Equipment

October 25, 2012 - 7:27pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Titleist via Twitter
The 712U irons from Titleist will debut for tour staff, but could be rolled out to the public if the response is positive.

Who says this is the slow season in golf? On Tuesday, TaylorMade unveiled its new RocketBladez irons. On Wednesday, we showed you the first look of the 2013 X Forged irons from Callaway. And to complete this week's titanic trifecta, here is a peek at Titleist's new prototype 712U utility iron, which Titleist Canada teased on its Twitter account.

“On the worldwide professional tours, some players prefer a utility iron over a hybrid club as an alternative to traditional long irons,” said Titleist on its tour blog. “The 712U delivers increased playability versus a traditional long iron while providing enhanced spin and trajectory control versus a hybrid.”

The prototype 712U clubs – from photos we’ve seen, there are 2-irons, 3-irons and 4-irons – are being sent out to Titleist’s tour staff for what the company is calling “performance validation and feedback.” Titleist is also planning to bring the clubs to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Disney World, the final event on the PGA Tour schedule, the week of Nov. 5-11, for their players to check out.

The 712U clubs are intended as a tour-only product for now. However, says Titleist, the feedback the company receives will influence the clubs’ final design as well as their place in Titleist lineup.

There are no guarantees, of course, but I suspect there’s a lesson to be learned from Callaway's recent introduction of its X Utility irons. Callaway seeded the clubs among its tour staff last summer, and players from Phil Mickelson to Branden Grace put them in their bags – and then Ernie Els won the British Open with three X Utility clubs in his bag. Not long after, Callaway announced that they would be sold to the public, and they're scheduled to be available at select retailers beginning in December.

Hybrids are great for a great many golfers. But many elite players prefer that precision that advanced utility irons can provide, and I’ll be surprised if the 712U irons are anything but a big success.

 

October 25, 2012 - 12:24am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Callaway Golf 2013 X Forged irons
Callaway Golf via Twitter
The 2013 X Forged irons from Callaway Golf have a distinctive muscleback, while maintaining the "X" design as well.

TaylorMade dominated the headlines in the golf equipment world in the early part of the week with the unveiling of its new RocketBladez irons. But TM isn’t the only company with new gear to tout.

Callaway Golf hasn’t made a formal announcement, but the company has been teasing its 2013 X Forged irons in a big way on social media over the past few days.

"Crafted by our Chief Club Designer, Roger Cleveland, the 2013 X Forged irons combine 1025 Carbon Steel and our Triple Net Forging process to offer unmatched feel and extreme precision," said Callaway on the company’s Facebook page on Wednesday. "A new face design, sole profile and optimized CG Height Progression through the line delivers distinct performance advantages, including distance, with an incredible (and somewhat drool-inducing) look."

Without knowing much more than that about them, these new irons are among the cleanest looking clubs that Callaway has issued in recent years. They have a distinctive muscleback, while maintaining the "X" design as well, and – to my eye, anyway – resemble Callaway’s RAZR X musclebacks more than the recent RAZR X Forged models.

Callaway officials, we understand, believe that these new clubs will quickly become popular among their tour staff, and there seems to be a chance that Phil Mickelson will put a set in play next week in the WGC-HSBC Championship in China.

These new X Forged irons are expected to carry a suggested retail price of $999.99 per set, and are expected to be available in late January of 2013.

October 24, 2012 - 6:11pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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IJP Design's autumn/winter 2012 collection
Courtesy of IJP Design
The Thunderbird shirt from IJP Design offers a unique color-blocked design, while the Diamond In The Rough sweater is a new take on the traditional Argyle outerwear.

Ian Poulter’s IJP Design is billing its Autumn/Winter 2012 collection as its most advanced to date. The collection, which is available now, offers a variety of golf apparel from classic tartans in hues both subdued and vibrant to more modern form-fitting European styling.

"We know we make clothes that 'look good' and feel good,' and more importantly, for those who want to 'play great,' our Autumn/Winter 2012 Collection has technical and functional elements designed expressly for golfers and their distinctive movements," said Poulter.

Four different colored tartans are created for each seasonal collection, all of which are licensed under the Scottish Tartan Authority and unique to IJP Design. These tartans are the foundation on which the IJP collections are developed and the basis for which "IJP leads with the legs."

The new collection is the first to promote interchangeable color palettes, enabling golfers to create their own unique outfits by using any combination of styles.

The Poulter Tartans offer a stylish and functional choice with a straight leg shape, signature side splits, internal waistband fastening and bias cut trimmed pockets. The trousers are half-lined in a soft anti-static lining for comfort and are available in Cornflower Blue, Porcelain and Fuchsia.

The Diamond In The Rough sweater offers a new take on the traditional Argyle outerwear. Fashioned from soft, durable merino wool, the sweater's distinctive patterning is available in Grey Cloud, Ink or Ox Blood. Also made from 100 percent merino wool, the slim fit Roll With It roll neck is a distinctive yet understated take on the classical roll neck sweater. Available in stylish Black Watch, it features turn back cuffs.

The IJP Design Tour polo shirt uses Scotchguard technology to wick away moisture and provide lasting softness and breathability. Combined with a slim-fitting design, a long four-button placket and IJP Design branding, the Tour shirt offers a contemporary take on the classic club tour shirt.

Available in the same three colors as the Diamond In The Rough sweater and made from a lightweight, comfort stretch fabric, the Thunderbird shirt offers a unique color-blocked design guaranteed to catch anyone's eye on the course.

The classic golf chino is given a new twist by IJP Design's Performance Slacks. Incorporating a comfortable straight leg fit and IJP Design branding throughout, the trousers are made from a lightweight, water repellent, stretch fabric, ensuring that traditional style is fused with cutting-edge performance, comfort and technical features.

IJP Design has also included in its Autumn/Winter collection a range of items specially designed for the seasonal conditions. The F-1's bonded fleece fabric (available in Pillar Box Red, Jet Black, Midnight Blue and Onyx) is both water repellent and windproof, and comes with a shaped collar to protect against the elements.

The lightweight Aqua-Tech trousers feature an elasticized waistband, Velcro adjusters and full-length side zips, allowing the wearer to suit up without removing his golf shoes. Aqua-Tech shields against harsh conditions and are fully waterproof. And IJP Design's Bionic Base long-sleeved base layer, available in black or white with colored body mapped seam features, ensures comfort and warmth.

For more information, visit www.ijpdesign.com.

October 23, 2012 - 7:50pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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TaylorMade RocketBladez irons
Courtesy of TaylorMade
The TaylorMade RocketBladez (upper left) irons have more of a cavityback than the RocketBladez Tour models (upper right). The Speed Pocket, as shown in bottom view and side view, helps the face flex to provide more springiness upon impact.

TaylorMade Golf made a huge splash earlier this year with the release of its RocketBallz line of clubs. The company did it again on Tuesday, unveiling its new RocketBladez irons with a marketing push so successful that the number of people trying to watch its live webcast briefly knocked TaylorMade’s servers out.

TaylorMade officials are hoping the new RocketBladez and RocketBladez Tour irons are a knockout, too. The irons’ signature feature is the Speed Pocket, which TaylorMade is billing as ''that little thing'' but which they believe will make these clubs the next big thing.

The Speed Pocket is a 2-millimeter-wide slot cut in the sole of the 3-iron through 7-iron that permits the face to flex farther and more easily upon impact, particularly when a golfer hits the ball low on the face. The improved flex, says TaylorMade, promotes increased Coefficient of Restitution – or springiness – up to the USGA limit for high ball speed. In fact, TaylorMade says, these irons are as hot as many drivers, and could help most golfers add two to five yards per shot.

The Speed Pocket is sealed with a specially formulated polyurethane developed by 3M that keeps grass and other debris out. More important, it dampens vibration for better, more solid feel upon impact. The Speed Pocket, combined with a shorter hosel, also helps TaylorMade to redistribute 17.5 grams of weight to lower the Center of Gravity, promoting a higher launch angle, higher peak trajectory and a steep, quick-stopping descent.

Higher-lofted clubs like the sand wedge and lob wedge don’t include the Speed Pocket, but have redesigned cavities to improve their feel, and feature TaylorMade’s ATV (All-Terain Versatility) sole for improved workability around the greens. In addition, these clubs come equipped with heavier steel shafts to promote better rhythm and control in shorter swings.

Careful management of the RocketBladez’s face thickness, Center of Gravity location and the Speed Pocket help enlarge the effective sweet spot, which makes for more consistent shotmaking – and therefore more consistent distance gaps throughout the set.

The RocketBladez irons will be available at retail in December, and come standard with 85-gram ''Rocketfuel'' steel shafts for $799.99 per set or $899.99 per set with 65-gram ''RocketFuel'' graphite shafts.

The RocketBladez Tour irons will debut next February. They boast the same attributes as the standard RocketBladez models, but are tuned a little hotter. The heads are more compact, with a squarer toe, a thinner topline, minimal offset and a shallow cavity. There is also a slight camber on the sole, which also features what TaylorMade calls a ''tour-designed'' leading edge.

For more on the RocketBladez and RocketBladez tour irons, visit www.TaylorMadeGolf.com

Categories: RocketBladez
October 21, 2012 - 12:51pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Miyazaki B. Asha shaft
Courtesy of Miyazaki Shafts
The B. Asha series’ artwork was created by Miyazaki artist Ash Baharin, whose designs were inspired by the speed and accuracy of ancient Japanese swordsmen.

The new B. Asha series of premium ultralight graphite shafts from Miyazaki Shafts is a follow-up to Miyazaki’s breakthrough C. Kua premium ultralight series, which launched in 2010 and was golf’s first sub-60-gram shaft to be used in significant numbers on tours around the globe.

The B. Asha series builds on the gains made by the C. Kua series with even more weight reduction, elevated balance points and more stable International Flex Code profiles.

The B. Asha models push the limits of weight reduction across the series through the use of advanced shaft materials and manufacturing techniques. They offer three distinct driver and fairway wood International Flex Code profiles in up to four different flexes. Miyazaki created these IFC profiles to replace less specific measurements of frequency, kick point and torque.

The B. Asha 5 and 7 profiles were designed to feel extremely stable in the top 3/4ths of the shaft, with a slightly softened section under the hands to promote feel and a penetrating ball flight. These attributes are coupled with an active but stable tip section to produce a mid-trajectory ball flight with added ball speed and a slight fade bias. Miyazaki says the 5 and 7 series are excellent choices for players who value a very stable feel in an ultralight graphite shaft.

The 4 flex profile offers a stable feel similar to the 5 and 7 series, but with a slightly stiffer butt section and slightly softer tip section to help produce a mid- to high-trajectory ball flight. It has been engineered with a standard butt diameter to make it compatible with all standard golf grips, and Miyazaki calls it the ultimate combination of speed and stability.

The 3 series shafts for fairway woods features slightly softer mid-tip and tip sections to create a powerful loading and release, added swingspeed and distance with a mid-high trajectory ball flight. The 3 series is the lightest that Miyazaki offers, and is available only in a 0.350 tip configuration. Miyazaki says this shaft is best for players with a smooth tempo and transition in search of a faster swing speed.

Like the C. Kua shafts before them, the B. Asha shafts are covered with graphics inspired by a talented but previously unknown artist. The B. Asha series’ artwork was created by Miyazaki artist Ash Baharin, whose designs were inspired by the speed and accuracy of ancient Japanese swordsmen.

Miyazaki Shafts is a division of Dunlop Sports, which also owns the Cleveland Golf, Srixon and XXIO brands.

For more on the B. Asha series, visit www.miyazakigolfshafts.com.

October 19, 2012 - 10:37pm
Posted by:
John Kim
john.kim's picture
Hickory Sticks Classic
Photo courtesy Rob Matre
It was as if Atlanta went 100 years back in time at the Hickory Sticks Classic at Ansley Golf Club

 

I am fortunate enough to get invitations to play in many great golf events.  I am unfortunate enough that I rarely get to accept these invitations. I've never had a bad invite; never seen a tournament or event that didn't appear to be a great time or for a great cause - and I'd love to play in each of them.  We all know, there is no better day than a day on the golf course.  But to be honest, I'm probably able to play in one out of every ten events that come up. The other nine that I miss, I spend pouting all day wishing I was out there. 
 
But at the last minute this week, I received an invite that I KNEW I had to accept and make whatever adjustments to my schedule I could. No, it wasn't to go to Augusta or Cypress (though if you send me one of those invites, I'll make more adjustments, I promise) - it was to Ansley Golf Club's Hickory Sticks Classic.
 
Ansley Golf Club is one of the country's hidden gems.  Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, it is actually a nine-hole facility that uses different tee complexes as a front and back nine differentiator, giving players a true 18-hole experience. The layout is championship, the conditions are always tremendous and the staff is as impressive as you'll find at any course in the country. The club is private, prestigious and to the locals who are lucky enough to secure an invite, it is memorable. Ansley can boast a number of prominent Atlantans - past and present - as members; including a number of Tour players and high-profile names in business, media and sports. It is more than an Atlanta landmark, it is a vital part of Atlanta history.
 
This weekend, Ansley celebrates it's 100 year anniversary. As part of the celebration, the club put on a "Hickory Sticks Classic" tournament, hiring Stirling Hickory Golf (out of Nashville, TN) to supply the club a number of bags and balls - exact replicas of the equipment used a century ago.  
 
How many times have you wondered how the best of yesteryear would fare with today's equipment - or how today's top players would do with equipment from a few generations ago.  Well today, a group of us learned how we'd do trying to play the sticks like the ones Bobby Jones had to use.
 
Brandon Clay, the owner of Stirling Hickory Golf, did give every group a quick tutorial on using the clubs - explaining that there was a little different technique in hitting the clubs (they are designed to dig down more than today's clubs - so be sure to hit the ball first) and a little more body shift and wrist hinge are helpful (think of old films of Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen).
 
The names of the clubs were both entertaining and confusing. Mashie? Mashie Niblick? Spade Mashie? Brassie? You are constantly looking at a little chart to figure out what you should hit - with the distance spreads of most of the clubs being 30 yards or so as to what most golfers of today have in their clubs (typically 10 yards.) The club heads are smaller, the hickory shafts obviously do not flex as much (and have only one standard flex). The ball is also different, a modern day replica (using current materials that look and react as the same gutta percha balls from the early 1900s.) The balls will not go as far and will react a bit differently than today's high-tech golf balls.  So the weight of the club, the feel at impact, the sound of the metal and the spin of the ball were going to be different - but other than that...
 
This might seem like it would lead to a day of frustration and bewilderment. No way. It was one of the most fun days on the golf course I've ever had.
 
Playing with a group that included a +1 handicap and a 20-something handicap, we all had more laughs, more great shots (and poor shots), and more camaraderie than you'd find in most current golf settings. There was constant talk, strategy and encouragement.  Many of the players dressed up in ties, knickers and dress shirts. My partner and I walked (I let him caddie as we shared a bag).  It was a throwback day in the best way.
 
It took us a couple of holes to acclimate ourselves to the clubs and distances, but the poor shots seemed just as fun as the good ones. And once we became comfortable, we actually started playing really well.  To make a long story short, collectively, our team missed a half dozen short putts (play your own ball, best two net scores per hole) and we ended up losing by one shot! (Actually, had the lead and made two bogeys on 17th hole!).  But in reality, there were no losers on the day - everyone learned, had fun and remarked how much they'd like to do this again.
 
And as a student of golf history, to play with those clubs was not only a great education in golf equipment and the advantages of today's technology - but it enhanced my appreciation of the skill and talent that the greats of yesterday possessed.  Nothing against Tiger, Rory or even Jack and Arnie - I don't see how they could put up the numbers that Bobby Jones and company could put up using the same set of equipment. 
 
At the end of the day, it was like any other golf outing. Food and drinks were enjoyed, stories were shared about putts that should have gone in and promises were made to get together again soon.  But every golfer walked away with a little more passion and love for the game. If you're looking for a different perspective and a great way to love golf even more - going "old school" will give you a whole new appreciation for the greatest game we know. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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