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Gear & Equipment

This line of Bettinardi wedges was 15 years in the making

If you've toured Bettinardi Golf's headquarters in Tinley Park, Ill., you've seen the assortment of putters, the nifty fitting studio and maybe even the collection of one-of-a-kind flat sticks in Robert J. Bettinardi's office. But you might not have seen the racks of wedges tucked in a back corner.

loop-bettinardi-wedges-518.jpgAfter more than 15 years of tinkering, the veteran puttermaker is branching into the wedge market. The H2 -- named for the high helix cutting tool used in the CNC machines that create the wedges' milled faces -- features a 1020 forged carbon-steel construction.

The wedges will be available next month in five loft/bounce combinations and two finishes (satin nickel, $180; cashmere bronze, $195). The "C-grind" sole pattern is designed to keep the leading edge closer to the ground through the hitting area while adding improved playability for a variety of short-game shots.

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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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Gear & Equipment

TaylorMade to debut R15 drivers tonight

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In the era of the global marketplace, there are no secrets anymore, and news embargoes of product launches seem to be about as effective as leaving a bowl of chocolate-chip cookies in a room full of kindergarteners and asking them to wait.

Hence, it comes as no surprise to anyone that TaylorMade will be unveiling a new driver tonight at a special New York City media event at Golf & Body in Manhattan. The R15, which from all previously published accounts and leaked details from TaylorMade’s Japan website, appears to feature movable weights in the familiar sole track made famous by the company's highly popular SLDR driver, which was launched in 2013. 

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The weights appear to slide in a track towards the front of the sole. The SLDR driver emphasized a “low forward” center-of-gravity location aimed at reducing spin and improving the efficiency of energy transfer at impact by placing the center of gravity more in line with both the center of the clubface and the club’s loft. 

Based on the images, the club will be offered in both black and white head styles. TaylorMade first introduced its drivers in white in 2011 with the R11 and RBZ models. It moved off that color in mid-2013 with SLDR, but returned to special limited edition white versions of the SLDR this summer. 

Tom Kroll, TaylorMade product evangelist, described the company's position on white this way last summer: "We still as a company strongly believe in the performance and technology of white and the contrast of a white crown with a black face, and how it aids alignment and the entire aspect that white represents. I think we’re definitely standing behind that. It’s a part of our culture, and people have come to associate TaylorMade with white." 

More details on TaylorMade’s plans with R15 are expected from tonight’s event. Stay tuned. 
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Gear & Equipment

Watch this guy set a distance record using a 20-foot, 6-inch golf club

The day before the world's longest drivers convene in Las Vegas to decide who is the most prodigious off the tee on live television, Michael Furrh set a new Guinness World Record for longest shot accomplished with the longest "usable" golf club.

Like Fred Couples putting the PGA of America's Ryder Cup "Task Force" in air quotes, we're going to use the same air quotes for "usable" to describe Furrh's 20-foot, 6-inch club that managed to launch the ball a whopping 63 yards. But credit Furrh for at least achieving the record on his initial attempt that exceeded the previous record by 25 inches.

The Dallas native achieved the mark Nov. 3 at Rolling Hills Country Club and even posted the launch monitor readings on his Instagram account.

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Video of the historic shot:

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Gear & Equipment

How the Titleist Pro V1 revolutionized golf

Editor's Note: In his new book, Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes--and What We Can Learn from Them, Mark McClusky examines the various ways sports at the highest level have benefited from scientific innovation. That certainly includes golf. In the excerpt below, McClusky, the editor of WIRED.com, discusses how the Titleist Pro V1 contributed to a dramatic jump in PGA Tour driving distance in the early '00s.

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In 1993, Bernhard Langer won the Masters, one of golf’s four major tournaments, using a driver made of persimmon, rather than one of the new generation of metal “woods” that had been slowly infiltrating the game. He would be the last player to win a major with an actual wooden wood -- by 1997, Davis Love III retired his persimmon driver and old school woods left the tour for good. Meanwhile, metal drivers were becoming better and better, leading to that steady improvement.
 
And then things got a little nuts. The next year, 2001, average driving distance leapt six yards in a single season. There was a very clear reason for that huge jump -- the introduction of what might be the single most influential product in the history of any sport: the Titleist Pro V1 golf ball. For decades, top golfers had all played with balls constructed in the same way: A liquid-filled rubber core was wound with thin rubber thread, building the ball up to the correct diameter as if it was a ball of yarn. This was covered with balata, a type of rubber harvested from a tropical tree called the bully tree. The balls were sometimes inconsistent, but they offered the best level of spin and distance for strong players. Other types of balls, made for high handicappers, emphasized distance over control and used solid rubber cores, but low-handicap golfers viewed them with disdain.

Early in 2000, Nike introduced a solid-core ball aimed at tour- level golfers, which its star endorser Tiger Woods began to use. Titleist, the largest maker of golf balls, had its own solid-core model under development, which combined a large rubber core with a harder mantle layer. The outside cover was made of urethane, a soft plastic. The ball yielded the distance of solid-core balls with the control of the balata models. It was like nothing the sport had ever seen. Balata balls were very inconsistent -- some seemed to fly better than others, and players would struggle to adapt to a different performance every time they’d break out a new ball. And over time, the balls would start to break down, getting out of round or cut by the club during a shot.
 
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Photo by Getty Images

Solid-core balls like the Pro V1 were much more consistent and reliable. The durability was better. The solid core allowed engineers to tune the ball to react differently in different situations. When smashed with a driver, the ball would spin less than a balata ball, keeping it from hooking or slicing. When hit with a wedge, it would spin more quickly, giving the player more control to stop the ball on the green. And in every situation, it flew significantly farther than a balata ball when hit with the same force.
 
The first week the new Pro V1 model ball was available for tournament play, in October 2000, forty-seven players switched from their previous ball. That sort of wholesale equipment change was unprecedented in the history of golf. How fast was the transition across the sport? At the 2000 Masters, fifty-nine of the ninety- five players used a wound golf ball. One year later, only four players used one. By the end of 2001, not a single tournament champion on any of the world’s major professional tours had won using a wound ball; the rout was so comprehensive that Titleist stopped making them at all.
 
Today, the seventh generation of the Pro V1 and its brother model, the Pro V1x, are made at Titleist’s ball plant 3, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Walking the factory floor, you’re surrounded by balls in various states of manufacture, from the raw rubber to the cork-shaped billets that are then molded into spheres. There are bins and bins of centers, of balls with the covers molded on that haven’t been polished, of polished and painted balls waiting to be packaged. They make three hundred thousand Pro V1s here each day, balls destined to win major titles or to find the bottom of a lake after a duffer’s bad drive.
 
The invention of the Pro V1 started out as a little bit of an accident. The company’s engineers were just trying to combine some of the technologies in their balls for amateur golfers with the ones in their pro models, and they stumbled upon the construction of the Pro V1. From that point, its refinement became a process that involved five years of prototypes and endless testing at the company’s facility in Massachusetts. “We didn’t have a clue what we really had at the time,” recalled Bill Morgan, the company’s head of golf ball development, in a 2013 interview. It took a day in which a hundred of the company’s sponsored pros used the prototype ball -- and gave it rave reviews --  for the company to fast-track it into production.

From Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes--and What We Can Learn from Them by Mark McClusky. Reprinted by arrangement with Hudson Street Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Copyright ©Mark McClusky, 2014.
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Gear & Equipment

Phil Mickelson continues in role as ultimate pitchman, makes surprise visit at Callaway sales meeting

Few men are better equipped to be a company spokesman than Phil Mickelson, if only based on his history of gushing about the clubs in his bag. Remember Phil extolling the virtues of his new Callaway Big Bertha Alpha driver at the beginning of 2014? It was like off a script.

"It’s just mind-boggling the way it’s made a difference in my game and it allows me to swing like it’s a 7-iron or a 5-iron, and my irons are the strength of my game," Mickelson said in a press conference prior to the Farmers Insurance Invitational last January. "Now that I’m able to make the same swing with both driver and irons . . .  I’m going to be able to be a much more aggressive player.”

Fast forward to this week, when Callaway was having its National Sales Meeting, and Mickelson continued in the role of ideal company man. According to Callaway, the five-time major champion asked to speak to the company's sales representatives in San Diego because he was so enthusiastic about the upcoming Callaway product line.

Here's a Vine of him first showing up in the meeting:


And here's Phil on stage with Callaway Senior VP of Marketing Harry Arnett.

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No truth to the rumor Mickelson also whipped up a batch of his world famous macaroni salad for the company picnic.


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Gear & Equipment

Wedge company forges new ground with its RxF forged offering

loop-renegar-forged-wedge-280.jpgFor designer Bob Renegar, it has long been about how the wedge moves through the turf. His clubs use a sole shape with a low leading edge and higher bounce on the trailing edge.

This design is easier to achieve when the clubhead is cast instead of forged. That's why the forged RxF ($209) uses a complex five-step process that Renegar says is "the equivalent of investment casting in precision and consistency."

The difference is that it's forged from soft 1025c carbon steel. The RxF is offered in four stock heads available in lofts from 45 to 60 degrees and sets matched for an array of specs, including elements like component weights and whole club MOI.

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Gear & Equipment

Adidas' newest additions to its Tour 360 x shoe line have plenty of tech to talk about

The latest entry to the Tour360 shoe line from Adidas Golf -- the Tour360 x -- features a new outsole and additional cushioning in the midsole for comfort. The Tour360 x's nine-cleat design is intended to increase stability and reduce the shoe's weight.

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Also joining the line is the Tour360 x Boa, which uses a dial on the tongue to adjust for comfort and fit.

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The Tour x ($140) will be available in six colors—three of which: white/silver/black, blue/gray/white and silver/white/black—go on sale Nov. 1. The other three colors will be available in February. The Tour360 x Boa ($180) will be offered in two colors and available Dec. 1.

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Gear & Equipment

This video will make you feel less lazy about wanting your own personal golf-ball teeing system

A personal golf-ball teeing system seems, at first glance, like a bit of an indulgence. Yet the utility of the Neuroswing, particularly for instructors working on a lesson tee, makes this latest accessory to surface on Kickstarter more than just a curiosity. Unless, that is, you're chiropractor, in which case it might be your own worst nightmare.

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The portable device assembles in less than a minute and holds 42 balls, according to company co-founder Pascal Perrin. It requires no power to use because golfers manually control the tube that feeds balls to the tee.

Does it really take that much effort to bend over and tee up a golf ball? No, but when you start to read Neuroswing's promotional material and see the potential for reducing strain on your back from repeatedly bending over, suddenly it doesn't seem so unnecessary after all.

Here's a video that shows how it works:


Perrin hopes to raise $35,000 before the Kickstarter campaign ends Nov. 16. The plan is to begin production in 2015 with the hope of shipping units, which would retail for $100 to $150, in the summer.


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Gear & Equipment

Ian Poulter keeps his word on being quick about picking a new equipment company

loop-ian-poulter-titleist-bag-300.jpgLast week when Ian Poulter took to Twitter to say, "I will let you know my new endorsement partners very soon" after splitting with Cobra-Puma Golf he wasn't kidding. Poulter announced Tuesday via the social-media site, "Seriously pleased to announce I will be a full staff @Titleist @FootJoy staff player for 2015 season. So excited." 

Accompanying the tweet was a photo of Poulter's new staff bag which appeared to house a 915 series driver and 3-wood along with a pair of hybrids. The irons appeared to be a split set with two Titleist CB irons and the rest being the company's MB model. A trio of Vokey wedges also were in the bag. Not visible was the putter, and it will be interesting to see if Poulter -- who tends to be finicky about his flat stick -- switches to a Scotty Cameron model.

As for why Titleist took on Poulter, who at 38 may already have seen the best days of his playing career, one only needs to look at the company's full-line players from Europe. Other than Victor Dubuisson, there aren't many high-profile players under contract. Signing Poulter then may be an effort to bolster the roster abroad as well as secure a recognizable name should Dubuisson bolt for big bucks elsewhere in the future.

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