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Gear & Equipment

Matt Kuchar playing one of the most patriotic balls ever at the Ryder Cup

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By Stephen Hennessey

There are some unique equipment stories that always come out of the Ryder Cup.

This is one that you can be a part of: Bridgestone made Matt Kuchar a specially marked B330-S ball with "KUCH" on the side, written in American stars and stripes.

Kuch is using the ball this week at Gleneagles, and Bridgestone is giving you the chance to win the same one.

Head to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and, using the #KuchUSA hashtag, post a picture of you and your watching party rooting on Kuch. Bridgestone will give away 12 of these limited-edition balls. (Four winners each will come from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.) Bridgestone will choose 12 winners Monday.

It's a great way to incorporate some red-white-and-blue into your bag. You gotta love having patriotism with your equipment. Plus, Bridgestone balls are made in the U.S. And you can earn one of these American "Kuch" balls for your own.

Photo: Courtesy of Bridgestone

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Gear & Equipment

There's a hidden Gleneagles course map inside Vice Golf's camo hat

Without the marketing dollars of a major company or consistent use by tour players, it's hard for a golf ball company to get any attention from consumers, unless it does something different. Companies such as INeedtheBall.com and 3 Up Golf have sold their multilayer urethane-covered "tour" balls directly to consumers at low prices through their websites.

Now, a German company is looking to make a name for itself in the U.S. market with the same direct-to-consumer approach. Vice offers three primary models, including a three-piece cast urethane ball it sells at vicegolf.com for as little as $30 a dozen, plus shipping.

Vice hopes to generate more attention, too, through the sale of limited-edition caps. The latest is what looks like a camo-style hat to commemorate this year's Ryder Cup. A closer look reveals the print is an overhead view of the holes at Gleneagles.

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"Our hope is that there is more to our story than just premium golf balls and a low price," said Rainer Stoeckl, Vice's managing director. "We want people to think of us as a lifestyle brand."

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Gear & Equipment

Yes, Rory McIlroy might be using a new driver at the Ryder Cup

loop-Rory-mcilroy-Nike-vapor-driver-v2-280.jpgCould Rory McIlroy be putting a new driver in play this week at the Ryder Cup? The door appears open to that possibility after four new Nike drivers -- the Vapor Pro and three iterations of the Vapor Speed -- appeared on the USGA's conforming driver list for the first time Monday. McIlroy was spotted on the driving range at Gleneagles practicing with the Vapor Pro (right).

Judging from the listing as well as photos of the club that appeared this weekend, two things stand out with the new offerings, which aren't expected to hit retail markets until 2015. Out is the VRS Covert and Covert 2.0 red color, and in (or more appropriately back) is the compression channel that Nike first used in its VR drivers.

The return of the channel seems likely due to some prodding from Tiger Woods, who used the VR driver with success. "I pushed our team to bring back the compression channel because sometimes I like to shape shots by teeing the ball down and hitting it lower on the face," Woods said. "With the compression channel, I'm able to do that and not lose as much ball speed."

One other model reportedly part of the Vapor line, the Vapor Flex, which according to other reports incorporates an adjustable sole weight, did not appear on the Sept. 22 conforming list.

Photo: Getty Images

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Gear & Equipment

David Edel rethinks weighting in putters with his E-Series line

Puttermaker David Edel believes traditional putters can make the golfer work too hard to control the way the face rotates open or closed. He thinks unlike traditional face-balanced or toe-down designs, the best weighting places the putterhead in a toe-up position, what he calls "torque balanced."

loop-E-1-Iso-Cavity-518.jpgHis new Torque Balanced E-Series putters feature a cavity in the sole's toe. "It eliminates a lot of the hidden element of face rotation that people suffer with," Edel says. "Whether you're a straight-back, straight-through putter or an arc putter, the face on this putter mimics the path."

loop-E-1-Bottom-Face-518.jpgThe E-Series ($295) includes mallet (shown), back-radiused blade and parallel-backed blade designs. A weight screw in the heel allows for three possible head weights (359, 365 and 374 grams).

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Gear & Equipment

Mizuno touts thin faces for faster ballspeed in its JPX-850 irons

Forged irons have long been what Mizuno is known for, but its greatest sales success recently has been with flexible-face cast irons.

loop-mizuno-jpx850-cast-iron-518.jpgThe new JPX-850 is the company's next step in pursuing a distance iron in a compact shape. "This is our thinnest multi-thickness iron face ever," says David Llewellyn, Mizuno's golf R&D manager. "But we've also saved weight with the acoustic badge while maintaining our standards for feel."

Other upgrades include thinner pockets inside the topline and sole for better off-center hits.

Like all its new irons, Mizuno offers any custom steel shaft at no extra charge. The JPX-850 retails for $800.

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Gear & Equipment

Early success has New Balance expanding golf-shoe line

Following its entry into the golf-shoe market this year, New Balance will introduce a spikeless version of its first offering this fall.

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Built on the same frame as its popular running shoe, the 574B weighs just 9.6 ounces with a lightweight foam midsole and a mesh upper that incorporates a thin, no-stitch construction.

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New Balance officials say the success of the cleated 574 golf shoe released in the spring gave the company an opportunity to capitalize on its popularity with a spikeless version.

Two colors -- white and grey/yellow -- will be available Nov. 1 ($90), and a navy/orange version early in 2015.

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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Billy Horschel used to win the Tour Championship

It would be hard to argue that Billy Horschel’s driver switch at the PGA Championship wasn’t a timely one. 


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When he made the move to the 9-degree club Ping G30 (shown) with the Aldila Rogue shaft, Horschel was averaging 277.0 yards off the tee, ranking him T-103 on tour in driving distance. Since that time the former Florida Gator has upped his season’s average to 291.6 yards, and finished the season ranked T-76. Horschel is averaging more than 300 yards off the tee with the G30 in his bag, and won a pair of FedEx Cup playoff events as well as the overall title.
 
Horschel also uses an interesting combination of grips. On his woods and irons Horschel uses Golf Pride’s V55 Cord with a rib reminder that helps him position his hands in the same place each time. On his wedges, however, he uses round Golf Pride’s Niion (orange color, of course, for his Gators). Horschel prefers no rib reminder on his wedges because he needs to alter his hand position on his wedges to play a variety of shots.

Here is Horschel's bag in its entirety at East Lake.

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Driver: Ping G30 (Aldila Rogue 60x), 9 degrees
3-wood: Ping G25, 15 degrees
5-wood: Ping G25, 18 degrees
Irons (3-,5-PW):
Ping S55
Wedges: Ping Tour Gorge SS (50, 56, 60 degrees)
Putter: Ping Karsten TR B60


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Gear & Equipment

Clubfitter helps design latest KZG putter

loop-kzg-DS-2-Angle-Black-300.jpgWhen your company is popular among clubfitters, it makes sense to engage that audience as much as possible. KZG has done that with its Designer Series putter line by having one of the company's top-100 fitters create each model.

Gary Tozer, owner of Aussie Custom Golf Centre near Sydney, Australia, was chosen to create the DS-2 model, a putter reminiscent of the classic Wilson 8802 blade. Tozer created a putter he says has "a slightly beveled section at the heel to prevent drag on the green, a design more suitable for those with a rotational-type stroke."

The DS-2 ($299, brushed satin or matte black) is only available through professionals listed on the company's dealer locator at kzg.com.

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Gear & Equipment

Lots of technology behind Srixon's 2015 line of metal woods, hybrids and irons

It has been known for some time the focus on golf equipment at Cleveland/Srixon was going to concentrate more on Srixon in 2015 -- and now we know what those products are going to be. Srixon unveiled its club line for next year, and it's an extensive, nearly full-line offering with two drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, a pair of iron sets and a utility iron.

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The drivers -- the Z545 and Z745 -- each boast a cup-face construction with a titanium body and high-strength 6-4 titanium face. The face has been thinned in the heel and toe areas to boost ball speed on mis-hits, and the clubs are adjustable for face angle, lie angle and loft (via a 12-way adjustable hosel). The center-of-gravity position is also moveable with the use of three adjustable weights (3, 7 and 11 grams). The primary difference between the two drivers is size. The Z545 is 460cc while the Z745 is 430cc. Both drivers come in lofts of 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5 degrees and come standard with Mitsubishi's Kuro Kage Black HBP 60 shaft.

The company also touts a "Dual Speed Technology." The fancy term translates to a higher balance-point shaft, lighter grip and slightly heavier head. The theory behind it is that even though the head is slightly heavier, by reducing weight in the grip and raising the balance point in the shaft, the club can be swung faster and more efficiently, delivering more speed to the ball. This is similar to what Ping has done in recent years with its G and i series drivers, which have a higher balance-point shaft and heavier head as well. Both drivers sell for $400.

The Z F45 fairway woods (available in 3+-, 3- and 4-woods, $280) feature a similar adjustable hosel and weights as the drivers, along with a HT1770 maraging steel face for added zip. The same material is used for the face of the Z H45 hybrids ($230), which come in 2- 3- and 4-hybrid models. But unlike the drivers and fairway woods, the hybrids do not feature any adjustable elements.

loop-srixon-Z745-6-Iron-300.jpgThe hallmark of the Z 545 and Z 745 irons (both $1,000 for a set of eight, steel shafts) is a tungsten weight placed in the toe area of the 3- through 6-irons, to produce more forgiveness in the harder-to-hit long irons. Both irons are forged from 1020 carbon steel and feature a new sole design that increases the leading bounce and decreases the trailing bounce to enhance turf interaction.

On the face, a double laser-milling pattern (one parallel to the grooves and the other on an angle) is designed to augment spin consistency. The cavity-back Z 545, which is more of a game-improvement club than the muscle-cavity Z 745, has a thinner, stronger steel face to bolster distance.

The same face material as the Z 545 is used on the new Z U45 utility iron (lofts of 18, 20 and 23 degrees). The hollow-construction, iron-like club ($180) has plenty of weight placed low to assist launch.

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Gear & Equipment

Adams hides slot in new fairway woods, hybrids

TLTiAddress.jpgIf the knock on Adams’ sole and crown slots was the look at address, the problem was the crown slot had to be open. The opening let the face flex more at impact to create ballspeed with lower spin. Or at least it had to be open until Adams engineers came up with a way to cover it up without giving up that speed. 

Adams new Tight Lies fairway woods and hybrids use an epoxy filler in the crown slot that still allows its walls to flex. The filler is painted over so at address the crown slot's visibility is dramatically reduced compared to previous Adams metalwoods. 

Both crown and sole slots also have been redesigned into a barbell shape, which improves both the face flexibility and the manufacturing process. The shape change grew out of a technique used to stop cracks in metal by drilling holes at either end of the crack. Adams engineers used the idea to modify the shape of the crown and sole slot into a longer, thinner slot with circular cuts on either end. Adams engineers say the design reduces stress concentration (the tendency for the metal to weaken or become difficult to manufacture consistently), but still allows for the kind of face deflection that can increase ballspeed. 

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The fairway woods also feature a titanium version, which mixes a heavier stainless steel sole with a titanium crown and face. The steel in the sole makes for the lowest center of gravity of any Adams fairway wood ever.

The hybrid’s low-profile shaping features a shallower face height than the company’s recent Pro hybrid. Adams engineers say it features the lowest center of gravity of any current all-steel Adams hybrid.

The Tight Lies fairway woods ($200 in steel, $250 in titanium) and hybrids ($180) are available Oct. 1. The fairway woods come in four lofts in steel (14.5, 16, 19 and 22 degrees) and three lofts in titanium (13.5, 15 and 18), while the hybrids are offered in five lofts (17, 19, 22, 26 and 29).
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