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Gear & Equipment

Whirly Golf's children's chipping set

By Brendan Mohler

If you're looking for a way to get your child involved in the best game on earth, Whirly Golf is a great place to start. The backyard chipping setup (below) comes with nylon balls made of marble powder and fiberglass that fly like normal golf balls up to a distance of 25 feet, more than enough range for a beginner of any age.

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Each castle-like set is complete with nine targets of all different sizes to aim at. It's sturdy enough to receive real golf balls. Even for the best golfers, hitting the small crown that sits atop each castle is no easy task. And the best part? The proceeds for each sale go to charity. The pink sets benefit cancer, the orange sets benefit cerebral palsy and the red, white and blue sets benefit Wounded Warriors.

Related: More new stuff from the 2014 PGA Show

For now, Whirly Golf sets are a prototype, but should be available for sale by this year's Masters. Each set costs $100 and comes with a dozen balls, two each in red, blue, gold, orange, pink and white.

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Gear & Equipment

A swing trainer that straightened Charles Barkley's swing

By Stephen Hennessey

ORLANDO -- When Charles Barkley finished hitting iron approaches after using the Memory Swing -- with a golf swing on plane -- he was in disbelief.

Barkley's swing, with pauses and stutters coming throughout into impact, is tough to watch. But Rocky Bowlby, CEO of the Memory Swing, had him swinging the club normally after two days at Gainey Ranch G.C. in Scottsdale.

"He turned to me and said, 'Is this some sort of trick?' " Bowlby recalled Wednesday at the PGA Merchandise Show. "But it was all his muscle memory. Over many years, he had created a feeling to swing the club a certain way. Our device reprograms your muscles through the neurons in your subconscious."

The Memory Stick comes with an adjustable pole that sticks into the ground, so you can set it up on any flat land, and a bungee cord-type attachment that allows you to clip an iron into.

This is a swing trainer in the truest sense. By swinging the club as it's attached to the device, it forces the club to get into a good position in the backswing, then forces it through impact and into the backswing.

I tried the device. And after seven repetitions with the device, I picked up a regular club and made a perfect swing. As someone whose golf swing is extremely inside-to-out thanks to years playing baseball--still not as ugly as Barkley's swing, but not pretty--it was amazing to feel the club set itself in my backswing on its own.

Bowlby demonstrated the device to several others, who were equally impressed.

"You have to create a feeling for your muscles," Bowlby, a regional world-drive qualifier and Guiness World Record holder for hitting a drive backward (350 yards).

The entire device collapses easily into the ground and is light enough where you could lug in a golf bag. He said they're marketing it to golf instructors and average hacks like myself on an equal level. It's $245 and currently available at MemorySwing.com.

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Gear & Equipment

Here's another golf teaching robot (maybe the machines actually are taking over)

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

ORLANDO -- Yesterday, we came across a robot designed specifically to teach you how to swing a golf club. Today, we came across another robot, one crafted to groove whatever putting and chipping strokes you'd like.

The RoboPutt retails for $25,000 or for $750 a month, if you'd prefer to lease. You can also purchase individual lessons designed by the likes of Dave Pelz and other instructors, each costing around $20. 


Like the RoboGolfPro, it's geared towards courses and academies who can afford the expensive price tag.

"We've been a company for about three years, but mostly in the Research & Development stage," Joseph Sery, the company's CEO, said. "In the last quarter we've brought this to market and it's encouraging...we're hoping this can draw more people into getting quick lessons without a big expense or time commitment."

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Gear & Equipment

This is a robot. It can also teach you how to play golf

ORLANDO -- Beware golfers everywhere. The machines are rising.

The RobroGolfPro is nearly 10-feet tall, and it does pretty much what it sounds like. The club is attached to an arm that extends from the middle of the machine. From there, it moves the club into any position the instructor tells it to. All the student has to do is grip and focus on the feeling.

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"Ideally, someone will do as many repetitions with this as possible, all in different speeds, then go hit a few shots," Scot Nei, RoboGolfPro's CEO, said. "We're trying to get people to ingrain what they're feeling."

At $150,000 a piece, the RoboGolfPro doesn't come cheap. It's more geared towards academies that will integrate it into their teaching philosophy. The Academy at Pebble Beach, for example, last week became the first to install the machine.

You can't hit balls with the RoboGolfPro, but you can swing like Ben Hogan if you want (that swing is programmed into the machine) or Tiger Woods, or even Jim Furyk.

"Eventually, whatever you want the student to feel will gradually leak into their swing," Nei said.


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Gear & Equipment

This tiger print straightjacket thing will probably improve your golf swing

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

ORLANDO -- One day about two years ago, Raymond Rapcavage was so annoyed with his golf swing that his poor sweater didn't stand a chance.

"I was so angry...I put my arms in my sweater and ripped one of the sleeves off," Rapcavage said. "I jammed both by arms in one of the sleeves and almost immediately I started thinking: 'hey, this actually feels kind of good.'"

And thus, the Golf Swing Shirt was born.


blog-swing-shirt-2-480.jpgRelated: Golf Swing Shirt evokes Hogan and his 'Five Lessons'

The concept is pretty simple: It's a cross between a normal shirt and a straightjacket. Once it's on you put your arms through a sleeve which forces them to stay together and connected to your torso -- something a lot of pros work on, because it helps make their golf swing more efficient.

"Tiger, Mahan, Rose -- all these guys are working on this," Rapcavage said. "Dufner's practically the poster boy for this move."

The Swing Shirt retails for $69.95, according to its website, and until this year came in three different options: a black one for the cold, a white one for the heat, and their original yellow one. This year, they're launching another: a Tiger print edition.

"Why not? Everyone wants to swing like Tiger anyway," Rapcavage said.

I took it our for a spin because keeping my arms connected to my body is something I've always worked on, and I must say, however it may have looked, it felt good. The result:

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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

Ground Force Trainer: 'I can guarantee 10 yards'

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By John Strege

When the years begin to slip away, so do the yards, alas. But what would you say if you were guaranteed at least 10 yards by devoting two minutes a day for 30 days to a simple drill on a training aid?

Dr. Jenni Martin, a chiropractor and LPGA professional and Titleist Performance Institute-certified as an instructor and medical professional, is guaranteeing 10 additional yards by using her Ground Force Trainer for the prescribed time period. "It's that effective," she said.

The GFT features square-rotational disks on which the back foot sits. The object is to keep them aligned while taking a backswing. "When you stand on an unstable surface you have to dig in on the inside of the right foot to keep the board from not rotating," Martin said.

The unstable surface helps create the sensation of developing power from "ground force with their trail side leg and gluteal muscles," Martin said in a news release. "The Ground Force Training disks create this instability and causes a specific muscular reaction that mimics, exactly, the sensation and strength necessary to motor learn the proper load in the back swing."

It has the additional benefit, she said, of developing muscles. "One, is the kinesthetic sense, feeling where the top of backswing should be, especially for some who have lost thoracic rotation, and, two, it develops the glutes.

"It's really primarily for people losing their power," she said. "What I have seen is if they do 10, 15 of them a day, holding it to a count of five, taking maybe two minutes, it will motor train them and it corrects a lot of swing faults. If they do it every day for 30 days I can guarantee 10 yards."

That is a money-back guarantee, too, she said. The cost is $119, which includes the rotational disk, a power pole, DVD, lead-leg support foam pad, instruction manual and mesh carry bag.


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Gear & Equipment

Dr. Putt-Good: Introducing the Pill

By Stephen Hennessey

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Feeling sick? Take two and call me when you can get up and down.

If a friend suggests the Pill as a remedy to your short-game woes, don't assume he means you need pharmaceutical help. This unconventional training aid, essentially a golf ball with two sides cut off, forces you to hit the center of the clubface on putts or chip shots. If you don't hit it squarely, the Pill wobbles and won't roll straight.

Paul Nagi, a former high school instructor and teaching pro, invented the Pill ($12.95) by taking a chain saw to a regular golf ball in his garage. He hired a rep to take it out on the PGA Tour, starting last week at the Frys.com Open. Nagi says about 30 PGA Tour golfers have tried the Pill, and he hopes to sign some as official endorsers. More info.

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Gear & Equipment

Clip Job: D-I-Y swing analysis with Swingbyte 2

By Brendan Mohler

swingbyte-2.jpgBuilding on the success of the original Swingbyte -- a portable device that clips to the shaft of any club and sends swing specs to smartphones or tablets -- Swingbyte 2 is designed to make working on your swing even easier. The new version weighs less than an ounce and aligns the centers of gravity of the sensor and the club, making for more stability and more accurate feedback. Along with a more advanced iPad app -- with improved ability to record and compare swings -- the Swingbyte 2 comes with a new alignment aid to help create more precise, dependable swing data. Among the data it records: clubhead speed, swing plane, face angle, loft and lie angles, and a 3-D visual swing-path representation.

At $149, the Swingbyte 2 sensor comes with an account at my.swingbyte.com, along with the free Swingbyte app.

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Gear & Equipment

Perfect Pitch: It begins with the proper setup

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By John Strege

Trouble with your chipping and pitching? See your PGA professional, as they say. But those not inclined to do so, consider this: A good short game starts with the proper setup.

This was the motivation behind a new product, the Perfect Pitch Golf Mat, designed by a PGA of America professional to help with ball and feet position to hit chips, pitches and bunker shots.

"We'll go out to the public range at Westchester Golf Course by LAX and watch people and very few of them are doing it right," Clay Hood, a co-founder of Perfect Pitch and a teaching professional, said. "We checked some stats. There are 27 million golfers and 20 million can't break 90. Most people are not doing it right."

Hood and his business partner Jonah Mytro began sketching out the idea for the Perfect Pitch mat, then went to Home Depot and bought some turf and spray paint to make a rudimentary form of the mat.

The finished product features three colors: the red shows ball and feet position for a chip, white for a pitch, and yellow for a lob or bunker shot.

"My philosophy in teaching golf is that simple is better," said Hood, who was a pro at Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Va., before coming to Los Angeles and starting the company. "We're looking for ways to make it simple."

The Perfect Pitch mat can be purchased via the company's website for $65.00.

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