The 10 Biggest Equipment Stories of 2011\nFrom the sale of an iconic company to the debut of white clubs, equipment was very much part of the conversation this year.\nWhen average driving distance on the PGA Tour saw a 3.6-yard increase at the end of 2011, it marked the largest single year gain since 2003 and set an all-time high for players averaging more than 300 yards (21). It also broke the 290-yard barrier for the first time. Perhaps most tellingly, it reflected an 11.4-yard gain since 2002, the year golf's ruling bodies issued the Joint Statement of Principles, a line-in-the-sand document that included the phrase "any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable." However, the USGA's senior technical director Dick Rugge made it clear no distance-related rule changes are imminent. That said, if 2012 continues with more of the same, expect golf's ruling bodies to take a hard look at what the practical meanings are of words like "significant," "meaningful" and "immediately necessary."\nIt was gut-check time on the PGA Tour in 2011 as belly putters became de rigeur. The number of players using them (upwards of 20 at some events) and winning (six wins, including Keegan Bradley at the PGA Championship) surged. Such success had consumers flocking to golf shops and the governing bodies discussing whether anchoring a club should remain legal. It also had players such as Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els (who once said of Trevor Immelman using a belly putter, "Take a pill if you can't handle [the pressure].") using them.\nTaylorMade's white R11 driver gained immediate visibility for its color while nine PGA Tour wins validated its performance. Marketing wizardry with Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer hitting balls in the streets of Manhattan and a gigantic R11 serving as the right field foul pole in Petco Park added to a buzz that, by year's end, saw white drivers as fully accepted rather than unusual.\nPerhaps golf's most-iconic brand was sold as Fila Korea Ltd. and Mirae Asset Private Equity bought the Acushnet Company (comprised of the Titleist, FootJoy and Pinnacle brands) for $1.225 billion--the largest sale ever of a golf-equipment company. The deal seemingly sets up Acushnet to expand in Asia where golf is growing at a rapid rate. "Companies that are U.S. centric will be roadkill on tomorrow's scorecard," Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein (shown) said at the time of the sale.\nAfter nearly six years as president and CEO of Callaway Golf,. George Fellows (shown) resigned from that post on June 29 citing personal reasons and named Tony Thornley, 65, its interim president and CEO. Connecting with golfers had been a problem for the company during Fellows' tenure as Callaway debuted many lines of golf balls and equipment that seemingly should have appealed to golfers, but fell short of expectations. Thornley is a "golf guy" but also not the long-term solution. As the year closed an executive search firm already was seeking candidates for a permanent successor to Fellows.\nIn 2011 the USGA deemed that grooves that conform to the condition of competition statute would be required for all phases of the U.S., U.S. Senior and U.S. Women's Opens--a departure from the year before when the less-effective grooves were only required in the championship proper. The move was designed to eliminate confusion, yet problems still arose, such as when Taylor Fontaine, borrowed wedges from a friend (who told him they conformed) for a U.S. Open local qualifier at Newport CC. Fontaine qualified, but later was told the wedges were nonconforming, resulting in his disqualification.\nPing debuted the iPing putting app in June. The app is a wireless putting tool designed to identify a player's stroke type (straight, slight arc or strong arc) by analyzing impact angle and measuring tempo. After a series of five putts a player's stroke type is identified and a putting "handicap" is given. The app is a free download from the iTunes App Store and attaches to the putter shaft using an iPing cradle that holds an iPod Touch or iPhone. A cool fitting tool, Ping also added an element of fun to the app late in 2011 by adding an iPing Skins Game element to the app.\nDuring Monday of Masters week, Jim Furyk found his right foot slipping on the lush turf. With the forecast for warm temperatures that would only further slicken the surface, Furyk opted for metal spikes in his right shoe while staying with plastic cleats in his left. "I've done it before," said Furyk, citing the 2006 British Open at Royal Liverpool as an example. "What can I say, I'm a little goofy."\nRory McIlroy not only hurt his right arm and wrist when he struck a root on the third hole in the opening round of the PGA Championship, he also badly damaged his Titleist MB 7-iron, rendering the club useless. Titleist made a replacement at its Oceanside, Calif., facility and had it flown overnight to Atlanta Athletic Club. The club was placed in McIlory’s locker at 7:25 a.m. Friday just before he went out to warm up for his second round.\nPhil Mickelson tried to help out President Obama when he got down to business on the golf course with Speaker of the House John Beohner. During a dinner with the President, Mickelson presented Obama with a trio of Callaway X-Forged wedges (56, 60 and 64 degrees) stamped "Prez 44" on the back. During the same dinner Obama also received gifts from Davis Love III (Scotty Cameron by Titleist putter with "Obama" engraved on the back, and a box of Bridgestone golf balls) and Bubba Watson (a left-handed Ping G15 driver with specs matching Bubba's big stick).