The Local Knowlege

Gear & Equipment

What happened to Troy Merritt's 2-iron (and Phil Mickelson's 8-iron) isn't normal

OK, what the heck is going on at the Valero Texas Open? The first day featured the craziest birdie ever by Aaron Baddeley as well as 31 players failing to break 80 at TPC San Antonio in windy conditions. It also provided two of the strangest equipment malfunctions you'll ever see.

Related: 9 costly equipment rules blunders

First, Troy Merritt, whose 2-iron's face caved in somehow on the 11th hole:

Merritt, remembering where a lot of his bread is buttered, was quick to offer a follow-up tweet promoting his equipment sponsor. Smart.

But TPC San Antonio didn't discriminate when it came to embarrassing players or breaking certain brands of equipment. Phil Mickelson had the head of his Callaway 8-iron snap off at impact while hitting out of a fairway bunker on the 12th hole:

Hey, you know what they say about messing with Texas.

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Gear & Equipment

Executive shuffle at TaylorMade-adidas Golf

Less than a year after taking over for Mark King as CEO of TaylorMade-adidas Golf, Ben Sharpe has left the company. A company-issued press release Thursday cited "personal reasons" for the departure.

Elevated to company president and CEO is David Abeles, an industry veteran who rejoined the company as president of TaylorMade and Adams at Sharpe's direction Feb. 12. Abeles will report directly to Herbert Hainer, CEO of adidas Group.

This is Abeles third stint at TaylorMade. He started in 1998 as general manager for Asia Pacific, then was promoted to director of sales, North America before spending six years with Acushnet (parent of Titleist/FootJoy) as VP sales and marketing. Abeles returned to TaylorMade in 2008 as executive VP and GM only to leave the company a second time in late 2013.

"David has a proven track record of success and leadership excellence," Hainer said. "I am convinced that David will lead our golf business into the next era of growth."

Hainer has a vested interest in hoping that statement comes true. A Wall Street Journal article from last September stated that, "In meetings with Adidas representatives, large shareholders have criticized the performance of Chief Executive Herbert Hainer, arguing that Mr. Hainer should have reacted faster to the steep slide in U.S. sales at its TaylorMade golf brand, according to people present at the meetings."

Another WSJ article published today noted that Adidas' stock price fell 40 percent in 2014 and that it was seeking to bring products to market at a more rapid pace. The article detailed that Adidas reported 2014 net profit of 490 million Euros, down from 787 million Euros the year before, on sales worth 14.5 billion Euros.

When Abeles rejoined TaylorMade in February, Sharpe stated: "We now have the executive talent to execute the game plan we have established for long-term success."

That success, if achieved, will ironically happen with Abeles, not Sharpe at the helm. 

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Gear & Equipment

PowerBilt's latest driver reaches a new low (in a good way)

In equipment circles, the push for drivers with extremely low spin is a more common topic of conversation than Tiger Woods' return. Nearly every driver introduced in 2015 has a center of gravity (CG) lower than in past generations. The latest to do so is PowerBilt's new Air Force One DFX Tour.

loop-DFX-TOUR-DR-Sole-450.jpgThe club has a nine-gram weight angled forward in the front of the sole. The result is a lower, more forward CG compared with the company's regular DFX MOI driver to produce tee shots with less spin.

The DFX Tour ($300, 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 degrees) also uses pressurized nitrogen gas in the clubhead to reinforce the metal walls without needing added material for support (the valve houses the nine-gram weight). This helps designers create a more flexible, thin face for more ball speed.

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Gear & Equipment

This GPS range finder may not look all tricked out, but don't be fooled

In the NEO Ghost, Bushnell has developed a GPS range finder that seems aptly named. At roughly 2 by 2 inches, you might hardly notice it’s there.

When you do reach for it, however, you’ll find it offers several helpful features. The device ($130) is pre-loaded with more than 30,000 courses and includes auto-course and auto-hole recognition. In addition to front, middle and back green distances, it provides up to four hazard/lay-up yardages per hole. It also has a distance-measuring mode to track how far you hit any shot.

loop-neo-ghost-group-560.jpgThe NEO Ghost is available in black, white, neon green and charcoal and comes with a clip holder that lets you carry it on your belt or golf bag.

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Gear & Equipment

Nearly 10 percent of Japanese golfers are playing with non-conforming equipment

Non-conforming equipment may already have been used in tournament play by amateur golfers in Japan. That's part of a statement provided to Golf Digest by the Japan Golf Goods Association. The organization announced last month its support of the manufacture and distribution of non-conforming equipment in the Japanese marketplace. 

The JGGA says there is "an increasing number" of non-conforming clubs being distributed in the Japanese market "because there is a demand for them among golfers." Its research says that 8.7 percent of golfers in Japan were using non-conforming equipment, and that the demand for non-conforming equipment is even higher in South Korea.  

The JGGA says the intent with last month's announcement was not to recommend non-conforming equipment but to clarify its place in the market. "Even now there is a concern that non-conforming clubs are being used by amateur golfers in local tournaments as they or the tournament organizers do not recognize those clubs as such. Our press release intends to improve the current situation to the extent practicable."

The JGGA says it wants to guide manufacturers "to provide consumers with a clear indication and appropriate explanation when they sell those products to avoid any confusion by consumers." 

Though it took nearly six weeks for the organization to respond to a series of questions sent by Golf Digest via email, the JGGA also reiterated its position that non-conforming equipment strengthens interest in golf. The responses can read somewhat convoluted, but the ultimate direction is clear. The JGGA says, "There is a clear desire or preference among amateur golfers in general for more distance from a driver shot or more back spin from an iron shot that makes a ball stop or come back on a green as professional players do. JGGA believes that it will contribute in the healthy growth and revitalization of the Japanese golf market to create an environment in which each golfer may choose and use golf equipment that matches his or her unique goal and needs."

The JGGA says it offered a proposal to the R&A to regulate non-conforming equipment but the "R&A did not accept our proposal." The JGGA says it is concerned that without any clear distinctions in the marketplace about non-conforming equipment "it could result in the further unregulated, disorganized expansion of the non-conforming golf club market."

In fact, the JGGA is stopping short of endorsing equipment that fundamentally alters the playing of the game, preferring instead that non-conforming equipment remain within the range of clubs that "were previously considered as conforming but became non-conforming only due to the tightening of the equipment rules over the past decade or so."

The R&A, USGA and several U.S. golf manufacturers have not commented on the JGGA's statements. 

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Gear & Equipment

Odyssey brings Japan-only milled models to U.S.

Milled Collection5.jpgIn the golf equipment business it is not unusual to see ideas that debut in Asia eventually make their way to the U.S. market. That’s the case with Odyssey’s latest putter creation, the Milled Collection. 

The line, which was introduced in Japan last September and used by Ian Poulter (#2 model) at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November, was unveiled to tour pros this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Distinguishing the putters is the inclusion of the company’s Fusion RX insert -- a marriage of the White Hot insert and Metal-X face with a thin stainless-steel mesh that's at the core of the company's new Odyssey Works line of putters. The heads are CNC milled with detailed hand-finishing.

Odyssey also has tweaked some of its more notable head styles (the putters will be available in four models in the U.S., six in selected markets outside the U.S.), incorporating a flatter topline or more squared face. The club includes three sets of adjustable sole weights that can bring the headweight to 340, 350 or 360 grams. 

The Milled Collection will be available to consumers April 17 at $349 each.

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Gear & Equipment

Vital Tiger Woods news: We know he still definitely favors metal spikes

There are a number of subtle findings in this new commercial for Nike's TW15 shoe, like, for instance, golfers who tie their sweaters around their necks still look ridiculous.


But really the biggest takeaway is that Tiger Woods still favors some variation of metal spikes. There is no disguising as much, starting at about the :04 second mark of the spot. That's when you hear that nostalgic clang of Woods' shoe against pavement. According to Golf Digest equipment editor E. Michael Johnson, Woods is probably not using the classic metal spike as we once knew it, but a Champ ProStinger cleat that is mostly plastic but still has the one metal spike. 

 You can get a better look of it here:

See the one metal spike in the middle of the cleat? It's worth noting that's different than the bottom Nike is marketing for the general public, as seen here:

It's a small distinction, but remember, most courses don't allow metal spikes anymore. According to Johnson, though, about 20 percent of the PGA Tour still prefer them.

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Gear & Equipment

A golf glove that football players would love

Caddy Daddy has been making golf travel bags for more than a decade, but it was watching college and pro football that provided company officials inspiration to expand their golf business. Seeing running backs and receivers wearing stylish, tacky gloves, they thought this might carry over to golf.

After early testing showed the football-glove material was too thick and heavy, company officials came up with a thinner variation that maintained its durability to create the Talon golf glove ($20).

loop-caddy-daddy-glove-560.jpgThe top consists of micro-suede and mesh, and the palm is made from a tacky synthetic material. Ventilation holes keep your hands from getting too hot. The Talon’s tackiness can be revived by cleaning the glove with a damp towel or putting it in the washing machine.

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Gear & Equipment

This blade putter, backed by a former PGA Tour commissioner, doesn't play at all like a blade putter

A year ago former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman was at the PGA Merchandise Show extolling the virtues of Cure's RX putters and their "triangulation alignment system." It would have been easy to dismiss the product as another Hail Mary attempt in the golf business, but now the company has expanded its line to include the Cure RXi, with a technology story worth exploring.

loop-cure-rxi-putter-560.jpgStaying true to its concept of trying to produce mallet-like stability in a blade-style head, the RXi ($300) goes beyond that with an interchangeable face-insert that can alter the putter's overall weight and moment of inertia.

Depending on whether you're using the aluminum or brass face insert, the putter's weight can vary from 345 grams to 410 grams, and the MOI can increase close to three times that of a traditional blade putter, helping to keep the club from twisting during the stroke and at impact.

Sounds like something Beman might have been happy to use during his playing career.

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Gear & Equipment

Bridgestone says there's more to wedges than just grooves

loop-Bridgestone-J15-wedge2-250.jpgEverybody knows that grooves are important in the design of a wedge. But Bridgestone's latest offering, the J15, makes the case that it's the sole -- specifically the heel of the sole -- that's just as critical.

The narrowed heel section provides the foundation for cleaner contact (and better control on the shortest shots) by keeping the sole more flush with the ground even when the clubface is open. Meanwhile, the clubface receives a special heat treatment to increase surface hardness and to retain the forged carbon steel's interior softness.

Oh, and those grooves? They're deeper than previous models. The J15 ($120, six lofts, 50 to 60 degrees) is available in satin and oxide finishes and debuts in stores this week.

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