April 2011

The latest in golf equipment, instruction, training aids, apparel & more

BALLS

NOW PLAYING: Titleist
How do you improve golf's most popular ball? Make one that's better. Titleist's new Pro V1 lineup ($58/dozen) is noticeably different from the last generation. The Pro V1 has 40 fewer dimples (down to 352) than its previous version and a tetrahedral design of five different dimple shapes. Look for increased spin control and a better trajectory. The Pro V1x only trims four dimples off the last version (down to 328), but with seven dimple designs there's lower driver spin and hence bigger distance off the tee. Early word is that they're more durable than ever. titleist.com

Wilson
Although they debuted last year, Wilson's three-piece FG Tour balls ($38/dozen) remain the company's premium offering, but are significantly cheaper than those of its competitors. Wilson says that they're built for long distance, spin and durability. We gave the 75 compression balls a test-drive last year, and they were buttery soft. Golfers with faster swing speeds may find too much spin off the tee, but it makes up for it around the greens. wilson.com

Bridgestone
Want to hit it big? We thought so. Bridgestone does too. Its three new e series balls ($27/dozen) were built specifically for players who crave more yards off the tee. How do they differ? The urethane-cover 2-piece e5 has great greenside spin, the multilayer e6 reduces sidespin for more accuracy and the high-speed, multilayer e7 generates faster ball speed for longer distance. What piqued our interest though is that all three balls feature "Dual Dimple Technology," or rather two dimples in one. The inner dimple increases thrust power at launch for greater distance, and the outer dimple promotes a shallow angle of descent for longer roll. bridgestonegolf.com

Srixon
Used by Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa to card a 58 at last year's Crowns tournament in Japan, Srixon's new, four-piece Z-Star XV ($45/dozen) has finally reached the U.S. It features a thinner cover than the Z-Star X, which it replaces, and a new dual core, both of which yield a ball that delivers a similar ball speed but with less spin off the driver face. (And, of course, that means bigger drives.) Worried about spin around the greens? Don't be. Its new, thinner urethane cover means one thing: more short-iron spin. Look for it in yellow and white. srixon.com

Callaway
Callaway's Tour i series balls ($43/dozen) have been optimized for better durability. Both retain their recognizable HEX Aerodynamic pattern, Dual Core Technology and urethane covers that make the i series Callaway's highest-performing ball. How to choose between the two? The (s) is the softest Callaway Tour ball ever with low driver spin and excellent greenside control, while the (z) delivers a penetrating ballflight throughout the bag. callawaygolf.com

SHOES

One of the items to make the most, um, noise at the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show Demo Day was Momentus Golf's Speed Whoosh ($70), a training aid that promises to increase one's swing speed by 7-10 mph. While it weighs the same as a typical driver, its flexible shaft allows you to swing it more than 20 mph faster than your normal big stick. Swing it just six times and you'll notice that distance gain, says the company. What's most helpful though is the auditory "whoosh" sound it makes in the impact zone, (when swung correctly). That'll give you the right feedback so you can make solid contact again and again. momentusgolf.com
Oversized clubheads have been the rage for years and for good reason–they're incredibly forgiving. But maybe they're too forgiving. Hitting the ball off the heel or toe isn't nearly as punishing as it was 10 years ago. Still, those shots don't go nearly as far as ones hit on the sweet spot. If you struggle to make consistent, flush contact, consider PSP Golf's The Little One ($120). First introduced in 2000, the severely undersized 7-iron clubhead (it's the size of a standard club's sweet spot) is designed so you make solid contact every time. pspgolf.net

Puma
As seen on the feet of 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Rickie Fowler, PUMA's new, full-grain leather (and waterproof) Cell Fusion ($180) shoes feature replaceable Smart Quill spikes and PUMA iCell cushioning in the forefront and heel, so you too can swing for the fences like Fowler. Puma and Fowler are making big, bold statements. Good to see. The Tour needs it. shop.puma.com

Adidas
Adidas' lightweight, affordable spikeless shoe, the Traxion Lite ($80) features Advanced Traxion Technology, which utilizes permanent gripping elements to promote superior grip, stability and comfort. Look for Adidas' THiNTech low-profile technology that brings golfers closer to the ground for improved stability, power transfer and balance throughout the golf swing. Available in three color combos (white/university red/black, shown). Is spikeless a fad? It remains to be seen, but these are a nice addition to the growing list of offerings. adidasgolf.com

Nike
Tour pro Paul Casey advised Nike on the creation of its new, lightweight Lunar Control shoes ($190), and with professional input, you know they're built for performance, stability and comfort. Features a waterproof leather upper, Lunarlon cushioning in heel and Nike Power Platform for more flexibility and greater natural motion. Oh, and they look cool, too. nikegolf.com

Champ
CHAMP's new Zarma spikes ($15/18) fall somewhere between Zen and karma, and give you all the traction you need. The three-material design includes a traction, cushion and base, and CHAMP's "C" wear indicator. When the letter in the center of the spike wears down, it's time to change. Clever. champspikes.com


PUTTERS

Wilson
Do you tend to pull or push putts? Well, chances are that your eyes aren't looking directly down on the ball. The Wilson Vizor ($150) hopes to change all that with this futuristic-looking mallet that incorporates something called the I-Lock optic system that lets you know when you're perfectly aligned (an indicator line in the slot turns white or red). With an aluminum body and stainless-steel periphery, it's not too heavy to make a solid pendulum motion. Features a urethane insert and comes in both right- and left-handed models. wilson.com

Edel Golf
The Variable Weight ($500) line of putters from Edel Golf allow golfers to change the clubhead's weight from 314 to 384 grams. Why would you want to do that? Increasing or decreasing the putterhead's weight makes it easier to retain your normal stroke on greens with different speeds. While that may be true, what we really like is the Texas company's craftsmanship. All its putters all milled from a block of 303 stainless steel and come in six head shapes. edelgolf.com

Never Compromise
Since 1997, Never Compromise has been producing putters of all shapes and sizes, but nothing quite as handsome as its new Gambler ($299) line. The four quality flatsticks are sure to turn heads on the course. The two blades and two mallets are made from soft 303 stainless steel and feature unique Vegas-themed artwork machined into the sole of each model. We had a chance to roll them at this year's PGA Merchandise Show, and they're the real deal. Well-balanced, and with a soft face and just the right weight–jackpot! nevercompromise.com

Missing too many putts from within 10 feet? SKLZ' new Vari-Break Putting Green ($99) should take care of that. You can replicate virtually every putt you'll ever have from within 10 feet: left to right, right to left, uphill, downhill, even double breakers. How? The Vari-Break comes with two foam wedges that you slip underneath its surface to change the green's break. Comes with a putt pocket that you can move from one side of the green to the other, to expand and shrink the amount of break by a few feet. A great idea. sklz.com

Nike
Grooves on a putter? Sure. The idea's been around for a while (see Rife's Roll Groove Technology), and last year, Nike got into the game with its premium Method, which made a splash on Tour. This year, they're offering a more affordable version called the Method Core ($130). Nike claims the part of the white polymer grooves that's not filled in grabs the ball and gets it rolling faster. Features a handsome black nickel finish. Available in three blades and two mallets. Good to see a more affordable version of the popular Method. nikegolf.com

Odyssey
When looking down on the clubhead of Odyssey's D.A.R.T. (Direction and Realignment Technology) putters ($179), you'll see what looks like a dart pointing toward the target. The three converging white lines meet at the center of the clubface, and the golfer fills in the rest as the imaginary line extends toward the hole. Features a White Ice insert that's been roughened to enhance the sound at impact and promote forward roll. There's a lot going on with the D.A.R.T. line, but once you adjust to the sight lines, they roll nice and true. odysseygolf.com

CLUBS

Adams
Now in its fifth generation, Adams' Speedline drivers are built to counteract the drag created by large, 460cc clubheads. This year, its F11 driver ($300) addresses it by adding what's called Velocity Slot Technology, or rather, a ridge, that helps reduce drag by up to 35% and add an extra 12 yards to your drives. Comes in a slightly longer shaft (45.875 inches) and four lofts. Draw models and fairway woods available too. adamsgolf.com

Cleveland
2011 will be remembered as the year when club companies gave us really cool-looking clubs. Cleveland's Mashie ($150) utility club boasts a cool Retro-Raw finish that brings to mind metal woods of the 1980s. Cool looks aside, the Mashie performs! With a Gliderail on its sole, it weighs 30 grams less than Cleveland's last hybrids, and is just what you need to escape from any kind of gnarly lie. Comes in five lofts and a 59-gram Miyazaki shaft. clevelandgolf.com

Nike
The pear-shaped Nike VR Pro Driver ($400) boasts a compression channel on its sole that the com-pany claims makes it "hotter" and more forgiving. But its best feature remains Nike's STR8-FIT adjustable technology, which allows golfers to tweak the club into 32 different positions to optimize ballflight and shape. Also new is a less obtrusive hosel. Comes in four lofts, 8.5_¡-11.5_¡ and has a four-piece titanium forging and a thin crown that subtracts weight. nikegolf.com


ACCESSORIES

Bag Boy
Bag Boy's lightweight aluminum Quad ($199) is the company's first four-wheel model. It features oversized wheels, a handle-mounted parking brake, zippered storage bag, beverage holder and more. Nice to see a four-wheeled pushcart. Comes in six colors, including yellow, red and matte black. bagboycompany.com

Club Glove
Club Glove's lightweight Sunday Bag ($99) comes in eight colors including silver (shown). Features a water bottle pocket, full-length divider, rain hood, umbrella holder and a 7-inch opening with two dividers. Custom embroidery available. clubglove.com

Champ
CHAMP's new Zarma Fly Tee ($5.99/40) features a wide, shallow cup that's easy to place your ball on. Plus its side impact ribs create less friction, and that, as CHAMP claims, equals longer drives. Comes in 2__- and 3__-inch varieties. Biodegradable too. champspikes.com

Aldila
Last year, Aldila introduced its RIP shaft (which stands for Reverse Interlaminar Placement) that has lower torque, increased tip stability and better tip-stiffness control. For 2011, they've re-leased two new versions of the RIP, the Beta and Gamma ($299) that retain characteristics of the original RIP Alpha but with slightly different features. The Beta's softer tip flex produces a midlaunch ballflight, while the Gamma retains the same launch characteristics as the Alpha but with a higher balance point for use with heavier clubheads to achieve a conventional swing weight. It's smart of the company to improve on what has been a well-received shaft. aldila.com

Boccieri Golf
Pop quiz: What's the lightest club in your bag? Answer: the driver. So why would Steve Boccieri of Heavy Putter fame want to make something called the Heavy Driver ($399)? Well, according to Boccieri Golf, it makes it easier to set your hands on plane, eliminate casting and other inconsistencies. The club received a lot of buzz at the PGA Merchandise Show this year for being the heaviest driver on the market, while sporting the lightest swing weight. (A 208-gram head is counterbalanced by a 50-gram weight in the butt end of the grip.) Look for his new heavy irons too. boccierigolf.com

Infiniti Golf
Infiniti's new 452 Players driver ($379) was built for better players who want to shape their drives. The engineers wisely designed a traditional-looking head that better "sticks" like to see at address, and kept the clubhead volume lower at 440cc. Features a square-to-open face at address. infinitigolf.com

MEASUREMENT DEVICES

Want pinpoint accuracy to the flag with a device that measures distances to the front, middle and back of green (not to mention creeks and bunkers) and that measures your drives? Consider Bushnell's new Hybrid Laser GPS ($499). It's, as the company says, "distance made simple." We liked how easy it was to use (we used the GPS portion more than the laser because its side display is very accessible).

Features PinSeeker Technology that hones in on the flag to the exclusion of trees, homes and other background distractions, like hackers on the next tee. Comes with 16,000 courses pre-downloaded and a rechargeable battery. bushnellgolf.com

Want to know how far away you are from the front, middle and back of the green, but don't want to carry a GPS unit? It's Garmin to the rescue. The company's new waterproof Approach S1 GPS watch

($249) provides you with those yardages, plus it measures your shot's distance and has a built-in odometer so you can measure how far you've walked. Comes with more than 15,000 U.S. and Canadian golf courses preloaded onto it. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts eight hours in GPS mode and three weeks in regular watch mode. The next time you play, the watch stays on! garmin.com

Callaway's sleek uPro mx ($199) is a handheld, touch-screen GPS unit that comes preloaded with 25,000 courses and a 2.2-inch full-color LCD screen. Two thumbs up for borrowing the cool touch-screen "swipe" function found on iPhones and the vertical/horizontal viewing option. Another bonus: aerial flyovers. Perfect for doglegs, blind shot

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