CLEVELAND 588 RTX WEDGES
When it comes to new wedge technology, it's hard to beat the boys from Huntington Beach, Calif. The new Cleveland 588 RTX wedges ($119) have a proprietary laser-cut face texture between the already awesome groove design (16% bigger, by the way), lending these new wedges an unprecedented amount of spin and shotmaking control. Better yet, they're designed with some added forgiveness, too, which makes them the first real shotmaker's wedge that's also a game-improvement wedge, as well.
We've tried these wedges, and the control we get is incredible. We're hitting shots that reminded us of playing golf, circa 2009 (ahem, before the new USGA groove rules were enacted in 2010)! The new ROTEX pattern helps with open-faced shots, too, as you can really see and feel the texture on the toe, where most open-faced shots are played. So that makes three technologies on one face, equating to a set of wedges that are as playable as any we've ever seen from Cleveland Golf–which, mind you, is a pretty big deal, considering the company's track record as a worldwide leader in the category. Look for the RTX wedges to be a huge hit into 2013 and beyond. They're just that good. clevelandgolf.com
PING ANSER DRIVER
The new PING Anser ($399) driver has what the company calls "Trajectory Tuning" tech–otherwise known as an adjustable hosel that enables golfers to adjust the loft of the club for a custom fit by 0.5 loft increments. Other cool features include a low-spin head shape (for high-flying shots that cut through the air) and the popular matte finish, borrowed from the i20 metalwoods. And you'd never know it was adjustable, since the club retains a small hosel that hides all the fitting tech inside the clubhead.
By now, you know the driver is loaded with club tech, but how does it work? We contend, as we seem to do with just about every new driver from PING, that the Anser is the company's best driver to date, especially for good to better players. The ability to fine-tune the loft (which slightly affects clubface angle, by the way) is a plus for golfers who want different trajectories on any given day. But that's not our favorite part. We think the two best things the Anser has going for it are its sleek looks and unbelievably good feel. It's the kind of driver we've been waiting for from PING–and they delivered, big time. And the Trajectory Tuning? It really works. You'd be amazed at the differences 0.5 degrees of loft can have on your tee shots. PING.com
TOUR EDGE EXOTICS XRAIL FAIRWAY WOODS
The new Xrail fairway woods ($179) from the popular Tour Edge Exotics line is specifically designed to do what most of us want from a fairway wood–escape the thick stuff!
Weight has been repositioned more toward the heel and toe (a necessity for more clubhead stability), and the V-Sole makes it a cinch to extricate the ball from the rough. And, by the way, the V-Sole doesn't impede on shots from the fairway. It actually helps. The key is in knowing what to expect with your fairway wood shots.
Most golfers instinctively try to sweep or even hit up on their shots with a fairway wood. And while a sweep sometimes works, hitting up on the ball with a fairway wood almost never works. Truth is, hitting the ball on a downward path is the right way to go. Need proof? Next time you watch a Tour event, pay attention to shots hit off the fairway with fairway woods. Almost every player makes a divot, which indicates a downward strike into the golf ball.
The Xrail is best utilized with a downward strike, so don't be shy about making contact with the turf. This club is probably the most forgiving wood we've tried from the Exotics line (which is saying a lot) and employs a carpenter-steel face that's so long we'd consider it a driver as little as a few years ago. A solid performer for any skill set, the Xrail has the makings of a game-improvement fairway wood for the masses. It's almost too easy to hit. We love that Graphite Design G-Series shaft, too. touredge.com
Are you a mid- to high-handicap golfer? Want to shoot below 100, 90 or 80? Register at golfstr.com to receive weekly tips, videos and blogs to help with your swing problems and enter for a chance to win a GARMIN Approach S3 GPS Watch and free lifetime access to over 27,000 golf courses.
GOLFSTR is the Brain Trainer that helps you keep your leading arm straight in the backswing. For more consistent hits, more power and to "Swing like a Pro," order your GOLFSTR today. It fits the left or right arm and can be ordered with a black or white adjustable arm band in large or small sizes. GOLFSTR builds muscle memory by wearing it as you play 18 holes–just watch your score drop.
_È_In case you think you might be too good for training aids, or maybe you think they don't work, or they're geared only toward high-handicapper golfers, let us fill you in on a little secret. Many Tour professionals use training aids. In fact, some of them not only use training aids, but also help develop and even own shares in the companies that manufacturer them. The reason? They work, and depending on what swing flaw you have, getting the right training aid for your particular need can make a big impact on your golf game. Here are a few of our favorites from this year.
Do you need instant feedback on your golf swing? No, really, we're talking about the kind that's both 3D, handheld and works in cahoots with your iPhone and iPad. The GolfSense ($129) swing analyzer does just that. Using a small sensor that hooks onto the back of your golf glove, the device uses 3D motion capture (we have no idea how it works, but it does) and syncs up with an app in your iPhone or iPad (it works on late-gen iPods, too). The features are near-endless, and we really like the "Phone in Pocket" analyzer to monitor your lateral hip turn. The device takes a little getting used to in terms of the interface and calibration, but it's a great tool for any fan of swing analyzers. golfsense.me
_È_There aren't many of these, so add this one to the small list of training aids that double as actual clubs, or vice versa. The Dead Aim Putter ($179) uses a series of alignment aids (permanent) and a removable laser (optional, but you should get it) to help golfers dial in the perfect alignment, head position and putting stroke. Genius, if you ask us. It's also a really nice-looking putter, with a solid, stable feel and a smooth end-over-end roll. Now, if only we could find a way to use a laser on the other 13 clubs in the golf bag.... deadaimputters.com
When it comes to playing your best golf, if you can't grip the club properly, your chances of ever playing well greatly diminish. If you need a device that will help you feel how the club should come in contact with palms and fingers, the Grip Solid ($19.95) is just the ticket. It not only helps you correctly position the grip in your hands, but it also neutralizes unwanted tension and the classic "death grip." It took a little getting used to, but the product really worked, and those palmy, weak grips we had on the club were a thing of the past. gripsolid.com
When it comes to power, the best way to get more of it is to add width to your golf swing. The wider your arc, the more room you have to develop more centrifugal force and clubhead speed. This also comes from having a left arm straight during the golf swing. If you happen to need a quick and easy tool to do just that, try the Golfstr (short for "Golf Straight") ($36.95). This easy-to-use device attaches to your arm and reminds you if your left arm starts bending during the stroke. Yes, it's that simple and surprisingly comfortable, too. After some repeated use, you'll quickly learn to feel what a proper golf swing should feel like, and we'll bet you have a few sore muscles in areas you probably didn't know were critical muscles used in the golf swing (your core, folks). golfstr.com
THE ORANGE WHIP & ORANGE PEEL
The Orange Whip ($109) isn't new, but it's still our top pick for helping to improve tempo, balance and rhythm. It doubles as the perfect tool to loosen up before a round, too. There are also several drills and training exercises you can do with it. Add the Orange Peel ($209)–which, granted, doesn't have the portability of the Orange Whip, but is a great product nonetheless–and you have the total package. The Orange Peel is a device you stand on to help you better your swing, "alter your swing plane and improve your balance." Both training aids, either together or separately, are among the most effective training aids we've tried in a long while. orangewhiptrainer.com
GARMIN APPROACH S3 WATCH
_È_Why did this take so long? We love the idea of having a golf GPS device in a watch! The Garmin Approach S3 ($349) makes finding your correct yardage a piece of cake. It runs in GPS mode for up to 8 hours (and four weeks in watch mode) and has a super-easy-to-use interface that tracks distances, how far you hit that last shot, keeps score, has an enhanced Green View mode and more. Better yet, right out of the box it contains data on more than 27,000 golf courses worldwide, with updates and additions that are free of charge. Simple to wear and easy to charge (you even can plug it in and print out a scorecard), the Garmin Approach S3 is fashion-forward as well. garmin.com
THE PLANE SWING
If you really want to build a better swing, you need to build a solid foundation. The Plane Swing ($855) helps you get off on the right track and start curing a bunch of common swing flaws right away. It's a big device, and not a cheap one, but it works incredibly at helping golfers ingrain the proper golf motion. We particularly like the PowerSLIDER add-on, which when used with The Plane Swing, adds resistance as you glide the club along the rail for muscle-building while fixing your stroke. golfaroundtheworld.com
THE RIGHT ANGLE 2
One of the most overlooked aspects of the golf swing is the right arm (left arm for lefties) during the golf swing. How you hinge and position your arm is critical if you want to stay on the proper plane and have a repeatable, powerful golf swing. This is where The Right Angle 2 ($49) steps in. Designed to fit around your right arm (it works on the left arm, too, for left-handers), The Right Angle 2 helps you position your right arm perfectly during the swing. The resulting effect is a perfect 90-degree angle at the top of your swing and a correct unhinging motion through the downswing. The auditory clicker feature is a cool one, using sound to let you know when you're in or out of position. golfaroundtheworld.com
One of the most overlooked aspects of the golf swing is the pivot. And it happens to be the one thing that, if corrected, can make a huge impact on your golf game, both in terms of power and consistency. The PivotPro ($79) not only helps you feel what a perfect pivot should feel like, but also trains you to pivot your body as you swing. Simply hook your right foot in, and start swinging. We've tried it, and it works wonders. And it helps us not only perfect our pivot, but avoid swaying and sliding too much during the golf swing. pivotpro.net
We think obstructive training aids (the kind that get in the way and immediately let you know if you're doing something wrong) are some of the most effective tools you can use to improve your game. The Benderstik ($99) by Mike Bender, PGA, does just that and a whole lot more. It can be used to help correct a handful of swing flaws such as the chicken wing, excessive head movement and more. The Benderstik can be configured to help out just about every part of your game. benderstik.com
Okay, it's not exactly a training aid, but the new Bionic RelaxGrip ($15) glove is just as effective. The double-row finger-grip bars help make it easier to hold the club without needing to excessively squeeze the club, which restricts wrist hinge and release. After all, a relaxed pair of hands is typically a faster pair of hands. Anytime you squeeze the handle too hard, you're likely to reduce your speed of releasing the clubhead into the ball. bionicgloves.com
The Matzie Assist ($79) has been around a long time, and, yes, it still works as well as it did many years ago. The bend shaft, corrective grip and oversized head weight combine to teach golfers to release the hands and clubs more effectively. Other than that, the Matzie is also a great tool for getting loose and keeping your golf muscles toned. matzie.com
We prefer to keep things simple when using our training aids. The PowerMeter ($129) does what the name implies–it helps you instantly meter and record your clubhead speed. Using it is a cinch, and it's especially useful if you're a player who tends to muscle the ball, which sometimes actually results in a slower swing speed than if you allow the clubhead to load and release properly. That is, better mechanics always trump bigger muscles (well, almost always). medicus.com
The Momentus Speed Whoosh ($79) helps you kick-start those fast-twitch muscle fibers and start hitting long, more consistent drives. It's also a lot of fun to use, and the sensation of the magnetic timing ball helps deliver that feeling of making impact with the golf ball. Hey, two-time long-drive champ Jamie Sadlowski likes it–so should you. Whoosh! momentusgolf.com
If you're not on the right plane for your swing, hitting straight, repeatable shots becomes a real chore. The PlaneFinder ($79) makes it easy to practice swinging on-plane, and it's actually pretty fun to use. Hank Haney and Gary Koch are both fans, mainly since it teaches you to swing on the right plane, has instant feedback and can be used with any club, from a driver to a lob wedge. theplanefinder.com
Add this one to the "must-have-in-the-office" list of training aids. The easy-to-use Putting Alley ($29) helps you narrow in your focus on short putts and provides instant feedback so you can fix any error in your stroke that causes the golf ball to veer offline. The goal is to keep the ball rolling on the one-inch path, or flip it over for a 0.5-inch path. It works both on the grass and carpet, and we like how the ball returns back, resulting in endless repetition. puttingalley.com
SKLZ 12i PUTTING MIRROR
We like the portability and ease of use with the 12i (12-inch) Putting Mirror ($29) from SKLZ. The training aid makes it easy to improve your setup, hand and ball position, even your stroke, using the optional pegs that can be rearranged how you see fit. It's also razor-thin, so not to affect your stance/feel/stroke. sklz.com
SWING SPEED RADAR WITH TEMPO TIMER
The Swing Speed Radar with Tempo Timer (SSRTT) ($149) measures actual tempo time from the club takeaway to ball impact, as well as swing speed of the clubhead as it approachs the golf ball. It's a fantastic tool for gauging the right tempo for your game and also for determining whether or not swinging harder actually increases your swing speed. Jim McLean is obviously a fan. sportssensors.com
Simple, right? The SwingPerfect ($59) helps you, well, swing perfectly using a gyroscopic device that attaches to any club in the bag. You can feel whether you're on-plane or not, or if the clubface is too closed or open, both via a vibrating sensation in the hands as you swing. Easy to use and instant feedback–perfect! Best of all? We love training aids that are small and fit easily in the golf bag and work with any of our clubs. That's a huge plus in our book. swingperfect.com