We’re nearly through an entire month of 2020, which means it’s time for another installment of At The Turn. In this edition, we cover some more key 2020 product releases, including Titleist Vokey SM8 wedges, TaylorMade SIM drivers, Odyssey Triple Track putters, and PING G710 irons. Additionally, 2nd Swing master fitter Thomas Campbell provides some fitting insight on proper yardage gapping.
By Chris Wallace -- 2nd Swing staff writer
Golfers are extremely fortunate in the modern era to have a number of great wedge options to choose from, as well as an increasing number of sole grinds available to help them execute the shots they need to play on the golf course.
That said, when it comes to golf wedges and wedge design, the industry leader for the last several years has been Titleist and Bob Vokey. And with the introduction of the new Vokey SM8 line, which will be available to the public in the coming weeks, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
New Vokey releases are always met with great anticipation, but the excitement has been heightened with SM8, as some dramatic innovations have taken place, most notably with the progressive CG design that Titleist and Vokey first introduced in the SM6 line.
As a refresher, by moving the CG higher or lower based on loft in the SM6 and SM7 line, Vokey and his design team found that they could improve consistency and feel, while also creating the most optimal launch conditions.
In the SM8 line, progressive CG is again the biggest storyline, but this time it’s about the center of gravity having been moved more forward.
“We’re incredibly excited to launch SM8,” said Jeremy Stone, Director of Marketing for Vokey wedges. “The thing that people are going to notice right away is that the high weight pad that was in SM6 and SM7 is now gone. The reason for that is we found from our tour players that when you get weight up but you do it up in the toe area it creates some dynamic lofting, so the club kind of slides underneath the golf ball and can create some inconsistency.
“We saw a huge opportunity for improvement there. What we’ve done is kept the CG up but also pushed it forward. What does it do? It means the club is going to square up more often. You’re going to get more consistent trajectory; you’re going to get better results overall.”
To get the CG where it’s technically now positioned in front of the clubface, Vokey and his engineers lengthened the hosel in the SM8 line and then utilized tungsten weight in the toe to counterbalance that design strategy.
The end result is a wedge that offers seven percent higher MOI than SM7, as well as improved feel and better trajectory control.
It’s also a wedge that touring professionals have immediately fallen in love with and put in their bags at an unprecedented clip.
“The first time I had guys hit SM8 was on the range at Riviera,” Vokey said. “I always listen to the sound they’re making at impact, and it was phenomenal. ‘Solid but soft’ was how they described it. They loved it. That means they’re getting the proper feedback that you need to execute every type of wedge shot.
“They also talked a lot about the flight. It’s in a better window, it’s more consistent, and they have more control. Overall, guys just kept telling me how easy it was to hit every type of shot they wanted to hit.”
Also key to the performance of the SM8 wedges are their Spin Milled grooves, as each groove on every SM8 wedge is individually cut and inspected to ensure that it conforms to USGA rules.
Additionally, micro-grooves are implemented between the grooves to create maximum spin, and each Vokey SM8 clubface undergoes a specialized, proprietary heat treatment to create grooves that are more durable.
Of course, also crucial when it comes to performance will be the six tour-proven sole grinds that are available in the SM8 lineup, each of which is being played by multiple players on professional tours around the world.
Having the right sole grinds in the bag is imperative when it comes to selecting wedges for a number of reasons.
First, golfers need to pick grinds that match their swing characteristics and the course conditions that they most typically encounter. And second, they need to choose sole designs that allow them to hit the types of shots they want to play from 125 yards and in.
Here is how Titleist describes each of the six sole grinds offered in the SM8 lineup:
F Grind: An all-purpose grind that is particularly suited for full shots and shots hit with a square face. Ideal for players who prefer a traditional wedge sole. The F grind is the most played sand wedge on Tour.
M Grind: Designed for players that like to rotate the clubface open and closed to manufacture shots around the green. Ideal for players with a shallower, more sweeping swing type who play shots from a variety of clubface positions.
S Grind: Features a full sole that has been narrowed by a trailing edge grind, giving it a faster feel through the turf. The S Grind is best for neutral to firm conditions and for players that like to control loft with their hands ahead or behind the ball.
D Grind: Blends versatility from a heel, toe, and trailing edge grind and forgiveness with its high measured bounce. The D Grind is ideal for players with a steeper angle of attack who play shots from a variety of clubface positions.
K Grind: The highest bounce wedge in the lineup, and is the ultimate bunker club. The K Grind is a wide, full sole wedge with enhanced camber to make it forgiving from a variety of sand and turf conditions.
L Grind: The lowest bounce grind option in the mix. The heel, toe, and trailing edge relief allow for maximum greenside versatility. The L Grind is perfect for firm conditions and designed for precise players. It is ideal for players that have complete control of impact looking for maximum shot-making versatility.
Also noteworthy about the SM8 lineup are the three unique finishes being offered, as players will be able to choose from Tour Chrome, Brushed Steel, and Jet Black.
Vokey SM8 wedges will also come standard with premium True Temper Dynamic Gold S200 shafts and Tour Velvet 360 grips, and the available lofts will range from 46 and 62 degrees.
Golfers will be able to pre-order SM8 wedges starting February 11, and they will begin shipping and be available in retail stores on March 6.
Exclusive 2nd Swing Video
TaylorMade always generates a lot of hype with its new driver releases every year, and 2020 is no different with the brand new SIM Family. To get a better feel for SIM and how its different models perform, we tested all three SIM drivers against the highly popular 2019 M Family.
By Drew Mahowald -- 2nd Swing staff writer
The PGA Merchandise Show is perhaps the most important event in the golf industry every year. Thousands of golf nerds gather in Orlando, Florida to discuss, showcase, and learn about all of the new golf gear being released for the new year.
Last week, I made my second trip to the PGA Show and once again, it did not disappoint. Nearly all of golf’s most recognizable brands were on hand to display their new gear and the new technology they’re bringing to market in 2020.
While several products grabbed my attention, Triple Track technology from Callaway and Odyssey seemed to generate buzz not just from myself and the 2nd Swing team but everyone at the PGA Show.
Triple Track technology was first introduced on Callaway’s ERC Soft golf ball in 2019. Triple Track features three parallel lines -- two blue lines surrounding a wider red line -- that were scientifically designed to improve alignment on the greens.
Over the course of 2019, Callaway added Triple Track technology to its tour golf ball offerings, Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X, as requested by members of its professional staff.
Callaway worked with Odyssey designers to take Triple Track to the next level in 2020, introducing the Triple Track putter series. Each of the seven models in the series contains the patented Triple Track design on the putter head. Pair that with a Callaway golf ball that features Triple Track technology and it’s nearly impossible to misalign your putting setup, especially when putting from a shorter distance.
“Our general manager, Sean Toulon, was joking that this took about 37 seconds to develop,” said Austie Rollinson, Chief Putter Designer for Odyssey. “It started with the golf ball, and it was natural to extend it onto the head.”
Throughout the past couple of years, the golf industry as a whole has invested more time and resources into improving alignment aids. Sidestamps on golf balls are evolving, while alignment aids on putters are becoming more vivid. Extending the same design from the golf ball to the putter head is both aesthetically pleasing and effective.
According to Rollinson, the thousands of fittings he’s conducted over the years with laser technology have suggested that nearly every golfer is misaligned at address. And sometimes, those golfers are surprised by just how incorrect their alignment is.
“We do hundreds of thousands of fittings each year with golfers. Where that face is pointed is going to be paramount for that golfer to get the ball on the right line and making the putt, sometimes more than the club path,” Rollinson said. “Using the laser, it’s shocking to some golfers how far off they really are. Getting it pointed in the right direction is key and this technology will help you do that.”
The science behind Triple Track technology is referred to as Vernier Hyper Acuity, which is the way in which people visualize straight lines. Callaway engineers worked extensively with Dr. Carl Bassi, the director of Research at the University of Missouri St. Louis College of Optometry, to create the Triple Track design of three parallel lines on the golf balls.
Now, when lining up a Triple Track putter behind a golf ball with the Triple Track design, golfers will immediately notice if they are misaligned and can easily correct their setup.
While the Triple Track design will catch your attention right away, that’s not all these putters bring to the table. Odyssey’s Stroke Lab technology, introduced in 2019, features a revolutionary weighting method to improve the putting stroke.
“We had such success with Stroke Lab last year and with continuing the Stroke Lab line and coming out with Triple Track, we just had to add it in,” Rollinson said.
Odyssey developers also tweaked the face insert featured in the Triple Track series. The new Microhinge Star insert still relies on Odyssey’s trademark Microhinge technology, but Rollinson said the Microhinge Star produces a firmer feel and more feedback than the White Hot Microhinge insert that was introduced with the 2019 Stroke Lab series.
“There are still those golfers that might be using softer golf balls that want a little more feedback,” Rollinson said. “So we went back to the drawing board and asked what we could do to make the White Hot Microhinge firmer. One thing was to get rid of the grooves. We found that even without the grooves, the hinges work with the ball to produce the same great topspin, but getting rid of the grooves upped the acoustics of it.”
The Odyssey Triple Track series features seven putter models: 2-Ball, 2-Ball Blade, Marxman, Ten, Ten S, Double Wide, and Double Wide Flow. The series offers options that will be a great fit for any type of putting stroke.
Putting can be one of the most frustrating skills in golf. The slightest flaw can be the difference between a much-needed par save and a bogey. And often, that flaw can be alignment.
The Triple Track putter series is designed to help with putting accuracy before the putting stroke even starts. Pair a Triple Track putter with a Callaway golf ball featuring Triple Track, and you’ll probably find yourself making more putts and shooting lower scores.
New from PING are the G710 irons, which will be replacing the highly successful G700 irons in 2020. 2nd Swing staff writer Drew Mahowald and master fitter Thomas Campbell were intrigued by the new black finish and improved MOI, so they decided to test them out using Trackman technology.
By Thomas Campbell -- 2nd Swing master club fitter
Do any of your clubs go similar distances? Do you have a large yardage gap somewhere in your bag? Do you struggle to get the ball to stop on the green with certain clubs?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, here’s some advice to help you better understand gapping. I would also highly suggest that you schedule a gapping analysis fitting at 2nd Swing or with a qualified, professional club fitter in your local market.
Let's start with your wedges. Think of your wedges as your scoring clubs. If you know your distances and if you consistently hit those wedges the correct yardage, you’ll hit approach shots closer to the hole and have better birdie chances.
The most common problem I see is gaps 20 to 30 yards apart from a pitching wedge to sand wedge. Many golfers do not understand the need for a gap wedge in their bag. Don’t think of the gap wedge as just another wedge, think of it as a club that has a specific loft associated with it, like any iron in your bag.
Playing a round of golf with a yardage gap of 20-30 yards is just like playing a round of golf with a complete set of irons besides an 8-iron. The absence of a club with an 8-iron loft will require some unnecessary creativity if you find yourself with that yardage into the green.
It’s better to have a club that is designed to fly a certain distance, rather than trying to manipulate the distance yourself. We want consistent spacing and progression. Ideally, I would like to see a 4-6 degree gap between each wedge, which will provide a gap of 10-15 yards between each club.
Today, pitching wedges have stronger lofts, typically about 43-47 degrees, while sand wedges continue to typically have a loft of 54-56 degrees of loft. Playing a pitching wedge that has 43 degrees of loft and a sand wedge at 56 degrees will lead to a gap of about 30-40 yards between clubs in your bag. There is plenty of room to include a gap wedge that has 48-50 degrees of loft.
Depending on how far a player hits the ball I like to gap with 4-5 clubs from 150 yards and shorter.
The loft on my wedges are 4.5 degrees apart: Pitching Wedge = 46.5, Gap Wedge = 51, Sand Wedge = 55.5, and Lob Wedge = 60.
When analyzing a player’s iron gapping, I pay close attention to their average distance, and the height (feet) or the landing angle (degrees). Just like the wedges, the goal is to create a set where your yardage between clubs consistently averages 10-15 yards apart.
It is also important to check your loft and lies every year as certain clubs are prone to change their characteristics over time. Cast irons are harder to bend, so this especially applies to golfers playing forged irons.
Additionally, the height you hit each club and the landing angle into the green is just as important to assess during a gapping analysis. The average height a tour player hits a full shot is 100-110 feet.
It is important when assessing your iron play that the height you hit each iron stays consistent from pitching wedge through to the longest iron you play in your bag. If you take a look at the chart below the average height I hit both my 4 iron and 5 iron is 106 feet in the air.
Once your height or landing angle starts to drop considerably, it might be time to discuss making the transition to hybrids at that point in your bag. Hybrids or utility irons are higher-launching clubs that will help maintain that average peak height and landing angle so that you can hold the green from a distance that you might not be able to with a traditional iron.
To efficiently gap the fairway woods and hybrids into the bag, the first thing I assess is how far a player hits the driver. Once I know the driver distance I like to gap 2-3 clubs between the driver distance and how far you hit your longest iron. It is important to avoid having two clubs that go the same distance.
For example, I average about 300 yards with my driver and my 4-iron total distance is 235 yards. I have a 65-yard gap to fill with two clubs. When fitting, I will be looking to find clubs that go a total distance of approximately 275 yards and 255 yards to fill that gap evenly.
Hopefully this provides you with a better understanding of the importance of yardage gapping and how to go about that process with your bag. For more help as it relates to gapping, feel free to stop by a 2nd Swing location or contact us at 612-216-4152.
With a new year comes new product releases, and our latest At The Turn newsletter has you covered. This edition includes in-depth reviews of products from the new TaylorMade SIM family, the new Callaway Mavrik line, and the new Cobra SpeedZone series. Additionally, we’ve included our Ultimate Players Cavity Back Iron Test video, in which we compared eight players cavity back iron models against one another using Trackman technology.
Golfers eagerly await the arrival of January each year to see the new clubs that are coming to market, and at the start of the year it’s drivers that are typically front and center, as pretty much everyone who plays golf is looking for a few more yards off the tee.
And when it comes to the driver market, TaylorMade and Callaway, along with PING, have been the clear leaders in the space for the last several years, which makes it exciting that two of those three brands are out with brand new driver franchises within the last week.
Those two brands are TaylorMade and Callaway, which have just released their new SIM and Mavrik lineups, respectively, each of which will have three unique options available to meet the needs of any player.
With its new SIM line, TaylorMade has made a significant investment in improving aerodynamics through shaping to help golfers generate more clubhead speed, while Callaway has devoted even more resources to the use of Artificial Intelligence in the design process, something it introduced with Epic Flash.
If you’re in the market for a new driver in 2020, it’s pretty much a certainty that you’re planning to explore SIM and Mavrik, so here’s a quick look at what you need to know about both.
The new SIM driver lineup from TaylorMade will be replacing the M family, which had an incredible five-year run that spanned four generations of products.
It wasn’t easy for TaylorMade to move on from M given its success, but engineers felt that a new franchise was in order given all that had changed since the introduction of the original M1 driver in the fall of 2015.
“We’re really excited to introduce this new brand called SIM,” said Brian Bazzel, TaylorMade Vice President of Global Product. “SIM stands for Shape in Motion, and really it is about being able to create these new shapes, especially in the drivers, that we really couldn’t create five years ago when the M products were introduced.”
With SIM, TaylorMade believes it has developed new aerodynamic driver shapes without making any compromises when it comes to performance, which hasn’t always been the case in the driver design process.
In fact, as good as the M family was, as well as many of the TaylorMade drivers before that, R&D personnel always felt that sacrifices had to be made, which is no longer the case.
“The history of driver design has been about prioritizing tradeoffs,” said Tomo Bystedt, TaylorMade Senior Director of Product Creation. “You could have great launch conditions but poor forgiveness. You could have great forgiveness but at the sacrifice of distance. You could have an aerodynamic shape but with less than optimal launch conditions.
“But through the use of multi-material technology, we’ve developed a new shape that optimizes performance in all three areas. It’s forgiving, fast, and promotes the ideal launch conditions.”
While the shaping of the SIM products, which most notably includes a new Inertia Generator, which moves weight low and back to create high MOI and optimal launch and spin, is the big storyline, TaylorMade fans can still count on the technologies that have driven performance in the most recent driver releases from the company, including Twist Face and Speed Injection.
And as mentioned, there are three unique SIM options that players can choose from to fit their needs, and we asked Bazzel to elaborate about each.
“The SIM has the movable weight and the sliding track gives you 20 yards of left to right adjustability, and you have the loft sleeve as well to get the right fit,” Bazzel said. “In the SIM Max, we’ve taken out the weight of the track and the weight within it and put that down and back in the head. The face is slightly larger; the footprint when you set it down will look similar to SIM, but the inertia, the forgiveness is a little bit higher.
“And then finally the Max-D, that’s a draw-biased product, so if you fight the slice or you fight the right side of the golf course for a right-hander then the SIM Max-D is the best product for you.”
Golfers will have several different shafts to choose from, including multiple no upcharge options, to further help them get the right fit, and TaylorMade’s adjustable loft sleeve also provides customization that golfers can use to dial in their preferred trajectory and shot shape.
TaylorMade SIM drivers are available for pre-order now. They will begin shipping and be available at retail on Feb. 7.
Callaway had a big 2019 with its Epic Flash drivers, as the use of Artificial Intelligence in designing the clubface yielded impressive results for a wide array of golfers.
But engineers thought there was even more than could be done with Artificial Intelligence to optimize performance, which led to a pretty dramatic shift in Callaway's design approach.
“Over the past year we’ve more than doubled our investment in AI, so what used to take us two months we can do in a weekend,” said Dave Neville, Callaway Senior Director of Product Management. “We’ve actually taken this from being a research tool to really being a design tool and helping us to design the drivers. Now, instead of having just one face and applying that to the standard driver, we have unique faces for each of the drivers.”
And not only does Callaway create a unique clubface for each of the three Mavrik models -- the standard Mavrik, the Mavrik Sub Zero, and the Mavrik Max -- each of the available lofts has its own clubface, which Callaway is referring to as Flash Face SS20 clubface architecture.
Additionally, a new material has been used in constructing the clubface, an exotic FS2S titanium, which is helping produce more ball speed.
That said, Callaway is also relying on a number of technologies that have proven to be difference makers in its most recent driver iterations, including Jailbreak Technology, which utilizes two internal bars that connect the sole and crown to maximize energy transfer at impact, as well as a lightweight TC2 Triaxial Carbon Crown that allows engineers to establish a low, deep CG position that optimizes launch and spin conditions.
As mentioned, there are also three different Mavrik options available to fit any golfer, and Neville went into detail about the characteristics of each model.
MAVRIK STANDARD: “This is going to be our fastest head and it’s going to be more aerodynamic than any shape we’ve used before. This is going to fit the majority of golfers so this is the one that you want to start with when you’re getting fit for these drivers. It has a little bit of draw bias, it has the weight screw in the back, it has Jailbreak Technology, and the Flash Face SS20.”
MAVRIK SUB ZERO: “This is typically our better player club. It’s low spin with high MOI. It’s going to typically fit someone who has 105 MPH clubhead speed on the driver or more, (but) not all the time so you’ll still want to get fit. We have the front-back weighting here, so you can change the trajectory and spin rates and the shape is perfect for that better player. They like to see something that has a neutral CG bias.”
MAVRIK MAX: “This is really a driver we’ve never had before. It’s a big shape, high MOI shape, and then with the weight screws, what you can do is put the heavy weight in the heel and this is going to be even more draw bias than the Rogue (Draw) or you can put the heavy weight in the back and it’s going to be the easiest launching driver that we’ve ever had. It’s really like two drivers in one. For the player who’s going to struggle with where they hit it on the face or fighting a slice, they’re going to want to look at the Max driver.”
Players will also have multiple shaft options that vary in terms of weight and profile to choose from to fit their swing when it comes to Callaway’s new Mavrik drivers, which are available for pre-order now.
Mavrik drivers will start shipping and be available in stores on January 23.
In this exclusive video, 2nd Swing master fitter Thomas Campbell and staff writer Drew Mahowald put eight of the top players cavity back irons to the test using Trackman technology. Which models performed the best? The results from the test might surprise you.
While the past couple of years have shed light on the players-distance iron category, early signs in 2020 point to the game-improvement category being the focus for new iron releases.
TaylorMade’s newest iron models, the SIM Max and SIM Max OS, both fall into the game-improvement category, offering performance, distance, and forgiveness for golfers who may not find the center of the clubface with every swing.
The SIM Max and SIM Max OS irons are a part of TaylorMade’s transition from the M family to the SIM family. According to TaylorMade, SIM, which stands for Shape in Motion, represents a significant upgrade in technology and performance that warranted an entirely new name.
TaylorMade’s mission with the SIM Max and SIM Max OS irons is to enhance distance, forgiveness, and feel. Through a series of technologies, some new and some old, TaylorMade has delivered two iron models with superb feel and game-improvement performance.
Returning from the M family is TaylorMade’s patented Speed Bridge, which crosses over the cavity back to connect the topline and the sole together. This design, introduced in the M5 and M6 irons, stabilizes the clubhead at impact and improves face flexing for more ball speed across the entire clubface.
Tomo Bystedt, Senior Director of Product Creation at TaylorMade, says the Speed Bridge has been fine-tuned in the SIM family irons compared to the M family design to enhance performance.
“Whenever you have a new technology, you can always refine it for the second version,” Bystedt said. “Our R&D (department) spent a lot of time optimizing where that bridge crosses the back to deliver an even more flexible face. This has allowed us to actually thin out the face and make it even faster, and that Speed Bridge across the back helps support the face.”
The clubface in the SIM Max and SIM Max OS irons is built ultra-thin at 1.5mm with Progressive Inverted Cone Technology to maximize the sweet spot and provide ball speed increases off the center of the face.
TaylorMade has also invested more resources into improving the feel in its irons, and this applies to the SIM family. A new dampener in the SIM Max and SIM Max OS irons helps minimize unwanted vibrations and deliver better feel at impact.
“Essentially, what we’re going for is forged feel,” Bystedt said. “We have a new full-length damper in the cavity that we call the ECHO Dampening System. That damper allows us to not only provide more dampening across the whole face, even on mis-hits, but it’s also designed to not impede the flexibility of the face. So it really combines that speed with excellent sound and feel.”
While the SIM Max and SIM Max OS irons are built with many of the same technologies, their shapes differ in order to provide different performance characteristics and fit more golfers.
One big change TaylorMade is rolling out in 2020 is delivering a game-improvement iron and a super game-improvement iron under the SIM family. In 2019, TaylorMade’s M5 and M6 irons were more catered toward the players-distance and game-improvement categories.
The SIM Max irons are designed with standard game-improvement shaping characteristics, such as a thick topline, thick sole, and undercut cavity design. Meanwhile, the SIM Max OS is designed for super game-improvement performance with an even larger profile and stronger lofts.
“Really what’s different is in the shaping of the clubs,” Bystedt said. “We’ve actually positioned the SIM Max OS a little different from how we did M5 last year in that instead of going for the players-distance segment, we’re actually going for the super game-improvement segment. So we’ve actually made that iron a little bit bigger than the SIM Max with a taller face, a little bit more offset, and thicker toplines to give it a more confidence-inspiring look.”
TaylorMade is better known for its production of metalwoods, but its investment into irons is really starting to pay off, especially in the game-improvement category. The M5 and M6 models were highly successful in 2019, and the technologies that made it happen have been carried over, optimized, and paired with new innovations from TaylorMade engineers.
The result is a couple of iron models that deliver exceptional feel, superb distance, and premium performance on mis-hits, a combination that any golfer can get behind.
2nd Swing master fitter Thomas Campbell and staff writer Drew Mahowald visited Callaway headquarters recently to learn about and test the new Callaway Mavrik line. In this video, Campbell and Mahowald discuss some of their initial impressions in terms of performance, looks, and feel.
Cobra’s product releases are highly anticipated every year, and with good reason. As one of the industry leaders in innovation and performance, Cobra is lowering scores and making the game easier for golfers annually.
In 2020, Cobra has released the SpeedZone line, which introduces a series of zones through which Cobra is able to unlock explosive distance and reliable forgiveness.
Cobra’s fairway woods have long been one of the most popular brand and club type duos in golf, and that should continue with the SpeedZone fairway woods.
Cobra did things a little differently with their 2020 fairway woods. Instead of releasing two models, which had been the case in the past, Cobra added a third option to provide more options and playability characteristics.
The three models -- the standard SpeedZone fairway, the SpeedZone Tour fairway, and the SpeedZone Big Tour fairway -- all share the same primary zones that Cobra has installed to boost performance.
The Power Zone consists of a CNC milled face that is up to five times more precise than a traditional hand polishing process. This allows Cobra engineers to produce a clubface that matches up with the legal speed limit set by the USGA and R&A.
The Flex Zone features Cobra’s Hollow Split Rails that can be seen on the sole running parallel to one another. The hollow rails are designed to flex more than solid rails, which creates a 70 percent larger sweet spot from heel to toe. Ball speed is also enhanced with the aid of a split speed channel.
The Stability Zone is created by the Dual Baffler Rails, which run parallel to each other and surround the hollow rails on the sole. Dual Baffler technology is designed to provide excellent stability and speed through the turf from any kind of lie, while maintaining consistent contact.
Lastly, the Light Zone is delivered through a carbon fiber crown that creates discretionary weight. This weight is redistributed throughout the clubhead to move the center of gravity lower and deeper to promote high launch.
During a recent trip to Carlsbad, California, I was able to test out all three SpeedZone fairway wood models at the Encinitas Ranch Golf Club.
I generate a lot of clubhead speed (usually around 115 miles per hour with a driver) but I don’t always make contact in the center of the clubface, so I was interested in the differences of the three models and how they would fit my swing.
What struck me about the standard SpeedZone fairway wood was the performance on mis-hits, particularly shots hit low on the clubface. I was surprised at the high launch the club was able to maintain when I hit a couple below the center of the face. Usually, that type of contact results in a lower ball flight that doesn’t carry very far. That wasn’t the case with the SpeedZone.
The SpeedZone Tour fairway wood includes a more compact shape and a stronger standard loft at 14 degrees. This combination results in more workability for golfers who like to shape their shots. This option is also great for golfers who find themselves playing in windy conditions or those who simply want a lower trajectory, as the SpeedZone Tour fairway wood launched naturally lower than the standard SpeedZone.
The SpeedZone Big Tour fairway wood was the model I was most curious about. At 173cc, it’s the biggest clubhead of the three models and it also features the strongest loft at 13.5 degrees. This combination delivers the most potential distance from the SpeedZone fairways, especially for someone with higher swing speeds who can easily get the ball into the air with a stronger-lofted fairway wood.
For me, the Big Tour was an absolute rocket. Off the tee, I was seeing numbers that compared to some of my tee shots with a driver. A popular decision for many golfers is selecting a fairway wood over a driver off the tee on a hole with a narrow landing area. The SpeedZone Big Tour is perfect for that scenario because you get the forgiveness of a larger clubhead but also the distance of the stronger loft.
A player similar to myself that swings fast but will sometimes miss the center of the clubface, may benefit from putting two SpeedZone fairway woods in the bag -- a Big Tour 3-wood and a standard SpeedZone 5-wood.
But of course, every swing is unique. The great thing about the SpeedZone fairway woods is that there is an option for every golfer and every swing, and SpeedZone is sure to help golfers lower their scores in 2020 and beyond.
As 2019 comes to a close, we wanted to provide one more At The Turn newsletter before we flip the calendar to 2020. In this installment, we have laid out the results of our inaugural 2nd Swing Golfers Survey and provided a Trackman test comparing several popular Players Distance iron models. This edition is also packed with expertise from our staff of fitters. Included is the second Campbell’s Corner column from master fitter Thomas Campbell, discussing the affect of temperature and wind on golf shots. Master fitter James Tracy took some time with staff writer Drew Mahowald to discuss the importance of fitting for high-handicap golfers. And lastly, we caught up with master fitter Larry Bobka to get his insights on several fitting topics and his experience thus far at 2nd Swing.
By 2nd Swing Staff
With 2019 set to come to an end, we thought it was a great time to get a feel for what our 2nd Swing customers had to say about various golf-related topics, which was the motivation for our First Annual Golfers Survey.
We asked our customers/readers questions about the game in general, golf manufacturers, golf equipment, and club fitting, and they clearly had a lot to say and were excited to share their thoughts, as nearly 1,200 people responded to the 30-question survey.
There were also some interesting results that maybe we didn’t anticipate.
As an example, 84 percent of those who responded believe the rules changes that were implemented by the USGA and R&A at the start of 2019 have made golf more enjoyable, a number that provides an interesting contradiction to the frequent complaints voiced by PGA Tour players throughout the year.
Also surprising was that 39.1 percent of our survey respondents said the Short Game was the most important aspect of golf, a number followed in second place by the 23.4 percent who opted for Mental Game/Course Management as their answer.
Our survey results also made it clear, although not surprising, that our readers love the idea of azaleas in the springtime, as 79.5 percent of those who responded said the Masters was the major championship they most look forward to and 57.3 percent said Augusta National would be the course they’d want to play of the five iconic options they were presented.
And finally, one result that made all of us happy at 2nd Swing is that nearly 57 percent of our respondents said they select their golf clubs first and foremost based on performance. We thought that number might be lower, but given that our company’s mission is for all of you to play your best golf we love knowing that you firmly believe performance is king.
Anyway, enough with the teasers.
Let’s go ahead and get to the full list of results, and thank you to everyone who participated!
1. How many rounds of golf do you play on average each year?
Less than 10 -- 2%
11-25 -- 13.8%
26-50 -- 31.1%
51-100 -- 35.7%
More than 100 -- 17.3%
2. What is your current handicap index?
Scratch or better -- 1.2%
1-5 -- 8.9%
6-10 -- 24.1%
11-15 -- 32.5%
16-25 -- 28.5%
26 or higher -- 4.9%
3. The strongest part of my game is my ...
Driving -- 25.6%
Iron Play -- 19.2%
Short Game -- 26.7%
Putting -- 20.9%
Mental Game/Course Management -- 7.6%
4. The weakest part of my game is my …
Driving -- 27.3%
Iron Play -- 29.7%
Short Game -- 21.9%
Putting -- 14.7%
Mental Game/Course Management -- 6.4%
5. Which of the following do you view as the most important aspect of golf?
6. If I had more time available to devote to golf I would focus it on the following:
Playing More -- 36.3%
Practicing More -- 43.5%
Club Fitting/Club Testing -- 6.7%
Instruction -- 13.5%
7. Which of the following is the biggest factor in choosing the clubs that you play?
Look -- 3.8%
Feel -- 26%
Performance -- 56.7%
Cost -- 10.6%
Brand -- 3%
8. When I buy golf clubs I typically buy ...
New Equipment -- 56.2%
Used Equipment -- 43.8%
9. When was the last time you bought a driver?
Within the last six months -- 23.8%
Within the last year -- 25.7%
Within the last 1-3 years -- 32.7%
Within the last 3-5 years -- 10.3%
More than 5 years ago -- 7.5%
10. When was the last time you bought an iron set?
Within the last six months -- 17.3%
Within the last year -- 18.8%
Within the last 1-3 years -- 32.2%
Within the last 3-5 years -- 14.8%
More than 5 years ago -- 16.9%
11. When was the last time you bought a wedge or wedges?
Within the last six months -- 25.9%
Within the last year -- 23%
Within the last 1-3 years -- 28.9%
Within the last 3-5 years -- 11.3%
More than 5 years ago -- 10.9%
12. When was the last time you bought a putter?
Within the last six months -- 20.6%
Within the last year -- 19.9%
Within the last 1-3 years -- 23.8%
Within the last 3-5 years -- 11.6%
More than 5 years ago -- 24%
13. Would you consider yourself to be typically loyal to just one golf manufacturer?
14. Which company do you believe makes the best drivers?
PING -- 22.2%
TaylorMade -- 28.9%
Callaway -- 25.6%
Titleist -- 10.7%
Cobra -- 7.3%
Mizuno -- 0.3%
Cleveland/Srixon -- 1.2%
15. Which company do you believe makes the best irons?
PING -- 21.9%
TaylorMade -- 12.5%
Callaway -- 17%
Titleist -- 16.4%
Cobra -- 3.7%
Mizuno -- 19.8%
Cleveland/Srixon -- 3.3%
16. Which company do you believe makes the best wedges?
PING -- 8.4%
TaylorMade -- 2.5%
Callaway -- 12.9%
Titleist -- 40.2%
Cobra -- 1.2%
Mizuno -- 2%
Cleveland -- 29.6%
17. Which company do you believe makes the best putters?
Titleist/Scotty Cameron -- 34.5%
Odyssey/Toulon Design -- 33.5%
Bettinardi -- 2.9%
TaylorMade -- 6.3%
PING - 14.4%
18. Which golf company does the best job of marketing its new products?
PING -- 5.8%
Titleist -- 14.7%
Callaway -- 33.4%
TaylorMade -- 40.7%
Cobra -- 1.3%
Cleveland/Srixon -- 1.1%
Mizuno -- 0.2%
19. When it comes to the design of my putter, I prefer a …
Blade -- 34.6%
Mid-mallet -- 24.6%
Traditional mallet -- 17.1%
Modern mallet -- 23.8%
20. When it comes to golf balls, I …
Play the same brand and model all the time -- 16.4%
Play the same brand and model most of the time -- 46.4%
Enjoy testing different types of balls -- 28.9%
Have no preference and will play with anything I can find -- 8.3%
21. Of the following choices, which would you regard as golf’s biggest issue today?
Equipment Costs -- 26.5%
Greens Fees/Membership Fees -- 24.5%
Slow Play -- 32.3%
Time Commitment -- 16.7%
22. The rules changes implemented for 2019 have made the game better/more enjoyable:
True -- 84.1%
False -- 15.9%
23.If you could only play one of the following golf courses it would be:
24. Which Major Championship do you look most forward to each year?
PGA Championship -- 1.1%
The Masters -- 79.5%
U.S. Open -- 13.4%
Open Championship -- 6%
25. Have you been professionally fit for golf clubs in the past?
Yes -- 65.5%
No -- 34.5%
26. How often do you experiment with the settings on your adjustable hosels?
Constantly -- 0.4%
Quite Often -- 3.6%
Occasionally -- 33.4%
Hardly Ever -- 39.3%
Never -- 23.4%
27. I understand modern ball flight laws and how club path and face angle influence my shots:
True -- 77.3%
False -- 22.7%
28. I am very knowledgeable about the shafts that I play in my golf clubs …
True -- 54.9%
False -- 45.1%
29. Which aspect of club fitting do you feel most knowledgeable about?
Launch Monitor Data -- 20.5%
Lie Angle -- 10.2%
Shaft Flex -- 34.1%
Shaft Weight -- 4.5%
Yardage Gapping -- 30.6%
30. Which aspect of club fitting do you feel least knowledgeable about?
Launch Monitor Data -- 45.1%
Lie Angle -- 18.1%
Shaft Flex -- 7.5%
Shaft Weight -- 18.8%
Yardage Gapping -- 10.6%
The hot iron category in golf right now is the Players Distance category, as golf manufacturers are devoting significant R&D resources to this space and creating great products for golfers who want a clean, classic shape with an infusion of distance and forgiveness. There are a number of great options in this category, so we decided to test several of them against each other to see how they compared in terms of performance, look, and feel.
By Thomas Campbell -- 2nd Swing staff writer
Playing golf early in the spring, late in the fall, or even on a nice winter day can be pleasant and make it easier to obtain tee times at your favorite course.
The temperature, of course, is usually cooler than playing in the peak of summer, and the weather can be a little unsettled as well, leading to blustery winds on the course.
The unique, winding designs of golf courses include changes in direction, ao you rarely face wind from the same direction hole after hole, and there are a few things you should know about how to prepare and gain an advantage in cold, hot, and windy conditions.
Cold air is denser than warm air and creates additional drag on the golf ball. A temperature drop or increase of 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) will lead to a distance loss or gain of one to two yards.
For Tour players and golfers with faster swing speeds, this ratio is closer to two yards for every 10-degree change in temperature. If you don’t hit the ball as far that ratio will be closer to one yard for every 10-degree temperature change.
Based on research conducted by Trackman University, the average 6-iron carry distance for a golfer with a club speed of 90 mph is 178 yards when the temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature drops to 60 degrees the carry distance will decrease to 176 yards, when it drops to 50 degrees the carry distance will decrease to 174 yards, and at 40 degrees the carry distance will drop to 172 yards.
On the other end of the spectrum, when the temperature increases to 80 degrees carry distance will increase to 180 yards, and then increase to 182 and 184 yards at 90 and 100 degrees, respectively.
In terms of club selection, using 70 degrees Fahrenheit as a baseline, a temperature drop of 30 degrees will mean you will want to take half a club more on approach shots, while a temperature increase of 30 degrees will mean you will want to take half a club less.
Warmer or colder temperatures also influence other elements of the game. For example, when it is cold outside players usually wear bulkier clothing and their bodies are not as flexible, which further reduces swing speed, resulting in fewer yards. When it’s warm, however, you can shed that jacket and your swing won’t feel as restricted.
To keep it simple in colder temperatures, always take half a club extra, and if your swing feels restricted you might need to take a full club.
When hitting into a headwind, your shots will carry shorter, fly higher, and land steeper. Lift and drag are the main contributing factors, as lift causes the ball to rise while drag causes the ball to slow down.
During calm conditions, the air is moving into the golf ball at the speed the ball is traveling. When you are hitting a shot downwind, the wind speed subtracts from the airflow, and when there is a headwind, the wind adds to the airflow.
The greater the airflow, the greater the amount of lift and drag, which is the main reason the ball climbs higher into the wind.
When playing into a headwind, spin is your biggest enemy and trying to swing harder is not the answer, as swinging harder will increase club speed, which will increase spin. Instead, I suggest using a club with less loft.
Downwind, the ball will carry longer, fly lower, and land flatter. The best way to maximize distance is to launch the ball higher so it stays in the air longer, lands steeper, and stops on the green faster.
That said, when playing downwind, a shot with not enough spin will fall to the ground faster because lift also keeps the ball in the air, which explains why the ball can get “knocked down” in strong downwind conditions.
Also noteworthy is that a headwind will always hurt more than a downwind helps, and there is no linear correlation between how much distance is lost or gained, as you can see in the following charts, courtesy of Trackman University.
Using a carry distance of 178 yards with a 6-iron as our baseline, when playing into a headwind of 5 MPH the carry distance will decrease from 178 yards to 171 yards. That number drops to 162 yards into a 10 MPH headwind and 152 yards into a 15 MPH headwind.
The numbers are even more staggering as the wind increases, as the same shot played into a 20 MPH headwind will carry only 141 yards, and into a 25 MPH headwind will only carry 128 yards.
On the flip side, playing a shot downwind at 5 MPH will increase a 178-yard carry distance to 186 yards, while at 10 MPH downwind that number will increase to 191 yards. At 15, 20, and 25 MPH downwind, the carry distances will increase to 196, 199, and 201 yards, respectively.
When playing in the wind, the most overlooked factor for most golfers is landing angle. Typically with an iron the ideal landing angle into a green is 45-50 degrees, and when the landing angle number starts to drop it becomes much harder to stop the ball on the green.
When playing into the wind, it’s not very often that it becomes a challenge to stop the ball on the green due to lift and drag, but it can be very challenging to stop the ball downwind.
Based on a 6-iron carrying 178 yards for a player with a 90 MPH club speed, the landing angle with no wind is 46 degrees. When playing into a 25 MPH headwind, however, the landing angle will increase to 75 degrees, while playing a shot downwind at 25 MPH will decrease the landing angle to only 28 degrees.
In looking at all of these numbers, when playing shots into the wind don’t try to overpower the wind and instead take an extra club(s) or adjust your swing to keep the ball low.
Conversely, when playing downwind, take full advantage by increasing your launch angle to get the ball up in the air, which will result in longer drives and increase the landing angle on approach shots so the ball can stop faster on the green.
There's a feeling among many higher-handicap golfers that they’re not good enough to be fit for golf clubs or that their inconsistent ball-striking will be a hindrance when it comes to producing the data that a club fitter uses to make equipment recommendations. Is that actually the case? Not at all. In fact, it might be even more important for high-handicap players to be fit, as 2nd Swing’s James Tracy and Drew Mahowald discuss in this video.
Larry Bobka has practically done it all in the golf industry. He has worked as a club professional, club builder, teacher, and fitter, spending time at big-name manufacturers such as Wilson and Titleist.
Throughout his career, he’s had the opportunity to work with the best players in the world to make sure they’re playing equipment fit for their swings. He helped build a set of irons for Tiger Woods in the late 1990s, the same set Woods used to win the ‘Tiger Slam’ in the early 2000s.
Bobka now brings his extensive background and expertise to 2nd Swing, where he now serves as an advisor and a master club fitter in the Twin Cities.
We caught up with Bobka to gather his insight on a few fitting topics, how things have changed (and stayed the same) throughout his career, and what’s he’s enjoyed most about working at 2nd Swing so far.
2ND SWING: How often do you find that golfers are using a putter that is not fit for their stroke type?
BOBKA: About 50 percent of the time. Most of the time they pick something based on the look or something they see on TV or one of their buddy’s putters. Putters are an emotional purchase. If someone hits 40 putts in a round one day, they need to get a new putter as soon as possible to fix the putting. What they really should be doing is taking a look at their putting stroke and finding something that will help them make more solid contact.
2ND SWING: What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed between working with professionals and working with amateurs?
BOBKA: Professionals are looking for any way possible to improve their game because it’s what they are doing for a living. The best ones are always seeking out the advice of others. They’re open to change and they’re open to trying new things. I think the average golfer can be a little bit hesitant to change, whether it’s with equipment or in the swing.
2ND SWING: What are the benefits of using the right wedge grinds and what are the downfalls of playing the wrong wedge grinds for your game?
BOBKA: The benefit of playing the right one is that you’re going to make solid contact with the golf ball. If you’re playing the wrong one, you’re more likely to hit it fat or thin. I think the term “bounce is your friend” is good because generally bounce offers more versatility. If you have a tight lie you can alter your technique with a high-bounce wedge so that it’s still effective. But if you try to use a low-bounce wedge in a soft bunker, you’re in jail. It’s also important to recognize that different swings are made with different wedge lofts, so you won’t want the same grind on each wedge in your bag.
2ND SWING: Throughout your extensive golf career, many things have changed. What is something you have noticed that has stayed consistent over the last few decades in golf?
BOBKA: Through the internet and all of the new technology, it’s a lot easier for golfers to narrow their equipment decisions to a few options. One of the things we preach at 2nd Swing is getting golfers from hundreds of options to three options and then one option. It’s way easier nowadays to get golfers to three. But the thing that has stayed the same over time is that making the final decision requires trial and error. That was pretty much the only method to buying clubs back in the day, and still applies now. That’s what’s so great about our 45-day play guarantee. If you’re not quite sure about your decision, just go try it! You have 45 days to make sure your new club works and if it doesn’t, we’ll get you something that does.
2ND SWING: What’s your favorite part about working at 2nd Swing so far?
BOBKA: It’s the passion, without a doubt. I’ve been to every store now and I can’t tell you how passionate the people here are about helping golfers play better. So many golfers walk in and think they’re going to be sold the most expensive item. What we really do is sell them what’s best for them, which might just be an adjustment to loft and lie on their current equipment. For lack of a better term, this a company full of golf geeks. And how can you do any better to improve your game than seeing a bunch of golf geeks? It’s amazing to see the differences between people’s faces when they enter the store and then when they leave the store.
We’ve flipped the calendar to December, which means holiday shopping time is here. In this edition of At The Turn, we’ve included our list of the five best holiday gift ideas you can find at 2nd Swing. You’ll also find a sneak peek at Cobra’s new SpeedZone drivers, which will be available to golfers in early 2020. Additionally, staff writer Drew Mahowald used Trackman to compare two highly praised TaylorMade driver models from the past decade, the 2016 M2 and the SLDR 460. We also included a couple of videos from our YouTube channel: a Trackman comparison of the Mizuno MP-20 and PING Blueprint irons starring master fitter Thomas Campbell and a discussion about driver shaft length with master fitter James Tracy.
Almost every golfer is fastidious about his or her equipment, from the clubs to the clothing and everything in between. At 2nd Swing, we’re all golfers, so we understand that we can be difficult to shop for during the holiday season.
With that said, we also have a good understanding of the items that can make excellent gifts for golfers of all skill and experience levels, and we’ve laid out a few of those items for you.
Below, you’ll find our five favorite gift ideas for this holiday season that will cover almost any budget and satisfy any golfer.
Titleist 917 Drivers: Sometimes, a deal is just too good to pass up. In this case, it’s our selection of Titleist 917 D2 and D3 drivers, starting at just $89.99. While the 917 drivers aren’t the newest offerings from Titleist, they are both still being used widely on the PGA Tour. They each feature the Titleist SureFit hosel, which allows golfers to adjust the loft and lie to create optimal launch and spin. Each also includes a thin clubface and the Active Recoil Channel, which increases ball speed on off-center strikes. The 917 D2 presents a larger footprint with higher MOI that will benefit golfers searching for an emphasis on forgiveness and high launch, while the 917 D3 features a smaller profile that focuses on workability with a lower launch. If you’re unsure which model is best for the golfer in your life, give our Fitting and Support team a call at (612) 216-4152. Click here to shop Titleist 917 drivers.
2nd Swing Tour Van Fitting: Every golfer’s swing is different. At 2nd Swing, we don’t just understand this; we’ve embraced it. We want to equip all golfers with clubs that are a true fit for their unique swing. Our Tour Van fitting process allows our staff of professional, certified club fitters to use advanced technology, such as Trackman launch monitors, to identify swing tendencies and recommend products based on those tendencies. Sometimes the best gift is knowing what clubs and specs are right for your game, rather than buying completely new clubs. For more information on our Tour Van fitting process, click here.
Bushnell Tour V4 Rangefinders: Golf has become increasingly easier to play with advancements in technology, both in terms of equipment and accessories. Rangefinders, in particular, have become a staple in the bags of avid golfers over the past several years. As a brand, Bushnell leads the way in laser golf rangefinders. The Tour V4 model is a few years old, but it still delivers excellent performance and allows golfers to dial in their yardages with pinpoint accuracy. The Tour V4 also features JOLT technology, which delivers a vibration when the unit locks onto the pin. At just $219.99 (certified pre-owned), golfers can enjoy more accurate distances to their targets and make the game just a little bit easier. Shop Bushnell Tour V4 rangefinders here.
2nd Swing eGift Card: As we’ve already mentioned, golfers can be a finicky group about their equipment. If you don’t want to run the risk of disappointing someone, a 2nd Swing eGift Card is the safest choice. Click here for more information on our eGift Cards.
Personalized Golf Balls: For the holiday season, 2nd Swing is dropping prices on golf balls and offering free personalization on select models. The new Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x models, which were released in January 2019, are now available at $39.99 per dozen (previously $47.99). Meanwhile, Callaway Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X golf balls are available at $34.99 per dozen, $10 off the original price. Titleist and Callaway are offering free personalization with these models, as well, to provide a personal touch to your gift. Click here to shop our holiday golf ball specials.
When it comes to irons, there’s nothing sexier than a classic blade design, and two of the best musclebacks to hit the market in 2019 are the Mizuno MP-20 and the PING Blueprint, both of which were created to provide precision, control, workability, and superior feel for the better player. So how do these two aesthetically stunning irons compare to each other? To find out, we decided to test them head-to-head using Trackman 4 technology.
Cobra has made really good drivers for a number of years now and those efforts have created a loyal following for the company.
That said, in terms of mainstream popularity, Cobra still found itself lagging behind companies like TaylorMade, PING, and Callaway in the driver category.
In January of 2019, however, that reality began to shift in a major way following the release of the KING F9 Speedback driver, which was immediately showered with accolades from industry experts.
As a result, countless golfers who might not have considered a Cobra driver in previous years gave the F9 a try and ultimately put it in the bag. And in doing so, those players were rewarded with one of the year’s fastest drivers, as well as a club that delivered exceptional forgiveness and incredible feel.
Given the success of F9 and its increased market share in the driver category, one might have expected Cobra to stand pat for a while.
Instead, the company is set to release its new SpeedZone drivers in early 2020, and Cobra engineers believe that the new models will prove to be even better than the highly successful F9.
Prior to the release of the F9 Speedback, Cobra typically had two drivers within each family, one that was created as a spin killer for better players and one that was designed for maximum forgiveness.
With F9, the spin profile changed based on loft, but there was just the one head shape. Cobra, however, is going back to two models with its Speedzone franchise.
More specifically, SpeedZone Xtreme will offer a slightly larger footprint, enhanced perimeter weighting, and a fixed tungsten back weight, all of which combine to create the highest MOI ever in a Cobra driver. The standard SpeedZone model, meanwhile, will feature a more compact profile and movable weights in the sole, which in tandem will enable players to work the ball more easily and reduce spin as needed.
Beyond that, however, the two drivers share the same foundational technologies, as Cobra has focused its efforts on different “Zones” to unlock performance.
Those Zones and what they accomplish are as follows:
Power Zone: The new SpeedZone drivers feature an infinity edge clubface, a design that increases Cobra’s unique driver face milling pattern by 95 percent, which helps maximize ball speed and distance from a larger portion of the clubface.
Strength Zone: The body of the SpeedZone drivers is also new and what Cobra is calling a modified T-Bar Speed Chassis. In short, the redesigned frame is stronger and lighter, which allows for improved energy transfer and stability at impact, as well as exceptional feel.
Light Zone: To create as much discretionary weight as possible, engineers have utilized a new 360-wrap carbon crown that now covers 50 percent of the driver’s body. That design approach freed up 25 grams of weight that has been repositioned low and deep in the clubhead.
Low CG Zone: Cobra has always been a proponent of a low CG position, and it has achieved that goal in the SpeedZone models by positioning 69 grams of weight as low as possible in the clubhead, which fuels the launch, spin, and ball speed that equate to maximum distance.
Aero Zone: To create as little air drag as possible and to help players generate as much swing speed as possible, a heavy emphasis was placed on aerodynamics in the SpeedZone drivers, with a streamlined shape and milled perimeter edges combining to unlock efficient speed.
Stability Zone: Cobra used a widebody car design as the inspiration for SpeedZone. More specifically, weight has been positioned not only low in the head but also wide along the perimeter to provide better results on shots struck from outside the center of the face.
Both SpeedZone models also feature Cobra’s MyFly 8 adjustable hosel, which allows players to further dial in performance by increasing or decreasing loft by up to 1.5 degrees, and there are also three draw settings available as well.
There are also some quality stock shaft options being offered with the new SpeedZone drivers. Available in both models are the Mitsubishi Tensei AV Blue 65 (mid launch, mid spin), the Aldila Rogue Silver 60 (mid launch, low spin), and the HZRDUS Smoke Yellow 60 (low launch, low spin). Additionally, the lightweight, high-launching UST Helium is available in the SpeedZone Xtreme for players with slower swing speeds.
Also of note, SpeedZone Xtreme is available in standard lofts of 9, 10.5, and 12 degrees, while the standard SpeedZone is offered at 9 and 10.5 degrees. Both models come at a stock length of 45.5 inches, but a Tour Length version is also available at 44.5 inches for players who are looking for increased control.
And has been the case with all of Cobra’s most recent club releases, SpeedZone drivers will again feature Cobra Connect technology, which allows players to pair their driver with their smartphone to track stats and recognize shot tendencies through a sensor that’s embedded in the butt end of the grip.
Cobra’s new SpeedZone and SpeedZone Xtreme drivers will be available for pre-order beginning January 3, and they will begin shipping and be available at retail on January 17.
A crucial element when it comes to finding the right driver for your game is picking the correct shaft length. Many players can benefit by going with a slightly shorter shaft to improve contact and dispersion, but there are pitfalls to avoid if you plan on going shorter in length. In this exclusive video, 2nd Swing’s James Tracy and Drew Mahowald discuss driver shaft length and tell you everything you need to know about that aspect of club fitting.
2nd Swing’s massive selection of used clubs provides the opportunity for us to dive into some of the top older golf club models from the past few years.
TaylorMade has been highly successful in producing drivers over the past couple of decades, and this is still true with the M5 and M6 drivers in 2019. However, several of its past models are still competing with, and in the right hands sometimes exceeding, the performance of newer models.
Two models in particular that have received praise throughout the industry are the 2016 M2 and the SLDR 460. Each model was highly successful for TaylorMade when new, and both still can go head-to-head with some of the more recent models that are available.
I decided to compare the 2016 M2 and SLDR 460 using a Trackman 4 launch monitor at one of our Tour Van bays at the 2nd Swing Minneapolis location by gathering some data.
The 2016 M2 driver features a multi-material construction with a black carbon composite crown that is lighter than older TaylorMade driver models, which allowed saved weight to be moved back and deep in the clubhead. The shape of the M4 and M6 drivers was shaped largely off the construction of the 2016 M2.
The 2016 M2 does not include any adjustable weights built into the sole of the club, so the center of gravity that is placed deep and low is stationary. With that said, the CG position enables high MOI and forgiveness, in addition to high launch.
At address, golfers will immediately notice the white stripe along the leading edge of the crown. This is a result of TaylorMade fading out their all-white driver designs of the early 2010s. For some, it may be more appealing. For others, it may be a distraction. At any rate, it would probably take an adjustment period to get used to if you have been using a driver with a solid-color crown.
The SLDR, meanwhile, is built with seemingly an entirely different construction. Just by looking at the clubheads, it’s easy to tell that the SLDR’s center of gravity is in a much different position than the 2016 M2’s.
Additionally, the SLDR features a sliding weight along the sole that can be moved toward the heel or toe to further influence the center of gravity and create optimal shot shapes.
At address, the SLDR delivers a standard black crown that includes a tail of grey added to the back of the clubhead. Overall, in my opinion, it’s much smoother to look down at than the 2016 M2.
Before hitting any shots, my hypothesis was that the SLDR would spin less and perhaps generate more potential distance, while the 2016 M2 would add more forgiveness and a higher launch due to the lower center of gravity.
To clarify before getting into the numbers, both drivers were set at completely neutral settings and 9.5 degrees of loft. Additionally, I used a 60-gram stiff shaft at 45 ½ inches in both drivers.
I decided to decipher data from five good swings with each club and then look at the data.
With the 2016 M2 driver, my key Trackman data averages were: 116.9 miles per hour club speed, 171.1 miles per hour ball speed, 1.47 smash factor, 13.2 degree launch angle, 2467 RPM of spin, 288.7 yards of carry distance, and 308.9 yards of total distance.
I’ve been playing a 9-degree, low-spin driver for several years now, so those launch and spin numbers are both a little higher than I would usually generate and it’s probably due to more than just the added half of a degree of loft and slightly lighter shaft. My spin numbers have mostly been below 2000 RPM with my current driver.
My dispersion pattern with the 2016 M2 was pretty tight and, to be honest, much tighter than I would expect with my current driver. I’m used to more severe punishment on my mis-hits than I was given by the 2016 M2.
After five good swings with the SLDR 460 driver, my Trackman averages were: 117.8 miles per hour club speed, 169.8 miles per hour ball speed, 1.44 smash factor, 12.7 degree launch angle, 2183 RPM of spin, 285.5 yards of carry distance, and 307.1 yards of total distance.
It’s easy to tell that the SLDR 460 is designed for low spin. The trajectory was quite similar to what I’m used to with my current driver. One thing to note is that my dispersion pattern with the SLDR 460 was a bit larger, indicating that it might be the more workable but less forgiving option of the two models I tested.
I was more efficient with the 2016 M2 (1.46 smash factor) than I was with the SLDR 460 (1.44 smash factor), and that very well be human error as much as it is the club. However, I don’t think it’s a complete coincidence that the clubhead with a lower center of gravity generated more efficiency for someone like me who doesn’t find the center of the clubface every swing.
Both models generated data for me that competes with 2019 drivers that I have tested. I was especially impressed with the forgiveness of the 2016 M2, given that forgiveness seems to be where newer models see better results over older models.
Golfers in search of an efficient option off the tee without breaking the bank on a brand new model could definitely be happy with either the 2016 M2 or the SLDR 460 from TaylorMade.
My suggestion would be that golfers who struggle with low spin or maybe want some added forgiveness off the tee will prefer the 2016 M2. Meanwhile, golfers with higher swing speeds looking for workability or a lower-spinning option might like the SLDR 460 better.
Overall, each of these models present an excellent value for golfers looking for a driver upgrade without paying the price for a brand new model.
2nd Swing’s bi-monthly newsletter At The Turn is back with a brand new installment featuring new, unique content. Most notably in this edition, we want to see what our readers have to say about our favorite game, so we’ve included the first annual 2nd Swing Golfers Survey. Additionally, staff writer Drew Mahowald compiled a list of steps to follow when buying a driver, and master fitter Thomas Campbell debuts his new column Campbell’s Corner with advice about how often golfers should replace their wedges. And finally, we’ve included a couple of videos: one comparing the new Callaway Super Hybrid to the Epic Flash hybrid and Epic Flash 5-wood, and the other breaking down Attack Angle, which is one of the most important launch monitor data points.
If you’re a regular reader of our At The Turn newsletter, then there’s a good chance that you, like us, love golf.
And if you love golf, you’re probably curious about what other golfers like you think about various golf-related topics.
That being the case, we decided it was time to put together the First Annual 2nd Swing Golfers Survey to get a better feel for what our customers have to say about the game they love.
The survey consists of 30 multiple-choice questions and will take less than five minutes to complete. The questions cover a wide range of topics, including equipment, golf manufacturers, club fitting, and general golf subjects.
We will be accepting responses through December 15 and then we will publish the results of the survey in the December 19 edition of At The Turn.
We’re certainly excited to see your answers and explore what they reveal about golf, and we want to thank you for your participation.
Let’s get started!
You can take the First Annual 2nd Swing Golfers Survey here.
Callaway made some strong statements with the release of its new Super Hybrid, most notably saying that the new club would offer fairway wood performance in a more playable hybrid shape. So does the Super Hybrid deliver on that promise? To find out, 2nd Swing staff members Thomas Campbell and Drew Mahowald decided to put the Super Hybrid up against an Epic Flash hybrid and an Epic Flash 5-wood using Trackman 4 technology.
Now is perhaps the best time of the year to buy a driver.
In colder climates where the winter season is playing through, prices on drivers will drop, creating increased value for the consumer. Meanwhile, the prime golf season is on the horizon for those living in warm climates.
In any case, buying a driver isn’t a simple task if you’re committed to fitting your unique swing. Some golfers purchase the newest model of a particular brand every year, while others simply look for the best bargain. Others will buy based on the recommendations of a friend.
None of these purchasing avenues are bad necessarily, but several factors need to be considered when purchasing a driver to obtain the optimal performance gains.
It’s important to note that drivers are heavily regulated by the USGA and R&A. The clubhead size can not exceed 460cc, and every manufacturer has a different method of utilizing all 460cc. Additionally, there are limits to CT and COR to ensure the clubfaces aren’t too springy at impact and the maximum driver length allowed is 48 inches.
Because of these rules, several other variables need to be considered when purchasing a driver.
After some discussion with 2nd Swing master fitters, I’ve come up with five keys to buying a driver:
This is the easy part. What do you want from your tee shots that you aren’t getting with your current driver? For many golfers, the answer is simply more distance. For others, however, it’s a little more complicated than that. Perhaps your natural ball flight is too low, or maybe you struggle missing to the left.
At any rate, the first step is identifying your goals off the tee. Through this process, you will eliminate several options before dissecting the brand, model, or any of the specs.
Over the last several years, manufacturers have started releasing multiple variations of each new driver model that are designed to help golfers combat specific tendencies.
The most popular variation, aside from the standard model, is the low-spin clubhead, which features a center of gravity that is placed slightly forward and higher to promote a lower ball flight and lower spin, which will help golfers who struggle with high spin.
Meanwhile, several manufacturers also release draw-biased clubheads in their new driver lineups. These clubheads will help golfers struggling with a slice or a block square the clubface more easily at impact and reduce that left-to-right (or right-to-left for a left-hander) shot shape.
Golfers with slower swing speeds are also being given more options than ever before, as manufacturers continue to release lighter models that promote increased clubhead speed.
In general, the ‘standard’ driver models (those without a draw bias or a low-spin emphasis) are balanced designs that won’t necessarily combat a specific tendency, but rather focus on delivering distance and forgiveness.
Last, but certainly not least, is the confidence factor. With so many brands to choose from, it can become overwhelming for some to select one driver. For many golfers, a certain brand presents more confidence at address. For others, it’s about the appearance or feel.
Golfers in the market for a new driver should first and foremost find the clubhead that they are most confident will improve performance off the tee and help achieve their goals.
Up to this point, we’ve focused mainly on correcting bad tendencies and maintaining control off the tee. Now, it’s time to increase that distance by figuring out the correct loft for your driver.
The easiest way to identify which loft is right for your swing is to hit some shots with all of your clubs using launch monitor technology and specifically look for the peak height.
Most golfers should maintain roughly the same peak height throughout the bag, from a 60-degree wedge all the way up to a driver. In many cases, the driver stands alone compared to the other clubs in the bag. This is where distance is lost for many.
If your current driver is launching the ball higher than your other clubs, a decrease in loft from your old driver might be worth a try. Meanwhile, if your driver is flying lower than your other clubs, an increase in loft could provide optimal distance.
While the clubheads get most of the attention these days, the shaft is still an important part of the recipe and the wrong shaft can negate the benefits of the correct clubhead.
Identifying the correct driver shaft essentially comes down to a couple of key areas: flex, weight, and length.
While it’s not an exact science, golfers can often get a good idea of the shaft flex and weight they should be playing by answering one question: What club do you hit from 150 yards?
This answer provides a good estimate of the clubhead speed a golfer generates, and speed is a factor in choosing shaft flex and weight. In many cases, the more speed a player generates, the stiffer and heavier they need to go in terms of the shaft flex.
But there are exceptions to that rule and other factors to consider as well, most notably the length of your swing and how you transition from backswing to downswing.
Typically, players with shorter swings and those who have aggressive transitions will benefit from stiffer shafts, as well as heavier shafts, while those with longer swings and smoother transitions can get away with using more flexible shafts and going lighter in weight if they prefer that feel.
Also a critical part of buying a driver is shaft length. Over the past few years, the stock length offered by manufacturers has increased to provide more potential distance for golfers. However, a longer shaft can make it more difficult to find the center of the clubface consistently, which will result in a loss of ball speed and accuracy.
One misconception for many golfers about shaft length is that it’s all about height. While most 6-foot-5 golfers will almost certainly play a different length than a 5-foot-5 golfer, it’s important to note that any adjustments necessary from the standard length will be due to how often you find the center of the clubface and where your common misses are.
Additionally, a good indication that the shaft length should be increased is if the common miss is contact toward the heel, while golfers who commonly make contact toward the toe may want to get a driver shaft that’s shorter than standard.
It’s no secret that nearly every driver released in the past five years offers some sort of adjustability, whether it’s in the form of an adjustable hosel, movable weights, or both. It’s likely that your new driver will offer these options as well, and it’s important to take advantage of the benefits.
The most important spec to look at is the lie angle. Adjusting the lie angle is an easy way to modify your ball flight and get rid of an unwanted tendency.
Creating a more upright lie angle will work to eliminate a slice, while a flatter lie angle will work to eliminate a hook.
Of course, adjustable drivers also make it possible for golfers to change loft, but it’s important to understand that when adjusting loft on a driver that the lie angle might change depending on the brand of the driver and the loft sleeve being used, and that the face angle will definitely change.
More specifically, decreasing loft will open the clubface, while increasing loft will close the clubface. And both of those actions will influence the spin rate and where the ball starts, which is further evidence that picking the loft that gets your trajectory in the right window to start with is imperative.
Additionally, drivers with movable weights in the sole enable golfers to adjust the center of gravity. Generally, more weighting placed in the back of the sole will create higher launch and higher spin, while weight moved toward the front of the sole and closer to the clubface will create lower launch and lower spin.
While it’s a lot to unpack, we want to make sure golfers everywhere are achieving maximum performance off the tee. It’s important to check every box to make sure the driver in your bag is the right one for your swing.
For more advice on buying your new clubs, stop into a 2nd Swing store or call (612) 216-4152 to speak with our fitting and support team.
Golfers have more access to launch monitors like Trackman than ever before, and the data they provide can be incredibly valuable in terms of picking the right clubs and playing better golf. But if you don’t understand the data and why it’s important, the information loses its value. In this exclusive video, we talk about one of the most crucial launch monitor data points, which is Attack Angle, and explain what type of numbers you should be looking for.
By Thomas Campbell -- 2nd Swing master fitter
There is no doubt that an old wedge with worn-out grooves will spin less than a wedge with fresh grooves.
More specifically, fresh grooves provide more friction and produce more grip on the ball, while grooves that are worn will result in the ball rolling up the clubface, which leads to less backspin.
Those realities create two questions that you should be asking: What are the differences in performance? And when should I replace my wedges?
or the latter question, the short answer is as often as you can afford to.
It is well known that tour players regularly replace their wedges. Adam Scott replaces his wedges four times a year, in advance of each major championship, as he is seeking the ultimate performance at those four events.
It is also important to consider how often you play, where you play, and what you use each of your wedges for.
First, let’s discuss what exactly causes a wedge’s grooves to wear out. Of course, frequent play will create gradual wear of the grooves.
Additionally, each bunker shot you hit essentially is sandblasting across the clubface, possibly with small pebbles and rocks, which is a huge factor when it comes to wear. So if you like to practice bunker shots with your favorite wedge, that wedge likely will faster.
Bag chatter will also cause wear, along with sandy lies, and rocks under the turf.
Titleist’s R&D team has conducted extensive robot testing on groove wear and spin performance. The results were certainly eye-opening, as wedges with newer grooves launched the ball lower and created more spin, both of which are keys to control, while older grooves caused the ball to launch higher and spin less.
In terms of the actual process that Titleist used, fresh grooves were tested against grooves that had been used for 75 rounds and 125 rounds, or an estimated 800 and 1350 shots, respectively.
Fresh grooves produced 8500 RPM of spin, rolled out 10 feet, and launched at 33 degrees. Grooves that had been played 75 rounds had 7700 RPM of spin, rolled out 18 feet, and launched at 34 degrees. Grooves that had been played 125 rounds had 6500 RPM of spin, rolled out 24 feet and launched at 35 degrees.
As you can see, the drop off in performance as your grooves wear is significant, and based on the results of its testing, Titleist now recommends that every golfer inspect their grooves every 75 rounds.
And what about the golfer who practices with his wedges regularly? As you would guess, practicing more only increases the rate of wear.
When I typically practice my short game, I spend a lot of time hitting shots with my sand and lob wedges, and I replace my sand wedge and lob wedge more often than my other two wedges.
If I hit 50 bunker shots, I’m already six percent of the way to the 75-round or 800-shot threshold, not to mention blasting sand across the face each time, which accelerates the wear process.
Tour professionals practice with their wedges every day to dial in what are their primary scoring clubs. They rely on their wedges to hit it close every time.
For the average tour player, he or she utilizes a 1-2-3-4 formula for wedge replacement:
I have a better suggestion and one that is more cost-effective. Keep your old, higher-lofted wedges to practice with. After I have replaced my wedges, I always keep the worn wedges to practice my bunker shots and shots around the green, saving my fresh grooves for the course.
In summary, if it’s been at least 75 rounds, you’ll probably start to notice that your distances might be off by a couple of yards, due to the ball rolling out further, and that you can no longer check that ball up on the green as fast you’d like.
At that point, it’s time to consider replacing your wedges. And when you do, you will appreciate the advantage over your competitors.
Winter might be on the way in many locations but 2nd Swing’s bi-monthly At The Turn newsletter rolls on with more equipment insight and knowledge from industry experts. In this edition, we’ve ranked the top five player-club combinations in modern professional golf. Additionally, we’ve included a video comparison of the Titleist T200 irons and the 718 AP3 irons, as well as a video test of the Cleveland CBX 2 wedges. We’ve also provided an in-depth review of the new Callaway Super Hybrid and explored the differences between the new Cobra KING Forged Tec irons and their One Length counterparts.
Professional golfers competing at the highest level for millions of dollars every week have the option to equip their bags with the latest technology.
However, in many cases, the latest technology isn’t what performs the best. Several of the most successful tour professionals have used the same club or clubs for decades, passing over many newer models, to stick with what works for their games.
Our staff compiled a list of our five favorite player-club combinations in professional golf.
In total, our top five player-club combos have won over 100 tournaments on the PGA Tour, European Tour, and PGA Tour Champions.
Here’s a look at our list:
Watson is most known for his expressive personality, unique swing, shot-shaping ability, and flashy pink drivers. While he may display a grip-it-and-rip-it approach on the course, he is actually very particular about his clubs. In the fall of 2012, Watson put the PING S55 irons into his bag (the model was made available to the public early in 2013) and quickly saw an uptick in his ball-striking. When at his best, the two-time Masters champion is a deadly iron player who’s willing to take on any flag. Watson has experimented with other PING players iron sets, such as iBlade and Blueprint, but has nevertheless leaned on the S55 irons for seven years and counting.
For the better part of the last 20 years, Stricker has been using the same putter — an Odyssey White Hot 2. And it has worked. The Wisconsin native has won 11 times on the PGA Tour since 2001, and he earned seven victories from 2009-2011. Since transitioning to the PGA Tour Champions in 2018, Stricker has added another five wins. Putting has been a strength throughout Stricker’s career, as his White Hot 2 putter has helped him rank highly in putting on the PGA Tour. He has finished in the top-12 on five different occasions in strokes gained putting, including third in 2011 and second in 2013.
When DeChambeau was 15 years old, he read Homer Kelly’s 1969 book The Golfing Machine. It was then that he was first introduced to a Zero Shift swing, a swing that utilizes a constant plane. DeChambeau quickly realized that the best way to achieve this swing with every club would be to cut his irons to the same length. When he burst onto the professional scene in 2016 after an incredible amateur career, Cobra signed DeChambeau to an endorsement deal and began working with him on One Length irons. The five-time PGA Tour winner is now the face of single-length irons and his unique physics-centric approach to the game has been mimicked by golfers of all ages and skill levels.
Stenson’s relationship with his Callaway Octane Diablo Tour 3-wood has recently ended, but the club’s value over the past eight years has not gone unnoticed. After falling to 207th in the world in 2011, Stenson made the switch to the Octane Diablo Tour 3-wood. He began to use it as his “fairway finder” and it became increasingly rare to see him hit a driver off the tee. This philosophy clearly paid off, as the Swede went on to win two FedEx Cup Playoff events in 2013 en route to winning the season-long FedEx Cup title. Then, in 2016, Stenson won The Open Championship in what will go down as one of the greatest displays of golf of all-time, and he also claimed the silver medal at the Olympics. The Octane Diablo Tour 3-wood and its Grafalloy Blue shaft (which was released in 2003) were a staple in Stenson’s bag until October 2019, when the face caved in after eight years of rigorous, but successful, use.
Woods is undoubtedly one of the greatest golfers the universe has ever seen, if not the greatest. While equipment has advanced drastically over the span of his legendary career, Woods has used the same putter for 14 of his 15 major championships: a custom Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2. The Newport 2 model has gone through several updates over the past couple of decades, but Woods has stuck with the same model Cameron constructed for him in 1999. And why shouldn’t he? He has dominated the sport for the better part of two decades using the Newport 2. Even as recently as October 2019, Woods won with his trusty Newport 2 at the Zozo Championship for his 82nd career PGA Tour win, tying him with Sam Snead for the most in PGA Tour history. Woods has experimented with a couple of other models over the past two decades, but he always finds himself falling back to the original Newport 2 that ignited his stellar career in 1999.
Titleist’s first two entries into the increasingly popular players distance iron category have been the 718 AP3s and the new T200s. While each iron was designed to offer distance and forgiveness in a clean, classic shape, they feature completely different construction approaches. But how different are they in terms of look, sound, feel, and performance? 2nd Swing’s Thomas Campbell and Drew Mahowald tested both to find out.
By Chris Wallace — 2nd Swing Staff Writer
The objective set forth by Callaway CEO Chip Brewer for his R&D team was clear: do whatever it takes to create a hybrid that performs like a fairway wood.
While that might sound simple enough, especially for a company that has had incredible success in both the fairway wood and hybrid categories, there was nothing simple about the development process for this task, as several strategies needed to be explored.
In the end, a multi-material construction approach that brought titanium back into a Callaway hybrid for the first time in years, a design strategy that also allowed for a highly aggressive CG position, proved to be the winning formula in creating a hybrid that will offer fairway-like ball speed, as well as launch and spin numbers more typical of a fairway wood.
Meet the Callaway Super Hybrid.
As mentioned, the use of titanium, which is both lightweight and exceptionally strong, was one of the keys to unlocking the performance that Callaway was looking for in this particular product.
In addition to using titanium to create the body of the Super Hybrid, a titanium face insert was also utilized to help promote faster ball speeds and optimal launch and spin conditions.
“We’ve had a lot of success with hybrids and fairway woods that are made out of stainless steel,” said Callaway Senior Vice President of Research and Development Dr. Alan Hocknell. “We’ve really refined that material’s use in that type of product. But we said, ‘hey it’s (been) a while since we really explored how to use titanium effectively in a hybrid shape. Are there advantages over what we’ve been doing?’
“Titanium by itself has a lot of advantages in terms of its strength but on its own, it probably wouldn’t have exceeded the performance of the stainless steel hybrids. We had to combine it with other things.”
So what were those “other things.”
Most notable was the use of significant tungsten weight -- in the neighborhood of 60 grams depending on loft -- in the heel and toe regions of the Super Hybrid clubhead.
Additionally, the tungsten has been precisely positioned thanks to a Metal Injection Molding process that Callaway has utilized successfully in other products, with the result being an optimal CG location.
It was the use of titanium in constructing the body, however, as well as a lightweight carbon crown that weighs only about five grams, which made it possible for engineers to use as much tungsten as they needed to get the performance that they wanted.
“We were looking for weight that sits really low down in the head, so lower down in the head than we were able to create with a stainless steel construction, giving us a lower center of gravity than ever and giving us a higher launch angle with lower spin rates than we’ve had before,” Hocknell explained. “The culmination of the speed we get from the face material plus the higher launch and lower spin, that’s taking us to trajectories that you just don’t see in hybrids.”
Also implemented into the design, which should come as no surprise to Callaway fans given its success, is Jailbreak Technology, as two internal bars are used to connect the crown and the sole to provide maximum energy transfer at impact, which further helps to promote ball speed.
However, maybe most unique overall about the Super Hybrid is the target player for who it’s intended.
While hybrids have most typically been considered as game-improvement clubs for golfers who need to replace their long irons, the Super Hybrid will fill a different role in Callaway’s hybrid lineup as an alternative for better players who are looking to replace more lofted fairway woods in their bag.
“The focus of the player type here is those with moderate head speeds and higher,” said Hocknell. “In the testing that we’ve done, particularly with the better players, because of the combination of speed, launch angle, and spin, we’re actually out-hitting Epic Flash 5-woods, and that’s a really good 5-wood. Essentially, it’s driver technology in a hybrid, and for that you should expect it to go really far.”
Also making the Super Hybrid appealing to better players is a neutral CG bias, which will help eliminate a left miss (for right-handed players), something that lower-handicappers don’t want to see on the golf course yet often experience when hitting a hybrid.
Additionally, Callaway’s new OptiFit 3 hosel offers the customization that better players want to help them dial in exactly what they’re looking for in terms of launch, shot shape, and distance.
Callaway’s new Super Hybrid is available in standard lofts of 17, 20, and 23 degrees and comes stock with the Mitsubishi CK Pro Orange 80 hybrid shaft. They are also available for order and at retail now.
Cleveland’s CBX wedge franchise, including the new CBX 2, was created to provide golfers who play cavity back irons, a number that exceeds 80 percent, with a wedge option that would better align with their iron sets while still providing tour-caliber spin and clubface technologies. To see if the CBX 2 wedges delivered on their promise of forgiveness and high-level performance, we took them out on the golf course to give them a try.
By Drew Mahowald — 2nd Swing Staff Writer
The year 2019 may be remembered by many in the golf industry as the year of the players distance iron. Seemingly every manufacturer has released a hollow-body iron with the goal of providing golfers with more distance, more forgiveness, and the ability to hit more greens in regulation.
Cobra recently joined the players distance iron category with the release of the Cobra KING Forged Tec irons and the Cobra KING Forged Tec One Length irons, both of which feature a classic, forged design with added mass toward the lower and outside portions of the club to deliver added launch and forgiveness.
The goal with any players distance iron is not only to provide the look of a players iron but also the feel. Cobra engineers softened the feel in the Forged Tec irons by inserting foam microspheres into the hollow body design behind the clubface. Meanwhile, a PWRSHELL forged face insert increases the sweet spot area without sacrificing feel.
The clubheads of both the Forged Tec and the Forged Tec One Length irons are identical. They both produce fast ball speeds, superb forgiveness, and excellent feel through the aforementioned technologies.
They differ in pretty much every other spec. The Forged Tec irons are built traditionally with progressive iron lengths so that the 4-iron is a few inches longer than the 9-iron. Meanwhile, the Forged Tec One Length irons follow their namesake and are all built to the same length as a traditional 7-iron.
This concept is still fresh in the golf landscape, but it’s gaining traction quickly. Five-time PGA Tour winner Bryson DeChambeau, a member of Cobra’s professional staff, has been using single-length irons since he was a teenager.
The idea behind One Length irons is to allow golfers to use the same swing plane for every iron in their bag. This promotes consistency throughout the bag and results in more similar tendencies from all irons in the set, whereas golfers using progressive-length sets might see different tendencies with their 4-iron and their 8-iron.
The single-length concept has garnered my attention for some time now, and I recently had the chance to test out both Cobra KING Forged Tec models at a local driving range. I was particularly interested in comparing the launch, trajectory, and feel differences between the two models.
Cobra has always matched both the length and weight of the clubheads in One Length sets to the 7-iron in an effort to create smooth transitions. However, one of the criticisms has been that the shorter lengths of the lower-lofted irons have created suboptimal launch and spin. Meanwhile, the higher-lofted irons have generated above-average launch and spin thanks to longer-than-normal length.
To improve the transitions throughout the set, Cobra has also adjusted the lie angles so that the lower-lofted irons are more upright, while the higher-lofted irons are flatter. Additionally, Cobra adjusted the shaft weights so that the longer irons are lighter and the shorter irons are heavier.
When testing both models, I immediately noticed the extra pop of distance from both models compared to my current irons. It’s easy to hit rockets with the Forged Tec irons.
The forgiveness was also very noticeable. In particular, I missed low on the face a number of times and the launch and distance were surprisingly serviceable.
In terms of the differences between standard length irons and One Length, there were a few. After getting comfortable with the One Length irons, I found that I was finding the center of the clubface much more consistently, especially with the longer irons. I felt the single-length concept working in that the swing became easily repeatable.
Generally, I’m a pretty solid ball-striker, but I was experiencing more mis-hits with the standard length Forged Tec irons than the One Length irons.
I still noticed differences in launch and trajectory with the lowest-lofted and highest-lofted irons. The One Length 4-iron was launching slightly lower than the standard length 4-iron. Meanwhile, the One Length 9-iron seemed to launch a little higher off the clubface than the standard length 9-iron. It felt as if the length of the club is still winning over the adjusted lie and shaft weights.
One additional difference I noticed was the workability varied between the two models. It was awkward for me to try to hit a specific shot trajectory with the One Length irons. For example, if I’m hitting into the wind or dealing with a crosswind of any kind, I prefer to take an extra club and choke down for a more controlled shot.
However, the One Length irons had me guessing on how far to choke down and where to alter my swing to perform the shot.
Overall, golfers looking to find the center of the clubface more often should take a further look into the series of One Length iron options available from Cobra, including the new Forged Tec One Length irons. The single-length concept will help those golfers swing more consistently with their irons and improve iron play after a few rounds to get used to the length throughout the bag.
Golfers who either already find the center of the face consistently or golfers who are particular about their trajectories and controlling their ball flights may prefer the standard length Cobra KING Forged Tec irons.
2nd Swing’s bimonthly newsletter, At The Turn, returns with more insight and knowledge from industry experts. In this installment, we’ve ranked the top five Mizuno blades of all time. We’ve also included two in-depth video product comparisons: one comparing the TaylorMade M5 and PING G410 LST drivers, and the other breaking down the Callaway Chrome Soft X and Srixon Z-Star XV golf balls. This edition also includes a deep dive on the illustrious career of Larry Bobka, who joins 2nd Swing as an advisor and master club fitter. And lastly, we review Cleveland’s new Frontline putters.
It’s not a secret that Mizuno builds some of the best players irons in golf, if not the best. They introduced golf sales divisions in the U.S. and U.K. in the 1980s and instantly became a hit. That reputation has been maintained ever since through the company’s unique and highly effective forging process.
Over the years, Mizuno has released several muscle-back blade iron models that have fit the needs of elite ball-strikers. The most recent of these models is the MP-20, made available to the public in September 2020.
While so much of the golf industry is searching for new technology to implement into equipment, Mizuno actually recycled an old construction tactic when building the MP-20s. In many of the early Mizuno blade iron models, a plated copper layer was placed beneath the top chrome layer to soften the feel.
After drifting away from that tactic for some time, Mizuno has once again implemented a layer of copper plating into the MP-20 irons to provide the trademark feel that the most iconic Mizuno models have delivered.
That got us thinking -- what are the top five Mizuno blade models of all-time? After some discussion, here’s our list:
Mizuno’s success and popularity had been well-documented when the MP-9 irons were released, so it’s not a surprise that the MP-9s are widely regarded as one of the better iron models Mizuno has ever produced. The most noteworthy attribute about the MP-9s is that, while they still featured the typical thin topline and narrow sole of traditional blades, they also included more offset than other blade models of their era in the 1990s, which allowed for more playability. Sir Nick Faldo used a set of MP-9 irons to win The Masters in 1996, and a plethora of other pros used MP-9s for several years into the 2000s.
When MP-33s hit the market in the early 2000s, not even Mizuno expected them to be as relevant for as long as they were. But the MP-33 irons struck a chord with golfers, both amateurs and professionals, that still sounds today. What golfers especially liked about the MP-33s was their forgiveness, which exceeded other blade models at the time of their release. They featured a classic, sleek design and a progressive construction that expanded the sweet spot in the longer irons.
Mizuno has always delivered in the feel department, and many will say that began with the TN-87s. This was where the construction tactic of the copper plating layer underneath the chrome finish became popular. Reviews for the TN-87 irons were overwhelmingly positive and much of it had to do with the incredibly soft feel from the center of the face. Faldo and Seve Ballesteros both won multiple major championships with TN-87s. They were perhaps the most popular iron model in professional golf in the 1980s and early 1990s.
The MP-29s didn’t include as thick of a copper underlay as the TN-87s, but the world-class feel and appearance was still there. Unique to the MP-29s, however, was a reverse progressive offset construction method, which contrasts nearly every other iron set ever made. This means that the longer irons had less offset than the shorter irons. In terms of shaping, the MP-29s also featured sharp leading edges similar to the Hogan Precision irons that Ben Hogan used to win three majors in 1953. Additionally, Tiger Woods won his first major title at the 1997 Masters with a split set of Mizuno irons that included MP-29 models in the 2-iron through 4-iron.
The other model that made up Woods’ irons in the 1997 Masters was the MP-14s. He played MP-14s in the 5-iron through pitching wedge and was one of very few golfers using a combo set at the time. In addition to the copper underlay similar to the MP-29s and TN-87s for supremely soft feel, the MP-14s also included a more compact shape and a lower center of gravity. Meanwhile, the MP-14 irons also had a static offset from the 2-iron through 6-iron and then another static offset from the 7-iron on down. The MP-14 irons delivered all the attributes of a players iron, and the shape is still used to influence Mizuno blade models today.
If you’re in the market for a new driver this fall and ball speed, lower spin rates, and customization options are high on your wish list, then it’s probably pretty much a lock that the TaylorMade M5 and the PING G410 LST will be among the drivers you’re considering. That being the case, 2nd Swing’s Thomas Campbell and Drew Mahowald decided to match those two drivers against each other using Trackman 4 to see how they compared.
By Drew Mahowald -- 2nd Swing Staff Writer
Larry Bobka has been building and fixing golf clubs for nearly 45 years. And during that time, he has worked with thousands of golfers, ranging from beginners to -- quite literally -- the best golfers in the world.
Throughout his illustrious career, Bobka has served as a golf club professional, teacher, advisor, club designer, and club fitter. He has made several stops during his journey through the golf industry, and his successes at each have earned the respect of the most recognizable figures in the sport.
During the summer of 2019, Bobka joined 2nd Swing Golf as an advisor and master club fitter, bringing his world-class experience, knowledge, and service to the award-winning club-fitting staff at 2nd Swing.
Bobka was forced to learn the ins and outs of golf clubs from a young age. He was highly successful as a competitive junior golfer, and he also had a tendency to show his frustrations, which his father took notice of.
“I actually got into working on golf clubs because, at the age of 15, my dad decided that I either had to stop throwing them or learn how to fix them,” Bobka said, laughing. “So I learned how to fix them. And it just turned into a passion.”
Over the next decade, Bobka used his knowledge and skills to become a club professional at the course he grew up playing in the Chicago area, and he began teaching and providing lessons to golfers. It was during this period in his career that he began to realize the importance of equipment.
Bobka says he remembers several lessons where he would recommend what he thought was the proper swing change or a new technique for a student, and he or she wasn’t seeing the improvement on the golf course. Then, he considered the equipment.
“That’s where I started to get into building demo bags of different drivers and different clubs to see how they worked for people,” Bobka said.
Bobka soon realized he had a unique ability to build golf clubs to fit the needs of a player’s swing. In the 1980s, he was ahead of the curve. Rarely were people thinking about shaft flex, shaft weight, or sole grinds when picking out a set of golf clubs -- and rarely was anyone educated on how much those elements can affect a golf shot.
It didn’t take long for others to realize Bobka had a special talent. In 1984, he joined Wilson Golf, where he worked as a liaison to communicate with tour professionals to make sure their equipment requests were received. He would often build a tour pro’s club or make an adjustment to a tour pro’s club himself.
During his tenure at Wilson, Bobka quickly learned that some of the best players in the world are very intricate about the clubs they’re playing, while other pros will take the clubs out and ask few or no questions.
“Hale Irwin always played ‘69 Staff irons, and he would go find them and we would strip the chrome off and grind the weight down to his perfect swing weight and that was exactly the head he had to play,” Bobka said. “Whereas somebody like Payne Stewart, when he came on staff, would look at a new set of irons and say, ‘these will do. I’ll just make them work.’”
The varying levels of intricacy from tour professionals meant Bobka was always on his toes and ready to answer the call when he was needed. Meanwhile, his task of building, adjusting, and recommending clubs for tour professionals also gave him a brand new lens to watch golf broadcasts through.
Tour professionals routinely trusted Bobka to not only build their clubs, but they also took his advice on other recommendations, whether that meant building a brand new club or making a small tweak to another.
For Bobka, this meant some added nerves when Wilson pro staff members teed it up on the PGA Tour, especially after they had recently made a change to their equipment.
“The average fan won’t think about that perspective,” Bobka said. “But it was true back then and it still is now, my mindset is that it isn’t human error with those guys. They’re the best in the world. It would be on me to make sure that club works.”
After a short period with UST Golf Shafts, Bobka joined Titleist in 1995 and found that the nerves of watching the tour professionals he worked with didn’t change.
In fact, they were only exaggerated. After all, he helped build a set of irons for Tiger Woods.
Following the 1997 season, Woods made the transition to Titleist, which meant discarding his combo set of Mizuno MP-29 and Mizuno MP-14 irons that he used to win The Masters.
Woods contacted Bobka and said that he liked the way the sole of the Hogan Apex irons played through the turf. So Bobka worked with legendary golf club designer Terry McCabe to design the 681 Forged irons, which included a sole similar to the historic Hogan Apex irons with a center of gravity positioned slightly higher to help manage Tiger’s ball flight.
Bobka says working with Woods was great because he provided exactly what he wanted in terms of feel and aesthetics.
“He was involved in that he knew what he wanted to feel and what he wanted to look at,” Bobka said. “He didn’t want to look at a lot of offset. He needed more bounce in his golf swing. So these things helped us out a lot.”
Bobka says he joined Woods for several range sessions to make sure the 681 Forged irons were dialed in. And according to Bobka, everything we’ve heard about Woods in his younger days is true, specifically when it comes to his athleticism and swing speed. He was different.
“To that point, I had never seen anyone with that much speed under control,” Bobka said. “You see people with speed, but he was really the guy that had speed at the time and it was well under control.”
During the process, Bobka says his nerves didn’t necessarily have to do with his ability to build the irons for Woods or even Woods’ ability to perform with them. Bobka knew he was going to win a lot of golf tournaments.
He says the pressure he did feel was from playing his part for Titleist, and that getting Woods into a set of irons was a big deal for the company.
“It was pressure from the standpoint that Titleist is a family,” Bobka said. “The sales reps, the R&D team, everybody was excited to get him into something right away. But it’s a process, especially with somebody like him where if you’re going to do it, you want to do it right.”
Bobka laughed. “Would it be in the time frame you’re looking for? Probably not.”
Clearly, the irons that Bobka and McCabe put together for Woods proved to be effective. The Titleist 681 Forged irons were in Tiger’s bag from 1998 through the 2001 season. During that span, Woods won five major championships, including the “Tiger Slam” when he was the reigning champion of all four major titles after he won The Masters in 2001.
Overall, Woods won 23 events on the PGA Tour from 1998 through 2001. From 1999 to 2001, specifically, Woods won 22 events in 65 starts. Additionally, Woods became arguably the best iron player on the planet during this stretch. He didn’t rank worse than fifth in greens in regulation from 1999 to 2001 and finished the 2000 season in the top spot.
So about those nerves Bobka had felt watching pros he had worked with after an equipment change? They didn’t last very long with Woods.
Bobka remained with Titleist until 2014 in a similar role, working with members of the tour staff to build equipment and make necessary adjustments. He also worked closely with Scotty Cameron and Bob Vokey as they hand-crafted putters and wedges specifically for some of the best players in the world.
Since his time with Titleist, Bobka has served as the VP of Operations at Argolf, a putter manufacturer that originated in France, while the company opened a division in Jupiter, Florida. While in Jupiter, Bobka reconnected with a number of professionals and began teaching and fitting a large group of students.
Bobka has been working with 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover since 2016, specifically on his putting and short game. In 2019, Glover earned his first appearance in the Tour Championship in 10 years and had his best year putting, in terms of strokes gained against the field, in eight years.
Over his nearly 40 years in the golf industry, Bobka has worked with some of the best players, teachers, and club designers that the game has ever known. His extensive background in equipment and fitting has provided an excellent resource for players, both professionals and amateurs, to go to for advice.
“It meshes well, and you understand what you have to do for somebody under the gun,” Bobka said. “And at the same time, I learn something every time I work with somebody because every golfer is different.”
The golf equipment landscape has certainly changed throughout Bobka’s legendary career. Not only are there more new models available every year, but the adjustability and custom options available present several advantages golfers didn’t have decades ago.
Meanwhile, fitting technology has also progressed. Bobka says he used to study a golfer’s divots to gather data for fitting and making the right adjustments for clubs. Now, launch monitor technology such as Trackman has made all kinds of numerical data available to golfers as soon as they make contact.
While all the technology and data can become complicated, Bobka brings a fairly simple perspective to 2nd Swing, despite years working tediously with tour professionals.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the art of the golf swing,” Bobka said. “It doesn’t matter if the specs are consistent or matching as long as the ball flies or rolls the way it should.”
Bobka joined 2nd Swing after he traveled to the Twin Cities area to work with Glover for the 3M Open. He says he enjoyed the area and he looked deeper into what 2nd Swing was all about and found that it was a great place to pass on some of the knowledge he has acquired over the years.
“I’m excited and everything I’ve seen since I’ve been here has been extremely positive and extremely motivating,” Bobka said. “You can really see the passion for golf in this company.”
Two of the premium golf balls on the market today that have seen their presence in professional golf and popularity with amateur players on the rise are the Srixon Z-Star XV and the Callaway Chrome Soft X. To get a feel for how these two balls perform, where each excels, and how they’re different, we took them out on the golf course for a variety of tests, including tee shots, approach shots, and shots played from on and around the greens.
Over the course of the last decade or so, Cleveland has certainly been best known for its wedges, but in the last couple of years the company has also taken steps toward carving out a niche in the putter space.
Cleveland enjoyed moderate success with its TFi 2135 putters and their unique alignment aids, and the Huntington Beach lineups also have been well received.
That said, new this fall from Cleveland is the Frontline range of putters, which appear to be the company’s best entry into the putter market to date in terms of technology and performance.
Most unique about Frontline is that more than 47 grams of tungsten weight has been positioned in the face of each putter to move the center of gravity forward. While most manufacturers opt for a CG position that’s further back, Cleveland found in its testing that gear effect was reduced by moving weight forward, with the result being that putts struck from areas outside the center of the face started on or closer to the intended target line.
Also incorporated into the Frontline design is what Cleveland refers to as SOFT, which stands for Speed Optimized Face Technology. More specifically, each Frontline putter features a groove pattern in its forged aluminum face that creates the same ball speed regardless of strike location, which helps players better control distance.
“We are very excited about Frontline because it is a completely new approach to putter design,” said Cleveland Research and Development Engineer Jacob Lambeth. “By pairing an extreme center of gravity with an improved speed optimized face, we’ve designed a putter that uniquely maximizes directional and speed consistency.”
Also noteworthy about the Frontline lineup is that it features four different head designs, while different hosel configurations are also available to better match a putter to a player’s stroke depending on how much arc they utilize.
Of the four models, the Elevado, Cero, and Iso are modern mallets, while the Frontline 4.0 is a classic blade. Additionally, the mallet designs feature Cleveland’s 2135 Technology, which positions the primary alignment aid exactly at the equator of the golf ball to help golfers line up properly regardless of where they have their eyes at setup.
As someone who struggles to find the center of the putter face on a consistent basis and who also fails to hit their line as often as they would like, I was excited to give the new Frontline putters a try, which I’ve been fortunate enough to do over the past couple of weeks.
First and foremost, these putters excel aesthetically. The black finish and black shaft provide a sleek, stealth look while the silver aluminum and grey tungsten inserts on the face provide an awesome contrast, as do the bright white alignment aids. And finishing off the visual package in style is a black Lamkin SINKFit Pistol grip with red highlights that looks as good as it feels in hand during the stroke.
In terms of feel, I would characterize Frontline as highly unique, as the feel is soft in the hands while still providing audible feedback based on strike location. More specifically, putts struck from the center of the face provide a crisp, muted sound and feel, while putts hit from either the heel or toe offer a slightly louder sound that lets a player know that impact was slightly off.
That type of feedback is valuable for anyone who’s trying to improve their putting, but it also provides evidence from a technology standpoint that Frontline is doing its job.
To elaborate, while testing each of the four models on the golf course, even when I missed the center of the face, which I could clearly detect based on acoustics, my speed control was exceptional.
Additionally, I felt like each of the Frontline models did a great job of getting the ball rolling quickly, which is something that every great putter strives for on the greens.
Also worth mentioning is that in my opinion the balance that these putters offer during the stroke is excellent. You can really feel the weight in the putterhead, which makes it easier to stroke the ball with a smooth transition, and the stock Lamkin grip is a great complement in that regard.
In terms of the four models, the Elevado, which is a winged mallet, probably stood out as my favorite, as I found it incredibly easy to align, and I would also highlight the Cero as a standout based on its classic mallet shape and incredible forgiveness.
Add it all up and based on my testing experience I would highly recommend that anyone who struggles with speed and distance control or who, like me, misses their intended line too often give the new Frontline putters a look, as Cleveland appears to be on to something with this technology.
Cleveland Frontline putters are available for purchase now, and each model is offered in stock lengths of 33, 34, or 35 inches. The Elevado, however, is the only model that is offered as a left-handed option.
The At The Turn newsletter is back with more in-depth breakdowns and expert insight on both new equipment releases and prior-generation golf clubs. Below you’ll find our staff’s detailed ranking of the top five used drivers of the past decade. Additionally, you’ll see two videos from our YouTube page: one comparing the new Titleist U-500 and U-510 utility irons, and the other reviewing the new Cleveland Launcher iron models. We also tested out the new Callaway Jaws MD5 wedges and compared the Mizuno JPX-919 Tour and MP-20 irons with one another to find the similarities and differences between the most recent Mizuno players iron sets.
With 2019 flying by quickly, not only will a new year be upon us soon but a new decade as well. In looking back, it’s pretty amazing to consider the number and quality of advancements that have taken place in golf clubs since 2010, especially when it comes to drivers.
Over the course of the past decade, golf manufacturers have excelled with each passing year in terms of giving players more forgiveness, ball speed gains, and increased customization options, and the driver choices on the market today are simply incredible.
That said, the past decade also saw plenty of tremendous drivers come to market, some of which can absolutely still hold their own when matched up against newer releases, especially when properly fit for a player.
So which drivers that would now qualify as “older generation” would we consider the best of the best when it comes to releases from the last decade?
It’s a great question and one that our 2nd Swing content staff sat down to consider, which resulted in our list of the top-five previous generation drivers of the 2010-2019 decade.
Best of all, not only are each of the following drivers potentially great options for your game, but they’re also unquestionably great values.
Let’s get to the list:
There was a lot of buzz about the TaylorMade SLDR 460 when it was released in 2013 and to this day it remains a driver that seemingly everyone has an opinion about. It would also likely qualify as the most controversial pick on our list because a lot of golfers hated the SLDR and many more had a love-hate relationship with it. But when properly fit and in the hands of the right player, typically someone who could generate some speed, it was an absolute beast in terms of distance. The biggest issue for most was that the SLDR produced such low spin numbers that poorly struck shots turned into huge foul balls, while players also had a hard time generating the launch conditions they needed to optimize performance. TaylorMade tried to do its part by encouraging players to “loft up,” but that advice often fell on deaf ears. But it can’t be forgotten that the SLDR was a Tour favorite, it offered an exceptional shape and explosive sound at impact, and it featured incredible customization for its generation. And once again, it was, and still is, really, really long.
We’ve said this before but Cobra drivers simply don’t get the accolades they deserve. This year, the Speedback F9 has widely been regarded as one of 2019’s best, but Cobra delivered plenty of other outstanding drivers as well over the course of the past decade. For our money, however, the best of the bunch was the Cobra KING LTD, which was released in 2015 and lands at No. 4 on our list. Unique about the LTD was that its CG position was at the neutral axis, a first for Cobra, and a design feature that provided players with low spin, high launch, and plenty of distance. That said, unlike most of the low-spin drivers that had been released to that point in golf, the LTD was also highly forgiving on mis-hits. That combination made it a cult-classic among Cobra fans, many of whom still play the LTD. Also notable about the LTD in terms of fitting was that in addition to the standard version, which featured a loft range of 9-12 degrees and three draw settings, an LTD Pro model that featured a loft range of 7-10 degrees and three fade settings was available as a great alternative for high-speed players.
From 2010 to 2017, PING released a number of very good drivers that were consistently lauded for an impressive combination of speed and forgiveness. At the same time, however, many of those drivers struggled to appeal to the masses based on their aesthetics and what many considered a consistently harsh impact feel. But that all changed in the summer of 2017 when PING released its G400 driver lineup. More specifically, G400 was sleek, it sounded great, ball speeds were up, and it offered combined MOI numbers that had never been seen before. Additionally, from a fitting standpoint, the standard G400 was a great choice for a wide range of golfers, while the LST provided high-spin players the chance to reduce spin and maximize distance and the SFT allowed those who struggled with a slice or a block to square the clubface more easily and straighten out that frustrating miss. Add it all up and G400 was a massive commercial success that made PING a category leader in the driver market, and you can count on seeing G400 drivers in the bags of professionals, top amateurs, and recreational players for years to come.
In the fall of 2015, the original TaylorMade M1 driver was released. It was an instant hit with players of all ability levels, and from that point forward for a few years black and white crowns were all the rage. Fast forward to February of 2016 and TaylorMade launched, with far less fanfare, its first iteration of the M2 driver. For all intents and purposes, it was considered by most, for lack of a better description, to be the M1’s little brother. More specifically, The M2 didn’t have the M1’s customization options, it was touted as a great option for average players thanks to its forgiveness, and it came at a price point that was $100 less than M1. In all candor, when the M2 first came out, it didn’t generate a lot of buzz. But not even TaylorMade could have imagined what would happen in the months ahead, as the once unheralded M2 emerged as far and away the most dominant driver in golf in 2016, and not just with mid- and high-handicappers. Tour players switched from M1 to M2 throughout the year at an astounding rate, taking advantage of its low spin, high launch, fast ball speeds, and extreme forgiveness. And it’s that combination that makes the 2016 M2 still very relevant today.
When it comes to marketing, Callaway is the undisputed king among golf manufacturers. Starting late in 2016, in anticipation of a January 2017 release, Callaway began the marketing hype around its new GBB Epic drivers and their key innovation, Jailbreak Technology. The marketing plan was genius and people couldn’t wait to get Epic in their hands. And when they did, the standard Epic and the Epic Sub Zero flat out delivered. Within weeks Callaway blew past TaylorMade to take control of the driver market, a position it would never relinquish in 2017. Why were the GBB Epic drivers so popular? It’s a long list. First and foremost, however, Jailbreak Technology delivered on the promise of ball speed gains, as the titanium bars that connected the crown and sole improved energy transfer at impact. Additionally, the Epic drivers looked sharp, sounded great, and for as long as they proved to be were also quite forgiving. Also noteworthy in terms of fitting was that the standard Epic helped players who struggled with a right or left miss, while the Sub Zero was a great fit for those with spin and/or trajectory issues. GBB Epic was one case where the product actually lived up to the hype, and these are drivers that are certain to remain popular for quite some time.
As utility clubs have grown in popularity in recent years, golf club manufacturers have increasingly devoted added resources to the category, with the end result being golf clubs that offer the performance of hybrids with the versatility of long irons. Out with new utility irons this fall is Titleist, and to get a feel for the differences between the U-500 and U-510 in terms of performance, look, sound, and feel, we decided to test both using Trackman 4.
It happens far too often during a round of golf. You’re faced with a short approach shot to the hole and anticipate that, with good contact, your ball will check up near the hole and give you a good chance at successfully getting up and down.
However, instead of checking up near the hole, your ball instead scoots several feet past the hole, and you’re faced with a lengthy putt.
Callaway Golf has attempted to solve this issue with its creation and release of the Jaws Mack Daddy 5 (MD5) wedges. Master wedge designer Roger Cleveland made some major adjustments to his construction method, particularly with the grooves, while maintaining the same classic look and feel that have made Callaway wedges so popular.
The new grooves in the Jaws MD5 wedges are designed with a 37-degree wall angle, a radical change from the five-degree wall angle featured in the MD4 wedges. This change results in sharper grooves that will grab the ball more at impact, generating more spin.
Callaway’s Groove-in-Groove technology, which consists of smaller grooves placed within the larger grooves to create even more spin, is also present in the Jaws MD5 design. Overall, the grooves provide 84 different contact points with the ball, promoting short game control.
Cleveland and his team are especially confident in the performance of the grooves within 80 yards and say golfers should expect the one-hop-and-stop action that amateurs see on display regularly from tour professionals.
That’s quite a claim to make. So, when I had the chance to take out a couple of Jaws MD5 wedges out to a local practice area and test them for myself, that was the first shot I hit.
When I began to hit some shots, the first thing I noticed was the appearance looking down at address. It’s a simple, classic look with an effective satin platinum chrome finish. For some, the Jaws MD5 wedges would be easy to look at with the growing popularity of high-toe wedge shapes.
In order to provide context, it’s worth noting that my current wedge setup consists of a 50-, 54-, and 58-degree wedge, and I was able to use 56- and 60-degree Jaws MD5 wedges for testing. Because of this, it took a few swings to get the distance control down.
However, I immediately noticed the performance from the grooves. From fairway lies in that 70-80 yard range, I like to hit a lower shot that spins rather than loft the ball into the air. Every one of my approaches hit with the Jaws MD5 either took the one hop and stopped or even took a hop and started retreating back toward me.
While some of the added bite I noticed may have just been due to the presence of fresh grooves, I was nonetheless impressed by the spin the Jaws MD5 wedges generated from that distance.
The 56-degree wedge I tested featured an S-Grind, designed with moderate bounce and added heel relief, that performed well on full shots. The 56-degree S-Grind also appeared to have a smaller footprint at address, as Callaway has constructed the lower-lofted Jaws MD5 wedges to look and play more like short irons, whereas the higher-lofted wedges feature more of a traditional lob wedge shape.
Around the greens, the 60-degree Jaws MD5 wedge with the new low-bounce W-Grind was superb on every type of shot. I was especially surprised by its performance from the bunker given that it is a low-bounce sole grind.
When I’m faced with a fragile wedge shot near the green, I typically like to open the clubface to give myself added height and a softer landing. The Jaws MD5 wedge allowed this with no restrictions, and the club was able to glide through the turf among a variety of different lies.
Additionally, I was impressed by the feel and sound. At contact on every shot, full swing or shorter swing around the green, contact felt soft but solid. Furthermore, the sound was generally a mild thud that did not resemble a clicky noise. Callaway forged the Jaws MD5 wedges out of 8620 mild carbon steel to produce the excellent sound and feel.
The Callaway Jaws MD5 wedges check all the boxes, but the key takeaway is the added spin that golfers are in for if they put a set of these in their bags. The new groove construction implemented by Cleveland and his team has helped deliver the promise of more control and more spin around the greens.
If you find yourself struggling with wedge shots running out too far past the hole, the Callaway Jaws MD5 might be worth a look.
After all, Callaway did name the MD5 wedges ‘Jaws’ for a reason. You should expect some extra bite.
Several companies have brought out new irons in recent weeks, including Cleveland, which recently released its Launcher UHX and HB Turbo irons. While the two models look very different, each was designed to offer players higher launch conditions, significant forgiveness, and more distance. In an effort to learn more about the UHX and HB Turbo irons, 2nd Swing’s Drew Mahowald and Thomas Campbell took them out for a testing session.
It’s no secret that Mizuno has been very successful in the golf equipment marketplace, specifically when it comes to producing players iron sets.
Several of the best players in the world have employed Mizuno’s classic performance and feel en route to finding success on tour. Look no further than world No. 1 player Brooks Koepka, who has used a set of Mizuno irons for all four of the major championships he has won in the last few years.
Prior to 2019, Koepka added the Mizuno JPX-919 Tour irons to his bag after using the JPX-900 Tours during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Unsurprisingly, his success carried into 2019, as he finished fourth or better in all four major championships, including a win at the PGA Championship, and also trumped one of the best fields in golf at the WGC-Fedex St. Jude Invitational.
Koepka’s success has certainly brought more attention to the JPX line over the past couple of years. However, prior to Koepka’s rise, it was the MP line that garnered the most attention in the players iron category. Luke Donald, a longtime member of Mizuno’s tour staff, rose to the world No. 1 ranking in 2011 while playing Mizuno MP irons.
Mizuno recently added to its MP line with the MP-20 irons, which were made available to the public in September. The MP-20 Blades represent Mizuno’s newest set of traditional muscleback irons, while the JPX-919 Tour irons represent the company’s most recent set of “modern” blades.
I recently had the chance to take out a 7-iron of each model to a local driving range and test them out for myself. I’ve played Mizuno players irons for nearly 10 years now, so I was very eager to hit some shots with the latest Mizuno offerings.
Setting each club down at address, it’s clear that both irons are built for elite ball strikers. Both clubheads are compact with little offset and thin toplines, with the blade length of the JPX-919 appearing slightly longer than the MP-20. Additionally, the chrome finish of the MP-20s seems to shine a bit more than the JPX-919 finish.
In terms of performance, both models were excellent in all the required areas for players irons, although the shallow cavity design of the JPX-919 irons did produce slightly different characteristics than the muscle back construction of the MP-20s.
The differences were minute, but the JPX-919 Tour seemed to perform better on my mis-hits. The feel was obviously compromised when contact was made outside of the center of the clubface, but the drop off in performance wasn’t nearly as drastic as it is with other players irons, including the MP-20s. The ball also maintained distance better when I didn’t make contact with the sweet spot.
When I did make solid contact, the MP-20 presented a softer, more buttery feel and a more muted sound than the JPX-919 Tours. This is likely in large part due to the layer of soft copper plating that Mizuno included beneath the nickel-chrome finish. This design was a major success in some of the most popular Mizuno MP models of the past and engineers have implemented it into the MP line once again.
This isn’t to say that the feel of the JPX-919 Tour was bad by any means. The Grain Flow forging process Mizuno uses to build its players irons has always yielded exceptional feel. The JPX-919 Tours just offered a bit more pop than the MP-20s.
The last minor difference I noted was in the trajectory of my shots. Again, the difference was small, but the MP-20 produced a lower flight with a little bit less spin than the JPX-919 Tour.
Both models were very workable, and I was able to hit a variety of different shot types and shapes. They also both performed well from the rough and from bunkers, with smooth turf interaction from any lie.
Talented ball strikers will be well-suited for either of these models. Golfers will get slightly more forgiveness and a higher ball flight from the more modern players shape of the JPX-919 Tours. Meanwhile, those who prefer the MP-20s will get a classic, traditional shape that produces a lower flight and unmatched feel.
Mizuno’s success in the players iron category has been recognized for decades, and it doesn’t appear to be ending soon thanks to the JPX-919 Tours and the MP-20s.
At The Turn, 2nd Swing’s bimonthly newsletter covering the latest in golf equipment and industry trends is back with more insights and knowledge from experts. In this edition, we’ve included a test of the new Titleist 620 CB irons and an in-depth review of the new Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo woods. We also compared TaylorMade’s 2019 P790 irons to the 2017 version using Trackman technology. Plus, staff writer Chris Wallace had the opportunity to test and provide feedback on each of the 2019 Titleist irons and hybrids. And finally, we had the chance to chat with 2nd Swing Scottsdale fitter Bradley Harrelson to get his fitting insights and the trends he’s noticed in his fittings.
Titleist’s most recent launch of new irons and hybrids provides options for all skill levels. From the T300 irons to the 620 MB irons and the U500 utility iron to the TS2 hybrid, and everything in between, Titleist has covered all bases
The new series of players irons in the most recent Titleist launch features the 620 MBs, the 620 CBs, and the T100s. The 620 MB irons are a muscle back design catered toward the most skilled ball-strikers, while the T100s are the most compact and workable offering in the T-Series and include a spring steel body and additional tungsten weighting in the 3-iron through 6-iron for added forgiveness on longer shots.
Falling between the 620 MB irons and the T100 irons on the spectrum are the 620 CB irons, a players cavity back construction. Titleist’s goal in building the 620 CB irons was to provide the forgiveness offered in the T100 irons while maintaining the superb feel and workability of the 620 MB irons.
To achieve this, Titleist engineers altered the shaping of the cavity and modified the implementation of tungsten in the clubhead. Specifically, the cavity is more pronounced in the heel and the toe than in past versions of the CB irons. This adjustment was made in an effort to provide more stability throughout the set.
Meanwhile, Titleist also has received feedback suggesting that their CB irons in the past have been too similar in performance to the company’s AP2 models, a players cavity back similar to the new T100s.
To bring the 620 CBs closer to the 620 MBs, Titleist implemented dual-density tungsten weighting in the heel and toe of just the 3-iron and 4-iron. The tungsten weighting had previously been included in the 3-iron through 7-iron of previous CB models.
As someone who has played players cavity back irons for several years, I was eager to take a couple of 620 CB irons to a local driving range and test them out.
In terms of appearance, the 620 CBs have every bit of the profile of a true blade. The footprint is extremely compact and the topline is thin. Golfers that have played blades previously would certainly be comfortable hitting the 620 CBs, at least from an appearance standpoint.
I was able to hit a few shots with a 620 CB 4-iron and 7-iron. Immediately, I noticed the superb feel as a result of the one-piece forged 1020 carbon steel construction. Each shot struck near the middle of the clubface felt as buttery as any iron I’ve ever hit.
I noticed a distinct difference between the 620 CB 7-iron and my current 7-iron. Due to the removal of the dual-density tungsten weighting, the center of gravity has been moved up in the 620 CB irons, specifically the 5-iron through pitching wedge.
This resulted in a slightly lower and more controllable trajectory with the 620 CB irons than with my gamers. Additionally, the more pronounced cavity in the heel and toe seemed to provide more forgiveness on my mis-hits than my current clubs do.
While hitting the 4-iron, I noticed a subtle difference in terms of sound and feel, which is likely due to the presence of the dual-density tungsten weighting in the heel and the toe. The sound was a little louder while the feel was slightly firmer. However, the feel was superior to the 4-iron I currently play.
The 4-iron also produced a trajectory similar to what I’m used to, suggesting that these players irons do what any players iron set is supposed to do, which is to let the swing mostly dictate the result. Workability is certainly not lost in the longer irons with the presence of the dual-density tungsten weighting.
Titleist took a bit of a different approach to constructing the 620 CB irons compared to previous versions of the CB irons. In an effort to achieve a better balance between the 620 MBs and the T100 irons, engineers made adjustments to the tungsten weighting and the shaping of the cavity.
The result is an iron set that looks and feels like a blade with just enough forgiveness that strikes a perfect balance that will appeal to a larger range of golfers than previous iterations of the CB.
One of the most anticipated golf club releases of 2019 has been the new TaylorMade P790, which was unveiled to the public in late August. Of course, the original P790, which was released in 2017, was a huge success for TaylorMade, as it basically set the bar for the players distance iron category. So how do the new version and old version stack up? To find out, we tested both using Trackman 4, and the results proved to be quite interesting.
By Chris Wallace -- 2nd Swing Staff Writer
With the exception of its always-popular wedges, Cleveland took a hiatus from the golf equipment game for a few years before returning in 2017 with new woods and irons and a clearer picture of the market it wanted to go after.
And the goal for Cleveland was simple when it introduced its new Launcher irons and woods two years ago: to make the game easier for the average player or the golfer who maybe only plays a handful of times each year.
The entire lineup of new Launcher HB clubs enjoyed great commercial success upon their release in 2017, especially among the golfers who were being targeted. While some might view that as surprising given that Cleveland had been out of the spotlight in those categories for several years, it’s an indication of just how loyal Cleveland enthusiasts are.
That being the case, fans of the original Launcher HB woods, and Cleveland fans in general, have been anxiously awaiting the release of the new Launcher HB Turbo woods, and that wait is just about over.
One of the reasons for the anticipation is that Cleveland believes the new Turbo woods are a significant upgrade in every way when compared to the Launcher HB woods that were released in 2017.
“Reintroducing Cleveland Golf woods and irons two years ago has been very successful,” said Cleveland Marketing Director Brian Schielke. “However, the new Launcher HB Turbo woods represent a huge step up from the previous generation. They’re sleeker, faster, and more forgiving – exactly what all of us are looking for off the tee.”
While the ultimate goals between Launcher HB and Launcher HB Turbo remain the same, that being to give players effortless launch, fast ball speeds, and high MOI, the technology implemented to get there has shifted quite significantly, with the result being improved performance.
One key design approach that has not changed, however, is the decision to use lightweight, bonded hosels as opposed to adjustable loft sleeves in both the drivers and fairway woods.
Through its research, Cleveland found that the target players for Launcher HB Turbo drivers and fairway woods typically weren’t overly concerned with adjustability and that many would be unlikely to make any change from the standard setting even if an adjustable hosel were available.
Therefore, by using lightweight, bonded hosels, Cleveland engineers had the freedom to move significant weight that would have otherwise been necessary in the hosel region low and deep in the clubhead to promote high launch and impressive stability at impact.
Also making a low, deep CG placement possible is a redesigned HiBore Crown, which features a more prominent crown step. The crown design combined with the weight that was saved in the hosel region allowed designers to utilize a Deep Weighting sole pad internally, which moved the CG 4.4mm deeper and 2.2mm lower in the clubhead. The result is a high-launch, low-spin profile that maximizes both carry and total distance.
Launcher HB Turbo drivers and fairway woods also feature a new Turbocharged Face Cup design, which is creating higher COR from a larger portion of the clubface, meaning more ball speed out of the center of the face and also on off-center strikes.
Also noteworthy is that the clubheads in the Launcher HB Turbo line are slightly heavier than was the case in the previous generation models. But while more mass can equate to more speed, other changes must also be made to accommodate that mass, which is why Cleveland opted to use a counterbalanced Miyazaki C. Kua shaft as the stock option in the Turbo drivers and fairways.
By removing weight from the length of the shaft and positioning it instead near the grip end, players can still swing the heavier clubhead with ease, which helps make distance gains possible, especially off the tee.
“The Launcher HB Turbo is engineered to help you hit long, straight drives,” said Cleveland Vice President of Research and Development Jeff Brunski. “We’ve squeezed discretionary weight out of every corner of the clubhead to produce one of the most forgiving drivers we’ve ever made.”
Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo drivers are available in lofts of 9, 10.5, and 12 degrees, with the 10-5-degree model being available in a left-handed version. They come at a stock length of 45.5 inches and at a swingweight of D3.
Additionally, there is a 10-5 degree “Draw” version available that was created to help right-handed players who struggle with a slice or a block square the clubface more easily at impact to straighten out that miss.
As for the Launcher HB Turbo fairway woods, they are available in a 15-degree 3-wood and an 18-degree 5-wood.
The entire lineup of Launcher HB Turbo woods is available for pre-order now and will begin shipping and be available at retail on October 4.
With new T-Series and 620 irons, TS hybrids, and U-Series utility clubs out on the market in the last few weeks, Titleist has captured the majority of headlines when it comes to recent equipment releases. That being the case, 2nd Swing headed to the Titleist Performance Institute in Oceanside, California, where staff writer Chris Wallace had the chance to test each of the new products, as well as get fit for the perfect options for his game.
2nd Swing’s Tour-level club fitting process is among the best in the golf industry, and yearly recognitions on the Golf Digest Top 100 Fitter list give support to this claim. To get to this level, 2nd Swing has built a staff of knowledgeable, experienced, and friendly club fitters that are able to help provide the same fitting experience the pros get.
Bradley Harrelson is one of the exceptional fitters at 2nd Swing’s Scottsdale, Arizona location. He started playing golf competitively at 11 years old and competed for four years at Montana State University. He then turned professional shortly after college and has played on several mini tours in Arizona over the past few years.
As a fitter, Harrelson has earned certifications from several major manufacturers and continues to build upon his solid foundation of knowledge and education. We caught up with him to get his fitting insights, top clubs of 2019, and more.
2ND SWING: Wedges are becoming more and more diverse, especially when it comes to different sole grinds. What are some of the ways you can tell if a golfer is using a sole grind that is wrong for his or her game?
HARRELSON: One of the easiest ways that I fit for wedges is what we call the Dot Test. This test is done by looking at the impact marks on the face of the wedge from a golf ball. It is a test that Bob Vokey does to determine the proper bounce on the wedges, and PING has also been looking into this. A properly fit wedge will have ball impacts starting between the 2nd and the 4th groove on the face. Too much bounce on the wedge and the impact will be lower than that and the impacts with too little bounce will be higher. Sole grinds can then be addressed with the proper amount of bounce by what the consumer wants to accomplish with the wedge. Players that like to play more specialty shots will like more heel, and possibly toe, relief versus a standard sole grind.
2ND SWING: During putter fittings, analyzing the putting stroke is obviously a focal point. What are some of the advantages golfers gain after going through a fitting to make sure their putter matches their stroke type?
HARRELSON: Getting the right putter to match the player's stroke type allows for better and more consistent impact. What it also is going to do is relax the player. I will see a player with face rotation of 10 using a face-balanced putter and he or she is coming across the line to square the face. Getting that same player into a full toe hang putter not only matches that rotation to the putter but will also free him or her up from all the adjustments being made during the stroke. Not even five putts into a new session after assessing the stroke type and you will see the path of the putter straighten out and look more relaxed.
2ND SWING: While stroke type is the most common top priority in a putter fitting, sometimes the issues are simpler. How often do you find that golfers are using a putter that is too short or too long?
HARRELSON: Quite often I will see putters that are too long for a player. The player may be adjusting to the long putter, but that will cause other issues down the line. We want to get the player's eyes directly above the center of the face to the heel of the putter. That allows the eyes and the putter to work on the same path. Again, this is where the human brain is incredible and is able to use the alignment aids on the putter and ball to line up putts.
2ND SWING: What new golf products released in the last year have you noticed are performing the best in your fittings?
HARRELSON: I have been seeing the PING Sigma 2 series as one of the best performing of 2019 putters. The adjustable length is a huge benefit in these putters. Being able to get the players into that proper length makes a huge difference in consistency. The other great thing about the Sigma 2 putters is the dual insert they have in the clubface. In a traditional putter with an insert, the feel is noticeable on long putts. With the dual insert, there is no feel difference on different length putts. One of the best models out of the line up is the Fetch. The shape of this mallet is not the biggest shape and will suit the eye of a wide range of players. And of course, you can’t forget about the ball retrieval out of the cup with the Fetch.
2ND SWING: What is your favorite part about club fitting?
HARRELSON: My favorite part about club fitting is the chance to explore all of the different factors and small details that come with golf. There are always new details or innovations that pop up that make this a non-stop learning process. I hope to continue finding new methods about club fitting that benefits the customers.
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