The Local Knowlege


Callaway's Big Bertha iron employs driver design

Whether it be thinner, variable thickness faces or lowered centers of gravity, the goal always has been to imbue the new modern iron with the same high-launch, low-spin ballflight capabilities found in modern drivers. Now, Callaway is bringing the thoroughly wood-like technology of a cupface that covers the full, 360-degree perimeter to the latest version of its venerable Big Bertha iron line. 

A cupface, which is also found in Callaway’s latest X2 Hot fairway woods and hybrids, features a face whose perimeter wraps around the topline and sole. By moving the inflexible welded section off the face, the area of the face that has the highest flexibility (the so-called “sweet spot”) can expand. With some faster-faced irons, a special high-strength steel is welded as an insert within the area of the face. On the Big Bertha iron, that weld line circles around the topline and sole to create a more resilient face. 

The key, says Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s senior vice president of research and development, is controlling not just the thickness of the face. 

“With our fairway woods and hybrids, we learned a lot about face cups and how to make the area immediately adjacent to the face so it could take part in the impact to improve the flexibility of the face,” Hocknell says. “That annulus is important to us for making it thin and creating extra ballspeed as a result of extra flexibility.”

The irons are said to produce faster ball speeds through several other aspects. The 17-4 stainless steel uses a special heat treatment process to make it thinner. Also, the internal structure of the head features the lowered, forward weighting found in Callaway’s X2 Hot fairway woods to create lower-spinning higher-launching shots. There’s also a new, iron-specific variable thickness construction on the face design to create more face rebound at impact for both higher ball speeds on center shots and less loss of ball speed on mis-hits. Says Hocknell, “We don’t want to just improve flexibility randomly, we need to control that all over the face.”

Also, in terms of playability and aesthetics, the Big Bertha irons utilize progressively wider soles as the iron lofts get stronger. Also, the blade lengths and  sole widths stay consistent with the game-improvement irons category. 

Callaway also announced today the availability of its new Big Bertha hybrid. The design features an adjustable hosel that can accommodate four distinct lofts in each head (minus-one degree, neutral, plus-one and plus-two degrees) with two loft angles. Featuring a slightly larger profile than the company’s X2 Hot hybrid, the Big Bertha is Callaway’s first adjustable hybrid. It’s available in five lofts (19, 22, 25, 28 and 31 degrees) for $250.

Available Oct. 17, the Big Bertha irons ($1,000 in steel or $1,300 as a combo set with the new adjustable Big Bertha hybrids) employ this 360-degree cupface design throughout the entire set, which runs 3-iron through sand wedge. 

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Gear & Equipment

Mizuno touts thin faces for faster ballspeed in its JPX-850 irons

Forged irons have long been what Mizuno is known for, but its greatest sales success recently has been with flexible-face cast irons.

loop-mizuno-jpx850-cast-iron-518.jpgThe new JPX-850 is the company's next step in pursuing a distance iron in a compact shape. "This is our thinnest multi-thickness iron face ever," says David Llewellyn, Mizuno's golf R&D manager. "But we've also saved weight with the acoustic badge while maintaining our standards for feel."

Other upgrades include thinner pockets inside the topline and sole for better off-center hits.

Like all its new irons, Mizuno offers any custom steel shaft at no extra charge. The JPX-850 retails for $800.

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Gear & Equipment

Lots of technology behind Srixon's 2015 line of metal woods, hybrids and irons

It has been known for some time the focus on golf equipment at Cleveland/Srixon was going to concentrate more on Srixon in 2015 -- and now we know what those products are going to be. Srixon unveiled its club line for next year, and it's an extensive, nearly full-line offering with two drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, a pair of iron sets and a utility iron.


The drivers -- the Z545 and Z745 -- each boast a cup-face construction with a titanium body and high-strength 6-4 titanium face. The face has been thinned in the heel and toe areas to boost ball speed on mis-hits, and the clubs are adjustable for face angle, lie angle and loft (via a 12-way adjustable hosel). The center-of-gravity position is also moveable with the use of three adjustable weights (3, 7 and 11 grams). The primary difference between the two drivers is size. The Z545 is 460cc while the Z745 is 430cc. Both drivers come in lofts of 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5 degrees and come standard with Mitsubishi's Kuro Kage Black HBP 60 shaft.

The company also touts a "Dual Speed Technology." The fancy term translates to a higher balance-point shaft, lighter grip and slightly heavier head. The theory behind it is that even though the head is slightly heavier, by reducing weight in the grip and raising the balance point in the shaft, the club can be swung faster and more efficiently, delivering more speed to the ball. This is similar to what Ping has done in recent years with its G and i series drivers, which have a higher balance-point shaft and heavier head as well. Both drivers sell for $400.

The Z F45 fairway woods (available in 3+-, 3- and 4-woods, $280) feature a similar adjustable hosel and weights as the drivers, along with a HT1770 maraging steel face for added zip. The same material is used for the face of the Z H45 hybrids ($230), which come in 2- 3- and 4-hybrid models. But unlike the drivers and fairway woods, the hybrids do not feature any adjustable elements.

loop-srixon-Z745-6-Iron-300.jpgThe hallmark of the Z 545 and Z 745 irons (both $1,000 for a set of eight, steel shafts) is a tungsten weight placed in the toe area of the 3- through 6-irons, to produce more forgiveness in the harder-to-hit long irons. Both irons are forged from 1020 carbon steel and feature a new sole design that increases the leading bounce and decreases the trailing bounce to enhance turf interaction.

On the face, a double laser-milling pattern (one parallel to the grooves and the other on an angle) is designed to augment spin consistency. The cavity-back Z 545, which is more of a game-improvement club than the muscle-cavity Z 745, has a thinner, stronger steel face to bolster distance.

The same face material as the Z 545 is used on the new Z U45 utility iron (lofts of 18, 20 and 23 degrees). The hollow-construction, iron-like club ($180) has plenty of weight placed low to assist launch.

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Callaway unveils two new better-player options

Callaway routinely prides itself on the strength of its engineering team in designing its latest products. CEO Chip Brewer recently said, “One of the great assets here is the quality of the people and the R&D resources.”

But the company is unveiling two new products today that got a lot of fuel from some folks who technically aren’t on the research and development payroll. Callaway’s new Apex MB irons and Apex UT utility iron were built based on the input and ideas of the company’s staff of tour players.

“This is an exercise in attention to detail,” Alan Hocknell, senior vice president of research and development, said of the Apex MB. “There was a lot of tour player feedback on subtle shaping changes and subtle changes to the sole camber in the way it interacts with the turf.

“We think the effect of that attention to detail really comes through when you actually do get a chance to hit it.”

The Apex MB is forged from 1020 carbon steel and features the wider groove pattern found in the Apex Pro. It’s also designed with a progressive center of gravity height through the set, slightly lower in the longer irons to make them easier to hit and slightly higher as the irons get shorter to control trajectory.

That same tour player influence was seen in the development of the Apex UT driving iron. Callaway drew some attention when it unveiled the X-Utility Prototype two years ago, and the Apex UT offers distinct changes, all based on tour player thoughts. 

“A lot of players use these off the tee and were very interested in ballspeed consistency up and down the face,” Hocknell said. “So we've built a slightly taller face and that face is more robust for ballspeed when you make impact at different locations. Another thing that came back from these players is the club played with a little too much left tendency from these better players, so this is a little more neutral in terms of its center of gravity bias but still with a very low center of gravity.”

The Apex UT (18-, 21- and 24-degree lofts) features a cup face design (where the face slightly wraps around the topline and sole) made of the same Carpenter 455 steel found in Callaway’s X2 Hot fairway woods and hybrids. The hollow body is supported by a wider sole for a lower center of gravity.

The Apex MB ($1,000) and Apex UT ($230) will be in stores Sept. 12.
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Gear & Equipment

The story behind the boron steel in Mizuno's JPX850 Forged irons

Luxury cars use high-strength boron-steel reinforcement beams to improve collision resistance. How tough are these boron steels? Here's a writeup from a journal that provides technical advice for fire departments and EMS rescue teams charged with extricating injured drivers from car crashes: 

"Without a practically brand new hydraulic power cutter, the rescuer might find that they will be unable to cut through any of the areas where the advanced steel is located. Unless your power cutter is new, or within one or two years old, you might not be able to cut the roof off for example or even lay a B-pillar down after a T-bone collision. Older generation power cutters most likely won’t be able to cut this stuff! Your air chisel bits will all break before the boron steel will even make a dent. The teeth on your best demolition quality reciprocating saw blade will quickly be worn off without so much as even scratching the advanced steel.”

Now Mizuno is using a version of these new high-strength steels to make its forged irons produce faster ball speeds.

loop-mizuno-jpx850-iron-518.jpgThe new JPX850 Forged irons ($1,000) feature a boron-infused 1025 carbon steel for a thinner face with a higher springlike effect than any other Mizuno one-piece forged iron. The metal's strength also allows designers to mill a pocket cavity that comes within 1.7 millimeters of the face and 1.5 millimeters of the sole to increase face flexibility.

The combination of the unique material and design saves 26 grams that is redistributed around the perimeter for enhanced stability.

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Gear & Equipment

Mizuno's MP-15 iron is crammed with modern design but still appeals to better players

By E. MIchael Johnson

Mizuno has combined carbon steel and titanium before, in its MP-59 irons. With the launch of its new MP-15 irons, the company builds off that foundation.


Whereas the MP-59 removed 20 grams of weight and replaced them with 11 grams of titanium, the MP-15 removes 38 grams and replaces them with 10 grams of titanium. The result provided designers with 19 grams of discretionary weight.


The club also took elements from the MP-64 iron to produce a compact look to appeal to better players. In fact, Luke Donald gave feedback on the MP-15 during the design stage. The clubs ($1,000 for a set of eight, steel shafts) were shown to tour staff at the British Open and will be available at retail in September.

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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.

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Ping G30 iron blends Karsten, i25 irons

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.

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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.


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.


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.


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

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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."

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