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2014 Gear Trials: What are the best clubs in golf?

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“What clubs should I buy?” is such a loaded question, but it’s something all golfers find themselves asking at some point.

Ask 10 people their opinion on the best clubs in golf and you’ll get 10 different answers. And you can’t ask anyone who works for an equipment manufacturer. We’ve encountered very few OEM employees who won’t tell you that their company’s clubs will help you hit it “longer and straighter” than any other club on the market without hesitation.

So how can anyone actually figure out what clubs to play? It starts with an understanding that there are no “best” clubs, only the best clubs for you.

Our 2014 Gear Trials Best Clubs lists cut through opinions and marketing claims to help golfers choose the best drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons for their game. We rank the best clubs in three different categories — Distance-First, Forgiveness-First and Balanced-Performance — to help golfers gain a better understanding of what clubs will actually suit their needs.

Here’s a little bit more about how we break down our categories:

  • Distance-First: What clubs go the farthest? It’s a simple question that’s answered using launch, spin and ball speed. This category is skewed toward the needs of golfers with either really fast swings or those who create a lot a spin, because they are the golfers who tend to benefit the most from the low-spinning head designs that tend to create the most distance.
  • Forgiveness-First: It’s said that golf is a game of misses. The clubs in this category help minimize distance losses when golfers do miss the sweet spot. The formula here is more moment of inertia (MOI), which is what most golfers are talking about when they say forgiveness. A higher MOI helps your mishits fly more like your good shot, which means they’ll end up closer to your intended target.
  • Balanced Performance: Having top-level distance and forgiveness is the ultimate goal of club design, but it’s no easy task. This is our most stringent category that will fit the needs of the widest variety of golfers. Know that if you buy a club from this category, it is truly one of the best models in golf.

How could we possibly develop such a list? Read on.

Who votes?

In our past best clubs list, we relied on both the feedback of our equipment editors and an elite panel of custom fitters located across North America. For this year’s list, we decided we needed another component: mass player testing of every major manufacturer’s clubs performed by fitters at Miles of Golf in Ypsilanti, Mich. Those fitters spent eight days with 33 different testers of various ability levels evaluating each club from each category.

After that, we surveyed our five other top custom fitters located across North America: Carl’s GolflandModern GolfMorton Golf and two other custom fitters who chose to remain anonymous.

The scoring process

Unlike in years past, this year’s scores were entirely based on the performance of each club, removing the subjective categories of looks, sound and feel from the equation. What was left was the votes of our custom fitters (60 percent of the club’s score), the results of our mass player test (30 percent of the club’s score) and the votes of our staff members (10 percent of a club’s score).

The scores have been tallied and winners awarded. Below are the results, with the important areas of stress for each category.

2014 Gear Trials: Best Drivers

BestDrivers

2014 Gear Trials: Best Fairway Woods

fairwayredo

2014 Gear Trials: Best Hybrids

GTnewhybrid

2014 Gear Trials: Best Players Irons

ironfeatgt

2014 Gear Trials: Best Game-Improvement Irons 

gameimprvpic2-1

Click the links above or browse below to see the winners from each category. Read all about Gear Trial FAQ’s here.

See the 2015 Gear Trail Winners here

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GolfWRX is the world's largest and best online golf community. Expert editorial reviews, breaking golf tour and industry news, what to play, how to play and where to play. GolfWRX surrounds consumers throughout the buying, learning and enrichment process from original photographic and video content, to peer to peer advice and camaraderie, to technical how-tos, and more. As the largest online golf community we continue to protect the purity of our members opinions and the platform to voice them. We want to protect the interests of golfers by providing an unbiased platform to feel proud to contribute to for years to come. You can follow GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX and on Facebook.

Equipment

WRX Spotlight: Ricky Johnson Putters Wide Body Series No. 3

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Ricky Johnson is a man who loves the game of golf and has incredible skills working with metal. Johnson is a machinist and welder by trade and built his first putter in his machine shop for himself. He got requests from friends and soon a small hobby has now turned into a business. Johnson is proud to make all of his putters from the finest 303 stainless steel stock and machined right in the USA, Texas, to be exact. He takes pride in combining great materials, extreme precision, and attention to detail to make sure that every putter that leaves the shop is the best it can be for its new owner.

We got our hands on the Five-O-Six Wide Body No. 3 putter for our review. The Five-O-Six Wide Body No. 3 looks similar to a traditional Anser shape, but with a longer flange and double-stepped bumpers. When ordering your own Ricky Johnson putter you have a bunch of options, from finish to style of neck, as well as the standard loft, lie, and length you would expect. I went with the double bend neck so the putter would be face balanced, similar style to what I have been using for years.

Out of the box, you can tell that this is a quality putter with a great satin finish and minimal milling lines. Even without those milling marks, you can tell the putter is milled from the sharp, crisp lines and perfectly beveled edges. The face contains their “RJ” logo, a built-in Texas symbol, and their own GameFace technology milling. GameFace uses a combination of loft and geometry to help get the ball rolling immediately without the skidding and hopping of traditional putters. Keeping the alignment simple is what I like and Johnson nailed it with a single, thick site line on the elongated flange.

If you desire something different for alignment, or nothing at all, Johnson can customize a putter with pretty much anything you’re eye desires. The shape of the Wide Body No. 3 is very square with sharper corners and bumpers but for you who like a little softer shape, the Wide Body No. 2 is available as well. This putter came with the Pure Big Dog oversized putter grip and for me, it is a little too round and soft. Not a big issue at all since Johnson offers many other grip options when you order.

On the course, the Five-O-Six Wide Body No. 3 really performs well. I didn’t think much of the GameFace technology, but it performed as described and got the ball rolling smoothly right away. Even on these rougher fall greens, the GameFace created a smooth, consistent roll that was easy to dial in. Sometimes these technologies that help roll can make distance control a little more of a guessing game, but not with the Wide Body. Putts were very consistent and you never had one come off the face hot and roll past the hole more than expected. Alignment for me was point and shoot simple with the longer site line and the thicker top line. The combination of those two made it easy to line up the ball on my intended line, giving me more confidence that I could make the putt I was looking at.

The Five-O-Six Wide Body No. 3 is a really well-balanced putter, even for being on the slightly heavier side. Johnson’s putters are between 350 and 360 grams depending on options but it never felt too heavy, like you were having to control the putter during the stroke. Simply pull the putter back and let the well-balanced head do the work on its way through the ball. The feel on this putter is Goldilocks porridge perfect, not to firm and not too soft. Impact will give your ears a slight audible click while your hands feel the solid impact and the ball leave the face. This 303 stainless putter gives great responsiveness on all your putts, hit on center or not. Heel contact is actually pretty soft, just slightly more harsh than center, but the rollout and accuracy is close to spot on. Toe contact will give you a little more harsh vibration, letting you know you missed, and coming up just a bit short of your intended target.

Overall, the Ricky Johnson Putters Wide Body Series No. 3 is a great putter from a brand you probably haven’t heard of yet. I think they are really high-quality flatsticks, with lots of custom options, that you can tailor to fit your needs and wants. Make sure to check them out at rickyjohnsonputters.com.

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Equipment

WRX Spotlight: Shapland Sunday bag

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Product: Shapland Sunday bag

Pitch:Shapland Sports Co. is passionate about design, quality, and doing things right. We believe that quality design is built to last.  Whether it is a beautiful building, a classic car, a family heirloom, or a well-made sports bag, these things become more important to us as time goes on.  We have engineered all of our products so you can take pride in them for years to come. While our products gain inspiration from the great designs of the past, we will only make something if we believe we can improve upon it. Whether by using the best materials available or tailoring it to the modern age, our lightweight and water resistant products made from 14-oz canvas, top-grain leather accents and antique brass hardware will become a reliable addition to your life. When you buy a Shapland product, you know that you are not just getting the best made product money can buy, but the best designed product of its kind.”

Our Take on Shapland’s Sunday bag

Shapland’s Sunday bag is built for comfort and for those walkers out there on the course; it’s a detail which is impossible to overlook. One of the best features of this bag delivers that comfort through the two shoulder straps which are billed as “cushion-like” – a description which is a very accurate assessment. An added benefit of these straps is also the fact that these cushion straps are removable, which gives players options depending on the way they like to carry their bag on the course.

The bag’s lightness is a wonderful relief. Weighing in at just 3.5lbs, the Sunday bag is an excellent walker’s bag and combined with the cushion straps, really provides the low maintenance and practicality which walkers seek on the course.

The bag contains a 4-way cushioned divider which, like the entire bag, is very pleasing on the eye and the bag also boasts an impressive full-length spine rod, and the overall balance of the bag is on point. While lightweight is the priority of a bag such as this, the company have gone to extra lengths to deliver quality, and the premium leather trim enhances the style of the bag, while the actual feel of the bag is luxurious and of excellent quality.

The UV resistant and water-resistant canvas fabric provides you with ultimate protection against the elements which you might not expect to find in a lightweight bag such as this, while the waterproof zippers are another delightful addition of a bag which mixes nostalgia with modernity. The classic colors provided also add to the style, with navy, black, gray, burgundy, and green color codes available.

Generous storage areas on such a lightweight bag is another excellent element provided by Shapland, while the waterproof head comes in the same color as the bag keeping in line with the classic look. Shapland also offers custom embroidery on the bottom of the bag—if personalization is your thing.

Nailing everything you’d want in a lightweight bag while also being easy on the eye, the Shapland Sunday bag retails at $275 and is available to purchase at ShaplandBags.com.

 

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Equipment

Cuater by TravisMathew introduces two new golf shoes: The Moneymaker and The Legend

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New performance brand Cuater by TravisMathew marks its launch today with the release of two new golf shoes – The Moneymaker and The Legend.

Focusing on versatile, comfortable footwear, Cuater’s “The Moneymaker” is a lightweight spikeless golf shoe featuring a waterproof construction. The shoe features a fabric upper which has been treated with 3M Defender to keep stains at bay and to provide maximum durability.

The Moneymaker

The Moneymaker contains an ultra-light, foam midsole, designed to provide comfort and rebound while the TPU spikeless bottom bids to offer golfers extra stability and traction.

Finishing off the new shoe from Cuater is a molded, dual-density Ortholite sockliner and microsuede top cloth.

“The Legend” shoe features Sweet Spot technology throughout the midsole for ultimate comfort on the course and contains a 100% waterproof construction.

The shoe is constructed of premium, full-grain leather, which includes perforations to provide players with a shoe offering excellent breathability.

The company have also launched “The Daily” (Wool/Mesh), which is geared towards your everyday needs. Featuring a moisture-dispersing wool upper, The Daily is available in multiple color options and contains a lightweight feel.

The Moneymaker ($159.95), The Legend ($249.95) and The Daily (from $109.95) are all available to purchase now at travismathew.com/cuater.

 

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