Here's the clarification from Titleist spokesman Joe Gomes: "An important part of our go-to-market blueprint calls for getting performance validation from the world's best players before we launch any new product. We asked the USGA to remove the new 910 drivers from the conforming list until we begin the seeding process, first on the PGA Tour, followed by the remaining worldwide professional tours. That should take place by the end of next month. The 910 driver will be re-listed at that time."
Titleist is currently the No. 2 driver brand on tour. So that means by, say, the British Open, it's likely No. 2's No. 1 model will be the 910. Stay tuned.
It’s clear the Adidas concept is the only thing interesting that’s happened in shoes in this decade, probably the only real innovation since Softspikes. Just watch the videos Adidas has put together. While I get others are thicker, what does that really mean? Certainly, Adidas has changed the paradigm (according to its measurements, on average, its shoes are nearly 5 millimeters thinner (the width of two nickels) on the bottom than other leading shoes from Callaway, Ecco, FootJoy and Nike). Still, as chief rival FootJoy, with the largest stable of tour players, has stated to us: “To this day we have never been asked by a tour player to make FJ shoes lower to the ground.” The question is, I suppose, have they not asked because they didn’t know what they were missing?
Still, I would like to see some data suggesting that lowered footwear produces faster learning, better swings and lower scores. For instance, while theoretically a longer-shafted driver will generate more clubhead speed than a standard-length driver, it is not exactly true that a longer-shafted driver will result in more distance for every golfer on the planet, maybe not even for the majority. As to shoes, it’s not clear, for instance, that PGA Tour players wearing Adidas shoes are winning most of the tournaments. I count 4 wins for Adidas shoes this year, significantly less than FootJoy’s 11, but with admittedly a much smaller group of players on its staff. Still, I like the effort. I just wonder if there’s a way we can definitively say lower produces a better golfer. This, I would guess, we may not know for years, perhaps after the Adidas technology has become the industry standard.
BOMB: Well, as I understand it, it boils down to lower provides better stability, thus better balance, thus it helps your swing. Kind of like playing in bare feet but with cleats on the bottom. But I’m not going to focus on the technology here. I know lower is probably better but I just don’t really know what benefit there is to the Adidas GolfLite Slam being 21.78 millimeters at Adidas’ point of measurement and the FootJoySuperLites being 23.14 millimeters Honestly, does 2 millimeters really make a difference in the golf swing?).
However, I highly applaud the trade-in initiative. I’m a big fan of trade ins in golf. Always have been. It just makes such good sense. And this is about as legitimate as it gets. Bring in any pair of shoes -- ANY pair -- and get $20 off. That’s a solid offer and a smart business move. As Adidas’ fancy videos show, golf shoes are indeed equipment. But most golfers still think of them as something they purchase only when their previous ones wear out. Anything that can help get people in upgraded footwear is a plus.
By the way, I’m pretty sure that guy you’re referencing cutting the lawn is you. But don’t part with those worn-out golf shoes. I think that old pair of Converse Chuck Taylors you used to walk around the office in would do just fine -- apparently they’ll accept them, too.
GOUGE: Thanks for the images, because you sure aren't going to find it on usga.org anymore. Get this: It's not on the conforming list anymore. Maybe it's a computer glitch, or maybe, since this new Titleist driver isn't going to be on the market for many months (like deep into the fall buying season), MAYBE Titleist wasn't exactly comfortable with having the internet buzzing over a driver that is not going to be seen in stores until Halloween. It's certainly confusing to me that the official conforming driver list, which is only supposed to be updated on Mondays, suddenly was changed in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon. I mean the dang driver was on the page at noon and not on the page at 4:30. What gives? We'll look into it, but chalk one up for the power of the internet.
Bridgestone: Seven questions about how I play, some of them not particularly relevant (it’s not clear to me, for example, whether a tendency to hook the ball or slice the ball should produce a different ball recommendation, and as best I can tell changing the answer didn't change the recommendation). The questions result in only one recommendation, which isn’t as helpful as two. With two, I can take the online recommendations and test them out on the golf course.
Callaway: Three questions, including one about price. (Why?) We do get three recommendations, which is good, but you haven’t asked me enough questions so I don’t have a lot of confidence in your recommendation.
Nike: No online fitting tool, although the video of tour players offering advice is somewhat educational. (Main thrust: Distance shouldn't be nearly as important as playability around the greens.) So in the end, even within the Nike family of eight balls, you have no solid advice on whether someone should play the Nike One Vapor or the Power Distance Soft. Very disappointing.
Srixon: Asks you a couple of distance and spin questions, as well as a ranking of the four most important performance aspects (Example: Distance off the driver, spin on approach shots, feel off the putter, etc.). The latter is good, but, again, only one recommendation. Two would be better.
TaylorMade: Essentially, this is a two-question (TWO!) survey that picks your ball based on your handicap and your preferred short game shot. All players at 10-handicap or better get a choice of the two TP tour balls; all players who shoot higher than 85 get a choice between the two Burner balls. Curiously, the fitting tool doesn’t include recommendations for TaylorMade’s new Penta ball. In other words, it’s not up to date, so therefore, it’s incomplete and thus borderline useless.
Titleist: An overly simplistic 3-question survey that in nearly every case recommends the Pro V1 or Pro V1x (and since the survey concludes with two recommendations, usually both the Pro V1 and Pro V1x are recommended). The only way you can get a recommendation for even Titleist’s mid-level NXT Tour is to admit that you normally miss your target with your full swings AND you miss the green (the ENTIRE green?!) with your partial swings. The good thing about Titleist is the two recommendations and the advice to make your decision based on a thorough on-course test of the two recommended balls. But I don’t like how it gets you to those two recommendations.
Wilson: Hands down the best online ballfitting tool going. Smart questions (14 of them!) in eight different areas of the game lead you to one lead recommended ball and a secondary choice. This is what online ballfitting should be about: asking a golfer to think about how he plays all the key shots in his game and then directing him to a couple of primary choices that he can go test on the golf course.
Maybe you think differently?
BOMB: Just a little. But only a little. The online fitting from Wilson is indeed thorough and helpful. And most of the other online tools are pretty incomplete for the reasons you stated. But at least they’re making an effort and isn’t something better than nothing?
I know everyone wants to know EXACTLY what they should play. It is, after all, the question we probably get asked the most. But short of a full-blown fitting, trial is the best way to sift through the golf-ball maze. It is, in many ways, what we do with the golf ball Hot List. We recommend the spheres we think people should be paying attention to, thus reducing the possibilities to a somewhat manageable number and then let them take it from there, preferably through on-course testing.
Do I wish the online fitting tools from most manufacturers were better? Absolutely. Do I wish they asked more (and more useful) questions? You bet. Do I wish they would possibly recommend a ball that wasn’t their own? OK, I know that’s not going to happen. What we have now is a start. And I’m willing to grant a couple of brownie points for that. Hopefully the companies will see fit (no pun intended) to expand on that in the future. If they don’t, then they deserve to get knocked around a little because as we’ve seen from the example set by Wilson, better is possible.
Honestly, I don’t get it. The forum is designed to “facilitate a free and open exchange of views on the equipment rulemaking process and to assist the USGA and The R&A in their role as worldwide equipment rulemakers under the Rules of Golf.” Now I understand that I may be taking somewhat of a provincial view of this, but how does Vancouver just a few days after Thanksgiving make any sense? Sure, it’s a little easier for the Asian companies to get to, but wouldn’t it be just as easy for them to get to Los Angeles or San Francisco? And doesn’t this make things more difficult for the folks in Europe? Or perhaps they want to keep media coverage to a minimum? Just asking.
Whatever. I just checked. We have our choice of Cathay Pacific, Air Canada, United or Continental. Non-stop. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all. But don’t forget your passport. Or long johns.
GOUGE: What this gets down to, as it always does for our business trips, is whether golf is involved. Our rule, for those of you who don't know, is that we don't get on a plane, especially a cross-country flight, unless golf is involved. And Vancouver, post-Thanksgiving, most likely does not involve golf.
Still, let's look at this logically. I talked this afternoon with USGA Senior Technical DIrector Dick Rugge about the particulars of the Forum. The feeling he gave me was that Pacific Coast site offered several benefits. First, let's remember this is a joint venture by the USGA and the R&A. Canada offers the benefit of being a neutral site, in that it is not the U.S., nor is it Scotland. It also provides a West Coast site that is close but not a home game for any of golf's manufacturers and vendors, the overwhelming majority of whom are based in either California or Japan or China. There are no great golf manufacturers based in Europe, and everyone else is within an 8-hour flight, including Tokyo. Third, while there may have been some initial sense that this meeting might spark interest from the average golfer to attend, the fact is this open forum is about the minutiae of rulemaking, a completely inside-the-Beltway type of discussion. In other words, making people come to Vancouver ensures that those who come are coming with serious intentions. Frankly, after talking to Rugge, I'm not even sure why we would go, other than a stirring walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge or grabbing a Triple O Burger at White Spot.
Yes, I know, now we're talking your language. Still, we will go to the Forum because we'll want to see if at the end it's fireworks and fisticuffs or handholding and several verses of Kumbaya. Rugge has made it clear that the ruling bodies are there to listen, so really I think there's a large possibility for Kumbaya. Frankly, the game needs it. In fact, I don't think it will be the last of these get-togethers. And the more successful it is, the greater the likelihood it is that future sessions might start to deal with truly meaningful and perhaps slightly incendiary topics, like, say, the distance the golf ball goes. That said, I'm hoping the next one makes it easier for golf to be involved. Then again, I hear Bandon Dunes can be playable in December. Can you say "Detour"?