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Q&A: Air Force One launches new irons, sheds Powerbilt branding

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Succeeding in the golf equipment industry takes good science. There’s the science of engineering top-performing clubs, but companies also need to be scientific in delivering the right message to consumers.

Ross Kvinge, formerly President and CEO of Powerbilt Golf, says his company was doing the hard work of making great golf clubs, but were overlooked by consumers – at least partly due to Powerbilt’s divided brand image. While Powerbilt made high-end golf equipment through its Air Force One line, it also made budget-friendly equipment for recreational golfers.

Could Air Force One products enjoy more success without the Powerbilt name?

Ross_Kvinge_QA_AFO

Ross Kvinge, President of Air Force One Golf

Kvinge is about to find out. His new company, Air Force One Golf, will keep the nitrogen-charged technology that its clubs were known for, but leave the Powerbilt name behind. Enjoy our Q&A with Kvinge, now president of Air Force One, about the new brand, as well Air Force One’s AFX Pro Series new irons and yet-to-be-announced fairway woods.

WRX: Was it a tough decision to leave behind a company name that has been such a big part of your life since 1998?

RK: No doubt. There is a lot of heritage in the PowerBilt brand and we felt we would be able to leverage that with the introduction of the nitrogen charged patented technology. However, we found we were investing in re-establishing the PowerBilt brand in the premium market. We found that to be a bit more difficult than a clean launch of our patented technology under the Air Force One brand. As an industry veteran I grew up with the PowerBilt brand and remember the good days when PowerBilt was a leader in the persimmon wood market and forged irons. Unfortunately younger generations don’t know about those days and see the value in the brand.

WRX: Tell us about the new AFX Pro Series irons. What’s the target audience? 

unspecified

RK: The AFX Pro Series has evolved over the years mainly from input from our customers. We first introduced the Game Improvement iron with every club in the set pressurized with nitrogen. We found in the short irons, control was more of an issue than the added distance from the nitrogen so we went to a cavity back. We then saw better players interested in just the long irons with nitrogen due to the feel and distance the clubs delivered. We saw a market there, but knew we needed a club head shape that would appeal to the better player. Through that we developed the AFX Pro Series iron with a thinner top line and sole along with reduced offset.

WRX: We reviewed the Air Force One DFX MOI and Air Force One DFX Tour drivers when they were Powerbilt products, and found their performance to rival or even surpass top-selling drivers. Will anything change about them?

unspecified-4

RK: We are working on new drivers for the future, however, to help with a smooth transition we utilized the same tooling. As you stated, the DFX MOI and DFX Tour have tested quite well against the competition. We have a huge potential to increase our distribution and reach a lot of people now that haven’t had a chance to experience the Nitrogen Charged Technology. We felt the current model would position well for the new launch.

WRX: You told us there’s a new fairway wood in the works. When will it be released, and what makes it different?

unspecified-3

RK: Yes we do have a new fairway wood that we will introduce in late April. On our previous fairway woods we lost some of the benefits of the nitrogen technology due to the shallow face on the woods.

unspecified-2The key for the nitrogen is to get the trampoline effect and allow the nitrogen pressure to rebound the face and increase ball speed. Since it is more difficult to create the same effect on a fairway wood we went to our Air Foil dual slot technology. This has somewhat of an accordion effect on the sole and the crown that allows the whole face to move and allows for the spring back effect of the Nitrogen pressure. This will enable us to compete in distance and accuracy that we have seen in some of the most recent competitor fairway woods.

WRX: Thank you for your time, Ross.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Shank-Master

    Apr 19, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Change the brand to Titleist and all those who voted shank would be drooling and performing self gratifying acts on themselves in a circular formation at the thought of being able to buy these at 4 times the cost these clubs sell for.

  2. Jbeagle

    Apr 12, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    If you reshaft does the nitrogen leak out? or is it trapped in the head?

    • Tj

      Aug 9, 2021 at 10:39 pm

      Idk.. Does nitrogen leak when u change your tire??

  3. Frank Gatazka

    Apr 12, 2016 at 11:36 am

    The end of an era! First there was Hagen, then MacGregor, now PowerBilt. The brand did not quite make 100 years. I have played PowerBilt equipment since I learned the game in high school, 42 years ago. I fondly remember their persimmon Citation woods and forged Citation irons, both in stainless and high nickel chrome plated carbon steel. They were played by some of the best including Bobby Nichols, Miller Barber, Frank Beard (I have one of his PB drivers in my collection), Gay Brewer, Charlie Coody, Bill Kratzert and Fuzzy Zoeller. The persimmon woods were simply the best crafted commercial woods that could be had at the time. I was lucky to have a custom set made in 1990 at the very end of the persimmon era and visited the then famous “Slugger Park” factory in Jeffersonville Indiana to watch them be completed. The TPS cavity back irons in their original configuration were some of the most forgiving cast clubs available. Recently, I’ve played the Air Force One irons and Air Foil 2 woods and found the irons and driver very easy to hit, and long. The only problem is that I managed to crack three of them (not due to my swing speed for sure, as it is 85-87 MPH), due to a design defect where the sweet spot has milled grooves in the already thin face, thus precipitating a fatigue crack problem (I suppose if I didn’t hit the sweet spot as frequently there would not be a problem?). PowerBilt was always there with great customer service, and I have had the cracked clubs replaced. I believe the newer models have a slightly thicker face to avoid this cracking problem. To me it is sad indeed to see the name go the way of low-cost starter sets and junior clubs (now licensed to Hireko Golf) when PowerBilt used to stand for quality, and was for many years the “pride of the pro shop”. Alas, time marches on! I wish the new Air Force One brand good luck, as the product is for real and not just a gimmick!

    • James

      Apr 26, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      The Powerbilt brand is not dead, it was just purchased by another company.

    • James

      Apr 26, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      Oops, didn’t read your entire post before commenting. Sorry!

  4. George

    Apr 12, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Is there a problem with the nitrogen leaking with time since there is material fatigue from use?

  5. Chuck D

    Apr 12, 2016 at 12:46 am

    Nitrous oxide has to be the next frontier for golf distance, right? Hitting it 400 has to be the next

    big thing for amateurs! Oh wait…………..

  6. Brian

    Apr 11, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    I game an AFO DFX and it’s really a fantastic club. The sound is a little tricky to get used to initially, but the numbers and performance are there. The only thing I wish AFO would do with the next iteration is add adjustability. My shaft selection has brought ball flight down, but I’d love to be able to control it that much more. Good luck, AFO!

  7. Regis

    Apr 11, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    I flirted with the idea of buying the Air Force One driver several times because it received very good reviews from a number of sites. I always failed to pull the trigger because it was never available for demo anywhere near me and I live in a densely populated area with a very big golf presence. In today’s market I just don’t see any manufacturer making substantial gains without in hand availability and that, to some extent goes for Bridgestone (clubs), Srixon , Wilson and a lot of other traditional names. What I see in a private cub environment is that one guy shows up with a new driver (set of irons, putter) he’s loving it and all of a sudden its the local rage. Changing the name is not going to be significant.

  8. Ron

    Apr 11, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    The first set of iron I had were Power Bilt Citation Levelumes. Should have kept the Power Bilt name!

  9. Meaks

    Apr 11, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Clearly this was an in-house branding effort. No legitimate marketing vendor would have advised them to use this name for a brand name and I wish them luck trying to compete against Nike in SEO on Air Force One.

    • Eric

      Apr 12, 2016 at 8:36 pm

      Kind of a harsh comment but I totally. The name just reeks of gimmick low end gear. Shame they didn’t at least split the brand the other way, restore the strength of the venerable Powerbilt brand and rename the low end.

  10. TCJ

    Apr 11, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Nitrogen?! Now all they need are some ball bearings…

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Equipment

Drake teams up with Nike for new golf apparel collection: Nocta Golf

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Canadian rapper Drake has unveiled, alongside Nike, his first-ever golf collection – Nocta Golf – which has already made its debut on the PGA Tour.

The Nocta Golf collection features anoraks, logo crewnecks, and Dri-Fit polos in black, white, gray, and hunter green, with Brooks Koepka showcasing a mock-neck from the line earlier this month.

The collection doubles up as streetwear as well as apparel for the course, and Drake announced it on his Instagram this week, where he paid tribute to the inspiration for the line, his uncle Stephen Sher.

“A collection dedicated to one of my idols. A man who took me under his wing and showed me much of what life had to offer and even more so what your own life can become when you are dedicated and loyal. My grandmother Evelyn Sher has a resting place close to the King Valley Golf Club and our drives and visits to that course hold some of my most valuable life lessons and will forever be cherished.” – Drake

The Drake Nike Nocta golf collection is available now at Nocta.com, with prices ranging from $34 to $500. 

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Equipment

Best shallow/low to the ground hybrid – GolfWRXers discuss

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In our forums, our members have been talking shallow hybrids. WRXer ‘Bunta’ is on the hunt for a low to the ground hybrid and is open to new or older options, and our members have been sharing their picks 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.

  • A-A-Roncc: “I think shallow faced hybrids and fairway woods is synonymous with Ping. Not sure what other modern hybrids would be significantly shallow compared to others though… As far as older models go, Tight Lies commercials come to mind.”
  • SwingMan: “Ping G425, and don’t worry… hopefully. Or Tour Edge Exotic. The Ping, though, is very consistent.”
  • PanchiCab: “As you said before, any ping would be great as they are designed with shallow faces, I recommend you to try also Titleist tsi2/ts2/h1 and TaylorMade m2/4/6/sim max, but take care of the shaft, most come stock with high launch offerings that have soft tips and that can end up in ‘fore left’.”

Entire Thread: “Best shallow/low to the ground hybrid”

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Whats in the Bag

Ryder Cup WITBs: U.S. team

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Collin Morikawa

Driver: TaylorMade SIM (8 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 60 TX

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM Titanium (14 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 80 TX

5-wood: TaylorMade SIM2 (19 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 80 TX

Irons: TaylorMade P770 (4), P7MC (5-7), TaylorMade P730 (8-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 (50 degrees), Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (56-14F), TaylorMade MG2 Hi-Toe (60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

(Photo courtesy of SMS on Tour)

Putter: TaylorMade TP Juno

Ball: TaylorMade TP5 (2021)

Grips: Golf Pride Z-Grip Cord

 

Dustin Johnson

(Image c/o TaylorMade)

Driver: TaylorMade SIM2 Max (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder 661 X

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max (15 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 8 X

7-wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (21 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZURDUS Black 95 6.5

Irons: TaylorMade P730 DJ Proto (3-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (soft-stepped)

Wedges: TaylorMade MG (52 @54 degrees, 60-10)
Shafts: KBS Tour Custom Black 120 S

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Limited Itsy Bitsy
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT 1.0

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x ’19 (#1)

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet 58R (1 wrap 2-way tape + 2 wraps left hand, 3 right hand)

 

Bryson DeChambeau

Driver: Cobra King LTD Pro (7.5 degrees)
Shaft: LA Golf Tour AXS Blue 6 X

3-wood: Cobra King Prototype B (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: LA Golf BAD Prototype 70 TX

3-wood: Cobra King SZ Tour (14.5 degrees @13.5)
Shaft: LA Golf BAD Prototype 80 TX

Irons: Cobra King One Length Utility (4, 5), King Forged Tour One Length (6-PW)
Shafts: LA Golf Rebar Proto (37.5 inches)

Wedges: Artisan Prototype (47, 52, 58 degrees)
Shafts: LA Golf Rebar Proto shaft

Putter: SIK Pro C-Series Armlock

Ball: Bridgestone Tour B X

 

Brooks Koepka

Driver: TaylorMade SIM2 (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 70 TX

3-wood: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80 TX

Irons: Nike Vapor Pro (3), Srixon ZX7 (4-PW)
Shafts: Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 95 X (3), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (52-12F, 56-10S), Vokey SM5 TVD (60-08ML)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron Teryllium TNP2

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord (Midsize) with one wrap of 2-way tape and one wrap of masking tape

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

 

Justin Thomas

Driver: Titleist TSi2 (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana ZF 60 TX

3-wood: Titleist TS3 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Raw Blue 85 TX

5-wood: Titleist 915 Fd (18 degrees @18.75)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 9.2 Tour Spec X

Irons: Titleist T100 (4), Titleist 620MB (5-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design Raw SM7 (46-10F @47.5, 52-12F @52.5), Vokey SM8 (56-14F @57), Titleist Vokey Design WedgeWorks (60 @ 60.5)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (46), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 (52-60)

Putter: Scotty Cameron X5 Tour Prototype
Grip: SuperStroke Pistol GT Tour

Ball: 2021 Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord

Patrick Cantlay

Driver: Titleist TS3 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana ZF 60 TX

3-wood: Titleist 915F (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana ZF 70 TX

Hybrid: Titleist TS2 (21 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana ZF 80 TX

Irons: Titleist 718 AP2 (4-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold 120 Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (46-10F @47, 52-08F), SM8 (56-08M @57), SM8 Prototype (61)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S300

Putter: Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

Tony Finau

Driver: Ping G425 LST (9 degrees @7, Big -)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 70 TX (45.25 inches, tipped 1.5 inch)

3-wood: Ping G400 Stretch (13 degrees @12.5) (D5+ swing weight)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 80 TX (42.5 inches, tipped 2 inches)

Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3), Ping Blueprint (4-PW)
Shafts: Graphite Design Tour AD DI Hybrid 105 X (3), Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 Tour 120 X (4-PW)

Wedges: Ping Glide Forged (50-10, 56-10), Titleist Vokey Design SM8 WedgeWorks (60T)
Shafts: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 Tour 125 X (50, 56), Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 125 Wedge (60)

Putter: Ping PLD Anser 2 Prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Grips: Lamkin UTX Mid (Green)

Xander Schauffele

Driver: Callaway Epic Speed Triple Diamond LS (10.5 degrees @9 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD BB 7 X (custom black, 45.5 inches, tipped 1 inch, D3)

3-wood: Callaway Epic Speed Triple Diamond (15 degrees @14)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 7 TX (43.25, tipped 1.5 inch, D3)

7-wood: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero (20 degrees @18.8)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 9 X (41.5 inches, tipped 2 inches, D3)

Irons: Callaway Apex TCB (4-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

(Photo via Callaway’s Johnny Wunder)

(Photo via Callaway’s Johnny Wunder)

Wedges: Callaway Jaws MD5 (52-10S), Titleist Vokey Design SM6 (56-10 @57), Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (60-06K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Putter: Odyssey O-Works #7 CH Red
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion 2.0 Tour (10 grams)

(Photo via Callaway’s Johnny Wunder)

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X LS Prototype

Grips: Golf Pride MCC (Black/White)

Jordan Spieth

Driver: Titleist TSi3 (10 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 6 X

3-wood: Titleist TS2 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 7 X

Hybrid: Titleist 818H2
Shafts: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 95 X Hybrid

Irons: Titleist T100 (2021) (4-9)
Shafts: True Temper Project X 6.5 (4-9)

Jordan Spieth’s bag at The Open. (Courtesy of SMS on Tour)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (46-10F @8, 52-08F, 56-10S), Vokey Proto (60-T)
Shafts: True Temper Project X 6.0 (6.5 in 46)

Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T 009
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Flatso 1.0

Grips: SuperStroke S-Tech

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x (2021)

Harris English

Driver: Ping G400 (9 @9.2 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XT 70 X

3-wood: Ping G400 (14.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Atmos Blue Tour Spec 7 X

Irons: Ping i500 (3), Ping Blueprint (4-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (3-9)

Wedges: Ping Glide 3.0 (46-SS, 52-SS, 56-SS), Ping Glide Forged (60-SS)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (46, 52, 56), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 (60)

Putter: Ping Scottsdale Hohum

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Align

Daniel Berger

Driver: TaylorMade SIM (9 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 6 X

3-wood: TaylorMade M6 (15 degrees)
Shaft: UST Mamiya Elements Chrome 8F5

Irons: Callaway Apex Forged ’16 (3), TaylorMade TP MC ’11 (4-PW)
Shafts: Project X 6.5

Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy Forged (50-10, 56-10), Callaway Mack Daddy 4 (60-12C)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour (Chalk)

Ball: Titleist Pro V1 Left Dot

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Wrap

Scottie Scheffler

Driver: Ping G400 LST (8.5 degrees @7.75)
Shaft: Fujikura Atmos Black Tour Spec 7 X

3-wood: Nike VR Pro (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Atmos Black Tour Spec 8 X

Utility: Srixon Z U85 (3)
Shaft: Nippon Pro Modus3 Hybrid Tour X

Irons: Srixon ZX7 (4), TaylorMade P7TW (5-PW)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (50-12F, 56-14F, 60-A)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron Super Rat

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

  • Featured image c/o Aaron Dill on Instagram.  
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