LAS VEGAS – It's summer, it's hot and it's Vegas, so that means it's time for the annual PGA Fashion & Demo Experience, which is another way of saying look-see at some of what's coming our way as consumers of all things golf come 2016. (Actually, like the PGA Tour schedule, some of 2016 will get here in 2015.).
Whatever, the calendar is an arbitrary creation to begin with and all that really matters is that we're golf junkies and we get to beat and prod and poke stuff. On Monday it was clubs, and on Tuesday and Wednesday we'll have a gander at what's interesting in soft goods, gadgets and gizmos, training and instructional goodies, and, well, it's Vegas, so you never know what's gonna happen until the wheel stops spinning.
AN EYE FOR A SOLE: Valley of the Sun-based Ping is one of those companies that announces new equipment when the mercury is riding high – and trust us, it's riding high here. But Monday's Outdoor Demo Experience at Cascata Golf Club was the first chance for many to get their hands on products announced last month, including new irons in the i and G franchises, and a latter-day wedge in the Glide ES.
The Glide wedges take sole-relief cues from Ping's iconic Eye2, but wraps them in a more streamlined package that will better suit those averse to obvious signs of game-improvement. They're offered in three lofts: 56, 58, 60 degrees. The GMax clubs have no such hesitation to embrace everything they can to enhance distance and forgiveness, and notably in the way of face speed.
The i clubs – the numeric designation was dropped – use a softer steel for better sound and feel, the topline is thinned out marginally and the sole widths increased slightly, moving the long way through the bag. For the spec-geeks out there, standard lie in the i is now blue or .75 degrees upright and the GMax is set at 1.5 or yellow, to help combat the left-to-rights (for righties) that plague most recreational players, even those drawn to the more player-oriented i irons.
IN STREELS' WHEELHOUSE: Talk irons over the course of modern golf, and you have to say some words, a lot of words, about Wilson Golf. Sure, the company makes broadly acclaimed golf balls, and irons are still out there pulling in tour victories. But while higher handicap players can buy a darn fine game-improvement driver with that famous W/S shield, what about better players?
We had a chance to quickly catch up with PGA Tour winner and Wilson staffer Kevin Streelman Monday evening, here's his take on the whole matter:
"I'm extremely excited about the new FG Tour F5 driver because I had so much say on its design. The teardrop design is perfect to the eye and its high-launch, low-spin profile rivals any driver on the market."
Yes, Wilson is back with this 2016 gamer, and Streels had a big hand with the big dog. As he notes, it has the old-school pear shape and resultant ball flight preferred by many better players. "Fast Fit" makes adjusting the hosel a snap and two base lofts of 9.0 and 10.5 degrees are offered, each adjustable to six positions. And a face-forward changeable weight keeps spin down as launch is varied.
FOURTEEN CLUBS – NO, NOT THAT WAY: Fourteen Golf 's RM-21 wedge is, truth be told, a 2015 release, but the maker of what is said to be the most popular wedge brand in the Asian market is eager to continue to try to get the word out on clubs that don't carry a household name even as they pack a punch on the course.
Two soles and lofts from 42 to 60 degrees give consumers 11 wedge configurations from which to choose. True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 and Nippon N.S. Pro 950GH NT are the stock shaft offerings, and you can get a black matte finish. That's all rather industry-standard. What's cool is how the blade gets thicker toward the top to assist in flight control.
CHANNELING PHIL AND MONTY: Yonex is a huge player in tennis, and a big part of the golf picture if you pan that camera across the rest of the world, so like Fourteen, this Japanese company is in full stride touting its offerings. One of the carryover clubs of note is the Tri-G driver, available in 460cc and a deeper-faced, better-player-inclined 445cc version.
Yonex is known as the graphite company, peeling way back to even before Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie sported "YONEX" on their foreheads. Still a manufacturer of graphite shafts, graphite in the driver head is now limited to a nanometric carbon crown, which enhances face flex and gives Yonex engineers about 10 grams of discretionary weight over a typical titanium dome to be placed where best utilized for launch and forgiveness.
A de rigueur adjustable hosel is accompanied by three moveable weights that "personalize" – a company word – the center of gravity, but because of how they're oriented to the club's axis won't bias spin one direction or the other.