The Local Knowlege

Gear & Equipment

Upstart Hopkins Golf expands again, this time with new iron set

By Mike Stachura

loop-Hopkins-iron-cavity-300.jpgCan a company whose products are available only online be successful?

Hopkins Golf is making a go of it by trying to be different from its competitors. The company started with multiple-grind custom wedges at "factory-direct" prices and expanded to include golf balls.

Next for Hopkins is the DJ-21 irons, made from heat-treated 8620 carbon steel, featuring an undercut channel in the clubhead cavity. The Web-only distribution model might be new in golf, but the lofts are a throwback. The 47-degree pitching wedge is a degree weaker than clubs like the Mizuno MP-54, Ping S55 and Titleist AP2. At $600, the DJ-21 is also priced lower than any iron set on the 2014 Golf Digest Hot List.

... Read
Irons

Ping G30 iron blends Karsten, i25 irons

G30iron.jpg
By Mike Stachura

There's no question the Ping G-series irons have been the workhorse of the Ping iron family since they were first introduced in 2003. Their main mission statement has been about forgiveness, but in the latest iteration, the G30, the goal has been to provide that kind of forgiveness within a shape that does not get too extreme.

The answer for Ping engineers came by borrowing ideas from two of its current irons, the i25 and the Karsten. While the Karsten is more toward the forgiveness end of the spectrum and the i25 is more geared to better players, each has attributes that work in the G30 chassis, says Ping senior design engineer Marty Jertson. "What we were trying to do is get as much distance and height as we could but do it in a package that's not as jumbo as the Karsten," Jertson said. "We took some stuff from the Karsten in terms of a balanced approach to distance and gapping and getting more height and stopping power, and then we added some of our learning from the i25 and matched a lot of the sole contours and the bounce profiles."

This latter element is a key performance benefit, not a cosmetic question, says Jertson. "We've got just the right contour on the lead edge radius to prevent the initial dig into the ground, and then plenty of angle and camber to keep the club moving forward instead of going downward. If you impact the big ball before the little ball, it still sends the club forward instead of it going down too much."

That's not something that's easily modeled on computers, either. "We've done a little bit of work in modeling the turf in FEA [finite element analysis], but we're kind of on the front end of that," Jertson says. "But turf interaction is a big part of the forgiveness of an iron. It's what makes it different and more challenging than a driver. That's why we really have to do more player testing. You can't rely on robots because a robot doesn't include the ground impact influence on the forgiveness of the iron. The fact is you can have a super forgiving iron design, but if you have a sharp leading edge it won't play forgiving."

Of course the other part of forgiveness comes from increasing an iron's potential for distance and decreasing the negative effects of off-center impacts. The G30 continues the search for ball speed by thinning the face on the 4- through 7-irons, which feature slightly longer blade lengths for increased stability. The company's trademark "custom tuning port" in the back cavity is positioned lower to help increase launch angle. 

"With the modern day golf ball and the way it flies through the air, we need to focus on ballspeed," Jertson says. "And again, with the current ball, ballspeed is pretty big driver of how high the ball will fly, too. It's a large lever of getting more maximum height and a large lever of getting more stopping power."

The effort with G30, Jertson says, is to take "a more calculated approach to strengthen the lofts and the lengths and to get more face bending in those long irons at impact."

Conversely, he says, engineers take a different approach in the shorter irons "to focus more on consistency and control and lowering launch and increasing the spin slightly."

The result is staggered changes through the set (the 4-, 5- and 6-irons are 2 degrees stronger than the G25, the 7-iron is 1.5 degrees stronger, the 8-iron is a degree stronger and the rest of the set's lofts match the G25).  

Jertson says another part of tweaking the design of each iron in the set lies in the area of feel. "If you have a club where the ball speed is hot, but it doesn't have the feel to match it, that's not a good solution for the golfer," he says. "And when we get a little thicker in the face in the short irons, it gets us a little softer, quieter feel as well as move the center of gravity more forward and stabilize the face."

Cast from 17-4 stainless steel, the G30 is available in 4-iron through pitching wedge, as well as UW (50 degrees), SW (54 degrees) and LW (58 degrees). The offset progresses from .29 inches in the 4-iron to .08 inches in the LW. The G30 ($100 per club) is available for pre-order now.

... Read
Gear & Equipment

Medicus expands beyond training aids with its Kick X line of metalwoods and irons

By E. Michael Johnson

Remember the Medicus dual-hinge training aid? You know, the one with the shaft that would become unhinged if you made an incorrect swing? Well, now the company is expanding into traditional clubs with the Kick X line.

loop-medicus-kickx-driver-top-518.jpg

Products include the intriguing Blast Driveway, a 12.5-degree metalwood ($230) designed for use as a driver and fairway wood. The company says the large slots in the crown and sole allow the clubface to compress at impact.

loop-medicus-kickx-bottom-518.jpg

The MA-9 irons ($400, 6-iron through PW) are made of stainless steel and are intended to mimic the feel of a forged club.

loop-medicus-iron-518.jpg

Best of all, the shafts on these clubs don't become unhinged.


Interested in more stories on equipment? Signup to receive Golf Digestix, a weekly digital magazine that offers the latest news, new product introductions and behind-the-scenes looks at all things equipment.

 

... Read
Gear & Equipment

Ben Hogan brand set for return to equipment business

By E. Michael Johnson

It may not be as dramatic a comeback as the one fashioned by the man himself from his near-fatal car accident in 1949, but the Ben Hogan Company is back in the equipment business. A dormant brand for nearly a decade, the Ben Hogan Company is being resurrected with clubs bearing the famed Hogan script scheduled to be return in stores in 2015.

loop-ben-hogan-logo-260.jpgPerry Ellis, which owns the Hogan name, has entered into a licensing agreement with Eidolon Brands, whose president and CEO is Terry Koehler, a former director of marketing for the Ben Hogan Co. Koehler already has assembled a research-and-development department that will be based in Fort Worth, where Hogan clubs were first produced.

In an interview with Golf Digest, Koehler would not give a timetable for when clubs would actually be unveiled but did say irons would be first out of the blocks. "Irons were always the anchor of the Ben Hogan Company," Koehler said. "Mr. Hogan set a pretty high bar for us in terms of quality, hard work and precision so this product will not be driven by a schedule. We have a set of design values and performance values we are pursuing. We are focused on doing it right from tip to tip. As Mr. Hogan would tell you, the grip and shaft are a critical component of it, too."

For Koehler, whose company currently makes the SCOR4161 line of wedges, the chance to reunite with the Hogan brand is personal as well as professional.

"We have a lot of Ben Hogan veterans here, and it's never far from our mind," he said. "My office looks like a Hogan shrine. We believe this has potential to be a very big story because of what the Hogan brand meant to so many people. I've been a 'disciple' of the company all my life. It pained me to resign that position because as a young marketing guy that had been my dream job."

Talks with Perry Ellis started last August when Koehler made what he termed "an inquiry call." Afterward, the dialogue picked up momentum. Koehler admits the original call was "driven by emotion," but the eventual deal was the result of seeing a solid business opportunity. "I believe the Ben Hogan brand still has a strong cachet out there and people will stop and look at what we're doing just because of that," Koehler said.

What they won't see on the irons are some familiar names such as Apex or Edge. Callaway, which purchased the company at auction in September 2003 for $174.4 million, retained the rights to those names as well as some others after selling the Ben Hogan brand to Perry Ellis in 2012. Some, however, transferred over to Perry Ellis and can be used.

"I think there were some great names and if some are available we'll look at them," Koehler said. "We're investigating what those other ones are and whether names such as Director or Producer or Radial still mean something to people."

Whether the irons carry a traditional Hogan name or not, Koehler promises it won't matter. "I can tell you these will be pure Ben Hogan golf clubs," he said. "They will exemplify and deliver on every promise Mr. Hogan ever made."

... Read
Gear & Equipment

Thin is still in, says TaylorMade, as it unveils its new thin-faced SLDR irons

By Mike Stachura

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- It was barely 18 months ago that TaylorMade introduced its first iron to feature a slot in the sole. On Monday, the company unveiled its fourth new iron with a thin opening at the bottom of the club, designed to make the face flex more at impact for higher ballspeed, higher launch and more distance.


loop-taylor-made-sldr-irons-518.jpg

The new SLDR iron ($900 for eight clubs, in stores June 6), which follows the Tour Preferred MC and CB irons as well as the Speedblade iron, aims to improve on the previous models with faster speeds, higher flight and more consistent gapping between irons. The 2-millimeter opening in the SLDR iron, what the company calls the "speed pocket," cuts up behind the thin face in an effort to produce greater ballspeeds, particularly on shots low on the face. The opening, featured specifically in the 3- through 7-irons, is designed to result in a face flexibility that matches the USGA's limit for spring-like effect. But unlike its predecessors, the sole slot is cut all the way through the sole so that it is open from bottom to top of the cavity. (A compliant polymer fills the opening to enhance feel and prevent debris from filling the channel.)

loop-sldr-iron-combo-335.jpgThat technology is built into a chassis that fits in between the game-improvement SpeedBlade look and the better-player-focused Tour Preferred line, similar in size to the company's R11 iron. It's a different technology in a traditional shape, says Bret Wahl, TaylorMade's vice president of research and development for irons.

"Making thin faces in irons had kind of reached their limits," Wahl says. "To go faster, we had to redefine the mechanism and that's what speed pocket was. This cut-through design represents the next step in changing the entire structure of an iron. It's very metalwood-like in how it improves how the face flexes, and it's opened up a lot more options in design."

... Read
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.

loop-datatech-irons-518.jpg

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

... Read
Equipment

Golf Datatech: Iron sales stay positive in March

GDHLSummit.irons1.jpg
By Mike Stachura

The first batch of the March retail reports from golf industry research firm Golf Datatech are out, and while the numbers for golf balls and metalwoods reflect the sluggish start to the traditional golf season across much of the U.S., the numbers for the most expensive single purchase a golfer makes, a set of irons, continue to be strong.

According to the just-released Golf Datatech figures, sales of irons in March at on- and off-course shops were up 9.3 percent in units and 10.5 percent in dollars, compared to March 2013. It's the eighth time in the last nine months that iron sales showed a jump over the previous year's monthly figures. The average selling price (approximately $603 for a set of eight irons) also was slightly higher than a year ago, and was the highest for any month since last May. 

Those positive irons numbers reflect a recent Golf Datatech study of golfer attitudes, showing increased enthusiasm for purchasing irons. One reason for the enthusiasm: It just might be the case that the thin-face, distance technology that has crept down from drivers to fairway woods and hybrids and now irons is beginning to resonate with golfers' purchasing decisions.

Metalwood sales showed a mixed bag as units were slightly up (1.5 percent), but dollars were noticeably down (7.1 percent). Average selling price for a metalwood was off 8.5 percent from last March. Golf ball sales, traditionally tied to rounds played, were down a little over 1 percent compared to last March.


... Read
Gear & Equipment

There's actually plenty inside the hollow design of Tour Edge's CB PROh irons

By Mike Stachura

Everybody likes the idea of a distance iron, until you don't need a distance iron. That's the thinking behind the Tour Edge Exotics CB PROh ($600), which marries hollow, thin-face designs in the middle and long irons with compact, cavity-back short irons.

loop-tour-edge-exotics-cbproh-518.jpg

The 8-iron through pitching wedge are cast of a softer 431 stainless steel for feel and control. The rest of the irons fuse a forged 420 stainless-steel face insert with the 431 body.

The hollow approach is similar to recent iron-like hybrids from Adams, Callaway, Cleveland, Mizuno, Ping and Titleist. The face (only about two millimeters thick) is designed to flex at the USGA limit for springlike effect. The hollow construction promotes a more stable head on off-center strikes. Individual long irons—even an 18-degree 2-iron—can be purchased separately ($100).

Follow @MikeStachura

... Read
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.

... Read
Gear & Equipment

Wilson celebrates its centennial with some vintage swag

By Stephen Hennessey

Drawing on a history that includes ties to legends like Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead, Wilson is marking its 100th anniversary by selling throwback gear.

As a part of the yearlong celebration, Wilson staffers Kevin Streelman (below), Ricky Barnes and Padraig Harrington, among others, are wearing hats with the company's former shield logo. The retro caps ($20) can be purchased with other cool items sporting the historic trademark. They include vintage-looking FG Tour 100 irons, a centennial model of the company's Nexus carry and cart bags ($200), headcovers ($20), golf balls and towels.

Blog-Wilson100-gear.jpg
The brand has been around since 1914, and its tour pros have won 61 majors using the company's irons. For more information go to Wilson.com.



... Read
. Close

Thank you for signing up for the newsletter.

You will receive your first newsletter soon.
Subscribe to Golf Digest

Subscribe today
Golf Digest Perks