We Tried It: Four New Products, To The Test

Axis1 Umbra putter, KBS Tour iron shafts and Winn's Dri-Tac and Dri-Tac Wrap Lite grips

THE PRODUCTS Winn Dri-Tac and Dri-Tac Wrap Lite

TESTED BY An 8-handicap golfer

OUR EXPERIENCE Winn's new Dri-Tac grip is comfortable and tacky. As anybody who has played with Winn Grips can attest, they look and feel different than other grips. In fact, you could hold one in your hands and know without looking at it that it was a Winn. That familiar feel is the result of the company's use of polymer material, not rubber, which increases the comfort level and tackiness, two key factors, considering your hands are the only part of your body that touch the club. But the Dri-Tac feels even tackier because of Winn's new polymer material they call WinnDry.

In addition to its feel, the Dri-Tac absorbed shock beautifully. Even on mis-hits, the club didn't rattle the way it sometimes does. Look for three different tread configurations on the grip, four different colors and four sizes (ladies, standard, midsized and oversized).

If you prefer an incredibly light wrap grip, try the Dri-Tac Wrap Lite. It too features Winn's new WinnDry polymer material and a contoured spiral wrap design. Winn says it reduces the club's overall weight by up to a whopping 25 grams, and I believe it. My 3-wood never felt so light.

Both grips were designed to improve performance in wet conditions, but the two Dri-Tacs will work beautifully no matter what the weather. (I tested them on a cool, dry day, but during the round, I snuck over to a water fountain and coated them in water. After a quick wipe down, both grips were ready to be played with again. Neither retained any moisture.)

CONCLUSION It's like playing golf in the most comfortable waterproof rain gear. You will stay dry, and your swing won't be adversely affected.

MORE INFORMATION winngrips.com

THE PRODUCTS KBS Tour iron shafts

TESTED BY An 8-handicap golfer

OUR EXPERIENCE The most efficient way to get fit for KBS shafts is via their handy online fitting matrix (visit kbsshafts.com and click on the "Start Your Fit!" box). The easy-to-navigate system asks you a handful of questions about your game: How far do you hit your 6-iron? What's your swing speed? What's your handicap? What's your preferred ballflight? It took me all of 90 seconds to complete.

The matrix told me that I should be hitting KBS Tour R+ shafts whose stiffness lies between a regular and a stiff shaft. This made perfect sense, since I hit my 6-iron about 170 yards and swing about 90-95 mph. A few days later, I received eight iron shafts (4-SW whose tips had been tapered to .355" in their diameter) in the mail, took them and an old set of stiff-shafted irons to a local golf store, and four hours later, I had a "new" set of clubs.

My preferred flight is lower than normal, and I like the ball to spin, especially on short-iron shots. This is what I told the Fit System, and the KBS Tours didn't disappoint. Although it had been a while since I had played, they just felt right. The weight, the flex and the tapered tip all had been specifically chosen for my game. The shafts I had in the clubs before had always been too stiff (I'd inherited them from one of our instructors who swings far harder than me), and I'd never been able to make the type of contact I desire.

Getting fit for new iron shafts may seem like a daunting experience, but it honestly couldn't have been more convenient and easy. And at $200 for a full set of KBS Tour shafts, it's definitely something you should consider if you've had your current irons for a number of years. By simply upgrading your shafts, you'll have what feels like a new set of irons in your hands and save yourself the purchase of a new set. And they'll be custom fit!

CONCLUSION KBS offers a wide range of shaft options, and it's vital that you go through a fitting (online or otherwise) so you get the shafts that are right for your game.

MORE INFORMATION kbsshafts.com

THE PRODUCTS Axis1 Umbra putter

TESTED BY An 8-handicap golfer

OUR EXPERIENCE Even though Axis1's Eagle putter was named "Best in Show" by Sports Illustrated at the 2009 PGA Merchandise Show, designer Luis Pedroza didn't rest on his laurels. Last year, he unveiled his latest creation, the Umbra. Featuring a matte black finish (with a polished sole and CNC-milled face) the stainless-steel Umbra looks similarly unorthodox as its Eagle sibling. Both have the same bent heel-shafted hosel, but the Umbra is more of a mid-mallet with the alignment line positioned well toward the heel. Since we were used to (and fond of) the Eagle's unusual shape, we weren't taken aback by the design, but the alignment line's position took some time getting used to. Once we did get used to it, we felt really confident making strokes.

The technology that stands out is its lack of torque, or, in other words, how much the putterface opens up when you hold it in your hands. When you hold the Axis1 directly out in front of you loosely, the club will remain square and not, like other putters, open up. With the added benefit of counterweight screws, the Umbra manages to be one of the game's best-balanced putters.

Look for their belly putter, too. Cost range: $299-$349.

CONCLUSION There's no denying that the Axis1 putters aren't your standard-looking flatsticks. We like that. But, more than anything else, what they deliver is performance, balance and feel. Don't be bashful about trying one out. It might make you reconsider how you approach your putting.

MORE INFORMATION axis1golf.com

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