Equipment

June 19, 2013 - 3:25pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Mantis, golf
Mantis Golf
The Mantis Golf putter isn't just unique in style; it's also unique in function.
Have you ever heard anyone say, "You know, I just make too many putts?”
 
Yeah, we didn't think so. Thanks to a new company called, "Mantis Golf," you might find yourself making a lot more putts.
 
Michael Dill and Chris Maher, longtime business associates, friends and golf partners, got tired of their putting woes and decided to devise a plan with the hopes of correcting the problem.
 
Dill wondered if there was a way to draw a golfer's eye away from the putter and instead focus it on the golf ball during the putting stroke. As subliminal as it is, your eyes actually do follow the putter during a stroke instead of focusing in on the golf ball. If you think about, it makes sense -- isn't it natural for your eyes to instinctively follow a moving object instead of a stationary one?
 
Dill and Maher's goal was to try and subtly, but significantly shift attention from the putter to the ball. With that, Mantis Golf was formed in 2012.
 
The current Mantis offering -- and there are more models to come -- is a green mallet putter. However, unlike the white putter heads that have been all the rage in recent years and brilliant from a marketing standpoint, the green Mantis putter actually has a functional benefit.
 
"We did some testing and developed a product that could reduce visual distraction, or random eye movement during a putting stroke," said Maher, who serves as the CEO of Mantis Golf. "With a matte green finish, the putter is less distinct. It blends in with the green almost like camouflage. My background is in advertising and marketing. Taylormade's strategy was brilliant to go to white clubs from both a branding and marketing standpoint. Whenever Dustin Johnson is on TV, you know he's hitting a Taylormade club because it's white. Like Taylormade or the Cobra AMP line, we have a distinctive golf club. But, it's distinctive beyond branding. It provides a functional measure, which is why we have a patent. We have a utility patent because our product is tied to a functional benefit. We have quantification around that."
 
The design of the Mantis putter -- a color to match the putting surface; a matte finish to reduce reflection; and minimal alignment markings -- serve the purpose of minimalizing the visual impact of the putter during a putting stroke.
 
"It's improved my putting," Maher said. "I can't give it credit for anything else. Of course I have a Mantis in my bag and the more I putt with it, the more I like it. The Polyurethane insert gets the ball rolling more quickly. If I put it in your hands, your eyes won't move. You won't notice the putter over time. People tell us at demos, 'I lose the putter on the backstroke.' That's because their eyes didn't move. When you don't have to think about your eyes moving, you're able to create a more consistent stroke."
 
At the end of the day, Mantis Golf isn't just creating a unique, cool-looking putter. It's creating a putter that will improve your game. 
 
In fact, Maher is so convinced the putter will benefit your game that he and Dill offer a 30-day, 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. If you're not satisfied with your putter within that 30-day period, you can send it back for a no-questions-asked, full refund.
 
"We realize it takes a little while to get used to a new putter and that's why we have our 30-day, 100 percent satisfaction guarantee," Maher said. 
 
Based on looks alone, Maher said, people are drawn to the Mantis putter. 
 
"When people see it, it causes them to want to try it," he said. "They say, 'let me roll a couple of putts.' It's a great feeling putter, so we get a positive response to that. A number of people that I play golf with now have a Mantis putter in their bag, which is fantastic. Anyone who plays golf knows that they're not going to buy a putter unless they truly think it's going to benefit their game."
 
The Mantis putter -- which conforms to USGA Rules -- is available for $159.99 at www.mantisgolfco.com
 
You can also visit Mantis Golf on Facebook, or follow Mantis Golf on Twitter, @Mantis_Golf.
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.
Mantis Golf confident in improving your putting woes
Rickie Fowler paint-splattered gear from Cobra Puma
Courtesy of Cobra Golf
Rickie Fowler himself created the the paint-splattered pattern on these new limited-edition cap, belt and shoes from Cobra and Puma.

We see plenty of professional golfers wearing special clothes for special events these days, but we saw something new from Rickie Fowler today.

The Shaggy One showed up for his Wednesday U.S. Open practice session at Merion in all white – mostly. His cap, belt and shoes carried a paint-splattered look, as if he'd stumbled into one of those Jackson Pollock drip paintings (that are worth millions but I swear look like you or I could make them. OK, the art critic's corner is closed; let's get back to golf…)

Specifically, Cobra Golf tells us, Fowler replaced his usual Puma Monoline cap with a limited-edition Paint Splatter Cobra 110 Snapback cap, and wore a Paint Splatter Cobra Fitted Belt and Paint Splatter Puma Faas Lite shoes. While obviously not for everyone, the splatter look works, to me, because it is an accent and not the dominant visual feature.

But the cool part is the way the splatter designs were created. Fowler himself took golf balls covered with different colors of paint and chipped them at blank canvases. White hats were placed between him and the canvases, so the paint splattered all over them as he hit the balls. The splatter patterns that Fowler created are used on these products – as well as on the shafts and headcovers of some of Cobra's AMP Cell clubs earlier this year.

Rickie's creations are now available to the public in limited quanities. You can get more info on them and order yours at www.cobra.com and shop.puma.com.

 

Rickie Fowler makes a splash, er, splatter, at Merion
Hao-Tong Li (left) and Xin-Jun Zhang
Courtesy of Nike Golf
Hao-Tong Li (left) and Xin-Jun Zhang will represent Nike golf in clubs, ball, footwear, glove, apparel, headwear and accessories.

It's not on the level of signing Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy, but Nike Golf has taken a potentially big step in the world of golf sponsorships. The company announced Monday that it has signed its first head-to-toe endorsement deals with two players from China who aren't yet known around the globe.

Hao-Tong Li, age 18, and Xin-Jun Zhang, 26, have signed multi-year agreements and will represent the Swoosh in clubs, ball, footwear, glove, apparel, headwear and accessories.

Li, from the Hunan Province, turned professional in 2011 at age 16. As an amateur, he won nine gold medals and six silver medals in the Asian Games in various cities in China. Before turning pro, he tied for 21st in the 2011 Nanshan Masters on the OneAsia Tour, and was named Best Amateur Player. 

He also represented the Chinese National Team as an amateur in 2010 and 2011.  More recently, he tied for 39th in this 2012 Australian PGA Championship and tied for fifth in the 2013 New Zealand PGA Championship on the PGA Tour of AustralAsia. He has won $6,664 by making two cuts in five starts on the 2013 OneAsia Tour.

From the Shanxi Province, Zhang turned professional in 2010 at 23. In 2007, he was selected to the Chinese National Team for several international tournaments. He won two gold medals and one silver medal in Chinese Professional Tournaments in 2011 and 2012. He also tied for 13th in the 2011 HSBC Champions in Shanghai, an event won by Martin Kaymer.

''We are excited to welcome these two young and talented athletes to the Nike Golf family,'' said Mark Thaxton, Global Director of Sports Marketing Operations at Nike Golf. ''Hao-Tong and Xin-Jun are our first head-to-toe athletes in China and they will make great additions to our stable of athletes at a global level.'' 

Nike's siging of these two players reminds me a bit of Major League Baseball teams signing amateur teenagers from the Dominican Republic or Taiwan in that you're often betting on potential. But it seems more likely every year that the next wave of raising golf stars will emerge from Asia, and these deals help Nike show those young players that the Swoosh is serious about helping to cultivate their talent. And signing a couple of the higher-profile players in China sure can help Nike broaden its exposure over there.

And speaking of young Chinese golfers, Guan Tianlang remains an amateur unbeholden to any specific equipment company. During his foray in the United States this year, he's been playing a TaylorMade R1 driver, a Callaway X Hot 3-wood and two X Hot hybrids, Nike Pro combo irons, Scratch wedges, an Odyssey White Hot Pro #7 putter, and a Callaway HEX Black ball.

 

Nike Golf signs two young Chinese players to endorsement deals
TaylorMade and Callaway U.S. Open golf bags
Courtesy of Callaway and TaylorMade
The Callaway bag (right) has a few big and bold icons, while the TaylorMade bag (left) has a few more graphic elements.

One of my favorite parts of the run-ups to the majors these days is all the special gear that the big equipment and apparel companies come up with commemorate the big weeks. As usual, TaylorMade and Callaway lead the pack with their staff bags.

The Callaway bag is clean and bold, with a big white star on a field of blue where the big magnolia blossom was on the Masters bag. (Click here to see the Masters bags from Callaway and TaylorMade).

The TaylorMade bag is a bit busier, but everything on there has meaning. Right under the bag's lip, I especially like the word ''OPEN'' in a square, like the famous LOVE statue by pop artist Robert Indiana that is a longtime Philadelphia landmark.

On the bag's belly is TaylorMade's unique logo for the 2013 U.S. Open. The logo – which appears on the caps and other accessories as well as the bags that the TaylorMade staff players will use this week – is a rattlesnake wrapped around the Liberty Bell.

The snake represents the rubber snake that Lee Trevino brought with him to his 18-hole playoff with Jack Nicklaus at Merion that Trevino famously won in 1971. The snake is coiled around the bell much the way a serpent is wrapped around a staff in the universal symbol for medicine. This, TaylorMade says, is a salute to Ben Hogan, who won the 1950 Open at Merion after his near-fatal car crash the year before, and to Olin Dutra, who won the 1934 Open at Merion after winning a long battle with dysentery.

The top of the bell is emblazoned with MMXIII – the Roman numerals for 2013. And behind the bell's top is the snake's tail, where its rattle has been replaced by a wicker basket like those found atop the flagsticks at Merion.

Both of these bags are for sale to the public in limited quanities. You can buy the Callaway bag here, and buy the TaylorMade bag here.

 

 

 

Special U.S. Open bags from Callaway and TaylorMade
Orange Whip, Orange Peel
Orange Whip
Both the Orange Whip and the Orange Peel have been popular training aids for top-level touring professionals, but they can also help your game no matter your playing ability.
Whether you're hanging out at the driving range during a professional event, or hanging out at your local muni waiting for your tee time, chances are you've seen an orange ball sticking out of someone's bag -- mixed in with the clubs -- and wondered to yourself: what the heck is that?
 
What it is is a training device developed by PGA Professional Jim Hackenberg called, "The Orange Whip."
 
The Orange Whip is described as, "the ultimate golf swing trainer and fitness tool for today's golfer and athlete. It is versatile, dynamic and the most effective swing aid on the market. Consistent use of the Orange Whip will improve your golf swing and provide an essential core-muscle workout."
 
If you're really into golf, chances are you've seen countless infomercials promoting golf-training aids. But how many of those are proven to work? With the Orange Whip, it seems there's no question as to whether or not it works -- over 100 PGA Tour players currently use the whip, as do over 50 on the Champions Tour and over 30 on the LPGA Tour. IN 2012, 47 of the top 125 money winners on the PGA Tour used the Orange Whip regularly.
 
If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.
 
Recently, we had a chance to sit down with Hackenberg to talk about the Orange Whip and the Orange Peel (a boogie board-sized platform to improve balance that promotes proper rotation around the center of gravity).
 
PGA.com: What compelled you to create the Orange Whip? It seems like the perfect aid to develop tempo and rhythm especially right before a round of golf.
 
Hackenberg: As an instructor, my goal was to encourage my students to learn a more reliable golf swing motion. What is it that good players do, that bad players don’t? They swing in a balanced athletic motion.
 
I had the opportunity to caddie for a friend on the PGA Tour for a couple years. This allowed me the ability to watch the best players in the world and how they go about hitting balls so effortlessly. I started seeing the pros swinging the golf club as if it was a ball on the end of a chain. Imagine the medieval weapon the Mace and Chain.   
 
The only way to swing a device like this is to synchronize your arms and body into a natural rhythm, like the Tour pros. So the idea came from this concept, but early on in my prototype development I had to switch from a spiked steel ball to an orange rubber ball and the chain was replaced with a very flexible shaft, all in the name of safety!
 
PGA.com: Clearly the feedback has been fantastic evidenced by the number of touring professionals who use the Whip. What's the best feedback you've received by a top-level player?
 
Hackenberg: It would be difficult to state the best feedback that I've received from a top-level player since I have spoken with so many and they always have positive comments.   
 
The most satisfying thing for me is to receive pictures from various sources showing an Orange Whip in the bag or hands of a top player preparing for an event.
 
I did receive a great email from Greg Norman last year and he stated this: "Jim, Greg Norman here. I just tried your Orange Whip when I played with a friend who had one yesterday, impressive. Can you tell me if I can get one shipped (Fed/Ex'd) before I depart for a tournament Wednesday morning? Happy to pay for it, just wanted to make sure getting one ASAP is possible. Well done on the product. I wish you all the very best for a successful business venture with a product that gives you a tremendous amount of feedback with the timing and release of your swing."
 
PGA.com: Well, that's pretty cool! Hackers in particular may be weary of trying or purchasing an aid that Tour players use, simply because they may not think they're good enough to use it. That couldn't be further from the truth with the Whip, could it? This is one aid that transcends playing ability. It seems like the perfect tool not only for pros, but especially for beginners who are trying to "feel" what the athletic golf swing feels like.
 
Hackenberg: That is exactly correct. The Orange Whip was originally designed for those who are just learning the game of golf and how they can develop a consistent swing. The great thing for my business has been that the Tour players and top instructors immediately noticed the benefits, so they were the first to begin using it. I was grateful for this situation because I feel that golfers who are looking to improve will look up to the 'better' players at their golf club and do the things they do.
 
One of the best and often overlooked features of the Orange Whip is the ability to use it indoors without compromising its unparalleled performance. It only requires a minimal amount of space and 5-10 minutes of training time per day. No golf swing trainer is more time efficient and effective. You can work with an Orange Whip year-round and never again have to depend on weather conditions or daylight when you want to improve your golf swing and fitness. It’s the ideal tool for those living in challenging winter environments and busy individuals with little time to practice.
 
PGA.com: The Whip obviously has a number of great benefits. Can you highlight some of them for us?
 
Hackenberg: Sure.
 
Power -- By swinging the Orange Whip back in forth in a repetitive motion, the user will develop the most efficient way to use their body to create an athletic swinging motion.   An athletic swinging motion leads to more relaxed muscles, therefore allowing more freedom and trust in one’s swing.   If a person has trust, they can really let it go and create much more power.
 
Flexibility -- The weight on each end of the flexible shaft provides a low-impact stretch while swinging.
 
Strength -- The Orange Whip provides a core muscle workout when used during repetitive motion drills. The wrists and forearms receive a workout doing various drills and during the hinging action while swinging.
 
Coordination -- The Orange Whip synchronizes the arms and body while swinging it repetitively. If this motion is out of sync, the user will lose their balance and/or feel awkward.
 
Tempo -- As the arms and body work together, a natural rhythm takes over the swing. This is how your tempo develops, some may be fast or slow, yet always in balance with an efficient motion.
 
Consistency -- Being able to reproduce the same motion allows the user to be consistent in their swing. If the user is also consistent in their address position, their ball striking has to improve and become more consistent.
 
PGA.com: Along with the Whip, you offer the Peel... yet another brilliant aid. Tell our readers a little about the Peel and what a player can accomplish when using both aids simultaneously.
 
Hackenberg: The Orange Peel is a balance platform that will center your core and promote a much more powerful rotation in your golf swing. The Peel is the size of boogie board and placed on the ground. The surface you stand on is concave, so it resembles standing at the bottom of a nine-foot diameter sphere. Also, by simply moving the position of your feet on the peel, you can create any lie angle you could find on the golf course: uphill, downhill, side-hill.
 
The Orange Peel and the Orange Whip are individual products that work very well together.    Since the Peel focuses on balance and rotation, and the Whip synchronizes the arms and body motion to create an athletic use of your body, by using the two products together speeds up the learning process.   
 
PGA.com: Being a PGA Professional, I'm curious -- just how beneficial do you think the Whip and the Peel are in assisting other PGA Professionals when it comes to teaching?
 
Hackenberg: I am also a PGA Professional, and with my focus being instruction, I have found that teaching is much more effective when both the Orange Whip and the Orange Peel are used to convey an idea to a student. If a person can 'feel' the proper motion and athletic balance, the job of the instructor just became much easier.
 
PGA.com: The thing I love most about the Whip and the Peel is the ease of use. There's nothing to put together, there's no video to shoot -- unless you so choose -- and they pretty much offer instant feedback. Shouldn't everyone who plays golf be using these tools?!
 
Hackenberg: A good friend of mine (PGA Golf Instructor, Ben Weir) always says, “If you're not using the Orange Whip, you are at a disadvantage to those who are using the Orange Whip on a regular basis.”
 
I do believe all golfers should be using the Orange Whip products, even if the only reason is to stay flexible and balanced; those are very important benefits. But, learning to swing like an athlete is so important to improve one’s game and enjoyment of the game!
 
To learn more about the Orange Whip and Orange Peel, visit www.orangewhiptrainer.com.
 
You can also find The Orange Whip on Facebook, or follow on Twitter, @OrangeWhipGolf.

The Orange Whip is available at most golf retail stores for around $109, while the Orange Peel retails for $209.
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.
 
 
 
PGA Professional the mastermind behind popular Orange Whip, Orange Peel
Cru Golf
CRU Golf
Cru Golf personalizes its leather headcovers for everyone -- not just the pros. Here's a look at a couple of headcovers that were made for Rickie Fowler. First (left and middle), Fowler's one-of-a-kind headcover made specifically for the Masters; and (right) a headcover with the Oklahoma State University logo that Fowler has in play regularly.
Golf is in the mainstream. It's been that way for a while now. With its popularity come loads of items you can purchase to stand out in the crowd. Whether it's apparel, shoes, accessories, the color of your golf ball, whatever -- you can be unique.
 
One of the cooler accessories I've seen in recent years is what seems to be a headcover explosion. While the headcovers that come with your expensive driver, fairway woods and hybrids are great, the fact remains anyone who purchased that same club has that same headcover. 
 
Why not change it up?
 
That's exactly what Adam Blake, co-founder of CRU Golf is doing. 
 
CRU Golf specializes in 100 percent leather headcovers. The vintage designs fit all 460CC drivers and are made to ensure a proper fit on all clubheads that require headcovers. A moisture-wicking interior allows the headcover to slip on and off your club in dry or wet conditions. And, finally, perhaps the coolest thing about CRU Golf: custom leather headcover options are available to ALL golfers... not just the pros, although they love them too (see the photos above of Rickie Fowler's one-of-a-kind Masters headcover, as well as his usual OSU headcover).
 
Recently, we had a chance to chat with Blake about his idea behind starting up CRU Golf.
 
PGA.com: What was the inspiration to create these headcovers? 
 
Blake: I truly wanted to create a headcover that was superior in functionality and design. I felt that the market for leather headcovers was lacking in this area. My appreciation and respect for the history of the game was further fueled in 2008 while I was recovering from knee surgery. During this time I caddied at BallyNeal, which is an amazing walking-only course located in Colorado. I looped there part-time for the summer and the idea was planted.
 
PGA.com: So when did you officially start your business? 
 
Blake: We opened our first account with Shady Oaks Golf Club in Fort Worth, Texas in 2011. Our research and development began in 2010. It was quite a learning curve and an adventure to start Cru Golf -- sourcing of materials; location of production; quality craftsmanship. These were all challenges that we faced when building the brand.
 
PGA.com: Tell our readers about the turnaround time on your products. It's pretty impressive how quickly orders are delivered considering they're all handmade. 
 
Blake: Yes, they are all handmade from start to finish right here in Texas. Our Reserve Cru Custom headcover is delivered in 4-6 weeks. This is the style that lets you design your own headcover, just like the pros. We've got a really cool designer tool online that lets the user design their own unique headcover. Our online Retail Headcover options all ship within 5-7 business days.
 
PGA.com: Tell me a little about you. Avid golfer? 
 
Blake: I absolutely love the game! I grew up in a small town in Colorado playing on the local public course. I actually still hold the course record there with an 11-under 61. 
 
I played collegiate golf and then I was a PGA golf professional at Dallas National Golf Club before joining the mini tour scene in South Florida. For five years I played everywhere but where I really wanted to play on the PGA Tour. These days, I take my son out to the course and we work on our short game and hit some balls about once a week. 
 
Cru Golf provides me with the challenges to do something competitive and I still have my fingers in the golf industry. There's no better feeling than having a product made in the USA and available to the masses. Oh, and it sure beats trying to make 4-footers for the mortgage!
 
PGA.com: Where can people buy your products? 
 
Blake: Cru Golf is uniquely positioned so that our variety of styles allows us to be found in many places. I like to call it an "Affordable Luxury." We are located in the finest golf shops across the states as well as in every Edwin Watts golf store.
 
You can shop our online store too, but you will find many more styles/options of headcovers within our distribution network.
 
PGA.com: Can you talk a little about how you're able to personalize your products for customers?  
 
Blake: We're able to personalize our headcovers with initials, logos, and phrases. If you can dream it, we can usually do it. We do many events for our buyers looking for a unique golf event tee prize. Tournament coordinators are looking for something different than a polo shirt, towel or hat. That's where we flourish; giving players something they will appreciate.
 
I'd just like to thank all the Cru Fans that have helped us achieve the level of success we have had in our short journey. It's great to know that people still notice and appreciate quality products made in the USA.
 
CRU Golf's beautiful headcovers start out at around $39 and go up from there. If you're still looking, they make for a great Father's Day gift, or... well, a gift for yourself!
 
To learn more about CRU Golf, visit www.crugolf.com.
 
You can visit Cru Golf on Facebook, or on Twitter, @CRUgolf.
 
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair.
CRU Golf leather headcovers add an 'affordable luxury' to your bag
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