The Local Knowlege

Equipment

Bunkers in Baghdad provides equipment for troops' makeshift golf ranges

One of the best parts about being the Hot List Coordinator here at Golf Digest is that I get to find homes for the used gear around the office. 

The golf balls from our recent ball Hot List testing, for example, are covered in Sharpie markings. We color over all the logos so our testers have no idea which ball they're hitting. We're left with hundreds and hundreds of golf balls that most people wouldn't want to play. For the last few years, we've found the perfect place to send these golf balls, as well as the clubs from the Hot List Summit that many manufacturers provide us: A charity called Bunkers in Baghdad. 

The below video is just an example of the type of golf Bunkers in Baghdad supports:



Founder Joe Hanna heard a story by David Feherty about the makeshift golf ranges built in Iraq that the soldiers use for stress relief.  Since their first shipment of golf balls in 2008, Bunkers in Baghdad has shipped almost 6 million golf balls and over 350,000 clubs to U.S. soldiers around the world. They also support the Wounded Warriors programs, where golf is used as a part of injured veterans' rehabilitation. 

This is a great charity that's allowing golf to do a little for the troops that do so much for us. 

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Equipment

7-foot college basketball star looks hilarious swinging a regulation club

Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky is on top of the college sports world. The 7-foot senior just took his team to a national championship game, beating previously unbeaten Kentucky, and gained national stardom for his performance.

With that stardom comes perks. The projected NBA first-round draft pick got to go to Callaway's Performance Center in Carlsbad, Calif., to try out some clubs.

This photo is a reminder of the importance of club-fitting. Ever wonder what a 7-footer would look like swinging a regulation golf club? This photo is phenomenal.

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Kaminsky went through with a full fitting at Callaway -- here are some photos from the facility last week.

Related: Our favorite Masters-related Instagram photos

(h/t @HashtagChad)

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Equipment

Mickelson now adds wedge designer to his resume

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Phil Mickelson may be well known for his short-game virtuosity. Witness the holed bunker shot for eagle in Sunday's final round. Turns out, he not only can hit the shots. He helps design the club that hits the shots, too. 

Mickelson's latest famous short game shot came courtesy of Callaway's new Mack Daddy PM Grind wedge, which features a unique shape and groove pattern. 

As it turns out, it wasn’t the grooves of the old Ping Eye 2 L-wedge that Mickelson favored so much, it was the high toe shape that resonated more. It’s why wedge guru Roger Cleveland was inspired to design a Phil-specific model for Callaway’s Mack Daddy line, so Phil-specific that Mickelson’s direct input is everywhere on the new model. 

The higher toe shape on the new PM Grind aims to provide more confidence and surface area for shots played with an extremely open face. Mickelson played a prototype version while finishing 2nd at last year’s PGA Championship, days after being shown it for the first time. That makes two second-place finishes at major championships for the new wedge in Mickelson's bag.

The finished version features grooves that uniquely stretch to the outer edges of the face, a direct result of the Mickelson collaboration. “They make the face look larger and that gives you confidence,” Cleveland says. “That’s what you’re asking that wedge to do. You’ve short-sided yourself so you want to have as much confidence looking down as you can to pull that shot off.”

The extended groove pattern creates what Callaway says is 39 percent more groove area compared to the company’s traditional-shaped wedges. Cleveland originally combined two U-grind soles in the first prototypes. That design along with the high toe shaping added extra mass to the total weight of the head. The team at Callaway drilled out four holes low in the back of the head to better balance the weighting, but one additional benefit of the high toe design is to shift the overall center of gravity a little higher to help improve feel, energy transfer and trajectory control. 

Cleveland says the shape is important because it’s a more efficient design for open-face shots, especially the kind of greenside flop shots Mickelson has made legendary.

“As you open up the face,” Cleveland says, “the contact point is higher on the face. All the extra grooves up there and toward the toe give you confidence that you’re going to get some grab and really good control on the ball.”

The PM Grind retails for $130, and is only available in higher lofts (56, 58, 60, 62 degrees). It is scheduled to be in stores May 15.
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The Masters

The clubs that Jordan Spieth used to win the 2015 Masters

When you tie the tournament record of 18-under-par 270 it is almost impossible to zero in on a single piece of equipment as the one that factored most. Certainly Spieth’s Titleist Pro V1x golf balls seemed to listen to his nearly every command. Then there was the Scotty Cameron by Titleist SC-009 prototype putter—a model Spieth has used since he was 15 years old because Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy used the same model—that holed all those birdie attempts.

But the one piece of equipment that might have been the true difference maker was Spieth’s Titleist Vokey SM5 wedges. After all, if not for the crazy-good pitch shot on the 18th hole Saturday that salvaged an unlikely par, Spieth may have gone to bed Saturday in a different frame of mind. Or how about the pitch shot on No. 11 Sunday when a bogey might have sent the 21-year-old to the treacherous 12th with a shrunken lead.

Then again, maybe the equipment star of the Masters was just the entire bag, filled with 14 Titleist clubs.

Jordan Spieth

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x Driver: Titleist 915D2 (Aldila Rogue Black 70TX), 9.5 degrees 3-wood: Titleist 915F, 15 degrees Hybrid: Titleist 915Hd, 20.5 degrees Irons (4-9): Titleist AP2 714; (PW): Titleist Vokey SM5 Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM5 (52, 56, 60 degrees) Putter: Scotty Cameron by Titleist SC-009 prototype ... Read
The Masters

The story behind Tiger's new wedges, Spieth's putter and other Masters equipment tidbits

There are so many storylines at the Masters that equipment sometimes get overshadowed -- unless it’s Phil Mickelson using two drivers or Adam Scott winning with a long putter.

Still, so far this week at Augusta National there are a number of interesting items n player’s bags. Here’s some of the more notable:

Drivers for ceremonial swats

The Big Three got things started Thursday morning with their ceremonial tee shots, but while Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player might have a few years on them, their drivers were decidedly high tech. Palmer used a Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 for his tee shot while Gary Player had a Callaway XR model. As for the Golden Bear, what did you expect? Jack used a Nicklaus-branded driver with a Fujikura Motore Speeder shaft.

Sandy Lyle’s hickory shaft putter

Sandy Lyle, the 1988 Masters champion, turned back the clock Thursday at the Masters. No, the 57-year-old didn’t pull a Tom Watson and go under par as a senior. Instead, Lyle went old school, putting with hickory-shafted Tad Moore blade-style putter during an opening-round 74. The putter is a huge departure for Lyle, who has been using the mammoth-headed Black Swan putter (similar to the one Matt Every used at the Sony Open a few years ago). Lyle, who claims he has putted well with it in practice rounds, opted for the center-shafted club after his wife suggested he use it at Augusta National. On the round Lyle did not exactly putt lights out, taking 32 putts in all and 22 on the 12 holes he found the green in regulation. On the plus side, he did not three-putt a single green.

New wedges for TW

Tiger Woods’ short game has been the subject of much discussion, and as Woods worked his way back into game shape, he also got some new wedges as well. To accommodate his current short-game technique, Woods is using Nike VR Forged wide sole wedges with a custom sole grind. The lofts are 56 and 60 degrees.

Speith’s putter is an old friend

Jordan Spieth had the hot hand with the putter on Thursday, making nine birdies en route to an opening 64. The putter Spieth uses is a Scotty Cameron by Titleist 009 model that he has had since he was 15 years old. Spieth was drawn to the flat stick because two of his favorite golfers when he was growing up -- Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy -- used the same model.

Related: Will Augusta National trademark "a tradition unlike any other"?"

Zach goes back to SeeMore putter

At the recent Valero Texas Open, Zach Johnson benched his SeeMore FGP putter -- a club he had used since his Nationwide Tour days in 2003, including his Masters win in 2003 -- in favor of a Scotty Cameron by Titleist X5R mallet. That experiment had a short life as Johnson was back with the SeeMore Thursday at Augusta National. Johnson used the familiar flatstick well during his opening-round 72, averaging 1.728 putts per hole, which was tied for 12th best on Thursday.

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Equipment

Bubba Watson was just presented with a $30,000 gold replica putter

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The Masters hasn’t even started yet but already Bubba Watson is ahead of the game -- about $30,000 ahead.

No, the two-time Masters champion didn’t cash in big on a practice-round wager, but rather was presented this morning with a solid gold replica of the Ping Anser Milled 1 putter that he used in winning last year’s Masters. Ping president and CEO John A. Solheim made the presentation in a brief ceremony on the lawn in front of the Augusta National pro shop.

“It’s a little heavier than mine,” said Watson as he carefully inspected the putterhead, which had his name and “The Masters Champion 2014” engraved on the face. Bubba, who is known to have the ability to tell when a club is a gram or two off weight, was more than correct in his assessment. The headweight of his normal putter is a little more than 12 ounces. The solid gold one weighed 24.7 ounces. At the current price of gold, that equates to a value of approximately $30,000.

In all, Ping has presented players with 28 solid gold putters and one solid gold wedge (to Watson, for the memorable shot from the trees he hit in the playoff on No. 10 to win in 2012), since Solheim began the program in 1997. The heaviest putter presented was to Suzanne Pettersen, who won the 2007 LPGA Championship with a Ping Doc 15. The solid gold replica checked in at a hefty 36 ounces.

As Watson headed off to practice, he turned and quipped to Solheim, “Maybe we can do this again next year.”

A nice thought, if perhaps a little greedy.

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Equipment

TaylorMade: "More accurate method of forming a groove"

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Sometimes in the development of new golf equipment, manufacturing processes dictate development. Investment casting in irons is a case in point. Sometimes, though, materials dictate advances. Titanium and drivers is a perfect example. 

TaylorMade believes both process and materials may usher in a performance advantage in wedges. That’s the thinking behind the company’s new Tour Preferred EF line, the company’s most expansive wedge collection ever.

The EF refers to a process called electroforming. It’s a complicated bit of manufacturing in which a metal face plate, including the fine edges of its grooves and surface roughness, is formed through an electrically charged chemical deposition process. This is different than traditional wedges, which often have the grooves and surface roughness milled into the face through the use of cutting tools.

“This is a more accurate method of forming a groove,” says Clay Long, TaylorMade’s director of product creation for putters and wedges. “It is a legitimate way to get closer to the limits of the specifications than you could get in machining a groove, in terms of mass production. The 50th groove that you cut with a cutter isn’t the same as the first groove you cut because things wear as you go. So you have to build those tolerances in to your specification when you’re machining a groove so you don’t go over the limit.

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“In this case, you’re cutting the master one time to very close tolerances. Then this process is a plating process. So there’s no wear involved. The groove plate that comes off the master is incredibly accurate and well-formed, a much more repeatable process so you can push the limits on the edge radius.”

What also makes the Tour Preferred EF different is the use of a nickel-cobalt alloy on the face plate. Long says this alloy measures much harder than typical steels used in cast or forged wedges. 

“It won’t hardly wear, “ he says. “The plate is hard as nails. I’m sure that the decay of spin over the number of times hit and number of times in the sand bunker will show a significant difference.”

That’s not only a value proposition for consumers, Long says. It also might breed more short-game consistency, too.

“You really have to work to break a wedge in and you really get to learn your wedges over time,” he says. “Once you do that, you don’t like to change. Even for new grooves you don’t like to. So I think this gives them a little edge in their short game that they won’t have to change that much.”

That's important because wear makes a groove, particularly the edge radius, less effective. And Long says grooves today, even the groove on last year's Tour Preferred, are better than they've been since the groove rule was established by the USGA beginning in 2010. In fact, they are now about the same in certain conditions. The new process and material means that design is more precisely manufactured, and more consistently maintained.

"We’re pretty close to where we were from a dry lie for sure. From a dry lie, we’re at parity," Long says, comparing performance of grooves now to those before the rule went into effect. "From a wet, grassy lie, we've got maybe not quite as much spin. Certainly from a fairway shot we’re as good as we ever were."

The face plate is ultra-thin at .25 millimeters and its backed by a resin and surrounded by a forged 1025 carbon body that’s designed to maintain a soft feel. 

The Tour Preferred EF is available in two sole shapes, a heel grind with progressive camber on the Tour model and the beveled-sole design of the ATV. There are 11 loft-bounce combinations on the Tour grind (47-62 degrees) and five on the ATV (52-60). Both models are expected to be in stores by Friday ($160).
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Equipment

Winner's Bag: Hot putter propels J.B. Holmes to victory in Houston

J.B. Holmes finished the 2015 Houston Open last in driving accuracy, but when you have a putter as hot as his was, it doesn't really matter. Holmes used his Odyssey Metal-X Milled 7 to make nine one-putt birdies on his first 12 holes en route to a final-round 64. He prevailed in the subsequent playoff on the second extra hole, after Johnson Wagner missed a short putt for par.

Ball: Srixon Z-Star
Driver: TaylorMade R15 430, 9.5 degrees
3-wood: TaylorMade AeroBurner, 12 degrees
5-wood: TaylorMade SLDR, 21 degrees
Irons: (3): Tour Edge Exotics CB Pro H; (4-9): TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC 14; (PW): Cleveland 588 RTX
Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTX (54, 60 degrees)
Putter: Odyssey Metal-X Milled 7

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Equipment

Adam Scott's short-putter experiment lasted all of three tournaments

Adam Scott's short run using a short putter is over. On Tuesday, the Australian Associated Press reported Scott is going back to his broomstick putter for the Masters.

Scott finished fourth in the WGC-Cadillac Championship to start 2015, but he missed the cut at the Valspar -- ending his tour-best streak of 45 consecutive cuts made -- and then finished T-35 at Bay Hill. Scott hinted to PGATour.com following that finish that "Putting with a longer putter is maybe the smarter thing to do [at Augusta]. . . . It's all about the lag putting. It's such a difference in weight of club and stroke and everything. I'm just trying to figure it all out."

Related: The clubs that helped win the Masters through the years

Scott currently leads the tour in greens in regulation, but is only 184th in strokes gained/putting. He's even worse from inside 10 feet at 195th, and he's missed 11 times from inside five feet in 10 rounds.

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Scott was an excellent putter at one time before he switched to an anchored stroke in 2011. In 2004, the first year that strokes gained/putting was kept by the PGA Tour, Scott finished first. Since he switched to anchoring, his best finish in that category was last year at 55th, and he finished outside of the top 100 the other three years.

Related: The 13 biggest controversies in Masters history

There's the argument that Scott might as well use the style that helped him claim his lone major at Augusta National in 2013 and reach No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking last year for as long as possible. Still, it's an interesting move for a man who will be forced to change putting styles when the anchoring ban goes into effect at the end of the year. And is 10 tournament rounds enough of a sample to ditch the short putter for now?

Clearly, Scott has decided that being comfortable for four rounds at Augusta National trumps everything.

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Equipment

Adams Golf returning to game-improvement roots

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The new Adams Golf seems to be taking a page from the old Adams Golf. 

“Barney Adams started this company with the idea of helping the average golfer get the ball up and forward,” says John Ward, president of Adams. “As I heard from all the employees, he used to walk around the office and keep saying over and over again, ‘Up and out, up and out.” 

The emphasis of the company’s new line, called Blue, is heavy on game improvement. How vital to the company is the idea of helping more average golfers get shots up in the air? It’s so fundamental that designers developed three distinct technologies to produce that single result. The Adams Blue line will include a driver ($300), fairway woods ($200), hybrids ($180) and irons ($700 in steel, $800 in graphite). Each features a slot in the sole to provide more face flexibility and each features a center of gravity moved away from the face for high launch and extra spin to maintain that flight on both on-center and off-center impacts. That’s a departure from Adams’ big brother TaylorMade, which emphasizes a low-forward center of gravity. 

The goal, Ward says, is to create more opportunities for playable results off the tee, to create more fun. Moving the CG back helps increase dynamic loft at impact for higher launch, while creating more off-center hit stability. Both results are the focus of Adams Blue. The Blue line also creates a little more spin, another element to help average players, Ward says. “If you can hit the ball up and forward more often out of 10 shots, albeit maybe not the furthest on your longest hit, that’s what we’re after,” he says. “The aggregate distance would be longer. The fact is you’ll smile more if out of 10 shots, you hit eight of them within 80 percent of your best as opposed to maybe hitting only two of them that way. But then nobody talks about that. They always talk about their one perfect shot. Nobody talks about the other eight that were cold tops. If you can eliminate the cold tops, you would have more fun, and that’s what we’re talking about.”

The most interesting aspect of the line might be an element that usually gets lost in technology discussions: the shaft. Whether it’s the woods or the irons, the tip sections all have been slimmed from traditional diameters. The driver and fairway woods feature a .320-inch tip compared to .350 in most standard shafts. The hybrids and irons use a .350-inch tip compared to the usual .370. The company is touting “more kick for easy launch” based on the narrower shaft profile. 

The driver will be available in three lofts (9.5, 10.5 and 12 degrees). The fairway woods also are offered in three lofts (15, 19 and 22 degrees). The hybrid is available in four lofts (19, 21, 23 & 25 degrees). The iron set includes a 3- and 4-hybrid. The entire line will be in stores Friday.
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