New Titleist irons make it to the tour!

Its been around 18 months since Titleist released their 716 series irons. Sticking to their 2 year release cycle it was assumed the new irons would make their way to the PGA Tour around this time. Everyone expected the irons to show up on this week and lo and behold here they are! Ian Poluter showed some sneak peaks this past Friday but this week is the “official” debut.

Details are pretty light so far but we are able to make some assumptions based on what we are seeing.

AP1

The Titleist game improvement line doesnt look to add too much more technology. It has finally dropped most of the red from previous models. the only red you will see is on the 1. IT does look like they managed to slim it down a little. I am sure it will be a great GI Iron

AP3

After years of rumors the AP3 is finally here. Based on the pictures it seems to be a nice combo of the AP1 and AP2. It looks to have a large amount of forgiveness while keeping a slim profile. The big question will be if it is forged or not.

AP2

Honestly this has been the crown jewel of the Titleist iron lineup. It is used by Spieth and many many other staffers.  There is no way they improved these better than what they had. It was generally regarded as one of if not the best players cavity back irons. I got to say it looks like the C16 is making its way to the retail market

T-MB

This is the weirdest iron set in the whole Titleist line. Its a hollow iron that looks a little like a blade. It has tungsten on the sole to really lower the COG and make the ball fly higher. The 716 set looked terrible. It was a weird copper brown color on the bottom where the tungsten was. They have greatly improved the look by making the tungsten black. I have only seen these used as a long iron replacement. Id like to try a 9 iron in this and see how they play

CB

Honestly I havent seen much change in this over the 716. If I am being honest I dont really see the need for this set. The AP2 seems to fill the Players Cavity Back. It looks good but again I dont see the point.

MB

A ton of the best players in the world still play blades so Titleist is going ot give them blades. If you were questioning what they look like, they look like blades.  Not much technology here. People will say they feel the best. Its tough for me to argue but something about hitting it 10 yards shorter and it hurting when I mishit it isnt fun.

A nice day on the links

I had some vacation time that expired at the end of the month and rather than lose it I decided to take a couple of half days so I could go play golf. I hit the course and I have to say I played pretty well.

A great day for golf

The weather was perfect. High 80’s with a ton of cloud cover.  I know you probably dont want to hear shot by shot analysis of my round. I will say I set a record for most birdies at 6. On the other side I had about 4 double bogeys. I ended up shooting a 9 over 81. Thats right 6 birdies and I shot 9 over. Looking over the scorecard I counted 4 double bogeys.  That certaintly doesnt help. As I go through some stats I had either 2 things happen. I missed the fairway or I hit it into the sand. I guess it is time to actually work in the practice bunker. I always say “Why practice in the bunker? Ill just not hit it there”. Well looks like I was wrong and it hurt me today.

So close!

I do have to mention one shot I hit today. On a 133 yard par 3, I grabbed my PW and needed to hit a nice smooth cut into the green. I took my swing and right off the club I liked it. It tracked towards the hole perfectly. I saw it land just left of the flag and take a hop to the right. The guy in front of me goes “Oh My God! What a shot!” I drove up to the green and he told me the ball landed left of the hole and literally hopped over the hole.  I saw my ball about 3 feet right of the hole. It is the closest I have ever been to a hole in one.

The Course

I also have to mention the beautiful course I played today. I make the trek down south to Tangle Ridge golf course in Grand Prairie TX. I grew up about 10 minutes from this course and I remember my dad playing it as a kid.  This was my second time playing the course. The course was in great shape. It helped that I was basically following the maintenance crew on the first four holes. I had freshly cut rough and fairways! The greens rolled true. The best part of the course was the fact the carts had chargers for your phone! One of my favorite things is when a course forces you to use every club in the bag. Tangle Ridge forced me to use just about every club. I hit driver and 3 wood off tee boxes. I had some holes where it was driver then 4 iron and others were driver and a half wedge. The par 3’s made me use different clubs as well. The course really made me think. The prime example of the course making me think was the par 4 6th hole. It is a driveable par 4. The risky play is driver off the tee. The next risky play was hybrid. If I went hybrid I brought a bunker into play. The 3rd play was 3 wood over the bunker. A bad shot put me in the bunker to the right but I still had a good angle into the green. The final and most safe option was to take a 6 iron and lay up between the bunker and water. I decided on 3 wood. I crushed it. The ball went flying right where I aimed. When I drove down to the green I was about 15 yards off the green. Looking back I should have hit driver. That being said. A hole that had me thinking of 4 different options is a fun hole.

Some more ball testing

Finally, I got to test out my 2 ball test sleeve of the TP5 from Taylormade. I hate to say this but its damn good.  Good low ball flight. It was a good 3-5 yards further than anything else. It also helped around the greens as well. I plan on putting it through more testing so be on the look out for that!

Big Golf Day!

Another busy day in the world of golf! We have some club news and also some crazy news from the PGA Tour. Lets start with the big time equipment news.

Callaway expands their fairway wood line

We were introduced to a new fairway wood from Callaway. This one is bound to get some feelings of nostalgia going. They are going to bring back a modern version of one of the most popular fairway woods ever, the Steelhead. The company took the shape of the classic Steelhead and put a modern engine under the hood.

They kept the steel face of the original to keep the feel. The face does have all the cup face technology Callaway is known for to increase ball speed. Like a ton of Callaway products the crown will be carbon fiber. They made the crown this light so they could move the Center of Gravity low and forward. A low and forward Center of Gravity helps lower spin to help get every yard possible. In addition to being incredibly light the crown also features the Aerodynamic design that Callaway engineered with Boeing. The sole has the familiar hawkeye design that will look and feel familiar. That sole is very useful in all situations. I had a year where my swing left me and found one of these in a Goodwill bin. It was a perfect mini driver. It helped me play that summer with little frustration. I am actually really excited. The Steelhead will retail for $229.99 and will hit the pro shop 7/14. I know I love equipment but its usually hard to justify the price. This one is actually going to be on my to try and buy list.

Bone dry!

The news from the PGA Tour is possibly the most sudden and surprising news from the tour in a long time. Phil Mickelson and his caddie Bones have gone their separate ways. Bones has been on the bag for all of Phils career. They seemed to have a relationship more unique than any other player caddie relationship. They were best friends. Over the past few weeks they seemed to be at odds with each other. It wasnt too severe but it was noticeable. This may have been a chance to save the friendship at the expense of the professional relationship

Couple of Site Updates

I know I have been away for a week and a half or so. I honestly havent been golfing in a few weeks. The wife was out of town and things get a little crazy around the house when she is gone. In my downtime I have decided to make some changes to the site.

The biggest and most obvious change is the website design. I was feeling that the old site design was a little amateurish. I really like this new page. It feels cleaner. I love the fact the pictures are bigger. The black is makes the pictures pop. Its not perfect but I truly believe it works. Id love your feedback on the redesign.

Secondly, this blog was a continuation of my last blog The Quest For Scratch. That blog focused on golf all around and I honestly wanted this blog to be Equipment only. After looking through my most viewed posts the stories that got the most response were the ones that truly focused on me and had a nice personal touch to it. In the following weeks I hope to add some more of that to the blog. I will still post stories about equipment when it breaks. Also dont worry that this will become a blog that is all about what I had for breakfast that morning.

Third, the podcast is kicking up very soon. I have a couple of cool things lined up. I cant wait to share it with you.

Ping G400 spotted

PING decided to make their presence known on the USGA conforming list this morning. We are seeing our first look at the brand new PING driver, the G400.

The G400 will also come in 3 different models just like the G series did. We have the LST, the SFT and the G400. The LAST is for a more penetrating ball flight. The SFT is the draw based higher flying driver and the G400 is the middle of the road driver.

The last model used a strategically placed weight to accomplish these ball flight goals. The new model has instead used tungsten to provide the needed weight. They have also added what looks to be a weight in the back to help pull the Center of Gravity back to increase forgiveness. If you don’t like the turbulators on the crown I am afraid I have some bad news, they appear to be staying.

Usually when things hit the USGA list they tend to be put into play pretty quickly so we very well could be seeing these on tour this week at the US Open

 

Hunting for Birdies goes to Best Grips

On the trek to my wife’s high school reunion we took a slight detour to a town outside of Houston named Conroe. I wanted to go to Conroe so I could see Zach and his company Best Grips. By now, I hope you’ve realized that Best Grips makes grips. But what makes Best Grips different from every other grip company? The grips they make are made with leather.

We drove down a long winding road in Conroe looking for a large building with a big sign. What we found after 15 minutes and 3 trips past the same 3 houses was a small workshop tucked in the woods on a 2 lane road. After parking the car, I walked up to the workshop and was met by Zach. After we shook hands and did our introductions we got down to business.

 

The Beginnings

According to his dad who also accompanied us, Zach has been playing golf competitively since he was 8 years old. After playing golf at a “small school” Zach became the US distributor for his now biggest competitor, Grip Master. When Grip Master wanted to focus on working with Scotty and other manufacturers, Zach decided he wanted to create his own company, and just like that Best Grips was born. Since then Zach has been making leather grips in his workshop following a fairly simple process.

The Process

Every grip starts out the same way: a roll of leather. A piece is cut off the roll and is then cut into strips. After he gets the strips cut, he moves into the dying process. Zach hand dips his leather into the dye and lest it sit for a little while. Once he achieves the color he is looking for, the grip moves into the most important part of the whole process. It is at this point he applies what he calls the “ProTac”. It’s a proprietary compound he uses to make the grips the tackiest you will find anywhere. What makes ProTac great is the compound gets soaked into the grip and keeps the grip tacky for the entirety of its life. Once the ProTac is applied, the high tech portion of the operation kicks in. A few yards away from the workshop is his house. On the back patio of the house are probably 20 clothes lines and easily 100 or more clothes pins. After the ProTac is applied the grips get hung on a clothes line to dry. That’s right: the grip dries like a pair of underwear in the 1930’s. After 2 or 3 days (depending on the Conroe weather) the grip is ready to be assembled. The underlisting is put into the holder and the leather is wrapped around it. Once the leather is placed on the underlisting it’s time for the grips to be stitched. Every grip from Best Grips is hand stitched by Zach, his girlfriend, or his girlfriend’s mom. No matter who stitched it, you can get the peace of mind knowing that it was one of these people who are very familiar with the product that handled it. After it is hand stitched together, the grip is sent to you and ready to go.

The Product

Best Grips makes standard club grips as well as putter grips. What you might not know is that, in addition to grips, they also make head covers and putter covers. Based on his product lines, Zach like to not only use plain leather but using some exotics, like alligator skin.

The grips have different types of leather you can choose from. They range from plain leather to some really cool leathers.

The most popular grip in the line is the Micro Perf. It’s has a great tacky feel due to the ProTac. I have to say, even though there are softer rubber grips, the Micro Perf a different kind of soft. The rubber almost feels squishy in comparison to these grips. These feel nice, tacky, smooth and soft to the touch. It also began to rain in the middle of the tour of the facility, and since the Performance Center is outdoors, I did get to try it in a damp condition. I have to say it performed beautifully in the rain. I would almost say it got tackier, which isn’t something you can say about a rubber grip.

The most similar thing to the Micro Perf that Best Grips makes is the Classic grip. It is a lot like the Micro Perf, it just doesn’t have the holes the Micro Perf does. I walked away impressed with this one as well.

The leather that was the coolest looking and feeling had to be the Gridiron grip. The Gridiron grip uses the exact same leather used on NFL footballs. My curiosity got the best of me and I had to ask how he got the same leather. He laughed and said he couldn’t tell me. This grip has the same ProTac as the others but I have to say despite it being really cool looking it may not be the best if you are playing in damp conditions. I’m not saying it slipped on me but there is a reason they prep NFL game balls as much as they do. The leather is naturally kind of slick. With that being said, the ProTac on the putter grip provided a great feel.

My personal favorite had to be the Major Leaguer. As the name suggests, it is the same leather used in baseball gloves. It sort of took me back to being a kid. I loved the smell and feel of a new glove. The only thing better than the smell of a new glove was the smell of a broken in glove. The Major Leaguer was my favorite putter grip and possibly my favorite club grip. It was soft and tacky with a perfect amount of feed back.

The shape of the grips are unique to Best Grips. They have a reduced taper design that Zach has named the Pro Taper. Better players usually add additional tape to the bottom half of their grip to reduce the taper and keep their hands quiet. With the Pro Taper design, this extra modification isn’t necessary anymore. I will also say these have a different feel than a rubber grip. Rubber grips are softer in a squishy sense. The grips will cost you quite a bit up front, but if you are following professional’s recommendations, you should be regripping once a year. As with most leather products these don’t seem to wear out. On the contrary, they really wear in after some play, making them feel great. Depending on the grip you use, regripping your irons can cost you up to 80-90 dollars. If you keep these grips for 2 years which isn’t uncommon they will have paid for themselves.

The Performance Center

Recently, Best Grips has opened a performance center. The performance center is outside the workshop and includes a launch monitor and a putting green. It is all outdoors so you want to make sure the weather will cooperate. With enough business, I can definitely see him expanding this and even making a store front to come buy the grips.  Zach will get you on the monitor and help you figure out your lies as well as the grip that works best for your game.

 

The Future

Talking with Zach, you can’t help but get excited about the product. He has worked very hard to get to where he is. He has been working with T. P. Mills, who has been working with Odyssey and Zach will be creating a line for them.  The grips that will be on these super premium putters will hopefully be Best Grips. He also works with Edel to make grips for them as well. Zach told me he likes working with the manufacturers, but his real passion lies with working with the everyday golfer. Despite the fact he charges tour players for his product some still decide they like it and want to use it. He doesn’t pay any one to play his grips; they do it because they like his product. I also asked if he expected to go big box retail and he said he doesn’t, simply because he doesn’t have the scale to mass produce the grips for a PGA Super Store or Golf Galaxy, and it seems he likes it that way. The future looks bright for Best Grips.

Check out Best Grips at bestgrips.com

 

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The last few weeks in equipment

The past few weeks have been crazy in my house. Between getting a new roommate (Hey Christian!) and going to Houston for my wifes 10 year graduation reunion there hasnt been much time to get in front of a computer. It has also seen some cool stuff come out on tour and in various other places.

Was it EPIC?

The EPIC irons we saw some spy pictures of a while ago became official. We got some prettier pictures as well as some pricing and even more details as to what makes these irons truly EPIC.  The first thing I noticed about these irons was the price tag. These irons will set you back $2000 for a set of 8. Thats where they start. They can get higher with custom shafts and grips. They are going after the PXG market. No one took Bob Parsons seriously with his high priced clubs but they are clearly making an impact. If you are anything like me you are expecting some great technology for $2000. The first thing you get is a modified version of the Jailbreak Technology. They reinforce the face with metal rods connecting the sole to the crown. Callaway says it is can produce faster ball speeds which as we all know is the key to more distance. They also use Carbon Fiber to save weight. This allows them to move weight around to lower the COG and make it out towards the toe on the longer irons. Most amateur golfers hit the ball out on the toe with long irons so having the COG there will produce higher and longer shots. As the irons get shorter they move the COG back towards the middle and raise it as well. The produces lower more penetrating ball flights while also increasing spin.

I wonder who this is for?

This week on the USGA conforming list a new driver appeared. It is a left handed Callaway driver.The driver is an Epic Driver named the PM 440. The regular Epic is 460cc. Phil has always preferred a smaller headed driver and it looks like Callaway was able to do it for him. This gives Phil the benefits of the Jailbreak Technology while also giving him the head shape he prefers. I wouldnt really expect this one to be at your local golf store. There are some other 440’s on tour but again dont expect it at retail

Monkey See; Monkey Do

Over the last year the Taylormade Spider has been one of the most popular putters on tour. In typical Taylormade fashion they painted it bright red so you had no choice but to know it was a Taylormade putter. They did the same thing with their white drivers but I digress. Well, Odyssey decided to hop on the train and make their newest line, the O Works , bright red. It looks identical to the Spider putter from Taylormade. There is a chance it may be the exact same paint. I dont understand how it isnt. It is the exact same color. I guess they want to confuse people who see the Spider and think it is an Odyssey

The Super Game Improvement Hybrid

Cobra released their King OS Hybrid. It is a sort of odd release though. The King LTD is Cobra’s most player oriented driver and this hybrid has all of the same features. It has a textured crown, a lower CG, and the MyFly hosel. All of these things are put into the design to help you hit the ball further.  You can purchase these in a mixed set where you get the hybrids in the long irons and the short irons will be King OS irons.

The sun never sets on the Cameron Empire

A while back Scotty Cameron released the Cameron and Crown line. It was designed for women and people who prefer smaller putters. I think they wanted to start with some basic designs to see if they worked and based on the fact they are expanding the line we can say it has been successful. This new releases are going to be the Newport, Futura 6, Futura 5MB, and the Mallet 1. If you like your putter at 33 inches, give it a chance.

Q Star Tour Golf Balls

A few weeks ago I gave a preview of the Srixon Q Star Tour golf ball. My initial thoughts can be read here. Srixon has slowly been killing it in the golf ball market for years. Their tour ball is the Z Star and is a great golf ball. My search for a cheaper urethane golf ball led me to the Q Star tour. This year my favorite inexpensive urethane ball, the E5,  was discountinued.  This is why I have needed to find a new golf ball. I have reviewed the Callaway Chrome Soft and the Top Flite Gamer Tour. I thought I found a winner but the Q Star Tour was released and hits at the price point I like.

Tech Specs

The Q Star Tour is a 3 piece ball. The urethane cover has 324 dimples and has Srixon’s special SpinSkin coating. The core compression comes in at 75. Compare this to the Chrome Soft at 65, the Top Flite Gamer Tour at around 80, and the Pro v1x in the high 90’s

Putter Performance

The first thing anyone tells you to do with a new golf ball is take it to the putting green and see if you like how it feels. In my past reviews I have said my preference on feel is for the ball to be soft. When looking for a urethane covered golf balls finding a soft feel can be difficult. This golf ball feels really nice of the putter face. It is a solid feeling ball. As the compression ratings show its not as soft as the Chrome Soft but right on par with the Top Flite. I have said it before but I dont believe the ball makes the ball roll further or shorter. I think the ball rolled true and fell in the hole just as easily as any others.

Short Game Performance

For me this is the most important part of a golf ball. Its the reason I prefer to play urethane. If I play a non urethane I can not be as aggressive as I like. The Q Star Tour spun more like the Chrome Soft than the Top Flite. From any situation it was a hop and a stop. The performance was incredible. I couldnt believe how much spin I was generating. In all honesty it was just as good as any other ball if not better .That includes the Chrome Soft, Gamer Tour, and Pro V1x. The feeling the ball produced was just as good as it was off the putter. Firm but still soft enough.

Iron Performance

Iron distances were right on par with what I expected them to be. My 8 iron was going 155 with this ball just like all the others.  On the green this ball danced like none of the others. I hit a shot that landed 3 feet behind the flag and spun back 10 feet. To some they may like this but for me it left me with a much longer putt than the hop and skip would have.  To me its a negative but to others it may be a positive. I didnt feel I was able to control when I backed it up 10 feet if I wanted. If I could control it it may not be so bad. The feeling off the face was very nice. A nice soft feeling. The ball produced a lower ball flight than I thought. This could also be part of the reason the ball spun so much when it hit the ground. The lower ball flight and the high level of spin the ball produced led to backing it up a few feet.

Driver Performance

I couldnt believe how high this ball flew. Half way through testing I got a new driver and wanted to make sure things were not flawed so I took out a Chromesoft and a Top Flite. Considering how low the irons flew I was very surprised to watch this ball fly as high as it did. It didn’t fly as high as the Chromesoft but it was much higher than the Top Flite. As far as the distance was concerned, It was a few yards shorter on some shots and a few yards longer on others. Off the center of the face it felt great. Like the other parts said, It was firmer than the Chrome Soft but right on par with the Top Flite.

Conclusion

Overall I like this ball. It is a contender for the ball that goes into ball pocket. At $30 a dozen it matches the price of the E5 I used to play. The ball is a little more expensive but it does seem to have a lot better durability than the Top Flite. If youre like me the price point is perfect. The performance is great as well. If you want Tour ball performance without the tour ball price I cant think of a better ball than this one!