December 12, 2007
ADAMS IDEA A3 / A30S
STREET PRICE: $150WEBSITE: adamsgolf.comLOFTS16, 19, 22, 25. Available in senior versions at 23, 26 and 29TECH STORYThe stretched blade length and boxy shape help the club achieve a horizontal-axis moment of inertia of 3,350 grams/cm2. This means you get 28 percent more resistance to twisting on off-center hits than last year's Idea Pro, yet the head size is barely bigger.PLAYER COMMENTS"A good club for a wide range of players. . . . Flashy cosmetics were super easy to aim. . . . For whatever reason, it just feels easy to make a good swing with this club."HOTIt seems every engineer and his mother are rushing toward greater MOI in everything from drivers to putters. That's why we respect these guys for maintaining attention to playability. The sole keel point and leading-edge relief encourage the head to nestle behind the ball with the neutrality of an iron. The ProLaunch shafts are a good stock offering.NOTSquare shape mildly resembles a beetle on growth hormones.
COBRA BAFFLER DWS/PRO
STREET PRICE: $150, $180WEBSITE: cobragolf.comLOFTS16, 18, 20, 23, 26, 29TECH STORYTo maximize ball speed on mis-hits, the maraging-steel face insert has more surface area than last year's model. Extra weight has been redistributed to the corners to improve MOI, and the "fastback crown" (slightly sloped front to back) pushes the CG low and deep. The Baffler Pro's back screw accommodates custom shaft weights.PLAYER COMMENTS"A contender. Gray-and-black scheme has an appealing look at address. . . . Ball seems to come off fast and settle soft. . . . Head shape is nothing short of purity, and the trajectory is strong and high."HOTThe company knows not to tinker too much with a classic. That said, the tweaks are noticeable in a good way. A reassuring club to have when the pressure's on. A nice feature on the Pro version is a longer hosel that allows lie-angle adjustability on custom orders.NOTSome will find the look of the rounded, protruding leading edge meddlesome.
NICKENT 4DX IRONWOOD
STREET PRICE: $150WEBSITE: nickentgolf.comLOFTS14, 15.5, 17, 18.5, 20, 21.5, 23, 24.5, 26, 27.5, 29TECH STORYA thin (0.4-millimeter) titanium crown is brazed to a steel body. The weight saved is used to make two tungsten inserts. The inserts lower the CG and reduce vibration. The face height has been increased by two millimeters to help lessen spin for a low, more penetrating ball flight.PLAYER COMMENTS"Has a nice, plain shape and straight lines. . . . Classy modified offset, a real player's hybrid. . . . I felt very confident swinging this club. . . . The impact sounds powerful, almost like a fairway wood."HOTThe sharp, metal-wood sound pleases the ears, and the look is about as traditional as this category gets. It's a definite improvement over the 3DX DC, which was no short order. Plus, the 11 loft choices can fill any distance gap.NOTSome suggest the sweet spot is a little like finding your swing: It's good when it's there, but don't expect it to show up every day.
NIKE SQ SUMO / SQ SUMO2
STREET PRICE: $150WEBSITE: nikegolf.comLOFTSSumo: 15, 18, 21, 24; Sumo2: 17, 20, 23, 26, 30, 34TECH STORYAs with all of the company's square designs, the purpose is to increase forgiveness. The cryogenic-steel face is made thicker in the middle and thinner on the perimeter to optimize ball speed on off-center strikes. Though shaped differently on the two models, the "powerbow" system lets designers move weight low and back for stability.PLAYER COMMENTS"This club sits dead square and flies dead straight. . . . My mis-hits soared; definitely a 'Best in Show'. . . . The sound of the conventional model is slightly better than the square."HOTMaybe the geometry inherited from the driver works better in the hybrid. Notebook after notebook of positive feedback from our player testers suggests the golfing population is past the shock of unconventional shapes. Because the two models have staggered lofts, there are options for filling precise distance gaps.NOTBlocky shape will have to prove its merit from tight lies to traditional-minded players.
STREET PRICE: $150WEBSITE: pinggolf.comLOFTS15, 18, 21, 24, 28, 32TECH STORYThe variable-thickness, computer-machined face is designed to provide consistency on off-center hits, and an internal weight pad is intended to increase the launch angle. The presence of 10 radial ribs built into the sloped crown is a science project for solid sound.PLAYER COMMENTS"The most workable hybrid. Almost as good as an iron for shaping shots. . . . The height and trajectory are spot on. . . . You sense off-center hits, yet the ball holds its line, which is exactly the kind of forgiving feedback you want."HOTA handsome tool with some research behind the specs. To learn the proper shaft length-loft combinations most golfers need to have linear distance gaps, Ping's engineers studied amateurs of all skill levels. If you're looking for quality shaft choices, the Grafalloy ProLaunch Red and UST V2 High Launch are available as standard options.NOTHaving a Carpenter-steel face instead of 17-4 might produce more ball speed.
TAYLORMADE BURNER RESCUE
STREET PRICE: $180WEBSITE: taylormadegolf.comLOFTS19, 22, 25, 28TECH STORYThe two-piece head (stainless-steel body and separate face insert) is 13-percent larger than the Rescue Dual, a design intended to deepen the CG and increase MOI. Like all Burner kin, the hybrid is built with "superfast" technology (lightweight shaft and grip in the 60-gram range) to increase swing speed.PLAYER COMMENTS"This is a godsend for the average player. . . . No matter where you hit it on the face, it flies high and straight, and the feel is always the same. . . . Dispersion was tight. If you need something that performs like a long iron but won't knuckleball, this is your club."HOTAn exemplar of hybrids whose shape suggests a little more fairway wood than iron. Intent on forgiveness, the slightly beefier volume sits cleanly at any address position because of the shallow face and well-contoured sole.NOTBusy graphics. Op-art critics might contend the crown has too much of a Victor Vasarely influence.
BOBBY JONES PLAYERS SERIES
STREET PRICE: $200WEBSITE: bobbyjonesgolf.comLOFTS17, 19, 21, 25, 30, 35TECH STORYClubmaker Jesse Ortiz has chiseled a substantial amount of mass away from the toe and heel contours to make this club more versatile in uneven lies. The body is a three-piece construction of maraging metals, including a super-thin crown that let Ortiz relocate 30 grams deeper in the head to lower the CG.PLAYER COMMENTS"Sweet, solid impact. I felt it right up through my hands and into my heart. . . . Looks like a gem and goes like a rocket. . . . I dropped a few balls into divots, and the head scooped them out no problem."HOTPraise to Ortiz for his bravado in making a cleek throwback. The compact head offers utility and niche aesthetics, and the conservative shaft lengths will translate to accuracy and consistency.NOTTwo Benjamins is a bold frontier for many hybrid shoppers. Plus, some golfers might not want their hybrid to look like a 7-wood.
STREET PRICE: $200WEBSITE: callawaygolf.comLOFTS18, 21, 24, 27TECH STORYThe stainless-steel face and body and tungsten-infused soleplate lower the CG. The traditionally shaped hosel (nicely counterbalanced with the heavier weighted sole) caters to the taste of better players, and there's no excess face progression in the higher-lofted models.PLAYER COMMENTS"How soon can I put this in my bag? . . . It's got the balance of an experienced tightrope walker. . . . The compact clubhead just wants to snuggle right up against the ball. . . . Whoever made this knew what they were doing."HOTDraw and neutral versions are available, a pleasant surprise for such an attractive club. High-handicappers might find the look intimidating, but those willing to try it will be rewarded. A player-inspired club from a company known for game-improvement.NOTThe ding on your credit-card statement might hurt, especially if the exact loft you want isn't one of the paltry four offered.
STREET PRICE: $160WEBSITE: callawaygolf.comLOFTS18, 21, 24, 27TECH STORYThe stainless-steel construction features a variable-thickness face designed to improve ball speed on off-center hits. The low leading edge is meant to launch the ball high and quickly. The Tru-Bore "hosel-less" hosel saves weight, which is allocated to the perimeter of the head for better stability.PLAYER COMMENTS"How easy is this? . . . I had no problem finding the sweet spot. . . . You can dig into the turf without fear of hitting it fat. . . . Firm feeling, but the forgiveness was ample. . . . Good choice for the middle- to high-handicapper."HOTWith the leading edge in front of the shaft, this club has the look and ability to plow through the thickest rough Mother Nature and the course superintendent ever conspired to grow. If you're searching for more confidence out of bad lies, consider this one.NOTSome found the feel at impact a tad harsh. It seems to lack the looks and technological horsepower one expects from the big C.
CLEVELAND HIBORE XLS
STREET PRICE: $160WEBSITE: clevelandgolf.comLOFTS16, 19, 22, 25, 28TECH STORYAn internal-weighting design (shaped like a horseshoe) allows engineers to move mass to the rear of the clubhead. The low-profile body supports a deep-profile face to better position the CG in line with the center of the clubhead.PLAYER COMMENTS"The look of this scooped crown doesn't bother me, and the teeny alignment aid is effective. . . . Very long, and it hits as straight as you can point your finger. . . . It's like a buoy: No matter how I jostle the head around on the turf, it naturally comes to rest the way I want."HOTA convex crown lets you reap the benefits of a slightly taller face without the punishments -- such as squirrelly contact on deep lies. The company has listened to its tour players and made changes. The slightly more blunted toe is appealing, and each year the innovative crown sounds better.NOTMany a hearty golfer cannot stomach the sight of scooped metal. Seems unnecessarily bigger than its progenitor, the Halo.
MIZUNO CLK FLI-HI
STREET PRICE: $160WEBSITE: mizunousa.comLOFTS17, 20, 23, 26TECH STORYA weight-saving, brazed-titanium crown deepens the CG to launch the ball higher, and the company's CORtech stainless-steel face of three thicknesses is designed to deliver uniform distance control. The leading edge is rounded to prevent digging, and the heel and toe areas have been drafted with considerable relief to improve playability from poor lies.PLAYER COMMENTS"The sound at impact really struck me. It was almost wooden, and I mean that as a compliment. . . . Boring trajectory makes you watch your shot a little longer. . . . Impact felt solid, like a mini-driver."HOTIn a category that's barely 15 minutes old, this club reflects classic hybrid shape and function. Plus, it's no slouch in the engineering department. Mizuno's chockablock custom program is clearly a bonus worth exploring.NOTSmallish look might intimidate those who are looking for more help than this club can provide.
STREET PRICE: $189WEBSITE: sonartec.comLOFTS18, 21, 24, 27TECH STORYBecause of the unorthodox triangular shape and the increased internal weighting in the skirt, the designers claim the club has the deepest CG location of any hybrid on the marketâ“as well as high MOI. It's designed to launch the ball higher than any previous hybrid made by the company.PLAYER COMMENTS"This is the first club in a while that made me say 'Wow!' at impact. . . . Definitely a surprise. . . . Unusual looking at address, but it's a pleasure to hit. . . . For the first time in my life, I like the look of an offset because this one sits square. . . . I couldn't miss with this thing."HOTIf you need more carry at the long end of your bag, then check this one out immediately. The club accomplishes what it sets out to do, and that's hit the ball high. Not to be overlooked is the value of the stock shaft, made by Graphite Design exclusively for Sonartec.NOTNeed we say it? Of course a black triangle staring up at you might prove unnerving.
TAYLORMADE RESCUE TP
STREET PRICE: $220WEBSITE: taylormadegolf.comLOFTS15, 17, 19, 21TECH STORYSame as the Burner, it's a two-piece clubhead built with 17-4 stainless steel under a pull-face construction process. The head volume is about 10 percent smaller than the Burner in similar lofts, and the CG is pushed closer to the face for better workability and more penetrating trajectories.PLAYER COMMENTS"Piercing flight felt like a well struck 2-iron, or at least what I remember a 2-iron feeling like. . . . Compact head is almost as small as an iron, yet my mis-hits were pretty solid. . . . Excellent feel. Didn't balloon on me like others sometimes do."HOTAn elegant operating tool. If you're one of the few stubborn amateurs who still carry a butterknife, this is your chance to make the overdue transition. You'll keep the right to stick out your chest if that's your concern.NOTStinginess in the higher lofts is almost expected with a better-player-style hybrid, but come on, nothing over 21 degrees?
TOUR EDGE BAZOOKA GEOMAX
STREET PRICE: $120WEBSITE: touredge.comLOFTS17, 19, 22, 25, 28TECH STORYA 20-gram weight is positioned in the rear of the sole to increase the MOI and lower the CG of this already large front-to-back clubhead. The face is manufactured from Carpenter 450 maraging steel and is designed to improve ball speed.PLAYER COMMENTS"This is the bombshell of the bunch. Thought it was a bargain-bin club, but it performed fantastically. . . . Almost swings itself. . . . Not bad for a big head, either. . . . It'd be the right decision for an inconsistent ball-striker. . . . It's almost like cheating."HOTYou won't find equally progressive technology at a better value. The hybrid meshes cohesively with the GeoMax iron line, which the company makes easy to mix and match. Check out the online trial offer that puts the 6-hybrid in your hands for just $60.NOTBig shape trends toward a fairway-wood look, making the transition to your longest iron possibly jarring.