The Local Knowlege

Gear & Equipment

In the "These Guys Are Particular" Department: Robert Garrigus corrects weights in irons, shoots 65

If you’re a PGA Tour player and you’re having issues with your equipment, just come to the Travelers Championship -- it seems to be a place where players figure things out.

On Thursday after shooting an opening-round 65 Robert Garrigus remarked that he had been playing all year with irons (TaylorMade’s RSi TP) where the weights were not what they should be. The TaylorMade tour team corrected the issue Wednesday, making Garrigus’ fast start maybe more than just a coincidence.

Garrigus’ story also brought to mind that of Ryan Moore four years earlier. Moore uses a reminder grip -- a grip with a raised rib in the area where the fingers grip the club and players are often persnickety about where the rib is positioned. “I’m such a feel player and the grip was just spun a little bit to the right, which if I get my hand on there the way I like to was actually making the club face shut 2 or 3 degrees,” said Moore at the 2011 Travelers. “I’ve been overdrawing it and overdrawing it, and for the last five or six weeks my swing felt great and I just couldn’t figure out what was going on.

“I was honestly going crazy these last few weeks,” he continued. “I gave my equipment guys a pretty darn hard time but we got it straightened out. It must’ve helped.”

That it did. Moore had three rounds of 64 or better at the Travelers (a second-round 70 the lone exception) and hit 72.2 percent of his greens in regulation (he came into the event ranked 121st at 63.4 percent) helping lift him to a runner-up finish.

We’ll have to see if Garrigus has the same good fortune.

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Win the equipment arms race at your club by playing Ben Hogan's personal irons

If you're concerned about running into somebody else with distinctive looking new Ben Hogan Fort Worth 15 irons in their bag on the first tee, perhaps you should consider something more vintage -- and far pricier. 

A set of irons Ben Hogan personally played in the 1980s is up for sale on eBay, from a collector who purchased the set from the PGA Tour executive who was the director of the Ben Hogan (now Web.com) Tour. 

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For $35,000, you can take divots with the same 2-iron-through-Equalizer Wedge set Bantam Ben used at Shady Oaks Country Club during the Reagan administration. Included with the irons are a set of Hogan woods and putter from the same era and documentation from former tour executive Jay Edgar recounting how he personally received set No. 331 from Hogan's master club designer in 1989.  

The irons have been re-chromed and re-gripped since Hogan's ownership, but in the authentication letter Edgar testifies to how pure they feel -- which is handy if the new owner isn't brave enough to actually take them for a spin: "They hit like melted butter and cinnamon." 


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New partners TaylorMade and Microsoft collaborate to produce new wearable golf tracker

The reasoning behind the new partnership announced Thursday between TaylorMade Golf and Microsoft is intuitive according to TaylorMade CEO David Abeles.

"Digital technology is playing a bigger part in people's lives today," Abeles said. "This is no different in the golf space, so it was a natural fit to partner with Microsoft in developing this innovative platform, aimed at enhancing the golfers experience."

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The two companies unveiled the first product of their collaborative efforts: the Microsoft Golf Tile. This upgrade to the Microsoft Band, introduced last October, will provide shot-tracking capability on the course as well as offer GPS yardages and a digital scorecard. Additionally, it will measure standard fitness stats such as heart rate, steps walked and calories burned. All the data can be monitored while you play, and you can also look at a summary of your round on the Microsoft Health app when you're done.

The Microsoft Band is priced at $200; adding the Golf Tile comes at no cost.

Next up for TaylorMade and Microsoft is the coming launch of myRoundPro. The companies say it will be a standalone analytics platform that can be used in conjunction with the Golf Tile that will track next-level stats similar to thoes used on the PGA Tour (strokes gained, proximity to the hole, etc.) to provide a deeper analysis of individual players' games.

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Start-up golf company PXG looking to shake up golf business with new spokeswoman

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It perhaps comes as no surprise what golfer will be the latest paid endorser for upstart golf company Parsons Xtreme Golf, whose founder Bob Parsons was also the man behind GoDaddy.com.

Parsons announced today that one-time LPGA player, model and recent MBA graduate of the Columbia Business School Anna Rawson, a former "GoDaddy.com Girl," will be a spokesperson for the new equipment brand. (The company provided the above image attached to the press release announcing the signing.)

In a statement, Parsons said, “From tee to green, you’ve never played like this before. With just one swing you can feel and see that PXG clubs are unlike anything else—and you can bet that our marketing is going to make some noise and shake up the industry too.”

Rawson previously was featured in marketing GoDaddy.com in 2009. She then joined race car driver Danica Patrick, professional poker player Vanessa Rousso and original “GoDaddy.com Girl” Candice Michelle, a model and professional wrestler.

Rawson first played the LPGA Tour in 2008, and has also played events on the Ladies European Tour. She made 14 cuts in 46 LPGA events in three seasons with nearly $167,000 in earnings. The company did not provide specific details on Rawson's role with the company.

In a company statement Rawson said, “PXG is reinventing how people think about their golf equipment. The company isn’t asking anyone to change the way they play—they’re simply inviting golfers to improve their game by expecting more from their clubs. Not only do the clubs increase my distance and accuracy, they are strikingly beautiful. Just what I want in my bag. I couldn’t be more thrilled to help build what I believe will be an iconic brand.”

Of course, this is not the first time a golf company has signed a player with limited playing opportunities in professional events, or acquired a celebrity endorsement, particularly with an eye toward sex appeal. In recent years, Cobra-Puma Golf’s list of endorsers includes Blair O’Neal and Fox Sports broadcaster Holly Sonders. Plenty of other sports stars under the Nike banner have been used to promote golf, including most recently Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley. Justin Timberlake was named creative director by Callaway Golf in 2011, and early in its history, the company used a list of celebrities to endorse its brand including Smokey Robinson, Celine Dion, Tommy Smothers, Mac Davis, Kenny G and Alice Cooper.  

PXG’s clubs, including a line of irons, metalwoods, wedges and putters, have been played on the PGA Tour by Ryan Moore since the start of the season. Rocco Mediate also has been using the clubs on the Champions Tour. A month ago the company announced it would be making its clubs available in limited quantity through an arrangement with the Cool Clubs chain of custom fitting centers.

The PXG 0311 irons, which feature a muscleback blade-like appearance, are a hollow design that features a high-strength steel face insert. They will retail for $300 per iron, or $2,400 for a set of eight.
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Gear & Equipment

A tinkerer just like his grandfather, Sam Saunders qualifies for Open with caddie's irons

Professional golfers are used to having the ability to change equipment at a tour event, as equipment vans and tour reps are waiting to address any need. During a U.S. Open qualifier, that’s not quite the case. But that didn’t stop Sam Saunders from switching irons before his 36 holes Monday at Brookside Golf and Country Club and The Lakes Golf and Country Club in Columbus, Ohio.
 
Saunders, who used Callaway’s MB1 muscleback blades at the Memorial, borrowed his caddie’s Callaway Apex Pro irons -- a model Saunders has used in the past --  and shot 66-66-132 to grab co-medalist honors with Michael Putnam and earn a trip to Chambers Bay. Specifically, Saunders borrowed caddie Travis McAlister's 5-PW as well as his Callaway Apex UT 2- and 3-irons. Curiously, these irons were actually Saunders' before he gave them to McAlister.

I interviewed Saunders earlier this year about his thoughts on equipment, including his use of the Apex Pro irons. “I switched in Midland last year [at the Web.com Tour’s WNB Classic],” said Saunders. “I was using the muscleback blades and was struggling a little bit with some shots into the wind. I was spinning the ball a lot and didn’t get the distance I needed. So I decided to try something with a little more mass to it and these irons nailed it for me. I didn’t feel like I had to force anything with these clubs.”
 
Sounds like a guy who likely shouldn’t have changed irons in the first place, but Saunders also has a bit of his grandfather, Arnold Palmer, in him as he is a self-admitted equipment tinkerer.
 
“The game has changed so much and equipment has changed so much,” said Saunders. “There’s so much more science than art now. But I still like to mess around. I’m always trying to get better, figure out a little bit of a secret. I’m definitely not afraid to switch clubs and I like keeping up with the technology in drivers. That said, I try not to make a ton of changes during the year because you can get caught up in trying something new every week.”
 
Maybe not every week. But the change he made before the Open qualifier turned out to be the right week.  

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Winner's bag: David Lingmerth's par-saving Ping putter

David Lingmerth’s Ping Cadence TR Ketsch putter was the difference maker at the Memorial. Not only was Lingmerth third in strokes gained/putting for the week at 1.574, but he holed a pair of crucial putts in his playoff with Justin Rose -- a 10-footer on the 18th to keep things going and a five-footer on the 10th to clinch the win.

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It’s not surprising that Lingmerth is a Ping staffer. His uncle, Goran Lingmerth, is a Ping sales rep in the Miami/Ft Lauderdale area and he mentored David and helped get him into college at Arkansas. Goran’s claim to fame is that he holds the NCAA field goal record of 8 in a game while kicking for Northern Arizona in 1986.

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Driver: Ping G30 (Aldila Rogue 60x), 10.5 degrees
3-wood: Ping G25, 15 degrees
Hybrid: Ping Anser, 17 degrees 
Irons (4-PW): Ping i25 
Wedges: Ping Glide SS (50, 54, 60 degrees)
Putter: Ping Cadence TR Ketsch 


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Five golf-ball companies named in Acushnet suit deny patent-infringement claims

It's been nearly two months since Acushnet, the leading golf-ball manufacturer in the U.S. and the parent company of the Titleist brand, filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts accusing 10 small companies of selling golf balls that infringe on several of the company's patents.

And it's just starting to get interesting.

While two of the companies recently announced their decisions to step away from the golf-ball business, five others have responded to the Acushnet complaint with a categorical denial of any patent infringement by their golf balls. All of the companies named in the lawsuit are small operations with limited sales that are often marketed only through direct-to-consumer campaigns on company websites. The vast majority of balls named in the lawsuit are three-piece, cast urethane golf balls offered at a much cheaper price than balls of a similar construction.

Within the last two weeks, both 3Up Golf and Lightning Golf have cleared out inventory of their golf balls that were cited in the Acushnet lawsuit. 3Up's founder Rob Zimmerman sent a letter to customers stating: "It's with sadness that I'm writing you today to announce the end of sale date for the 2S14, and that the 3F12 is officially sold out. Unfortunately, we can't discuss the circumstances which bring us to this stage. We've had to make a very tough business decision over the last week and as such, will be winding down our golf ball business."

In an email to Golf Digest, Zimmerman also declined to discuss the details of a settlement with Acushnet, but did note, "This certainly has been one hell of a painful learning experience."

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Jay Costa, who founded Lightning Golf last fall, also appears to be stepping away from the golf-ball business. In a phone call last week, he said, "I don't know what they were going to get from me, but I do know that it wasn't worth the trouble." Costa didn't say he was out of the golf-ball business forever. "I might find a different manufacturer to work with," he said. 

While Germany-based Vice has a few more weeks to file its response to the complaint, the five companies who filed their documents May 29 (Dixon, Rife, Monsta, KickX and Vail Roberts for INeedtheBall.com) didn't seem interested in walking away or closing up shop. Each is represented by Adam Kessel, a lawyer with the nationally regarded intellectual-property law firm Fish and Richardson. Each response was similar in wording, including a denial of "each and every allegation," as well as a denial "that Acushnet is entitled to the relief requested or any other relief."

In response to the specific claims in the Acushnet suit, most companies are keeping their cards close to the vest, using similar language repeatedly throughout their responses: "[Company name] does not possess sufficient information to admit or deny the of allegations of [numbered paragraph], and on that basis denies."

Contacted by email, Kessel declined to elaborate but offered this rebuttal: "Each company denies Acushnet's allegations and intends to vigorously defend itself in the case."

However, Bob Koch, founder and president of Kick X Sports, did speak out in a press release announcing the company's denial of Acushnet's allegations. "Titleist is a dominant brand in our business, but by suing upstart companies like Kick X, it is creating an environment where innovation and competition is not welcome in golf," Koch said. "We do not believe Acushnet will prevail in this matter. Therefore, we have no choice but to stand behind our proprietary ball technology and fight back. While this saddens me, Kick X is growing quickly and we have been recognized as one of the companies to watch. Clearly the prospect of having a new kid on the green is causing trepidation, so instead of working together to make the game of golf better, we are forced to focus our resources on fighting in court."

Filed April 6 in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts in Boston, the Acushnet lawsuit named 17 different balls from 10 different companies. Among the companies listed are Rife (V-Motion), I Need the Ball (The Ball), Vice Golf (Pro) and Kick X (Tour-Z). According to the lawsuit, the dimple patterns on these balls are all the same: 318 dimples arranged in what the lawsuit terms "a triangluar dipyramid shape."

Golf Digest has learned that the balls named in the lawsuit were all produced by Foremost, a Taiwan-based manufacturer that is not specifically named in the lawsuit. Foremost's website states that it is the largest golf ball manufacturer in Taiwan, producing 10 million balls monthly. 

Foremost officials have declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Contacted by Golf Digest, Acushnet officials also have declined to comment.

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Michael Jordan finally releases golf shoe to the public

From the moment we saw Keegan Bradley rocking J’s on the golf course, we've been eagerly anticipating when we could do the same. The time has come.

On par. Introducing the Jordan Flight Runner Golf.

A photo posted by Jordan (@jumpman23) on



This is the first golf shoe Jordan has released in over a decade. Although the Jordan Flight Runner Golf isn’t what we’ve seen Bradley wear, it is a step in the right direction. The shoe is made up of mesh and synthetic materials, and closely resembles Nike Golf's other athletic golf shoes.

Related: Hot List: Golf Shoes

According to a press release from Nike, the shoes will be available in two colors -- black and grey colorway -- later this month.


Follow @corybradburn

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New TaylorMade CEO outlines brand's future plans

This is an extended version of a Q&A interview with TaylorMade's David Abeles that recently appeared in Golf Digest Stix. Abeles, 43, was named the CEO of TaylorMade Golf in March and gave us his first interview since taking the new job. Abeles brings more than 15 years experience in the golf industry with him to his new role, several of them coming working previously at TaylorMade. 

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Golf Digest Stix: It's your third stint with TaylorMade. How important is it to understand the culture of the company? 

To be successful in this job, it's important not just to understand the culture of TaylorMade, but important to understand the culture of the industry and that of the golfer. I am an authentic, passionate golfer. There is a strategic side of things that encompass success in this role and then there is an intuitive side. If you look at the best leaders in the industry, they have had both. An intuitive sense of what the golfer wants is critical.

 

What is the perception of the company right now, both in the industry and with consumers?

When you're a company that bases its product strategy on innovation -- which is design and development to optimize performance -- there are things you do very well to excite consumers and there are times you do things quicker than most would appreciate or understand. And that's fair, that's definitely fair. But we're in a good place. We move forward and bring exciting products to market so consumers will get off the couch and buy them. We also have an obligation to work with our retail partners in managing some of the inventory challenges they face as a result of us bringing the products to market. We're cognizant of that. It's not a simple fix, but we have good ideas as to how we want to work with our customers. When you pursue innovation as a strategy -- and that is our strategy -- great things happen. But you take a lot of risk. We're very creative, we use technology to optimize performance and we use the world's best players to validate it. We're not perfect, I'm the first to admit that, but no company is.

 

What did you learn in your time that away from TaylorMade? (Abeles left in 2014 to become CEO of Competitor Group Inc., an operator of marathon and half-marathon races.)

I learned that running and golf are different. Running is an inspiring sport to those who run. They run for health and wellness, for charity, for personal records. Golf is a very aspirational sport. When we see Dustin Johnson, Jason Day or Justin Rose hit a shot, we want to hit that shot -- and from time to time we actually do. So we aspire to that level. But the biggest learning for me was the interaction of brands and how it can elevate your business practices. One of the things we'll do at TaylorMade moving forward is build out an experiential platform. To engage golfers on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month basis so they can experience our brands and products in new ways.

  

Where do you see the growth categories for TaylorMade? 

My first three hours back here I went down to the R&D room to see what we were working on for the future. I spent four hours with our engineers. We work on technologies that are three, four, five, even six years out. Technologies that we feel can define our brand and products and how golf is played. Some of the technologies we can't commercialize yet. The future is bright for our product lines. We'll see solid growth in the metal-wood business and iron business, and we will strengthen our leadership there. We're growing our golf-ball business. We have hundreds of tour players around the world in our ball.

 

What about Adams?

It's taken us a while to get it positioned the right way, but we think we have it right now. It's a very friendly brand to play. What's misunderstood is that it is still a performance brand. It takes a lot of R&D and technology to make an easy-to-hit golf club. And in some cases, our tour players benefit from that.

 

What is one thing individuals can do to grow the game?

It's incumbent upon all of us as golfers to grow the game. To reach out to people of all skill levels. They're friendships for life and they are experiences that grow the game. There's a responsibility for us to play with those who are less skilled. This will bring more golfers to the sport along with all the formal initiatives. There's a lot of energy surrounding golf now. We need to capitalize on that positive energy rather than the negative things people are saying about the sport.

 

How important is social media in promoting your brand?

Short answer: It's critically important. To give golfers around the world access to Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose, to actually interact with them. It's amazing. When you can interact with the world's best, it brings people in. It's wonderful for us as well. It plays a huge role in our marketing strategy and just in the industry in general. And it will be a major part of how we promote the game in the future.

When you got the new job and met with your staff, what was the first thing you told them "this is what we need to work on"?

It's funny you ask that because I actually asked myself that question. What's important to us is that we continue to push downfield on great technologies and bringing great technologies to market. We want to build an environment for our people and create something where people want to be associated with our brands. Are we relentlessly innovating in everything we do? We want all golfers to feel about our company like our employees do and our athletes do. Our success will be contingent on that.



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Here's why Rory McIlroy will wear four strange-looking shoes this week

By now we all expect Rory McIlroy to add a bit of flavor to his outfits, whether it's by wearing a loud belt, blocks of color or bold patterns. But he generally stays away from making fashion statements with his shoes—until now.

At the Irish Open this week McIlroy will wear four colorful, eye-catching Nike Lunar Control 3 shoes that were each designed by a kid whose life has been impacted by cancer. McIlroy, the Rory Foundation and Nike worked together with the Cancer Fund for Children, a charity in Northern Ireland that provides support to kids whose lives have been affected by cancer, to raise awareness through these NIKEiD designs.

Here's a roundup of the shoes you'll see McIlroy wear each day this week:

Round One: Designed by Sara Lockhart

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“I read online that Rory really likes different shades of green so I combined that with some of my favorite colors," said Lockhart, 12, whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Rory's verdict: "I like the message she's put on the tongue. She wrote 'good luck' on them."

Round Two: Designed by Ryan Keenan

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“I chose the colors because it is for the Irish Open and they are colors associated with Ireland,” said Keenan, 16, whose mom was diagnosed with cancer.

Rory's verdict: "He's put a little message on the tongue saying, 'Go Rory,' so they're pretty cool for Friday."

Round Three: Designed by Chloe Hyndman

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“I picked black and white to make them look professional, but then added a print to keep them fun and recent," said Hyndman, 15, whose mom was diagnosed with cancer.

Rory's verdict: "I think these are pretty self-explanatory. You've got the little pebble/grain design, which is pretty cool, and purple with a little bit of blue in the laces."

Round Four: Designed by Alex Kernaghan

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“It says ‘Be You’ on my Nike shoes because that’s all you ever should be -- yourself," said Kernaghan, 13, whose father recently passed away from cancer. "I also added in a bit of blue as it’s my dad’s favorite color and yellow to represent the charity."

Rory's verdict: "Alex has designed these shoes which have basically every color in the rainbow...These are a pretty funky pair of shoes and I'm excited to wear them."

These NIKEiD designs can be purchased on NIKEiD.com (and a portion of the proceeds will benefit The Rory Foundation).

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