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Gear & Equipment

Golf grips gone wild

By E. Michael Johnson

Admit it, you've wanted to try those outrageously psychedelic pants from Loudmouth Golf but weren't sure you've got the game to pull them off. For those shy souls, there's an alternative: Loudmouth grips.

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Forget technology—scour the company website and all you'll learn is that the grips weigh 90 grams and come in regular and oversize. But you're not putting these on your clubs to improve your score. It's the look that counts. Whether it's Paint Balls, Liar Liar, Captain USA or Lucky (top to bottom above) or other models such as Just Peachy or Shagadelic Black, these are sure to make any club an eye-popper.

Loudmouth is offering both swing and putter styles, the latter coming with a magnetic ball marker on the butt end. Lose the marker? No problem. Extras can be had for $4. The grips run from $11 to $25 each.

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Gear & Equipment

How to try a counterbalanced putter without buying a counterbalanced putter

By E. MIchael Johnson

Boccieri’s Secret Grip offers the benefits of counterbalancing without having you ditch your current clubs. This is especially valuable when it comes to putters, where you might want to flirt with counterbalancing but are reluctant to do it at the expense of your regular putter.

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The company has expanded its putter-grip line. Joining its previous Midsize grip is the Classic ($20), a traditional-size grip that weighs 100 grams.

Also available is the Jumbo ($25). This oversize grip weighs 165 grams for golfers wanting a more extreme method of reducing wrist movement in the stroke, which sounds more like a solution than a secret.

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Gear & Equipment

Oversize grips have earned the respect of many elite players

By E. Michael Johnson

jason-dufner-equipment-0303.jpgVictor Dubuisson's amazing up-and-downs from the desert during the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship opened some eyes, but equipment geeks may have been more focused on his putter grip -- an oversize SuperStroke Slim 3.0.

Dubuisson wasn't the only player in the field having success with an oversize putter grip. Jordan Spieth, who uses the SuperStroke Flatso Ultra, reached the quarterfinals. In most weeks on the PGA Tour approximately 30 players use a SuperStroke grip. Such usage is enough to possibly declare it a trend, not merely a fad.

Thank K.J. Choi. Back in 2007 he raised eyebrows and his bank account by using the SuperStroke Fatso -- a beast of a putter grip measuring approximately 1.5 inches in diameter, or roughly twice the size of a conventional putter grip -- to win the AT&T National, just weeks after having won the Memorial using a conventional grip.

Choi discovered the product while watching an infomercial and warmed to the idea of a grip that reduced the amount of wrist movement in the stroke. Still, there was hesitance.

"It was ugly, it was big," he said. "I didn't want to ... but I practiced with it, and it felt good. But I wasn't sure if I could just bring it out on tour. But I kind of gathered the courage to bring it out."

Related: The complete 2014 Hot List

Choi might have gotten on board sooner had he read Paul Runyan's 1979 book The Short Way to Lower Scoring. In it Runyan wrote, "I suggest you avoid grips that seem a bit thin in overall diameter. You will find that a thicker grip encourages a firm-wristed stroke."

Such a philosophy has been employed by numerous players over the years without going to the lengths of using a grip as wide as a golf ball. John Daly, for example, used to put three or four wraps of tape under the grip of his putter to keep his wrists from getting overly active. Bubba Watson is another who uses tape to bulk up the size of his putter grip.

Since Choi's win, more and more players have given the SuperStroke a try. The roll call includes Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Jason Dufner, who won the PGA Championship last year with a Slim 3.0 on his Scotty Cameron by Titleist putter.

"Several players walked up to me every week with putters in hand wanting a grip to either put into play or to practice with," said Arnie Cunningham, SuperStroke's PGA Tour rep. "A lot of tour players have big hands and it's a good fit. And now that we have more than just the really large grip, more players are open to trying it."

Converting the curiosity to usage has led more than 125 players to use SuperStroke grips across the pro tours since 2009, resulting in more than $105 million dollars in earnings (before Dubuisson's haul of $906,000 at the Match Play) in the last five years, according to the company. That's a far cry from the early days when the grips' packaging read: "If SuperStroke does not eliminate four-putts from your 18-hole score, return SuperStroke within 30 days of purchase for a refund." Four-putts?

Related: Photos from the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show

Now, instead of a respite for those suffering that kind of struggle on the greens, oversize putter grips are helping elite players win championships, with Sergio Garcia (Ultra Slim 1.0) at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and Scott Stallings (also an Ultra Slim 1.0) at the Farmers Insurance Open the most recent. As usual with tour pros, if it brings results it doesn't much matter what it looks like -- something Choi realized during his AT&T win six-plus years ago.

"It's all about business out here," he said. "If you perform well, there's a lot of money involved. I felt like I had to go with my feel and use what I feel confident in. And when I used it, it actually reduces the movement of your wrist, and you just use your shoulders and it makes the ball roll better and it gives me confidence."

And now it's not just Choi displaying that self-assuredness.

TOUR STORIES

jason-day-equipment-0303.jpgJASON DAY // New look on the greens

Match Play champ Jason Day's TaylorMade Ghost Monte Carlo putter had a different look in Marana, Ariz. Although the putter has the same grip and black steel shaft as his previous Ghost Monte Carlo, the new model features his son's name (Dash) engraved on the sole and has an additional 10 grams on the bottom that brings the club's overall weight to 360 grams. The extra heft was achieved by using two 25-gram weights instead of a pair of 20-gram ones that had been in the WGC-Accenture Match Play champion's previous gamer.

The most notable change was to the topline. Day's former putter had black alignment lines atop the white head; the current model has no alignment feature, which Day said helps him focus more on the cup than the clubhead.

NEW STUFF

taylormade-mc-hero.jpgTaylorMade Tour Preferred MC
PRICE: $1,000 (set of eight, steel)

Jason Day used these irons, which feature a muscle-cavity design, in winning the WGC-Match Play. A slot in the sole of the 3- through 7-irons boosts ball speed.

TaylorMadeGolf.com



BAG ROOM

Louis Oosthuizen made it to the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play using a new putter, Ping's Ketsch mallet. In addition to a different head shape than he was used to, the 2010 British Open champ had the putter built at 37 inches in length with a 50-gram weight at the butt end of the grip to provide a counterbalanced effect. ... Despite a pair of second-place finishes in his previous two starts, Dustin Johnson employed a new set of TaylorMade Tour Preferred MB irons at the GC at Dove Mountain. D.J. believed the softer leading edge of the new irons would work better for desert golf. ... Jonas Blixt still had a blue Cobra driver in the bag in Arizona, but it was the company's new Bio Cell model. Although Blixt had been working with the 9-degree club since last October, it hadn't seen action until the Match Play. ... Miguel Angel Jiménez has been using Ping's i25 woods and wanted a 7-wood version for the Match Play, but Ping doesn't offer a 7-wood in the i25. Instead, Ping staff adapted an i25 5-wood to 7-wood loft and length. ... Jim Furyk lowered the loft and positioned the sliding weight just toward the toe for a slight fade setting on his Callaway Big Bertha driver.


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Gear & Equipment

Boccieri Golf grips provide counterbalanced effect on any club

By E. Michael Johnson

You've heard about counterbalanced putters, but some players prefer counterbalancing throughout their set. Jack Nicklaus was a proponent, as is Sergio Garcia. Still, it's a big step for most golfers--not to mention an investment.

Realizing that, Boccieri Golf is offering a 30-day replacement guarantee on its Secret Grip, which weighs 92 grams to produce a counterbalanced effect. After 30 days customers not satisfied can return the product for replacement grips of their choice at no cost.

Along with the guarantee is the introduction of some new models for 2014, including a midsize option, new colors (red, white and blue) and a full-cord model (which is $15 compared with $13 for other models).

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Gear & Equipment

SuperStroke unveils its latest oversize putter grip: Flatso Ultra

By E. Michael Johnson

When Dean and Darin Dingman bought SuperStroke five years ago they likely didn't imagine the inroads their product would make. Who could have forecast some 125 players using an oversize grip while winning more than $105 million in earnings since 2009?

Such success has led the company to expand its offerings, the latest of which is the Flatso Ultra.

Flatso Ultra grip (430).jpgAs with other grips in the Flatso line, the Ultra ($20) is non-tapered with a flat section on the front. However, while the original Flatso is 1.7 inches in diameter and the Mid checks in at 1.4 inches, the Ultra is a slimmer 1.1 inches.

The smaller size also reduces the weight to approximately 85 grams compared to 100 grams for the original.

The grip grabbed an early convert last summer when Jordan Spieth used a prototype version of the Flatso Ultra en route to victory at the John Deere Classic.

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Gear & Equipment

IOMIC grips move into junior golf market

ORLANDO -- IOMIC grips have made inroads on the professional level -- the company claims 30 percent of the LPGA uses its product, headlined by Karrie Webb. But now, you can find the colorful grips in the hands of junior players. 

On Tuesday at the PGA Merchandise Show's Demo Day, IOMIC debuted its new junior line. These grips are smaller in diameter than any other grip IOMIC offers, giving younger players and their smaller fingers the chance to hold the club properly. The grips feature the company's signature IOMAX technology -- which allows them to have a certain level of tack, but still be soft, water resistant and durable. 

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Why the new push into the junior golfer market? Because these players are watching the tours and want to use the same gear that the pros are playing. It's a solid sentiment, and it's always good to see more companies getting involved in junior golf. Considering these grips come in so many different (and bright) colors, we're guessing juniors are going to be pretty happy about them, too.   




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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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Gear & Equipment

Salty Grips will have familiar feel for those who fish

Salty Grip.jpg

By John Strege

The top of the pyramid of influence in golf equipment is occupied by PGA Tour players, a preponderance of whom cite fishing as an interest away from golf. That being the case, it will be interesting to see whether a new putter grip material gains traction among them.

Salty Grips are putter grips made from cork, same as handles on fishing rods. "We love to fish and we love to golf," Mark Button said, speaking on behalf of partner Whitfield Flowers and himself, the founders of the company. "It started off as an esthetic thing. A fishing rod is really cool. But it evolved because it makes more sense from a technical standpoint when you realize how light it is and that it seems to provide a lot more feedback. You know when you mis-hit a putt. Rubber can have such a strong dampening effect."

Button said the cork comes from a specific oak grove in Portugal. The grips are sealed with a water-resistant polymer.

"If you are looking for something light where you can feel the weight of the putter head when you make the stroke and get a lot of feedback, ours is 40 grams for the mid-plus and 70 grams for the oversize or jumbo grips," Button said. "Compared to similar-sized grips, these are 25 to 40 percent lighter.

Several putter manufacturers are experimenting with them. Bettinardi Golf, which has a Kuchar model putter designed specifically for Matt Kuchar, offers Salty Grips as an option. Salty, incidentally, is in the process of making an 18-inch prototype grip for Kuchar to try, Button said.

Another feature is that the grips are easily customizable by using laser engraving, in any number, "one, five, 10, 100," Button said. The cost is a $10 up-charge. The grips themselves sell for $34.95 for the mid-plus and $39.95 for the oversize.

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Gear & Equipment

PowerStroke: An ergonomic, mid-taper grip

Macro Golf PowerStroke.jpg

By John Strege

Have those in search of game improvement through better equipment been looking in the wrong place? A retired oral surgeon from Richmond, Va., thinks so.

"I long had an idea that there was something wrong with the wide butt-tapered grips," Dr. Richard Ferris said. They were designed, he said, to counter "the outward club movement resulting from the centrifugal force created during a golf swing," or "the opposite of the ergonomic form required for the consistently efficient wrist/hand/finger actions of the grasping human hands in a golf swing."

Ferris, president of Macro Golf, Inc., consulted with a friend, Dr. Robert Dombrowski, an orthopedic surgeon in Fairfax, Va., who "enlightened me about the way fingers of the hands closed," Ferris said, "and it went from there."

The result is the PowerStroke grip, which features a mid-grip ergonomic reverse taper that promotes "a complete straight wrist with no tension or wrist bowing," he said. The PowerStroke grip "is an ergonomic physiological design element essential to comfort, natural hand control, wrist flex and full hand/arm extension [see below]."

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But does it work? "You could be Moe Norman without having to grip it in your palms," Ferris said. "If Tiger Woods had this grip I don't think he'd ever lose.

"Nick Aquilino has them. He was a patent attorney who spent whole life doing patents on golf, for Adams Golf, Dave Pelz, Guerin Rife and me. He said that this is probably the best patent he ever worked on as far as making a difference. He used to be a scratch player when he was younger. About a year ago, he had fallen to a 10 handicap. I talked to him yesterday. He says he's now playing to about a three. He's almost back."

The grips sell for $10 each, or $8 when four or more are purchased. They are available through the Macro Golf website.

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Gear & Equipment

Garsen Golf and its new take on putter grips

G-Pro Edge.jpg

By John Strege

Have you ever given much thought to what a putter grip might do to improve your putting stroke? Probably not, but Bernerd Garsen has, and he has taken what he learned and started a putter grip company.

Garsen Golf will soon introduce the G-Pro Edge grip that Garsen says can help. The difference in his grip is that the top is an inverted V shape, putting the hands in a neutral position by placing one thumb on each side of the grip. This in turn, he said, pulls the elbows in closer to the body, pushes the shoulders back and removes tension.

"I was an assistant golf pro, and just by working with people and being around golf, I saw that people had a lot of wrist breakdown," Garsen said, explaining why he set out to reinvent the putter grip. "The putter grip hasn't been changed in ages except for size and material. This is a new shape, a new design."

He has been introducing the grips to tour players recently and said two on the Champions Tour put the grips into play last week at the Principal Charity Classic. Moreover, two prominent teaching pros, Mike Bender and Mike Shannon, "are both promoting it," Garsen said.

The grips will come in eight colors and retail for $22.95. Over-sized grips also will become available. "Received the sample of the G-Pro MAX semi jumbo grip. Watch out Super Stroke were going to take over," Garsen Golf's Twitter feed stated. SuperStroke produces the over-sized putter grips that has gained wide acceptance on the PGA Tour.

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