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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

Forgiveness is key in design of Callaway's new Edge hybrid-iron set

By Mike Stachura

In Callaway's Edge hybrid-iron set, forgiveness takes many forms.

The company touts the Edge as its most stable iron, but the design didn't just strive to make mis-hits better, says Evan Gibbs, senior manager of product performance. It also tries to help golfers improve in spite of themselves.

"These players don't have consistent swings, so you want a little more offset and a wider sole that's going to give them more forgiving turf interaction," he says.

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Those features, with lofts that are 1 to 2 degrees higher than Callaway's X2 Hot irons, can help get the ball in the air. "For higher-handicap players, it's less about controlling spin and more about getting those launch angles high," Gibbs says.

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In stores Friday ($700 in steel, $800 in graphite), the set has three hybrids (4H-6H) and five hollow-cavity irons.


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Gear & Equipment

Adams' Pro adds to the shape debate in hybrids

By Mike Stachura

The trend in hybrids has been toward looking like smaller fairway woods instead of iron-replacement clubs. Adams, which has been at the forefront of the hybrid movement, is trying to shift the clubs back to their traditional, more compact size.

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The Adams Pro, which checks in at 95 cubic centimeters, is more than 25 percent smaller than last year's Adams Super S. "We think the smaller size inspires confidence and makes the club more versatile," says Justin Honea, senior director of R&D, on the company's approach to bridging the gap between irons and fairway woods.

Designed with a shape based on tour-player input but with average-player forgiveness in mind, the Pro ($200) features a high-strength Carpenter 455 steel face to enhance ball speed. Thin slots stretch across the crown and sole--the latter has a cut-through opening--to improve face deflection.

Available in 16, 18, 20, 23 and 26 degrees, the Pro also uses a more "upside down" iron-like face profile for a larger hitting area.


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Gear & Equipment

Have hybrids lost their luster?

hybrid-luster.jpgBy E. Michael Johnson

It took awhile for consumers to latch on to hybrids, but once they did, the movement was swift and substantial. During the past five years, hybrid sales have often accounted for 30 percent or more of the metalwood market. However, Golf Datatech's February sales report (the latest available) reveals that hybrid sales comprised just 24 percent of the metalwood market.

Is the trend reversing?Probably not. Craig Zimmerman, general manager of RedTail Golf Center in Beaverton, Ore., says that more clubmakers are integrating hybrids into "combo" iron sets.

Some of these sets have two or three hybrids included," he says. "So although fewer individual hybrids are being sold, the total number is likely the same. These are still extremely helpful clubs for a large number of golfers."



[Illustration by Eddie Guy]

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Gear & Equipment

Out With The Old: Last-minute equipment tweaks common, even at majors

By E. Michael Johnson

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Draw it up: Tianlang Guan played two new fairway woods. Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

You might think players would be reluctant to make equipment changes at the year's first major. But the challenges of Augusta National (the need for a right-to-left tee shot, firmer-than-normal turf, greens that are more receptive to higher shots) had several players making changes or tweaks.

Adam Scott had a new driver, changing from Titleist's 910D3 driver to the newer 913D3. Scott kept the same specs, including 9.5 degrees of loft and a Graphite Design Tour AD DI-8X shaft.

Lee Westwood recently tried a Ping Scottsdale TR Anser B putter, 38 inches long. For the Masters, Westwood was back with the TR Scottsdale Shea he'd been using, at a conventional 35 inches.

Tianlang Guan [above], 14, tested a Callaway X Hot 3-wood and 4-wood in Augusta before the tournament. The 3-wood was 43 inches with 14.1 degrees of loft. The 4-wood was 42 inches with 17.1 degrees of loft. Guan liked that he could draw the clubs, so he putt hem in his bag

Tiger Woods added a Nike VR_S Covert 3-wood, preferring the way he could turn the ball right to left with it.


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Gear & Equipment

The Second Driver: Callaway's new 3-wood

By E. Michael Johnson

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Tee it up: The X Hot 3Deep clubface is 10-percent taller than the X Hot.

If 60 is the new 40, then 3-wood is the new driver. Or at least it's the second driver. That's one reason Callaway released the X Hot 3Deep fairway wood -- a supersize version of its X Hot line -- to its tour staff. The impetus was Callaway staff player Phil Mickelson's desire for a fairway wood that is long enough to use as a second driver but playable off the ground. The face on the X Hot 3Deep is 10-percent taller than the X Hot, so the center of gravity is slightly higher and more in line with the impact area on tee shots, leading to more ball speed. Look for Mickelson to have the club in his bag this week and at the Masters.

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Gear & Equipment

Video: Previewing the Golf Digest Equipment Insider on NBC

By Mike Stachura

You can watch a pro golf tournament on television multiple times a day every weekend of the year, but only once a year will you see an hour of network golf coverage devoted to the stuff that really matters to average golfers: the hottest gear in the game. That hour comes this Sunday when Golf Digest and NBC Sports combine for the fifth annual edition of the Golf Digest Equipment Insider, a tour through the game's latest technologies in clubs, balls and fashion.

Related: Check out Golf Digest's 2013 Hot List

The show will be hosted by Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" co-stars Holly Sonders and Gary Williams, and will feature insight from Golf Digest Senior Editor for Equipment Mike Stachura; Golf World Senior Editor E. Michael Johnson and Golf Digest Fashion Director Marty "Mr. Style" Hackel.

The Golf Digest Equipment Insider will feature segments on every equipment category in the bag from drivers to putters, as well as a special segment on club-fitting and a closer look at the problem of counterfeit clubs. Throughout the show the leading experts in equipment technology at all of golf's top manufacturers will offer their perspective of how modern innovation is making the possibility for improvement not only commonplace for the top players in the world, but for average golfers, too.

The show will air at 1:00 p.m. ET, prior to Golf Central Pre-Game and the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here's a sneak peek.

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Gear & Equipment

Cobra debuts AMP Cell metal woods

By E Michael Johnson

Cobra's new line of AMP Cell metalwoods will be noticeable for its array of colorful choices (Silver, Directoire Blue, Barbados Red and Vibrant Orange) but that shouldn't overshadow the technology housed inside and around the flamboyant clubheads. 

The drivers feature what Cobra is calling MyFly technology, which allows golfers to select from six different loft/trajectory settings--the theory being that golfers will alter the loft on their driver throughout the season based to adapt to their swing or course/weather conditions. 

The 460cc AMP Cell driver ($299) can be adjusted to the following lofts: 8.5 degrees, 9.5 degrees, 9.5 degrees with a draw bias, 10.5 degrees, 10.5 degrees with a draw bias and 11.5 degrees. The 440cc AMP Cell Pro version ($399) can be adjusted to 7.5, 8.5, 8.5 with a fade bias, 9.5, 9.5 with a fade bias and 10.5 degree. An offset model ($249) also is available.

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The real meat of the club, however, rests in Cobra's face technology which utilizes an elliptical face shape that is 12-percent larger than its Cobra AMP predecessor with a canted bulge and roll that aids distance and accuracy on mis-hits from heel to toe and above and below the centerline. Further, the Cell technology saves and redistributes weight to optimize the center of gravity position.

The AMP Cell fairway woods use much of the same technologies (and same colors) and are available in a 3-4 wood model (13 to 16 degrees with two draw settings) and a 5-7 wood (17 to 20 degrees with two draw settings) that can be adjusted into eight different lofts. The hybrids are available in 2-3 (16 to 19 degrees, two draw options), 3-4 (19 to 22 degrees, two draw options) and 4-5 (22 to 25 degrees, two draw options) models that can be adjusted into 10 different lofts, providing golfers the ability to dial in distance gaps. The fairway woods will sell for $219 with the hybrids selling for $199.

The drivers, fairway woods and hybrids all will be available at retail in February, 2013.

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Gear & Equipment

TaylorMade reaches agreement to buy Adams Golf

Ever since Adams Golf announced on Jan. 4, 2012 that it was "examining strategic alternatives," there has been speculation about what would happen to the brand. In the interim, rumors that TaylorMade was interested in acquiring Adams circulated. Those rumors became reality Monday morning as TaylorMade announced it had reached an agreement to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Adams Golf for $10.80 per share in cash, or roughly $70 million. According to a statement from TaylorMade, it will maintain Adams' headquarters in Plano, Texas.
 
"This acquisition reflects our commitment to continued growth in the golf category," said Herbert Hainer, CEO of adidas Group, TaylorMade's parent company. "The proposed combination of Adams Golf and TaylorMade-adidas Golf brings together two highly complementary sets of brands, combining Adams' focus on game-improvement as well as senior and women golfers with TaylorMade-adidas Golf's focus on the younger and the low-to-mid handicap golfer."

The acquisition by TaylorMade caps a whirlwind few weeks for Adams, which posted sales of $96.5 million in 2011. CEO Chip Brewer left Adams for Callaway Golf on Feb. 28 with company founder Barney Adams taking over as interim CEO.

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Gear & Equipment

TaylorMade debuts RocketBallz, R11-S lines of clubs

The follow-up to TaylorMade's highly successful white R11 and Burner SuperFast woods was officially unveiled today by TaylorMade and the name of the product line is certain to raise a few eyebrows: RocketBallz.

Although the moniker (originally conceived by the R&D team when they wrote the name on a prototype after gathering some impressive test data) is different, the technology goals of the clubs remain true to TaylorMade's focus on creating speed for golfers. Specifically, the fairway woods and hybrids each boast a slot in the sole designed to enhance the flexibility of the head and face.

The clubs (which boast a slightly deeper face) are cast from stainless steel and feature a web-like crown structure that gets as thin as 0.4 millimeters. The weight saved from the crown is then used to create a center of gravity position that is low and forward to create a faster ball speed with low spin.

To illustrate the club's performance, TaylorMade has provided a video of Dustin Johnson testing the RocketBallz fairway wood, complete with ProTracer graphics:


Dr. Benoit Vincent, TaylorMade's chief technical officer, explained the slot was positioned in the sole because it is an area that is normally not very flexible due to the amount of weight positioned there. The other benefit, he said, is that golfers tend to make contact with fairway woods and hybrids low on the face. Placing the slot in the sole adds speed to those shots.

Lofts on the fairway wood (street price: $230) are 15, 17, 19, 21, 21 and 24 degrees while the hybrid (street price: $160) comes in 19, 22, 25 and 28 degrees. A Tour version of the hybrid is available in 16.5, 18.5, 21,5 and 24.5 degrees. 

Although the fairway wood and hybrid are non-adjustable, the RocketBallz driver has an adjustable hosel with eight loft/lie angle settings, making it an attractive proposition at the $300 price point. The driver does not feature the slot technology (drivers have larger, springier faces that are already close to the USGA limit on flexibility and therefore a slot is not needed), 

The club also continues TaylorMade's work in the area of lightweight clubs (299 grams overall including a 50-gram Matrix Ozik XCON 5 shaft) with thin crowns and inverted cone technology in the face. The shaft, at 46 inches slightly shorter than the Burner SuperFast 2.0, is still long enough to help boost swing speed.

Two versions of the driver are available. The standard model features a larger appearance at address with a standard face height and a slight draw bias while the tour model appears slightly smaller with a deeper face and a neutral face angle. Lofts are 9, 10.5 and 13 degrees on the standard model and 9 and 10.5 degrees on RocketBallz Tour. 

Although the RocketBallz woods serve as the headliners, TaylorMade unveiled several other notable products. Rounding out the RocketBallz line are two irons models -- RocketBallz and RocketBallz Max.

The game-improvement RocketBallz set features 3-, 4- and 5-irons that are made from a high-strength steel alloy and feature a hollow construction to optimize distance. The large face is as thin as 1.8 millimeters in some areas to boost the springlike effect. The clubs (which come with 85-gram steel shafts as well as the ability to bend the hosel for lie and loft adjustments) cost $700 for a set of eight.

Those seeking distance in irons may gravitate to the RocketBallz Max iron set ($1,400). The strong-lofted irons use tungsten weights that are located inside the hollow areas of the sole (primarily in the heel and toe areas) to improve forgiveness. Designers also stiffened the clubface in the toe area to help promote a slight draw bias.

TaylorMade also followed up its R11 driver with the R11-S. The 460cc club ($400, two lofts: 9 and 10.5 degrees) have the same three areas of adjustability however the soleplate now offers five positions. In all the club boasts 80 combinations -- that's 32 more than last year's R11 that cover a range of 3 degrees of loft, 6 degrees of face angle and four millimeters of CG movement.

The R11-S fairway woods come in five lofts (14, 15.5, 17, 19, 22 degrees) and feature a thin crown that saves weight that is used to move the center of gravity forward in an effort to reduce spin and provide more ball speed. The club ($250) has an adjustable hosel and rotating soleplate provide 24 options. All RocketBallz and R11-S clubs will be available at retail Feb. 1. 

-- E. Michael Johnson
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