Golf Buzz

January 6, 2013 - 11:11pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Golf bags at the Players Championship
Getty Images
The golf bags at pro tour events are stocked with a wide variety of golf club brands.

As the 2013 golf season struggles to get off the ground out in Hawaii, I thought this would be a good time to check out the state of golf equipment usage on the world's biggest tours. Thanks to Sports Marketing Surveys – SMS is the company that tracks the gear that each player uses in European Tour events – we have a pretty good snapshot of the clubs that many of the game's best players are favoring these days.

Here are some of SMS's observations from the whole of the 2012 European Tour season:

--Drivers: Players used 22 different driver brands and a total of 111 different driver models. On average, each player used 1.46 different drivers over the course of the season, but one player used six different driver models.

--Fairway woods: Players used 27 different fairway wood brands and a total of 140 different fairway wood models.

--Utility clubs: Players used 27 different utility club brands and 120 different utility club models.

--Irons: Players used 31 different brands of 3- through 9-irons and 139 different models of 3- through 9-iron. A total of 42 percent of players didn't have a 3-iron in their bag.

--Wedges: Players used 33 different wedge brands and 181 different wedge models.

--Putters: Players used 40 different putter brands and 454 different putter models. On average, each player used 1.76 different putters during the 2012 season, but two players used 11 different putter models. And for the year, 14 percent of the players carried a long or belly putter.

I don't have a lot of perspective on some of these numbers – for example, is the use of 22 different driver brands high or low? It seems fairly high to me – and just for comparison, if you go to Golfsmith.com, they carry 18 different driver brands. I'd love to see a list of all those 22 different models.

I also found it interesting that there were more different fairway models used (140) than utility clubs used (120), simply because it seems like there are more companies marketing hybrids than fairway woods. And it's also interesting that 42 percent of players didn't use 3-irons. I wonder if that number will continue to rise – and at what point will there be more players without 3-irons than with them?

And finally, whether the number of different club brands has risen or fallen in recent years, I'm a little pleased to see the numbers so high. Golf these days is dominated by a handful of companies, all of which make fantastic equipment -- but I have a soft spot for the smaller companies fighting for their sliver of the golf gear pie. Some of life's greatest inventions come from the most unlikely sources, and I hope there's always a place in the golf equipment universe for little guys with a dream.

January 6, 2013 - 6:16pm
Posted by:
John Kim
john.kim's picture
Nick Watney
Getty Images
Nick Watney shared some thoughts on his move to Nike Golf.

 

The start of the golf year means new dreams, new goals and of course, new equipment for many of the world's top players.  Actually, many golfers will be debuting new equipment (including a zillion amateurs visited by Santa!) but you don't get blog posts written about you...

One high profile change came for five-time PGA Tour winner, Nick Watney. Watney signed with Nike Golf for the 2013 golf season and has made his debut at the season-opening Tournament of Champions. He was able to find time to answer a few questions on his golf life and the change in equipment. 
 
PGA.com: Five PGA Tour victories puts you in pretty elite company.  What goals are still ahead for you?
Watney: Well I feel like I am just getting started.  Maybe when all is said and done, maybe I will get to 20 wins.  I still feel like I have a lot to do and I am really excited to start this new year with Nike and improve every week.
 
PGA.com: Why will the move to Nike Golf help you get there?
Watney: Nike has proven in pretty much every sport that they provide equipment for that they strive to be the best.  If you look at basketball for instance, the best players wear Nike.  Tiger has been a Nike Athlete for a long time and has re-written the record books in golf. So I am excited to have their support and it is an honor to represent them.
 
PGA.com: Have you been a Nike fan your entire life?
Watney: I have been a Nike fan my entire life.  The first sports I can remember was Michael Jordan, he put Nike footwear on the map as far as athletes go.  My favorite athletes around the bay area growing up,  Jerry Rice and Joe Montana wore Nike cleats…I have been a Nike fan for a long time.  When I received my first product Nike after being on staff I had to pinch myself it was pretty fun and so exciting."
 
PGA.com: What product was easiest to switch?
Watney: The irons and wedges were the easiest products for me to switch into.  They are very classic looking, very clean, simple, which is good.  It was pretty much one day of looking down at them and feeling them perform so those were the easiest for me to switch into.
 
Obviously, players will change equipment for various reasons. But the one thing that they all will not compromise is their hope to play better this year than they played last year.  Watney's move to Nike Golf carries some risk for both parties, but the up side could be quite significant. I'd probably say the same thing about my golf bag - so if anyone wants to sign a 8.2 handicap...I'm listening.
January 6, 2013 - 1:16am
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Colin Montogmerie and Padraig Harrington
Getty Images
Colin Montgomerie's stellar Ryder Cup reputation could be tarnished if he were to lose as captain in 2014, says Padraig Harrington.

After The PGA of America rocked the golf world by anointing Tom Watson as U.S. Ryder Cup captain for 2014, observers immediately began speculating that Europe would need to respond with an equally large presence.

Paul McGinley of Ireland and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland are considered the front-runners for the job, which the Europeans are set to discuss during the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship later this month. But in the wake of Watson’s appointment, Colin Montgomerie’s name began cropping up.

Despite what can best be described as a lack of respect from many golf fans in the United States, Monty has one of the all-time great Ryder Cup records, amassing a 20-9-7 record that includes an unblemish slate in the singles. He trails only Nick Faldo on the European career points list, sank the putts the clinched the golden chalice in both 1997 and 2004, and captained the Europeans to victory in 2010 at Celtic Manor.

Even so – or perhaps because of all that – one very interested observer believes there's no chance that Monty would accept a return engagement as captain.

"It would be madness for him," said Padraig Harrington in an interview with Reuters. "He's had a great Ryder Cup playing career, he's been a successful captain. Why risk all that?

"I can't see in any shape or form him agreeing to do it again," added Harrington, who believes that Montgomerie would be risking his golf legacy by coming back.

"I had a long chat with Monty the evening we won the Ryder Cup in 2010," he said. "I could see the relief Colin had when he won. I don't think he quite realized until then the enormity of being captain for him. Most players who take the captaincy, whether they win or lose, it doesn't change people's perception of their overall career.

Montgomerie's reputation, however, is based on his eight European Tour money titles and his Ryder Cup performances, explained Harrington, who has played on six Ryder Cup teams.

"By taking the captaincy he's putting far more on the line than anybody else because it would be hard to mention that he's unbeaten in the singles in the competition but, oh, he's also a losing captain as well," he said. "That would take the shine off his great record."

For his part, Harrington hopes his fellow Irishman McGinley gets the captaincy for 2014 in Scotland and Clarke is in charge for 2016 at Hazeltine.

"I think Darren would be a better captain in America because of his stature over there. McGinley would be a better option to go up against Watson," he told Reuters. "He can't match Watson in terms of his stature in the game -- nobody can do that. The only way McGinley would tackle a Ryder Cup is to knuckle down and do his own business and organize things. He would be ideal for Gleneagles."

January 4, 2013 - 2:19pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
J.J. Henry
Getty Images
J.J. Henry, a Connecticut native, will pay tribute to the victims of Sandy Hook this week at the Tournament of Champions.

Golfweek's Jim McCabe reports that Connecticut native J.J. Henry will pay tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy with the letters, "S.H.E.S." (short for, "Sandy Hook Elementary School," of course) emblazoned on his hat this week in Maui at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

"Whether you come from the area or not, just the devastation and the unthinkable that happened," Henry said.

But here's the thing. Henry is from the area. He grew up in Fairfield, Conn., about 20 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. When the massacre occurred Dec. 14, he was like nearly every other person who heard the news. He was frozen with fear. Twenty young children and six teachers and administrators gunned down.

"It's almost too hard to talk about," he said.

But it's something that needs to addressed. More to the point, the families need to be honored, and so Henry thought he would do something. "Sitting at home (in the Fort Worth, Texas, area), I thought if I could be a small part in honoring those families, I wanted to do that. I went to that school system. I've always remembered where I came from."

To read McCabe's piece on Henry, click here.

January 4, 2013 - 10:37am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Augusta National
Getty Images
Augusta National is no longer No. 1 on the Golf Digest lists of America's top 100 courses.

Golf Digest has released its 2013-2014 list for the top 100 golf courses in America.

Here's the criteria used by the Golf Digest panelists to determine the rankings:

1. Shot Values. How well do the holes pose risks and rewards and equally test length, accuracy and finesse?

2. Resistance to Scoring. How difficult, while still being fair, is the course for a scratch player from the back tees?

3. Design Variety. How varied are the holes in differing lengths, configurations, hazard placements, green shapes and green contours?

4. Memorability. How well do the design features provide individuality to each hole yet a collective continuity to the entire 18?

5. Aesthetics. How well do the scenic values of the course add to the pleasure of a round?

6. Conditioning. How firm, fast and rolling were the fairways, and how firm yet receptive were the greens on the day you played the course?

7. Ambience. How well does the overall feel and atmosphere of the course reflect or uphold the traditional values of the game?

To arrive at a course's final score, we total its averages in the seven categories, double-weighting Shot Values. A course needs 45 evaluations over the past eight years to be eligible for America's 100 Greatest.

To take a look at the stout list -- and believe it or not, Augusta National dropped a spot since 2011 -- click here.

January 3, 2013 - 10:08pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Callaway X Hot driver
Courtesy of Callaway Golf
In its new X Hot drivers, Callaway is able to boost ball speed without sacrificing optimum trajectory.

The distance gains just keep on coming. In debuting its new X Hot drivers, Callaway Golf engineers say they have achieved gains of 13 yards as compared to their RAZR X Black drivers. These advancements are possible, they said, thanks to a host of design and engineering advancements that make the new drivers faster, hotter and more lightweight than their predecessors.

For the X Hot models, Callaway’s Speed Frame Face Technology increases ball speed, saves weight and optimizes stiffness and stress distribution across the face for more efficient energy transfer from the clubhead to the ball. The new face technology, which is also found in Callaway's RAZR Fit Xtreme driver, promotes more – and more consistent – distance, even on off-center impacts.

"With the X Hot Drivers, we pushed the Speed Frame Face's efficiency to a new standard, producing high ball speeds while maintaining the trajectory and accuracy that discerning golfers demand," said Callaway Senior Vice President of Research & Development Alan Hocknell. "The fast face on X Hot is one piece of the puzzle, though. We went to great lengths to configure the X Hot drivers not only to promote distance, but to progressively optimize performance for various player types."

By decoupling the face performance from the rest of the driver head, Callaway is able to boost ball speed without sacrificing optimum trajectory. And a tighter curvature face on the X Hot Driver (relative to the RAZR X Black) helps to provide more consistent sidespin and dispersion to promote accuracy.

In these new drivers, Callaway has implemented its thinnest casting technology ever in the all-titanium head to create a lighter swing weight and overall configuration, a combination that benefits most players in terms of head speed and distance, especially golfers with an average swing speed. Another benefit is Draw Bias Progression, which changes the amount of draw bias depending on the loft, allowing golfers to better control sidespin and tune their shot shape. Players with higher lofts can take advantage of higher draw bias for straighter shots, while players with lower lofts can utilize a more neutral Center of Gravity that fits their game.

Also featured in the X Hot Driver is the adjustable OptiFit Hosel, which adjusts the face angle in Open, Square or Closed positions to improve accuracy and trajectory, and allows golfers to dial in their preferred look at address. The X Hot Drivers also feature Project X Velocity shafts as the stock offering.

The 460cc standard model will be available in 9.5-, 10.5-, 11.5-degree models along with a 13-degree HT-model, and will feature a lighter overall club weight and a lower swing weight than the X Hot Pro model. The X Hot Pro model, which has a slightly smaller headshape at 440cc, will be available in 8.5-, 9.5- and 10.5-degree models and feature slightly more open face angles than the standard version.

The standard model will be available Jan. 25, 2013, while the Pro version will be available on Feb. 15. Both versions will carry a new product introduction price of $299.

Along with the new drivers, Callaway is rolling out a line of X Hot and X Hot Pro fairway woods. For these woods, Callaway engineered a Forged Speed Frame Face Cup made of high-strength Carpenter 455 stainless steel that is up to 40 percent thinner than last year's fairway wood face – and with a 90 percent larger sweet spot. As a result, Callaway says, the new woods produce significantly hotter responses all over the face.

The standard X Hot Fairway Woods will be available in a 3-Wood, 4-Wood, 5-Wood, 7-Wood, 9-Wood and 11-Wood, and will feature slightly longer shafts and more upright lie angles than the Pro models. The Pro clubs will be available in 13.5-, 15-, 17- and 19-degree models. Both versions will carry an introduction price of $229 per club. 

For more on Callaway Golf, visit www.CallawayGolf.com or see the Callaway brand pages on PGA.com.