He’s called “The Dunning Player,” and he does everything most golfers want to do. He takes golf trips to the UK with friends; he plays once per week and shoots in the 70s or better; he relishes opportunities to carry his own bag and uses a Scotty Cameron putter. Surprisingly, this man isn’t an avatar constructed by Dunning’s marketing team; it’s a profile of the company’s actual customers based on survey results.
The Dunning Player
- 20% Travel to play golf in Scotland/Ireland
- 34% Scratch or single-digit handicap
- 30% Carry their own bag
- 30% Use a Scotty Cameron
- 56% Play 50+ rounds per year
Company founder Ralph Dunning, 52, fits the Dunning Player profile, but not as well as most of his customers. He developed a passion for golf later in life. His 12 handicap might never dip to scratch or even single digits, but the six-time Ironman knows firsthand why someone would make a sport a key part of their life.
In 1989 Dunning founded “Rip N Hammer,” a premium, performance-apparel maker for endurance athletes: namely triathletes, cyclists and fellow Ironmen. Most serious athletes want the best-performing clothes for their sport; it’s these athletes who truly need them. The best Ironmen spend 8-9 hours swimming, biking and running a distance of 26.2 miles. The not-so-good ones can take twice as long. Rip N Hammer’s apparel was enjoyed by both pros and regular joes. It was also appreciated by other companies in the space; Dunning created private-label apparel for Saucony and Cervelo, enthusiast brands for runners and cyclists, respectively.
In 2000, Dunning sold his company. That same year, he attended the annual Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, but just as an observer, so he said yes to an invitation to play golf. It was then he says he developed a staying passion for golf. Adding to his passion was the realization that he could improve on the trendy golf clothes he was wearing that week, which didn’t stand up to the 90-degree temperatures on the Big Island.
“When I finished playing that week, I told my wife I was going back to Toronto to meet with my engineering team and start engineering golf apparel,” Dunning says.
In Toronto, Dunning developed the prototypes for what would become major championship-winning apparel less than a decade later. He leveraged his background in fabric engineering to create a head-to-toe, performance-apparel line that would impress serious golfers. Key to his process was knowing exactly what serious golfers wanted, so he spent a lot of time talking to them, especially good golfers.
When he asked golfers what they wanted from their wind shirts and rain jackets, for example, it was clear that they didn’t want jackets with high collars that could distract them during shots. It was also important for them to be able to pull their sleeves over their forearms when they were hitting finesse shots around the greens.
Dunning continues to focus on details that matter to golfers, like how the company’s golf clothes adapt to the golf posture and move during the swing. He also eschews the common practice of purchasing off-the-rack fabrics, opting instead to engineer his own fabric with natural fibers that can provide performance benefits without the use of chemical treatments.
“There’s a difference between fabrics that are inherently breathable and products that are chemically treated,” Dunning says. “You want fabrics that feel good, and by that I mean on your skin and when you reach for them in your closet. At the same time, you want them to feel good on your body, and they have to perform.”
In 2007, Dunning had its big break when Zach Johnson won the Masters wearing the brand. Johnson (who now endorses Oakley apparel) doesn’t fit the mold of golfers who generally win at Augusta National. He’s not long off the tee, so he’s at a disadvantage on the course’s famous par-5 holes. The weather was unseasonably cold that year, however, putting the par-5s out of reach for many in the field. Johnson went the whole week without hitting a par-5 in two, relying on his wedge game to take him to the top of the leaderboard.
Johnson’s other advantage, according to Dunning, was his clothes. Whereas many golfers in the field were wearing bulky sweaters to stay warm, Johnson was wearing the three-layer system Dunning developed seven years prior in Toronto: a next-to-skin, mock turtleneck “base layer” kept Johnson’s core temperature up and two more slim layers of apparel — a golf shirt and vest — offered a freedom of motion that kept Johnson’s mind on his game and off the temperatures and his clothes.
Even to casual golf fans, it was easy to see the difference between Johnson’s clothes and those being worn that week by Tiger Woods, who dressed in a short sleeve polo and a thick sweater at Augusta.
Dunning doesn’t claim to have invented performance apparel, but he is widely credited for being the first to bring it to golf. It wasn’t an easy sell. In the early 2000s, he was told many times at golf trade shows in the U.S. and Canada that golf was “a cotton industry.” Johnson’s win lifted Dunning’s company to new heights, and as a result buyers from major retailers started calling: Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Dillards. Who would say no to an opportunity to be in those stores? Dunning didn’t, but it’s now clear to him why they weren’t a good fit for his company.
“It’s very difficult [for employees] to talk about our products the way we want them to at a department store … or at stores like Dicks [Sporting Goods] and Golf Galaxy,” Dunning says. “That’s why we don’t really want to be there.”
Dunning is currently sold at 1,200 golf shops worldwide, a number that’s rising. Growth is especially brisk in the UK, he says, where golfers are asking for the brand after being exposed to it by Americans and Canadians on golf vacations.
“I know a lot of brands that want to earn [our] reputation,” Dunning says. “When we say we offer the best performance, we can say that based on 30 years of experience in the performance space … and that matters.”
A tenet of the running and cycling product worlds is that athletes purchase their gear from specialty shops, behavior driven by the seriousness with which runners and cyclists approach their gear. These athletic boutiques pride themselves on advanced product knowledge and fitting, and because their customers demand it, they stock only the best-performing products. In the golf world, the model translates to what are known green-grass shops — golf stores generally located on golf course properties that are usually run by PGA Professionals. It’s in these kinds of stores that Dunning wants golfers to learn about his apparel, and then hopefully purchase it.
“We made a very conscious decision in 2011 to really just focus on the green-grass community,” Dunning says. “We’re going to deliver the best player-specific product while protecting our game, our industry and the golf professional. That’s what matters to us.”
Learn more about Dunning and its apparel on its website.
You can (finally!) buy Rickie Fowler’s Rev33 irons: Cobra releasing limited RF Proto irons
After much anticipation, Cobra Golf is set to release the limited edition RF Proto irons—an exact replica of the Rev33 irons developed and used by Rickie Fowler on the PGA Tour.
Rickie worked closely with long-time Director of Tour Operations, Ben Schomin from start to finish to create an iron that offered him everything he ever wanted from looks, to feel, and, ultimately, performance.
The Rev33 stamp is a nod to 33 iterations the iron went through before the final design was selected.
“We worked closely with Rickie to determine his favorite features of several of his previous sets that we were able to combine into one very sleek package. These are a must-own for better players who appreciate the finest of iron craftmanship or Rickie fans who would jump at the opportunity to own the same sticks their favourite player uses.”
– Ben Schomin
If you are looking for a full in-depth discussion with Ben on the irons be sure to check out our piece from when Rickie originally put them into play: GolfWRX Insider: Inside the development of Rickie Fowler’s Cobra irons
RF Proto technology and design
The set was designed around Rickie’s preferred 7-iron look with a square/straight topline from the longest iron to the pitching wedge, which is unique since most irons progress to a more rounded shape in the shorter irons.
The RF Protos feature a distinct sharp toe profile reminiscent of many classic blades and a zero offset look thanks to a “no-taper” hosel design.
The irons are produced through a two-stage forging process and then 100 percent CNC milled to the final shaping. The milling process alone takes over two and a half hours per iron head to produce the most precise geometry possible.
The final piece of the design is the tungsten weight positioned on the toe of the iron—just like Rickie’s gamers—to locate the center of gravity and deliver a superior feel.
Price, specs, and availability
The RF Proto irons are available in right hand only 4-pitching wedge and will retail for $2,499.
Sets can be pre-0rdered starting today January 25th, at Cobragolf.com with sets shipping out starting January 29th.
The limited-edition irons are shipped in a custom box, which celebrates the partnership between Fowler and Cobra, complete with a card of authenticity autographed by Rickie Fowler.
The standard set components are KBS C-Taper shafts with Golf Pride Align grips fitted with Cobra Connect powered by Arccos, but a full selection of custom shafts and grips and also available.
New Bridgestone E12 Contact golf ball features tire technology, major performance gains
It’s not very often that a golf company touts huge technology gains with its mid-level priced products. Large scale changes are generally reserved for the premium price point and performance category, and then those technologies funnel down to the mid-price point in the next generation.
Bridgestone is flipping that model on its head, however, with the release of the all-new e12 Contact, which looks to offer one of the biggest performance jumps in the mid-price golf ball category ever developed.
Bridgestone e12: The science
The focus for Bridgestone with the e12, just like it was for the re-engineered Tour B series and its ReActive cover in 2020, is contact science—it’s where the e12 Contact derived its name from.
“Bridgestone has long been a pioneer in bringing to market unique dimple shapes, sizes and constructions in the golf industry, but up until this point that has primarily been a means of achieving optimal aerodynamic performance,”
-Elliot Mellow, Golf Ball Marketing Manager for Bridgestone Golf.
“In the new e12 CONTACT, dimples actually serve as a source of increased power and distance as well. They also contribute to minimizing hooks and slices, making the newest e12 a golf ball that provides performance you can actually see in terms of straight distance.”
The breakthrough comes in the form of a new dimple design to increase the ball contacting the face for both soft feel and additional distance. The new dimple design places a raised area in the middle of the traditional dimple, which when hit with a direct force, creates a whopping 38 percent for more face contact at impact.
- This face contact and compression promotes a longer amount of time for the ball to stay on the face resulting in more efficient energy transfer to engage the core layer of the ball which from Bridgestone’s testing has resulted in a gain of over 1.5 mph ball speed.
- On the other end of the spectrum, in the short game, the additional contact helps increase spin in the scoring clubs and compared to the previous generation results in over 600 rpm more spin.
- Although less scientific, Bridgestone also says that many players will experience a benefit when putting thanks to improved putter face contact.
Why not put this into a premium ball?
This is the million-dollar (or millions and millions of dollars) question, and it actually has a fairly simple answer—the new dimple design increases the peak trajectory of the e12 Contact and also makes it fly straighter. This makes it the perfect fit for a golf ball designed to enhance distance and reduce total golf ball curvature but less ideal for a tour-level ball designed for maximum trajectory control.
I realize that makes it sound like a negative, but in reality, it’s the exact opposite—the engineers at Bridgestone have closely analyzed the target golfers and designed a ball to fit their needs. The new e12 Contact is so efficient at creating the desired results from both distance and scoring clubs, they have eliminated the previous “Speed” and “Soft” balls and made one better with the e12 Contact.
Price and availability
The new Bridgestone e12 Contact will be available at retail and online starting February 26 at the price of $29.99 a dozen.
Beyond the traditional white version, the e12 Contact will also be available in Matte Green, Matte Red and Matte Yellow color options.
2021 Mizuno ST-X and ST-Z drivers, fairway woods: Moving Mizuno woods forward
Since 2019 and the launch of the ST190 series, Mizuno has quickly changed the perception around its metal woods. With the new ST-X and ST-Z drivers, along with the new ST-Z fairway woods for 2021, it is once again proving Mizuno isn’t just an iron company anymore.
The ST-X and ST-Z drivers represent the next evolution for Mizuno and are a culmination of a focused team effort to prove that, when side by side with the industry leaders, Mizuno drivers can both compete and win the battle of ball speed, spin, and dispersion.
A global effort to produce better (The “how’d we get here?”)
As a global brand, Mizuno used to have a small issue with market segmentation when it came to its club releases, meaning that depending on where you were in the world, there were different metal wood sub-brands to cater to various consumers.
This worked OK for the individual markets, but overall, it wasn’t working worldwide for one simple reason—more designs meant Mizuno engineers had to stretch their biggest resource, time, thinner. It also didn’t create a lot of continuity in the products, which from a consumer-level, always made it feel like Mizuno’s approach was just “let’s give this a try!”, and it really wasn’t working.
This brings us to the “New Mizuno.” Since the original ST190 series was released in 2019 (don’t forget development started long before the release date), Mizuno has had a fully dedicated team in place working on metal wood development and technology. This has allowed engineers to work tirelessly on creating drivers that win on both a technology front as well and where it matters most: in fittings and on the course where golfers care about performance.
The technology inside the 2021 Mizuno ST-Z and ST-X drivers
- SAT2041 beta-titanium faces: This titanium material is not new to the world of aerospace engineering, but as golf clubs are concerned, it had mostly been found previously in high-end JDM (Japanese domestic Market) drivers because of cost but was first used last year in the ST200 series drivers. SAT2041 has higher strength and rebound properties allowing Mizuno engineers to improve the multi-thickness areas behind the face for higher ball speed, and save mass to reposition around the head.
- New CorTech face design: Now, speaking to the faces, thanks in part to the material and Mizuno engineers’ ability to tweak and adjust based on continuous R&D, the faces of the ST-Z and ST-X drivers have been made thinner in certain areas to further optimize CT and COR, which contributes to more consistent ball speeds and additional discretionary mass.
- Using discretionary mass differently: A few grams here or there mean a lot in the golf club design world, especially when it comes to drivers. Mizuno shaved mass around the head to boost MOI in both of the new drivers and create performance separation in how they will work best for the intended players. Both of the new drivers have a carbon crown and also feature carbon panels around the sole skirt to help precisely locate the center of gravity.
Meet the 2021 Mizuno drivers
Mizuno ST-Z driver
The ST-Z replaces the ST200 and has been designed to offer the highest MOI possible without sacrificing lower spin—this driver is all about stability. Mass saved around the head, thanks to the carbon panels, along with the better-optimized face has allowed the designers to position the CG as close as possible to the neutral axis, to raise MOI, and create a neutrally biased driver.
Compared to the ST-X, the Z is longer heel to toe and slightly shallower to once again use any and all available options to maximize performance and playability.
Mizuno ST-X driver
Although the new STX driver shares a similar name to the previous ST200X designed to be an exclusively lighter weight draw-biased driver, the new STx is for any golfer seeking slightly more spin compared to the STz and also greater workability, thanks to a center of gravity positioned slightly more forward and closer to the shaft.
From the bottom, the easy way to separate the ST-X from the Z is the reduced amount of carbon on the sole and slightly more heel-biased back weight to aid the engineers in repositioning the CG.
The ST-X’s slightly deeper face and shorter heel-to-toe length help to make the driver ever so slightly more draw-biased than the ST-Z but also happens to make the driver more workable.
For those still in need of a premium lightweight option, the new ST-X has the ability to be built to a lighter and longer spec similar to the ST200X thanks to the adjustable weight in the sole, which goes from a stock 11-gram weight to just four grams when built to J-Spec. This brings the head weight to 194 grams vs. 201 grams in the standard ST-X configuration and 204 in the ST-Z. When matched with the M-Fusion shaft, you get a driver that competes against any other in the ultra-lightweight category.
2021 Mizuno STX and STZ drivers prices, specs, and availability
The ST-X and ST-Z stock shaft options are directly driven from popular profiles on tour and feature a familiar story of high, mid, and low launch. The drivers will also carry a fourth shaft option, which is a carryover from the previous ST200X.
High Launch – Project X Riptide CB 50g and 60g
Mid Launch – Fujikura MotoreX F3 60g
Low Launch – ProjectX HZRDUS RDX Smoke Black 60g
High Launch and ultra-lightweight – M-Fusion
Mizuno will also continue to offer upcharge shafts options including:
- Tensei CK Pro Orange and White 60 and 70g
- Fujikura Ventus Blue and Black 60 and 70g
- Graphite Design Tour AD Di6 & 7 along with XC6 & 7
STX and STZ drivers will be priced at – $399.99
The Mizuno STX and Z driver’s pre-sale starts today January 25th, with products on retail shelves starting February 18.
Mizuno ST-Z fairway woods
Technology and design
- 3rd gen MAS1C high strength steel face: Last year, with the ST200, Mizuno completely overhauled the internal structure of its fairway woods, and the ST-Z is the next evolution. Similar to the driver, engineers have improved the CorTech multi-thickness pads behind the hitting area to raise ball speeds while also improving sound and feel
- Carbon crown: When it works, it works, and the carbon steel crown of the ST-Z fairway woods reduces mass from higher in the head and gives the engineers the ability to better position it to deliver the performance variables they are searching for.
- New shaping: After all the material and sciencey stuff were figured out, the last part of the new fairway woods to consider was the shape. It seems simple, but the shape not only has a huge impact on the club’s physical performance, but it plays a major factor in how golfers perceive it in the address position. The leading edge and the hosel transition have been adjusted to appeal to the target players and make it more efficient from the turf, which is where most players will use their fairway woods the most.
Specs, prices, and availability
The ST-Z fairway woods will be available in the lofts of 15 and 18 degrees, and with Mizuno’s Quick Switch adjustability, the fairway woods can go up and down two additional degrees.
The stock shaft configurations for the ST-Z will be the Fujikura MotoreX 7 in stiff flex and the ProjectX RipTide CB in regular.
The ST-Z fairway woods are priced at $299.99 with pre-sale and fitting tools available starting today January 25th with the product on retail shelves on February 18.
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