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Winners from the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show

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Another PGA Merchandise has come and gone, which means it’s time for us to tally our votes for our favorites from the yearly golf equipment extravaganza in Orlando. In past years, we would take this time to highlight the most impressive products we spotted during our four days at the Show. But this year is a little different because of our daily “Show Stoppers” wrap-ups, which highlighted our favorite products from each of the Show’s first three days.

We take great pride in spotlighting great products from smaller golf companies, but as you might have noticed in Show Stoppers, the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show was dominated by major equipment releases from golf’s largest equipment manufacturers.

We didn’t forget about them. Click here to view our dedicated subforum on the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show with photo galleries that highlight many of the event’s smaller companies.

Callaway, Ping, TaylorMade and Titleist made a big splash at this year’s Show, launching multiple new products in major categories that garnered most of this year’s buzz. They were clearly the winners of the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show. But instead of us selecting an overall winner, we’ve decided to breakdown the performances of each brand individually and allow our readers to decide on the winner in the poll below.

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The Winners

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Callaway brings the heavy artillery

It doesn’t hit a golf ball, but that didn’t keep the armored tank Callaway had flat-bedded onto the floor of the 2014 PGA Merchandise from being one of the Show’s biggest stories. The Tank was a well-placed prop given the company’s huge release of “Tank” and “Tank Cruiser” counter-balanced putters, which make up the largest counter-balanced line of any major putter manufacturer.

The original Tank putters ($199) launched in 2013, and are the company’s heaviest counter-balanced putters. They’re available in slightly modified versions of the company’s #1, #7 and 2-Ball putters. According to Austie Rollinson, Odyssey’s principal designer, the company sold more Tank putters in 2013 than it ever had belly and long putters in a single season, which prompted the release of the new “Versa Tank” putters and Tank Cruiser line.

The Tank Cruiser putters (available in #1, #7, 330M and V-Line models for $249) might more aptly be called “Tank Lites.” They’re designed in the same 35- or 38-inch lengths as the Tank putters, but with lighter putter heads, shafts and grips that will make them an easier transition for golfers using a standard-length putter. They also have adjustable weights in their putters heads and in the butt ends of their 15-inch SuperStroke 2.0 grips, which allows golfers to increase or decrease swing weight to their preference.

Click here to see photos of all of Odyssey’s new putters from the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show, including the new Metal-X Versa. 

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And did we really just go three paragraphs without mentioning Callaway’s biggest release, the Big Bertha and Big Bertha Alpha drivers? The Big Berthas were the most talked-about drivers of the Show, with just about everyone finding time to give the modern classic a whack at Demo Day. Also popular were Callaway’s new irons with another throwback name, the Apex and Apex Pro, the company X2 Hot fairway woods and hybrids and Odyssey’s Metal-X Milled putters.

Yep, that’s pretty much the whole line. When each of your company’s new products is one of the most talked-about clubs in its category, your company is in for a good year.

The fine-tuned Ping machine

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Unlike Callaway and TaylorMade, Ping sticks to a pretty predictable product launch cycle, which means that there are usually few surprises from the company at the PGA Merchandise Show. But Ping managed to surprise us this year with one of the coolest gadgets of the Show, its nFlight Motion system.

nFlight is a small piece of hardware, made by SkyPro, that attaches to the shaft of a golf club. It connects via BlueTooth to Ping’s nFlight app, which allows fitters to dial golfers into a Ping club head, shaft and loft recommendation in just three swings. Yes… just three. It’s a blessing for Ping golf shops without a launch monitor, and we were impressed with the recommendations the software gave us in our driver fitting. An added bonus is that nFlight works as an iPing when placed on a putter shaft thanks to its powerful accelerometers and gyroscope. Right now, nFlight is just for fitters, but if that changes, Ping players will be craving the inexpensive device for their own use.

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On the golf club side, Ping finally showed off its Rapture fairway wood, which has a 219-cubic-centimeter club head made of titanium to maximize the ball speed of the “driving fairway wood.” Many golfers still think of Ping as a game-improvement brand, but clubs such as the Rapture fairway wood, Rapture driving iron and S55 irons prove the company can make exciting products for even the most-demanding, high-level golfers.

Ping also launched the Karsten hybrid-iron set, which just might be the easiest-to-hit set of irons on the market today, as well as the Karsten TR putter line, which combines Ping’s classic putter shapes with 100 percent milled “True Roll” grooves that offer more consistent ball speeds on mis-hit putts. There’s also Ping’s new i25 drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons, which are lower-launching and lower-spinning than the G25 line. That adds up to one of the most well-rounded equipment lineups in the game.

See more photos of Ping’s clubs from Demo Day.

A better-looking TaylorMade eyes the future

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TaylorMade pushed the release of its 2014 line of SLDR and JetSpeed drivers, fairway woods and hybrids earlier than we expected in 2013, which set the company up for a boring showing at the PGA Merchandise Show. But in typical TaylorMade fashion, the company left something in its reservoir for the January ’14 event in the way of its Tour Preferred line and “Hack Golf” initiative.

Last year, TaylorMade was coming off its best year in history, and seemed satisfied to flaunt the improved technology in its R1, RBZ Stage 2 and RocketBladez lines at the PGA Merchandise Show. The clubs performed, but they didn’t come close to matching the beauty of this year’s line.

The Tour Preferred irons are the most stunning of the company’s new releases. They’re available in a one-piece forged MB model, which is aimed at purists, as well as two slotted models: the CB and MC. We love that TaylorMade scrapped the yellow theme from last year’s irons and returned to its classic red-and-black TP accents. We also love the new Tour Preferred wedges, which have a raw finish, micro-milled face texture and bring back the standard sole design that went missing in 2013 (a narrower ATV grind is also available in the 54-to-60 degree models).

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There’s two new Tour Preferred balls as well — the “Tour Preferred” and “Tour Preferred X” — which marks a return to the two-ball strategy that has worked so well for Titleist.

We could talk about the company’s SLDR and JetSpeed lineups, but we know that you already know about them, so we’ll skip to this. TaylorMade pledged $5 million to its new “Hack Golf” initiative, an attempt to crowdsource golf innovation and spur its growth. It also built a mini theater inside its mammoth PGA Merchandise Show booth called the “Innovation Lab” that highlighted two prototype (and non-conforming) clubs, the M.O.A.D (Mother of all Drivers) and M.O.A.I. (Mother of all Irons), which showed off the company’s engineering might.

We admire the company’s dedication to growing the game, but wonder if non-conforming equipment is really the way to do it. On the other hand, we’re all for the larger holes and simpler-to-follow rules that TaylorMade CEO Mark King is asking golf courses to experiment with to make the game easier, faster and more fun.

See more photos of TaylorMade’s clubs at Demo Day.

FootJoy wows, Vokey, Cameron and AP2’s get better

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Last but not least is Titleist, whose FootJoy brand might have had the most important launch of the show, its DNA shoe.

With DNA, the company managed to hit the sweet spot between a classic-looking golf shoe and a modern, athletic-inspired model. It’s smooth and sleek, and available in a variety of colors that will please traditionalists and golfers who like a bit more color. They sell for an understandable price of $190, and $220 with the company’s BOA lacing system (click here to read our full review of the shoe).

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One of Titleist’s most successful brands, Vokey wedges, also got an upgrade at the PGA Merchandise Show in the way of the new SM5 wedges. The new wedges are available in three finishes, including a new “Gold Nickel” finish, and offer more stock grinds than ever before.

Show-goers arrived early at Demo Day to sample the SM5’s seven percent larger grooves, which are deeper and narrower in 46-to-54-degree lofts to reduce the chance of flyers, and wider in the 56-to-60-degree lofts to add more greenside spin.The shape of the SM5 wedges also was tweaked, with the toe getting slightly rounder in the higher-lofted wedges so they look better when opened up. And their leading edges are also curvier in the higher lofts, which makes the wedges more versatile when played from opened or closed positions.

See all the new Vokey SM5 grinds and finishes.

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Giving the SM5’s a run for their money in terms of buzz was Scotty Cameron’s new Select putter line, which offers the first major upgrade since the putter maker went to removeable weights. The Select “Squareback” and “Fastback” putters each have an aluminum sole plate that pops through their flange to offer golfers a unique alignment system. It’s a functional change as well, as the aluminum sole plates (which were also added to Cameron’s GoLo 7, GoLo S5 and GoLo 3 putters) save approximately 30 grams of weight from the designs. The weight was added back to the putters in the form of thicker faces and cavities, which improve the feel of the putters.

See photos of Scotty Cameron’s full line of new putters.

And that’s just what’s brand new from Titleist. Its 714 AP2 irons launched this fall, but they were still an attraction at the Show. Another year has gone by, and still no brand has been able to match the buzz the new AP2 has created for itself. It’s easily one of golf’s best-performing and most beautiful irons.

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Like the list? Hate it? Let us know in the comments section, and don’t forget to vote in the poll at the top of the page. 

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Fred

    Jan 30, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    I’m very interested in PING’s new Rapture fairway wood. I’ve watched some videos, and read some interesting articles about it. Seems like it could be a real game changer.

  2. Alex

    Jan 29, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    I really enjoyed the Look of the Golo 5 that will be coming out. Looked to be the shape of the previous Del Mar head shape. Need to get my hands on one ASAP!

    Ping with the SkyPro was impressively accurate. Their little challenge thing was fun. One of the few booths that took the time and allowed us to participate for more then 5 seconds.

    The odyssey tank was really cool!

  3. gocanucksfan123

    Jan 27, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Anyone have any more info on the Taylormade Tour Preferred Wedges? Looks intriguing to me. Also, if someone could provide some info on the Bridgestone products at the show, that would be great. Thanks.

  4. Ben

    Jan 27, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    DAE think the new scotty putters are fugly? Talk about jumping the shark….

  5. Me

    Jan 27, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Pretty lame coverage by GolfWRX. I would’ve expected to see thousands of pics of every booth and every piece of merchandise. But I guess you guys aren’t allowed to disseminate too much up and coming info or ideas to us consumers yet. Still, very lame.

  6. dman

    Jan 27, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    aside from the TP line, taylormade makes the cheapest quality golf equipment. i’m sick of hearing about the new, plastic reinforced, fake metal, spray on cavity back they come out with every two months.

    • johnleg

      Jan 27, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      this statement is completely false in every aspect.

  7. Dan

    Jan 27, 2014 at 11:51 am

    What about Bridgestone Golf? They had some amazing new products!!!

  8. Sky

    Jan 27, 2014 at 10:34 am

    I voted ping because although they were maybe not as flashy as Callaway or TM, they had cool contests, gave away hats and gloves, and their reps were very helpful. Their new stuff is great too!

  9. t

    Jan 27, 2014 at 10:05 am

    The game is too difficult. The new equipment is not making the game easier. Courses are too long and only benefit players that can play a high soft shot….target golf. No more running the ball up. People who can’t get the ball up have no chance. Also, courses aren’t designed with speed in mind, they are designed with how many houses can we fit. If I didn’t invest my entire life into this game, I’d quit.

  10. Harry

    Jan 27, 2014 at 10:02 am

    I could not agree more with the comment of Danny! This is not a game for everyone.

  11. Danny

    Jan 27, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Taylormade can try all they want but Growing the game of golf only benefits the manufacturers and courses. I don’t understand why they always try to appeal to the general public to grow the game. To me it just means a higher demand for the finite amount of time we have. Growing the game means higher prices and longer rounds for me. Sorry if I don’t jump at that chance.

    • Concerned Citizen

      Jan 27, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      Danny,
      The point of this is if nothing changes golf may not be a viable option for ANYONE. The fact that 5 million golfers (25% of core golfers) quit the game in the past 10 years is a problem everyone in the industry acknowledges. With water issues in the future, the young generation not as interested as generations past, and whatever unforeseen troubles that could arise, something has to change. It’s in the best interest of everyone in the industry, be it golfers, golf pros, course operators, golfwrx, or manufacturers. The old selfish outlook of “I don’t want anyone on the course but me” is part of the challenge that’s faced. Maybe Hack Golf creates avenues for beginners to start somewhere other than where the seasoned golfers play, we’ll see what happens. But if you could suggest something constructive (instead of whining about a call to action) we might all benefit from it…

  12. Kyle

    Jan 27, 2014 at 12:28 am

    How about Adams? XTD line looks way better than anyone else’s and now they add another great looking hybrid and mid handicap iron set. Instead of the “second shot” I’ll take them for every shot!

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Equipment

Forum Thread of the Day: “Oldest club in the bag that you use regularly?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from 14max who asks WRXers what’s the oldest club in the bag that they regularly use. Our members list the clubs that have been playing the longest and their reasons why – with trust often playing a significant role behind their decision.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • el_rousso: “I’m still regularly playing an old (about 25+ years old) American Open 56* wedge, the grooves on it are likely too worn to be of any use but it’s still pretty much the club I trust the most around the greens, the rest of my bag is around 2005ish (irons) or 2011ish (woods and other wedges), but I recently pulled the trigger on a driver upgrade…”
  • SecondandGoal: “Odyssey White Steel Tri-Ball SRT. Made in 2007, got it for $25 on Craigslist about 4 years ago. I’ve changed every other club in the bag at least twice since then. Going to be hard-pressed to get this out of the bag.”
  • lefty1978: “I don’t always bag this club anymore. But I have a 17° Controller driving iron from around 1999. I like it because it hits low running bullets.”
  • James the Hogan Fan: “Putter- 65ish years old, Irons from 2003, Woods from 2008, Driver from 2014, Wedges from 2016, but, one from 2002. Quite the mix I’d say.”
  • ChipNRun: “A few years ago, it was a Ping Pal putter from circa 1973. I sent Ping a photo of the clubhead for verification: they said it was legit, they just couldn’t tell what batch it came from due to primitive data markings. Until about a year ago, I played Callaway X20 Tours (2008 origin); CPreO sold me a display set in 2011. Right now, the Tour Edge XRail 7W (2012) – and sometimes its brother 4W – hold the record.”

Entire Thread: “Oldest club in the bag that you use regularly?”

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2020 Odyssey Golf launches new Bird of Prey and Stroke Lab Ten putters

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Odyssey Golf is taking Stroke Lab technology and innovation further with the release of the all-new Stroke Lab 10 putters along with the introduction of the Bird of Prey putter for 2019 and 2020.

Odyssey Stroke Lab Ten Bird of prey putters golf 2020

2020 Odyssey Bird of Prey, Stroke Lab Ten putters: The details

To say Odyssey Stroke Lab putters, along with the revolutionary mass-shifting Stroke Lab shaft, have been a success both on tour and with regular golfers would be a huge understatement. On the professional side—since their introduction at the beginning of 2019 as a prototype product, Stroke Lab putters have become the number one putter on all tours and won more professional tournaments (65 to be exact) than any other brand on all tours combined.

Now, Odyssey’s General Manager Sean Toulon and his design team are looking to advance designs again with what many would call familiar shapes but with unconventional advantages.

Odyssey Stroke lab ten putter golf 2020

First off, we have the Stroke Lab Ten. And, yes, even Sean Toulon himself is willing to admit it shares similarities to a particular arachnid-style putter that he helped originally design at another OEM many years ago. But, as a modern equipment historian, I believe it’s important to point out that as much as the “arachnid” style has been popular for quite some time.

There was another putter that predates it (released in 2005), which offered an extremely high MOI design but without the catchy name: the Ping UG-LE. The UG-LE pushed mass way back and to the corners of the head to create (at the time) the highest MOI putter on the market.

But here’s the thing: Putters and material design have come a long way since the introduction of the UG-LE and the original arachnid designs, and Odyssey is here to prove golfers just how much better with the Stroke Lab Ten.

The Stroke Lab Ten’s frame is made from ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene…don’t worry, I had to look it up too). Here’s a further explanation

“It is an amorphous polymer comprised of three monomers, acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene. ABS is most commonly polymerize through the emulsification process or the expert art of combining multiple products that don’t typically combine into a single product. When the three monomers are combined, the acrylonitrile develops a polar attraction with the other two components, resulting in a tough and highly durable finished product. The different amounts of each monomer can be added to the process to further vary the finished product. The versatility of ABS plastic properties contributes largely to its popularity across several industry sectors.” (Thanks, Adreco plastics)

According to Sean Toulon, what the ABS material allows is maximum distribution of metal (heavy) mass parts to the back and extreme perimeter of the putter to blow past other putters’ MOI (Moment of Inertia: a measurement of forgiveness) but also in sound and feel.

“The sound and feel of this putter is special (thanks to the material advantage of ABS)”  Sean Toulon, Odyssey Putters General Manager

Beyond just the shape of the putter, the sole has been meticulously crafted to help the head aligned square when grounded towards the target in the playing position. Sean continues

“We got these putters to the point where ( with the alignment on top ) they have become point and shoot” 

There truly is a lot going on to make sure these putters do everything they can to help both regular golfers and touring professionals align properly and get the best possible result when putts are not hit absolutely perfect.

The Stroke Lab Advantage

Considering the MOI of these designs, you would think that the highest of high handicappers would be the target market, but in that assumption, you couldn’t be more incorrect. The designs of both the Stroke Lab Ten and the Bird of Prey were entirely driven by the tour and player desire to get every last bit of performance out of their putting games.

These putters will all come stock with the Stroke Lab shaft, which pulls mass from the shaft and redistributes it under the grip and into the head for even greater stabilization. Odyssey has proven that the shaft alone can help stroke consistency across the board, and the most notable stat is the 13 percent increase in face angle delivery at impact. This increases the make putt percentage, which when you think of a round of golf, equates to strokes saved.

If there is one more thing Odyssey knows about putters, it’s roll and inserts. With the new Stroke Lab Ten and Bird of Prey designs, the company is using an all-new Microhinge Star insert to increase the sound for better player feedback. Generally, inserts are used to decrease the sound, but in the case of the New Microhinge Star, engineers at Odyssey wanted to recreate more of the original sound and feel of the White Hot putter but with the added benefit of the Microhinge to increase forward roll.

Odyssey Stroke Lab Putter Insert roll Ten Bird of prey

This new Microhinge Star insert improves the correlation between the sound and expected distance a player will hit the ball—firmer means further. This is just another step in the design process put in place to help players of all abilities putt with greater consistency since without audible feedback, all players will have a more difficult time controlling distance.

The new Stroke Lab Ten and Bird of Prey putters will be available starting November 1. For more information check out OdysseyGolf.com

 

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2020 Cobra Golf T-Rail iron hybrid set

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Cobra Golf T-RAIL

New for 2020, the Cobra Golf T-Rail (Transitional Rail) super game improvement iron—the company’s first all hollow iron hybrid set.

Cobra T Rail irons fuse a hollow, hybrid shape with an iron face and topline, with the iron-hybrid design aiming to provide golfers with the perfect blend of distance, forgiveness, and accuracy.

According to the company, the hollow body construction creates a lower, deeper CG than traditional cavity-back iron designs. The lower, deeper CG aims to aid golfers in getting the ball in the air and on line easier than conventional cavity-back irons.

Speaking on the new T-Rail irons, Tom Olsavsky, VP of R&D, Cobra Golf, stated

“T-Rail irons make it easy for beginners and golfers who have lost some distance and control to gain the confidence needed to play better and have more fun. Players who need max forgiveness and are looking for more distance will be amazed at how far and straight they hit these, even being able to get them airborne from tough lies.”

The irons feature the brand’s Baffler Rails technology which seeks to provide players with more speed and stability out of every lie through its turf interaction.

The irons also contain a high-strength, forged steel face designed with E9 technology, which includes a thin pocket from heel to toe which is intended to offer maximum ball speed and forgiveness on off-center hits.

Cobra Golf T-RAIL

The new additions from Cobra arrive in a hollow, iron-hybrid construction in the 5-PW with a 4-hybrid to make a 7-piece set. The irons, which come in a black/blue colorway for men and black/lilac colorway for women, come equipped with Cobra Ultralite 50g graphite shafts (Stiff, Regular and Lite) and Cobra Lamkin REL midsize grips.

Both the Men’s and Women’s T-Rail sets will be available beginning November 1, 2019, and cost $899.

Cobra Golf T-RAIL

 

 

 

 

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