wedges, which feature a computer milled face design, are available in six lofts (50, 52, 54, 56, 58 and 60 degrees).
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Equipment

TaylorMade will give away free drivers if Dustin Johnson wins the U.S. Open

Dustin Johnson is already a fan favorite. But we have a feeling D.J. is about to pick up even more fans for this year’s U.S. Open.

If D.J. wins at Chambers Bay in June, anyone who buys a new TaylorMade driver between May 18 and June 17 at a PGA Tour Superstore will be refunded for the driver’s full price. So, that new R15 ($430) or AeroBurner ($300) could end up being free.

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Other companies have done similar promotions with its pros in the past—Callaway and Phil Mickelson being the most recent—giving away Phil's U.S. Open check from Merion in 2013. And in 2009, TaylorMade did a similar promotion with Sergio Garcia at the Masters and Garcia and Retief Goosen for the U.S. Open.

Of course, it hinges on D.J. winning. But D.J. has already won once this year and is hungry for his first major. For more on the promotion, click here for all the details.

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Equipment

A ton of science goes into making Justin Rose's clubs. And he's in tune with all of it

You know how some guys are total feel players? They'll have a club in their bag that's been there forever, and it doesn't get replaced because they just trust the way it feels over new technology that should theoretically, scientifically, almost definitely beat it. 

Justin Rose is definitely not one of those guys. 

In a new video released by TaylorMade, one of the company's European Tour reps, Adrian Rietveld, talks about the process involved in setting up clubs for Justin Rose, accompanied by some dramatic music and sexy glimpses of golf clubs being built in the TaylorMade workshop. 



"From the TaylorMade standpoint, he's the perfect staff player and ambassador because of the feedback that we get."

The video continues with Rietveld outlining what it takes to get a new club into Justin's bag:

"He demands a lot of time when it comes to getting new product in the bag. He's very scientific, he's very robot like, because he does really leave no rock unturned. It's a constant search for performance."

I was lucky enough to spend a little time with Justin talking about his driver and iron swings, and I can attest to how scientifically his brain works. There is no part of his swing that goes uncalculated; it's impressive how articulately he speaks about it. Clearly, he approaches his clubs in the same way. 

"He knows exactly what he's using," Rietveld said. "The more he knows, the better he gets."  

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Equipment

Winner's bag: The driver shaft that allowed Rory McIlroy to overpower Quail Hollow

It took a little bit, but Rory McIlroy seems to have found the right driver-shaft combination. At the Wells Fargo Championship, McIlroy used his Nike Vapor Pro with a Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board S+ 70 TX shaft to lead the field in driving distance with an eye-catching 321.1 yards. 

Last year the Wells Fargo champ told GolfDigest.com that he is very visual when it comes to his driver. "It has to look a certain way," McIlroy said. "You have to be very comfortable when you're looking down at a club because if you're not you're never going to hit a good shot. The look is the first thing."

Ball: Nike RZN Black
Driver: Nike Vapor Pro (Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board  S+ 70 TX), 8.5 degrees
3-wood: Nike Vapor Speed, 15 degrees
5-wood: Nike Vapor Speed, 19 degrees
Irons (4-9): Nike VR Pro Blade; (PW): Nike VR Forged
Wedges: Nike VR Forged (52, 56 degrees); Nike Engage (59 degrees)
Putter: Nike Method 006

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Equipment

Tour Edge Exotics offers up next generation CB Pro fairway

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Tour Edge’s Exotics line has long produced cult favorites among better players (as well as a few stars on the PGA Tour) for its fairway wood technology, which often mixes unique metals like titanium and high-strength steels with unique manufacturing techniques.

The company expanded its fairway wood technology in 2013 with the CB Pro, which featured a sole plate whose waved, ribbon-like structure was designed to improve turf interaction. 

Now comes the next generation, the CB Pro F2, which further refines the sole design while enhancing heel and toe relief.

The new sole plate is smaller and tapered toward the back of the clubhead for increased relief. Additionally, inset sole cavities in the heel and toe are designed to improve playability and enhance weight distribution. The CB Pro F2 comes on the heels of the similarly shaped and designed CB Pro U hybrid.  

There are also improvements in the face design of the . Made of beta titanium, the forged cup face is now five percent lighter, and the extra mass is redistributed within the heavier hypersteel body. The CB Pro F2 also employs the Exotics line’s trademarked brazing manufacturing technique. Brazing fuses the two metals through high heat and is designed to save weight from traditional welding methods. 

The CB Pro F2’s compact head (159 cubic centimeters in the 3-wood lofts) is about 7 percent smaller than the original version but still is available in five lofts (13.5, 14.5, 15.5, 16.5 and 17.5 degrees). The standard shaft is the Mitsubishi Rayon Kuro Kage Silver TiNi. Expected to be in stores by June 1, it will retail for $400.
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