Equipment

October 10, 2013 - 11:06am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Mizuno
Mizuno Golf
The new Mizuno MP-54 irons.

I recently had the chance to take a sparkly, brand new set of Mizuno's MP-54 irons out to the driving range for a test spin.

This beautifully crafted Grain Flow Forged set features a Tour-player like look at address -- a thin top line -- but with its "STEP-Muscle" design and small cavity-back, this blade-style iron provides the type of forgiveness you'd expect from a game-improvement iron.

"This iron tasked our R&D team to improve upon an already winning formula from our previous model -- the MP-53," said David Llewellyn, Manager, Golf Club R&D. "We took a deep look into the intricacies of the club design, the physics of the golfer’s motion and the desired performance on the range. The result is an inspiring iron with sleek design that is still MP, still traditional, yet aggressive.”

WATCH: Mizuno's JPX Invitational with Dr. Gary Wiren

Traditional and aggressive is a perfect description of this iron.

Check out this video, where the folks at Mizuno describe the new MP-54 along with PGA Tour star Charles Howell III:

 

 

The 3 through 7-iron feature the Milled STEP Muscle design at the center of the MP-54. In simple terms, the position of the weighting increases stability on off-center hits allowing for more forgiveness.

The slightly thicker sole of the MP-54 is made from mild carbon steel and with rounded out Harmonic Impact Technology, a vibration management technology, the club gets through the ball and the turf with ease, playing more like a blade sole.

RELATED: Mizuno invites average Joe to 'Play Famously'

"Over the past several years Mizuno’s MP iron category has expanded to a point where consumers expect a 'player' iron look and feel with the forgiveness of today's technologically advanced equipment," said Chuck Couch, VP of Product Management, Golf Division. "Golfers will quickly start to embrace the MP-54 philosophy after experiencing what this iron can do."

Personally, I'm a big fan of the sound that the ball makes as it comes off the clubface. The sound from the MP-54 is as good as any I've heard. It's crisp, solid and even the off-center hits sound flush. At the same time, the feel coming off the club is soft, which provides excellent feedback.

The MP-54 became available at retail in September. They cost $999 for a set of eight clubs. The beauty of Mizuno is that all clubs are available on a custom-order basis. If you have a personal preference when it comes to shaft or grips, Mizuno can create the set you desire.

THE VERDICT: While lower handicap players will love the MP-54 irons thanks to the incredible feel they've come to expect from Mizuno, this is also the perfect club for those avid golfers who are thinking about -- but my have been afraid -- to take the step up from a deep cavity iron to the blade category. In the MP-54 irons, you get the Tour-look without sacrificing the forgiveness. It's the best of both worlds.

To learn more about the MP-54 and all of Mizuno Golf's offerings, visit www.mizunousa.com/golf.

You can also find more about Mizuno on PGA.com, Facebook, or on Twitter, @Golf_Mizuno.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
 

Mizuno MP-54: 'Step Muscle' design enhances feel, shot making ability
October 8, 2013 - 11:47am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
PURE grips
PURE Grips
Personalization options are endless with PURE Grips.
Did you know that you should change out your golf grips once every 40 rounds, or -- if you don't play that often -- once every season?
 
Next time you're getting your grips changed, you might want to consider PURE Grips.
 
Based out of Scottsdale, Ariz., PURE Grips touts itself as featuring, "a unique combination of performance, feel, durability and value unmatched in the golf industry."
 
 
These are high-quality grips that come with a couple of big perks. First, installing a grip has never been easier, as PURE Grips require no adhesive tapes or solvents. And for those looking to separate themselves from others, PURE offers a wide variety of personalization options.
 
Pick a color and chances are PURE Grips has that color. Do you have a logo or name you want emblazoned on your grip (great for our friends who might be a little forgetful and leave clubs behind)? PURE Grips can do that too.
 
Golf is all about feel, which makes a proper grip essential. PURE Grips are guaranteed to remain supple and tacky and to perform in all conditions for 12 months.
 
New to the PURE Grips line this year is the PURE DTX -- a grip created with the help of acclaimed instructor Hank Haney. This particular grip offers all the benefits one would expect from a cord grip without the drawbacks -- like ripping your hands apart.
 
 
"I'm excited to work with PURE grips because of the high quality of the grips, as well as the ability to custom fit my students through their unique application of tapeless installation," Haney said. "As a teacher, I believe that custom fitting the club to the golfer is imperative. Until now, it was hard to get dialed in on the grip, but PURE's options and the ability to grip, remove and regrip with ease really helps us get a player in the right grip for their game."
 
The PURE DTX features two opposing textures -- one smooth and tacky with the other providing a rougher, more gritty surface. The repetitive and alternating pattern provides the feeling of secure traction and pleasant tack. The grips retail for $8.99 apiece.
 
To learn more about PURE and all the grip options available to you, visit www.puregrips.com.
 
You can also find PURE Grips on Facebook, or Twitter, @puregrips.
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
 
PURE Grips: A combination of performance, feel, durability and value
October 3, 2013 - 10:24am
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Cleveland wedge, Odyssey putter
Cleveland Golf (l) and Mike Soroka (r)
The Cleveland wedge on the left was made for Keegan Bradley, the Odyssey putter on the right for Will Wilcox.

A couple of players are the proud owners of some special clubs these days, and I thought you'd like to see them.

On the left in the image above is a 54-degree wedge that Cleveland Golf made for Keegan Bradley to commemorate his Presidents Cup debut this week. Instead of the usual stamping on the back, it's got a map of the world like you’d see on a globe, and the white-on-black color scheme makes this about the coolest design I've ever seen on a wedge. Kudos to the craftsmen at Cleveland for that bit of work.

On the right is a gold-plated putter that Odyssey Golf created for Will Wilcox as a salute to the 59 he shot in the Web.com Utah Championship a few weeks ago. Lots of players receive special commemorative clubs to mark their big achievements – Ping is well-known for its expansive vault full of gold putters for wins by tour players – but this White Rize V-Line model is somewhat unusual in the United States and it looks especially pretty in the photo.

Thanks to Cleveland Golf and Mike Soroka of Odyssey Golf for sharing.

 

 
A couple of cool commemorative clubs
October 2, 2013 - 10:37am
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Ping S55 iron
Courtesy of Ping Golf
The Ping S55 irons feature a compact head made of 17-4 stainless steel head with tungsten toe weighting to help improve stability and a vertical stabilizing bar for distance control.

Ping staff professionals like Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan have won more than 30 events worldwide using the company's S56 irons, so it's no surprise that Ping didn't feel the need to completely overhaul them. Instead, Ping went for small but significant upgrades in its new S55 line to make the irons more workable and forgiving.

''We're motivated by pushing innovation, and we were able to elevate performance with the S55 in key areas,'' said Ping chairman and CEO John Solheim. ''Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ángel Cabrera are some of the players who switched right away, and validation from the game's best players tells us that we got it right.'' 

Watson, in fact, has switched to the S55 after playing the same model of irons since 2004.

''They're able to work the ball more easily and flight it up and down like never before,'' Solheim said of his Ping staff players, adding that they're also getting more distance with the S55s.

The compact 17-4 stainless steel head features tungsten toe weighting to help improve the club's stability, and includes a vertical stabilizing bar for distance control. The face is thinner than on the S56s, which helps to provide more ball speed, and the face, grooves and back cavity are precision-machined for consistency.

Behind the face, the custom tuning port – which is made of a thermoplastic elastomer to soften the sound and feel upon impact – is larger and sits lower in the back cavity, which positions the Center of Gravity lower and deeper in the head to promote a higher launch with greater energy transfer. And the head is completed with a brushed satin-chrome finish.

The new S55s – from 3-iron through pitching wedge – can be ordered now, and will be available at retail in November. They carry a suggested retail price of $138.75 per club with steel shafts and $166.25 per club with graphite shafts. The stock steel shaft is Ping's CFS, while the stock graphite shaft is the Ping TFC 189i.

 

Ping introduces S55 irons to replace popular S56 model
October 2, 2013 - 7:42am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Imperial
You might not realize it, but there’s a good chance you own at least one hat -- if not several -- from a brand known as Imperial Headwear.
 
Imperial, you see, has been a leader in the headwear industry since the company started nearly 100 years ago, in 1916. Imperial began as a dress cap manufacturer in Denver, Colo., and then uniform headwear, and even military hats.
 
“The reason Imperial is here today is because it has pioneered the sports headwear industry and found a very nice niche in golf,” said David Shaffer, Director of Marketing for Imperial Headwear. “We were one of the first companies to recognize and capitalize on the growing popularity of sports headwear in the baby-boom era. Being first to cater to the golf market was a huge advantage in those booming economic times. In the 1980s, it was estimated that Imperial sold 70 percent of all golf caps.”
 
Imperial hasn’t stopped, either. Just over a year ago, the company was acquired by Paramount Apparel International, which also owns the brands Oarsman, American Dry Goods, Midwest Graphics and Kid N’ Me. 
 
With Paramount Apparel International stepping in, rather than make drastic changes in an effort to get younger and hipper, the classic look Imperial had become known for -- its wheelhouse -- was simply redefined.
 
“Just before Paramount purchased Imperial, they had decided to take the brand in a whole new direction,” Shaffer explained. “Imperial had always been known as a very upscale, traditional country club hat brand. In 2012, their executives decided to move away from this niche and attempt to make Imperial more of a younger, modern, consumer hat brand. They changed the logo, website, catalog, etc. They even added a flat bill cap to the line.
 
“I don’t think it was much of a surprise that many of these changes were not so well received by our customers and sales reps (including the flat bill style which is being dropped from the line for 2014),” Shaffer added. “So when Paramount took over, we decided to reverse this whole new direction of the brand. Right about now, you will start to notice our move back to the old Imperial script logo and branding. Our website is being re-designed as we speak for re-launch in January. Our marketing collateral and product trim is reverting to more of a classic, timeless look. We believe this is the niche that has made the brand prosper for decades and where we need to be moving forward. It’s our heritage and luxurious imagery that holds all of our brand assets.” 
 
On a recent trip to Bandon Dunes, we noticed all the on-site pro shops were loaded with Imperial headwear. You can find a lot of those great hats selling now on the Bandon Dunes website too.
 
Imperial prides itself on the reputation of having the best fitting hats in the industry. To stress that point, the company’s new tagline is, “The Best Fit in Golf Since 1916.”
 
Imperial is also a brand that has a strong commitment to the PGA of America and its members.
 
“Through our support of PGA Golf Professionals with PGA Golf Retirement Plus program, Imperial is able to give back to the organization that has helped our company grow into what it is today,” Shaffer said. 
 
“Our supply chain – including domestic embroidery capabilities – is also second to none,” he said. “Imperial’s ability to turn orders around quickly and accurately in large volumes is extremely rare. It’s common for Imperial to replenish product in a PGA Tour merchandise tent on a daily basis. We do inventory at the end of the day and have new product delivered in time to stock the shelves before the gates open the next morning. Some of the largest licensed professional sports cap companies don’t even have the quick-turn capabilities we do today.”
 
To learn more about Imperial, click here.
 
You can also find Imperial on Twitter, @ImperialHats, on Facebook and on Instagram.
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
 
Imperial Headwear redefines its classic look
October 1, 2013 - 7:16am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
MannKrafted
LaMont Mann
MannKrafted, owned and operated by putter-maker LaMont Mann, can customize your putter however you dream.
Arguably the most special -- and certainly the most personal -- piece of equipment in every golfer's bag is the putter. It's the club you use to strike most of your shots (whether you're a hacker, or a professional) and -- at times – it can truly be a love-hate relationship.
 
The fact is you want your putter to be the club you're most comfortable with. Does it look right at address? Does it feel solid when it makes contact with the ball? Is it the right length? Is the grip standard, oversized, or something in between?
 
There are so any factors that go into a great putter.
 
And if you're looking for that "extra special" touch, we've found just the thing for you. Meet LaMont Mann, the founder of the putter-making boutique, MannKrafted Custom Milled Putters, which specializes in handmade, one-of-a-kind putters.
 
Mann, who makes his home in Arizona, estimates that he's been involved in the game of golf for most of his walking life. By the age of 10, Mann scored a summer job picking up range balls and was more excited about the free golf and free range balls that came with the employment than he was the actual money. 
 
Even at that tender age, he was drawn to putters.
 
"My dad rolled an old Offset Bulls-eye and I wanted to be just like him," Mann said. "I played a similar putter for quite a while, then changed to a heel-shafted blade that stayed in the bag for at least 14 years. When that blade went cold, I went on a hunt for years that probably included over 300 different putters. I was a bit of a prima-donna when it came to the condition of my clubs, so when I would find one I liked, but it was in rough shape, I would take the time to bring it back to 'pretty,' game it for a while and move on." 
 
Over the course of those many trial runs that started around 1997, Mann was learning from each putter -- the effects that different materials and shapes had on what he was able to do with the club; the look and feel that he liked in his own hands. Ideas were sticking in his mind. Mann wanted to show them off but wasn't sure where things would go. So, he put some pictures of his work on the Internet and suddenly people started contacting him wondering if Mann could bring their magic wands back to life. 
 
And talk about a labor of love. For a while early on, Mann was refinishing putters for just shipping costs. 
 
"I was a framing carpenter and trying to do much more," he said. "Spending 9-10 hours in the Arizona sun was not what I was looking for. The putter business grew steadily and over the next few years, I had worked on virtually every maker’s putter that you could think of.  Some were basic tune-ups, others were total re-builds and no two were the same."
 
With his passion for putters running wild, two makers in the business were key to helping Mann create his own putter line. 
 
"Byron Morgan has been like a long distance mentor and has given me tips, encouragement and even helped me to put a model into my line that I was unable to afford, at the time," Mann said. "He's one of the true 'good guys' in the game of golf, although you will be hard-pressed to get him to admit it. Tom Slighter also has been key in the encouragement department. Tom made my first custom putter when I was still a customer shopping around and when I was at a key point in my decision-making process, he allowed me to spend an entire day at his shop outside of Seattle and watch exactly what it was going to take to get to the next level. He showed me that what separated he and I was time in the craft and some tooling. The skill set was there, I just needed to develop it. I left his shop that day with the conviction of having my own name on a putter, within one year's time. It happened almost exactly in that time span."
 
In January of 2009, Mann met with the owner of a small, local machine shop called Karas Kustoms to discuss having some heads milled -- essentially, instead of fiddling with the works of other putter makers, Mann was ready to be his own full-fledged putter maker. 
 
From there, Mann came up with a design he calls the, "Superstition," head by MannKrafted. He sold out of 25 in a month, ordered another 50 and those kept selling too. 
 
As Karas Kustoms owner Bill Karas got to know Mann better, he allowed Mann access to more of the shops machines. 
 
"I learned from doing and from asking questions how to mill my own heads, one at a time and in the shapes that I was seeing in my mind," Mann said. "Guys liked what they were seeing, loved the way the putters felt in their hands and I kept growing my craft. Today, there are a handful of guys that do what I do. We are the 'little guys' in a market that's dominated by Asian-made clubs that are produced by the thousands, with very little handwork applied to create any special look or feel. Being part of that small club is what drives me to be the best I can be and to create putters that are not just copies of what Karsten Solheim designed all those years ago. You can see the influence of his work in some of my putters, but my deepest goal is to craft putters that stand on their own merit and make the customer truly love the choice they have made to purchase a MannKrafted Custom Milled Putter."
 
When Mann puts together his custom creations from scratch, the process takes place at several different locations in Arizona -- the machine shop, a golf shop and his garage at home in Apache Junction, which was converted to a finish shop years ago. 
 
"My wife has sacrificed her shady spot to park her car, until further notice," Mann joked. "I do most of my shipping from home, as well as some assembly and all paint fill on putters. The trio of locations makes the back seat of my car look a little odd most of the time; full of putters, shafts and boxes, but for now, it has to work. I'm the 'little guy' with a budget to match, so I do what it takes to keep moving forward."
 
From start to finish, Mann estimates it takes 8-20 hours total to build a new putter. The time is dependent on materials, shapes and details.
 
Being a boutique putter maker, Mann's business is reliant almost 100 percent on referrals. That fact isn't lost on Mann, who works relentlessly to insure that his putters live up to the hype.
 
"As little as 1 percent of my customers have ever held or putted with a handmade putter from my shop, yet they are willing to place their trust in me to build them a putter that will exceed their expectations and in some cases, be the most expensive golf purchase they have made to this day blows me away," he said. "When I get a phone call that thanks me for creating a putter for them that they have been seeing in their mind's eye for years, but had no one willing to do the work, that also hits my heart. The past few years have been an amazing testament to the quality of people in the game of golf, for me."
 
Mann is so confident in his work that he offers a money-back guarantee on every putter he sells. 
 
"There's fine print on that guarantee, but it is nothing sneaky," said Mann -- after all, we all know it's not always the putter that's causing you to miss those 3 footers. "My goal is for every customer to have what they pictured in their mind's eye when they ordered their putter. If I miss that target, I don't want them stuck with a putter that they don't intend to use."
 
Prices for a handmade MannKrafted putter start at $249 and can go up significantly.
 
"Some of the upgrades or options that would add cost to that base price would include using 303 SS, fancy necks like a Twisted 'N' Sick or Rebar-Styled neck," Mann explained. "Reasonable amounts of stamping are included."  
 
One of Mann's works -- his favorite to date, which he calls the "Esperanza" -- sold for $1,650 at a silent auction for a charity event.
 
"The benefit was the Cardons Childrens Medical Center, part of the Banner Hospital site, here in Mesa, Ariz.," Mann said. "I used one of my base CNC'd heads and crafted a neck that reminded me of a gorgeous lady's leg in the way it flowed from the head and had lines as smooth as silk. The shaping took a little extra time and when it was done, I decided to go with a clean, Raw Torch'd finish that brought out blues, purples and golds that made for an incredible look."
 
That putter now resides in the bag of a lead singer for a prominent current rock band, who Mann, said, "treats it like a piece of art." 
 
So what's the end game for Mann? To be the next Karsten Solheim or Scotty Cameron?
 
Not at all.
 
"I would be misspeaking if I said that having a putter in the hands of someone when they win a major would not be part of my dream," he said. "It would be a mistake to aim low and just hit those goals. If you are going to do something, heck anything, I believe that you should strive to be the absolute best at it, or you will flounder in your own struggles and slowly fade away. I want to be the guy that the pros come to for the putter that nobody else can seem to create -- the guy that makes magic happen when they pull out their flagstick and the putts just start to drop. 
 
"Do I want to be huge? Not really. My motivation has never been to get rich from making putters, never at all. When I asked a good friend, a few years ago, 'Who is Byron Morgan?'  His answer was, 'He's a guy who lives at the beach and makes putters. Loves what he does and isn't in it to get rich.' That is what I want people to say about me someday. I'm a guy who lives in Arizona, loves his family more than they know, and can flat-out make the best putter you will find, anywhere."
 
If you'd like to learn more about MannKrafted, visit, www.MannKrafted.com and view a photo album of Mann's hand-milled work here.
 
You can also find MannKrafted on Facebook, or you can follow on Twitter, @MannKrafted.
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
 
 
MannKrafted Milled Putters: The ultimate in golf customization
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