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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

Tiger Woods opts for lead tape on his Newport 2 rather than a heavier putter: Here’s why it makes sense

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After days of speculation about which putter Tiger Woods might end up with an attempt to tame the greens at Royal Portrush, we now officially know he settled on his old faithful GSS Scotty Cameron but with a twist—some added lead tape.

The whole reason the speculation was in high gear early in the week was because of Tiger was spotted with a new custom Scotty that had the Studio Select weights in the sole to increase head weight to help with slow greens, something Tiger has talked about in the past—especially when it comes to the greens at The Open Championship.

We can even look back a few years ago when Tiger finally put a Nike putter in play, the original Method (those were nice putters) and talked about both the increased head weight and the grooves on the face to help get the ball rolling on slower greens.

The decision to stick with the old faithful with added lead tape goes beyond just a comfort level, even if the two putters look the same at address, it’s about feel and MOI around the axis.

Let me explain. Sure the putter heads weight the same, but depending on where the mass is located it will change the MOI. The putter with the Select weights vs. lead tape in the middle will have a higher MOI because there is more weight on the perimeter of the head—it’s like a blade vs. cavity back iron. Sure, two 7-irons can weigh the same but the performance will vary significantly.

For a player with such deft feel like Tiger Woods, any change like that can could cause doubt. Tweaking an already great putting stroke and on the eve of the last major of the year is not really something you want to do, which is why it isn’t surprising he stuck with his legendary Newport 2.

Lead tape in the middle allows Tiger to increase the head weight with very little change to the natural rate of rotation for hit putter and hopefully manage the slower Portrush greens better.

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Forum Thread of the Day: “Your optimal wedge set-up?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from ClevelandKyle who brings up the subject of wedge set-ups. In the thread, our members discuss what wedges they like to carry as well as answering ClevelandKyle’s question: “If you had to carry two wedges for the rest of your life, what would they be (degree, make, model) and why?”

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.

  • SEP1006: “PW / GW – 0311P PXG GEN 2, same as irons. 54/12 and 58/06 – Ping Glide Stealth 2.0: best wedges I’ve ever played by far, very versatile.”
  • cardoustie: “Like the OP, I keep going back to old school Vokey sm2’s .. 50/54/60. TVD m grinds. No wedge spins it as well or feels as good. I am ordering a Glide 3.0 eye 2 58 though.”
  • manoagolfer: “Vokey 48, 54, 58 and 62. Just added the 62 for the short stuff around the greens and steep faced bunkers.”
  • BCULAW: “RTX4 Raw 46 mid, 50 mid, 56 full, 60 low. After playing Vokeys almost exclusively for the last ten years or so, these Clevelands have been a real eye-opener. Spin is greatly increased, and the grind on the 60 is stellar. Highly recommended.”

Entire Thread: “Your optimal wedge set-up?”

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Forum Thread of the Day: “1 or 2-iron recommendations?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from Afor1991 who is on the hunt for a 1 or 2-iron after having no luck with hybrids. With a swing speed in the low 100s, Afor1991 is confident he has the speed and consistency to make a 1 or 2-iron work for him, and our members have been giving him their best suggestions in our forum.

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.

  • boggyman: “1st generation TM UDI 16* hard to beat with right shaft for a 1-iron, IF you could find one. Used mine in a set of OL Cobras for a while. Need to re-shaft it now though.”
  • Pepperturbo: “I have been effectively using T-MB 17* 2 iron since it was introduced. Now and again put my old Mizuno Pro 16* 1 iron in the bag to remind me those clubs require a good swing. Good luck with your choice.”
  • joelsim: “It depends on how much you value consistency over distance. And of course what your handicap is. I don’t have an official handicap but am regularly scoring in the 70s at my home club, at most 85 if I have a really bad day. And I tried a UDI #2 a couple of weeks ago and sold it a day later. Will stick to my G400 #4 Iron at power spec 19*. Gives me 195y carry consistently with run out according to ground hardness. So far it beats G and G400 Crossovers, Cobra King Utility and TM UDI #2 hands down.”
  • wam78: “Currently playing Mizuno mp h5 2 iron and I absolutely love it! Feels good, easy to hit high and low and can be found for a good price.”

Entire Thread: “1 or 2-iron recommendations?”

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