The Local Knowlege

Gear & Equipment

We know you want to buy new clubs. We even have a study that proves it

By MikeStachura

It might have been a long winter, but that hasn't chilled interest in new clubs. Golf Datatech's semiannual study of golfers' attitudes suggests an enthusiasm to buy.

A survey of 1,000 serious players (16 or more rounds a year) showed slightly stronger interest this spring in purchasing new irons, drivers and putters than in spring 2013. Drivers remain the most sought after, with 64 percent of golfers responding "maybe" or "yes" to whether they plan to buy.

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Interest in iron purchases increased the most, to 35 percent, up about 9 percent from 2013.

Also, golfers seem willing to spend. The price they expect to pay for a new iron set topped $700 for the first time in the survey's history, a 4-percent jump from last spring.

Photo: J.D. Cuban

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Equipment

Fine-tuning sets for Masters conditions has been underway for weeks

By E. Michael Johnson

Prior to the start of the Shell Houston Open, Rory McIlroy was asked if he was making any equipment changes for the Masters. The Ulsterman's answer was not only surprising, but also pointed out how precise some players are in their preparation for the year's first major.

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Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Although the two-time major winner noted that he wasn't changing his set makeup for Augusta National, he did put in a new Nike 59-degree wedge with "fresh" grooves to enhance spin. In addition, he was mulling over a more precise alteration to his Nike VR Pro Blade 4-iron with one specific shot in mind. "I might strengthen my 4-iron by a degree for the fourth hole because it's right in-between a 3- and 4-iron for me," said McIlroy. "I don't carry a 3-iron. I like the four-wedge setup [47, 52, 56, 59 degrees] that I have at the moment. The last couple days playing off that back tee [measuring 240 yards], I was just struggling to clear that front-right bunker."

Players who qualify for the Masters often have Georgia on their mind a full month before the tournament begins when it comes to settling on the 14 clubs they will have in the bag. One of the reasons is that tour vans are not allowed on the Augusta National grounds. The vans set up shop across the street, making it somewhat inconvenient for players to make last-minute changes. With that in mind some players will start making Masters-related requests as early as mid-February.

Related: The Masters' most-important clubs

Which isn't to say others aren't making moves closer to tournament time. While many were playing in Houston, U.S. Open champ Justin Rose was at Augusta National testing TaylorMade's new SLDR Mini driver -- a club with a 260cc head that is designed for use as a driver or fairway wood. Rose tested a pair of the clubs, one with 11.8 degrees loft and the other at 13 degrees, and found he was gaining 10 yards over his current 3-wood off the tee. As for off the fairway, that was a lesser concern as Rose noted that, other than the second shot on the par-5 eighth hole, there really isn't a hole where 3-wood off the deck comes into play. Rose said he would likely employ the second driver in place of his 3-wood at the Masters.

Yet while McIlroy and Rose may be taking some rather unusual measures, others are more subtle. Some players might use adjustability in drivers to produce more of a draw bias, as a tee shot that moves right-to-left is highly desirable at Augusta National. If conditions are soggy, some might opt for more loft in an effort to increase carry distance.

Height and carry also explain why requests for 5-woods and hybrids are plentiful. Jonas Blixt and Rickie Fowler (Cobra Bio Cell+) and Ernie Els (Adams Tight Lies) each had a 5-wood in play in Houston in anticipation of using them at the Masters. Former British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen added a pair of Ping i25 hybrids (17 and 19 degrees), while three-time Masters champ Phil Mickelson added an 18-degree Callaway X2 Hot hybrid in Houston. The high loft combines with added spin to produce a shot more receptive on firm greens, which is often the case at the Masters.

Related: Inside the Crow's Nest at Augusta National

Some players also have issues with the tight grass at Augusta National, leading to some wedge work, most notably fresh grooves. In addition to McIlroy, Ping staffers Angel Cabrera, Billy Horschel and Oosthuizen, among others, received wedges with new grooves while Hunter Mahan added a 59-degree Ping Eye2 XG lob wedge for around the greens.

Sometimes the changes aren't even limited to those in the field. Callaway recently built Arnold Palmer a custom set of clubs that features green-and-white colored shafts with the years of Palmer's four Masters wins (1958, '60, '62 and '64) as well as the Arnold Palmer umbrella logo.

All of which points out that whether it is to help garner a green jacket or simply for a ceremonial swat, all the equipment used at the Masters has been considered carefully well in advance.

TOUR STORIES

steve-stricker-equipment-0414.jpgSTEVE STRICKER // Business trip

A road trip to Southern California paved the way for an equipment change for Steve Stricker. Feeling the grooves on his Titleist AP2 710 irons were wearing out, Stricker, with some added encouragement from wife, Nicki, made the trek to Titleist's test facility in Oceanside, Calif., to work on a new set -- something that doesn't happen very often, as Stricker is not one to frequently swap equipment.

After utilizing a TrackMan launch monitor, Stricker settled on a new set of the company's AP2 714 (3-iron through PW) -- a model he used briefly at the end of 2013. According to Titleist, Stricker said the soles of the new irons went through the turf more easily and efficiently than his previous AP2 710 irons. In Houston Stricker had Project X 6.5 shafts in the irons but returned to the KBS C-taper he previously employed on Monday of Masters Week. Stricker wasn't the only family member to get something out of the trip. "My kids told me [we should go to] Legoland and Disney," Stricker said. "Then I said, 'Let's go to the basketball game while we're out there.' Everybody had a little bit of something."

NEW STUFF

cobra-bio-cell.jpgCobra Bio Cell+
PRICE: $220 (Lofts: adjustable)

A lightweight crown allows weight to be positioned lower and farther back for easier launch. Lexi Thompson used a Bio Cell+ 3-wood at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

CobraGolf.com



BAG ROOM

So, where is the Ping Anser putter from the 1980s that D.A. Points took from his mother's garage and used to win last year's Shell Houston Open? According to Points, the once-banished flat stick has found a comfortable home in his bag. "I still am using the same putter, and I've been putting well with it ever since," said Points. "It hasn't maybe been quite as hot as it was at the Shell Houston Open last year, but I've been putting good. My mom hasn't asked for the putter back because she knows she is not going to see it again." Points came into Houston ranked 108th in strokes gained/putting, but that actually was an improvement over his previous two seasons when he ranked 127th and T-130, respectively. . . . Erik Compton had a new shaft and a different adjustable hosel setup on his Titleist 913D3 driver. The new shaft was a Graphite Design Tour AD Di 6X instead of the Tour AD BB 7X he previously used. On the hosel Compton employed the C-1 setting, which reduces loft and lie angle by .75 degrees, producing the most fade bias possible. . . . Keegan Bradley made a couple of changes to his woods, switching to a Mitsubishi Kuro Kage 60x shaft in his Srixon Z 545 driver and putting a new 3-wood -- a 15.5-degree Cleveland 588 -- in the bag.


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Gear & Equipment

Callaway lets the tech do the talking with Solaire Gems women's clubs

By Mike Stachura

loop-equipment-callaway-solaire.jpgToo often the talk regarding women's clubs centers on color and the number of pockets in the bag that come with the set. Although the latest Callaway Solaire Gems line has easy answers to those questions (two and eight, respectively), it also offers technology upgrades that include thinner faces and reduced offset.

The metalwoods are designed with a flatter roll on the faces to increase launch angles by 1.5 degrees. The irons feature a deeper undercut cavity (similar to last year’s X Hot irons) for a faster-flexing face. Offering a higher loft on the sand wedge (56 degrees) improves greenside versatility.

The seven-club version ($700) includes a driver (13.5 degrees), 3-wood, 5-hybrid, 7-iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge and putter. The 12-club set ($1,000) adds 5- and 7-woods, a 6-hybrid and 8- and 9-irons.

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Gear & Equipment

Ping tries hat trick to help promote i25 driver/woods

By Ryan Herrington

Ping's tour pros will be showing their "stripes" this week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and Puerto Rico Open.

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The company has unveiled a limited edition "Racing Stripe" hat that staffers will wear exclusively at this week's two PGA Tour stops. The stripe is designed to promote the "racing-stripe" alignment technology on the Ping's new i25 driver and fairway woods.

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The hats will be available in four colors: black, gray, blue and red. They'll then be sold at retail starting next week for $22.
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Gear & Equipment

Titleist unveils latest wedge line from Bob Vokey

By Ryan Herrington

ORLANDO -- Chief tinkerer. 

That ought to be the job title listed on Bob Vokey's business card. The Titleist club designer has spent decades fine-tuning wedges to help tour pros and average golfers alike, a task that never seems to end.

Vokey Spin Milled 5 wedge.jpgCase in point: the newly released Titleist Vokey Spin Milled 5 wedges that debuted Jan. 21 during the PGA Merchandise Show Demo Day at Orange County National. To maximize spin and improve trajectory and distance control, the Vokey SM5 incorporates a deeper groove design that channels away grass and sand. Company officials boast that each groove (with seven percent larger volume than previous models) is individually cut using its proprietary spin milled technology to the maximum dimensions allowed by the Rules of Golf. 

As with his other designs, Vokey worked in consultation with tour players, leaning on the like of Adam Scott, Steve Stricker and Jason Dufner ("I've always said I have the best R&D facility in the world -- the PGA Tour," he quips). The trio helped offer feedback on bounce and grind options; the Vokey SM5 line is available in 21 different loft/bounce/grind combinations and six "tour-inspired" sole grinds. The wedges also feature a more compact profile with three finish options: tour chrome, gold nickel and raw black. 

The wedges with be available in retail shops starting March 14 (suggested price: $145 each). They have already found their way into the bags of several tour pros. Jordan Spieth put them in play when he finished second at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. 

Other players who are using them, according to the company, are Stricker, Bill Haas, Scott Piercy, Brendon de Jonge, Scott Stallings, Marc Leishman, John Merrick, Geoff Ogilvy, Morgan Hoffmann, Bud Cauley, Greg Chalmers and Charley Hoffman.

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Gear & Equipment

Social-media campaigns are the buzz at the start of the PGA Show Outdoor Demo Day

By Stephen Hennessey

ORLANDO -- Today marks the start of golf's version of shopping in a huge, outdoor toy store.

Equipment, grips, shafts and other products are on display from dozens of manufacturers at Outdoor Demo Day at Orange County National, the one-day prelude to the 61st PGA Merchandise Show, which runs Jan. 22-25.


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Some of the hardest working folks at Demo Day: Volunteers and staff from Orange County National cleaning and redistributing range balls.

Related: Why there's a positive vibe expected at this week's PGA Show

Of course, you have traditional the equipment rollouts with every major manufacturer having its latest line of clubs to try out.

Yet in this first hour of the Demo Day, it's hard to miss the enormous social-media push from many of the major equipment companies hoping to get attendees not only to try their products but help promote them.

Specifically there are a handful of social-media campaigns reaching out to golfers to tweet or Instagram about a specific product. While it was prevalent the last two years, it's an even bigger push this time around.

Some quick examples:

-- Ping is introducing a new glove, the Sensor Cool, which Bubba Watson will wear on the PGA Tour. There's a cardboard cut-out of Watson at Ping's Demo Day setup, where you can take a photo and use the hashtag #FeelTheGlove to get a Ping T-shirt. It's a great cause, too. Ping will donate a portion of all sales it generates from its three models of the Sensor Glove to the Bubba Watson Foundation, Ping spokesperson Pete Samuels said.

-- Cobra/Puma, like it did last year, has an enormous station with a DJ blasting loud music and drinks started being served at 10 a.m. (You know, because it can.) Jesper Parnevik and Blair O'Neal are slated to mingle with fans, too. By using the #GoLong hashtag on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook you're entered into a contest to win a Bio Cell driver.

-- Fujikura has one of the most innovative promotions at Demo Day. Taby and Christine, two Florida natives, are dressed as police officers--complete with handcuffs and Aviator shades. If you take a photo with these girls, and tag it with #Fujikura on Instagram, you're entered to win tickets to all four majors this year. The 10 posts with the most likes are eligible to win, and the Fujikura folks with pick the best photo. You win a free hat by participating.

Other events going on:

-- Peter Jacobson and Dave Pelz are giving a show at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Srixon/Cleveland setup.

-- Former Re/Max World Long-Drive champion Jamie Sadlowski is demonstrating his driving abilities with the new Callaway line of drivers at 11 and 2.

-- TaylorMade's "Loft Up+" campaign features a gigantic leader board onsite. The highest differences in driving distance--from your old loft to a new, higher loft--are featured in an electronic leader board. It's all in an effort to educate golfers on the benefits of playing a high launch, low spin driver like TaylorMade's SLDR line, spokesman Dave Cordero said.

The hardest-working folks on the expansive 360-degree range at Orange County National have to be the team of 20 who are sorting and distributing golf balls from the range. There are 15 volunteers helping a team of five employees from Orange County National. They have an assembly line of loading, sorting and shipping out balls via large garbage cans.

"We'll go through 80,000 golf balls, and that's probably low," said Brian, one of the employees from OCN who deserves a golf clap from everyone demoing the new clubs here.

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Style

Last-minute holiday golf gift ideas

By Marty Hackel

From the Dec. 11 edition of Golf Digest Stix:

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Holiday gifts can be tricky in my household. We don't give a lot of presents, so the ones we select need to be special. Here are some of the items I've come across lately -- with the help of my colleague, assistant editor Stephen Hennessey -- that you might want to consider. Most of what we've compiled is directly connected to golf, though a few are just things that I think most golfers would like. What they all share is a commitment to high quality. Here's to that!

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G/Fore Gallivanter: Lightweight and stylish, they're perfect on and off the course ($225, more info).

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House of Fleming belt and buckle: PGA Tour pros might play a bit better than you, but you can be their equal around the waist ($450, more info).

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Ralph Lauren RLX Wool Hybrid jacket (left): Merino wool, Elastene sleeves and a coated Teflon body to keep you extra warm ($225, more info). J. McLaughlin Jonah Cashmere sweater (right): Indoors or out, it feels "like butter." I love the suede detailing on the half zipper ($378, more info).

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Peter Millar Napoli Wool Reversible vest (left): Wear it like this for windproof water resistance or flip it for a tailored wool look. How cool is that? ($395, more info). Dunning Merino wool turtleneck (right): Ralph Dunning is from Canada, so he understands staying warm. This real turtleneck will not disappoint ($99, more info).

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Citizen Eco-Drive World Time watch (top left): Solar-powered, it never needs a battery, covers 26 time zones and comes with a perpetual calendar ($575, more info). Rose & Fire puttercover (top right): This California company makes gifts in authentic camo and denim ($60, more info). Personalized balls (lower left): Titleist.com allows three lines and your choice of number on any dozen ($28 and up). Other brands are available at TGW.com. Customized ball markers (right): Upload any photo at photoballmarker.com and choose from combination packs ($25 and up).

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Jan Craig headcover: Design your gift at jancraigheadcovers.com. These handsome accessories make a colorful statement ($30 to $57 each).

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Tivoli Albergo clock radio: Connect it to any Bluetooth-enabled device and stream your playlists to a beautiful AM/FM radio with great sound ($300, more info).

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Bushnell's Tour Z6 Wingman pack(left): The range finder has Pinseeker technology and 6x magnification and comes with a Folds of Honor towel ($400, more info). Play Nine (right): The card game, great for families, is based on golf's scoring principles ($15, more info).

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SuperFlex for Golf kit: A lightweight and durable way to work out on the road or at home ($80, more info).

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Gear & Equipment

President Obama's $1,400 putter

By John Strege

The catalog of gifts that President Obama received from foreign dignitaries in 2011, released last week by the State Department, included a Kramski HPP 340 putter, courtesy of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, its value estimated at $1,400.

Kramski Putter, a German company founded by Wiestaw Kramski in 2002, is largely unknown in the U.S. But its putters have had tour success in Europe; Laura Davies has won on the Ladies European Tour using a Kramski putter.

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The HPP (High Precision Putter) 340, according to the website, is a "high-speed milled premium putter made of stainless steel in a discreet mocha hue (ruthenium coating). Sandblasted, featuring multiple coatings and fitted with a flexible plug & play training aid (which can be removed by hand during tournaments), this high-quality blade model was engineered with the needs of the ambitious golfer with exclusive taste and certain shortcomings in aiming in mind. The steel striking face is precision milled to a tolerance of a few thousandths of a millimeter, and the contact surface's strike zone is polished to a glossy finish. The shaft features a double bend, putting the ball's position below the left eye."

The president is not using the putter, incidentally. It has been turned over the National Archives.

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Gear & Equipment

Cobra Golf offers AMP Cell Junior Driver

By John Strege

The Rickie Fowler effect is evident at any PGA Tour stop, notably those in which Fowler is playing. Kids are seen wearing Fowler's trademark orange Puma hats and often orange clothes to match.

Cobra Golf is now presenting kids with the opportunity to play an AMP Cell Junior Driver, featuring the same technology and orange color that Fowler's Cobra AMP Cell driver has.

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"While Rickie bridges the generation gap, there's no question a lot of youth golfers look up to him as a role model," Cobra Puma Golf president Bob Philion said in a news release. "We felt it was time to deliver the same, high performance technology and 'Rickie Fowler' look to the junior golfers out there."

Cobra's MyFly Technology, which in the AMP Cell driver allows six loft adjustments, also allows for six adjustments, from 11.5 to 14.5 degrees (along with two draw bias options), in the AMP Cell Junior Driver.

Its recommended fitting chart suggests a 39-inch club length and the clubhead set to 14.5 degrees of loft for eight and nine-year-olds. It also offers a 41-inch club length (and suggests 12.5 degrees of loft) for 10 and 11-year-olds and a 43-inch club length (and suggest 11.5 degrees of loft) for 12 through 14-year-olds.

The cost is $299, and those who register their drivers are entitled to one free upgrade to a longer, firmer shaft as they grow, the company said.


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Gear & Equipment

Cobra offers Amp Cell driver in 'Season Opener Green'

By John Strege

The color green is a perpetual golf industry favorite in the run-up to the Masters next month, and, accordingly, Cobra Golf is issuing a limited-edition of its new Amp Cell driver in what it calls Season Opener Green.

Cobra Amp Cell.jpg

Cobra already had fully embraced color, offering the Amp Cell driver in blue, orange, red and silver. It also has a colorful array of staff players in Rickie Fowler, Ian Poulter, Jesper Parnevik and Lexi Thompson.

But this is the season for green, and Cobra is offering 1,800 green Amp Cell drivers beginning on March 15. Each driver is stamped with "1 of 1800' on the sole.

The Amp Cell drivers feature what the company calls MyFly technology, that allows the golfer to adjust the loft from 8.5 degrees to 11.5 degrees. Its SmartPad technology allows the clubface to sit square regardless of loft adjustments.

The limited-edition Amp Cell driver will retail for $399 and comes with a headcover and grip in Season Opener Green as well.

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July 28, 2014

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