GOUGE: I think I'd ask for plain wedges. Then again, maybe you'd prefer one of these instead. Either way, paint fill and stampings or not, you better get them quick. The clock is ticking on the year of the wedge. Wait for more news on the ticking clock for wedges coming soon. That's right: The groove rule is about to get even more confusing. Stay tuned.
GOUGE: Just another day at the office, I suppose. No, friend, what we have here is that lovely confluence of our favorite seasons: manufacturers' fall sales meetings and Golf Digest Hot List season. In another few weeks, we'll be off to our sort-of secret location to sort our way through the good and the great to select the products we think meet the highest standards of meaningful excellence, or what ends up being the 2011 Hot List in the February issue of Golf Digest. Products are flooding into the office this week, and by my count there are more than 50 candidates in the driver category alone. Some websites are already showing pictures (obviously taken at sales meetings) of new products, although don't believe everything you see. We won't tell you everything we know just yet, but if you think the well of new ideas has run dry, guess again.
The ease of creating new concepts is a large part of the reason why TaylorMade CEO Mark King suggested in conversations last week that innovation could even increase in the next decade (and if you think TaylorMade is not coming out with a new driver in early 2011, you're probably still using persimmon).
Of course, one wonders about the difference between innovation and more frequent product introduction. Understanding the difference will be our job over the next few months as we talk to our team of scientists, leading retailers and, of course, golfers. I'm looking forward to the debate. Not so much the late-night take-out food, though.
Check out King's Thursday webcast for TaylorMade's new Burner 2.0 irons.
as Max Adler details in the October issue of Golf Digest.
But aside from King's enthusiasm for the technology of his company's new irons, what's much more compelling is his enthusiasm for the future of golf technology. A day earlier, he answered my question about the future of innovation by suggesting the USGA and R&A, golf's rulemaking bodies, "take a more practical approach" to rules decisions in the future, and that he was encouraged by the plans for the upcoming USGA-R&A manufacturers meeting in Vancouver to discuss rule-making procedures. King said on Wednesday that "golf will innovate as rapidly as any other industry," and that while the last 10 years of innovation at TaylorMade have seen an unprecedented pace of product introduction, the next 10 years "we will increase the level of introductions." Because, he said, consumers demand it.
Hard not to get swept up in it. Steve Jobs would have been proud. One wonders, though, if we would have ever gotten the iPod, let alone the iPhone and the iPad, if the USGA were controlling Jobs' industry the way it monitors King's.
GOUGE: I remember my dad was a plus-2 handicap at manipulating a TV antennae. Could adjust the thing on our roof with a remote control while I shouted instructions from the living room into the garage. "Still fuzzy...still fuzzy...nope...there it is...wait, it's gone again...GOOD!" So maybe rabbit ears are the only thing a really skilled practitioner needs. Then again, 25 years ago, there were plenty of people who probably thought the Eye2 was a travesty of the game, dulling the skills required for excellence. Times change, the blatherings of technology naysayers never do.
Here's what I wonder, though: 1) Is the Eye2 that great, or 2) is it that in the most technologically sophisticated quarter century in the game's history, there just wasn't that much room for improvement (in irons) in the first place? My guesses would be, 1) well, yes, and, 2) well, depends on what you mean by improvement. Ted Schulz obviously doesn't need a lot of improvement. Ted Schulz can hit a 5-iron somewhere close to the center of the face (although I'll bet he didn't have to hit a lot of those into greens to win a Champions Tour event). Ted Schulz is a tour player. You are not. You need help in every way imaginable. That's what modern iron technology is about (and it's a perplexingly difficult pursuit, as Max Adler details in the October issue of Golf Digest on newsstands now). And, oh by the way, go try an old-school Eye2 3-iron and compare it with, say, a new-century, 20-degree G15 hybrid. See if you see a difference. If you don't, well, go back to your rabbit ears.
And, oh by the way, Schulz averaged 284.5 for the week with the driver. That's about 15 yards longer than his driving distance from two decades ago. Call me crazy, but I don't think he was using persimmon off the tee on Sunday at Pebble Beach. And he dang sure wasn't playing a wound ball. Oops, did I say the dreaded b-word? But then you've answered that technology debate already, haven't you?
BOMB: I got your answer right here.