Most prominent new equipment releases from golf's biggest companies at the PGA Show
Courtesy of Nike Golf, Ping Golf, Cleveland Golf and Mizuno Golf
ORLANDO – Walking the floor at the PGA Merchandise Show, it's easy to get caught up in the thousands of eye-catching new products on display. The fact is, however, that the vast majority of best-selling equipment comes from a handful of golf's most prominent equipment makers.
Here is a round-up of some of the biggest releases from golf's most prominent equipment companies – it is not in any way a complete list of the new offerings – presented in alphabetical order:
CALLAWAY: Riding a wave of momentum into 2016, Callaway is out with its XR16 driver and fairway clubs, which have a unique backstory. As clubhead aerodynamics become more prominent, the company teamed with aircraft maker Boeing to design the heads of these new clubs to cut through the air more easily than ever – Callaway bills it as "where forgiving meets fast."
"To make a driver as advanced as the new XR16, we had to think outside the box and come up with new techniques to break the common mold of driver design," says Alan Hocknell, Callaway's senior vice president for research and development.
The XR16 has a large head (450cc) like those of many modern drivers, but it is shaped to allow for more stability through the swing and positions the center of gravity lower and deeper than previous models. The Speed Step Crown is thinner and stretched out to lower drag.
The driver also contains the latest version of Callaway's R*MOTO face that's lighter and almost 20 percent thinner than before to help generate faster swings and more ball speed. It is available in lofts of 9, 10.5 and 13.5 degrees, and retails for $349.99. The tuned-up Pro model comes in lofts of 9 and 10.5 degrees, and retails for $399.99.
The XR16 fairway woods feature a larger head and a bigger footprint than you might expect. The crown is lighter than previous models, and the sole is cambered to get move more easily through the turf. Its Forged Hyper Speed Face Cup provides for more spring and forgiveness.
The XR16 comes in 3+, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11 models, and retails for $229.99 each. The Pro woods have a more compact head design, and are available in lofts of 14, 16 and 18 degrees with a retail price of $249.99 each.
CLEVELAND: At Cleveland, a lot of the focus right now is on proper alignment while putting. The company's latest advancement is small but crucial – they've raised the alignment bar on the flange of their new family of TFI 2135 putters.
On most putters, the alignment bar – the little line behind the face that helps you aim – sits on the flange, near the bottom of the putter. That's fine, Cleveland says, if your eyes are directly over the ball. But most golfers – the company says the number is 80 percent – don't actually set up with their eyes in that position, which can led to incorrect alignment and missed putts.
So on these new models, Cleveland's designers raised the alignment line up to where it is equal to the midpoint of the ball – 21.35 millimeters. At that level, they say, the line will never give you a misperception no matter where your eyes are when you address the ball.
The "2135" obviously stands for the 21.35-millimeter level of the alignment bar, while the "TFI" stands for True Feel Innovation, the name of the copper-colored face on these new models. Specifically, it is a Milled Copper Infused Face Cap over a Copolymer Insert for improved feel and consistency across the face. The three new putters retail for $129.99 (blade and mid-mallet ) and $169.99 (counterbalanced blade with a heavier 405-gram head weight).
COBRA: Cobra Golf got a nice boost over the weekend when Rickie Fowler won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship over a star-studded field that included Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Fowler won with a brand-new King LTD driver in his bag, and Cobra has five versions of the new King driver to choose from.
Cobra calls the King LTD the longest and straightest driver it has ever created. It has a 16-gram weight near the back of the head to lower the center of gravity for more stability and forgiveness. Its TexTreme Carbon Fiber crown is 20 percent lighter than standard carbon fiber, while its re-engineered Forged 8-1-1 Titanium E9 face is hotter than previous versions while also boasting a larger "sweet zone."
Golfers looking for more adjustability can choose from the King F6 and F6 Pro Custom versions, which feature moveable weights, and there is also a standard King F6 model that has a "front-to-back" weight system that allows you to select your center of gravity. All the King models have Cobra's MyFly system that lets golfers choose their loft settings.
The King LTD and LTD Pro retail for $499, while the F6 and F6 Pro Custom retail for $399 and the standard King F6 retails for $349.
MIZUNO: Among the most eye-catching products on display this week are the "Blue Magic" S5 wedges from Mizuno. They get their nickname from their dazzling Blue Ion finish and their cache from the fact that Luke Donald not only helped design them but also uses them.
The S5 wedges have a new "silhouette" head shape that gives them a clean look and helps them interact more cleanly with turf and sand. They're made from 1025 mild carbon steel using Mizuno's famous Grain Flow forging process to produce a soft but consistent feel.
These new wedges also boast Mizuno's Quad Cut Groove technology, in which the width, depth, draft angle and shoulder radius of each groove are precisely rendered to enhance spin control and ball-stopping ability in all playing conditions. For greater control on the high-bounce options, 15 percent of the center trailing edge is beveled, while 25 percent is removed on the low-bounce options.
Along with Blue Ion, the S5 wedges come in a White Satin finish, and are available in 25 different loft and bounce combinations ranging from 49 to 62 degrees via Mizuno's Performance Fitting System. They retail for $129.99 per club.
NIKE: While Luke Donald was giving his input on the new Mizuno S5 wedges, Rory McIlroy was helping to fine-tune the design the new Vapor Fly line of clubs from Nike Golf. They're called Fly because the goal in creating them was to provide an overall higher launch angle.
"We've verified that if we can launch the ball higher, while managing spin, it will ultimately fly farther," says Nate Radcliffe, Nike Golf's director of engineering. "We are using innovative designs that consider mass distribution, tuned compliance and stiffness to help the ball consistently fly high and long."
The vanguard of the new line is the Vapor Flex 440 driver, whose 440cc head is made primarily of carbon fiber-reinforced RZN, the proprietary material that Nike uses in both clubs and golf balls. RZN is extremely light and strong, allowing the company's engineers to position more weight forward and down for extra adjustability and forgiveness.
The HyperFlight face is thinned out around the perimeter to help produce extreme ball speed across the entire face, while the FlyBeam Reinforced Covert Cavity Back stiffens the head and redistributes weight to the heel and toe for better ball speed and forgiveness.
The Vapor Flex 440 also features FlexFlight technology – a RZN tube with a high-density weight on one end. Golfers can adjust their launch angle, spin rate and other characteristics by inserting either the light or the heavy end of the tube into the head. And Nike's FlexLoft 2.0 technology lets golfer select from among five lofts and three face angles to fine-tune their ball flight.
The Vapor Fly family also includes the Fly and Pro drivers as well as fairway woods and hybrids, and Vapor Fly and Fly Pro irons. The Vapor Flex driver retails for $600.
PING: The new G Driver – the follow-up to its hit G30 driver – is obviously Ping's headline this year, but the company's most intriguing new offering is its G Crossover club. Ping says it combines the precision, workability and control of an iron with the ball speed and forgiveness of a hybrid.
"People love the look and feel of the Crossover because they haven't seen anything like it," says Ping CEO John Solheim said. "It shouldn't be confused with a driving iron. It's higher-launching and much more forgiving, and offers a lot of versatility."
The distinctive gray head resembles a huge muscleback, yet the club has a narrow top line. The head also has extreme heel-toe weighting to keep the center of gravity low and back for extra stability and forgiveness. The high-strength Carpenter 455 steel face is machined for greater flexing and faster ball speed, while a cascading internal sole helps the entire face, sole and top rail to flex and maximize distance.
The Crossover is available in three lofts – 18 degrees, 21 degrees and 24 degrees – and retails for
$247.50 per club.
TAYLORMADE: Whenever TaylorMade introduces a new driver, it immediately generates worldwide attention. The company's other releases, however, often fly under the radar. The latest case in point might be its new M2 irons.
TaylorMade's focus for these new irons was to achieve maximum distance without sacrificing peak trajectory. For starters, the company's designers utilized a Thick-Thin Fluted Hosel, which removed three grams of weight from the hosel and distributed it as low as possible around the clubhead's perimeter to help lower the center of gravity and promote a higher launch.
MORE: The face is thinner than on the previous irons – it doesn't include the Face Slots found on some recent TaylorMade irons – and works with the Speed Pocket – the channel cut into the sole that helps the face flex – to increase the launch angle and ball speed, even on shots struck below the face's equator. Additionally, the 360° Undercut expands the unsupported face area for more ball speed across the face, and removes weight from the top line to allow for stronger lofts that maximize distance.
The M2 irons retail for $799 per set with steel shafts and $899 with graphite), while the tune-up M2 Tour version retails for $899 with steel shafts.
TITLEIST: There's no shortage of new gear at Titleist, most notably all the new irons that appeared last fall. But the big newsmaker at the PGA Show is the company's Vokey SM6 wedges.
The center of gravity is progressive through the set because, the company says, aligning it with the impact position of each loft produces precise distance and trajectory control. Lowering the center of gravity in the pitching and gap wedges moves more mass behind the ball, while the sand wedge has a mid-level center of gravity and the higher-lofted wedges raise the center of gravity even higher.
The wedges' TX4 grooves feature a new parallel face texture that creates a more consistent groove edge and tighter quality tolerances to generate more spin. The lower-lofted clubs (46 to 54 degrees) have narrower, deeper grooves, while the higher-lofted clubs (56 to 62 degrees) have wider grooves. These distinct designs, the company says, optimize contact with the ball for maximum spin.
The SM6 models also offer five different grind options and three different finishes, and they can be customized in many different ways. They retail for $169 per club.