Dale Hayes represented Compleat Golfer at the 2018 PGA Merchandise Show. In the March issue of Compleat Golfer, he shares the experience …
It has been 40 years since I first visited the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. I never get tired of seeing the new clubs, balls, shoes and other items companies try to sell to golfers.
The biggest change I’ve seen over the years is the technology. Much of it, such as tee-time bookings, back-office systems and many versions of golf simulators, is aimed at golf clubs. For most of the 40 000 visitors, though, it is the clubs and balls they come to see. Is there anything that can make golfers hit the golf ball further and straighter?
With wedges we want maximum spin, yet we would do anything to get 10 more yards with a driver. I’ve never understood why we are prepared to pay so much more for a driver, which we use 14 times in a round, than we are for a putter, which we will use more than double that number.
The new F8 driver has a milled face and has the most precise hitting area. The face is thinner than the F7, which allows it to flex and adds distance. Add to that the fact the maximum amount of weight has been moved to the edges and back of the head.
The Arccos technology that was put in its driver last year has been added to the whole set, including the woods and irons, and allows you to track your shots and analyse your rounds. The data will provide you with strokes gained in each area of your game and it will give you a handicap for driving, approach shots to the green, chipping, bunker shots and putting. Although technically this is too advanced for me, I’m sure many golfers will love all the information it provides.
Callway’s Epic range of drivers was huge with the new Jailbreak technology. This technology has two metal bars on each side of the face (hitting area) to add stability. Add to that the Trixial Carbon Crown found in the new Rogue clubs, which saves weight that can be used elsewhere on the head. Callaway worked with Boeing to create an industry-leading aerodynamic head that is long and accurate. There are three Rogue driver heads to choose from. Callaway spends far more money on R & D than any other company and it shows with its latest range of golf clubs.
TAYLORMADE M3 AND M4
This was the most talked-about launch at the show. Especially with the success Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are having with these drivers. Its new Twist Face design helps to correct off-centre hits. All woods have bulge and roll on the face, so this new design really works and corrects the spin and loft when the ball is hit on the toe or heel. The M3 is adjustable and replaces the M1, while the M4 replaces the M2 and is slightly less expensive.
There are a few models to suit every golfer. John Solheim told us at the show that this is the most forgiving driver Ping has designed. The G400 Tec is ideal for the golfer who slices his tee shots. The company has also enhanced the sound of the Ping G400 driver so it sounds good and hits far and straight. Ping has the highest standard of quality control.
This is aimed at the better golfer and has a classic look. The adjustable weighting system allows you to change not only the trajectory of your shots but also the shape and spin rate. Titleist believes you should be fitted to get the club set to suit your swing. This is a classically good-looking driver and I would recommend it for a single-figure handicap.
Ernie Els has signed a five-year endorsement deal to be the global ambassador for XXIO golf clubs.
Why does this make sense? These clubs are made for the older golfer and Ernie will join the Senior Tour in less than two years. It’s a match made in heaven!
TITLEIST AP3 718 Irons
This has a great-looking, compact head; yet the toe-heel weighting will suit a wide range of golfers. Titleist has taken all the best parts of the AP1 and AP2 to create this terrific golf club. The hollow-blade design gives maximum forgiveness as well as the optimum trajectory on your shots to the green. I really liked the look of this iron.
This is the very latest Ping iron, which has a hollow-body design and a thin, maraging face. This combination makes it Ping’s
longest and most accurate iron. The head looks long and powerful and the sole has a little bounce to make it travel through the turf to impact. It has the usual Ping offset, which will help most golfers square up the clubface. I was not as impressed with the look of the club as I was with the G400, but it does perform exceptionally well.
Mizuno has updated the feel and look of this classic. Very little has changed over the years. The company is so precise, it even uses a process that compresses the grain structure of the carbon steel in the face of the iron. With a set of these in your bag everyone will know you are a real golfer. If they are good enough for Nick Faldo … sorry, Sir Nick Faldo, they are good enough for any really good golfer.
TAYLORMADE M3 AND M4 IRONS
The new RIBCOR technology with the face slots and speed pocket make these irons very exciting. The M3 has a slightly smaller head than the M4, which makes it ideal for all levels of golfers. The slots and pockets add to ball speed and provide forgiveness.
They are the perfect mates for the drivers. I like the RIBCOR technology,as it definitely improves the accuracy of both these models.
CALLAWAY ROGUE X IRONS
The cup-face design gives high launch and maximum distance on a superb-looking golf club. Callaway has used urethane to dampen the vibration caused by having such a thin clubface and this has also improved the feel and sound. The material it has used does
not reduce the COR or affect the ball speed. These clubs are very long and feel great when you strike the ball.
BEST NEW IDEAS
Last year I said Cobra was leading the technology race by putting Arccos into its drivers. Cobra has taken that even further and Arccos is now a part of the complete set of F8 woods and irons. The great news is, it’s included in the price of the clubs.
A precision instrument from the guru of wedges – Bob Vokey. Beautifully finished with a variety of lofts and bounces and in three finishes – Tour Chrome, Brushed Steel and Jet Black. The grooves are spin milled for the sharpest groove. The Rolls-Royce of wedges with loft and bounce to suit every golfer and golf course.
At last a wedge designed for the club golfer that will match their set. Don’t be surprised if you see these wedges in the bags of pros – they are that good! The soles have more bounce, which will help you get the ball out of the bunker.
A totally new design, where the weight moves up the head as loft increases. As with Mizuno irons, you simply do not get better. There is a good variety of lofts to cater for shots to and around the green.
PING GLIDE 2.0
Ping has made this softer than previous models. There is also an extra half-groove on the higher-lofted wedges, which increases spin. I like a chunkier head, especially out of bunkers. It gives me confidence. This is an easy club to use.
BIGGEST AND BEST
Callaway is truly flying. Its Epic and Rogue ranges of woods and irons are a hit. Its two putter ranges – Odyssey and Toulon – are producing some of the best putters. Callaway recently bought Ogio Golf Bags and has a fabulous range of clothing and shoes.
A large aluminum mallet head with an elastomer insert. The face also features True Roll, which means that wherever you hit the ball on the face, the ball will go the same distance. Really good alignment and the bend in the shaft makes it sit beautifully behind the ball. I’ve always used a Ping putter. For my money they have the lofts just right.
A stainless-steel face with a microhinge insert which improves topspin. The new red colour looks good and the strike sounds just right. The shaft goes into the head at the heel and it is easy to line up. All credit to Odyssey: these putters look fabulous and putt even better.
There are various new models of this popular putter which offer toe hang and face-balanced heads. The TaylorMade Spider has a softer polymer face and the strike sound is very quiet, which may suit better golfers. This putter is used by too many of the best golfers in the world not to be an excellent club.
This is a new company started by Guerin Rife. These putters are hot sellers in the US and feature face milling. The grooves on the face allow the ball to run true and a consistent distance. They have a variety of head styles, from mallets to blades. Their mallets swing beautifully. I can’t wait to try one on a real green.
The face has deep crosshatch grooves, which look and sound great. There is a lovely range of heads, with my favourite being the version of the old-style Ping Anser head. I could be convinced to swap my old Ping for one of these.
The 2018 Select Newport is a step up, even from this amazing putter manufacturer. He uses a new dampening material and has redesigned the sole to better the look and the alignment at address. Expensive, but great.
Three stood out for me this year. For value it was Skechers. It is a massive company in the US and makes light, comfortable shoes at a very reasonable price.
FootJoy launched its 1857 range, which goes back to when shoes were handmade. These are for the connoisseur. They are heavier, due to the leather sole, but they will likely last longer than you do and still look beautiful.
Puma has a shoe where each spike moves separately to get maximum traction. That’s great, but what makes its shoes so good is they are a wide fit, super light and look really sharp.
BEST SET OF CLUBS
This goes to the relaunch of Cleveland Golf and its new Launcher woods and irons. The woods look fabulous and are loaded with the latest technology from its mother brand, Srixon. There are two sets of irons to choose from. The HB, which look like mini-hybrids, and the CBX are perfect for the middle-handicap to better golfer.
The Titleist Pro V1 is still the biggest-selling ball in golf, so I was a little surprised to see two new balls released by the company. The Tour Soft ha sthe largest core of any Titleist ball. It has a super soft feel but you still get great distance.
Titleist AVX is a ball that was released in only three states in America. This ball has a low-compression core with a urethane cover. When it is launched worldwide (there’s no date as yet) it will be availablein two colours – white and yellow.
Wilson Golf has been to every PGA Show since its inception. Its stand at the Demo Day was one of the busiest and that’s because the company is making great golf clubs again. The C 300 range is good-looking and offers many reasons a golfer should give them a try.
– This article first appeared in the March issue of Compleat Golfer, now on sale!