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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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Gear & Equipment

Vokey's SM5 wedge line turns blue

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By Mike Stachura

Increasingly in today's equipment landscape what used to be thought of as special and reserved only for elite players and extreme gearheads is now nearly as accessible as a polo shirt with an Augusta National logo. In short, if it's desired, everyone will be able to get it. 

Case in point is Thursday's announcement that Titleist will begin offering a new Limited Edition Vokey Spin Milled 5 Indigo wedge. The line extension incorporates the design technology of the SM5 line in a blue PVD finish that previously was only available through the Vokey Wedgeworks site and only in the 400 series Vokey wedges. 

"People went crazy for them," veteran Titleist wedge designer Bob Vokey said. "We took them to the PGA Show this year and everyone was gravitating towards the Indigo finish and asking us when we would offer it in SM5. Even some of the tour guys saw it and loved it, so we've decided to put out a limited release." 

It is available in two of the Vokey line's mid-bounce grinds, M and S, in 54, 56, 58 and 60 degrees. Like all SM5 models, it features a revamped groove that's 7 percent larger in volume for improved control on shots from the rough. The finish will wear over time, but will not rust. 

The Vokey Design SM5 Indigo wedges are available for a limited time through vokey.com ($185).

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Gear & Equipment

Renegar builds off past success with Rx14 wedges

By Mike Stachura

loop-renegar-wedge-518.jpgAt first glance, the appearance of the Renegar Rx14 wedges seems no different than that of the Rx12. On one hand, that's a good thing, because the distinctive cut-out sole design still offers the low leading edge and high center of gravity of the original. On the other hand, that's missing the rest of the story.

The Rx14 ($145) as deeper grooves that veteran designer Bob Renegar says increase spin by 3 percent. It's also cast from 303 stainless steel for a softer feel. Finally, the club's overall weight is 12 to 14 grams lighter.

But Renegar, whose work on the unique design dates to 1993, isn't done yet. Next up are plans for a new five-step forged version called the RxF that offers a completely custom-built four-wedge set matched for any number of parameters, including swingweight, static weight, length, balance point and lie angle.

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Gear & Equipment

Tour-player input drives design of Callaway's Mack Daddy 2 tour grind wedges

By E. Michael Johnson

When you work with as many tour players as Roger Cleveland, you’re bound to hear a few suggestions that will help you in your club design. Things such as a high toe. Or a straighter leading edge. Or a grind where the relief is ground from the heel and toe areas of the sole to help get the leading edge under the ball.

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Cleveland took all those suggestions and added them to the technologies of Callaway’s Mack Daddy 2 wedge line to create the Mack Daddy 2 Tour Grind. The wedge, forged from 1020 carbon steel, has the same large grooves and surface-roughness pattern as its predecessor.

The wedge is available in two finishes: chrome and slate. Lofts range from 52 to 60 degrees in 2-degree increments. Among those using the club ($130 each) on the PGA Tour are Patrick Reed, Matt Every and Freddie Jacobson.

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