November 29, 2012 - 1:53pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Old Tom Morris
Old Tom Morris knocked some golf balls into Lough Salt in Ireland 121 years ago, starting a tradition that's lived on ever since -- and made finding those original balls etremely difficult.

What's stuck in the muck at the bottom of Lough Salt in County Donegal, Ireland? It could be that 20 of Old Tom Morris' golf balls are down there.

A team of divers has begun searching one of Donegal's deepest lakes for 20 gutta percha balls that the legendary golf pioneer and four-time British Open champion is said to have knocked in there as part of an exhibition while he was designing the nearby Rosapenna Golf Course in 1891.

"We've carried out some research and spoke to local people whose parents were around when Tom Morris was here and they told us how he stood up on the hill overlooking Lough Salt and drove the balls into the lake," dive leader Gus O'Driscoll told BBC News.

"It soon became a tradition after that for golfers on their way home from the Rosapenna to stop off and drive balls into the lake," he added. "That checks out because we've seen thousands of balls on the bottom of the lake and we have recovered some which date back to the 1940s and '50s."

Because there are so many balls at the bottom of the lake, locating Morris' models is an even more difficult task than scouring the bottom of a deep, dark lake would be otherwise. But the reward could be great.

The gutta percha balls that Morris used in his heyday sold for a shilling (about 8 cents) apiece at the time. Now, however, these "little pieces of sporting history" are worth about $25,000 each, or more than $500,000 if all 20 are found, according to the Independent newspaper in Ireland.

"The balls we are looking for were designed by Morris himself and he used them when he won the Open four times in the 1860s," O'Driscoll told the Independent. "It would be fantastic to get one of them."

Despite the balls' potential value, however, the divers aren't looking solely to cash in. If they do manage to salvage some of the spheres, they plan to make a donation the Rosapenna Golf Club.

"There's a statue of Old Tom Morris at the entrance to the course he designed," said O'Driscoll, "and it would be lovely to give the club one of his original golf balls to put on display n the clubhouse."


November 28, 2012 - 10:11pm
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John Holmes
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Nike Golf VR_S Covert irons
Courtesy of Nike Golf
The cavityback in Nike Golf's VR_S Covert irons is hidden "covertly," giving each iron a sleeker look at address while offering the performance advantages of a highly forgiving distance iron.

Hot on the heels of its new VR_S Covert drivers, Nike Golf is rolling out a high-speed cavityback iron designed to maximize distance, control and forgiveness.

"Distance, control and consistency are the keys to successful golf shots," said Nike Golf Director of Club Creation Tom Stites. "We combined a high-speed cavityback, NexCOR technology, and a dual bevel sole to maximize distance for every club in the bag. Golfers will notice positive improvements not only on crisp shots, but on off-center shots as well."

The cavityback is hidden "covertly," Nike Golf said, giving each iron a sleeker look at address while offering the performance advantages of a highly forgiving distance iron. The VR_S Covert irons are the company's most versatile irons to date, and will appeal to a wide range of players.

The hidden cavityback allowed Nike Golf engineers to move much of the club's weight to the corners, raising Moment of Inertia (MOI) to increase forgiveness and add even more distance to off-center shots. And a new variable to maximum distance is the incredibly thin 1.6 millimeter sole, which heats up the face.

NexCOR technology is designed to deliver faster ball speed and longer shots from a wider area of the face. NexCOR creates more speed at impact by employing variable face thickness that focuses on increasing the sweet spot not only in the center of the face, but also to the lower portion and towars the toe, where most golfers are likely to make impact.

For the VR_S Covert irons, engineers have created a dual bevel sole, which allows the club to sit low to the ball and prevent digging. The sole makes a clean cut through the grass, making interaction with the turf less disturbing to the shot.

These new irons are part of the VR_S Covert family that also includes drivers, fairway woods and hybrids. All will be available in golf stores across North America and Europe on Feb. 8, 2013 and in the rest of the world starting Feb. 15.

They will come in right- and left-handed models with either True Temper Dynalite 90 or Nike Kuro Kage Black 70 shafts. The steel-shafted models will carry a street price of $699.99 per set, while the graphite-shafted clubs will carry a street price of $799.99 per set.


November 27, 2012 - 12:09pm
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John Holmes
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Rory McIlroy
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Rory McIlroy's five years with a bag full of Titleist clubs ended in grand fashion on Sunday.

Three quick equipment notes from last weekend before I forget:

--Rory McIlroy went out with a bang on Sunday at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai -- he won the European Tour's season-ending tournament in his final start playing Titleist clubs. As far as I know, that's never been done before -- a player winning in his final start with his old club company before switching to a new brand. And I'm certain it's never been done at such a high level -- the world No. 1 winning the richest prize on his home tour, then immediately switching to a new brand of clubs.

   If you want to see what Rory had in his bag, I published the details in our weekly What's in the Winner's Bag feature on Monday.

--For all the fuss over long putters, SMS Inc. – the company that tracks the clubs each player has in his bag during European Tour events – reported that only one player in the 56-man field at the DP World Tour Championship used a long putter. It’s probably way too late to impact any decision that golf’s governing bodies might make regarding the legality of long putters, but that stat sure backs up the argument that the vast majority of elite players haven’t switched to the long putters.

--Finally, in Dubai over the weekend, European Tour Chief Executive George O'Grady said his primary hope in any ruling on long putters is that everyday amateurs will still be able to play the same equipment as touring pros -- meaning that he doesn't want the tours to create their own equipment rules if they disagree with the R&A and USGA.

"One of our great facets is that we are connected to the game that every amateur can play as well," he said. "We could go separately. I would urge the Tour to follow the rules as laid down by the governing bodies."

November 18, 2012 - 7:38pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Steve Elkington's new Titleist golf balls
Steve Elkington via Twitter
‏"Titleist has 2 new balls out for next year.... I'm going to test them tomorrow," said Steve Elkington on Twitter, showing us the new Pro V1 and Pro V1x models.

This past week was a huge one around the world of golf, with star players like Luke Donald, Adam Scott, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Henrik Stenson earning victories in all corners of the globe. It was an even bigger week for Titleist, which earned the very first victories for both its 2013-14 Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls with a matter of hours of each other.

Scott chalked up the first triumph for the new Pro V1 model at the Australian Masters, while Donald rolled the Pro V1x to its first title at the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan PGA Tour. The photos I’ve seen from those events didn’t show any distinctive shots of the new balls but, coincidentally, former PGA Champion Steve Elkington tweeted a photo of the test models he received on Friday, and I have posted his photo above.

Since the original Pro V1 balls were introduced a dozen years ago, Titleist has released new models every two years. The company unofficially debuted the 2013-14 editions at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals Open in Las Vegas in October, when Titleist staff players began receiving plain white boxes containing the precious spheres to begin testing and evaluating.

Officially, Titleist has said very little about the new balls, though maybe we’ll hear more about them this week now that they’ve found their way into the winner’s circle.

To refresh your memory, the current Pro V1 is designed for increased spin control and a more consistent flight, thanks to a large, solid polybutadiene core and an ionomeric casing layer inside a urethane elastomer cover outfitted with a 352 tetrahedral dimple design.

The current Pro V1x ball is designed for longer distance and what Titleist calls its Drop-and-Stop greenside control. It features a large, high-velocity dual core with a soft center inside an ionomeric casing layer and a urethane elastomer cover with a 328 tetrahedral dimple design.

November 15, 2012 - 11:45pm
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John Holmes
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Cleveland Golf 588 RTX CB wedge
Courtesy of Cleveland Golf
The faces of the new Cleveland 588 RTX CB wedges feature a unique direction milling pattern that helps increase the spin imparted on balls, especially on open-face shots.

Not only did Charlie Beljan overcome severe panic attack symptoms to earn his first PGA Tour victory at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic last Sunday, he also chalked up the first victory for the new 588 RTX CB wedges from Cleveland Golf. And in a case of perfect timing, these new wedges are officially hitting the stores on Friday.

The new wedges are the latest extension of Cleveland’s famed 588 line, and include the company's most advanced spin technology ever.

These advances begin with Cleveland's ROTEX face pattern. This directionally milled face pattern adds roughness and enhances spin, especially on open-face wedge shots in which impact tends to be closer to the toe. The ROTEX milling process creates semicircular, downward-oriented marks that are perpendicular to the direction the ball moves up the face on shots when the clubface is opened way up.

In addition, the milling on the faces is rougher and more durable than before to create more friction at impact – and maintain that level of friction long after the clubs are new. The faces also feature U-Grooves, which Cleveland says are 16 percent larger by volume than its previous Tour Zip Grooves to promote cleaner contact and maximize spin on critical scoring shots.

Inspired by Cleveland's popular CG14 and CG16 wedges, the RTX CB models come with a wide, constant-width sole that combines heel and toe grinds to improve performance from bunkers and deep rough. The new wedges also boast an undercut cavity (the CB stands for cavity back) to enhance their perimeter weighting for more forgiveness on off-center hits.

The 588 RTX CB wedges come in eight different lofts between 46 and 60 degrees with standard bounce in both Satin Chrome and Black Pearl finishes, and a women’s version is also available. The clubs carry a minimum advertised price of $119.99 per club.


November 14, 2012 - 2:02am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Graeme McDowell
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Some golf officials believe that the long putter "takes one extraneous movement out of the putting stroke," says Graeme McDowell.
Do golf’s governing bodies believe they’ve made a mistake by not banning long putters that can be anchored to the body? They do, according to Graeme McDowell.

U.S. Golf Association Chief Executive Mike Davis told him that their research indicated that putters anchored to the belly, chest or chin give golfers an edge in pressure situations, McDowell told the Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper on Tuesday as he prepared to play in this week’s Australian Masters.

"They're convinced the research has shown that under pressure on a Sunday afternoon the long putter just kind of takes one extraneous movement out of the putting stroke," McDowell told the paper. "It just makes it physically easier to stroke the putter when the nerves are there (and) I think we should be levelling the playing field (by banning it).

"I think it's probably something they're disappointed in themselves that it's got to this point," he added. "They probably should have nipped it in the bud many, many years ago."

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