Thursday, January 23, 2014

2014 PGA Merchandise Show Ramblings - Part I

This week the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show is in Orlando, Florida. The show moved up the days of the week on the schedule. Typically, Demo Day has been on Wednesday with the 1st day of the actual show on Thursday and the last day on Saturday. That moved up one day with Demo Day starting on Tuesday and the first day at the Convention Center on Wednesday.

Tuesday I arrived at the Convention Center at 9:30 and took the shuttle over to Orange County National. This is the same as it is every Demo Day, the entire Orange County National driving range has tents almost every square foot around the range. I saw Martin Chuck, the inventor of the Tour Striker.

Martin’s new product is the ‘Smart Ball’

This is an inflatable ball that has a strap that can optionally be placed around the golfer’s neck. If the golfer wants to do a drill where they work on keeping their elbows closer together in the swing, they can use this. It can also be used in a variety of different drills where the golfer may use a ball like this one. And it can be deflated so the golfer can use it if they want to do a drill like keeping it under their armpit while they swing. It can attach to a golf bag and since it can be deflated, it can be easily stored in a golf bag.

After that I went around the range once and here were a few things I check out:

Axis 1 Putter – The main design feature I see with the Axis 1 putter is that it is almost the opposite of ‘face balanced.’ We know with face balanced putters that if we balance the shaft on our finger, the face will point towards the sky. With the Axis1 putter, the toe will be pointing straight towards the sky…essentially the face is in-line with where the hole would be when it is balanced on our finger.

Out of the Axis1 putters, I preferred the Eagle model.

Fourteen Golf – They make a really nice looking and good feeling driver head. Unfortunately they have a stock shaft that is 47.5 inches long. So I could hit it well about 20% of the time. Put a better fitted shaft in there and I think it’s a helluva driver.

Utility Irons - I had hit the Titleist utility irons and this time I tried Callaway and Pings. I found them very easy to hit off the tee. I think a lot of this leads me back to the old debate of hitting driver versus 3-wood off the tee. The data of Tour players shows that they were surprisingly more accurate and consistent when they hit driver versus 3-wood in 2013 Pro Golf Synopsis. The big debate centered around the 3-wood head design. Because the 3-wood had more loft, it would be more difficult to tilt the ball’s spin axis which would make it more difficult to curve the ball and make the 3-wood, logically, more accurate. But my feeling is that because the 3-wood’s head is much smaller (roughly 3 to 3.5 times smaller than your 460cc driver), the MOI of the head around the sweetspot is less. My feeling is that great reduction in head MOI outweights the extra 4 degrees of head loft that will make it more difficult to tilt the spin axis. It would be interesting to see if Utility irons are more difficult to tilt the spin axis than a driver.

Either way, they Utility Irons I have tried have all felt good and pretty easy to swing.

Nippon Shafts – I spoke to a rep from Nippon as I had to ask about their shafts. The Modus shafts are constant weighted. Because of that, both their taper tip and parallel tip versions come in at different lengths for each iron. Typically, parallel tip shafts are all the same length and then they have specific trimming specifications. For instance, you may get a few parallel tip shafts that are all 41” long, un-cut. With the 3-iron, it will tell you to trim the tip 1-inch, then trim from the butt section down to the length you want the club. But with a 9-iron, it may tell you to tip trim the shaft 2.5” and then trim the butt to length.

With Nippon’s parallel tip shafts, they will come in at different lengths and you still have tip and butt trim according to their specs.

I asked about how after trimming the Modus 120 shaft it came out to about 109 grams versus my Modus 130 at 119 grams. The step pattern on the shafts are different so there’s more weight at the tip section in the Modus 130. However, the step pattern used in the Modus 130 typically makes for a very tip stiff shaft, but Nippon was able to soften the tip with that step pattern. Thus producing a shaft that is heavier after trimming, but not too tip stiff.

I tried the Nippon Regio driver shaft. It is supposed to be designed in line with the Modus shafts. I didn’t think it was a bad shaft, but just too stiff for my swing. Thus, I didn’t find it in line with the Modus shaft, but that doesn’t mean a player with a different swing would not really like the shaft.

Wilson Golf – I didn’t take any pictures and I have not seen any on the internet, but Wilson Golf’s new wedges have a different wedge grind design. It’s more of a C-Grind and something you would see more from a Miura, Edel or Scratch Golf wedge than your typical OEM wedge design.

Edel Golf – Edel comes into the show each year with great new ideas and designs. The ‘think tank’ at Edel also plans very well for the future instead of presenting the same product each year. There was discussion of possibly coming out with woods in the near future that would, of course, have that customized Edel fitting experience. As the guys at Edel told me ‘if we try it and think it stinks, we will just junk the idea.’ While David Edel is a master craftsman, people often forget that he was an accomplished teaching professional and was certified in The Golfing Machine. So unlike most designers, not only can he play golf, but he has an advanced understanding of swing mechanics and club fitting which allows him to use all of those to make the clubs he makes. The same goes for other top people like Bobby Dean and Mike Adams, an experienced wedge grinder for decades who discovered his students didn’t play with enough bounce and came up with the idea of fitting wedges by bounce (and other factors) and creating a wedge design with higher bounce (which I will get into in part II).

Edel has made a few tweaks to their wedge design. I own a new 52* wedge that I use as a Sand Wedge (no 56* wedge, just 52* and 60*). If you like the Edel wedge head look, I cannot really see a difference. I just know that the 52* wedge is exactly what I was looking for…a club that I could properly yardage gap from my PW, but I could also use around the green by slightly fanning the face open if I needed a little more loft. And the first time I tried it out of the bunker, I jarred it.

With that, Edel has changed their iron designs a bit which will lower the price point. I hit this iron at Demo Day.

I also hit the Cavity Back model

I thought both felt and looked great. The big part is that the club head and turf interaction is what separates Edel from the rest. It feels different. It feels smoother and faster and it doesn’t put stress on your hands, wrists and forearms.

In fact, what I found funny was that Edel had the best area to hit from because the other hitting areas for other companies were filled with giant divots.

Kenny Giannini Putters - I had heard some nice things about these putters and wanted to give them a try.

I found these had a great feel as far as contact goes. I asked about them and they said that the slot design had a lot to do with it.

The slot is not designed for noise, but to help with the weighting and to create more MOI around the sweet spot. They also come with PURE Grips putter grip. It has a nice feel to it, probably similar to the old Anser putting grip. I will say that I did like the feel, but I am curious if that feel would remain once the grip gets a bit more worn down.

YONEX TC FORGED IRONS – This to me was the surprise club of Demo Day. I had hit the EZone Blade and really liked it. So I tried this blade and the ball really just flies off the face. They had a launch monitor and when I flushed one, the 6-iron went 174 yards into a 2-club wind. This was extremely noticeable.

They told me that the design is a blade, but in the inside of the club (you cannot see it), they took out the steel and inserted titanium in its place. This would provide a blade with better perimeter weighting. Whatever it was, I thought it was phenomenal. Unfortunately, I do not see any pictures of it anywhere on the internet.

I was about to leave around noon. The winds started picking up to the point where one of the Cleveland tents flew off its hinges and literally looked like a bull at Pamplona ready to gore somebody. One poor woman was dead to rights and the tent at the last second propelled right over her. As funny as it may sound, watching it happen I thought she was going to be seriously hurt. And I had heard that another tent flew off on another side of the range and did injure somebody.

As luck would have it, it started raining as I was heading to the shuttle and that consisted of a 1-hour wait in the rain for the shuttle. I didn’t get back to my car at the Convention Center until 3pm and had yet to each lunch and then had to go to the Open Forum 2. Overall, the Demo Day was not mind blowing, but it was a decent showing given the new products out there.



Hula said...

Thanks for the coverage Rich! Here's pics of the Yonex blade:

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