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Gear & Equipment

How Bridgestone is tweaking the dimple pattern in its e-Series balls to get you more distance

For nearly a decade, Bridgestone's e-Series balls, the e5, e6 and e7, have been aimed at average golfers looking to correct specific trajectory problems. They've also been the company's most consistently successful product line, accounting for routinely more than 50 percent of its market share. And for their entire history their development has been tied to Bridgestone's grassroots ball-fitting program that has steered golfers to a particular ball based on a launch monitor fitting with a driver. The company reports that it has conducted more than 264,000 ball-fittings as part of its Bridgestone Challenge.

So there would seem to be no reason to change the formula. And for the most part that's exactly the plan with the newest versions of e-Series balls, which continue the theme of a softer compression that gets progressively firmer as you move out from the center. 

Related: Our favorite products from the PGA Merchandise Show

But there is one noticeable exception in the new lineup. Each of the e-Series balls feature tweaks in dimple pattern aerodynamics geared to more distance. Those changes include what the company is calling "web" dimples, which more closely links its dual-dimple shaped depressions in a tighter pentagonal pattern to expand the surface coverage by 10 percent for more consistent flight. The result is a more penetrating flight with a shallower landing angle for more rollout.

The e5 uses a urethane cover over top of a large, soft compression core that gets gradationally firmer as you move out from the center. It's designed for higher flight with more spin on short shots because of its urethane cover.

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The low-spin e6 incorporates a low-spin mantle designed to mitigate off-center hit spin typically found in slices and hooks. The company calls it the softest multilayer ball on the market and it includes a soft compression gradational core, mantle layer and low-spin Surlyn ionomer cover. 

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The three-piece e7, which features a gradational core,  mantle layer and a Surlyn ionomer cover for low spin, is aimed at players seeking maximum distance who need their shots to fly lower. 

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Available at retail next month, each ball will sell for $28 per dozen.

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Gear & Equipment

Here's what the PGA Merchandise Show looks like on hyperlapse

The tyranny of Instagram's hyperlapse application means I couldn't speed it up enough to walk all the way from one end of the floor to the other, but here's a portion of the show near some of the major manufacturers. The clip takes us past GoPro and Oakley, around Callaway and Cobra, and past Titleist and the PGA's presentation stage. As you can see, it's pretty hectic. 

 

#PGAShow

A video posted by Luke Kerr-Dineen (@lukekerrdineen) on

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Gear & Equipment

Get ready to be able to see your golf swing from any conceivable angle

The search for the perfect swing may be a never ending journey, but the science of motion capture analysis tools is at least providing a road map. One of the latest is 4D Motion, which uses up seven sensors about the size of the Velcro closure in your glove attached to your hips, arm, wrist, chest, legs and club shaft to track the movement of both the club and your body as you swing.

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Set to be available in May and initially aimed at instructors, the 4D Motion uses the sensors to create a full-body, three-dimensional biomechanical model of every swing. It tracks everything from swing path and hip rotation to face angle and clubhead speed. Using a tablet, phone or computer, you can view the swing from nearly any conceivable angle, including from above.

Related: Our favorite products from the PGA Merchandise Show

"As a golfer, I always felt that I could never see yourself making a swing," says founder and CEO Sang Kim. "With this you can see everything your body is doing, not just the club. Another thing this can do is because it's so portable, you can use it on the course. So you can see how your swing changes for instance when there are trees right and water left."

Then again, maybe nobody wants to see that.

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Gear & Equipment

How early should you start your kids in golf? This company says as early as possible

ORLANDO -- Golf's future may ride heavily on the idea of growing the game with youngsters but one new manufacturer says they're not starting the game early enough.

"When you see a skier with his 1-year-old and you ask him when his son is going to start skiing, he's likely to say, 'He's already started,' says Kris Wilson, president and CEO of The Littlest Golfer. "But if you see that same guy at the golf course with his son and ask the same question about starting to play golf, he might say, 'Oh, I don't think I'll start him until maybe he's 6 or 7. I think if you start kids early with the game, they become golfers for life."

So Wilson developed a set for beginning junior golfers called the TLG First Set ($100), aimed at youngsters 18 months to 3 years old. The set includes three ultralight, high-impact plastic training clubs with composite shafts, foam balls, a tiny Sunday bag and an instructional DVD. Most notable are the soft, pre-formed grips designed to place a youngster's hands on the club properly every time.

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The Asheville, N.C.-based company also markets golf-inspired clothes for youngsters and even babies (including a polo one-zee), as well as golf books and matching themed slacks for parents.

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Gear & Equipment

Live from Day Two at the PGA Merchandise Show

Upgraded towels 
The towel on my bag is boring and gross. The towels made Devant Towels are not. They got involved with the caricature artist David O'Keefe to create some pretty fun towels. The one here is called the Big Three, obviously. Check out the Caddy Shack line, it's hilarious. 
They retail at $20.
- K.L. 

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An app that trains your brain

ThinQ is an app that works on your desktop or smart phone and, in the words of its CEO Tim Suzor, is the "Lumosity for sports." It includes a series of games designed to prove the cognitive abilities that are most important for playing good golf. "Coaches usually just tell their students to focus better," Suzor says, "but there's nothing out there that actually trains people to focus better." The games are divided into five different categories -- Awareness, Adaptability, Attention, Intention, and Synchronicity -- and get increasingly more difficult the more you play them. The app costs $7.99 for a month's subscription, or $79.99 for a year.

- LKD

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Hackel the hamster

I freely admit that i'm not the most fashionable guy around, but I decided to venture over to the fashion side of the PGA Merchandise Show anyway. Why not? Anyway, I keep my head down as I walk and I'm not really focusing on anything, but by the time I actually start engaging with my surroundings, I look up and see Marty Hackel, Golf Digest's Mr. Style, doing this. Not sure why, but in any case, go Hackel!

- LKD


A push cart that doesn't take a Master's degree to fold up 

While the push cart is making a bit of a renaissance thanks to its use last year by the NCAA men's individual champion Cameron Wilson of Stanford, one of the traditional complaints about their use by average golfers is the difficulty of folding them and storing them in the trunk of a car without taking up too much room. Too often storing a push cart can make building a dresser from Ikea seem like child's play.

loop-sun-mountain-reflex-opened-400.jpgBut Sun Mountain is combating those complaints with the Reflex push cart, which folds up nearly instantaneously and neatly to a size that's barely more than two cubic feet. The cart's E-Z Latch system takes the Reflex from open to folded in three steps that might take all of five seconds even on a day when you've used its beverage holder for nothing but refills on Coors Light.

loop-sun-mountain-reflex-folded-300.jpgThe cart also includes two padded accessory trays, and its twin handles rotate so they can be positioned at any angle and in any arrangement, from a traditional horizontal setup or flipped vertically to accommodate players who prefer a more centered position.

Despite its compact size when folded, the Reflex ($260, six colors) features the widest wheel base of any Sun Mountain push cart.

-- M.S.


Companies continue to pursue more affordable launch monitors 

SkyGolf has a new launch monitor that's geared towards people that don't want to spend an overwhelming amount of money, but still want all the stats. The SkyTrak is small, standing at just 7.5" tall. It records ball speed, launch angle, back spin, side spin, and side angle. It pairs wirelessly with your iPad, so you view all of the stats whether you're hitting balls in your garage or out on the range. They're working on adding a gaming component soon, so you can set up matches against your buddies. Retail is at $1995. 

-K.L.

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Two reasons the golf industry should be looking up

The golf industry has been searching for specks of bright news after what initially was a tough year in its retail data, and it got two bright signs in reports released by Golf Datatech and PGA PerformanceTrak during the PGA Merchandise Show.

Golf Datatech announced that its first-ever study of the size of the global golf market revealed annual sales of equipment to be some $9 billion. The report is a cooperative effort with Yano Research Institute, which studies the golf market in Japan, and its full details will be reviewed early next month. Of that $9 billion, the U.S. accounts for 41 percent, Japan 24 percent and Korea 7 percent, while the U.K. and Canada each share 5 percent. Said Tom Stine, co-founder of Golf Datatech with Jon Krzynowek, "The report is valuable first because it's never been done before. The industry needs this. If you don't keep score, how do you know if you're winning or losing?"

Krzynowek noted that while 2014 had been a down year for the U.S. golf market, it wasn't as bad as others might have you believe. Overall, he said the golf-retail business was down 3.5 percent, but that some categories, such as irons, the highest purchase price equipment item, were up in 2014.

Perhaps even more positive was the report released by PGA PerformanceTrak, which analyzes rounds played in the U.S. According to its data, rounds played per day courses were open were up 1 percent in 2014. While total rounds played were down 1.4 percent compared to 2013, the number of days courses in the U.S. were open was the lowest in nine years.

Golf-fee revenue per day open and golf-merchandise revenue per day open also were up in 2014 compared to 2013, and 36 of the 70 major metropolitan areas saw growth in rounds played per day open in 2014.

-- Mike Stachura


Is this the start of hipster golf?

Golf's critics always say that the game is too slow, doesn't provide enough exercise, and that it's not environmentally sustainable. Well, on the surface, The Golf Bike seems to take a step towards solving all three. The Golf Bike retails for $995.00 and the idea is pretty simple. You ride it to the golf course and during your round, and because it has specified slots for your clubs, you don't have to worry about balancing them on your back as your ride. Problem solved, right?

- Luke Kerr-Dineen

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The ultimate hybrid golf bag?

In past years we've seen a handful of manufacturers introduce all-in-one golf bag/push carts combos that try to scratch a niche in the market. This year in Orlando, there's a different hybrid golf bag that's got our attention.

Pat Maguire, a New Zealand native and founder of Aeroe Limited, has unveiled the GolfPod, which he's dubbing "the world's first hardshell golf travel case and cart-bag combo."

loop-golfpod-playing-500.jpgThe Aeroe GolfPod has a square design that's less than a foot wide and deep, allowing it to easily fit on the back of a golf cart or sit on the frame of a push cart. It has room for 14 clubs and an umbrella, plus two separate compartments to store golf balls, water bottles, outerwear, etc. When you're done with your round, reattach the removable top, and the bag becomes it's own self-contained travel case (which stands 49-inches tall and comes complete with wheels for easy transport) that can be checked as luggage at an airport.

Additionaly, Aeroe has also developed "The Link," a patented rack system* that allows the GolfPod to snap in to the top of a car's roof rack without the need for straps and bungee cords.

loop-aeroe-golfpod-500.jpg* I have to admit, that's what initially drew me into the Aeroe booth in the first place. I saw Maguire demonstrating it and had a flashback to Aunt Edna on the top of the Griswolds' car in the movie "Vacation." But I digress ...
 
Maguire had three GolfPods at the show, saying that the company is now entering the production stage and hopes to have products ready for retail in the fall of  2015. Retail prices is set $600.

-- Ryan Herrington

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Hello and welcome to GolfDigest.com's stream of live updates from the 2015 PGA Merchandise show. We'll have our team of editors roaming the property hunting for things to catch their eye. Think of it as your own kind of private Twitter stream, except with less animals. Stay tuned for regular updates and catch up on our stream from Tuesday here and Wednesday here.
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Gear & Equipment

Jordan Spieth will be an old golfer by the time his new Under Armour deal runs out

OK, so "old" might be a stretch, but Spieth will be in his 30s when his new Under Armour deal expires. Considering the phenom won a PGA Tour event when he was 19 and just became the legal drinking age this past summer, though, a 31-year-old Spieth is a little hard to imagine.

Related: 15 things to be excited about in golf in 2015

On Wednesday, Under Armour announced a 10-year contract extension with the young star. Spieth, currently No. 9 in the Official World Golf Ranking after dominating wins at the Australian Open and the Hero World Challenge, first signed with Under Armour in 2013 shortly after turning pro.

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The terms of the 10-year deal weren't disclosed, but there is more news from the apparel company. ESPN's Darren Rovell reported Under Armour will release its first golf shoe to the public by spring of this year.

The Grind: Natalie Gulbis takes to Twitter to pitch sports bras

In 2013, Nike signed Rory McIlroy to a 10-year contract. That deal was rumored to be worth $200 million, but it also included McIlroy switching golf equipment.

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Gear & Equipment

Titleist officially debuts its latest version of the Pro V1 and Pro V1x

The first rule of strong brands is "do no harm." Few companies have done that better than Titleist when it comes to its Pro V1 and ProV1x ball franchise. So when Titleist introduced the latest iterations of its tour-level balls Wednesday at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, the changes were minimal rather than drastic, driven by tour-player feedback that essentially said, "don't change anything."

loop-prov1-packaging-560.jpgWell, maybe not anything. The response's they received focused on two areas: a little more spin on the short-game shots and a slightly softer feel would be preferred if it didn't come at the expense of its current features. Testing ensured players using various types of new constructions that they had accomplished that goal. The result being balls with a new, softer thermoset cast urethane cover.

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Titleist aficionados also will notice a new sidestamp (the length of the arrow is slighty different) and packaging, which was chosen with the help of consumer feedback. Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker have already won tournaments using the new Pro V1x.

"This one's better for me because that softer cover around the greens allows me to have more spin control and softer feel off the blade of my putter without jeopardizing any distance or spin with the long clubs," Spieth said after winning the Australian Open last November.

And as for doing no harm? The price for the balls, $48 a dozen, remains the same. 


Interested in more stories on equipment? Signup to receive Golf Digestix, a weekly digital magazine that offers the latest news, new product introductions and behind-the-scenes looks at all things equipment. 

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Gear & Equipment

Adidas brings its Boost cushioning technology to golf shoes

There is nothing casual about the adipower Boost, the first golf shoe from Adidas to incorporate the company's proprietary Boost foam-cushioning technology. Adidas has used Boost technology previously in its basketball, running and baseball footwear lines. Boost takes thousands of TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane, a type of plastic) capsules and uses high-pressure steam to fuse them together. The result, according to the company, is a comfortable, but sturdy, cushioning system. 

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Typically golf shoes use EVA, a rubber-like compound, to provide cushioning. However, EVA has a tendency to break down in varying temperatures (hardening in the cold, softening in heat). Adidas officials say that Boost foam counters this. 

The adipower Boost also features 25 gripmore spikes as well as smaller traction elements at the heal and toe. The spikes vary in size so you have the most powerful gripping action in the right places during your swing. 

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Jason Day, ranked eighth in the world, is among the Adidas tour staff wearing the shoe ($190 for men's model, $180 for the women's model), which will be available at retail available Feb. 27. 

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Gear & Equipment

Live from Demo Day at the 2015 PGA Merchandise Show

A warm-up club that isn't weighted - it's bent

When someone says they have a warm-up swing aid, I immediately assume they're going to hand me something weighted. The guys at DST handed me something quite different: a regulation weight club, but the shaft is bent to mimic the shaft's position at impact. You set up like you would to take a practice swing, and then make sure that the white line on the hosel lines up with the bottom line on the club. Once these are lined up, line them up with your chin. Because of the bend in the shaft, this is going to force you to push your hands forward and give you the feeling of hitting down on the ball - it mimics where you should be at impact. Retail is at $99.  

-K.L.

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A super cool new towel ... literally!

I found the Demo Day equivalent of click bait a little while ago, in the form of this poster.

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Turns out, the booth was selling a towel that can help keep you cool on the course. IceSkin uses jade minerals woven into the fabric are activated as they absorb your sweat, naturally taking thermal energy away from the body. The company, making its debut at the PGA Merchandise Show, is selling neck towels ($15, shown) and bath towels ($60).

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To demonstrate the product, an IceSkin sales person put a towel in a bowl and poured boiling water on it. Moments later, he whipped the towel in the air and then had people touch it. Sure enough, the towel was downright cold.

The towel, which also can be customized with different print style and club logos, is just the start of how the company plans to use the jade materials. It's also in the process of creating a line of shirts (Prime 4orm) that not only will keep you cool but will also promote better posture.

-- R.H.


These grips are so weird

These are, quite literally, screw-on putter grips made from exotic animals. The one on the left is snakeskin; the one on the right is stingray. They also have an alligator skin one, which isn't pictured. Again, all of them are real. It's part of the exotic line from SwitchGrips, which retail from between $89.99 and $199.99. If you're not into all that, they have some more traditional options, too. The polyurethane option retails for $34.99, while the leather version sells for $63.99. 

As for the screw-on element: The putters are made with a little plug in the but of the club which you can screw out or in that means the grip can slide off or on pretty easily.

- LKD

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2015: The Year of the Push Cart?

If using a push cart is as uncool as everybody makes it out to be, how come there are more than a half dozen companies "pushing" them hard on the range at Orange County National?

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We're going out on a limb and saying that 2015 will be the year push carts become cool. If so, it's not going to just be some standard push carts. It's going to be tricked-out, remote-control push carts, considering that at least three different companies -- MGIGolf, Stewart Golf and I Go -- were showcasing hands-free models on the range. (And that's not to mention the two variations of skate boards currently on the market.)

-- R.H.


Keeping the rain off your clubs has never been easier  

Big Max is a pretty new company to the US, but they're huge over in Europe. The pushcart company brought its products to the US last year and they're continuing to introduce products to the line. Below is their bag rain cover - a full bag is underneath it, I promise. You know when you're out playing in the rain, and it's impossible to keep your whole bag under your umbrella? This fixes that problem. All you do is unroll it over your bag, and clip it in to the handle of your push cart (the clip function is unique to Big Max push carts). The material is totally water proof, and the top section is see through so you can locate your club of choice easily. Retail: $90 

-K.L.

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Child's play at Demo Day

It's been more than two months since my last round of golf back home in Connecticut, so doing any serious product testing here at Orange County National first required knocking off a little swing rust. Walking around, I thought the best place to start might actually be the Demo Day's equivalent of the bunny slope: SNAG Golf's test area.

The SNAG concept is a pretty cool as a entry point into golf for 40-plus-year-old Golf Digest editors young kids. You use oversize clubs and hit glorified tennis ball toward various velcro- covered targets. Working off the golf-scoring concept, the closer to the center of the target, the fewer point you earn with the goal of having the lowest score possible. (SNAG also offers "flag stick" style targets for a more tradition golf experience than merely dart board target practice.)

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After hitting a dozen or so balls, I final got my swing back in working order. (Look at that target. You bet I'm an ace.) And I found something I think my 5-year-old daughter would get a kick out of.

-- Ryan Herrington


A robot that you can scoot around the course on 

The segways-for-golf idea is not a new one. But this vehicle that I came across at the PGA show, the i-Go Robot, is pretty cool. The tires are bigger and more aggressive than others that I’ve seen. It also has a seat and a side carriage system for your golf bag. To make it work, you step on the footbeds and lean forward. The foot sensors are pretty sensitive, so it doesn’t take much to get it going. The sensors in the seat work the same way. Lean forward in the seat to go forward, lean back to go backwards. At its fastest, it goes 12.5mph.  Retail: $6,995

-- K.L.

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Inside the Cobra-Puma merchandise tent/vodka bar/mad house

It's noon, and the Cobra-Puma is already doing it right. In fact, they've been doing things right for a few hours now. Cobra-Puma has become notorious in recent years for turning their tent into an outdoor rave of sorts, and it's proving equally popular this year. There's a DJ spinning music as people test the newest equipment, and yes, those ladies are pouring vodka into those glasses. Red Bull and vodka, to be more specific.

- LKD
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Long Drive Champ Jamie Sadlowski can hit a putter more than 200 yards 

The Callaway set-up here at Demo Day had a big group gathered under one of the tents, so I took advantage of my short stature and snuck up to the front of the crowd. Jamie Sadlowski, who's a two-time long-drive champ and coincidentally also a stud, was hitting some seriously long drives. Yet the most impressive thing I saw him do was hit his putter. In the video below, the ball went more than 200 yards and his swing speed was 119 mph. Yes, you read that right . . . 119 mph. With a putter.

-- Keely Levins
 

A video posted by @keelylevins on

   


The Perfect Putter

Here's another product that falls squarely into the 'doesn't look beautiful but works beautifully' category. It's called The Perfect Putter, and it's kind of a cross between a stimpmeter and a training aid that was recently put into play by Justin Rose and Russell Knox. Basically, you use the ramp thing to line up, and then place your ball inside the "h" alignment aid that it comes with. Lining up this way means you can dial-in exactly how much a putt breaks, and won't leave you wondering whether you pushed or pulled it, because you'll know that a straight putt will go into the hole. The Perfect Putter retails for $299.99

- LKD




The Golf Swing Shirt

I wrote about the Golf Swing Shirt last year because I really liked it, so I was happy to find it had expanded its operation at this year's show. The inventor even said that he's started making trips to a handful of tour stops to hawk the product to the game's best.

Anyway, it's pretty foolproof: players wear it like a shirt, then insert both arms through a third sleeve that extends from the chest. The idea is to keep your arms connected throughout the swing by literally forcing them to stay connected. It looks weird, but it works.

- LKD

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Demo Day starts at 9 o'clock

Line to get into the show was brutal today. Had to pull out the media big muscles to get to the front. Hate to do it (just kidding, I don't really). Off to walk around. Will let you know what I find.

- Luke Kerr-Dineen 

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Hello and welcome to GolfDigest.com's stream of live updates from the 2015 PGA Merchandise show. We'll have our team of editors roaming the property hunting for things to catch their eye. Think of it as your own kind of private Twitter stream, except with less animals. Stay tuned for regular updates. ... Read
Gear & Equipment

Here's what you need to know about Footjoy's new Hyperflex shoe

FootJoy's Hyperflex shoe has been on Hunter Mahan's feet since the Ryder Cup, and come Feb. 15, you'll be able to wear them too.

Mahan caused a bit of a stir when he wore them because this shoe isn't the typical look from FootJoy. Beside the outside appearing a bit sportier, the technology inside follows more of an athletic fit as well. Seemingly, it's as if FootJoy designers took the wider, stable base of the DryJoys and mixed it with the lightweight upper of the M Project. The result: a lightweight, athletic shoe that's going to keep your feet tight against the ground throughout your swing.

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The upper of the shoe is made out of mesh, which is common for an athletic shoe. But what the team at FootJoy didn't want was to lose any support -- an easy thing to do when you're working with lightweight materials. 

The designers also wanted it the shoe to be stable and waterproof. To help achieve all of this this they came up with a new material, and called it FlexGrid.
 
The crisscrossing pattern that weaves an exoskeleton across the top of the shoe was inspired by the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, located in Boston.

"Surrounding us is a plethora of building structure and fine tuned details," says Daren Weddle, on of the principle designers on FootJoy's footwear team. "To bring a lot of that into what we do - it's inspiring."

When you look at the bridge at the right angle, it actually does look exactly like the pattern on the shoe.

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The purpose of the exoskeleton is to stabilize the lightweight, waterproof mesh underneath. So, the top of the shoe looks a bit like a high-end running shoe, with a plastic pattern weaving over the top of it to keep your foot from rolling around.
 
All of this sits on the outsole, which is pretty solid itself. It's made of EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate, a sort-of rubber); its thickness gives you a good base to swing off of. The bottom of the shoe has cone-shaped traction elements that surround the nine Tornado Softspikes, to create more than enough turf interaction.
 
The pursuit of stability continues with five ridges located in the middle-back of the shoe that dig in to keep your heel from moving around during the swing.     
 
The Hyperflex will be available in five colors, with a retail price set at $190.

... Read
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