This is the time of year when many golfers start getting excited about what equipment's around the corner. You know the voids in your game and are looking for some gear that can take you to the next level. Maybe you've followed Tour pros on TV or the web, seeing which prototype clubs they've been testing. Perhaps you've heard rumors. Or seen teaser ads from your favorite brand. Here's a glimpse of what's really on the way.
Every trend with drivers has always been about making your tee shots go longer, straighter and higher with the optimal balance of ball spin. So it comes as no surprise that upcoming models will continue to forge ahead. That means more drivers will improve ballflight on mis-hits, as well as the ones you hit on the screws. And of course, you'll see more adjustable drivers in 2013. Sure, TaylorMade, Callaway and Titleist currently have the market cornered, but that's no reason others can't join in on the fun. You'll see new ways to fine-tune your ballflight, because as patents cover each company's approach, newcomers must come up with a new angle and buzz to achieve adjustability.
PING's Anser ($399) is the manufacturer's first-ever adjustable driver. You can fine-tune ballflight via loft adjustment–adding or removing 1__ã2 degree of loft with the turn of a wrench–and choosing one of four standard shafts that vary in weight, stiffness profile and ball trajectory they generate. The low-spin, 460cc clubhead is straight-biased.
Tour Edge's XCG6 driver ($350) sports an adjustable "twist-and-fit" hosel that allows you to set the clubhead to one of four face-angle/loft settings. Four weight pads maximize heel/toe weighting for more stability and distance. And a new clubface design is thicker in spots, to max out the springlike effect from more points on the face for added mis-hit distance.
Cobra's AMP Cell driver ($375) boasts "MyFly" technology, which means each driver gives you six loft settings. You read that correctly. The lofts are 8.5, 9.5, 9.5 with draw, 10.5, 10.5 with draw and 11.5 degrees–each with the face angle automatically placed in square or draw position, as needed.
Many golfers generally find it tough to get the ball airborne using a fairway wood. So when easier-to-hit hbrids became popular over the past decade, golfers flocked to them. In 2012, several manufacturers emerged with easy-to-hit fairway woods that got the ball in the air, but with distance that the hybrids couldn't accomplish. TaylorMade in particular was incredibly successful with its Rocketballz fairway woods that promised–and delivered–significantly extra yards. In fact, the 17 yards gained with the 3-wood gave resurgence to a dying 3-wood niche. And in 2013, you'll see these trends continue, with a particular emphasis on the "easy-to-hit" part. Expect more low-loft choices, perhaps in the form of 2-woods, 4-woods and strong 3-woods. You'll also see additional emphases on more workability, distance and distance guarantees.
Tour Edge Exotics Xrail ($179) aims to make fairway-wood shots effortless. A wide V-sole guides the clubface into a square position at impact. Weight in the heel and toe produces a high MOI for stability on off-center hits.
Cleveland Golf's CG Black ($200) features an aerodynamic shape plus teardrop-inspired profile, to reduce airflow drag and increase clubhead speed. Ultralightweight grip and shaft also boost speed. All that, plus a variable-thickness, lightweight clubface add up to loads of distance.
Orlimar's Tri-Metal ZX ($119) offers a fade-fighting design: A draw-oriented tungsten sole weight plus a 2-degree closed-face alignment help square contact, as does an offset hosel. A low CG promotes high trajectory.
Are hybrids falling out of favor, now that fairway woods seem to be making a comeback? Nope. In fact, hybrids seem to be evolving. One form of that evolution is the utility iron that's more ironlike than fairway wood-like, and can easily replace the long irons in a player's bag. Another is the woodlike utility that looks more like a wood but plays like an iron. Either way, expect a slew of alternatives for your long irons this year.
Each club in Cobra's Baffler Hybrid-Iron set ($499-$699, depending on makeup) features a progressive, oversized face that's forgiving, and a low CG to help get the ball airborne. Hybrids at the set's long end boast a wide, railed sole and shallow face.
Callaway's X Utility Prototype irons ($229/graphite shafts, $199/steel) have been popular with PGA Tour pros. Offered only in lofts of 18, 21 and 24 degrees, their hollow, forged construction packs a graceful blend of distance, speed, feel and control.
Adams Idea Tech V4 Hybrid ($249) contains a new "Through Slot"–spanning completely through the club–for maximum ball speed and distance. It's covered with a TPU insert. Ball speed approaches that of a driver for more distance.
PLAYERS' IRONS Irons for better players are no longer just simple blades. They're still forged, but they feature playability characteristics, such as slight cavity backs, vibration dampening and weighting schemes. There's no longer any compelling performance reason to use simple blades. This new lot feels even more pure than blades.
TaylorMade's Rocketbladez Tour $899/set with steel shafts) is as powerful as it looks. The thin top line, traditional blade size and Tour-style feel collectively yield excellent distance gapping toward the long end, performance consistency across the face, workability, and a high trajectory with steep landing angle.
Mizuno's MP-64 Forged ($999/set) is billed as a player's cavity-back iron. Luke Donald was among the first to play it on Tour. Made of one-piece, grain-flow forging, each club looks like a blade at address, but has built-in forgiveness with a subtle cavity. Long irons are forgiving, short irons are controllable. The focus here is on soft feel.
Cleveland Golf's 588 Tour Trajectory ($799/set with graphite shafts, $699/steel) offer Tour-caliber flight and feel. They're interchangeable with 588 Mid Trajectory and Altitude Irons, and boast a constant blade height with progressive blade length for long-iron forgiveness and short-iron control. A modest-sized cavity-back improves ball speed and accuracy on mis-hits. Forged clubfaces enhance feel.
PUTTERS Yes, belly and long putters will continue to gain even more popularity in 2013. But that won't be the only thing going on with putters. In fact, you can expect a slew of soft-feeling putters from the major manufacturers. They'll come in every sort of head shape and size, but they'll all make putts feel buttery at impact.
Odyssey's ProType Black milled, carbon-steel putters ($299/2-Ball, $269/blades) feature a black PVD finish, black powder coat steel shafts, and black seamless grip. The 1025 carbon-steel head yields a soft feel, while the deep face includes a sharp milling pattern for more consistency.
Cleveland's Classic Collection HB blades and mallets ($90) offer traditional designs with soft, responsive feel. Pillow-like Winn grips cushion your hands, while a deep milling pattern on the face further enhance a soft impact for more control. Heel-Toe weighting boosts MOI for less distance loss on off-center hits.
Nike Golf's Method Core Weighted line ($168) has fixed weights on the sole that provide proper weighting by length. Those weights help lower the CG and place it away from the face. The polymetal face grooves generate immediate forward roll.
Golf outerwear has always been designed to keep you as dry and warm as possible. Just don't ask for the endorsement of last year's U.S. Ryder Cup team, which was decked out in what turned out to be leaky Sun Mountain uniforms. Okay, so that was a hiccup. Sun Mountain has since redeemed itself, joining other major manufacturers in coming out with garments that truly protect golfers from inclement weather. The jackets, in particular, are extremely lightweight, quiet when you swing and incredibly protective of your body. To punctuate the point, several garments incorporate the word "storm" right into their name for 2013.
1 | Adidas Golf's Climaproof Storm Superfast jacket ($220) boasts waterproof zippers, fully sealed seams and a 100% polyester waterproof laminate shell. Its sleek silhouette and hydrophilic mesh lining add comfort, as do four-way-stretch inserts.
2 | nike's lightweight Storm-FIT full-zip jacket ($180) is seam-sealed, waterproof, windproof and breathable. Made of 100% polyester composite, it's engineered to be ultralight and comfortable. Four-way stretch extends the range of motion.
3 | sun Mountain's 2013 Stormtight full-zip rain jacket ($229) offers guaranteed waterproof protection via a new four-way-stretch woven fabric that shields against wind and rain while remaining breathable and stretching to allow a free golf swing. It also features high-quality YKK waterproof zippers, plus an adjustable hem and cuffs.
LIGHTWEIGHT CARRY BAGS
Bags are continually getting lighter and lighter. A few years ago, golfers were stoked to find full-sized carry bags that approached seven pounds. Now that seems archaic. The latest weigh substantially less, and they're structurally every bit as solid as older models.
Ogio's Nimbus ($215) weighs just 3.6 pounds, making it a lightweight champion among the competitors. Its nine-inch-wide mouth, seven-way performance top with side putter pit, full-length club dividers and integrated handle complete the package. Six zippered pockets are a nice touch.
At just 4.5 pounds, Callaway's Hyper-Lite 4.5 ($169) barely tips the scale. It features a nine-inch, six-way top with an integrated handle and five full-length dividers. A new base has 100% contact with the ground for stability, while extra shoulder strap padding adds comfort.
Titleist's Lightweight stand bag ($195) weighs just 5.6 pounds and sports a stacked pocket on the apparel pocket face. It includes seven zippered pockets plus a water-bottle sleeve, adjust-able double strap and wide foot-stand mechanism.