In this week's Equipment Report Mailbag, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider Jonathan Wall talks about TaylorMade Tour Preferred irons, equipment switches and more.
Have a question about the latest golf equipment or what the pros are playing? Send a tweet to @jonathanrwall.
What's the deal with TaylorMade's Tour Preferred line? Is it coming out next year? Will it have the TP Badge? — Austin Crawford
TaylorMade's still planning to release a Tour Preferred line in the near future. I actually had a long-winded response to this question, but Justin Rose forced me to revise it at the last minute when he tweeted a photo from the Nedbank Golf Challenge of a combo set of Tour Preferred CB and MC irons.
I posted the photo of his bag that clearly shows the words "Tour Preferred" in the cavity, so you know these are the real deal. TaylorMade has yet to comment on the release date, but I know TaylorMade Japan's website already has the Tour Preferred line up on its site.
The good news is the irons are now out in the open. I think it's only a matter of time before TaylorMade makes an official announcement.
I saw you tweeted that TaylorMade is going to release a 14-degree SLDR driver in the near future. Is this a fad or an actual trend? — Josh Humphreys
I think the increase in loft is here to stay. Do I think you'll see players switching to 14-degree drivers in waves next season? Probably not.
I had the chance to spend some time with TaylorMade executive vice president Sean Toulon recently on a trip to Las Vegas for the JetSpeed launch, and he mentioned that a low and forward CG was the way toward "that mythical land of ideal launch conditions, 1700 rpm's and 17 degrees of launch angle."
We've seen players like Carl Pettersson use drivers with as much as 11.5 degrees of loft recently. But Pettersson preferred the additional loft because he believed it worked with a longer-than-average shaft for increased carry and more spin.
The increase in loft this time around has more to do with the low and forward CG position. Solid-core balls that spin less and launch monitors that help optimize launch angle for increased carry have also played a part in the new loft trend.
But we're talking about going from 9.5 degrees to 10.5 degrees — in Dustin Johnson's case when he started using TaylorMade's SLDR driver — which doesn't seem like a massive a jump.
So who could benefit from a 14-degree driver? It really depends on your swing speed and launch angle. With the modern driver and ball, there's reason to believe more loft could be your friend. If the pros are going up in loft, you should at least consider testing out a driver with extra loft to see if it benefits your game.
Any big names switching equipment during the off-season? — Larry Pedersen
This is the number one question I get asked on Twitter. As far as switches go, Carl Pettersson moved from Nike to TaylorMade at the Frys.com Open, but that's really been the extent of the news.
The reason for the silence is that most players are still under contract through the end of 2013, which means you likely won't hear anything official until the beginning of the year.
However, that doesn't mean rumors aren't floating around in cyberspace. Barry Havenga, Golf Digest South Africa's deputy editor, tweeted this week that Ernie Els will depart Callaway at the end of the year for a new destination in 2014.
That's big news. Also, I've heard that a couple big names will be playing new equipment next season. I'm talking names that will raise some eyebrows.
Keep an eye on the Equipment Report and I'll let you know when the signings become official.
Garmin Approach S4 GPS Watch
Golfers usually head to the course to escape the office grind. However, if you're in the market for a GPS watch that allows you to keep tabs on the office, and get the correct yardage to the back pin, you may want to take a look at the Garmin Approach S4. Pre-loaded with 30,000 courses and weighing in 2.06 ounces, the watch not only gives yardages to front, back and middle of greens — as well as layup and dogleg distances — it also connects wirelessly to your smartphone, allowing you to receive emails, texts and alerts on the watch. (Price: $349.99)
Ashworth Cardiff ADC Golf Shoes
Worn by 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, the Cardiff ADC is the latest version in Ashworth's spikeless shoe line. Designed to be worn on and off the course, the shoe features a new Comfort Last and spikeless outsole that delivers more traction, comfort and flexibility. It also comes with a 2-year waterproof warranty. (Price: $119.99)
Under Armour Long Sleeve ColdGear Infrared Quarter Zip Jacket
Under Armour doesn't mess around when it comes to its ColdGear line. Worn by PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth, the ColdGear Infared jacked uses a soft thermo-conductive inner coating to retain your own body heat — which could come in handy on cold days. The 4-way stretch fabrication allows you to swing freely and take a rip at the ball. (Price: $84.99)
Bushnell Tour V3 Rangefinder
One of the most recognizable names in the rangefinder market, Bushnell's Tour V3 comes with PinSeeker technology that makes it accurate to within one yard; it also boasts 5-1,000 yards ranging performance, including 300-plus yards to the flag. To further reinforce the rangefinder's PinSeeker technology, Bushnell added JOLT technology that provides short vibrating bursts when it locks onto the flag. (Price: $299.99)
Titleist Pro V1 Golf Balls
Titleist's Pro V1 enjoyed another memorable year on the PGA TOUR, as Adam Scott and Jason Dufner used the ball to win the Masters and PGA Championship. Even if you don't have a major championship resume, the Pro V1 offers more than enough performance benefits for a wide range of playing abilities. The latest version has a softer compression ZG process core technology, and an improved high-performance Urethane Elastomer cover system. (Price: $41.99)
TaylorMade JetSpeed Driver
Introduced in mid-November, TaylorMade's JetSpeed driver is the first to feature the company's Speed Pocket technology in the sole of a metal wood that boosts ball speeds across the face. The shallower head and low, forward CG -- similar to the CG characteristics of SLDR -- gives JetSpeed a sweet spot that's 25 percent larger and extends lower on the face than RBZ Stage 2. (Price: $299.99)
|PING S55 Irons
PING is incredibly particular and precise when it comes to its irons. Case in point: S55, which debuted earlier this year at The Barclays. After the company released S56 in 2010, engineers spent the next three years working on the current design. The new iron has a number similar traits to S56, including a 17-4 stainless steel body and a tungsten toe weight increases the club's MOI for greater forgiveness and an improved CG. New additions include a larger Custom Tuning Port and stabilizing bar that helps with improved feel at impact and distance control. (Price: $874.99)
Odyssey Versa Putter
Odyssey's Versa line was one the biggest equipment stories on the PGA TOUR in 2013 — and it was all thanks to a black and white contrast design on the putter head that accentuated the face angle at impact for proper alignment. Everyone from Phil Mickelson — he used a Versa #9 to win the British Open — to Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson used a Versa putter at some point last season. If it's good enough for some of the best players in the world, it's probably good enough for your game. (Price: $169.99)
Izzo Alignment Stix
There's nothing worse than putting a good swing on the ball with your feet pointed in the wrong direction. To help improve your alignment, grab a set of Izzo alignment sticks and head for the practice range. After spending time with these sticks in front of your feet, you'll feel more confident with your alignment, which should translate to lower scores on the course. (Price: $9.99)
PING L8 Stand Bag
PING's original carry bag is getting a makeover. Released in 1988, the L8 bag, made from durable 600 denier polyester, weighs 4 pounds and features three pockets (apparel, balls, water bottle) and two full-length dividers. PING's proprietary Enhanced Ergonomics offers a wider 24-inch leg span for added stability, dual shoulder straps and a reinforced bracket with leg stop. (Price: $139.99)
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
The PING Rapture driving iron Billy Horschel and Louis Oosthuizen used at the 2013 British Open is coming to retail in December.
Back in July at Muirfield, PING made a TOUR-only prototype version of the driving iron available to players that were looking for a long-iron or hybrid alternative that provided maximum distance off the tee and could flight through the wind.
The head of the driving iron is made from 17-4 stainless steel with a high-strength 455 Carpenter stainless steel face that was purposely thinned out to allow designers to repurpose discretionary mass low and back on the clubhead for a low center of gravity.
The face was also designed extremely thin to increase ball speed and flat to improve shotmaking and promote a square look at address.
To boost the club's MOI, high-density tungsten weights — which account for 20 percent of the entire head and make the club more forgiving on heel and toe mishits — were placed low and back on the perimeter of the sole to boost inertia and keep the center of gravity extremely low for a penetrating ball flight.
A tungsten polymer blend soleweight was also added to the bottom of the sole to decrease spin and allow PING reps to alter swingweight. The driving iron measures 39.75 inches with a D1 swingweight.
Driving irons have become a popular long-iron and hybrid alternative this year, as players have gravitated towards clubs that have a more traditional long-iron look and ball flight with the added forgiveness benefits of a hybrid.
Similar to the TOUR-only prototype that debuted at Muirfield, the Rapture driving iron will come in only one loft option (18 degrees). The prototype version on TOUR was slightly stronger at 17 degrees.
PING's Rapture driving iron will be available in December and comes stock with PING's TFC 949 shaft for $220.
PGA TOUR Superstore: Shop for PING equipment
Driver: PING G25 (Mitsubishi Rayon Fubuki Tour 63x shaft),
3-wood: PING G5 (Aldila RIP 80x shaft), 15 degrees
5-wood: PING G20 (UST Mamiya VTS Pro Force 8x Black shaft), 18 degrees
Irons (3-9): PING S56 (True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts)
Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy 2 (47, 52, 58 degrees; True Temper Dyanmic Gold X100 shafts)
Putter: PING Scottsdale Ho-Hum
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
PGA SUPERSTORE: Buy PING equipment
Cobra's new BiO Cell and Bio Cell+ drivers aim to build on the success of last season's AMP Cell line that was not only colorful, but packed with adjustability and the company's new Advanced Material Placement and CELL technology that freed up discretionary weight by redistributing mass around the crown for a 12 percent larger E9 face shape and higher ball speeds on mis-hits.
With the new driver line, Cobra engineers took the AMP Cell technology even further with the help of internal BiO Cells — a honeycomb pattern on the inside of the head — that removed weight from the crown and positioned it low and back in the head to deliver a lower center of gravity and higher moment of inertia for increased distance and greater ball speeds on mis-hits.
The 460cc driver also features an E9 face shape — the same shape as AMP Cell — and BiO Cell pockets that move weight away from the face and towards the back of the head. The resulting weight adjustment makes the face more responsive on off-center hits, and increases the effective sweet spot for added forgiveness.
“Our Research and Development team focused on developing a driver that would deliver distance, provide consistency, keep adjustability simple yet effective and offer a great feel,” said Jose Miraflor, Cobra Golf's director of product marketing. “The BiO CELL Driver delivers on all of the above through COBRA’s proprietary technology and goes a step further by offering personalization in five different color options.”
BiO Cell also has Cobra's new MyFly8 adjustable loft hosel that allows golfers to put the driver in five different loft settings (9, 9.5, 10.5, 11.5 and 12 degrees), and three draw settings (9.5D, 10.5D and 11.5D degrees). For those looking to keep the face square at address when adjusting the loft setting, Cobra added a Smartpad strip to the sole that ensures the face is in a square position when it sits on the ground.
Cobra also has a low-spinning BiO Cell+ model that has a number of the same features as the standard BiO Cell. Where the drivers differ is in head size (440cc for BiO Cell+ vs. 460cc for BiO Cell), shaft length (45.25 inches for BiO Cell+ vs. 45.75 inches for BiO Cell) and a lightweight Venollum alloy crown.
The lightweight crown in BiO Cell+, according to Cobra, "reduces weight vs 'all titanium' drivers to deliver a lower CG for a higher ball flight with lower back spin for longer distance." The weight saved in the crown was then positioned low in the head to give the driver its low spin, low launch characteristics.
Cobra's BiO Cell and BiO Cell+ drivers will be available Jan. 15 in five different colors (silver, blue, red, black and orange). The standard BiO Cell driver has a Project X-PXv shaft and will retail for $299. The BiO Cell+ comes with a Matrix Red-Tie 6Q3 shaft for $399.
That's not a typo. According to Callaway's senior vice president of R&D, Dr. Alan Hocknell, a few significant technological improvements to X2 Hot allowed engineers to design an iron that's arguably the company's most consistent iron ever produced.
The increase in consistency is due in large part to a Chevron-shaped stabilizing arch in the cavity that was cast into the face of the 17-4 stainless steel iron. The multi-material badge helps stabilize the upper portion of the face, improving sound, feel, ball speed and consistency.
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
PHOTOS: Click here to check out the new lineup
The old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" would be the perfect motto for Callaway's latest line of metalwoods. Last year, Callaway released X Hot and X Hot Pro metal woods to rave reviews from amateurs and professionals alike, including 42-time PGA TOUR winner Phil Mickelson, who used a variation of X Hot products -- X Hot Prankenwood and X Hot 3Deep -- for most of the season en route to his first British Open victory.
Instead of messing with success, Callaway opted to continue the name with X2 Hot -- the new lineup of drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons, scheduled to be available Jan. 17.
While the X Hot name still exists, the technology in X2 Hot is an upgrade from its predecessor. The driver features a more traditional pear-shaped head that's 4 percent larger than the original X Hot.
"It has a very different thickness profile through face," Dr. Alan Hocknell, Callaway's SVP of R&D, said in a recent episode of Callaway Talks. "It was powered by a lot of insight we got through our performance phase, where we look to the statistics on how golfers actually hit the face, and where they hit it on the face. It showed us that if you're not better than a 10 handicap, you're not hitting the center of the face."
After analyzing where golfers hit the ball on the face, Hocknell and his team went about designing a new Hyper Speed Face Cup -- made from high-strength 455 Carpenter steel -- that increased the sweet spot on the face and added 1.5 mph more ball speed on average, which equates to about 5-6 additional yards on off-center hits.
Available in three lofts (9.5, 10.5, 13.5 degrees), the X2 Hot driver features the OptiFit adjustable hosel -- the loft can be moved up as much as 2 degrees or down 1 degree -- and two independent lie settings, standard and draw.
The X2 Hot driver also has Callaway's “Progressive Draw Bias," which gives higher lofted heads more draw bias than lower lofted versions.
X2 Hot Pro has a deeper face and lower CG than standard X2 Hot, allowing the driver to have produce a lower trajectory with less spin. The Pro version will only come in 8.5 degrees, but with the OptiFit adjutable hosel, golfers will have the option of moving the loft as high as 10.5 or as low as 7.5 degrees.
The standard 460cc X2 Hot comes stock with a 46-inch shaft Aldila Tour Blue shaft for $350. The 440cc X2 Hot Pro retails for $350 and has a 45.5-inch Aldila Tour Green 65 shaft.
X2 Hot and X2 Hot Pro fairway woods
Phil Mickelson turned Callaway X Hot fairway woods into the talk of the TOUR in 2013, using his X Hot 3Deep twice on the par-5 17th at Muirfield to win his first British Open title.
Building on the success of the X Hot platform, Callaway added a high-strength 455 Carpenter steel face to the fairway woods that helps maintain ball speeds on shots hit low on the face.
While the face is a new addition to the Hot fairway wood line, Callaway decided to add the same Internal Standing Wave found in X Hot to X2 Hot. The pieces of metal are located near the front of the sole and lean toward the face, giving the club a center of gravity (CG) that's low and forward.
The difference between the two Internal Standing Waves is that this year's version is 13.5-grams heavier than X Hot and sits closer to the face. The addition of more weight and the new position improves shots hit low on the face.
Engineers also added more face camber and heel and toe relief, in an effort to improve the sole's versatility.
X2 Hot fairway woods will be available Jan. 17 with an Aldila Tour Blue shaft in six lofts (15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25 degrees) for $240. The X2 Hot Pro has four loft options (13.5, 15, 17 and 19 degrees) comes stock with Aldila's Tour Green shaft for $240.
Even though X2 Hot and X2 Hot Pro are the most prominent versions in the new fairway wood line, Callaway confirmed an X2 Hot 3Deep will be available for players that prefer a deeper faced 3-wood that can be used off the tee.
X2 Hot 3Deep (available Jan. 17) retails for $240 and comes in three different lofts (12.5, 14.5 and 18.5 degrees) with Aldila's Tour Green shaft.
X2 Hot and X2 Hot hybrids
With a thinner Hyper Speed Face Cup than last year's X Hot hybrid line, Callaway was able to make the face on X2 Hot 28 percent thinner and the sweet spot an eye-popping 13 times larger than its predecessor -- thanks in large part to the new 455 Carpenter steel face the company added to all X2 Hot metalwoods.
The thinner face and larger sweet spot makes X2 Hot more than 10 yards longer than the previous version. The compact head also has less camber, offset and features an Internal Standing Wave inside the head that's lower and more towards the face.
X2 Hot will be available Jan. 17 in four lofts (19, 22, 25 and 29 degrees) with Aldila's Tour Blue shaft for $200. The X2 Hot Pro version comes in four lofts (16, 18, 20 and 23 degrees) with Aldila's Tour Green shaft for $200.
PGA TOUR Superstore: Get Callaway equipment
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
LAS VEGAS -- Four months after TaylorMade launched its SLDR driver at the John Deere Classic, the company announced the addition of a new line of woods (driver, fairway woods and hybrids) called JetSpeed on Monday.
According to TaylorMade officials, JetSpeed, which is set to replace the existing RBZ Stage 2 woods in December, is the first driver that features the new Speed Pocket in the sole (TaylorMade added a Speed Pocket to the SLDR fairway woods).
With a shallower head and low, forward center of gravity (CG) -- similar to the CG characteristics of SLDR -- the combination gives JetSpeed a sweet spot that's 25 percent larger and extends lower on the face than RBZ Stage 2. It also helps increase ball speeds and reduce spin on shots hit low on the face.
"Amateurs have a tendency to miss the ball low on the club face with the driver," said Sean Toulon, TaylorMade's Executive VP. "We believe the introduction of the Speed Pocket, along with the lower, forward CG makes this a driver that crosses all party lines. It's breakthrough driver technology."
Unlike SLDR, which has a sliding weight channel on the bottom of the sole that shifts the clubhead's CG horizontally, along a 21-point track system, towards the heel or toe to promote a draw of fade, JetSpeed's only adjustable feature is a hosel that can be adjusted 1.5 degrees up or down.
The JetSpeed fairway woods and hybrids also feature the new Speed Pocket, a slightly shallower face for playability and a lower, forward CG. Similar to the driver, the fairway woods and hybrids are designed to launch the ball higher with less spin for increased distance. The fairway woods and hybrids also come with a non-adjustable hosel.
TaylorMade's JetSpeed driver will be available on Dec. 13 in four lofts (8, 9.5, 10.5 and 12 degrees) for $299 and comes with a Fujikura Speeder 57 shaft. JetSpeed fairways will also be available Dec. 13 in five lofts (15, 17, 19, 21, and 23 degrees) along with the hybrids ($199; 16, 19, 22, 25, and 28 degrees).
PGA TOUR SUPERSTORE: Get TaylorMade equipment
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
LAS VEGAS -- TaylorMade hasn't released a Tour Preferred iron line since 2011, but based on photos that were just posted to the company's Tour Diaries blog, that's about to change in the near future.
The photos don't offer a lot of insight into the upcoming line -- the last one included CB, MB and MC -- except that there will be a MB (muscleback) model and the line will include the new 3-millimeter Speed Pocket that's currently in the sole of SpeedBlade irons.
The updated Speed Pocket in SpeedBlades is marginally wider and extends to the heel and toe areas of the sole. By expanding the Speed Pocket and making it larger, TaylorMade engineers were able to make the face flex more effectively at impact, increasing the sweet spot across the face of the club.
TaylorMade's new Speed Pocket has been at the forefront of a number of recent releases, including SLDR fairway and rescue clubs, the new JetSpeed woods line and SpeedBlades.
PGA TOUR SUPERSTORE: Get TaylorMade equipment