Equipment

Callaway Big Bertha and Big Bertha Alpha 816 Double Black Diamond drivers
Courtesy of Callaway Golf
The new Great Big Bertha driver (l) has a sliding weight around the sole's perimeter, while the Big Bertha Alpha 816 DBD has two gravity cores.
 
Callaway made a great big splash last year with the release of a brand-new generation of Great Big Bertha drivers – the Great Big Bertha, the Great Big Bertha Alpha 815 and the Great Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond. This week, the company unveiled the 2016 editions of these clubs.
 
The new drivers are the result not only of technological advances but also of Callaway's study of thousands of golfers that it custom-fits each year. The company's research shows that many golfers are forfeiting considerable distance off the tee because of three specific factors: Low ball speed, poor direction, and poor launch angles and spin rates.
 
So, Callaway designed its new drivers to address these shortcomings in golfers' swings. In fact, the company says these 2016 clubs have more distance-enhancing features and technologies than any they've ever created – and that the new Great Big Bertha drivers have a blend of aerodynamics and multi-material construction unlike any other drivers they've ever  built.
 
The standard Great Big Bertha – which Callaway says is best for the vast majority of golfers – features a 10-gram sliding weight that moves on a track around the perimeter of the sole. Golfers can set the weight wherever they prefer along the track, giving them the most options yet for dialing in their shot shape. The Bertha also features Callaway's Optifit Hosel, which provides eight different configurations to fine-tune loft, lie, and face angle.
 
In its studies, Callaway discovered that the one area where most golfers have the greatest room for improvement is the "smash factor." To help golfers generate more ball speed, even on mis-hits, Callaway's R•MOTO clubface technology employs a system of internal ribs that run from the center of the interior sole to the clubface, adding strength to the perimeter of the face. The heads also have Callaway's Variable Face Thickness, in which the face is thinner in strategic places to expand the area in the middle of the face that delivers fast ball speed.
 
 
The Big Bertha Alpha 816 Double Black Diamond – Callaway's Top-Fuel dragster – doesn't have the sliding perimeter weight because golfers good enough to handle this club don't need that. Instead, it features what the company calls Dual Distance Gravity Core Chambers.
 
Callaway pioneered the gravity core in the original Big Bertha Alpha. One end of the core – essentially a small stick – has a heavier weight while the other has a lighter weight; golfers can move the club's center of gravity up or down depending on which way they insert the gravity core into the head. 
 
The new 816 Alpha DBD has two gravity cores, one in each hemisphere of the sole. This, the company says, provides even more options for golfers looking to fine-tune their ball flight to increase their ball speed and distance along with their shot shape. The DBD also features the standard Big Bertha's upgraded R•MOTO Face and Opti-Fit Hosel, buthas a deeper face and a low center of gravity for a blend of forgiveness and workability that elite golfers are seeking. 
 
Callaway is offering a wide variety of custom shaft options to help golfers find their optimal blend of swing speed and control. These shafts range in weight from 295 grams to 325 grams, and come from such prominent shaftmakers as True Temper, Mitsubishi, Matrix and Aldila.
 
The new Big Bertha driver will be available for pre-order beginning August 14, and will arrive in stores on August 28 with a suggested retail price of $449.99. The Big Bertha Alpha 816 DBD also will be available for pre-order on August 14, and will hit stores on September 18 with a suggested retail price of $499.99.
 
Here's a video on the Alpha 816 DBD driver:
 
 
Callaway unveils 2016 editions of Big Bertha driver line
Ping GMax and i irons
Courtesy of Ping Golf
The Ping GMax irons (left) have a Custom Tuning Port housed in the cavity structure behind the face, while the i irons feature a head and hosel geometry that ensures trajectory control.
 
Ping has dramatically expanded its iron family with the release of two innovative and complementary new sets.
 
The GMax irons introduce what Ping calls its COR-Eye Technology, which increases the flex across the entire face for faster ball speeds and enhanced forgiveness. The new i irons, by contrast, have softer players-style heads – the first Ping has ever made from soft 431 stainless steel – for improved feel and ball-flight control. 
 
The COR-Eye Technology in the GMax irons simultaneously activates the sole, face and top rail to increase ball speed up to 3 mph over previous Ping models, the company explains. COR-Eye creates faster ball speed that is consistent across the entire face, so even off-center strikes deliver longer, straighter results. 
 
The cavity structure behind the face houses a Custom Tuning Port that connects to the sole. With the port, positioned deep in the wide sole, Ping says, each iron's center of gravity is moved lower and farther back to increase its stability for more forgiveness, accuracy and consistency. 
 
Ping also optimized the lengths and lofts of these irons to provide more consistent gapping and the distance control and high trajectory needed to hit and hold more greens. An enhanced leading edge, more trailing edge relief and refined bounce help optimize turf interaction. 
 
 
The set also has a unique swingweight progression in which the 4,- 5- and 6-irons have lighter swingweights to help square the face at impact for longer and straighter shots. And the faces on the 4- through 8-irons are heat-treated with a special process that strengthens them by approximately 40 percent, which allows the face to be thinner for greater flexing and faster ball speeds. 
 
The GMax irons are available in 4- through 9-irons, plus pitching wedge, utility wedge and sand wedge. They come with a stock steel Ping CFS Distance shaft (in Soft R, R, S and X stiffnesses), or you can get them outfitted with True Temper Dynamic Gold S300 or X100 shafts; True Temper XP 95 (R, S); Project X 5.0 or 6.0 shafts; or Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105 (S, X) shafts at no extra charge. They carry a suggested retail price of $121.25 per club with steel shafts and $136.25 per club with graphite shafts.
 
Where the GMax irons fall into the game-improvement category, the i irons are most definitely players' irons. Ping engineers created them out of 431 stainless steel, they explained, because of its high strength-to-weight ratio and softer feel, which helps the clubs deliver more workability. 
 
A good part of that workability comes from a head and hosel geometry that ensures trajectory control for precise shotmaking, and a deep position for the Custom Tuning Port that allows for expanded perimeter weighting and extra stability. An elastomer weight that tucks into the tuning port helps provide a more solid sound and feel, while a tungsten toe weight in the 3- through 7-irons increases forgiveness. 
 
The i irons are available in 3- through 9-iron, plus pitching wedge and utility wedge. They are available with a steel Ping CFS Distance shaft (Soft R, R, S or X stiffness) or a Ping CFS Graphite (65 Soft R, 70 R, 80 S) shaft. They also can be outfitted with True Temper Dynamic Gold S300 or X100 shafts; True Temper XP 95 (R, S) shafts; Project X 5.0 or 6.0 shafts; or Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105 (S, X) shafts. They carry a suggested retail price of $135 per club with steel shafts or $150 per club with graphite shafts.
 
Here are a couple of videos:
 
 
 
 
Ping unveils GMax distance irons and i irons for precision players
Callaway Mack Daddy 3 wedges
Courtesy of Callaway Golf
They circular weight ports in the back of each Mack Daddy 3 wedge allow Callaway the company the freedom to reposition weight for better shot-making.
 
Callaway's Mack Daddy family of wedges has become so popular on the PGA Tour and among everyday golfers that its next generation is both bigger and better.
 
The Mack Daddy 3 Milled wedges, of course, follow the current Mack Daddy 2 generation, and offer three different sole grind options, along with a variety of custom choices for finishes, shafts and grips. As with the previous Mack Daddy wedges, the new MD 3s were designed by Callaway's famed club builder Roger Cleveland, and the company calls this the most complete wedge line it has ever produced. 
 
They have a high toe profile and a semi-straight leading edge, and the circular weight ports in the back of each wedge allow the company the freedom to reposition weight for better shot-making, especially out of the deep rough. They also have what Callaway calls Progressive Groove Optimization that optimizes spin for each loft.
 
The grooves milled into the faces are designed to create a smoother spin transition from irons to these wedges. The narrower 30V grooves in the pitching and gap wedges are best for shots that require a steep angle into the ball, while the 20V grooves in the sand wedges are designed for full shots and bunker shots. And the wider 5V grooves in the lob wedges provide better control for shots out of the rough and around the green.
 
 
Callaway also has focused on the sole grinds as much as the face grooves. The three available are:
 
--the C-Grind creates a thinner contact area on the sole, and is designed for firmer conditions and versatility around the green. The grinding on the heel and toe allow for a number of shots, Callaway says, especially those shots where you need to open up the face and keep the leading edge low.
 
--the S-Grind is the line's most versatile option. Callaway says it's best for a wide range of conditions, shot types, and swings ranging from steep to sweeping. It'll dig a moderate-sized divot.
 
--and finally, the W-Grind creates a slightly wider sole, which the company says its preferred in softer conditions – bunkers, most notably – and for golfers with a steeper swing. It'll take a larger divot.
 
A handful of players have put the MC 3 wedges in play at this week's John Deere Classic. They'll be available for pre-order in mid-August in lofts from 48 to 60 degrees, and will be available at retail on Sept. 4. 
 
Here's a video:
 
 
Callaway expands wedge offerings with new Mack Daddy 3 wedges
Robert Streb
Getty Images
Robert Streb's sand wedge, after serving as his putter last week, now boasts an encouraging message.
 
All of us golfers love our clubs, but few of us love them as much as PGA Tour player Robert Streb loves his. We found this out a couple months ago, when Streb showed up at The Players Championship with a 60-degree wedge festooned with an image of TPC Sawgrass' famed "island green" 17th hole.
 
And though that wedge is clearly a work of art, Streb doesn't hesitate to make his wedges work overtime. We found this out on Sunday, when he accidentally broke his putter on the ninth hole of the final round of the Greenbrier Classic and had to use his sand wedge to putt for the rest of his round.
 
Most of us would have been doomed. Streb, however, wedge-putted like a champ – he made five birdie putts, and wound up tying for the lead before finally losing out to Danny Lee in sudden death.
 
That was an amazing feat, and wedge wizard Aaron Dill of vokey Wedges commemorated it by adding a special inscription to it. As you can see below, it’s quite motivational:
 
 
Robert Streb's sand wedge has an awesome inscription this week
TaylorMade
TaylorMade
The TaylorMade R15 driver, along with the company's AeroBurner fairway woods and Rescue clubs were built for more distance and more forgiveness.

I have long been a big fan of TaylorMade's wide variety of drivers, fairway woods and rescue clubs. When the opportunity recently arose to try out the R15 driver, as well as the Aeroburner 3-wood and 3-rescue, it's safe to say I was pretty excited.

Just like everyone else, I'm always in search of more distance off the tee. I've always been pretty lucky as an accurate driver of the golf ball, but I'm not always the longest. With just a few more yards off the tee, you're set up with a shorter approach, with a more lofted club, which should lead to a more accurate shot to the greens and more looks at birdies and pars, right?

I took these clubs out for a test spin at my home course in Rhode Island. I wanted the test to be at a place I'm familiar with so I could compare landing area of shots with my game clubs. What was the difference? Was I still as accurate? Did I have shorter approach yardages?

2015 BEST OF SERIES VIDEO: Golf balls | Drivers | Hybrids/Fairway woods | Irons

I wouldn't recommend it, but my first time at the course with these beautiful new sticks was also the first time I had hit them, period. I took the plastic off in the parking lot.

The R15 driver -- I got it in white -- boats a lower and more forward center of gravity to promote higher launch and lower spin. The lower spin, obviously, allows the ball to roll out more once it hits the ground.

The 460cc head was nothing I'm not already used to. Several of my drivers in recent years were the same size, so it wasn't overwhelming. That said, as interested as I am in more distance off the tee, I'm equally as concerned with how a driver performs on mishits.

That's where the R15 really put an ear-to-ear grin on my face. The shots I mishit still felt solid and not as far off line as I would typically anticipate.

Overall, I found the driver to be very comfortable to hit right from the first tee on. Did I hit every fairway? Of course not. I've never done that. But, my misses were playable, which is important to any avid golfer.

Length-wise, I'd say the R15 was about 15 yards longer than anything I've ever hit on the button. When I walked out to some tee shots, I actually had to scratch my head because I was in spots on the course I had never seen before with my tee ball. That was fun.

While I've messed around with several drivers for the last three years, only one has remained in my bag over that period of time. Until now. It was time for an upgrade and the R15 is it. After that first round, it was immediately promoted to "gamer" status.

On to the Aeroburner 3-wood. Truth be told, my course isn't one that requires a lot of 3-wood shots. Maybe a few off the tees -- which I couldn't bring myself to hit seeing as the R15 was going further than anything I've ever unleashed -- but other than that, there's just one par 5 over water where you'd need the 3-wood even after a good poke from the tee.

That's where I used this club for the only time at the course. I would later take it to the range.

As is the case with most golfers -- I'd presume, anyway -- the aesthetics of a fairway wood are paramount to me. What does it look like at address? Anything too bulky and I'm visually intimidated. It needs to look right behind the ball, or I know I'm going to hit a lousy shot before I even pull the trigger.

At address, I immediately loved the look of the Aeroburner. That made me comfortable and I proceeded to smash that second shot from 240 yards out over the water... and over the green. Much like the R15, this club provided some extra yards I wasn't accustomed to.

The most noticeable attribute of the Aeroburner 3-wood, to me, was the sound upon impact. It just made this "pop!" like I haven't heard before with other fairway woods. Since I only hit one shot with it on the course, I was sure to take it out to the range a couple of times too.

At the range, the results were similar -- more distance than I'm used to and just a fantastic sound at impact. Like the R15, the Aeroburner 3-wood also allowed for more forgiveness on mishits. We have the Speed Pocket on the sole of the club to thank for that -- it increases the size of the sweet spot and reduces spin.

And when I really got ahold of this thing, I'd venture to guess it was traveling within 10 yards of my previous driver.

Lastly, there was the Aeroburner 3-Rescue (which I've also spent a lot of time with on the range). For me, this club was installed to replace three clubs -- a 5-wood, 3-iron and 4-iron. For years I've read and heard about how much easier it is to hit a hybrid than a long iron or fairway wood, but it's taken me time to believe in it and convert.

What I loved most about this club, which also boats a Speed Pocket on the sole, is the ease with which I was able to extract the ball from some typically tough lies. Whether it was in rough or on hardpan -- for the most part -- I didn't feel the need to hit a short iron to get the ball back in play. Instead, I could trust that this club would get through the thick grass without costing me loads of yardage. It gave me chances to save par instead of hoping to sneak away with a bogey.

I also tried it a couple of times from just off the green instead of using a putter. It was like adding another dimension to my game.

The R15 and Aeroburner clubs from TaylorMade were everything I expected and more. I can't wait to get out there with them again.

If you're interested in learning more about the clubs, visit http://taylormadegolf.com/.

The R15 driver retails for $429.99. The Aeroburner 3-wood sells for $229.99, while the Aeroburner Rescue is priced at $199.99. 

TaylorMade's R15 driver, Aeroburner fairway/rescue clubs longer, more forgiving
Nike Vapor Speed TW driver
Courtesy of Nike Golf
In addition to its eye-popping color scheme, the Nike Vapor Speed TW driver features a new Compression Channel that Tiger Woods helped to design.
 
Tiger Woods is back in action this week at the Memorial – and so is his driver.
 
Nike Golf is selling limited quantities of its Vapor Speed TW driver made to Woods' specifications, and they are available beginning today at Nike.com, and at select retailers beginning June 15.
 
"Stability has always been the most important thing to me when choosing a driver," said Woods, who put the driver in his bag at the Hero World Challenge in Decembrer. "I like the pear shape. It is appealing to my eye and it also has a slightly lower MOI (Moment of Inertia) that allows me to shape shots easier."
 
 
The Vapor Speed TW driver combines Nike’s FlyBeam-reinforced Covert Cavity Back design and a new Compression Channel in a smaller head – 420cc as opposed to a standard 460cc head. 
 
Woods' insights led Nike's design team to re-design the Compression Channel, which increases the spring-like effect off the mid-to-low portion of the face to increase overall distance. The cavity back design spreads weight toward the heel and toe to help stabilize the head at impact. This  redistribution of mass creates more stability, better launch conditions and faster ball speeds.
 
The Vapor Speed TW driver features a 10.75-degree loft and a Diamana Blue Board 73 shaft with a bonded hosel. It caries a retail price of $399.
 
Nike Vapor Speed TW driver, built for Tiger Woods, now available to public
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