Stars of the Show
As ever, The PGA Merchandise Show in
Orlando set the scene for 2009 with another
avalanche of high-tech gear in all categories.
Gi’s equipment editor, Dominic Pedler,
reports from the Florida bash which began
with the golf industry’s very own D-Day.
“It's the single most important date of the year – apart from my wedding anniversary, of course,” quipped the
Californian club pro in the next door bay as he put the new
Mizuno MX-700 driver through its paces.
He was no doubt speaking for most of the 5,000 industry
guests at the essential Demo Day that kicks off the annual PGA
Merchandise Show, held at the end of January in Orlando, in
The action unfolds on a vast driving range as club pros and
media are invited to try out the latest clubs and balls from over 50
leading companies; and judge on what to stock in their pro shop
(or write in their magazine) for the new season.
It was only 10amand already the latest offerings fromMizuno
(their first evermatched range of drivers, fairways and hybrids) were
on the shortlist on the basis of their sound, technology, looks and
Mizuno R&DManager, David Llewellyn was on hand
to explain the 'hotmetal' face construction “designed with a grain
structure that allows flexibility in the sole-to-crown plane – traditionally
themost rigid area that limits the scope formaximising ball speed.”
From there it was a quick sprint to Nike's private tent where
Trevor Immelman and LPGA star Suzann Pettersen were among
the top tour pros representing their sponsors this week. “I was able to find a head I really like the look of and adjust the
face angle by a degree to get the desired flight I was looking for,”
said the Masters champion as he tested the elaborate Nike SQ
Dymo STR8T-Fit driver.
“The beauty is that consumers can now
do the same,” he added referring to the eight settings of face and
lie angle that should complement most styles of swing.
The punters were also queuing up over at Cobra to try the
sleek King Cobra S9-1 driver with which Geoff Ogilvy won both
the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship and the
recent Accenture World Match Play titles. “We started from
scratch and developed a completely new outer head shape and
internal geometry for the S9-1,” explained Scott Rice, Cobra's R&D Director.
“Each of the various models has a distinct Centre
of Gravity location to provide optimum ball flight conditions needed
by different player types and ball speeds.”
Other top new drivers we tested included the reassuringly
solid-feeling Wilson Smooth which Padraig Harrington paraded
at the Buick recently.
Some other impressive models included
the Adams Speedline, as endorsed by Tom Watson,
with a rounded, aerodynamic body claimed to add an extra
3-4 mph of clubhead speed (equating to 3-9 yards of extra
“Extreme geometry drivers continually test with higher
drag and lower clubhead speed,” claimed Scott Burnett,
Adams' Director of Advanced Product Development.
changing the aerodynamic properties of the face and crown
to keep the airflow attached, we were able to deliver a significant
distance advantage for the average player and tour
But the most ambitious driver design came courtesy of
PowerBilt whose sci-fi Air Force One ambitiously features a
head containing a nitrogen-filled chamber. At an internal pressure
of 150 p.s.i., the gas supports a clubface of just 2.8mm – so thin
it can apparently flex (unhindered by any mechanical bracing)
sufficiently to provide faster ballspeed.
The latest irons for 2009 couldn't quite match that high
falutin' technology but there are nevertheless some interesting
models for the new season, even if some debuted in Munich and
have already been flagged in previous issues of Gi.
Among them are the much-heralded Nike Victory Red irons
in three versions of blade, split-cavity and full-cavity to match
your desired degree of forgiveness and workability.
refine their Notch Weighting principle in the X-22 while adding a
vibration-dampening polycarbonate tip plug within the Thru' Bore
head design for a smoother feel.
Mizuno has four new irons for '09, including the latest Grain
Flow forged MP-52 and MP62, and the more game-improvement
styled MX-100 and MX-200. The latter have a special YTune
cavity pad which extends the hitting area more into
the toe of the face to match the most common miss-hit
patterns of amateurs.
Among the surprise stars was Bridgestone Limited
Edition J36 Black cavity back iron. Quite apart from the
stylish head shape and the tapered sole-design for shotmaking
versatility, the the set is forged from raw 1020
mild carbon steel and available only with a thin black
The resulting lack of plating provides an exceptionally
soft, 'buttery' feel that will be appreciated by discerning
ball strikers, who will also rave
about the inevitable rusting for that
alleged extra spin. Sign up now for
one of only 500 sets.
Matching them for delicious aesthetics
was the black nickel finish
of the forged M28V4 wedges by
Japanese company, Fourteen Golf,
complete with the company's
milled 'mirror' face grooves that
require twice the time of traditional
milling to create the maximum allowable groove volume for higher
It was a reminder that 2009 will see the last consignments of any
such large grooves, as all new wedges (indeed all irons with lofts of
25 degrees and above) will be forced to comply with the tighter
groove volume and edge radius regulations from next year.
The sun having set on the demo day, the ceremonies
continued for the rest of the week in the equally vast Orange
County Convention Centre. The show was formally opened by Boo
Weekley who just happened to be debuting his own range of branded
clothing (no doubt inspired by John Daly's signature 'redneck
apparel' here two years ago).
The first formal function saw Titleist take over a private room
the size of the United Nations conference hall to launch the 2009
version of the best-selling Pro V1 golf balls.
There was scant mention (none, in fact) of the lawsuits with
Callaway concerning the alleged infringement of four (originally
Top-Flite) patents that doomed the previous Pro V1s – at least
in the United States. Instead, plenty of detail on how the new
offerings surpass any existing stocks in terms of technology and
The main benefit to the average golfer would seem to be
improved durability thanks to a new urethane cover, as well as
some extra distance mainly off the tee – and mainly in respect of
the three-piece Pro V1 which now has a larger core, higher compression
and aerodynamically tweaked dimples. But there are
other subtleties between the new balls (along with some fascinating
ball-fitting pointers) to be revealed in our forthcoming exclusive
interview with Titleist R&D chief, Bill Morgan.
Meanwhile, Titleist's rivals are pushing hard – notably Srixon
with the all new Z-Star series previewed in Issue 87 and which
created a buzz at Orlando – not least for having recently converted
Vijay Singh. Then there's the Callaway Big Bertha Diablo ball:
“sneaky long with soft feel” according to early independent tests;
and Nike's new One Series embracing the Tour, Tour D and
Vapor models which each complement various combinations of
Talking of milestones, Ping celebrated their 50th
anniversary at their booth lined with vast murals detailing the company
's many illustrious landmarks in golf equipment hardware.
Capturing the moment, Ping chief John Solheim launched new
models of the most famous Anser, Zing and B60 putters in a
beautiful bronze finish. That's if you can't afford the Ping 1-A
Anniversary model, a limited edition, gold-plated replica of Karsten Solheim's 1957 hand-made putter that kick-started his empire.
Among the rivals, Yes!Golf – fresh from their award-winning
internal shaft weighting system that took top honours in Munich –
demonstrated an equally intriguing Interchangeable Hosel
System. This allows golfers to choose not merely the
appropriate shaft bend and lie angle but also the right
offset configuration and 'toe hang' to suit their individual
alignment method and style of stroke. The concept
debuts in 2009 with the forged 303 stainless Tracy III
Plus blade and the Lizzy Plus mallet.
Rising star, Rife, also weighed in with the Inline
Momentum IMO mallet which deliberately shuns
any heel-and-toe weighting in favour of a 'centre
mass' concept placing 85% of the head weight in
the middle 40% of the clubhead.
“The idea is to encourage the necessary
momentum to cure one of the major faults in putting
– deceleration,” explained Rife's president, Matt
Molloy. “Virtually no golfers mis-hit a putt by more than 5/8-
inch either side of the centre of the face, so by concentrating
mass directly behind the ball we improve the putterhead
's ability to drive through the ball at impact.”
Along with the Teron and Hawk putters we previewed in
Issue 87, Odyssey paraded their latest 2-Ball, the F7, in a
similarly progressive MOI design; while Scotty Cameron's
modern Kombi mallet is the latest addition to his now legendary
Studio Select series.
Shaft technology continues to react to developments in
clubheads – and now even grooves. Steel specialists
Nippon's latest offering is a “flagseeking” line of NS ProWV
wedge shafts. Not only slightly heavier thanmost of their
trademark lightweight steels for better control, but their bend
profile is configured for amore vertical ball descent tomake
up for the reduction in groove spin from2010.
A similar 'Angle of descent' theme is taken up by
Graphite Design with their YSQ-ST and Aura driver shafts,
which are specifically designed to promote the ideal trajectory
profile. “The aim is to deliver the angle from the peak
that gives you the best combination of carry and roll to
maximise distance,” explained shaft expert, Erik Boysen.
“The optimum is between 35 and 44 degrees according to
your swingspeed, with the average tour pro needing 38
degrees based on the fairway roll profile of a typical US
tour course.” Expect UK custom fitters to take their shaft fitting
procedures to new levels in 2009, accordingly.
Another genuine development in components is the latest
generation of Tour Velvet grips from Golf Pride which
use Brushed Cord Technology to transform the feel of traditional
cord grips. The compound itself is similar to the
existing Tour Velvet but the cotton twill fibre strands that
comprise the cord are now much finer, longer and more
tightly weaved to allow them to be spaced further away
from each other around the surface of the club.
From our initial tests at the Demo Day, the BCT delivered
a far softer, tackier and more comfortable feel, without
the harshness of earlier models yet with the same essential
low torsion/low twist properties. Expect to pay double the
price for the privilege.
Elsewhere, four lines of footwear made a big impression for
different reasons. The FootJoy SYNR*G for its full gamut hightech
stability features (see Issue 87); the Puma Swing Crown
GTX for their tasty uppers and Smart Quill sole technology that
use such a radical alternative to conventional synthetic spikes.
Meanwhile, the Nike Air Zoom TW 2009 updates Tiger's
favourite footwear with a Teflon-treated 'ballistic mesh panel'
highly resistant to dirt and stains. That just leaves Callaway's latest
line of Tour Authentic shoes – the Tour Prestige M518 – as
our winner in the style stakes. The deliciously designed calfskin
leather has a classic look, courtesy of a low-heel and elongated
toe, that belies the elaborate moisture-wicking linings and breathable
There was the usual turnout of cutting-edge gadgets and
accessories, led by a slew of hand-held GPS systems as some
dozen brands jostled for position. There was a particular buzz at
the GolfBuddy booth for their hand-held unit which comes preprogrammed
with thousands of courses, making it usable
'straight from the box' with no subscription fees. Already a phenomenal
success in the USA, work is underway to map some
5,000 courses across Europe by the end of the year.
Callaway, significantly, has also entered the market, buying
specialist GPS company uPro who have developed the most stunning screen visuals – as shown by the demo unit we watched
featuring actual aerials and spectacular flyover sequences of
Look out for this when Callaway brings the uPro to the
European market, probably in 2010.
The latest golf bags are also worth checking out, not least the
topical Wilson Eco, an environmentally-friendly carry bag made
from recyclable fabrics.
As ever, Sun Mountain also had something special to show off
in the form of the Four 5 stand bag, named after its super lightweight
of just 4.5lbs which includes the 14-way,
individual-club-dividers normally associated
only with cart/trolley bags.
And, as always, the show enjoyed a sprinkling
of celebrities, including Annika Sorenstam
who, despite her retirement, drew the biggest
crowd on the main stage; while Lorena Ochoa
and Morgan Pressel weren't exactly short of
autograph hunters, either.
Nor was Ian Poulter, who made the short journey
from his Orlando winter home to launch his 2009 lines
in a clothing collection that is rapidly emerging as a
major force in the apparel market. The Ryder Cup star
also treated us to a sneak preview of the outfit which he
intends to parade at Turnberry on the first day of the
Open. Other than to say it is suitably patriotic, I won't
spoil it for you…
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International.