There was a palpable rise in enthusiasm and energy at this year’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida, where thousands of PGA pros, officials and media packed as many visits as possible to hundreds of exhibitor booths showing off the latest in golf equipment, apparel, technology, services and travel. As Golf Tips editors plow through a mountain of information and photos from the show for its May-June 2018 Equipment Issue, we’ve compiled a sneak peek of sorts — 18 Great Golf Products for 2018. No doubt you’ll discover a slight trend toward techno-goodies and short game tools, especially putters. Call it the “rub of the research green” for now, but rest assured we’ll cover everything we can as the year rolls out.
Golfers are athletes, and a lot of them like to listen to music while practicing or playing a casual round. Wireless headphones are a godsend but traditional in-ear models cut out the outside world. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but if you’d rather stay connected to your playing partners or coach as your personal soundtrack plays out, AfterShokz are worth a look. The speakers in both the Titanium and Air models send sound through the cheekbones and into the inner ear, avoiding the ear canal altogether — allowing awareness and comfort-without compromising on premium sound. These open ear headphones are built with elite and aspiring athletes in mind, so you can use them at the gym, during a road run or on your bike, too. Golf Tips is testing a pair and we are impressed by the sound quality thanks to proprietary PremiumPitch+ technology, which delivers dynamic range and truly powerful bass.
Rocking a personal playlist on the golf course is a real “thing” these days, more accepted than ever, but dragging a regular Bluetooth speaker into the cart leads to more than a few issues. Keep it tucked away and you can’t hear it at all; put it out in the open and it becomes a nuisance to the more sensitive playing partners among us. The Ampcaddy, which emerged in 2014 as GolfBeatz out of Austin, Texas, eliminates those problems with its hyper-directional speakers, so you can attache it to the side of a powered cart or even a walking cart with the provided specially designed bracket, and enjoy those favorite Zeppelin or jazz riffs almost as if you were wearing headphones — without disturbing anyone else. The speaker is durable, sounds great (optimized for the outdoors) and has strong battery life.
BioMech Putting Sensor System
Any product that has the backing of Pebble Beach Director of Instruction Laird Small — as well as legendary putter builder and fitter David Edel — is automatically on our “Best Of” radar, and the BioMech sensor definitely makes the grade. The small, lightweight sensor, which attaches to the underside of putter shaft just below the grip, picks up every metric that matters to instructors and students yearning to perfect their strokes: Face angle going back, through and at impact, change in loft at impact, club path, rhythm and target line length. It’s all gathered in real time, with stats uploading to an app immediately for review by player and coach, whether they’re on the practice green or on the course. “We can actually see what their habits are on the golf course on a six foot breaking part or a 40 footer,” Small sais, “and you can actually see and track that stuff right away. So for the player and for the teacher is invaluable information because you’re going from a multi-site environment to a one-shot environment.”
Bomb-It Training Aid
We came across this nifty and intuitive “lo-fi” training aid from Momentus Sports at the PGA Show’s Demo Day at Orange County Golf Complex. Its tiny but heavy clubhead — either the 37cc “Pro” or 55cc “Am” model — basically strips away the rest of a regular driver, leaving only the sweet spot. Both have a 200 gram club head, 9.5 degrees of loft, a 70 gram graphite shaft, and a standard grip. The idea is simple but powerful: You’d better concentrate on a smooth, on-plane swing to hit the sweet spot and send a good shot in the direction you’re aiming, with surprising power. You’ll get feedback on the slightest off-center strike right away, and it ain’t pretty, but a spot-on strike is handsomely rewarded. Bomb-It Mini is available on Feb. 15 in right-hand only.
Now this is a cool take on GPS devices: Tiny in stature but plenty big in distance data. The Phantom comes preloaded with more than 36,000 courses and provides simple measurements to the front, center and back distances of the green – along with up to four hazard/layup distances per hole. The device also has what the company calls “Bite Technology” — a high powered magnet the Phantom can easily attach to a cart bar or any metal surface, providing quick and easy yardage readings. Additional features include auto course and auto hole recognition, shot distance calculator and long battery life (play up to two rounds before charging). Bushnell Golf’s latest Golf GPS innovation also integrates Bluetooth technology; coupled with the Bushnell Golf Mobile application, the Phantom no longer needs to use a computer for course updates. It comes in four colors — Black, Red, Electric Blue, Neon Yellow — and will be available at retail in late-February.
Callaway Golf is following up in its successful Epic driver/fairway woods line with Rogue, which features the company’s Jailbreak Technology to increase ball speed in both drivers and fairway woods. “We aligned these technologies (Jailbreak and X-Face VFT) to amplify what we call the ‘Jailbreak Effect,’ which is all about promoting faster ball speed on both center and off-center hits to help golfers get more average distance on nearly every drive,’’ said Dr. Alan Hocknell, senior vice president of R&D for Callaway Golf. Triaxial Carbon composite crown surface area in the Rogue driver and new high-MOI shape with larger address footprint combine to increase stability and forgiveness. In the Rogue fairway woods Hocknell said Jailbreak Technology and Face Cup work together for the first time to promote fast ball speed across a large part of the face for consistently long distance.
Cobra F8 Driver
One of Golf Tips’ Top 30 instructors, John Hughes, swears by Cobra when students ask him about a great game-improvement driver. Well, the new King F8, with its oversized shape, boasts maximum forgiveness. Meanwhile, the F8+ has a “Tour preferred” shape for maximum workability, leading Rickie Fowler to put it in his bag after just a few swings earlier in the 2017-18 season. Both build on the successes of their F6 and F7 predecessors by adding the company’s first CNC milled driver face paired with 360-degree Aero Technology. Add in the popular, visible carbon fiber crown, two weight settings and lofts from 9 to 12 degrees and you’v got what what Cobra is calling its “smartest, fastest, most precise” drivers ever.
Directed Force Putter
This center-shafted, uniquely shaped putter debuted a couple years ago with its original Reno model, but the revolutionary “lie angle balance” technology behind it still stands alone in the broad and competitive world of wands. While most club manufacturers concentrate on face balanced and counterbalanced putters, Directed Force’s approach to club balance purports to get rid of unwanted head rotation and torque once and for all by increasing the putter head’s ability to stay square through the ball during the putting stroke without any adjustments from your hands. The result — the body’s smaller and less reliable muscle groups relax, allowing a player’s stronger muscles to maintain control over swing speed and path. Lie-angle balancing creates a “pendulum-like” stroke with unmatched stability, ball direction and distance control. Putters ship fully assembled with a “PressGrip,” which features integrated forward press technology. The putter shaft travels through the grip’s elliptical shape off-axis by 3 degrees, not through the center of the grip as found on most putters. This unique shaft alignment creates the forward lean players are looking for to hit up through impact without increasing the loft of the putter. All are mechanically forged from 6061 aircraft aluminum and heat treated to eliminate any natural inconsistencies in the metal. Every Directed Force putter is custom fit for every golfer, from shaft length to lie angle. The proprietary formula and head design ensures a consistent center of gravity for every club regardless of a player’s unique specifications.
Controlling spin on a golf ball, especially putts, is a big issue for even the best players. Most putter strikes have some form of side spin and backspin that take the ball off the intended line. The material/pattern alliance built into the new Flux putter, called DARtech, creates overspin at a consistent launch angle in a uniform direction. DARtech offers the ability to control spin for more favorable repeatable outcomes. Then there’s Flux’s FloW8 twist resist technology — 10 grams of 303 stainless were yanked and replaced with 30 grams of Tungsten…all in the toe. The redistributed weight resists twisting at contact, especially off-center strikes, and reacts as though it has a much higher MOI. This promotes an unencumbered stroke release on a consistent path regardless of player’s arch or distance to the target. Finally, Flux’s counter balanced grip is refined to optimize the player’s swing path. The putter is available this spring in black or brushed stainless with a polymer or stainless steel face insert.
Game Golf Pro
While the original Game Golf tracking system is still available with its belt-attached sensor, the Game Golf Pro is a godsend for folks who just can’t seem to incorporate that belt-tap into their pre-shot routines. Instead it uses a stand-alone sensor that communicates via BlueTooth to new, smaller grip-mounted sensors dialed into each club in the bag via a smartphone app. Also, the new system filters out practice swings, second shots, third shots — any shot that isn’t the real one. In other words, you don’t have to go back and edit. And if you don’t want to use the app in real time but would rather save your stat analysis for after the round, the “home” sensor compiles all info for download later, which, a company rep says, “eliminates a pain point.” But there are advantages to using the app during play — it has a great, detailed rangefinder, it syncs with the Apple Watch, and the GPS data comes from the sensor so it’s not draining the phone battery. Those are the three big hardware improvements. You can also subscribe to a new smart caddie system for $4.99/month; it offers club recommendations, course strategy based on shot history, elevation numbers, weather reports and more. It all rolls out on April 15.
Golf Pride Align Grip
Coupling a popular grip from yesteryear with modern materials, Tour Velvet – the most played grip model on the PGA Tour – introduces “Align Technology,’’ which it first introduced in the flagship MCC and MCC Plus4 grip families last year. Align features a dedicated raised ridge that extends down the back of the grip consistent hand placement that allows a golfer increased clubface awareness throughout the swing and at impact. Align Technology also features a micro-diamond texture and firmer material compared to the surrounding grip area to amplify its pronounced feel. A flex channel separates the Align Technology ridge from the grip body to maximize elevation lift and lock the grip into the fingers, while conforming to the Rules of Golf.
Indi Golf StingRay Wedge
Rob Lang has worked in the golf club industry for years, gaining expertise especially in the wedge design game. So he decided to put his chops into his own “StingRay” wedges — one square-grooved and non-conforming to USGA rules, making it perfect for the casual player, and the conforming “TT” or Tournament model. Both offer increased spin, optimized launch and improved control thanks to grooves that run the entire length of the face, what Lang calls an “aggressive sand blast finish” and a “ScoopBack” design that optimized face thickness in every section across the head, so even off-center strikes produce wicked spin. There’s more thickness higher on the face, for instance — a spot many amateurs tend to hit the ball. The wedges’ weighting stabilizes the head at impact to fight twisting.
Building on the success of the original K-Vest and technology that dates back to 2002, K-Motion — which encompasses the K-Coach and K-Player systems — takes one of the game’s most complete four-dimensional motion capture protocols to new, more data-rich level. The vest itself is lighter and thinner than ever, with additional sleeves for the arms and legs so players and teachers can view set-up and swing from every possible angle, including from above, and turn every motion into a target number so the student knows what moves to ingrain, which to avoid, and how to put it all together into a seamless, repeatable whole. K-Player 2.0, the company’s training-specific product for players, ensures a player practices the right movements for the right amount of time, regardless of whether they are with their instructor or alone. A coach sends a custom-tailored training program designed in K-Coach to the student’s K-Player, the player then downloads the program and begins practicing exactly what the coach designed. The seamless connection between coach and player extends the lesson tee, making it feel like an instructor is at every practice session. It’s a biofeedback bonanza for today’s number-driven techno-geeks, though old-school feel players will benefit, too.
TaylorMade Spider Interactive Putter
We’ve been big BlastMotion fans since the grip-mounted putting rhythm sensing system made its first big splash last year, but this partnership with TaylorMade pushes it into and even bigger sphere of influence. The popular Spider mallet-headed model comes with a SuperStroke grip pre-fitted with the Blast Motion sensor, which in turn captures every stroke and sends it to the Blast app on iPhone or Android. Spider Interactive measures key putting stroke metrics including timing (backstroke time, forward stroke time, tempo), impact stroke speed and face rotation. Users will be able to easily analyze details of their putting stroke and track progress over time with performance history and interactive graphs, along with tiered training modules and drills to help improve putting. The app will also feature video recording and playback capabilities so users can review and analyze their strokes. YouTube golf instructional personalities Me & My Golf will have tips and tutorial videos on the app for further developmental content. The system is available March 23.
Tour Edge Exotics CBX Hybrids
Tour Edge is adding three new lofts to its popular Exotics CBX Hybrid line — 17° 19°, 22°, giving it six altogether. Six different loft options makes the Exotics CBX the most extensive hybrid line available with more lofts available than any other manufacturer that has hybrids in play on the professional tours. Several players on the PGA Champions Tour, in particular, are putting these clubs into play. This unprecedented range in hybrid lofts provides a loft for every possible distance scenario and also provides the golfer the ability to expertly choose the best gaps for shots off the tee and/or shots from the fairway or rough. Along with their first-ever titanium face, stainless steel body and carbon fiber sole configuration, the new CBX line includes the company’s TrueLoft System. Through extra quality control methods in the bending process of unfinished heads, plus a triple-check on loft and lie in the final stages of the club head making process, Tour Edge is committed to making sure that each club head fits the exact loft that is listed on the club head.
Based in Switzerland, TPT has carved out its own niche with a combination of materials and auto-winding processes that yield batches of shafts with the same frequency, controlling the finishing process to within one micron. It’s incredibly precise. “We can reduce torque, stiffen the tip, soften the tip,” says Jeff Meyer, technical director. “We have infinite design opportunities. We only use authorized fitters so we make sure that every golfer is fit with the right product. And the automation process that we’re currently putting into action makes sure we’re that much more dialed in.” TPT also employs a proprietary numbering system to denote its flexes — from 15 (heavier) to 19 (heavier), with lower and higher kick points corresponding to each number. This gives fitters the widest possible parameters to fitting every club to every player, right through the bag. Those with high clubhead speed often go with the lighter, higher kickpoint shaft, while slower swingers somehow find their way to the heavier shafts. David Leadbetter is a big fan and helps get the word out through his golf schools.
If you want to get the true measure of a man, look into his underwear … or at least what brand he’s sporting when he hits the first tee. Comfort, breathability and support will all be high on his list. The skivvies of 2Undr — a Canadian company whose name is not a variation on the Aussie phrase, but rather from the motocross community, whose common credo is keeping “two wheels under” you at all times — check off each of those boxes in a big way. Their three-inch trunk, six-inch boxer brief and nine-inch long leg inseam fits come in a half dozen styles depending on fabric mix, with the lenzing-modal fabric mix in Swingshift and the lenzing-modal-cotton Dayshift leading the way, followed by “Nightshift,” “Gearshift,” “Powershift” and “Longjohn” styles made from nylon, poly or bamboo cotton. All include what’s called the Joey Pouch, which lends extra support to a guy’s “most valuable assets” while eliminating the skin contact that leads to chafing, as well as the No Drip Tip that wicks away moisture and lets the air in. Special “flatlocked” stitching and a roll-resistant waistbands just jack up the comfort level. The 2Undr family comes in dozens of colors and patterns, some of them downright inspired and often of the double-entendre variety, and their collection of official NCAA team colors is growing by the day. As is our, uh, enthusiasm for this fun and functional foundational garment.
Zero Friction Cabretta Elite Universal Fit Gloves
When they hit the golf equipment scene with their original golf balls and accessories a few years back, Zero Friction managed to carve out their own nifty brand niche, and they’ve been expanding it ever since. Take their new collection of multicolored grips, for instance — it’s a breath of fun, fresh and form-fitting air in an otherwise somewhat stodgey segment of the golf gear market. The leather Cabretta line boasts six bright shades for men, five for women, and each glove is built to last as well as conform snugly to every hand that comes its way. “It’s going to expand and mold of the hand as you as you wear it; it’s not going to break down as easily,” says one Zero Friction rep. “The material on the back of glove allows it to breathe and not get crusty and hard, leading to longevity. And in golf shops, Instead of taking 20 minutes, judging the guy’s hand size, you just say, what color can we get? And off you go.”