NOW PLAYING: TAYLORMADE SLDRS Are you ready to loft up? With the new SLDR S (which presumably stands for "Silver") drivers, woods, hybrids and irons, you're destined to hit the ball higher and farther. At least, that's the mantra out of TaylorMade these days, and based on past success with the original SLDR, we don't doubt it. The new SLDR S driver has the same low and forward CG tech found in the original SLDR, this time in a fixed-hosel design and lofts of 10_¡, 12_¡, 14_¡–and for the first time ever in a modern-day driver measuring 460cc, a 16_¡ model. The added loft works with the SLDR driver quite well, and believe it or not, not having an adjustable hosel is something of a welcome reprieve to us. The less finagling we have to do with adjusting the club, the better in our minds. We agree that the SLDR S is, in fact, a distance driver for all swing speeds, as long as you opt for the right amount of loft for your swing. Second, the nonadjustable hosel allows TaylorMade to produce a driver that's more affordable at $329 versus the standard SLDR that sells at $399.
The new SLDR S fairway woods and hybrids (Rescues) are also designed for more distance, with Speed Pocket technology and low-profile head shapes for added playability. They, too, have silver crowns for a refined look. There's also a TP version with souped-up shafts.
Lastly, the new SLDR irons incorporate Speed Pocket with ThruSlot Tech (which improves not only the results of shots hit off the center, but specifically the performance of shots hit low on the clubface) in a clean design sure to appeal to a wide range of skill levels. In fact, we think they look like an iron a Tour player would use, and only with one try, we found it to be exceptionally forgiving. Don't be fooled by the classy chrome, triangular shape and the relatively thin topline. These irons are actually very forgiving.
For more information on the whole SLDR line, visit taylormadegolf.com
CALLAWAY X2 HOT PRO LD We can all dream, right? If you're aspiring to be a professional long driver, or maybe you happen to hit it far or want to hit it far, then you have to try the Callaway X2 Hot Pro LD driver ($279). For starters, it comes as a clubhead only, allowing you to use whatever XXX shaft you have in mind. Second, it comes in either 440cc or 460cc, and we feel if you're going to swing as hard as you possibly can, choosing the 460cc is the logical choice. Third, it comes in a gnarly 6.5_¡ loft, meaning you need some serious speed to get the ball airborne. We'll say one thing, though: If you have long driver-like clubhead speed (115 mph+), this driver will make you even longer. How do we know? We've seen Joe Miller and Jamie Sadlowski hit some insane bombs around the 400-yard mark with it. Longdrivers.com
PING RAPTURE Is it a driver or a fairway wood? Well, it depends on whom you ask. The 219cc PING Rapture ($449) is something in between, with near-driver-like performance off the tee, but with the extra control you'd expect from using a fairway wood. With 13_¡ of loft, the Rapture is a tall-face, titanium clubhead with a tungsten soleplate for a low CG and the desired high-launch/low-spin trajectory. Also, the Rapture comes with a high-balance point shaft for more clubhead speed. The net effect? It's the most powerful club we've tried from PING that's designed to be used both on the turf and off a tee. Ping.com
ODYSSEY TANK CRUISER If you're looking to make weight adjustments to your putter, consider the Odyssey Tank Cruiser putters ($249), with four models available from blade to mallet. Not only can you adjust the weight of the clubhead (from 365g to 385g), you can adjust the heel and toe weight configurations. Also, the Tank Cruisers have a counterbalancing weight port at the top of the custom, 15-inch SuperStroke grip for a fine-tuned, counterbalanced setup. Hey, if you can't get comfortable with this putter in your hands, it may be time to visit your local golf pro for a quick putting lesson. Odysseygolf.com
MANTIS PUTTER Do you suffer from putting ADD? We do, too. Sometimes, the latest in putter designs distracts more than it helps you, which is exactly where the Mantis putter ($159) comes into play. The green color is for a reason–to help you take your eyes off the putter and focus more on the golf ball, which is what we all should be doing anyway. Available in two models, a traditional blade and a mallet. Mantisgolfco.com
YES! TRUE ALIGNMENT While the top of the putter looks like that's where the action is, it's what's going on in the sole of the putter that matters most to us. The True Alignment Bump on the Yes! Donna and Milly putters ($179 each) allows golfers to hold the putter square whether they prefer an upright or a flat stance. Okay, back to the top, which features a lightweight yellow polymer wedged between heavier tungsten inserts on the toe and heel regions, and the C-Groove face design that has made Yes! a popular putter brand for the last several years. Whew, that's a lot of technology in a couple of putters that are so darn simple to use. We love both the blade-style Donna and mallet-style Milly putters each the same. Yesgolf.com
ORANGE WHIP PUTTING WAND We've been big fans of the Orange Whip for a while, and it looks like the Putting Wand ($109) is also des-tined for longtime favoritism. The concept is simple: an extremely flexible shaft with an ambidextrous putter-head (for right- or left-handed use) that helps golfers improve their rhythm and tempo. Mis-hits are exaggerated for even more feedback. Orangewhiptrainer.com
HIREKO GOLF Where is our favorite place to shop online for clubmaking stuff? Hireko Golf has all the tools we need to change grips, swap shafts, adjust lie/loft and much more. They also sell a wide variety of shafts, grips and clubs to choose from, in case you want to set up shop in your garage and become the envy of all your gearhead friends. Hirekogolf.com
BUNKER BUDDY Having trouble in the sand? The Bunker Buddy ($9.99) can help. All you have to do is set it up behind the ball, and as you practice, try and chip the Bunker Buddy up and out of the sand. The goal is for the Bunker Buddy to take your mind and eye off the ball, helping you get more comfortable with hitting the sand behind the golf ball. Simplegolfproducts.com
SKYGOLF SKYPRO Sporting a new user interface, the SkyPro ($200) sends immediate feedback to your mobile device on all things clubface position, stroke length, tempo, speed and much more. New content includes swing tips from popular instructors such as Hank Haney and Michael Breed. The sub-one-ounce unit attaches easily to any clubshaft and communicates via Bluetooth to a free app. Not only have we tried this product, we use it–a lot. Golfskypro.com
ON THE GREEN GOLF BELT BUCKLE The On the Green Golf belt buckle ($35) is a newly patented low-profile design that holds the golfer's ball marker and divot repair tool magnetically and securely. The marker and tool are kept hidden, yet instantly accessible. This stylish and sturdy, powder-coated and high-quality, all-zinc alloy metal buckle saves the golfer the bother of always having to search his or her pockets or bag. With the tools always at one's fingertips, the pace of play is increased. The buckle also supports the development of golf etiquette for new and young golfers. It's available in a variety of colors (12 standard). Any of the standard colors can be mixed and matched (main body, divot tool and marker), and the buckle fits standard interchangeable belt straps (black or white straps available from On the Green Golf). Onthegreengolf.com