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Talking with Golf Pride’s president about the new grip fitting studio at Pinehurst Resort

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The world’s leading manufacturer of golf grips is heading to Pinehurst. Golf Pride plans to open a new facility at America’s Home of Golf as early as 2019. The facility will serve as an incubator for new technology, house the company’s global management and professional teams, and most excitingly, feature a consumer grip fitting studio.

Golf Pride’s new facility will be located within the Pinehurst Resort, next to the Tom Fazio-designed Pinehurst No. 8 course. The company considered a variety of sites, but decided to leverage the location and partnership opportunity with Pinehurst Resort.

The grip fitting studio aims to replicate the service tour professionals get on the range and in the tour van on the PGA Tour. The appointment-only experience will offer personalized concierge-quality service, as well as the opportunity to test new products before they hit the market and offer feedback.

We spoke with James Ledford, president of Golf Pride, about the new facility.

GolfWRX: Where did the idea for the move to Pinehurst in general, and the fitting studio in particular, come from?

James Ledford: A lot of this comes out of what we’ve been doing since about 2012. We launched a lot of new products into the marketplace: CP2, MCC PLUS4, Tour SNSR.

We’ve been doing a lot more prototyping and golfer testing for the last four years to try to bring a lot more innovation to the marketplace. If there’s one thing I could point to, it’s that, and that’s why we’re moving to this new facility. A bunch of avid golfers from all around the world will be driving by this facility to play No. 8, so it’s a great opportunity to connect with them and share some of our latest product ideas, vet them [the ideas] and refine them.

As we started thinking about this new site, we want to take our brand to a different place and start offering experiences to golfers. That’s totally new territory for Golf Pride. We’ve been a product brand, and there isn’t necessarily a Golf Pride experience, so we’ve challenging ourselves to create that.

This area is a golf mecca. Beyond the nine courses at Pinehurst Resort, there’s like 30 golf courses within 10 to 15 minutes of our location. Notable designers. High-quality golf. And I don’t know if that’s top-of-mind to golfers like it could be, so we hope that golfers will take a fresh look at the region.

Grip selection is often something of an afterthought, isn’t it?

JL: The grip in our view is a very personal decision, but honestly a lot of golfers don’t know that much about grips. Even really avid golfers who have been playing a long time might know more about spin rate on drivers.

Guys get fit for everything now, and there’s a lot of great places to do that, but the reality is, after you’ve been fit for a whole set of clubs, you’re kind of exhausted. Our idea is a lot of the guys that make the effort to travel to Pinehurst, they’ve been fit, but they probably were not fit well for grips.

We’re not really doing it as a revenue generating type of thing, but we think we’re going to learn a lot. Grips still are not a heavily studied equipment choice. We see this as an investment in getting to understand golfers even better and coming up with even better ideas.

Is part of the goal here battling some perceptions about the golf grip?

JL: All the power and all the accuracy is translated through that one touchpoint with the golf club, and it matters. If you go from a standard taper to to a plus-four taper, you’re going to feel that impact. Grips matter, but a lot times people don’t know how they matter.

A lot of people see their grip as a sort of handle. We’re trying to transition from “handle” to “equipment choice.” And it may be as important as some of the other equipment choices you’re making, but people haven’t learned structured ways to make that choice. We want to develop the easiest, fastest way to make good decisions about the best grip for each golfer.

What will the studio fitting experience look like?

JL: We’re treating the development of this fitting experience like the development of a new product. We do it in a number of settings, but it isn’t a paid service we offer, so we’re going through concept development right now. We’re going to be testing different ways to walk golfers through, leveraging what we know works on tour and for our OEM partners. But we’re going to try and reinvent the process; we’re not just going to cobble something together and put it out there.

So it’s not going to be “just show up and screw around with some grips?”

JL: That’s a great way to put what it’s not going to be. But I think we have to recognize that a lot of grip choice is that. I do a lot of secret shopping. I wander around golf shops and listen and meet with associates. I saw an avid golfer come in a store once and he was meeting with an associate, and the grip discussion didn’t get any more complicated than, “I like blue ones.” And I think sometimes that’s where the grip knowledge is, and we really want to fight against that. Blue is the last thing we should be talking about, we have to start with performance. We want to turn this into a structured problem-solving session, so that you come out with a grip that complements your game.

Grips are kind of like footwear. It’s not a perfect analogy, but when we look at the most inspiring footwear brands out there, there three elements. It starts with performance, but then there’s this intangible element of “what feels good on your feet might not feel good on my feet.” And with grips, all of hands are different, so there’s a lot of variables there. Then, the last element is style. We’re trying to introduce a bit of style. So, with the fitting, we have to work through those three elements.

I think we have to go into this with humility as well. To go really deep into the fitting process; to be willing to really spend some time with some guys so that we can get it right. We’re hoping that it makes us smarter when we only have five or 10 minutes at the end of a fitting with a manufacturer or Golftec or Hot Stix. So when you only have five minutes, we want to know how to walk through that. We want to make the best use of that time at the end of a fitting and do better with that time than we do today. I think that’s a secondary objective for us [with the fitting studio].

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Equipment

SPOTTED: Srixon “Z785” and “Z585” irons

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Photos have recently popped up in our GolfWRX Forums of Srixon “Z785” and “Z585” irons. It’s been nearly two years since the company released it’s previous Z565, Z765 and Z965 irons, so it’s possible (if not likely), based on nomenclature, these could be the replacements for that series.

The photos in our forums show Z785 short irons (5-PW) and Z785 long irons (4 and 3), but it does not appear that the Z785 irons shown in the photos are driving irons, so it’s likely these photos come from a mixed set.

We do not have any official tech or release information about new irons from Srixon at this time, so we’re left to speculate for the time being. What do you think about the photos of these Srixon “Z785” and “Z585” irons?

Check out the photos of each below, and click here for more photos and discussion.

Srixon “Z785” irons

 

Srixon “Z585” irons

Click here for more photos and discussion.

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Equipment

Michael Kim on why he switched to a Titleist TS2 driver, and the change he’s making for The Open

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Michael Kim set a tournament scoring record at the John Deere Classic last week, so, needless to say, the UC Berkeley alum was firing on all cylinders.

With respect to one of those cylinders, Kim, historically not a great driver of the golf ball, was 34th in Strokes Gained off the tee and tied for second in driving accuracy with a new Titleist TS2 driver in his bag last week. For reference, he’s 192nd in Strokes Gained off the tee and 183rd in driving accuracy for the season. In other words, while Kim’s incredible putting (+13.51 strokes gained: putting) helped, the Titleist TS2 driver he began experimenting with at the FedEx St. Jude Classic also played a role.

We caught up with Kim by phone from Carnoustie and asked him about the decision to put the new TS2 in play.

“When I hit it, I liked it right away. I noticed the biggest difference on mishits. On my old driver, the ball speed would drop a little bit on a toe or heel hit, but with the new one, you barely saw any [drop in ball speed]. And it was definitely going straighter off the mishits. Straighter and longer, honestly.”

“Generally, I don’t make a switch, especially with the driver mid-year, but I put it right in play. And I’m working on some new things with my swing…I kind of turned the corner at the Quicken Loans…obviously hit it great at the Deere.”

“I tried the TS3, but it was a little too low spin for me. So we kept the same shaft [Aldila Rogue Black 60X] and I think it’s the same setting.”

Kim also mentioned he’s putting a steel-shafted driving iron in play for The Open this week–on the recommendation of a guy who knows a thing or two about playing well at the British Open.

“Zach Johnson told me on the plane ride here that I should maybe try a driving iron. So…I got out here and I asked to try a couple of different driving irons…On Tuesday, I tried out a couple of different T-MBs…2-iron, 3-iron. The 2-iron was going way too far, so I tried the 3-iron on the golf course. The way the course is set up, it’s just so firm…It’ll be great if there’s some wind. Exactly what I’m looking for. I’ll put it in play and I’ll probably use it a decent amount throughout the week.”

We’ll see how it works out for him. Kim is competing in his first Open Championship. He tees off at 9:04 a.m. local time with Ryuko Tokimatsu and Chez Reavie.

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Equipment

Titleist introduces new premium Scotty Cameron Concept X Putters

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Scotty Cameron unveiled two experimental prototype Concept X putters today. Available in limited quantities, the Concept X models (CX-01 and CX-02) are a cross between the Newport 2 and a mallet with MOI-boosting “wings.”

The CX-01 features a popular-on-Tour “Nuckle Neck” with one shaft of offset. The CX-02 is designed with a new low slant “Joint Neck” that promotes additional tow flow.

“Concept X is for the player who wants the feel and performance of a Tour-proven blade style putter, but wants to benefit from the latest technology to achieve more forgiveness. What’s unique about these putters is that they’re fast looking and high-tech. But by making them wider, they’re more forgiving. You get a calm feeling like when you play a mallet. So, you get the best of a blade and the best of a mallet in one. It has a very elegant, high-end, industrial look. At address, after a few putts, the wings almost disappear and it’s like looking down at a blade,” Scotty Cameron said.

“I like to say that Concept X is the top level of performance in a putter. Our new four-way sole balancing is designed into these models. The new Nuckle and Joint Neck technology. The enhanced vibration dampening chambers for better sound and feel. It’s all in there. Concept X truly is a prototype that’s come to life.”

The putters also feature Dual-Zone Vibration Dampening Chambers within the face-sole construction. Each “chamber” is separated by a band of stainless steel, and the mid-milled aluminum face is connected by internal screws to compress the vibration dampening material for a soft, solid sound and feel.

The Concept X’s wing design shifts weight to both the perimeter and rear of the club to boost MOI and forgiveness. Customizable, removable heel and toe weights enhance stability while increasing the face’s sweet spot.

Weight-saving face inlays and 6061 aircraft grade aluminum sole plates allow Cameron to move (heavier) stainless steel around the perimeter to increase MOI. The sole profile of each model has been milled with Scotty’s four-way sole balancing design to help the putter easily sit more squarely at address.

A glare-reducing Stealth Gray finish is paired with a bright dip black anodized face inlay and sole plate components. Raw engravings add to the “prototype” feel of the putters. Each Concept X putter features customizable stainless steel heel-toe weights, a stepless steel shaft and a new gray Pistolero grip with black lettering.

Scotty Cameron Concept X putters will be available at select network of Titleist authorized golf shops in North America on Aug. 31 and worldwide Sept. 28, 2018. MAP $599.

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