There are a lot of reasons to wear hats when we're playing golf -- most fundamentally, they protect our faces from the sun and unwanted visits to the dermatologist. So, if we should wear hats, they might as well look good. Titleist is releasing new women's hats later this month, including two Pink Ribbon hats -- perfect for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Another company that is coming out with new hats is Ahead -- they introduced their new line in August, including a few in the women's Kate Lord line. Following the trend of pros on tour, Kate Lord has ventured down the bright color route. The hats and visors are mostly white, with the color coming in accents along the bills and in personalized stitching. Antigua debuted its 2014 Spring line, and started shipping at the beginning of September. The three styles released for women are the Fierce, the Flirt, and the Frill. Besides alliteration, these hats have basic style in common, too. Each features a base color, with brighter colors highlighted in sparingly. The Fierce is a military-style cap, while the Flirt and Frill are more classic baseball caps. The Frill is pictured here -- each color option starts with the heather base and there are seven different color stitching options. While stocking up on these new hats is going to do a lot for color variation in your closet, take a look at Nike's fall/winter hat collection to survive the imminent chilly weather. Shown here is the Pom-Pom Knit. Follow @keelylevins
Pinnacle has never had an issue producing golf balls that go far. But whenever a distance-oriented ball is discussed, the issue of feel is one of the first worries. How can a ball be both long and easy to control around the green? Not only has Pinnacle claimed to achieve this delicate balance, it added a little flash, too. This fall, Pinnacle has reworked its Bling golf ball. Structurally, the high-energy core provides distance, while the ionomer cover gives it the soft touch you're looking for around the green. Aesthetically, the High Optix colors make them fun. Bling balls are available in white, yellow, pink and orange -- so while your playing partners are jumping on the yellow-ball trend, you can one up them with your extended color palette. The colors have function, too: Pinnacle chose these colors specifically for their heightened detectability against grass and sky. Bling balls will give you length off the tee, feel around the greens, and are pretty to look at. Not a bad combination, if that's what you're into. Follow @kalevins
Professional clubfitter Jim McCleery thought he'd seen every type of golfer in his shop (McGolf Custom Clubs in Waverly, Ohio). Then one day in May, 85-year-old Pauline Whitacre walked through his door. "That woman, what a treat it was to get to spend time with her," McCleery says. "I can only imagine what she was like back in the day. Competitive, to say the least."
Whitacre, of Canton, Ohio, doesn't just like golf, she loves it and lives it almost every day, even though she's been suffering from emphysema for the last three years. "I still play about three or four times a week all year, both here and in Florida, so I guess that's over 150 rounds a year," she says. Whitacre picked up the game as a 10-year-old at her parents' club in Canton back in 1937, and broke 80 for the first time at age 14. She went on to play college golf (long before there really was such a thing) at Ohio State, where she lost to LPGA co-founder Marilynn Smith in the semifinals of the National Intercollegiate. After getting married, she won the Ohio State Amateur Championship three times and the Ohio Invitational Senior Championship at least six times (she can't quite remember). To this day, she competes regularly, and she hasn't lost an ounce of drive (she was even featured on the local news at last year's Ohio Senior Women's Amateur Championship, where she competed in the Super Seniors division).
But lately, Whitacre's scores had been inching up, and she just wasn't hitting the ball as far as she used to. And even though she keeps shooting her age or better on a regular basis (she estimates she's done that at least 70 times by now), she wasn't happy with her 13.5 handicap. So her daughter, Janet Kaboth, booked her a clubfitting session with McCleery to see if a new set of clubs might help.
The wide-bodied, lightweight-titanium Serene driver has an ultra-thin crown, which allows for excess weight to be placed in strategic areas inside the head to optimize forgiveness and launch. The driver is 45 inches long and available in three lofts (10.5, 12 and 14 degrees). An external weight pad has been placed low and back in each of the three stainless-steel fairway woods; combined with the shallow clubhead design, it helps you get the ball up in the air with less effort. The fairway-wood lofts are slow-swing-speed friendly to add additional launch (the 3-wood is 18 degrees, the 5-wood 22 degrees and the 7-wood 26 degrees).
The Serene hybrid-iron set allows you to mix and match hybrids and irons to suit your needs; you can have as many as three hybrids (4, 5 and 6) or just opt for two, or one, or none -- the price is the same per club. That's right, you can buy these clubs in a piece-meal fashion, which is the best possible way to build a set. Get a fitting and fill in the gaps as you need to -- don't buy a "standard" configuration right off the rack. The Serene irons have wide soles and deep centers of gravity to help you get through the turf and launch the ball high, and the much-improved hybrids have a new, low-profile design that makes them easier to launch. (My one beef with the old Faith set was its deep-faced hybrids, which didn't perform well for most women since we don't typically hit down on the ball as much as men do.)
As of August 1, you can learn more about the Serene clubs (including the four putter models that will carry the name) at ping.com. Street price for the driver is $279. The fairway woods are $199 each, and the hybrids and irons $106 each.
What's the secret sauce behind this rocket launcher? (Really, couldn't they just have named it that?) A pull-face construction (similar to what you see in metalwoods) allows TaylorMade to make the RBZ Max's unsupported face very thin and responsive from top to bottom and front to back. Tungsten weights in the sole (mainly in the heel and toe) help lower the center of gravity to get the ball airborne easily, as well as mitigate the penalties on off-center hits. It's actually a hollow clubhead with a very wide sole, yet it looks sleek and compact. The harsh-vibration problem, common in pull-face designs, was solved by placing a viscoelastic material called Hybrar inside the head, behind the upper part of the face.
The company says the RBZ Max set is designed for higher handicappers, but we've found that it works well for women of most abilities, down to the single-digit players (really slow swingers are better off with irons that have even wider soles and higher lofts). As with all club purchases, we strongly recommend you go through a thorough demo and fitting process before buying anything, no matter your ability. To find out the steps to take and the questions to ask your retailer, check out our step-by-step guide to buying new clubs.
The new Idea a12OS set for women comes in two set make-ups: You can buy it in either 12 clubs (driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, 7-wood, 5-hybrid, 6-hybrid, 7- through 9-iron, pitching wedge, sand wedge and putter) or seven clubs (driver, 5-wood, 5-hybrid, 7-iron, 9-iron, sand wedge and putter). Less experienced players can start with the smaller set, which costs $500 with bag, and then add to the set as they better (the complete set costs $900 with bag). All the clubs in the line are designed with low, deep centers of gravity to help launch the ball higher, and have generous loft gaps to suit a slower-swinging player. The hybrids feature a velocity slot on the crown and sole, designed to create more trampoline effect in the face and add ball speed.
As a fun bonus, the complete set is offered in four different colors (with two more "coming soon"). From left above are the Sapphire, Jade, Onyx and Sandstone models, with designs and colors carrying over from clubs to matching bags. To find a store near you that carries these sets, log on to adamsgolf.com.
The VR_S driver is adjustable, giving users eight different face-angle settings across a four-degree range. That means you -- or even better, your fitter -- can dial in the face angle and loft that gives you the best results, and if you change your swing, you can re-set your driver to accommodate you. The club's face is designed to help improve ball speed on off-center hits and the ultra-lightweight shaft helps you swing the club faster. ($300; nikegolf.com)
Moving into the VR-S fairway woods ($200 ea.) and hybrids ($160 ea.), the Nike designers utilized the same "NexCOR" face technology as the driver, meant to help add springlike effect. The Nike-specific Fubuki K women's shaft only weighs 48 grams in the fairway wood and 51 in the hybrid -- that translates to increased clubhead speed, which equals distance. The fairway woods come in three lofts and the hybrids in another three (all are higher lofts than the equivalent men's versions). This means you don't need to start your iron set with anything longer than a 7-iron if you don't want to.
Last but not least, the VR_S irons ($700 for eight clubs with graphite shafts) are designed with a face that performs especially well on shots hit low and toward the toe -- which, let's face it, is where most of us average Janes miss the ball. Much of the clubhead's weight is positioned in the "powerbow" behind the face to help you launch the ball higher.
Over the last couple of years, Titleist has introduced more forgiving club models than ever, with the AP1 irons and adjustable 910 metalwood line (including the 910D2 driver) appealing to players of more diverse abilities. The company is still focusing on "serious" golfers (those who play a lot and aspire to get better), but they're now embracing the fact that serious golfers come in many packages -- and many swing speeds.
Enter the Titleist "Moderate Speed Initiative." For the first time ever, slower-swinging golfers, including women and seniors, can buy a set of Titleist clubs designed exactly for their game. The Moderate Speed 910D2 driver (above, left; $400, titleist.com) is offered in two lofts -- 10.5 and 12 degrees -- but since it comes with an adjustable hosel that allows you to change the club's loft and lie angles (independently of each other, no less), it can be set to as high as 13.5 degrees. The adjustable 910F fairway wood (above, middle; $250) and 910H hybrid (above, right; $230) lines also offer higher-lofted versions for the Moderate Speed audience, and all Moderate Speed woods and hybrids come with lightweight, high-launching Mitsubishi Bassara Wyvern shafts.
The new offerings allow women and slower-swinging men to put together a set that gives them consistent and significant distance gaps between clubs, and more options for higher launch. (For instance, you might opt for the 24- and 27-degree hybrids instead of a 4- and 5-iron.)
To get fitted for the set make-up that works best for you, go to titleist.com/golf-club-fitting/ and make an appointment with a Titleist Fitting Partner near you.
The new line of Cobra women's clubs includes two types of AMP 460cc titanium drivers -- an adjustable model (above) for players who like to tinker with face settings and might need a more neutral or even open face, and an offset one for those who just need help battling a slice. Weight has been distributed low and deep inside the clubheads, which adds height and distance to your shots. The milled titanium face has a unique design that's focused on maximizing speed on off-center hits. The adjustable Cobra Women's AMP driver comes with three different face settings (closed, neutral and open), is available in 13.5 degrees of loft (although when set to the closed face, the loft increases, and the opposite happens with the open face setting) and costs $299. The offset model has 15 degrees of loft and costs $249.