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2010 Equipment Odyssey - Drivers/Fairway Woods

TECHNOLOGY CONTINUES APACE AMONG THE LEADING GOLF MANUFACTURERS WITH A COMPREHENSIVE CROP OF EXCITING NEW GEAR IN ALL CATEGORIES. HAVING TRIED MOST OF THEM AT THE PGA MERCHANDISE SHOW IN ORLANDO, DOMINIC PEDLER BRINGS YOU A SELECTION OF THE BEST

PART 1 - IRONS & WEDGES - PART I
PART 2 - IRONS & WEDGES - PART II
PART 3 - DRIVERS & FAIRWAY WOODS - PART I
PART 4 - DRIVERS & FAIRWAY WOODS - PART II
PART 5 - PUTTERS

Mizuno MP-630/MP-630 Fast Track

Of all the many adjustable weighting systems on modern drivers, Mizuno's Fast Track (which debuted on the MP- 600, a couple of years ago) is the arguably the most practical to work and intuitive. The system of sliding weights, fastened along a semi-circular track secreted in the sole, has been upgraded in the MP-630 to accommodate 45 potential settings rather than the original 15. In practice it is just as simple as the MP-600, continuing the same principle of pushing more weight to the heel to promote a draw bias (from a lighter, faster-closing toe), and vice versa for a fade.

Mizuno remind us that adjustable weighting isn't just about correcting lateral dispersion. It can also vary your trajectory and spin rate - and hence your distance - according to how far back or forward you set the pair of weights in parallel. In this respect, the extra settings offer far more trajectory variation than the MP-600, as we found in our own tests.

Then again, after much market research, Mizuno recognize that some golfers are quite happy with a permanently neutral setting and, accordingly, are also offering a non-adjustable version of the MP-630 without the Fast Track system.

Whichever you choose, the MP-630s are among the most aesthetically pleasing, pear-shaped new drivers on the market, with purists sure to appreciate the flush face angle in contrast to the many toe'd-in rival designs. A special 64-gramme Fubuki shaft completes the package. Guide: £299 MP-630 Fast Track/£229 MP-630 (non-adjustable). www.mizunoeurope.com/golf

Mizuno MP Titanium fairway woods

While titanium has long been the metal of choice for drivers, Ti fairway woods have been slow to catch on. Given the lightweight material, designers have too often succumbed to the temptation of making large heads that looked incongruous and/or which did not enjoy a sufficiently low centre of gravity to get a decent ball flight.

But Mizuno have now delivered in this category with this beautiful looking, compact titanium shell supplemented by a 40-gramme sole weight that simultaneously solves the Ti dilemma of overly light heads and high CG. They've also gone the extra mile to concentrate weight up towards the clubface to keep the spin rate down for a mid-launch ball flight that eats up the fairway. Guide: £169. www.mizunoeurope.com/golf

Callaway FT-iZ driver

A notable development in 2010 is Callaway's decision move away from the controversial square metalwood designs which it first pioneered back in 2006. The company 's chief designer, Dr Alan Hocknell, told Golf International how "new research into aerodynamics reveals that many 'large platform' 460cc drivers are inefficient in the way they move through the air in terms of the excessive drag they generate".

Callaway's response is the FT-iZ driver which adopts a far more streamlined, 'quasi triangular' shape claimed to improve the head speed by at least 1 mph for the same swing energy, translating into an extra 1.5mph in ball speed and some 4 or 5 more yards in distance.

Apparently there is no compromise in head stability at impact, with Hocknell claiming that such triangular shapes deliver even higher MOI than their square counterparts, thanks in part to a new Polar weighting strategy at the front and rear of the graphite/titanium Fusion head. Initial reactions at Orlando were highly positive, though we will await the verdict of top tour players who can be notoriously conservative when it comes to new geometric head shapes.

The £349 FT-iZ also comes in fairway woods and hybrids, with the range also offered in a Tour version. www.callawaygolf.com

Ping G15 driver

There was an extra buzz around the Ping booth at the PGA Show in January, partly due to the new G15 driver having been nominated for numerous awards in the US media.We mentioned the club in Issue 90 following its autumn release but, after further impressive tests at the Orlando, are including it again among our top 2010 selections.

The elongated 460cc head is, aesthetically, a refreshingly no-frills design - hiding many of high-tech features. Only visible is the external sole weight that lowers the CG for a powerful, high-launching but low-spin ball flight. A notable breakthrough is the proprietary TFC shaft whose lower weight and higher balance point allows an extra 5 grams of mass to be put back into the clubhead for what Ping claims is a far more efficient design strategy for both distance and accuracy. The club also comes in a pre-weighted G15 Draw model.

We strongly recommend you give the G15 a try at your next local demo day.When you find the one you like, be sure to note the test club's special eight-digit serial number. It's a simple initiative that refers to the exact specifications of loft, lie, shaft length, bend profile, swing weight and grip thickness, ensuring that the club you get plays just like the one you liked. For what it's worth, your correspondent is sold on the #712083D6. Guide: £249. www.pingeurope.com

Yonex Nanospeed 3i driver

Yonex were at the forefront of this current focus on driver aerodynamics when their first pentagonal-shaped Nanospeed i took the top product award at the 2007 Golf Europe show.

This third generation Nanospeed 3i refines the same swingspeed-enhancing, low-drag concept, while also enlarging the effective hitting area of the face (aka the sweetspot) through an isometric shape that slightly stretches the heel and toe areas.

The 3i is the latest in the long line of Yonex' state-of the- art marriages of graphite and titanium, with the lightweight, thin (0.6mm) crown complemented by a Muscle Power titanium face. This refers to a variable thickness construction designed to help the club perform with consistent repulsion wherever the impact point.

Yonex is also famous for its multi-material proprietary shaft designs, and the fitted 100-W shaft duly features a special Nano elastomer for a 'snap back' effect and a stretch of Elastic Ti that promotes torsional stability and accuracy. Guide: £199. www.yonex.co.uk/golf

Cobra S2 driver

After years of frantic driver development that yielded as many as nine 'micro brands' each with various options, Cobra has simplified their strategy into two main lines offering clearer construction and design differences. In Issue 92 we introduced the ZL (Zero Limits) driver, a multi-material, maximum distance model with a tall face and high-draw bias which Ian Poulter played to victory in last autumn's Singapore Open.

This is now joined by the S2, an all-titanium 460cc head that updates the company's 9-Points face technology that refers to the thin-milled insert carefully configured to increase ball speed equally across its surface. With both models, Cobra has thankfully ditched those controversial dimple crown designs, resulting in their best looking (and best sounding) pear-shaped heads to date. The S2 has a slightly shallower face than the ZL and a mid-draw bias that is enhanced in the S2 Offset version for more serious slicers.

Both lines are notable for their longer 46-inch shafts as standard and their highly practical Adjustable Flight Technology by means of a three-position, adjustable hosel (not in the S2 Offset). With a quick turn of the wrench, AFT allows golfers to open or close the club's face angle by 1.5 degrees (either side of neutral) according to their own flight preferences. Cobra ZL £299; Cobra S2 (straight neck) £249; S2 Offset £199. www.cobragolf.co.uk

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine






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