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Equipment

Ping's boosts horsepower on new irons, adds wedges and putters

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Ping has enjoyed much success recently with mid-year product introductions, witnessed by its G30 driver (launched last July) reaching the No. 1 spot in driver sales at on- and off-course shops according to Golf Datatech.
 
The Phoenix-based company is again taking an aggressive approach to a mid-year launch, this time with two new iron lines, and extensions to its Glide wedge series and Cadence TR putter line. The clubs are available for pre-order starting today.
 
With its latest iron offerings Ping is bringing distance to the forefront in two completely distinct categories and for two different player types. First, in the new i irons (Ping is no longer adding a number to its naming convention), the distance emphasis comes in the form of selective shaft length and loft tweaks. Shafts are 1/4-inch longer in the 3- through 9-irons than the i25, and the heads feature 1 degree stronger lofts in the 3- through 8-irons. 

PING_i.jpgDistance, however, is not the sole point of emphasis as Ping’s engineers also spent much time trying to optimize the peak height of each iron as well as boosting the moment of inertia by expanding the perimeter weighting and using tungsten in the toe area of the 3- through 7-irons. The custom tuning port—visible on previous Ping irons—has been hidden in the i irons ($1,080, set of eight, steel), and is now positioned deeper in the cavity and lower with respect to the center of the face to better align with the impact area for better sound and feel.
 
There’s an even more aggressive take with the new game-improvement GMax ($972, set of eight, steel), which replaces the Karsten irons from a couple of years ago. A special heat-treating process has produced a face that is 40-percent stronger than the Karsten iron in the 4- through 8-irons for added ball speed. Lighter swingweights in the 4- through 6-irons also make it easier to square the club at impact. The company’s Core-Eye technology helps allow the face to be 31-percent thinner on the perimeter and helps activate the sole and top rail to produce 1 to 3 mph additional ball speed off the face. Cosmetically, there is an addition of a ferrule for the first time ever on a G-Series iron.
 
Both irons come stock with Ping’s CFS Distance steel shaft, however numerous aftermarket shafts are available at no upcharge.
 
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The extension to the Glide wedges is the addition of the ES wedges. ES stands for Eye Sole, as the clubs utilize a high toe, sole design and tapered hosel inspired by the company’s classic Eye2 wedge. “This hosel promotes less drag force through the sand,” says Erik Henrikson, Ping’s innovation and science fitting manager. “The hosel area is 11 percent less than in previous models and that results in 7 percent less hosel drag that makes it easier to get the club through the sand.”
 
The scooped sole design provides more versatility from a variety of conditons, especially out of the sand, while a moisture-repelling 431 stainless steel clubhead boosts friction. The wedges ($140 each, steel) are available in 56, 58 and 60 degrees.
 
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A pair of additions to Ping’s Cadence TR putter line are the Ketsch Mid (a semi-mallet with a head approximately 30-percent smaller than the original Ketsch) and the Craz-E-R, an update of the company’s popular mallet that boasts a sightline that extends from the top of the face to the rear of the putter for better alignment. Both utilize the company’s variable depth groove insert for more consistent roll across the face.
 
In keeping with the company’s commitment to matching putters to player stroke types, each is available in models designed for straight, slight arc or strong arc stroke types. The company also has incorporated the ability to choose different weights to match tempo. For the Ketsch Mid ($245), there is a choice of a typical or heavy sole plate that can boost the putter weight by 25 grams. On the Craz-E-R ($215), a standard weight face insert or heavier insert (33 grams more) are available. Both putter are available in adjustable length models for an additional $35.

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Equipment

Titleist to offer Spieth's preferred finish on Vokey wedge line

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The style of wedge preferred by Jordan Spieth (and many of the best players in the world) is now available for those who don’t have courtesy cars waiting for them at PGA Tour stops.

Titleist announced today that its Vokey Design SM5 wedges, the most played model on the PGA Tour, will be available in a Raw finish, the finish that is played by the majority of PGA Tour players. 

“On tour, the Raw heads give us the flexibility to grind wedges based on a player’s needs,” said Titleist’s Master Craftsman Bob Vokey. “But guys just love the look of that raw steel. Some players like it even more as it rusts, kind of like a trusty hammer or another tool. These are their scoring tools.”

Spieth, who plays 46-, 52-, 56- and 60-degree Vokey Design SM5 wedges, says he loves “the look and the feel of the raw metal, especially when they start rusting.”

The SM5 Raw finish will be offered in 10 models from with lofts ranging from 54 to 60 degrees and across three different sole grinds (S, M, and K). The offerings include the 56-degree S-grind played by Spieth. Like the original SM5 wedges, the Raw also features deep grooves designed to channel away debris for improved spin.

The SM5 Raw wedges are available through the WedgeWorks program on Vokey.com starting today. The Wedgeworks program includes custom adjustments for grip and shaft, lie and loft angle, as well as personalized stamping of up to six characters. Pricing starts at $180. 

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Wedges

Callaway launches widest wedge line ever this week on tour

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Callaway’s most extensive wedge offering, the new MD3 (or Mack Daddy 3), came about because wedge fitting today isn’t merely about a math problem or a numbers game. Wedge fitting is about getting the right spin for each wedge in your bag—even if that means less spin for certain shots.

The new line debuts at the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour this week. There will be three sole grinds and three different grooves, all in an effort to produce the optimal amount of spin for the type of shot normally played by a particular wedge loft.

For example, the grooves on the lower lofts in the set (46-52) will have a groove in line with the groove typically found in an iron set since these wedges tend to be used in a full-swing mode most often. The grooves in the middle lofts (54-56 degrees) will transition to a more aggressive edge (in line with the groove on the 47-54 degree wedges in the MD2 line). And the highest loft wedges (58-60 degrees) will have the widest grooves with the steepest sidewall. Weight is drilled out of the back of each wedge with a row of four dots. The effect is to slightly raise the center of gravity to better control spin and trajectory.

“The flow of spin really matches up well all the way through your set to where you need the most spin in your lob category,” Cleveland says. “You want as aggressive a groove as you can to wick out as much material when you short-side yourself or get into the rough around the green. But that type of groove is not ideal in your gap wedge. 

“It’s a very thought out line and it really helps you control your spin and trajectory for shots like trying to hit a back pin. You don’t want a 52-degree to a back pin ripping back. ”

The 15 lofts in the MD3 line are spread across three sole grinds: a standard “S” grind aimed at the broadest array of conditions and swing types; a heel-and-toe relief “C” grind aimed at firmer conditions; and a more forgiving wide-sole “W” grind geared to softer conditions and steeper swing types. 

The thinking is that wedge fitting needs to be more subtle than fitting to a particular bounce angle, and that things like the attack angle of your swing, your typical turf and bunker conditions and even the types of shots you hit are more in line with a type of sole grind than a particular bounce angle measurement. The company considered some 48 prototypes before settling on the new designs, involving the input of its tour staff in settling on the new shapes.

Cleveland calls the new “C” grind “a little more generous” than previous Callaway “C” grinds and refers to the “S” grind as “universal,” and simply calls the “W” “really a friendly wedge.”

“We’ve learned a lot from the MD2 and we’ve received extensive input from the tour,” said Callaway wedge guru Roger Cleveland. “We’ve incorporated some of the best ideas from the X Tour and Tour Grind in the MD3 silhouette.”

The MD3 line debuts at retail Sept. 4 in both satin chrome and black finishes ($130).

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Equipment

Mickelson now adds wedge designer to his resume

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Phil Mickelson may be well known for his short-game virtuosity. Witness the holed bunker shot for eagle in Sunday's final round. Turns out, he not only can hit the shots. He helps design the club that hits the shots, too. 

Mickelson's latest famous short game shot came courtesy of Callaway's new Mack Daddy PM Grind wedge, which features a unique shape and groove pattern. 

As it turns out, it wasn’t the grooves of the old Ping Eye 2 L-wedge that Mickelson favored so much, it was the high toe shape that resonated more. It’s why wedge guru Roger Cleveland was inspired to design a Phil-specific model for Callaway’s Mack Daddy line, so Phil-specific that Mickelson’s direct input is everywhere on the new model. 

The higher toe shape on the new PM Grind aims to provide more confidence and surface area for shots played with an extremely open face. Mickelson played a prototype version while finishing 2nd at last year’s PGA Championship, days after being shown it for the first time. That makes two second-place finishes at major championships for the new wedge in Mickelson's bag.

The finished version features grooves that uniquely stretch to the outer edges of the face, a direct result of the Mickelson collaboration. “They make the face look larger and that gives you confidence,” Cleveland says. “That’s what you’re asking that wedge to do. You’ve short-sided yourself so you want to have as much confidence looking down as you can to pull that shot off.”

The extended groove pattern creates what Callaway says is 39 percent more groove area compared to the company’s traditional-shaped wedges. Cleveland originally combined two U-grind soles in the first prototypes. That design along with the high toe shaping added extra mass to the total weight of the head. The team at Callaway drilled out four holes low in the back of the head to better balance the weighting, but one additional benefit of the high toe design is to shift the overall center of gravity a little higher to help improve feel, energy transfer and trajectory control. 

Cleveland says the shape is important because it’s a more efficient design for open-face shots, especially the kind of greenside flop shots Mickelson has made legendary.

“As you open up the face,” Cleveland says, “the contact point is higher on the face. All the extra grooves up there and toward the toe give you confidence that you’re going to get some grab and really good control on the ball.”

The PM Grind retails for $130, and is only available in higher lofts (56, 58, 60, 62 degrees). It is scheduled to be in stores May 15.
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Equipment

TaylorMade: "More accurate method of forming a groove"

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Sometimes in the development of new golf equipment, manufacturing processes dictate development. Investment casting in irons is a case in point. Sometimes, though, materials dictate advances. Titanium and drivers is a perfect example. 

TaylorMade believes both process and materials may usher in a performance advantage in wedges. That’s the thinking behind the company’s new Tour Preferred EF line, the company’s most expansive wedge collection ever.

The EF refers to a process called electroforming. It’s a complicated bit of manufacturing in which a metal face plate, including the fine edges of its grooves and surface roughness, is formed through an electrically charged chemical deposition process. This is different than traditional wedges, which often have the grooves and surface roughness milled into the face through the use of cutting tools.

“This is a more accurate method of forming a groove,” says Clay Long, TaylorMade’s director of product creation for putters and wedges. “It is a legitimate way to get closer to the limits of the specifications than you could get in machining a groove, in terms of mass production. The 50th groove that you cut with a cutter isn’t the same as the first groove you cut because things wear as you go. So you have to build those tolerances in to your specification when you’re machining a groove so you don’t go over the limit.

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“In this case, you’re cutting the master one time to very close tolerances. Then this process is a plating process. So there’s no wear involved. The groove plate that comes off the master is incredibly accurate and well-formed, a much more repeatable process so you can push the limits on the edge radius.”

What also makes the Tour Preferred EF different is the use of a nickel-cobalt alloy on the face plate. Long says this alloy measures much harder than typical steels used in cast or forged wedges. 

“It won’t hardly wear, “ he says. “The plate is hard as nails. I’m sure that the decay of spin over the number of times hit and number of times in the sand bunker will show a significant difference.”

That’s not only a value proposition for consumers, Long says. It also might breed more short-game consistency, too.

“You really have to work to break a wedge in and you really get to learn your wedges over time,” he says. “Once you do that, you don’t like to change. Even for new grooves you don’t like to. So I think this gives them a little edge in their short game that they won’t have to change that much.”

That's important because wear makes a groove, particularly the edge radius, less effective. And Long says grooves today, even the groove on last year's Tour Preferred, are better than they've been since the groove rule was established by the USGA beginning in 2010. In fact, they are now about the same in certain conditions. The new process and material means that design is more precisely manufactured, and more consistently maintained.

"We’re pretty close to where we were from a dry lie for sure. From a dry lie, we’re at parity," Long says, comparing performance of grooves now to those before the rule went into effect. "From a wet, grassy lie, we've got maybe not quite as much spin. Certainly from a fairway shot we’re as good as we ever were."

The face plate is ultra-thin at .25 millimeters and its backed by a resin and surrounded by a forged 1025 carbon body that’s designed to maintain a soft feel. 

The Tour Preferred EF is available in two sole shapes, a heel grind with progressive camber on the Tour model and the beveled-sole design of the ATV. There are 11 loft-bounce combinations on the Tour grind (47-62 degrees) and five on the ATV (52-60). Both models are expected to be in stores by Friday ($160).
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Equipment

Ping boosts G30's long game, adds new short-game clubs, too

PING_Cadence_Anser2.jpgAnser2_Heavy.jpgPing enjoyed plenty of success on the professional tours and in the marketplace with long game clubs like the G30 driver this fall, but it's starting the new year off with a focus on where golfers spend the majority of their strokes: the short game. While there will be a line extension to the G30 driver family with the new G30 LS Tec, it's the Glide wedges and Cadence TR putters that are the big splash.

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Glide wedges
The groove rollback’s greatest effect may have been in inspiring equipment companies to rethink every possibility when it comes to generating more spin. The latest example might be Ping’s new Glide wedges, which feature a new chrome-plated finish to improve spin potential. According to Ping engineers, the finish increases the metal’s hydrophobicity, or a substance’s tendency to repel water. A more hydrophobic wedge face is going to provide cleaner contact in wetter conditions like the rough and dew-covered fairways, and the Glide’s chrome-plated finish tests out as more hydrophobic than the dark blast finish of last year’s Tour wedges. The Glide ($130, 13 lofts, three sole options) also matches groove edges and angles to each loft to improve full-shot spin on the lower lofts and chip and pitch shot spin on the higher lofts. The new Dylawedge grip is three-quarters of an inch longer to make it easier for players to comfortably choke down on the grip on partial shots.

On the PGA Tour, Bubba Waston, Hunter Mahan and Billy Horschel have put the Glide wedges in their bags.

Cadence TR putters
With the growing enthusiasm for counterbalanced putters, it’s becoming clear that weight is a solution for balky strokes. But while the extreme weight of a counterbalanced putter may help the shakiest of moves, Ping is suggesting that finding the right weight is a real key in putter fitting for all strokes. 

To that end, it’s rolling out the new Cadence TR line of putters, which give golfers the choice of two standard head weights. Ping engineers have studied data from thousands of putting strokes submitted through its iPing putting app and determined that there are two main stroke tempos. Quicker tempos benefit from a standard to lighter head weight, while slower moves produce better results with a heavier head weight. 

Each of seven models in the Cadence TR line feature two heads (there’s also an eighth model that’s counterbalanced). The standard weight models (340-355 grams) generally feature an aluminum insert, while the heavier heads (365-388 grams) use steel inserts for a 25-33-gram difference in the two heads. 

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Each also features a revised version of Ping’s TR groove pattern on the face. The new faces feature not only variable depth grooves as previously, but now add variable width to improve initial ballspeed compared to the Scottsdale TR groove. The putters are available for pre-order this week and will be in stores next month, starting at around $170. Already Mahan (Anser 2) and Angel Cabrera (the counterbalanced Anser 2 CB) have put the putters in play at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

G30 LS Tec
The new G30 driver, the LS Tec ($350), is aimed at higher-speed players looking for an even lower-spinning option. 

The driver features the same turbulator crown elements to improve aerodynamic efficiency, as well as a similar emphasis on high moment of inertia for stability on off-center hits. 

Ping engineers say the LS Tec's center of gravity is slightly forward of the standard G30 to produce less spin. It will be offered in 9- and 10.5-degree lofts, each with an adjustable hosel that can tweak loft by plus/minus 1 degree.

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Gear & Equipment

This line of Bettinardi wedges was 15 years in the making

If you've toured Bettinardi Golf's headquarters in Tinley Park, Ill., you've seen the assortment of putters, the nifty fitting studio and maybe even the collection of one-of-a-kind flat sticks in Robert J. Bettinardi's office. But you might not have seen the racks of wedges tucked in a back corner.

loop-bettinardi-wedges-518.jpgAfter more than 15 years of tinkering, the veteran puttermaker is branching into the wedge market. The H2 -- named for the high helix cutting tool used in the CNC machines that create the wedges' milled faces -- features a 1020 forged carbon-steel construction.

The wedges will be available next month in five loft/bounce combinations and two finishes (satin nickel, $180; cashmere bronze, $195). The "C-grind" sole pattern is designed to keep the leading edge closer to the ground through the hitting area while adding improved playability for a variety of short-game shots.

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Gear & Equipment

Mizuno has 'lofty' ambitions with its new MP-T5 wedges

Despite the USGA's rollback on groove performance, we've seen there's more to wedge technology than how deep and sharp the scorelines are cut. One company that has continually made advancements is Mizuno, which first introduced the idea of varying groove geometry to match performance requirements of specific lofts.

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Its latest offering, the MP-T5 ($130), takes this thinking to its extreme. Through its custom program there are 25 options, including at least one bounce for every loft from 49 to 62 degrees. Mizuno also offers five sole grinds matched specifically to subsets of those lofts and two finishes (white satin and black ion).loop-mizuno-mpt5-wedges-Black-518.jpg

The MP-T5 features the company's carbon-steel forging, and the groove design is again loft-specific: narrower and deeper on the lower lofts to improve full-shot spin and wider and shallower on the higher lofts for better partial-shot spin.

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Gear & Equipment

Particular about your wedges? Cleveland Golf's new 588 Rotex 2.0 line is worth a look

Ask tour pros what they want from a wedge, and versatility is sure to be one of their answers. It happened when Cleveland tested its new 588 Rotex 2.0 wedges with the likes of Keegan Bradley and Graeme McDowell.

Offering options in lofts, sole grinds, bounce, head shapes and finishes is key, and Cleveland's line appears to have checked all of those boxes. Boasting blade and cavity-back models, the 588 Rotex 2.0 ($130) comes in lofts from 46 to 64 degrees in 2-degree increments and three bounce options for a total of 120 possible choices.

The blade is available in two finishes: tour satin and black satin.

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The main improvement over its predecessor comes from its face technology; the club's grooves are 8 percent deeper, and a new micro-milled face pattern enhances surface roughness for greater spin.



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Equipment

Cleveland's tour-only wedges now for sale

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By Mike Stachura

In this era of widely available high-tech custom fitting, personalized accents on nearly every club in the bag and even drivers that can be built to colors matching your favorite football team, it is increasingly easy to experience what it's like to be a tour player. Now, Cleveland Golf is offering not merely the opportunity to be treated like a tour player, they're literally selling special versions of their wedges originally made only to be used by tour players. 

Certainly "tour-only" products have been available in select ways and on ebay for years, but Cleveland is making a specific effort with its new Tour Rack wedges to offer exclusive limited editions of its wedges that were made only for tour players' use. According to the company, these clubs previously never would have been available to the general public, but were set aside literally on a rack at the company's headquarters in Huntington Beach, Ca. (Having seen the boxes of heads before myself, I believe the expression "kid in a candy store" would be a fair assessment.) As Cleveland's Keith Patterson says, "These are wedges we allow our Tour guys access to, and if they love it, it goes in their bags." 

The company expects there likely will be a few different models of these wedges introduced periodically, but for now they will remain in limited edition (just 300 have been made) and only sold at highly selective locations, not on the company's website (call 800-999-6263 for participating shops). The Tour Rack Limited Edition No. 38 ($250) will be available in 56- and 60-degree models.

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