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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

Fujikura launches new Pro 2.0 and Pro 2.0 Tour Spec shafts

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Fujikura has announced the launch of the second generation of its Pro series shafts: the Pro 2.0.

The first iteration of the Pro shafts were designed with a soft handle section to aid in loading. The Pro 2.0 presents an even more effective loading zone, according to the company, which also says torsional stiffness is 14 percent greater in the 2.0.

“Like all of our shafts, the Pro 2.0 has been designed utilizing enso, a 3D motion-capture technology that no one else in the shaft industry has,” said Alex Dee, Vice President at Fujikura Composites America.

“This technology and advanced data analytics has allowed us to crack the code on how club performance and ball flight are affected by shaft characteristics and swing type. When we compared to the original Pro, we saw the 2.0 was significantly easier to swing, had tighter shot dispersion, and lower spin to deliver the club head with more power, control and distance. We were thrilled with the result.”

The Pro 2.0 is painted “Destroyer Grey” with a metallic blue design in line with the original Pro shaft. The Tour Spec model is painted “Tour Spec White.”

The shafts will be available in weight ranges from 57 to 87 grams (5, 6, 7, 8) and in flexes starting at R2 up to X. $225 MSRP; $250 for the Tour Spec model. Hybrid option available for $140.

Available at over 600 qualified Fujikura charter dealers beginning February 1. Full specs at Fujikura.com.

See what GolfWRX members are saying about the Pro 2.0 in the forums.

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Fred Couples signs with Bettinardi, will continue to use FCB putter

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Fred Couples has been using his namesake Bettinardi putter, the FCB (Fred Couples Blade), for the past four years. Now, he’s officially joining Bettinardi’s Tour staff.

Couples, who has won 15 times on the PGA Tour and 13 times on the PGA Tour Champions, will putt exclusively with the company’s flatsticks.

(Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

“I’m really looking forward to representing Bettinardi and its beautiful range of hand-made putters, as they always give me great confidence when I’m standing over putts,” said Fred. “Having won 5 times already with a Bettinardi putter, there’s nothing I’d rather be putting with.

Couples averaged 1.70 putts per hole when playing in 12 events with the Bettinardi wand last year.

“Having Fred Couples join our Tour staff is a massive endorsement for Bettinardi Golf,” said founder Robert Bettinardi. “We’re so proud and excited to welcome him to our growing Tour staff. I’m sure he will prove to be a great ambassador for our brand, as he attracts huge crowds and media attention wherever he plays.”

Here’s a look at Boom Boom’s FCB putter.

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Odyssey’s new EXO 2-Ball, Works Red and Black, and Toulon putters

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There’s one thing Odyssey has never struggled with: giving golfers options. Today, the company launched a trunk-full of new putters, including eight Works Red and Black putters, Toulon Atlanta and Portland models, and an Odyssey EXO 2-Ball putter that gives the classic 2-ball design a very new, and premium look.

Most of the new putters, actually, are mallets. More specifically, they are mallets that Odyssey says feel like blade putters; that’s because they’re made with toe hang (like a blade putter) rather than face-balanced designs of typical mallets. Toe hang frees up the face of a putter to open and close, a stroke-style that many golfers employ — amateurs and pros alike.

According to Austie Rollinson, chief designer of Odyssey, there’s been a trend of blade users on Tour switching into mallets because of this toe hang, and that will continue to happen. Odyssey says that of the PGA Tour wins last year, 29 winners used mallets — 14 of those were mallets with toe hang — while there were 20 blade winners. Also, of the top-50 in Strokes Gained: Putting, 31 players used mallets, 13 of which were toe-hang mallets, and 19 players used blades.

Therefore, many of the new putters from Odyssey are toe-hang mallets. Check out all of the new putters below, with info on design, pricing and release dates.

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the new putters here

Odyssey Works Red and Black putters

 

The new Works Red and Black putters — adding on to the line of putters released in 2017 — continue to use microhinge face inserts that are designed to “grab” the ball to impart more topspin on the golf ball to get it rolling faster. The new offerings launched today include a No. 1 Wide S, No. 1 Tank, No. 7 Tank, 2-Ball Fang, Marxman, Marxman S, Jailbird Mini and Jailbird Mini S.

They will sell for $199 with a standard Winn AVS midsize pistol grip, and $219 with a SuperStroke grip starting on February 23.

See more photos and join the discussion about the Works Red and Black putters here.

Odyssey EXO 2-Ball

The new EXO 2-Ball, made with Rose Gold PVD, is a premium version of the iconic 2-ball shape. It’s CNC-milled with a microhinge insert, has an aluminum crown with a steel sole plate and Tungsten in the rear portion of the head. The EXO 2-ball also has black circles instead of the familiar white color for which 2-balls are known.

According to Odyssey, it’s a “statement product,” and it will only sell 5,000 of these putters globally. They will sell for $499.99 starting on February 2.

Odyssey says: “Our new Odyssey EXO 2-Ball is a premium limited edition putter unlike any we’ve ever offered. It combines one of the game’s most innovative and iconic putter designs with top-notch materials and meticulous production to create something truly special.”

Toulon Atlanta and Portland

Odyssey’s premium putter brand continues dipping its toes in the mallet style with its new mid-mallet Atlanta and Portland models. They have gunmetal finishes and are 100-percent milled from soft, 303 stainless steel. They also have Toulon’s familiar diamond-milled faces for improved roll.

The Atlanta and Portland models will sell for $399.99 apiece and hit retail on February 2.

Discussion: See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the Toulon Atlanta putter here

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