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Equipment

Cleveland's latest take on the might of light

CG_BLACK_DRIVER3.jpgAt the elite level, it seems golf is increasingly becoming a power game. That’s all well and good when you have plenty of power to burn. For average golfers, though, power often isn’t so easy to come by. In fact, Cleveland Golf estimates that average golfers, particularly seniors and recreational players, may have swing speeds 15 or more miles per hour slower than the average on the PGA Tour (113 miles per hour).

One solution that’s been offered successfully in Japan for years is clubs with lighter than traditional overall weights. Most notable has been the XXIO brand of drivers launched by Dunlop Sports, which repeatedly have been that country’s top seller, pushing well below 290 grams in total weight. That’s a good 10 percent below the weight of many typical drivers played in the U.S. 

Cleveland, whose parent company is Dunlop Sports, has been developing lighter overall weight golf clubs since the beginning of this decade with clubs like the original CG Black, a driver introduced in 2011 that weighed just 265 grams or about 60 grams lighter than some of the leading drivers in the game at the time. Now comes the new family of CG Black metalwoods and irons, all aimed at average golfers and all featuring an ultralight platform. It’s what Cleveland’s engineers call an emphasis on “increasing the average golfer’s ease of swing.”

Says Jeff Brunski, director of research and development at Cleveland Golf/Srixon, “We looked at the typical average golfer’s swing and ball-flight inefficiencies, and targeted our technologies specifically geared toward them.” 

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The new CG Black driver weighs five grams less than its predecessor, is the lightest driver on the market from a major company and features the concept of lower “swing MOI.” This refers to the moment of inertia of the entire club from head to the butt of the shaft. Instead of a measurement of how stable the club head is on an off-center hit, swing MOI is a theory having to do with how little resistance a particular club might have to being moved. For example, a sledgehammer might have a high swing MOI in that it requires more force to move it faster, but a 260-gram driver like the new CG Black might have a lower swing MOI, making it easier for those less skilled or strong to manipulate it. The concept of swing MOI was also front and center with the recent introduction by Wilson of its adjustable D200 SuperLight driver, which weighs just 268 grams. 

The new CG Black ($350; 9, 10.5 and 12 degrees), which is not adjustable, features the lowest swing MOI of any 460cc driver in company history, and includes a Golf Pride Tour 25 grip that is less than half the weight (25 grams) of a typical rubber grip. 

The CG Black line also includes a sub-300-gram family of fairway woods ($200; 15, 16.5, 18, 20, 23 degrees), which features a 24 percent lighter face that allows the weight to be distributed for higher clubhead stability at a lower total weight. The CG Black hybrids also are about 25 grams lighter than typical hybrids and come in a range of five lofts ($170; 17, 19, 21, 23 and 25 degrees). 

Rounding out the new CG Black line is a mixed set of irons ($700) that includes hollow hybrid-like long irons with 1770 high-strength steel faces, two-piece middle irons with a high-strength steel face insert and traditional one-piece cavity back short irons. It features a center of gravity slightly farther back and lower than last year’s super game-improvement 588 Altitude irons.  

The full line of CG Black clubs is scheduled to arrive in stores next week.
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Equipment

TaylorMade's new irons have slots--on the face

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Right away, the new RSi family of irons from TaylorMade look different. With vertical slots framing the hitting area of the face, TaylorMade is suggesting the thinking about iron design needs to change.

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“Gone are the days in irons when you worry about just moving the center of gravity or raising the moment of inertia five percent,” says Bret Wahl, vice president of R&D for irons at TaylorMade. “There are a lot of other complex variables that you’re considering, and they all factor in getting faster ball speeds across the face of an iron.” 

What Wahl is talking about, and what he and his team at TaylorMade have been talking about since the early days of the r7 CGB Max irons nearly a decade ago, is the idea of creating an iron face that flexes at impact the way a driver does. Specifically, it’s about creating a larger area of the face that’s “unsupported.” 

To that end, it’s not just about building a deeper or larger cavity, Wahl says. Instead, it’s using a cut-through opening in the sole and now similar openings on the heel and toe side of the face in an effort to make it flex more not just on center shots but on mis-hits. TaylorMade says their research shows 78 percent of iron-shot impacts occur low on the face (heel and toe) and 61 percent are towards the toe (both low and high).

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To combat these mis-hits, TaylorMade built the RSi line with face slots in the 3- through 8-iron and sole slots in the 3- through 7-iron. Each opening is cut fully through the iron, and each slot is filled with compounds designed to allow the metal to flex. 

The RSi line (available for demo today, for purchase Nov. 14) includes RSi 1 (a game-improvement iron designed as TaylorMade’s longest iron); RSi 2 (an iron shaped like a cavity-back players iron but with enhanced distance capability); and RSi TP (the most compact iron, but still featuring a cavity back and face and sole slot technologies). 

RSi 1 ($800) features the thinnest face ever on a TaylorMade iron, just 1.5 millimeters thick at the extremes. It has the widest sole and the deepest undercut cavity of the three new irons, but like each it features TaylorMade’s proprietary variable face thickness design known as “inverted cone”.

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The more compact RSi 2 ($900) is cast of a high-strength steel alloy (Carpenter 450) in the 3- through 7-irons, while the short irons feature forged faces and the gap wedge is forged entirely. The 3- through 5-irons also utilize tungsten in the toe to lower the center of gravity for help in launching shots higher. 

The RSi TP ($1,200, available Jan. 15) mixes one-piece forged short irons with a two-piece design in the 3- through 7-irons. The two-piece middle and long irons use a forged 1025 carbon steel face and neck that is plasma welded to a 431 stainless steel piece that forms the back cavity and sole slot. 

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Gear & Equipment

Srixon took a material made for car engines to strengthed the face of its new irons

loop-srixon-Z545-6-Iron-350.jpgEven with irons, it's rare to find a player who isn't looking for distance. Of course, that often has meant giving up a classic, compact forged iron to find extra length. But recent introductions from Mizuno, Nike, Callaway and TaylorMade, among others, have paired a high-strength-steel face insert with a compact stainless-steel body to help boost distance.

Srixon is joining the game with its Z 545, which has a face insert made of a SUP10 steel, a material developed for automobile engines that's 10-percent stronger than traditional 17-4 steel.

The long and middle irons also make use of tungsten in the toe to position the center of gravity more in line with the center of the face.

The Z 545 ($1,000) will be available in November.

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Equipment

Wilson Staff pushing lightweight limits

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The theory about making clubs lighter is less weight should make the club easier to swing faster. But it’s not that simple. “Lightweight is fairly easy to do,” says Michael Vrska, director of innovation for golf clubs at Wilson Staff. “The key is to how you use the limited available mass.” 

Still, the company is pushing the limits of lighter weight. Fueled by ultralight shafts and grips and an adjustable driver head that is the lightest in the industry, Wilson unveiled its D200 line of woods and irons this week by talking about how to make lightweight clubs work for more golfers. The D200 line includes a driver with a total weight less than 270 grams, fairway woods and hybrids that use 49- and 54-gram shafts and a superlight super game-improvement iron that redistributes 48 grams to the heel and toe to improve stability on off-center hits.

Vrska says the most important aspect of the company’s new D200 driver is not just its lighter overall weight-just 268 grams-but something called club moment of inertia. While the MOI most golfers think of has to do with how stable the club is on an off-center hit (higher is generally better), the thinking on club MOI is just the opposite. Club MOI has to do with how resistant an object is to some force causing it to move (like say a golfer trying to swing it). A lower club MOI, theoretically, might mean a club is easier to swing faster. Vrska says the club MOI on the D200 is the lowest on the market. The D200, which also features a thinner, webbed, variable thickness crown through the use of a chemical etching process, also is the lightest adjustable driver in the game with a head weight of just 189 grams or about 15 grams lighter than most adjustable driver heads today. Each of the three lofts (9, 10.5, 13; $300) can be adjusted up or down one degree, and put in a draw setting.

The face size on the D200 also has been increased by 9 percent and redesigned compared to the D100. The thickness of the lower perimeter of the face has been decreased by 12 percent to further improve face deflection on off-center hits. 

Also fueling the lightweight design is a special 25-gram Golf Pride grip and a 44-gram UST Mamiya Elements Chrome shaft. 

The line includes fairway woods and hybrids with Carpenter 455 steel face inserts. Vrska says the high-strength Carpenter 455 is able to made 20 percent thinner than traditional 17-4 steel and 13 percent thinner than some Chines steels labeled “455.” The thinner face helps create the highest spring-like effect readings for Wilson’s fairway woods and hybrids in its history. Both the fairway woods and hybrids have extended low heel and toe regions for a 5 percent larger face area. The fairway woods (15, 18, 21 degrees; $250) use a 49-gram UST Mamiya Elements Chrome shaft, while the hybrids (17, 19, 212, 25, 28, 31 degrees; $180) feature a 54-gram version. Both use the 25-gram Golf Pride grip found on the driver.


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The D200 irons continue the lightweight theme, but while the saved weight is repositioned in the heel and toe, it’s how the weight is saved in the head that is especially interesting. The design features extending the same thickness of the already thin face around the leading edge and into the front part of the sole. The sole is thinnest on the longer irons and the weight is moved farther back in the cavity. As the lofts progress higher, the face-to-sole transition area isn’t as thin and the weight moves forward to control trajectory and feel. The saved weight, almost 50 percent of the club’s total mass in the 4-iron, is repositioned to the heel and toe to lower the center of gravity and to raise the head’s MOI by 9 percent, compared to the D100.

The D200 irons ($600 steel, $700 graphite) come with an 85-gram steel option and a 59-gram UST Mamiya Elements Chrome graphite option. 

All of Wilson’s D200 clubs will be in stores Jan. 16.
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Equipment

Callaway's Big Bertha iron employs driver design

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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. 

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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.

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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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Equipment

Callaway unveils two new better-player options

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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