Jack Nicklaus has played enough different brands of golf balls, tested them enough and talked about them enough to determine he could build his own ball. And he's decided to do just that.
Golf World has learned that Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 professional major championships, is introducing a line of golf balls starting in November with the objective of helping golfers select a ball that best matches their skill level. Three balls will be available: Nicklaus Black, Nicklaus Blue and Nicklaus White, corresponding to the tee markers from which golfers regularly play. The Nicklaus Black is designed for the single-digit handicap golfer who might typically play from the back tees. The Nicklaus Blue is for players who use middle teeing areas, while the Nicklaus White is for higher handicap players, either men or women, who play from forward tees.
In the past, Nicklaus has lent his name to signature brands of golf balls, but the new Nicklaus line is proprietary, manufactured to his specifications after three years of testing. Nicklaus said Bridgestone is manufacturing the balls and counseled on its design.
A percentage of sales will be donated to the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, which Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, established in 2004 to support pediatric programs nationwide.
"We all know that the game of golf can be challenging enough, so we are trying to simplify the decision-making process of selecting the right golf ball and at the same time provide consumers the highest-quality golf balls and at a price that encourages charitable support," Nicklaus, 73, and winner of 73 PGA Tour titles, said in a statement. "By buying these balls, players will get the added benefit of supporting these wonderful charities that help children in need as well as the families that dearly love them."
The balls, which go into production within the next few weeks, will be sold online at www.nicklaus.com and through golf shops at more than 200 courses in the Nicklaus Design portfolio. The Nicklaus Black will have a suggested retail price around $50 per dozen in pro shops, while the Nicklaus Blue and Nicklaus White models will be priced in the mid-$40s. Online shoppers can purchase the balls for $32 and $26, respectively, with the option of adding a donation earmarked for the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.
"For more than three years, we have contemplated entering the golf ball business, so over that time, I have been researching and testing golf balls," said Nicklaus, who has been a proponent for growing the game through the First Tee, Tee It Forward and other initiatives. "There are a lot of very good balls on the market, but I was not able to find a ball that fully met my expectations and hopes -- not just for me or other professionals, but more importantly, for the everyday golfer. So I simply decided not to enter the business until I found that ball. Well, I found that ball. Actually, I found three.
"These golf balls are designed for every level of play, from the everyday or recreational golfer -- be it men, women, children, or seniors -- to the tour professional. No matter the age or ability, there is a golf ball to fit your game. Our strategy is based on a simple principle: skill level is an extremely important factor when selecting the right golf ball. From the tees you play, we know your swing speed; this is paramount when choosing a golf ball. But no matter the percentage of players who know their swing speed, 100 percent of them know the tees they play."
The introduction of a Nicklaus-designed ball is the latest venture with Nicklaus Companies co-chairman Howard Milstein, New York Private Bank & Trust Chairman and CEO, with whom Nicklaus partnered in 2007. "The beauty of these balls," Milstein said, "is they solve the golfers' dilemma of which ball to play -- all you need to know is the tee you play from -- and no matter what your skill level, you know we've designed the highest quality golf ball best suited to your game."
For more than three decades Nicklaus has been outspoken about calling for golf's governing bodies to rein in the distance that modern golf balls travel. The extra distance makes golf more expensive through additional land, water usage and maintenance costs. He remains consistent on the subject.
"The game of golf is a lot bigger than any individual or any individual piece of it," Nicklaus said. "My position hasn't changed in relation to the golf ball. What's important is what's best for the game of golf.
"This is another way for me to contribute to the game of golf in a positive way and to help grow the game," the Golden Bear added. "It's about helping the average golfer enjoy the game more. The average golfer has to make up his mind whether he wants to hit it as far as he can or get the results that he wants around the greens. He really can't have both with today's balls. What we are offering them is a chance to play the best ball they can get that will give them the most distance, the most playability, and the most control for their swing speed."
By Alex Myers
As you can see by the picture tweeted by Chad Coleman (@HashtagChad), Head of Social Media for Callaway Golf and Odyssey Golf, List's new sticks will all feature nicknames instead of digits. We just hope he and his caddie will have the key written down somewhere on his golf bag in case they forget which name corresponds with which loft.
We've seen many players customize wedges in recent years (List calls his 60-degree wedge "Chet," a name he describes as his "alter ego."), but List appears to be the first tour pro to stamp names on all of his irons while getting rid of the numbers on the clubs altogether. We'll have to wait and see when List puts these in play (He's in the Reno-Tahoe Open field this week, but doesn't have the clubs in his bag) and if any fellow players will follow suit.
"Fireball"? "Lean on it"? "Rack Em"? "'Merica"? Good stuff. But how could he not go with "Be The Right One!" for any of them?
SILVIS, Ill. -- A number of players at the John Deere Classic had TaylorMade's new prototype driver, SLDR, in play during Thursday's first round and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. However, some players weren't able to hit the SLDR because of a limited number of heads available, and one particular player won't even try it.
Like the last few offerings from TaylorMade, the driver is marked by unique adjustability and includes a hosel that can be tweaked for different lie and loft angles. The SLDR features a bar on the sole of the club that allows the player to "slide" weight towards either the sole heel or the toe of the club, creating a draw or fade bias depending on which of the 16 available slots the weight is set in. The movable weight is blue and matches the SLDR logo, but the club head is charcoal grey and sports a more traditional look.
Lucas Glover (three-under 68): "I love the look, the shape, the color. It sounds different. It sounds like the ball stays on the face longer, which results in a softer feel that I prefer. It spins less, and I could really see the ball bouncing down the fairway, which I don't see a lot. I hit five balls with it on the range and said, 'Alright, can I use this?'"
Shawn Stefani (four-over 75): "I love the way it looks and it feels great. It's a lot more solid feeling than some of the other Taylor drivers and it's not as tinny sounding. And it actually feels a bit softer than what I've been playing [the R1]."
Boo Weekley (five-under 66): "I played nine holes with it and hit it pretty solid. I think it's a little hotter. I picked up some more ball speed. It's not as loud as the other ones and it looks different, but that doesn't matter to me. I'm just looking down at the bottom of the face trying to hit it as solid as I can."
Troy Matteson (three-under 68): "The guys who don't like it are the ones who already spin it low. For the guys who are high-spin long hitters, it goes a mile. I hit one 362 yards on 13. It's a beast. With the sliding weight, I think you can pinpoint the right setting better. Some guys like a tinny sound; some like a thud. This is right in the middle. A lot of guys out here grew up playing drivers that were filled with foam. Those guys really like the thud sound. Earlier this week there were guys fighting over this club because they only brought like 20 heads."
Roberto Castro (three-under 68): "I didn't get one. It's hard to test a driver when you can't get one."
Brandt Jobe (two-under 69): "I won't play one until they put a real hosel on it [as opposed to the adjustable hosel]. I can't get a flat enough lie with it. It's perfect for tall guys like Dustin Johnson, but not for me."
Fred Couples has extended his deal with Ecco golf shoes, extending a partnership dating back to 2006.
The recent Hall of Fame inductee, who earned a nod from us as being the Coolest Golfer of All-Time from our May 2013 issue, will continue to sport the Ecco logo on the side of his Bridgestone hat.
"Before ECCO, I was always a very traditional shoe guy, but now really all I put on are the Golf Street and BIOM Hybrid styles," Couples said in a release from Ecco. "They've both got a great look, are so comfortable and provide the traction and stability I need when competing. Plus, I love that I can wear them all the way from my house to the golf course and back. I'm looking forward to playing many more years in my ECCOs."
Showcasing the casual Ecco Golf Street at the 2010 Masters, Couples sparked a huge rise in hybrid shoe sales for the market. Of course. Freddie's always been cool, but Ecco alone has said it sold more than 24 times the amount of shoes it expected to in 2010.
That trend has continued to transform the marketplace for golf shoes. In 2012, non-cleated golf-shoe sales rose by 136 percent from 2012 against 2011 numbers, research from Golf Datatech shows.
And 12 of the 20 shoes on our 2013 Shoe Guide were spikeless.
Just another example of the affect of Freddie Cool.
Couples, 53, also has endorsement deals with Ashworth, Jaguar, Mitsubishi Electric, Anatabloc and his equipment manufacturer Bridgestone. In our annual report of golf's top-earners, we estimated Couples' off-course earnings to be more than $5.7 million in 2012.Follow @S_HennesseyGD/a>
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Masters week hardly seems to be the time for players to change equipment. Augusta National, however, can be so unique that it has some players re-thinking what goes into their bag, especially when it comes to wedges.
Although pros are somewhat reluctant at times to change their wedges, preferring to stick with what they're comfortable with, some weeks present conditions that are simply too different to ignore. The Masters is one of those weeks where players will alter or change their wedges. As Titleist's Bob Vokey has said in the past, "The conditions are firm and tight and courses such as that require less bounce and the players know it."
Amateur Steven Fox already has the less bounce drill down. "I've got a special wedge in play that has almost zero-degree bounce where no matter how far from the ground, you can still throw the club under and get it in the air," he said. "I've worked with that a lot this week."
U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson is another, taking out his Titleist Vokey Design TVD 58-degree and putting a Vokey Design SM4 58-degree with 6 degrees of bounce, feeling the thinner sole provides heel and toe relief, while the lower bounce provides a more vertical drop onto the green. John Peterson also opted for less bounce on his Titleist Vokey, dropping from 7 degrees bounce to 4 degrees on his 60-degree TVD-K wedge, which also features a wider sole than his previous gamer. Ian Poulter also has gone the lower bounce route on his 62-degree wedge.
Most everyday golfers struggle with the concept of bounce with most believing it has to do with the width of the sole. That's incorrect. A wide-soled club can have very little bounce (in fact, the old Hogan Sure-Out wedge had almost zero bounce). Or it can have a lot.
Titleist's website describes bounce as "the angle created between the sole line of the golf club (the line from the leading edge to the trailing edge) and the ground line at address. Bounce serves to help reduce digging as the wedge interacts with the turf or sand at impact by elevating the leading edge slightly off the ground."
Vokey offers some suggestions. Players who take big divots or play on lush or wet courses will require more bounce in their wedges. If your swing is more of a sweeping motion or you play on courses with firm terrain, less bounce is desirable. That said, most tour reps say they are actually seeing fewer players asking for wedges with less bounce than in the past, citing the desire of players not to change their wedges for one week as well as more tour courses having firmer conditions week to week, meaning many already have wedges in place that will work well at Augusta.
In other words, as much as Augusta National is considered a bomber's paradise, fact is players are paying as much attention to their wedges as any clubs in their bag. Given that Mike Weir won the Masters 10 years ago with a dazzling display with his wedges, that sounds like solid thinking.
By Guy Yocom
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- While Phil Mickelson played in the Par 3 Tournament Wednesday afternoon, caddie Jim (Bones) Mackay prepped for some final pre-tournament preparation. Bones donned the heavy white coveralls, the signature of the Masters caddie, and performed a perfunctory inventory of Phil's tour bag.
The shorter clubs were with Phil and the Mickelson children (Amanda, Sophia and Evan) over at the Par 3 Course. But the heavy lumber, which has often determined Phil's fate at Augusta, remained with Bones. The star of the lineup, resting under a large white clubhead cover, was the Callaway X Hot "Phrankenwood" he's putting into play this week.
Bones couldn't tell my eyes were riveted on nothing else but the Phrankenwood. "They've got to find a way to make this outfit lighter," he said of the caddie uniform. "They make a warm day even warmer."
"Your man ready?" I said.
"Oh yeah," Bones said. "We got this." Bones palmed the Phrankenwood, which Phil began dropping hints about at the Shell Houston Open.
"The Phrankenwood!" I said. "How's it working out?"
Bones winked. "He's killing it. The ball is coming off with almost no spin. The center of gravity is high, the ball is tumbling, and isn't picking up as much mud on the fairways. Want a closer look?"
Bones removed the clubhead cover like he was presenting jewelry. He handed me the club, which I waggled, hefted, grounded and inspected. "Tell me more," I said.
"It's about the size of a driver from about 1999," Bones said. "About 250 cc's, but much better technology. Again, it's the ball flight. It has less than 9 degrees of loft, but more than 8.5. Phil's hitting it straighter than his conventional driver, and long. He doesn't bend the ball as much as he does his driver, but that's OK. He can shape it enough."
The Phrankenwood sets up nicely. The head is glossy black, sets up nice and square, and to the eye has even less loft than the 8.5-9 degrees Bones alluded to. That may be because we just aren't use to seeing small-headed metal woods with so little loft. Phil's grips are slightly oversized. The shaft, of course, feels murderously firm -- there is so little play when you waggle the club.
Mickelson has made effective adjustments with his set composition before. At the 2006 Masters, he used two drivers -- one that produced a hook, the other a fade, and drove the ball monstrously long and straight en route to winning his second Masters. He's adopted sand wedges with a tad more bounce to deal with Augusta's incredibly tight lies.
The switchups have given Phil a tactical edge and a psychological boost as well. He enjoys the stimulation of trying new stuff, and having the feeling he has something the other players don't.
"He has a look in his eye when he pulls out the Phrankenwood," said Bones. "He's excited. It might be the thing that makes the difference for him this week."