The Local Knowlege

Equipment

Mizuno's latest MP irons mix traditional looks with contemporary tech

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The subtle difficulties presented to the iron design team at Mizuno rest in pursuing a certain level of forgiveness in a shape that doesn’t appear to be either forgiving or powerful. That’s why they have to attack the problem in non-traditional ways that still look and feel traditional.

While its two new irons still comfortably adhere to the company’s long tradition of precision forged muscleback players blades, the new MP-5 and MP-25 iron infuse new life into those proven shapes with a subtle shape change (for the MP-5) and a new material (in the MP-25). 

The MP-5 features a channel cut across its muscle-back shape to provide more forgiveness to the traditional blade shape. Says David Llewellyn, manager of research and development at Mizuno, “The challenge was how can we get this as much looking and feeling like a muscleback while trying to match the forgiveness in our most popular shallow players cavity.” 

Meanwhile, the MP-25 is forged from the same boron-infused carbon steel found in the company’s successful JPX-850 Forged game-improvement iron. The boron allows for a thinner clubface, as well as a unique hidden slot behind the face that provides additional ballspeed potential. 

“The boron is giving us a tremendous amount of design flexibility,” says LLewellyn. “It allows us to develop a meaningful COR [coefficient of restitution, or spring-like effect] without sacrificing feel.” 

The MP-25 has a slightly reduced head size compared to the MP-54, which helps reduce spin by comparison. But by cutting the slot through the sole, the face gets as thin as 2.2 millimeters to create more freedom structurally for the face to flex at impact. Llewellyn says that without boron, a more common face thickness might be in the 2.7-3.0 millimeter range. The slot is covered with a thin weld line at the sole and within the back cavity so that there is no external indication that there’s an opening between the top and the bottom of the club. 

Like all of Mizuno’s irons, the MP-5 and MP-25 are offered with no upcharge for any steel shaft, as well as no upcharge for any grip. The clubs will be available in September ($1,000).

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Equipment

Ping's boosts horsepower on new irons, adds wedges and putters

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Ping has enjoyed much success recently with mid-year product introductions, witnessed by its G30 driver (launched last July) reaching the No. 1 spot in driver sales at on- and off-course shops according to Golf Datatech.
 
The Phoenix-based company is again taking an aggressive approach to a mid-year launch, this time with two new iron lines, and extensions to its Glide wedge series and Cadence TR putter line. The clubs are available for pre-order starting today.
 
With its latest iron offerings Ping is bringing distance to the forefront in two completely distinct categories and for two different player types. First, in the new i irons (Ping is no longer adding a number to its naming convention), the distance emphasis comes in the form of selective shaft length and loft tweaks. Shafts are 1/4-inch longer in the 3- through 9-irons than the i25, and the heads feature 1 degree stronger lofts in the 3- through 8-irons. 

PING_i.jpgDistance, however, is not the sole point of emphasis as Ping’s engineers also spent much time trying to optimize the peak height of each iron as well as boosting the moment of inertia by expanding the perimeter weighting and using tungsten in the toe area of the 3- through 7-irons. The custom tuning port—visible on previous Ping irons—has been hidden in the i irons ($1,080, set of eight, steel), and is now positioned deeper in the cavity and lower with respect to the center of the face to better align with the impact area for better sound and feel.
 
There’s an even more aggressive take with the new game-improvement GMax ($972, set of eight, steel), which replaces the Karsten irons from a couple of years ago. A special heat-treating process has produced a face that is 40-percent stronger than the Karsten iron in the 4- through 8-irons for added ball speed. Lighter swingweights in the 4- through 6-irons also make it easier to square the club at impact. The company’s Core-Eye technology helps allow the face to be 31-percent thinner on the perimeter and helps activate the sole and top rail to produce 1 to 3 mph additional ball speed off the face. Cosmetically, there is an addition of a ferrule for the first time ever on a G-Series iron.
 
Both irons come stock with Ping’s CFS Distance steel shaft, however numerous aftermarket shafts are available at no upcharge.
 
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The extension to the Glide wedges is the addition of the ES wedges. ES stands for Eye Sole, as the clubs utilize a high toe, sole design and tapered hosel inspired by the company’s classic Eye2 wedge. “This hosel promotes less drag force through the sand,” says Erik Henrikson, Ping’s innovation and science fitting manager. “The hosel area is 11 percent less than in previous models and that results in 7 percent less hosel drag that makes it easier to get the club through the sand.”
 
The scooped sole design provides more versatility from a variety of conditons, especially out of the sand, while a moisture-repelling 431 stainless steel clubhead boosts friction. The wedges ($140 each, steel) are available in 56, 58 and 60 degrees.
 
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A pair of additions to Ping’s Cadence TR putter line are the Ketsch Mid (a semi-mallet with a head approximately 30-percent smaller than the original Ketsch) and the Craz-E-R, an update of the company’s popular mallet that boasts a sightline that extends from the top of the face to the rear of the putter for better alignment. Both utilize the company’s variable depth groove insert for more consistent roll across the face.
 
In keeping with the company’s commitment to matching putters to player stroke types, each is available in models designed for straight, slight arc or strong arc stroke types. The company also has incorporated the ability to choose different weights to match tempo. For the Ketsch Mid ($245), there is a choice of a typical or heavy sole plate that can boost the putter weight by 25 grams. On the Craz-E-R ($215), a standard weight face insert or heavier insert (33 grams more) are available. Both putter are available in adjustable length models for an additional $35.

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Business

Think you can design a driver? Wilson Golf wants you in its game show

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It’s no secret that every golf equipment company is making a more concentrated effort to engage its potential customers through social media and other forms of direct and indirect communication.

Wilson’s golf brand seems intent on taking that connectivity to another level. Not only is the company engaging with its audience directly, it’s now asking its customers to design one of its next drivers.

The company announced today a call for entries in a “Driver vs. Driver” contest, a reality show-type competition that solicits ideas for a new driver that will be part of Wilson Golf’s 2017 line. The show will be broadcast on Golf Channel with the eventual winner receiving $500,000.

“As we push golf innovation into new territories, we recognize that new ideas, materials, design elements and concepts can come from the most unexpected places, industries and people,” says Wilson Golf President Tim Clarke. “This new television show is designed to celebrate the entrepreneurial and inventive spirit that is so important to our brand and mine the country for driver ideas that the Wilson Labs team can turn into reality.”

The deadline for entries is Aug. 15 with the show expected to air on Golf Channel in the Fall of 2016. The “Driver vs. Driver” show will be a series of seven episodes where judges and the Wilson Golf design team will evaluate each of the top entries, eliminating candidates each week. The eventual winner’s design will be a Wilson Staff-branded product in 2017.

More information is available at www.wilson.com/drivervsdriver.  

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Equipment

Robert Streb gets fantastic message stamped on the wedge he rolled in five birdie putts with

Robert Streb is keeping the wedge he made an incredible five birdie putts with in the final round of the Greenbrier Classic after he damaged his putter. But now, that magical piece of equipment is even cooler.

On Thursday, Streb revealed the humorous message Titleist had stamped on the 56-degree sand wedge:

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The Grind: Tour WAGs celebrate the Fourth and Miguel takes a nap at Wimbledon

Despite his success on the greens with his wedge last week, Streb used a regular putter during his opening 66 at the John Deere Classic. Chuck Norris will be disappointed.

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(h/t @darrenrovell)

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Equipment

Titleist to offer Spieth's preferred finish on Vokey wedge line

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The style of wedge preferred by Jordan Spieth (and many of the best players in the world) is now available for those who don’t have courtesy cars waiting for them at PGA Tour stops.

Titleist announced today that its Vokey Design SM5 wedges, the most played model on the PGA Tour, will be available in a Raw finish, the finish that is played by the majority of PGA Tour players. 

“On tour, the Raw heads give us the flexibility to grind wedges based on a player’s needs,” said Titleist’s Master Craftsman Bob Vokey. “But guys just love the look of that raw steel. Some players like it even more as it rusts, kind of like a trusty hammer or another tool. These are their scoring tools.”

Spieth, who plays 46-, 52-, 56- and 60-degree Vokey Design SM5 wedges, says he loves “the look and the feel of the raw metal, especially when they start rusting.”

The SM5 Raw finish will be offered in 10 models from with lofts ranging from 54 to 60 degrees and across three different sole grinds (S, M, and K). The offerings include the 56-degree S-grind played by Spieth. Like the original SM5 wedges, the Raw also features deep grooves designed to channel away debris for improved spin.

The SM5 Raw wedges are available through the WedgeWorks program on Vokey.com starting today. The Wedgeworks program includes custom adjustments for grip and shaft, lie and loft angle, as well as personalized stamping of up to six characters. Pricing starts at $180. 

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Equipment

Forge your own set of American-made irons for $200,000

If you play on the PGA Tour, your gorgeous custom forged irons are hand ground by small teams of artisans in California and Texas, but the heads themselves are still produced overseas -- mostly in Asia. 

Thanks to low labor costs across the ocean, American club forges have gone completely extinct. The last one, Kalher International, is selling off its club forging equipment and concentrating on its line of forged and electroplated musical instrument parts. 

If you feel like joining the whole Buy American/Handcrafted movement and becoming a sort of Hipster Clubmaker -- and have a spare $200k to invest -- you can pick up all of Kahler's equipment, dies and tools, along with 46,000 in-process clubheads. 

Load the lot of it into a few semis -- or rent some space near Kahler's Las Vegas headquarters -- and you can be making your own custom forged heads in a matter of weeks. 

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It might take some research and design work to come up with some more progressive-looking heads -- Kahler's inventory very much befits the "Classic" name stamped on the heads. Still, showing up at your club championship with irons you made yourself on a 550-ton press provides a unique kind of street cred. 

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Wedges

Callaway launches widest wedge line ever this week on tour

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Callaway’s most extensive wedge offering, the new MD3 (or Mack Daddy 3), came about because wedge fitting today isn’t merely about a math problem or a numbers game. Wedge fitting is about getting the right spin for each wedge in your bag—even if that means less spin for certain shots.

The new line debuts at the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour this week. There will be three sole grinds and three different grooves, all in an effort to produce the optimal amount of spin for the type of shot normally played by a particular wedge loft.

For example, the grooves on the lower lofts in the set (46-52) will have a groove in line with the groove typically found in an iron set since these wedges tend to be used in a full-swing mode most often. The grooves in the middle lofts (54-56 degrees) will transition to a more aggressive edge (in line with the groove on the 47-54 degree wedges in the MD2 line). And the highest loft wedges (58-60 degrees) will have the widest grooves with the steepest sidewall. Weight is drilled out of the back of each wedge with a row of four dots. The effect is to slightly raise the center of gravity to better control spin and trajectory.

“The flow of spin really matches up well all the way through your set to where you need the most spin in your lob category,” Cleveland says. “You want as aggressive a groove as you can to wick out as much material when you short-side yourself or get into the rough around the green. But that type of groove is not ideal in your gap wedge. 

“It’s a very thought out line and it really helps you control your spin and trajectory for shots like trying to hit a back pin. You don’t want a 52-degree to a back pin ripping back. ”

The 15 lofts in the MD3 line are spread across three sole grinds: a standard “S” grind aimed at the broadest array of conditions and swing types; a heel-and-toe relief “C” grind aimed at firmer conditions; and a more forgiving wide-sole “W” grind geared to softer conditions and steeper swing types. 

The thinking is that wedge fitting needs to be more subtle than fitting to a particular bounce angle, and that things like the attack angle of your swing, your typical turf and bunker conditions and even the types of shots you hit are more in line with a type of sole grind than a particular bounce angle measurement. The company considered some 48 prototypes before settling on the new designs, involving the input of its tour staff in settling on the new shapes.

Cleveland calls the new “C” grind “a little more generous” than previous Callaway “C” grinds and refers to the “S” grind as “universal,” and simply calls the “W” “really a friendly wedge.”

“We’ve learned a lot from the MD2 and we’ve received extensive input from the tour,” said Callaway wedge guru Roger Cleveland. “We’ve incorporated some of the best ideas from the X Tour and Tour Grind in the MD3 silhouette.”

The MD3 line debuts at retail Sept. 4 in both satin chrome and black finishes ($130).

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Equipment

Winner's bag: The driver change that led to Danny Lee's first PGA Tour title

Driver changes seem to work at the Greenbrier Classic. Last year Angel Cabrera won the tournament in his first week using Ping's G30 driver and this year Danny Lee emerged victorious after switching to a 9-degree Callaway XR with an Aldila Rogue Black 70x shaft. Lee hit 43 of 56 fairways (76.8 percent) for the week, ranking T-17 in that stat.

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft
Driver: Callaway XR (Aldila Rogue Black 70x), 9 degrees
3-wood: Callaway X2 Hot, 15 degrees
5-wood: Callaway RAZRFit, 18 degrees
Irons (3-4): Callaway Apex UT; (5-PW): Callaway RAZR X MB
Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy 2 (52, 60 degrees)
Putter: Odyssey Works Versa #9

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News & Tours

Robert Streb makes five birdies on back nine and gets into a playoff by putting with his WEDGE

Example No. 3,467 of why "these guys are good": Robert Streb made five birdies on the back nine on Sunday at the Greenbrier Classic. Putting with his wedge.

That's pretty boss, although it would have been even more impressive if he just did it for the heck of it like in "Tin Cup" when Kevin Costner broke all his clubs except his 7-iron and parred every hole on the back nine at a U.S. Open qualifier. Instead -- as you'd probably figure -- Streb started putting with his 56-degree wedge after damaging his putter throwing it to his caddie on the ninth hole.

Related: Watch Shaq need three attempts to get off the first tee

Here he is making a 30-footer(!) for birdie on No. 13:

Here he is making birdie on No. 16:

Unfortunately, he three-putted from 30 feet on No. 17, but here's his clutch birdie putt chip roll on No. 18 to cap a back-nine 32 and get into a playoff.

Here's a better look at the club and how little using it on the greens affected Streb:

Streb was allowed to put a new putter in play for the three-man playoff, however, he never got a chance to use it. He missed the green with his tee shot on the par-3 18th and didn't get a chance to make a par putt after Danny Lee and David Hearn made their birdies.

Still, it was a heck of an effort. And it might just have a few weekend hackers toying with benching their flatsticks. Don't do it, guys. These guys are pros.

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Equipment

Spotted on tour: New Ping i iron at the Greenbrier Classic

With Ping's i25 iron now in its second year, the logical assumption is that a replacement would soon be unveiled. That occurred this week at the Greenbrier Classic, where the Phoenix-based equipment maker showed off its new i iron to tour staff.

 

Related: Golf Digest's 2015 Hot List

Although the company was mum on details, photos reveal a couple of things. First, there isn't a number accompanying the i name, so it appears Ping is attempting to build a microbrand for the irons rather than continuing its previous method of changing the model number. The clubs also appear to have a slightly more rounded shape in the toe area than its predecessors.

 
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One tour player testing the clubs in West Virginia is two-time major champ Angel Cabrera. No word on whether these irons will be in his bag come Thursday, but it's worth remembering that Cabrera put the G30 driver in play at Greenbrier last year and won the tournament, shooting 64-64 on the weekend. 

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