The Skinny: A sub-300-gram driver, some 25 grams less than a "standard" thunderstick, designed to increase swing speed, which as everyone knows, means more downrange firepower.
The WORD from Nate Radcliffe, metalwoods development manager in Cleveland's R&D division: The rules of the modern game govern energy transfer, stability and other key design variables, but historically the weight and balance point of the golf club have been governed more by available technologies than by the rule books. Co-research with our parent company (SRI-Sports) has proven that lighter total weight and longer golf clubs show a measurable potential to increase swing speed, ball speed and distance. Additionally, today's lightweight offerings are far more playable than designs in the past, due to the improved CG/MOI properties of modern clubheads. We recently proved this when four "stock" ultralight S-flex prototypes went into play on the PGA Tour in the first week [following the club's introduction].
In the Launcher DST, most of the weight is removed from the shaft and grip of the club while maintaining a head weight that's very close to the industry standard (198g). The Launcher DST is less than 300 grams in total weight, which makes it the lightest club in the North American market heading into 2010. The trick to designing an effective lightweight golf club is to preserve the preferred swing weight so that the user maintains feel, but to decrease the total weight so that the launch monitor measures greater speed and distance. Simply stated, remove the weight but preserve the balance of the club, and players will see added distance without adversely affecting feel. $299
Cleveland CG7 BP Irons
Cleveland claims its new CG7 BP (Black Pearl) irons ($699) were built for mid- to high-handicappers, but after the single-digit handicap GT staff put them to the test, we see no reason why better players shouldn't play with them.
Not only are they some of the most beautiful-looking irons we've ever seen (note the gunmetal finish), but they're some of the best-sounding ones we've ever hit. Perhaps that's because they were designed with 360 Gelback Technology and a Dynamic Microcavity for unparalleled feel and forgiveness. For players who dig a thinner top line, there's a Tour version, too.
The Skinny: A departure for Mizuno and its Dual Muscle cavity-back design featuring titanium in the club's "outer muscle" for added forgiveness.
The Word from David Llewellyn, golf club R&D manager, Mizuno USA: This is Mizuno's first multimaterial MP iron. By forging the titanium insert into the muscle of the iron, we're able to replace the higher-density steel with lower-density titanium, while maintaining thickness behind impact. The effect is a simultaneous increase in forgiveness and improved feel. Before Ti Muscle Technology, feel and forgiveness worked inversely to each other.
Mizuno's patented Grain Flow Forging is a manufacturing process that provides the best-feeling irons in the industry, regardless of handicap. The metallic grain structure of our forged heads has long, uniform, tightly compacted grains. This, combined with our exclusive 1025E mild carbon steel, which is six times purer than required by industry standards, provides unparalleled soft, solid, consistent feel from head to head and set to set. Unfortunately, there's a misconception that forged irons are for better players. The reality is that mid- to high-handicappers have more to gain by using a Mizuno forged iron, due to the improved feel and feedback. If players can feel more and learn more about what happens at impact, they can more easily improve and adapt their swing. $1,200/set
The Goods: TaylorMade Penta TP ball
The Skinny: Forget the coven, TM's new five-layer ball is all about a different kind of black magic.
The Word from TaylorMade's Dean Snell, head of golf ball research and development: It took three years of extensive research and development to create the Penta TP, the first five-layer Tour ball. The goal was to develop a revolutionary ball that delivered exceptional performance in all five key shot categories–driver, long irons, middle irons, short irons and partial wedges. The five layers of Penta TP include the core, inner mantle, middle mantle, outer mantle and cover, and each one plays a critical role in optimizing the performance of each of the five key shots. The layers of Penta TP are configured strategically to promote "Progressive Distance," which allows it to deliver terrific distance to all types of swing speeds. That's because each layer is exceptionally fast. Slow swingers who generate only enough clubhead speed to activate the outer mantle will benefit. Medium swingers who can activate only the outer and middle mantles will benefit. Fast swingers who activate the outer, middle and inner mantles will benefit. And, of course, very fast swingers who activate every mantle plus the core will benefit. Penta TP is targeted at better players, although every level of golfer can activate the ball's distance capabilities and greenside spin. $45/dozen
PING i15 Driver
Swinging this premium big stick made us feel like a Tour pro. Made with a "fade-bias," the i15 ($405) is designed for players who like to shape their shots. Translation: The i15 is built for better golfers.
Its 460cc's are masked nicely via its traditional pear shape and deep face, both of which help promote a better energy transfer into the ball. Also, internal weights placed away from the face knock spin rates down to produce a more Tour-like trajectory and better control. That said, the i15 still retains a measurable level of forgiveness that many other Tour-inspired drivers simply don't have.
The Goods: PING G15 and i15 irons
The Skinny: The latest, greatest renditions of PING's game-improvement and player cavity-back castings.
The Word from Brad Schweigert, PING director of product design: The G15 is a game-improvement iron that's extremely forgiving and easy to hit with a high trajectory. These results were achieved through an innovative new approach to the cavity design that saved approximately 15 grams from the front, the CTP weight, face and top rail area. The mass savings allowed us to increase the sole width and toe weighting to create a lower and farther-back CG position and increase the MOI while still maintaining the solid feel and distance control that players expect from PING irons. The major improvements players will see in the G15 irons over the G10 irons are longer distance (approximately five yards longer), increased forgiveness and a more solid feel.
The i15 was designed to meet the needs of more accomplished players looking for a combination of forgiveness and workability. The set offers a smooth transition from larger-sized long irons designed to provide a high trajectory with greater forgiveness into smaller short irons that offer a more penetrating ballflight and gives players greater trajectory and distance control. The entire set features a high-density tungsten weight located in the low toe section of the club head. This multimaterial technology allows us to design a clubhead that maintains the performance benefits that are attributed to smaller head size (trajectory control, easier to hit from deep rough, etc.) while still significantly increasing the MOI and, ultimately, the forgiveness of the club. The major improvements players will see in the i15 irons over the i10 irons are improved distance control, increased forgiveness, easier-to-hit and higher-trajectory long irons, and a more solid feel. $115/steel-shafted club; $142 graphite-shafted club
Callaway Diablo Edge
The Goods: Callaway FT-iZ and Diablo Edge drivers
The Skinny: It looks like pyramid power has taken hold as the kids from Carlsbad have introduced a triangular -shaped driver, while price-leader Diablo gets a body makeover.
The Word from Alan Hocknell, Callaway Golf's senior VP of R&D: The new head shape of the FT-iZ driver creates unprecedented speed, stability and shot consistency. We used Polar Weighting, which positions weight at the front and rear of the driver, raising MOI and creating our most efficient high-inertia head design ever. We also studied and optimized aerodynamics to create a faster large head, which generates additional ball speed on all shot types.
The Diablo Edge driver features a four-piece modular design that produces the most weight-efficient titanium driver we've ever created. Each part is precision formed and accurately fused together allowing weight to be positioned optimally for high MOI and consistent, penetrating ballflights. $399 (FT-iZ); $299 (Diablo Edge)
Exotics XCG-3 3-wood
Who needs a driver when you can hit the Exotics XCG-3 3-wood ($299)? According to Tour Edge VP Jay Hubbard, who was on hand when we tested Exotics' new line late last year, the XCG-3 3-wood goes 20 yards farther than last year's XCG model, guaranteed. You heard us, t-w-e-n-t-y.
Considering last year's model went nearly as far as our drivers, we found it hard to believe, but after a few swings, it was clear Hubbard and his crew weren't lying.
How'd they do it? Weight. It's the company's first fairway wood to incorporate a heavy tungsten sole and titanium body. (Tungsten weighs twice as much as steel, so even more weight can be placed below the ball.) That helps you launch it, big time.
The Skinny: Adams' sloped driver sees its first reincarnation, now paired with a thin- crowned, deep-CG little brother built for the short grass.
The Word from Adams Golf: As in the original Speedline series, the patent-pending aerodynamic shaping of the next-generation Speedline 9032LS driver creates less drag and airflow turbulence, resulting in an impressive three- to four-mph-faster clubhead speed and three to nine yards more distance. Design improvements to the 9032LS include a 17.3% larger face area for more forgiveness, and heel and toe scoops that are 11__ã2 times bigger than the original Speedline driver for better airflow. The new features optimize launch conditions with 10% lower spin off the clubface, thereby generating even more distance.
The exceptional design features of the Speedline 9032Ti hybrid-fairway woods have resulted in the longest-hitting fairway wood ever developed by Adams Golf. These new woods have a center of gravity that's 22% lower, a crown that's 25% thinner and a titanium body that's 40% lighter than conventional fairway woods. This advanced weighting system is highlighted by two 40-gram tungsten sole inserts and a weight port that makes the Speedline 9032Ti extremely long off the tee and easy to hit from the fairway. In addition, these fairway woods are designed with an extremely high CT (characteristic time) face to deliver the fastest ball speed of any fairway wood designed by Adams Golf. The unparalleled technology of the Speedline 9032Ti woods is so advanced that they come with a guarantee of an additional 10 yards over conventional fairway woods for every golfer. $369 (driver); $329 (fairway wood)
TaylorMade xFT Wedge
Arguably the most innovative offering for 2010, TaylorMade's xFT (Exchangeable Face Technology) wedge rings up for $129 and allows you to change out its face so you have fresh new grooves whenever you want. It's that concept that we like the most. After all, having fresh, sharp grooves makes a huge difference when playing your approach shots. Comes in 10 loft/lie combos; each extra face costs $39.
The Goods: adidas TOUR360 4.0 shoe
The Skinny: Years after someone figured out that low-profile fairway woods rock, adidas is bringing players' feet closer to the biggest rock of all.
The Word from Dave Ortley, senior director global footwear, adidas Golf: For 15 years, golf footwear manufacturers have relied almost entirely on two fastening systems, Fast Twist and Q-Fit. Both systems include a receptacle and a removable cleat. The receptacle is inserted in the sole unit of golf shoes to retain the cleat, which typically screws in and locks in place. At adidas Golf, our pursuit of innovative and meaningful golf footwear technology ran us up against certain restrictions related directly to the thickness of the conventional cleat-attachment systems. They were both too thick, and protruded too far up into the sole of the shoe, making the sole itself very thick and bulky.
Our THiNTech low-profile shoe technology brings the golfer's foot (and center of gravity) closer to the ground for added stability, better balance, improved feel and, ultimately, better ballstriking. To do this, we knew that we needed a new attachment system that was thinner than what every other manufacturer was using. We signed an exclusivity deal with PrideSports (makers of Fast-Twist) and codeveloped a new system known now as PINS (Performance Insert System), which cuts the thickness of the cleat and receptacle unit by 30%, allowing adidas Golf to accomplish its goal of designing thinner sole units. The end result is shoes that look sleeker and more appealing while performing like no other. New advanced THiNTech low-profile sole technology delivers better stability, balance, flexibility, feel and reduced weight due to less material in the sole unit. The technology is exclusive to adidas Golf through 2011, and will find its way into all adidas golf footwear for the 2010 season. $180
The Skinny: iPhone app providing GPS yardages, aerial views, personalized yardages and stat analysis for those who don't think 19th-hole lies are the best form of performance review.
The Word from Michael Hall, president of Shotzoom Software, Golfshot's creator: Our Golfshot GPS application was built with the game of golf and the golfer in mind–not gadgetry or "cool technology." The product offers 25,000 courses worldwide, mapped in 11 languages, plus state-of-the-art statistics that can be e-mailed to the user and others in his or her group. We built a golf platform for the golfer as a tool for improvement.
Golfshot scoring should be as easy as paper and pencil. We want to provide lay-up positioning based on players' clubs and their course, and in their language. It's about golf, pace of play and assisting our members with their games. While there are plenty of options to add to our program, we believe Golfshot members want to play golf, not play with their phones. A simple, to-the-point interface gives our golfers a competitive advantage while keeping the foursome behind them happy that our users aren't spending more time on their phones than on the game. Most avid golfers chart their rounds (via paper or Excel), use or have used expensive rangefinders, and desire current information on their favorite golf courses. With the emergence of smart phones, it was a golfer's dream to remove the need for computer, rangefinder and paper scorecard, and have it all combined in the one device they carry with them at all times: cell phones. $30
The Goods: Srixon Trispeed II and Trispeed Tour balls
The Skinny: Budget gourmet balls with covers that can withstand a blow from all those groovy wedges the fusty USGA has said will be illegal one day.
The Word from John Rae, performance research group manager at Cleveland Golf/Srixon R&D: With the launch of the Trispeed II and Trispeed Tour, Srixon is offering the consumer two ball options in the three-piece category that don't put as much damage on the wallet as urethane-covered three-piece balls. The Trispeed II is a low-compression ball designed to produce low spin off the driver. This low-spin performance will produce more distance for most golfers (as most golfers tend to have too much spin off the driver). Compared to the original Trispeed (which was widely known for its exceptional distance), the Trispeed II boasts a thinner cover and bigger core. This combination will produce more ball speed, aiding the golfer in achieving maximum distance.
The Trispeed Tour offers a nice complement to the Trispeed II. With its softer cover and firmer core compression, the Trispeed Tour will produce that additional spin around the greens and on approach shots that certain golfers demand in their ball. With these two offerings, golfers can find an upgrade to the two-piece ball they're currently playing without the exorbitant cost associated with the urethane balls. $29/dozen
Rife Mid Series Putters
Two new offerings from Rife had us rolling in the aisles–so to speak. The 460 Mid Blade and 400 Mid Mallet both feature the company's patented RollGroove Technology, which claims to promote a no-skid roll, so we knew, based on previous tests, that we'd like the results. On top of that, we liked that we could choose between a blade and a mallet. But the deciding factor? The price. A very affordable $99. These days, we're jazzed to find quality product at a discounted price.
Titleist CB and MB Irons
With an eye for quality, traditional products, Titleist's two newest iron offerings are sure to be a hit in 2010. It's hard not to be attracted to the MB's ($135-$159) classic blade design and the CB's (same price) high-performance cavity back. Don't you agree?