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Iron comparison: TaylorMade MC v. RocketBladez

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From the forums, By Caesar Palache

My shop was lucky enough to get the RocketBladez delivered quite early and they came in today around 2 p.m. First thing I did was cut the box open and take them down to the range for a quick demo.

A little background on myself: I’m a 2.8 handicap but that doesn’t mean I don’t shoot 80 every few weeks, and I’m 5’6″ with spikes on. I do not hit the ball far nor do I try to, but I hit it straight. That being said my 7 iron is a 165-yard max club, meaning I pull the 7 iron out on 155-165 yard shots.  I play Taylormade MC 4-PW irons with KBS C-Taper stiff shafts.

Today in Virginia it was a cool 50 degrees tops, and the wind was a slight breeze straight into my face. I expected to be hitting my 7 iron around 155 since it was cool, into the wind and I hadn’t swung the club in a week. I took out the range finder and found a spot on the range that was exactly 165 from one of the flags. Each MC 7 iron I hit was coming up around 5-10 yards short of the flag I was aiming for (155-160 yards). Then I pulled out the RocketBladez…

The first shot went up and kept going up, and continued to go up until it came down a good 5 paces beyond the 165 yard flag. The ball goes high. As I mentioned before I was hitting into the breeze so you assume the ball would balloon up into to, except this ball didn’t balloon.  It cut right through the wind as if nothing was there and then came down soft at about 170 yards. My thoughts were maybe I nutted it. I took another swing and what do you know, the ball went up and up and flew to the 165-yard flag with ease as if it were a calm, sunny 77-degree day. I hit about 10 balls with the RocketBladez 7 iron and nine of the 10 carried the 165-yard flag. Did I mention the ball went high?

Now, the stock shaft is lighter then what I am accustomed to and because of this I missed a few left of the flag and hung a few right when I was trying not to “snap” it left.  If I drew a line from the far left ball to the far right ball, 9 of the 10 balls would have been within 3 paces of the line.  I hit some thin, hit some flush, pulled some, pushed some, even nearly hozeled one (the heel shot went dead straight about 160 yards, still carrying past my MC 7 iron on this chilly day). Needless to say I was quite impressed.  I flew the RocketBladez iron on average 10-15 yards further then my MC 7 iron. It was a hard day to get a clear picture on how far these irons would go since it was cold and windy, but I have no doubt these added at least a club to a club and a half more distance.

Now for more of a detailed review. Click here for more discussion in the forums. 

Looks:

First things first, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the package up and pulled the 7 iron out. My first thoughts, this DOES NOT look like the RocketBallz irons from last year — these look darn good.  Pictures do not do these clubs justice because they look great.  This comes from a guy who plays the TM MC, a players club, but I could easily game the RocketBladez iron. I thought for sure I would have to go with the Tour version since it was more the players club, but these fit the eye more then you’d expect. The thin sole was a very nice surprise — think Taylormade CB meets Burner 2.0.  The RocketBladez have a thicker top line then a players club, but not as much offset as you would expect.  The 4 and 5 iron are obviously the most “Game Improvement” looking of the irons. Their heads seem much bigger then my MC heads, but the 6-8 irons seem only a touch larger and the 9, PW and AW looked like a players club.

Feel/Sound:

TaylorMade said these clubs would feel as good as a non-forged club could feel, and yes these clubs did feel fairly good.  This comes from a guy who thinks the MC irons are as good as it gets (without flushing a blade of course).  There is nothing quite like flushing a blade, or in my case flushing my MC iron. In my mind, it literally sounds like a muted flush and feels effortless when you strike it a MC iron solid. Well, no one is going to mistake you for hitting a blade or MC when you hit the Rocketbladez. It sounds like your hitting a cavity back iron. Now, I’m not sure if that is because I picked the ball, or hit the ball thin. But at certain times I really heard a POP when hitting these. Don’t get me wrong: it’s great feedback to hear POP as you strike the ball and see it go up and up (Did I mention how high these go?). But coming from a player’s club background, I like my muted flush a little bit better.

As for the feel of the POP, it was actually quite nice, knowing “yup I caught that one well” as you see the ball climb higher and higher and pierce the wind like it’s nothing. Think of what it feels like to flush a hybrid. Add a little bit of iron feel and you’ve got it.  As for the thin shots where they say the Speed Pocket is influenced even more, you can tell you hit it thin. It feels a bit harsher and doesn’t have the cavity POP I was talking about.  A thin shot with a Rocketbladez though, is much, much better then a thin with my MC irons. Overall you know you are hitting a “game improvement” club, but it feels quite nice.

Dispersion/Consistency:

As I said, this shaft was lighter and probably a bit weaker then I would like.  So I blame the left and right balls on the shaft, obviously, but I was overwhelmed with how easy it was to consistently hit the ball the same exact distance each time.  My near hozel shot traveled straight and 160 yards, I think we would all take a straight heel shot.  I “purposely” tried to hit some thin, and except for a touch harsher feel, the ball got up as high as my MC iron and went a touch shorter then a center face strike of the RocketBladez.  I cannot wait to try these with a shaft that I am more comfortable with.

Workability/forgiveness:

Now onto my favorite, can you work the ball? Obviously since I play the MC irons, I like to work the ball, preferably right to left.  But who doesn’t love a little forgiveness?

After getting comfortable with the RocketBladez I tried shaping some a little bit more then normal.  I started a 5 iron about 25 feet right of where I wanted it to land and released it hard from inside to see what it would do. Well, the ball went up and up and turned and turned right (well it actually turned left) into my target. Remember when I said these balls go high? Now, some of that movement can be attributed to the lighter shaft, but overall I was very surprised at how easy it was to move the ball around. It obviously wasn’t as easy as my MC iron but it wouldn’t be difficult to turn the ball into a tight pin if I needed too.

As for forgiveness, well, I didn’t slice one ball so it’s a high handicapper’s delight!  In all seriousness the ball went straight when I missed it, my near hozel went straight, my thin shots went straight, my toe shots went fairly straight.  They say the Speed Pocket helps with forgiveness and I believe it. The sweet spot is huge, it’s very very easy to hit it straight. (Take that with a grain of salt as I normally hit the ball straight and these where much easier to hit then my MC’s). As for hitting the ball, these were effortless to get up into the air. And they go high. For anyone who struggles launching the ball high, these are the club for you.

Overall I was very impressed with the Rocketbladez irons, considering I all but wrote them off and was expecting to only demo the Tour version.  I think it will be quite a bit harder to just go with the Tour version because they are the “players club.”  These Rocketbladez irons are a great club for a “player” if they can get over a few things first.

  • Address: The top line is thicker then you would want in your players irons in the 4-7 iron, and the offset is reasonable through the iron set, with the exception being the 4 and 5 iron might be bit to much for someone who likes a blade. I was fine with the offset and would easily game the 4 and 5 irons, even if I went with the Tour 6-PW.
  • Sound: for those who love the flush, these bladez don’t have it. Don’t get me wrong you can flush them, but they are a louder flush. They have the POP! but you can live without the muted flush sound. Trust me, you can get used to the POP! I found myself trying to get the loudest POP! I could after awhile.
  • Now as for the lofts, get over it! I do not know what the lofts are off the top of my head and never thought of the lofts until just now.  These clubs, even with their jacked lofts, will fly higher, land softer, and be more consistent then what you are playing now. So I could care less about the lofts. They flat out perform and I cannot imagine how high these would fly if they had traditional lofts.

My last word. Superintendants everywhere will be outraged with the destruction of their green complexes if these clubs are as popular as I believe they will be.  They fly high!  If you play on a course with soft greens, you better always keep a ball mark repair tool in your pocket or else.  If I could play Rocketbladez with KBS tour or C-Taper, I think I’d have a winner.  Actually give me a Rocketbladez with the stock shaft and I’ve got a winner.  Taylormade you got me, I will game these “Game Improvement” irons over my MC’s any day.

(Disclaimer: I am a Taylormade loyalist, so you may believe I only like these because I drink the Taylormade cool aide. Try them for yourself, you will be surprised. I did this test in about 20 minutes outside because I was freezing, this was a quick review but I hope it helped sorry for the pictures, I snapped them quick)

Click here for more discussion in the forums. 

RocketBladez 50* AW vs 52* ATV (last year’s model)

RocketBladez 7 iron vs MC 7 iron

RocketBladez 5 iron vs MC 5 iron

Click here for more discussion in the forums. 

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Cc15

    Jun 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    They will probably feel the same since taylormades forging is not soft at all.

  2. Michael

    Apr 17, 2013 at 1:18 am

    I am suspicious of any reviewer who thinks that the word “than” is spelt “then”.

  3. John V

    Feb 1, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    I wonder how the rocketbladez tour will compare to the MC irons I’m using now.

  4. Pingback: TaylorMade RocketBladez Irons Review | TheGolfingPost.com

  5. Ruddy

    Dec 26, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Just played my first round with new RocketBladez. The 4-7 irons go 10 or more yards further. A lot of height on 6-7 irons. Still getting used to them. The pop sound is loud and hard to tell if I hit it flush. I have more control and can work them both sides. I miss the feel of my AP1s, but love the results of the RBLDZ. I’ll keep at it.

  6. Bob

    Dec 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Tempedan

    Played my Hogan Apex PC’s since 1985. Went with the Bridgestone J38’s last summer (same lie/loft as my Hogan’s) great club…. of course I tried my friends Rocketblades as soon as he received them….to me they were very similar to the burner 2.0’s the clubs were longer and lofts stronger so they went about a club further than my current Bridgestone’s. I just prefer the forged clubs…

    YMMV

    Bob

  7. tempedan

    Dec 1, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    I am a weekend hack, handicap 5.1, sixty two years ancient, and I still play the Hogan Apex blades I got for Christmas in 1992.
    I think it’s time for a technology upgrade, and the RocketBladez Tour caught my attention.
    Is it a good choice for me, or should I go for the standard? My death-shot is a hook, and I hate offset, but maybe I should just get over it and go for the standard?

  8. Chuck

    Nov 26, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Lot of haters here. Gentlemen, the trajectory is what gets the attention. If it goes higher than the MC, what does the actual loft number have to do with it. New tech has brought on higher trajectory with less loft. The important thing is club length. If you can attack with one club shorter, you are going to be more consistantly sticking it close. As for hitting into the wind, shut it down and play it like you would any other club. No one club plays both ways. But this club cut through the wind like no other. Hit it lower and the head wind doesnt have a chance. Why compare to a blade? Because blades are hard to hit. You have to be a scratch player that hits it on the nuts everytime. A very small percent of players are in that category and playing a blade at 1 or higher handicap is not the best choice anymore.

  9. chris

    Nov 26, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Why does every review start out with…”it was cold and wet and I didn’t warm up”?….Give me a break…move to Florida, do some yoga and compare apples to apples.

  10. Dolph Lundgrenade

    Nov 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    For starters I agree with the others in two regards; 1. You cannot compare Game Improvement irons to Players irons (and, why would you?) and 2. The author must be aware of all specs on the clubs involved in the test/comparison.

    Furthermore, when reviewing clubs it is absolutely crucial for the tester to not be a “fan-boy” of one particular brand and, regardless of brands, should definitely know how long, what flex, kickpoint, loft/lie, offset and any other variable relevent to the test. Otherwise, what are you testing or comparing? Looks? This review was just one person agreeing with himself.

    • Trevor

      Nov 25, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      Agreed. It almost sounds as if he was convincing himself that he should replace his MC’s with these RocketBladez (or should I say rOcKETbLaDeZ?)

  11. tlmck

    Nov 25, 2012 at 4:48 am

    I think the TM marketing staff just offered the author a job.

    Once he replaces the stock shaft with the KBS, the up and up and up, goes away and and away and away.

  12. Ray M

    Nov 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Great comment Hula_Rock and xHellsing. You can’t compare a game improvement to a players iron. Of course you’re going to hit the ball farther with the GI. TM jacks there lofts up way too much. It’s ridiculous…terrible review.

  13. Stuey01

    Nov 22, 2012 at 8:28 am

    How far do you hit your mc 6 iron?
    Because that is what the RBZ is, despite what it says on the sole.

  14. fsubaseball21

    Nov 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    I am a proud TMAG Staff member. That being said i just got my new set of Adams cmb’s. enough said.

  15. xHellsing

    Nov 21, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Didn’t read the review. Why the heck would you compare these two models??? I mean really, its like they would compare AP1 vs. AP2 from Titleist. Useless reading imo, compare them to the old “TP CB’s” and/or Burner 2.0 and/or RBZ……

  16. Hula_Rock

    Nov 21, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Specs:
    MC 7-iron: 34 degrees
    RB 7-iron: 30 degrees

    enough said….. better be flying the RB further by 10 yards….

    • Pugster22

      Nov 24, 2012 at 6:50 pm

      Good catch…..thanks for taking the time to compare specs! 🙂

      • Shawn

        Mar 13, 2014 at 10:16 pm

        Exactly! I have been trying to tell everyone this. Ping is guilty too this 2014 season. I looked at their G25 irons and the same as Taylormade, 30 degree 7-irons and 40 degree 9-irons… of course you hit them 10 to 15 yards farther!! DUH!

  17. jgpl

    Nov 21, 2012 at 3:50 am

    Seems like shovels are the new “in-thing”

    Thank God for Titleist and Mizuno

    Spot on Clayton – bring these to a links course and see if you can hit them into the wind……….

  18. ClaytonPetree

    Nov 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    All this talk about high balls. Hit my PW SKY HIGH and about 155 yards. I’m a little bit worried about this club since I play a windy links course most of my rounds. Any tips Zak?

  19. sean_miller

    Nov 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    In some of the side-by-sides it’s hard to tell which shovel is which. Are the 5 and 7 irons that would be hard to aim (i.e. avoid a pull hook) the MC or the RB? It looks like they’re the MC which is opposite the RB versus ATV comparison.

    • sean_miller

      Nov 20, 2012 at 7:22 pm

      Edit: I type shovel as a reflex. They’re growing on me (like a wart?) and certainly don’t look any more shovelly than the latest Cleveland and Nike game improvers.

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Accessory Reviews

Review: The QOD Electric Caddy

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If you want an electric golf caddy that doesn’t require that you wear a sensor or carry a remote — one that will be reliable and allow you to focus on your game, and not your cart — then the Australian-manufactured QOD is worth checking out.

The QOD (an acronym for Quality of Design and a nod to its four wheels) is powered by a 14.4-volt lithium battery, good for 36 holes or more on a single charge. It has nine different speeds (with the fastest settings moving closer to jogging velocity) so the QOD can handle your ideal pace, whether that be a casual stroll or a more rapid clip around the course.

The QOD is also built to last. Its injection-molded, aircraft-grade aluminum frame has no welded joints. Steel bolts and locking teeth take care of the hinging points. The battery and frame are both guaranteed for three full years. If you need a new battery after the three-year window, the folks at QOD will replace it at cost.

Its front-wheel suspension gives the QOD a smooth ride down the fairway, and the trolley is easy to navigate with a gentle nudge here and there. The QOD is always in free-wheel mode, so it is smooth and easy to maneuver manually in tight spaces and around the green.

The caddy also features three timed interval modes for situations where you might wish to send it up ahead on its own: when helping a friend find a lost ball or when you will be exiting on the far side of the green after putting, for example. The clip below includes a look at the caddy in timed mode.

When folded, the QOD measures a mere 17-inches wide, 15-inches deep and 12-inches tall.

Another area where the QOD excels is in its small size and portability. When folded, it measures a mere 17-inches wide, 15-inches deep and 12-inches tall, making it the smallest electric caddy on the market.

Folks Down Under have been enjoying the QOD for some time, but it wasn’t until a few years ago when Malachi McGlone was looking for a way to continue walking the course without putting undue strain on an injured wrist that the QOD found U.S. fairways. After first becoming a satisfied customer, McGlone convinced CEO Collin Hiss, who developed the product and oversees its production in Australia, to allow him to distribute and service the QOD here in the states.

The QOD has no self-balancing gyroscope, bluetooth sensor or remote control. Bells and whistles just aren’t its thing — though it does have a USB port for cell phone charging that can come in handy. However, if you are looking for a no-fuss workhorse to move your bag down the fairway, the QOD should be on your radar.

The 2018 model has begun shipping and will be on sale at $1,299 for a limited time. It normally retails at $1,499.

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Accessory Reviews

Review: FlightScope Mevo

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In 100 Words

The Mevo is a useful practice tool for amateur golfers and represents a step forward from previous offerings on the market. It allows golfers to practice indoors or outdoors and provides club speed, ball speed, smash factor, launch angle, spin rate, carry distance and flight time.

It also has a video capture mode that will overlay swing videos with the swing data of a specific swing. It is limited in its capabilities and its accuracy, though, which golfers should expect at this price point. All in all, it’s well worth the $499 price tag if you understand what you’re getting.

The Full Review

The FlightScope Mevo is a launch monitor powered by 3D Doppler radar. With a retail price of $499, it is obviously aimed to reach the end consumer as opposed to PGA professionals and club fitters.

The Mevo device itself is tiny. Like, really tiny. It measures 3.5-inches wide, 2.8-inches tall and 1.2-inches deep. In terms of everyday products, it’s roughly the size of an Altoids tin. It’s very easy to find room for it in your golf bag, and the vast majority of people at the range you may be practicing at won’t even notice it’s there. Apart from the Mevo itself, in the box you get a quick start guide, a charging cable, a carrying pouch, and some metallic stickers… more on those later. It has a rechargeable internal battery that reaches a full charge in about two hours and lasts for about four hours when fully charged.

As far as software goes, the Mevo pairs with the Mevo Golf app on your iOS or Android device. The app is free to download and does not require any subscription fees (unless you want to store and view videos of your swing online as opposed to using the memory on your device). The app is very easy to use even for those who aren’t tech savvy. Make sure you’re using the most current version of the firmware for the best results, though (I did experience some glitches at first until I did so). The settings menu does have an option to manually force firmware writing, but updates should happen automatically when you start using the device.

Moving through the menus, beginning sessions, editing shots (good for adding notes on things like strike location or wind) are all very easy. Video mode did give me fits the first time I used it, though, as it was impossible to maintain my connection between my phone and the Mevo while having the phone in the right location to capture video properly. The only way I could achieve this was by setting the Mevo as far back from strike location as the device would allow. Just something to keep in mind if you find you’re having troubles with video mode.

Screenshot of video capture mode with the FlightScope Mevo

Using the Mevo

When setting up the Mevo, it needs to be placed between 4-7 feet behind the golf ball, level with the playing surface and pointed down the target line. The distance you place the Mevo behind the ball does need to be entered into the settings menu before starting your session. While we’re on that subject, before hitting balls, you do need to select between indoor, outdoor, and pitching (ball flight less than 20 yards) modes, input your altitude and select video or data mode depending on if you want to pair your data with videos of each swing or just see the data by itself. You can also edit the available clubs to be monitored, as you will have to tell the Mevo which club you’re using at any point in time to get the best results. Once you get that far, you’re pretty much off to the races.

Testing the Mevo

I tested the FlightScope Mevo with Brad Bachand at Man O’ War Golf Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Brad is a member of the PGA and has received numerous awards for golf instruction and club fitting. I wanted to put the Mevo against the best device FlightScope has to offer and, luckily, Brad does use his $15,000 FlightScope X3 daily. We had both the FlightScope Mevo and Brad’s FlightScope X3 set up simultaneously, so the numbers gathered from the two devices were generated from the exact same strikes. Brad also set up the two devices and did all of the ball striking just to maximize our chances for success.

The day of our outdoor session was roughly 22 degrees Fahrenheit. There was some wind on that day (mostly right to left), but it wasn’t a major factor. Our setup is pictured below.

Outdoor testing setup with FlightScope X3 (foreground) and Mevo

The results of our outdoor testing are shown below. The testing was conducted with range balls, and we did use the metallic stickers. The range balls used across all the testing were all consistently the same brand. Man O’ War buys all new range balls once a year and these had been used all throughout 2017.  The 2018 batch had not yet been purchased at the time that testing was conducted.

Raw outdoor data captured with range balls including metallic stickers. Mevo data (blue) and X3 data (orange) were both generated from the same exact shots.

You’ll notice some peculiar data in the sand wedge spin category. To be honest, I don’t fully know what contributed to the X3 measuring such low values. While the Mevo’s sand wedge spin numbers seem more believable, you could visibly see that the X3 was much more accurate on carry distance. Below is a quick summary of the percent differences between each of the parameters as presented by the Mevo and the X3 in our outdoor session when separated out for each club. As previously mentioned, though, take sand wedge spin with a grain of salt.

Table showing the percent difference of each parameter between Mevo and X3 grouped by club (outdoor testing).

The first thing we noticed was that the Mevo displays its numbers while the golf ball is still in midair, so it was clear that it wasn’t watching the golf ball the entire time like the X3. According to the Mevo website, carry distance, height and flight time are all calculated while club speed, ball speed, launch angle and spin rate are measured. As for the accuracy of the measured parameters, the Mevo’s strength is ball speed. The accuracy of the other measured ball parameters (launch angle and spin rate) is questionable depending on certain factors (quality of strike, moisture on the clubface and ball, quality of ball, etc). I would say it ranges between “good” or “very good” and “disappointing” with most strikes being categorized as “just okay.”

As for the calculated parameters of carry distance, height and time, those vary a decent amount. Obviously, when the measurements of the three inputs become less accurate, the three outputs will become less accurate as a result. Furthermore, according to FlightScope, the Mevo’s calculations are not accounting for things like temperature, humidity, and wind. The company has also stated, though, that future updates will likely adjust for these parameters by using location services through the app.

Now, let’s talk about those metallic stickers. According to the quick start guide, the Mevo needs a sticker on every golf ball you hit, and before you hit each ball, the ball needs to be placed such that the sticker is facing the target. It goes without saying that it doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to spend time putting those stickers on every ball, let alone balls that will never come back to you if you’re at a public driving range. Obviously, people are going to want to avoid using the stickers if they can, so do they really matter? Below is a table of data showing the percent difference between the Mevo’s data and the X3’s data of what we collected outdoors with a driver and range balls with and without the use of the stickers.

Table showing how the percent difference of each parameter changes between Mevo and X3 when you use the metallic stickers and when you don’t

The FlightScope website says that the metallic stickers “are needed in order for the Mevo to accurately measure ball spin.” We observed pretty much the same as shown in the table above. The website also states they are working on alternative solutions to stickers (possibly a metallic sharpie), which I think is wise.

Another thing we thought would be worth testing is the impact of different golf balls. Below is a table of data showing the percent difference between the Mevo’s data and the X3’s data of what we collected outdoors with a driver and range balls as compared to Pro V1’s. All of this data was collected using the metallic stickers.

Table showing how the percent difference of each parameter changes between Mevo and X3 when you switch from range balls to Pro V1’s

As shown above, the data gets much closer virtually across the board when you use better quality golf balls. Just something else to keep in mind when using the Mevo.

Indoor testing requires 8 feet of ball flight (impact zone to hitting net), which was no problem for us. Our setup is pictured below. All of the indoor testing was conducted with Titleist Pro V1 golf balls using the metallic stickers.

Indoor testing setup with FlightScope X3 (foreground) and Mevo

The results of our indoor session are shown below.

Raw indoor data captured with Pro V1’s including metallic stickers. Mevo data (blue) and X3 data (orange) were both generated from the same exact shots.

Below is a quick summary of the percent differences between each of the parameters as presented by the Mevo and the X3 in our indoor session when separated out for each club.

Table showing the percent difference of each parameter between Mevo and X3 grouped by club (indoor testing)

On the whole, the data got much closer together between the two devices in our indoor session. I would think a lot of that can be attributed to the use of quality golf balls and to removing outdoor factors like wind and temperature (tying into my previous comment above).

As far as overall observations between all sessions, the most striking thing was that the Mevo consistently gets more accurate when you hit really good, straight shots. When you hit bad shots, or if you hit a fade or a draw, it gets less and less accurate.

The last parameter to address is club speed, which came in around 5 percent different on average between the Mevo and X3 based on all of the shots recorded. The Mevo was most accurate with the driver at 2.1 percent different from the X3 over all strikes and it was the least accurate with sand wedge by far. Obviously, smash factor accuracy will follow club speed for the most part since ball speed is quite accurate. Over every shot we observed, the percent difference on ball speed was 1.2 percent on average between the Mevo and the X3. Again, the Mevo was least accurate with sand wedges. If I remove all sand wedge shots from the data, the average percent difference changes from 1.2 percent to 0.7 percent, which is very, very respectable.

When it comes to the different clubs used, the Mevo was by far most accurate with mid irons. I confirmed this with on-course testing on a relatively flat 170-yard par-3 as well. Carry distances in that case were within 1-2 yards on most shots (mostly related to quality of strike). With the driver, the Mevo was reasonably close, but I would also describe it as generous. It almost always missed by telling me that launch angle was higher, spin rate was lower and carry distance was farther than the X3. Generally speaking, the Mevo overestimated our driver carries by about 5 percent. Lastly, the Mevo really did not like sand wedges at all. Especially considering those shots were short enough that you could visibly see how far off the Mevo was with its carry distance. Being 10 yards off on a 90 yard shot was disappointing.

Conclusion

The Mevo is a really good product if you understand what you’re getting when you buy it. Although the data isn’t good enough for a PGA professional, it’s still a useful tool that gives amateurs reasonable feedback while practicing. It’s also a fair amount more accurate than similar products in its price range, and I think it could become even better with firmware updates as Flightscope improves upon its product.

This is a much welcomed and very promising step forward in consumer launch monitors, and the Mevo is definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for one.

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Ari’s Course Reviews: Riviera Country Club

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Riviera Country Club was designed by George Thomas and opened in 1927. Construction was done by Thomas’ right hand man, Billy Bell, whom he worked with on all of his great projects in California. Instantly regarded as a top test of golf, Riviera Country Club has hosted 3 major championships. When the pros tee it up this week at Riviera for the Genesis Open (formerly the Los Angeles Open), it will be the 55th time the course has played host to this now annual test of the best in the world.

Related: Our photos from this week at the 2018 Genesis Open

The clubhouse is one of the most amazing in golf; it sits up on top of a hill with the golf course (other than the first tee and 18th fairway/green) laid out in the lower canyon, continuously bisected by a set of barrancas that are integral to the strategy of the course. The first tee is right next to the pro shop and is one of the most unique and best in all of golf. Literally feet away from the pro shop and the starter shack, each player gets their name and home town announced as they prepare to tee off, an experience that gives the place an even more special feel. Sometimes it’s the little details that matter. The first tee shot drops 75 feet to the fairway, giving you the feel of standing on the edge of a cliff as you tee off on the first hole.

George Thomas was all about strategy and angles in his course design. It was a constant theme in the courses he designed, as well as the books he wrote. This can be seen in most of the holes at Riviera. The best angle into the green is almost always the angle off the tee with the most trouble. You can see this on holes 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 13, 17 and 18. If you challenge the fairway bunker, or barranca, or stay tight to the tree line, you get a much more open angle into the green. If you play out to the open side of the fairway, you have a much more difficult shot into the green.

The view of the first tee, and first fairway down below

There are only two or three par 5s on the course, depending on if you’re talking about member play or the PGA Tour. The first hole is just a shade over 500 yards and sometimes plays as a par 4 for the Tour. After the extremely memorable drop-shot tee shot, you descend into the valley that most of the course occupies. A barranca crosses the fairway at about 300 yards. The green is wide and wraps around a deep centering bunker.  There is a deep fairway bunker on the left side of the fairway past the barranca that does not really come into play for the Tour, but for the members if you can challenge this bunker you generally get a better angle into the green, unless the hole is cut on the far right side of the green. The 11th hole is tight between two stands of trees and crosses another barranca on the way to the green with a deep bunker guarding the right side. The 17th is a long, challenging, uphill par-5. The fairway is heavily bunkered on the left side. The right side is up tight to the tree line with only a single bunker back in the fairway. The green is large and double tiered. It is open on the left and guarded by and extremely deep bunker on the right. The best angle into the green is as close to the fairway bunkers on the left as possible.

Riviera has a great set of par 3s. The 4th hole was called the greatest par 3 in America by Ben Hogan, and it’s a long, Redan-style hole with a huge bunker short of the right-to-left sloping green. A shot out to the right with a draw can catch the contours on the right side and send the ball close to the hole just as easily as a high spinny shot right at the hole. The 6th is a true Thomas original and one of the most unique holes in the world. It’s a mid-to-long iron uphill to a large green with a bunker in the middle. The genius in this green is that it is contoured in such a way that you can get the ball close to the hole from just about any spot on the green to just about any hole location. The 14th is a mid-to-long iron to an elevated green that is wider than deep, and fronted by deep bunkers. The 16th is a gem of a shot hole, just 166 yards from the tournament tee to a very tiny, almost island of a green surrounded by sand. Besides being tiny, the green is fantastically contoured for its size and seems to fold up on itself. Hit the green and have a great chance to make birdie… miss into one of the deep green side bunkers and good luck making par!

The par 4s are nicely varied in length and challenge. Hole No. 2 is very difficult and plays uphill to a green banked into a hill that is long and skinny. Challenge the fairway bunker on the right for the better, open angle into the green.  Hole No. 3 plays slightly downhill to a fantastic fallaway green. Challenge the fairway bunker on the left for the better more open angle into the green. Hole No. 5 is a standout hole with a semi-blind tee shot that bends softly to the left around the edge of the property. Its unique feature is a large grass mound that extends out into the fairway short and right of the large back to front sloping green.  Hole No. 7 is a very tight driving hole; the fairway is tightened severely at about 275 yards by a huge, winding bunker that cuts in from the left side. The more you challenge this severe hazard, the better your angle into this very narrow green protected by a barranca and deep bunker on the right. The left is a bailout area cut as fairway, but the slope up to the green is steep and the up-and-down from there is not an easy one.

The 8th hole starts one of the most interesting 3-hole stretches in PGA Tour golf. It’s a split fairway par-4 with two distinct fairway sections that are bisected by a deep barranca. Depending on the hole location and ones preferred shot shape, and what fits the eye, the hole can be played any number of different ways. In general, the left fairway is a little more demanding to hit, but sets up better to most hole locations. The right fairway is a little more accessible, but leaves a more demanding shot into the green. This was one of George Thomas most famous holes and the right fairway was originally washed away in 1938. It was brought back in play around the recent turn of the century, and, while not an exact replica of what was there, provides the strategic design that Thomas intended when he designed the hole.

The 9th is one of the most difficult holes on the course and plays uphill to a deep, narrow green that falls hard from back-to-front. The tee shot is pinched by a pair of bunkers, but in true Thomas strategic fashion, they are staggered by about 55 yards so the player can plot their best line and try to execute on their strategy.

An aerial view of the 10th hole

The 10th is simply one of the best holes in golf. An absolute masterpiece of a short par 4… maybe the best short par 4 in golf. The player is presented with a multitude of options off the tee. The easiest shot off the tee again yields the toughest shot into the green. A mid-iron just short of the cross bunkers carries very little risk, however, the player is then left with an extremely difficult short-iron shot into this tiny sliver of a green from absolutely the worst angle. The safest way to play this hole is to take this route from the tee and then hit your second shot short left of the green. This will give you a chance to get up-and-down for par from the best place, but intentionally missing a green on a par 4 that is barely over 300 yards is not a choice most are willing to make. The next safest option off the tee is a long iron or fairway wood down the left side towards the far left fairway bunker. This leaves a shorter shot into the green from a much better angle. Then there is also the play of hitting driver between the bunkers right at the green. Pull this off and leave yourself the best chance for par or birdie, but miss the tee shot at your peril. There are a lot of big numbers waiting on this hole for the aggressive player. The green is extremely narrow and slants hard from right-to-left. It is extremely difficult to hit from any distance. This is a hole that has perplexed the best players in the world for 90 years and has been studied by anyone that is interested in golf course architecture. Truly deserving of its reputation as one of the best in the world.

Hole Nos. 12 and 13 play along the edge of the hill that defines the property line across the valley from the clubhouse. A line of Pacific Palisades mansions look down on these holes as the land slopes gently towards the ocean. Hole No. 12 bends to the right and crosses the barranca, while 13 bends left and is tight and is lined with trees. Hole No. 15 is a hard dogleg right with a deep bunker guarding the inside of the dogleg. Play out to the safe left side and the hole plays longer but more open. Fly the fairway bunker and get into the fairway and shave some yardage off the hole. The green is huge, bisected by a large swale, and is my personal favorite on the course. The 18th is one of the most difficult and famous finishing holes in the game. A long, uphill par 4 with a blind tee shot over a hill that bends gently to the right along the tree covered hillside.  The closer to the tree line on the right you find your ball, the better angle you get into the small green that is set into a natural amphitheater in the shadow of the clubhouse.

A view from behind the 18th green

Aside from a great collection of holes, Riviera is one of those courses that is more than the sum of its parts. The routing is tight and extremely walkable, and the greens and tees are all in very close proximity to each other. Other than walking down the big hill off the first tee, and up the big hill after 18 tee, the course meanders up and over some nice rolling terrain, but there are no strenuous walks. The bunkering is stunning and fits the sense of place that you get from the course and the site well. They give the feeling that every square inch was sculpted perfectly as intended. They have lips that are built up and over which makes them extremely deep and difficult.

The site is fantastic too, ringed by mansions of the rich and famous up on the hillside and laid out mostly in the canyon below that cascades gently towards the ocean. The barrancas that run through the property are used strategically over and over again by Thomas and they add immensely to the character of the course. Unfortunately, George Thomas did not design that many courses and equally tragic even less of them are in existence today. Fortunately, Riviera is still there today, so George Thomas can still show us how much fun a course full of strategy, beauty and challenge can be.

A day at Riviera is a very special one and this is one of the PGA Tour events I most look forward to watching every year.

If you liked this review, read Ari’s review of Oakmont Country Club!

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