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Equipment

Here's the scoop on Puma's new BioDrive golf shoe

It wasn't all that long ago the golf course was a place where blind conservatism reigned supreme, especially when it came to golf shoes. Black, white and brown were the colors. Saddles or Wingtips were the styles. Any footwear offerings that strayed from that formula were rejected faster than most Hollywood scripts.

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But times have changed over the last 15 years or so and so has golf footwear. Spurred by a number of factors -- including a movement in general to footwear that is more comfortable and more versatile. Puma's latest offering, the BioDrive, expands on that path.
 
The BioDrive ($140, available in four color combinations) is designed to work as both a golf shoe and training footwear. The upper looks like an athletic shoe while the outsole has 10 octagons that provide 130 points of traction. The points on the perimeter of the octagon were created to provide better traction on smoother, indoor surfaces. The points in the center provide grip needed on a golf course. The shoe comes with a two-year waterproof guarantee.

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Equipment

Winner's bag: What Charley Hoffman used to win the OHL Classic at Mayakoba

Charley Hoffman won the Mayakoba Classic with 13 Titleist clubs and ball. One of Hoffman's key weapons in Mexico was his Titleist 915D2 driver -- a club he ranked fifth in driving distance with at 295.1 yards.

A recent ball change also has proved fruitful for Hoffman. At the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai Bubba Watson became the first player to win using Titleist's prototype 2015 Pro V1x ball. At the Mayakoba, Hoffman became the second. Hoffman winning with the ball seems appropriate given he was one of the early adopters, using it in the first week it came out in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. "I immediately noticed the softer feel of the new Pro V1x," said Hoffman in Vegas. "I also tested it on TrackMan and the spin and performance on full iron shots were right where I wanted them to be. Overall, I saw improvement across the board."

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Here's the rest of Hoffman's clubs.

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Driver: Titleist 915D2, 8.5 degrees
3-wood: Titleist 915F, 13.5 degrees
Hybrid: Adams Idea Pro, 18 degrees
Irons (3): Titleist CB 714; (5-9): Titleist MB 714; (PW): Titleist Vokey SM5
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM5 (50, 56, 60 degrees)
Putter: Scotty Cameron by Titleist GoLo 5

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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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Equipment

16 strange things people have randomly found in their golf bag

A friend of mine in high school once played so terribly in a tournament that, as soon as he got home, he threw his clubs in the garage and stormed away. His bag smelled really bad when he returned about a week later, and when he went investigating, it was because of the rotten banana he found smushed at the bottom of his bag. It ruined his grips, he needed to buy a new bag -- it was a whole thing.

That story was floating around in my mind when I put a related question to Reddit. The results were varied -- some of them unpublishable -- but all of entertaining. Here is a sample:

Question: "What's the strangest thing you've ever found in your golf bag?" 

Answer:

A Scotty Cameron Pitchfork Repair Tool

"I'm cleaning it up, turn it upside down because I could hear something rattling around, and out comes a NICE titleist scotty cameron ball mark repair tool."

The Makings Of A Crime

"Bought my bag used on craigslist...was giving the bag a through cleaning when I came across about an 1/8 of dirt weed and a metal pipe. smelled horrible."

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Putter Covers

"At the bottom... I found four putter covers, including the original I thought I had lost 16 months prior to finding it.."

More Putter Covers

"After reading this I checked my golf bag for a putter cover I thought I lost 3 years ago. Sure enough, it was in the bottom of the bag."

An Incriminating Cookie

"A half eaten cookie. Father of three kids."

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Miscellaneous Sports Attire

"I was clearing out my high school bag my jr year and found my oakleys that I had lost, the cushion pad from hockey helmets, and apple flavored tobacco in my bag. I don't chew and haven't played hockey and years."

The Perfect Golf Tee

"A tee of appropriate length on the first try."

Spiders!

"A giant nest of black widows. Literally hundreds of them."

A Thong?

"I had an ex's thong in mine for a while."

Batteries

"Batteries.....a bunch of them."

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A Training Aid

"I found a free swing sock that the retailer must have forgotten to take out of the bag before selling me the bag."

Legal Documents

"A divorce letter"

Some Tunes

"I work at a used sporting goods store, we found a music box in a used bag someone sold us."

A Bad Doughnut Situation

"My brother and my dad was on a golf trip a long time ago and he forgot a doughnut in the bag for about 6 moths, once he found it you could kill people with it."

Protection

"I was playing in a college and one of the guys from another school opens a pocket to get out another ball and a condom falls out."

A Travesty

"Old beers. I never usually leave soldiers behind."

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So, what's the strangest thing you've ever found in your golf bag?

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Equipment

Winner's bag: What Bubba Watson used to win the WGC-HSBC Champions

blog-bubba-watson-bag-1109.jpgBubba Watson won the WGC-HSBC Champions after employing a backup Ping G30 driver (pink, of course) for the event. Apparently Watson was concerned the face of his driver might have some metal fatigue and be ready to fail. So Watson called Ping's PGA Tour reps on Halloween and asked to have backups sent to his house in Orlando.

 

Related: Bubba Watson wins HSBC in thrilling fashion

Not wanting to risk a potential failure while in Asia, Ping's Wrx department had three backups made and sent overnight to Watson so he could take one with him to Shanghai. Though his gamer remained intact, the two-time Masters champion brought one of the backups with him and put it in the bag in China. The new driver came in handy during the week and on the first hole of his playoff with Tim Clark where Watson made birdie on the par-5 18th to win the title after eagling the same hole to forge a tie earlier.

 

Watson also had a trio of Ping prototype wedges in the bag for the first time, and while there was a learning curve at times (some chunked shots), he used one to hole out from a greenside bunker for an eagle on the 72nd hole that tied Tim Clark and forged a playoff, which Watson won on the first extra hole.

 

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Driver: Ping G30 (Grafalloy BiMatrx), 9 degrees
4-wood: Ping G25, 16.5 degrees
Irons (3-PW): Ping S55
Wedges: Ping prototype (52, 56, 60 degrees)
Putter: Ping Anser Milled 1

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Business

Nike Golf names Jordan Brand exec new president

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Nike announced today that Daric Ashford will become President of Nike Golf.

Ashford is currently vice president, general manager of Jordan Brand for North America and is a 21-year Nike veteran. Daric has held senior management positions across retail and sales within the Nike brand. Jordan Brand is a subsidiary of Nike dealing primarily in basketball shoes and athletic apparel. PGA Tour player Keegan Bradley has famously been testing and helping design a Jordan Brand golf shoe, in consultation with the company's namesake and founder, one-time basketball player and full-time current golfer Michael Jordan.

There were no details about Ashford’s golf expertise, although those familiar with him call him an avid player. One example: He was listed as a participant in the 2014 Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational Pro-Am.

“Daric’s leadership has helped to deliver strong revenue growth and expand the Jordan Brand. His proven track record, along with his experience in global categories, makes him ideally suited to leading the golf business,” said Jayme Martin, Nike’s vice president and general manager of global categories.

Ashford takes the helm of a golf brand whose two preeminent endorsees Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are regarded as two of the top three favorite golfers in the game, according to a recent survey by industry research firm Golf Datatech. McIlroy is currently the No. 1-ranked player in the world. The Nike brand also counts 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie in its stable.

Over the last six years, sales for Nike Golf have remained steady while still trailing top brands like TaylorMade-adidas Golf, Callaway Golf and Acushnet. Sales were $725 million in May of 2008, and $789 million through the fiscal year ended May 2014. The 2014 numbers were about equal to 2013’s figure of $792 million. 

Ashford replaces Cindy Davis, 52, who announced her retirement in October. Davis had led Nike Golf since 2008.

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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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Equipment

Winner's bag: What Ryan Moore used to win the CIMB Classic

The CIMB Classic was a case of deja vu all over again for Ryan Moore. Not only did the former U.S. Amateur champion defend the title he won in 2013 (over three players, including Gary Woodland, who also finished second in 2013), but he did so by using some equipment familiar to him that he also used in his victory a year ago.

 

Related: More on Moore's repeat win in Malaysia

Moore put back in the bag the Yes! C-Groove Sandy 12 mallet putter he used in Malaysia last year and also returned (after trial periods with the Callaway Speed Regime 3 ball and Srixon's Z Star ball) to Titleist's Pro V1x. Moore also had the same TaylorMade fairway woods he employed last year at Kuala Lumpur G.C.

 

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Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Driver: TaylorMade JetSpeed, 9.5 degrees
3-wood: TaylorMade RocketBallz Stage 2, 15 degrees
5-wood: TaylorMade RocketBallz, 19 degrees
Hybrid: Adams Idea Super 9031, 20 degrees
4-PW: Miura PP-9003
Wedges: TaylorMade Tour Preferred (53, 58 degrees)
Putter: Yes! C-Groove Sandy 12

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Equipment

7 pictures from Day 3 at Golf Digest's annual Hot List Summit

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. -- The final day of the Hot List Summit is always sad because it means the group has to say goodbye to Belinda, who is such a ray of sunlight over the entire process at The Wigwam. The Southwestern Loco Moco breakfast that Belinda is holding is also rather agreeable, but in a more "chorizo" kind of way. In any case, we each said our goodbyes and told her that we'd see her next year. "Oh yes," Belinda said, "God willing."

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It took a few days for any of us to notice, but it seems the Wigwam is home to one of the most ironic signs in golf today. Either that, or that hole in the window was caused by some kind of fit of happiness. 

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This is Golf Digest's Associate Editor Stephen Hennessey, but everybody's been calling him West Side since he moved to the Manhatten's Upper West Side last year. On a warm Saturday morning, West Side showed up wearing long black socks (pulled up) and black shoes. He's originally from New Jersey, which perhaps offers an explanation to the emerging and alarming trend.

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Saturdays at the Hot List Summit are mostly about upholding traditions. One of those traditions involves all the testers, as soon as they're finished, grabbing all their favorite clubs to try them one last time before we send them home.

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Among those on the range was our Hot List Summit rookie, Anand Mudaliar, who enlisted one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, Jason Guss (another tester), for a quick lesson. Anand is a 12 handicap and a total addict, but he's always struggled to hit a draw. Guss got him to turn a few over in a few minutes and it was like an explosion of happy. "That's my first draw ever!" Anand cheered. "This is amazing!"

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Another time-honored tradition of the Hot List Summit is a process the editors call "Suck Up Saturday." Being a Hot List tester is a pretty sweet deal, so to keep everybody on their toes -- and to ensure the process remains alive with new blood -- testers understand the looming threat that they could be replaced with a new body next year. That's why when the end of the testing on Saturday rolls around, the testers magically turn into some of the most helpful worker bees you can imagine, all in an effort to try to secure their spot for next year.

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As things were winding down, the hive of bees that swarmed onto a nearby tree Friday randomly picked up and left Saturday. Some guy came over and told everyone that they were protecting the queen, but I'm just amazed at how they left without any sign they were there in the first place. Maybe they were trying to protect their spots for next year, too.

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Equipment

7 pictures from Day 2 at Golf Digest's annual Hot List Summit

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. -- The 2015 Hot List Summit happened to fall on Halloween this year, which doubles as tester Gary Abbott's birthday. He celebrated by dressing as a back-from-the-dead golfer, which seemed apt considering the circumstances. 

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Gary knows a guy who restores and repairs hickory clubs, so he brought one as part of his costume that everyone took turns hitting. I had never tried one before, and in case you haven't either, it feels as if you're hitting a golf ball with a heavy wooden PVC pipe. The ball just kind of floats forward with no real purpose or power. It's actually better to try and thin it, but that doesn't exactly make your hands feel great. It was a stark reminder of what golf used to be, and how technology has reimagined the game.

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Speaking of reimagining things: The way Hot List testing works is relatively simple. Players test clubs, editors probe them for lots of different kinds of information, and it all gets recorded in lots of these little books, which editors manually transcribe into an online database at a later date. There are few things I hate more in life then transcribing (you should see my handwriting), so I came up with a new plan . . .

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On Thursday, I kept my laptop with me throughout the day and used it for all my note-taking, which worked out to be a real time saver. On Friday, Golf World's Equipment Editor, Mike Johnson, and Golf Digest's Audience Engagement Editor, Ashley Mayo, followed suit. I'm hoping a few more will join us on the dark side tomorrow.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: It was 90 degrees Friday in this part of Arizona, so Ashley wore a towel on her head most of the day to help cool down. Maybe it worked?

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But anyway, aside from Gary's zombie costume, the scariest moment of Hot List so far happened at about noon, when thousands of bees suddenly swarmed onto a tree at the back of the range. Someone mentioned something about African Killer Bees, which are apparently quite prevalent in Arizona. The thought of dying at the hands of some scary-sounding bees was a little too much for me, so I just tried to return my focus back to the towel on Ashley's head.

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But forget about the bees. If you're not careful, it's the golf clubs that can do the real damage. Our group of testers hit more than 10,000 balls Friday. If you're wondering what that looks like, here are the hands of Peter Lee, a veteran Hot List tester.

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When testing finally finished for the day, GolfDigest.com's Deputy Editor, Ryan Herrington, decided to host an impromptu summit of his own. Ryan's current irons are almost as old as that hickory club from earlier (not really, but they are really old), so he decided to try a few of the newer models. He was still there when I left, which seems like a good sign.

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