Equipment

January 7, 2013 - 12:11am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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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 3, 2013 - 11:08pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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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.

 

 

January 3, 2013 - 2:05pm
Posted by:
John Kim
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TRUE Linkswear
Courtesy True Linkswear
TRUE Linkswear's 2013 line include updated outsole, women’s and children’s offerings

My friends at TRUE Linkswear shoes have been leaders in bringing the minimalist movement to golf. Their philosophy of efficient design to utilize the anatomical features of the foot as opposed to highly structured and engineered footwear has proven to be a big commercial success. So that's a fancy of way of saying - they design shoes that make you feel as if you're barefoot, but give you the support you need for your golf swing. Tour player Ryan Moore is a part owner of the company - but also wears them while competing. So now they've come out with their 2013 line. Very cool. Here's the release.



SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - In just over two years, TRUE linkswear has established itself as the leader in the minimalist footwear movement in golf.  With the launch of its 2013 line - including a new women's shoe and its first children's shoe - TRUE further solidifies its position as one of the game's premier footwear companies.
 
"As the only brand one hundred percent dedicated to spikeless and minimalist golf footwear, we are very excited about launching TRUE's 2013 line, which is our broadest and most innovative yet," said Rob Rigg, co-founder and president of the company.  "The addition of several new styles and platforms makes us confident that there is now an extremely comfortable and versatile TRUE linkswear product for every consumer."
 
Updates from the Ground Up
The heart of the TRUE brand still resides in the minimalist movement emerging in the athletic footwear world. TRUE was the first company to build a golf shoe on a barefoot platform and has become the trend-setter in the minimalist movement in golf. 
 
TRUE is introducing two barefoot platforms in its shoes - the ninja outsole and sensei outsole. The ninja outsole is similar to TRUE's previous Ergo-Traction 2.0 platform, but with added feel and flexibility along with a more technical spike pattern. The sensei outsole, first used in the sensei shoe, features a profile and spike configuration that provide enhanced traction and stability, while maintaining the thinnest sole in golf.
 
New for 2013
TRUE's 2013 line features four new shoe models as well as additional updates and color offerings to its five current styles. 
 
Available this month, the TRUE chukka ($209) features the ninja outsole and comes with a mid-top waterproof leather upper that provides additional protection from the elements along with a leather liner and. It is available in two colors.
 
The TRUE tour ($149) and TRUE stealth ($199) both receive the new ninja outsole for 2013 and they both have a supple premium waterproof leather upper to ensure maximum comfort in all conditions. The stealth comes with leather lining while the tour has a 3-D anti-microbial mesh lining.
 
The TRUE jade ($99) is modeled after the men's TRUE sensei and joins the TRUE isis ($99) in the women's line. Both the jade and isis have women's specific lasts to provide the benefits of barefoot comfort with a slightly narrower toe box and heel. The jade will be available in three color combinations while the isis will be available in seven.
 
TRUE will release the proto, which Ryan Moore wore to victory at the 2012 Justin Timberlake Shriners Open, in February. The TRUE proto ($169) features waterproof leather upper, a 3-D anti-microbial mesh liner, memory foam heel and the sensei outsole. The proto will be available in five color combinations. 
 
In March, TRUE will release the TRUE padwan ($59), the first shoe built on its TRUE barefoot kid's platform. The padwan will have all of the features of the sensei and jade, but will come in children's sizes and two color combinations.
 
The TRUE phx ($99) and TRUE sensei ($99) are back for 2013 in several new color combinations.
 
Ryan Moore will start 2013 wearing the TRUE proto and TRUE sensei at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, HI. 
 
About TRUE linkswear
TRUE linkswear, a Scottsdale-based footwear and apparel company, created the first golf shoe built on a barefoot platform, allowing the golfer to truly "Feel the Course," while enabling them to walk 36 holes right out of the box in total comfort.  TRUE was inspired by the emerging minimalist trend in running, where many shoes have shifted away from highly-engineered structures, such as arch supports and heavily-cushioned heels, to a shoe that better utilizes the anatomical features of the foot. TRUE brings this nature-engineered approach to golf by creating a shoe built on a barefoot platform feature a wide-toe box so toes can function naturally through the swing, which encourages proper weight transfer, balance and natural stability. Only TRUE offers the thinnest sole in golf (2.5mm), while still providing the durability to stand up to the most avid player.  TRUE products are now available at many national retailers, including Golfsmith, PGA TOUR Superstores, Golf Galaxy and GolfTown in Canada.  For more information, visit www.truelinkswear.com. 
January 1, 2013 - 9:13pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson via Twitter
This photo that Bubba Watson tweeted out a few days ago was the first indication that Watson was changing apparel companies.

Earlier Tuesday, I posted an item on Nike's signing of Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley, but they are just two big-league players whose changes for 2013 are becoming public.

Perhaps the biggest news outside of Watney's move from Titleist to Nike is that Bubba Watson has left Travis Mathew and signed with Oakley. Watson's success over the past three years – in particular his victory at the Masters – helped boost Travis Mathew into the upper echelons of the golf apparel world, at least in terms of visibility.

And Oakley, we all know, was ripe to sign a new superstar, having just lost Rory McIlroy. Already this offseason, Oakley had signed Zach Johnson, and there is speculation that the company could unveil another apparel ambassador over the next few weeks. Oakley, however, has yet to issue any kind of official statement regarding Watson.

Travis Mathew, for its part, will roll out its new lineup of endorsements between Jan. 4 and Jan. 11, according to a release it issued on Monday.

The first hint that Watson was making a move came in the photo posted above, which he tweeted from Hawaii on Dec. 29. In it, eagle-eyed apparel watchers note, Watson is wearing an Oakley shirt and has Oakley sunglasses propped up on his visor as he warms up for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. There was some initial speculation that the photo itself drove a wedge between Watson and Travis Mathew, but the company says the split was in the works long before the photo was taken.

Also, we have learned that:

--Chris Kirk has gone from Titleist to Callaway
--Gary Woodland has gone from Titleist to Callaway
--2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink has gone from Nike over to TaylorMade
--2010 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover also has gone from Nike over to TaylorMade
--2012 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year John Huh has gone from Ping to TaylorMade
--Ryan Moore has gone from Adams Golf over to TaylorMade (TaylorMade owns Adams Golf, so this is an in-house move)

 

 

January 1, 2013 - 4:06pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Kyle Stanley and Nick Watney
Courtesy of Nike Golf
Nike revealed its two new signings in a special announcement on New Year's Day.

The folks at Nike Golf aren't taking it easy on New Year's Day. Instead of sleeping in, the Swoosh has announced that it has signed Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley away from Titleist.

Stanley's story -- crushing defeat at Torrey Pines followed the very next week by a redemptive victory in Phoenix -- is a great one, but Watney is the big story here. He's a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, with the most recent of those coming at the Barclays, the first event of the 2012 FedExCup playoffs. And, of course, he won the FedExCup in 2011.

Watney, ranked No. 20 in the world, is making the first equipment switch of his 10-year pro career, Nike said. He will play a full bag of Nike clubs, use Nike accessories and wear Nike gloves, headwear, footwear and apparel as part of his multi-year agreement with the company.

In Watney's bag will be:

--VR_S Covert driver with 11.5 degrees of loft and in a neutral position
--VR_S Covert 3-wood with 14 degrees of loft
--VR_S Covert 5-wood with 18 degrees of loft
--VR Pro Combo irons (3-PW)
--VR Pro 55-degree and 59-degree wedges
--Method Prototype putter
--20XI ball
--Tour Performance Collection apparel
--Lunar Control II footwear

Stanley also has signed a multiyear deal to use Nike gear and wear Nike apparel. His bag will include:

--VR_S Covert driver with 9.5 degrees of loft and in a neutral position
--VR Pro Limited Edition 3-wood with 15 degrees of loft
--VR Pro Combo 2-iron
--VR Pro Blades (3- to 9-irons)
--Nike VR Pro 52-degree, 56-degree and 60-degree wedges
--20XI X putter
--Tour Performance Collection apparel
--Lunar Control II footwear

A few quick notes:

--Watney's 11.5 degrees of loft in his driver is the most loft of any top-level PGA Tour player that I'm aware of. Watney, who is switching to Nike from Titleist, had been using a 10.5-degree loft in his Titleist 913D3 driver.

--The list of Stanley's gear that Nike released doesn't include a putter. It's possible that he hasn't definitely decided on a new Nike model yet, but it's also possible that he's planning to stick with an old reliable putter of a different brand. I'm not sure what he's been using lately, but when he won the Phoenix Open last February, he used a Scotty Cameron Timeless GSS prototype.

--Both Watney and Stanley are scheduled to debut their new stuff in the PGA Tour's season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, which starts this Friday in Hawaii.

--And finally, one more intriguing tidbit to start the new year. Nike is planning another announcement next Monday, Jan. 7, and the speculation is, of course, that it will be the official word on Rory McIlroy's much-reported switch to the Swoosh.

Update: Also, we have learned that:

--Chris Kirk has gone from Titleist to Callaway
--Gary Woodland has gone from Titleist to Callaway
--2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink has gone from Nike over to TaylorMade
--2010 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover also has gone from Nike over to TaylorMade
--2012 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year John Huh has gone from Ping to TaylorMade
--Ryan Moore has gone from Adams Golf over to TaylorMade (TaylorMade owns Adams Golf, so this is an in-house move)

 

December 26, 2012 - 12:59am
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Abe Espinosa, Denny Shute and Al Espinosa
PGA of America Archive
Was this club the inspiration for today's big-headed drivers? Well, probably not.

I know some of you lucky ducks out there found brand-new golf clubs under the tree on Christmas morning, and I'm sure the're awesome. I'm also sure they're not as awesome as this one.

This is the world's largest golf club, as of 1933 -- I ran across it the other day while searching for something else.

The head weighs 100 pounds, is three feet wide and is as perfectly proportioned as a normal-sized driver. The golf ball is 13 inches in diameter. The driver was built for the opening ceremony of the 1933 Pasadena Open Golf Tournament in Pasadena., Calif., and apparently was just one of several huge clubs constructed to use as an arch over the first tee at the Pasadena Muncipal Golf Course.

As for the golfers trying to swing that thing, they are (from left to right) Abe Espinosa, Denny Shute and Al Espinosa, all big-time players at the time. Abe Espinosa was a PGA Club Professional at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago, and made history as the first Hispanic-American to win a significant championship, the 1928 Western Open. His younger brother Al was even more prolific, winning nine times on the early PGA Tour.

And Shute, of course, is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. He won three majors in the 1930s – the 1933 British Open at St. Andrews, as well as the 1936 and 1937 PGA Championship, In fact, he was the last man to win two straight PGA Championships until Tiger Woods did so in 1999 and 2000. Shute also played on three Ryder Cup teams, and totaled 16 PGA Tour victories between 1920 and 1939.

And oh by the way, that 1933 Pasadena Open was won by the legendary player, instructor and PGA Professional Paul Runyan.

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