May 2013

Top gear for Spring Golf

NOW PLAYING DEAD AIM PUTTER

If you're looking for a cutting-edge putter, consider one of our favorites for 2013. The Dead Aim Putter helps you get your eyes positioned directly over the golf ball, thanks to a 3D alignment system that combines two lines through three holes cut out on the top of the putter. Cool enough, right? That's not all. The built-in alignment aid also serves as a housing mechanism for a laser that attaches to the putter. Obviously not legal during play, the laser is a handy training aid to help you see and feel proper face alignment. (The laser isn't obstructed by the ball; it shines over and at the intended target.) But wait, that's still not all! The Dead Aim Putter also comes with an optional center strike clip that attaches to the face of the putter to help you hone in on the putter's sweetspot. Talk about a lot of technology built into a putter. We love it, and by the way, each Dead Aim Putter has a soft, buttery feel that we really like. It's techy, but it's got a great look, feel and sound. ($149, plus accessories, deadaimputters.com )

NOW PLAYING

SRIXON Q-STAR

Is there any better ball value out there than SRIXON's Q-Star? The all-around rock for average golfers now features a proprietary "Spin Skin" cover coating that helps generate more greenside spin from within 30 yards of the flag. For use back from the tee box, it's constructed to travel long and straight. The ball is best-suited for golfers with driver swing speeds of slower than 90 mph, which is most players. ($25/dozen, srixon.com )

NOW PLAYING TAYLORMADE LETHAL Expect TaylorMade's five-piece Lethal ball to be a surprise hit this year. We tested it in a variety of playing conditions–cold, warm, wet and dry–and found it to feel pleasantly soft while bringing plenty of life to shots. Its aerodynamic dimple pattern helps you control long shots in the wind. Plus, its ability to generate greenside backspin will help you zero in on the flag from within 100 yards. This replaces the Penta TP ball. Good thing, as it seems to offer superior performance. ($46/dozen, taylormadegolf.com)

VOLVIK Just because it's incredibly popular with LPGA Tour pros doesn't mean Volvik's Vista iV ball isn't for men. In fact, this four-piece ball might be too macho for most male golfers. It's best for low-handicappers with driver swing speeds of 80 to 120 mph. Its dual core that consists of a soft outer layer and a hard inner core–the opposite of conventional theory–is what helps it gain you distance, while the soft cover adds greenside spin and soft feel. It's available in five colors. ($48/dozen, volvik.com)

ODYSSEY In our eyes, Odyssey's Versa #1 putter is a game-changer. Not only does its popular and textured "White Hot" face and silky grip help soften every putt, but its zebra-looking, "high-contrast" black-and-white color scheme helps simplify putt alignment and the process of squaring the putter at address. Unlike many other alignment putters, its pattern isn't visually distracting during the stroke–allowing you to key in on sinking putts. ($169, odysseygolf.com)

TOUR EDGE Vanity putters are terrific, especially if your name is Scotty Cameron or Bobby Grace. So, who is David Glod, the namesake on Tour Edge's latest Tour Proto putter? He's the company's president and CEO, and an outstanding golfer. As it happens, the putter's pretty spectacular, too. The head is milled from carbon steel, which resonates a genuinely soft feel. Its face pattern decreases spin, so the ball rolls truer and straighter at your target. There are three head styles–we tested one of the Anser-style blades–and found they're geared for better players. ($219, touredge.com)

CLEVELAND GOLF Regardless of which side of the putter anchoring ban you stand on, there's a Cleveland Golf Classic Collection HB putter for you. It's offered in three blades and two mallets, and the putterhead weight ranges from 340 to 360 grams. One belly model is available. It not only feels and sounds soft at impact–the result of a milled face pattern–but also while you're holding it, thanks to a buttery Winn grip. Heel-Toe weighting increases MOI for minimal distance loss on mis-hits. It's intended for all golfers. ($90-$130, clevelandgolf.com)

BOBBY GRACE Is that really the name? Yep. Does it work? That's up to you to decide, but we can tell you we sure like the look of it. The onset design of the Ass Kicker features a hosel that's attached to the rear of the putterhead pointing at the head's center of gravity. This lends a unique look and feel to the putter that actually makes contact with the ball sooner than most of us are used to in the stroke. The putterface has an MRR (Multi-Rebound Radial) face insert with Sweet Zone technology to correct distance loss, and the unique shaft/grip is designed so the club is anchored to the arm, not the belly (which is allowed under the USGA's proposed ban). And, by the way, the Ass Kicker is like all Bobby Grace putters, made to precision with extraordinary craftsmanship. ($350, bobbygraceputters.com)

MIURA Beautiful designs? Check. Amazing craftsmanship? Check. Pretty much everything that comes out of Miura is destined for great looks and exquisite feel. The KM-007 mallet is CNC (computer-numeric-controlled) milled into an elegant mallet shape, designed to please the eye of players looking for some heft behind the ball. Trust us, it feels as good as it looks. ($450, miuragolf.com)

FOOTJOY There's nothing like wearing slipper-comfortable shoes when you're walking 18, and that's one reason why FootJoy's new M:PROJECT shoe excels. These lightweight wonders are flexible, yet stable. You actually feel like you're at one with the ground while you're swinging. We tried the cleated version on a dry, fairly flat course and found them to be noticeably outstanding in both comfort and performance. And, several golfers commented on the shoe's cool looks, to boot. Its last allows toes to spread out–but not too much so for narrow feet. If you're a walker, give this shoe a try. It won't disappoint. ($145/cleated, $135/cleatless, footjoy.com)

OAKLEY It must be the year of comfort for golf shoes, and Oakley's Carbon Pro is the poster model. At just 16 ounces, it weighs less than the average model–to keep your feet energized over a round. The lightweight carbon-fiber shank enhances your feet's stability during your swing. Premium, soft Pittards leather uppers look and feel sleek, while the thin sole lowers your center of gravity to actually help improve your ball contact. Best of all, the insoles are nice and cushiony, and somehow prevent your feet from sliding around inside the shoe. ($200, oakley.com)

OGIO Your gear will stay dry in OGIO's waterproof AquaTech stand bag that's made of "hydrophobic dynamic" materials. Weighing only 4.2 pounds, it boasts heat-welded pockets that eliminate water seepage, a stain-resistant fabric and a 10-inch, six-way top that comfortably holds your entire set of clubs. A valuables pocket is lined with waterproof fleece, as well. The legs glide open and close with ease. Truth be told, they had us at waterproof. ($249, ogio.com)

IOMIC IOMIC Art Grip Series Opus1 Putter Grips feature a special marble coloring process to create a stylish, unique pattern on each grip. The ergonomic design of these grips provides the feel and control necessary for increased confidence on the putting green. Art Grip Series Opus1 Putter Grips feature the revolutionary "IOMAX" technology, a proprietary compound that provides a soft feel with control. This material provides adhesiveness, is water- and friction-resistant, and is naturally white in color, which allows for a full spectrum of color–IOMIC's signature trait. ($17, iomicusa.com)

TITLEIST What's new this year with the Pro V1 and Pro V1x? Both balls have a softer feel than previous models, and according to Titleist, added durability, as well. Titleist calls the new technology "ZG Tech," which allows for a softer core that, in addition to providing a softer feel, actually helps promote a more controlled, lower-spin ballflight with the longer clubs. The cover has been spruced up, too, with a new Elastomer and paint that are designed to last longer and stay whiter. The Pro V1 features a 352-dimple pattern, and the lower-launching, lower-spin Pro V1x has a 328-dimple pattern. Both balls are out now. ($47/dozen, titleist.com)

CHASE54 Chase54 is an apparel brand that's new to golf. We've tried plenty of rain jackets that make minimal noise during the swing, but the Clayton is library-quiet. It's also roomy inside for freedom of movement. And it's ever-so-comfortable–soft polyester fleece lining keeps you warm, while external water-resistant polyester-nylon keeps you dry. It's offered in two contrasting black-and-white versions, both of which feature red piping and zippers. ($169, chase54.com)

MOBIPLEX We've tried several mobile phone swing analyzers, which provide you with instant feedback, jaw-dropping graphics and detailed information about your swing. Some are frankly laborious to figure out. Not the SwingTIP from Mobiplex. It's simple to use, straight from the box. Download the free app to your phone, clip the tiny, one-ounce sensor to your club's shaft, sync the Bluetooth and then swing away. It shows you an animation of your swing, along with your clubhead speed, swingpath, clubface angle at impact, tempo and impact location. Plus, it stores your stats and trends, and offers video tips. ($130, mobiplex.com)

T2HOLE GOLF Need a total game makeover? The T2Hole Golf Improvement System has all the tools you need to get your golf swing back on track–literally. Stance, alignment and swingpath can be refined and custom-fit to help you best fine-tune your stroke. It comes with a Putter Guide to help you feel and repeat a more accurate putting stroke. Buy it now, and you'll also get an instructional DVD featuring popular instructor Denis Pugh. ($149, t2hole.com)

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