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2010 Equipment Odyssey - Drivers/Fairway Woods Part II

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

TaylorMade R9 SuperTri driver

TaylorMade have transformed the driver market in recent years with both their Movable Weight Technology (MWT) and their Flight Control Technology (FCT) - sometimes both at the same time - though never before in a 460cc head.

As the name suggests, the R9 SuperTri brings you all of the above in a single design courtesy of a new ultra-thin-wall design which, along with a 3g lighter hosel (for the FCT), saves enough weight to allow the two adjustable features to co-exist in a maximum size head.

The centre of gravity is now 2mm further back in the body than the R9 driver, making it easier to launch the ball higher, while the MWT is now in the form of three weights (16g, 1g, 1g) that can deliver a lateral trajectory variation of up to a massive 75 yards between the extreme settings.

While the face is the deepest (62mm top to bottom) that TaylorMade has ever incorporated into a driver with MWT, the focus is also on aerodynamics with the SuperTri sporting a sleeker crown than previous R9 driver heads, reshaped to reduce wind resistance.

There's also been some progress in the shaft, with the 60g Fujikura Motore being 5g lighter than the Motore 65 used in the R9 driver, for both a higher launch angle and an improved spin-rate to promote longer carry/increased distance. The club plays and looks good, too, with the rich black colour scheme that includes a black PVD clubface not seen since the R7 SuperQuad. It was no surprise that some 25 tour players used SuperTri in the week it was launched on the US Tour, in early March.

Available in 8.5°, 9.5°, 10.5° and 11.5°lofts and five shaft flexes (L, M, R, S, X), priced at £329.

Also available in a £379 TP model with the same head but with a choice of 10 premium shafts including the Aldila Voodoo, Mitsubishi Fubuki and Matrix Ozik . www.taylormadegolf.eu

MacGregor Golf MT driver

As reported in our Munich Show report (Gi 92), MacGregor Golf is currently enjoying a European relaunch through the long-established Golfsmith Europe, distributers of a select group of leading brands and who also offer a state-of-the-art custom fitting operation.

The flagship MacGregor driver is the MT 460, a classic Tour-inspired pear-shaped head with a medium-depth face which features the latest version of the company's Cup Face 360° Technology. The latter aims to make the whole face a consistent sweetspot through a variable thickness construction that also eliminates the use of inserts or other construction features requiring the use of traditional welds or seams. Instead, the forged 15-3-3 Beta Titanium Cup Face is plasma welded to the maximum size 6-4 Ti body for the maximum Characteristic Time (which measures the controversial Coefficient of Restitution) over the largest possible area of the face.

The MT 460 driver is weighted to have a neutral draw bias while still keeping a square look at address and producing a low-to-medium spin rate. Meanwhile, a special 'weighting triangulation' in the sole enhances MOI to improve further the forgiveness on off-centre hits while also contributing to the impressive distance performance. The MT 460 drivers are available in 9.5°, 10.5° and 11.5° lofts, fitted as standard with the new Fujikura Motore graphite shaft (in A, R, S & X flex options) with premium Lamkin MacGregor Crossline grips in custom sizing. £249. www.golfsmitheurope.co.uk

Tour Edge Exotics XCG-3 driver

The Tour Edge XCG-3 was one of the most interesting new drivers we tested at the Orlando Show where cross-sections of the clubheads revealing the detailed multi-material construction were on display.

The conventionally shaped head consists of an aerospace- grade titanium body married to a light carbon fibre crown in what, in itself, is not an unusual fusion construction to lower the centre of gravity. But the novelty is in the 28g tungsten sole section which enhances the high-launch performance; and also in how all the various materials are joined by means of a special brazing process that eliminates the excess material typically associated with traditional welding. The sound and solid feel was impressive - probably down to the face being constructed with variable thickness (thinner towards the edges, thicker in the middle) designed for consistent ball speeds on shots hit away from the centre.

We a particularly liked the Fujikura Motore shaft - though agreed with others at the Demo Day that the R-flex was surprisingly (but satisfyingly) sturdy and therefore might not suit players used to many of today's more whippy Regulars. Remember, there are no flex standards, so try before you buy. Available in 9°, 10° and 12° lofts, through Foremost Golf. £299. www.touredge.com; UK enquiries: 01753 218913

Snake Eyes Viper XT

Snake Eyes' successful Viper range is now onto its third generation of adjustable weighting. After the Viper Ti-464 and the Viper Tour comes the all-titanium Viper XT offering a whole list of technical refinements. The bullet shape and contoured crown make for an attractive contemporary design that delivers a deep centre of gravity for a higher Moment of Inertia than traditional shaped drivers. Meanwhile, the Hyper Rib Technology clubface is CNC-milled for consistently fast ball speeds across the entire hitting surface, resulting in maximum distance.

The Viper XT features a distinctive 'drafted stepped' sole design with a rear weight located in the driver's sole. These combine to push the weight low and rearward for what Snake Eyes describes as "the one-two punch for longer drives". The weight is removable and can be replaced with heavier screws that will increase the launch angle but without increasing the spin rate. The impressive Aerotech 'Hoop Wind' Hi-technology graphite shaft fitted as standard enjoys a special manufacturing process (involving the careful layering of graphite about its longitudinal axis) that maintains its round profile throughout the swing thereby eliminating unwanted oscillation of the clubhead.

To ensure the most consistent performance, the shaft is individually hand-PURE'd by Golfsmith before assembly, improving the proportion of central strikes on the face by up to 44%. Available in 9.5°, 10.5°, 11.5° & 14° lofts (left hand: 10.5° & 14°) in A, R & S shafts. Custom assembled to order. £189. www.golfsmitheurope.co.uk

Benross VX Proto PVD Driver

Benross impressed hugely last year with their Innovator X driver with its highly individual progressive triangular shape and a rear weight that offered adjustability of the vertical trajectory.

For 2010, the new VX Proto PVD driver features a far more traditional round shape but still with a large modern footprint that creates an exceptionally stable and forgiving performance. This is partly down to the Thin Crown Technology that allows every last gramme of titanium to be positioned in the 460cc head so as to maximise the club's potential to hit high, long-carrying and accurate drives.

The cosmetics are smart, too.We've mentioned in recent issues how Physical Vapour Deposition is a fashionable buzzword in the golf industry, relating to a new method of delivering dark, dusky anti-glare finishes. Well, the VX Proto PVD is even named after it. Benross have also upped their game in recent years by offering top-of-the-range shafts and grips as standard, and this flagship driver continues the trend with the on-board 44.75" Aldila Voodoo graphite shaft and Golf PrideWhite Multi-Compound grip. Lofts: 10°, 12° and MAX (14°). £149.99. www.benrossgolf.com

Cobra Baffler Rail H

While hybrid technology has taken off in recent years, its modern-day roots date from 1976 when Cobra introduced its first woodenheaded Baffler utility.

The metal model of the new millennium has already seen several makeovers while the 2010 version takes the concept to a new level. The distinctive railed sole remains in evidence but now in a redesigned Four-Way format that significantly reduces the area of the club that comes into contact with the ground. The result is improved turf interaction and even more forgiveness on miss-hits, making the Rail H a serious contender as a long-iron replacement club.

The high-strength steel face insert is constructed in the form of a thin, lightweight section that promotes faster ball speeds while strategically freeing-up weight to improve the launch characteristics. As with the S2 Max irons, the face incorporates Cobra's patented 9-points face technology that effectively expands the sweet spot across a wider area of impact points.

The Baffler Rail H comes in 3 (16°), 4 (18°), 5 (20°), 6 (23°) and 7 (26°) models, fitted with a light, 65g Fujikura shaft and a Golf Pride grip. £129. www.cobragolf.co.uk

Mizuno MP-CLK 2010 hybrid

As we saw with lastmonth'sMP-630 drivers and titaniumfairways, Mizuno continues to build its reputation in areas beyond its famous iron heritage. It now has several generations of hybrids under its belt, the latest being the MP CLK targeted specifically to strong ball strikers who are increasingly embracing the hybrid concept at the highest level.

"Our tour players are now very open to the idea of long iron replacements - they just want to avoid anything with a tendency to hook - which most hybrids do," says Andy Kikidas, Mizuno's Tour Operations Manager. "The new MP-CLK gives them the forgiveness and carry advantages of a hybrid, but sits better to their eye and gives them the option to work the ball in both directions."

With its compact, 'tour-ready' square face and low profile, the MP CLK is one of the best looking of the 'wood-type' hybrids that we've seen this season. The drop down crown - in conjunction with the internal weighting strategy - keeps the sweet spot low on the face, reducing backspin and the chances of a ballooning flight.

The club also features the latest version of Mizuno's trademark Hot Face technology (in 1770 steel), configured to increase both carry and total distance relative to the company's previous CLK Fli- Hi model. Robot tests suggest increased ballspeeds of 1.2 mph and extra carry of 4.2 yards for stronger players able to benefit from the reduced spin rates. Available in 17°, 20° and 23° lofts. £139. www.mizunoeurope.com

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine






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