Our favorite golf products of the year
It is difficult to pinpoint the one obvious golf equipment moment, discovery, or trend of 2015. Centers of Gravity have dropped a millimeter or two, and manufacturers have done what they can to find you an extra few miles an hour of ballspeed. But these increases and upgrades are becoming increasingly hard to come by, and manufacturers are having to rely more and more on their marketing departments to package those minor gains in ever more tantalizing ways.
In a world of design limitations imposed by governing bodies, and years after most of those design limits were reached (and a few days before the anchored putting stroke vanishes forever), genuine innovations – the sort that give you significant yardage gains and which do ultimately help you lower your score and increase your enjoyment of the sport – are rare and should be recognized for what they are.
Here are ten products introduced this year which we believe best provided golfers with something new, exciting, and ultimately worth their attention and/or investment (listed in ascending order of novelty, excitement and investment worthiness):
10. NoteCaddie, FlagHi
At the end of October and start of November, we featured two very interesting new apps – NoteCaddie which allows the user to chart green contours and make text notes enabling them to prepare for a round like a professional, and FlagHi which calculates the distance your shot will effectively play given the prevailing heat and humidity, and your elevation.
Full review: NoteCaddie
Full review: FlagHi
The FlagHi (left) and NoteCaddie (right) apps.
9. Mizuno MP-25
July saw the introduction of Mizuno’s beautiful MP-5 iron – a traditional blade with a very untraditional curved channel-back design that the maker claimed provided optimized control and forgiveness. The head was slightly larger than most blades to make it more appealing to a wider range of players.
8. Ping i Iron
Ping used 431 Stainless Steel in an iron for the first time ever, taking advantage of its high strength-to-weight ratio and soft feel to create a head that offered both forgiveness and workability – a players club with benefits.
7. Powerbilt DFX Tour
In April we featured the DFX Tour – the latest and most advanced nitrogen-powered driver from Powerbilt, a stablemate of Bionic golf gloves and the Louisville Slugger baseball bat. According to Powerbilt President Ross Kvinge, the DFX Tour’s sweetspot was the biggest in the game and spread from ‘edge to edge’.
6. Hogan Fort Worth 15
In May 2014, after Callaway and then fashion House Perry Ellis, its previous owners, had shown little desire in resurrecting the once mighty Ben Hogan equipment brand, former Hogan Company employee and loyalist Terry Koehler moved to purchase the rights. After several months painstakingly designing the new brand’s first iron, he introduced the handsome Fort Worth 15 in June to universal acclaim and approval.
5. Srixon Z355
It’s one of those questions gearheads had at the back of their minds for a while – a heavier head will travel faster than a standard head, so can you not counterbalance it with a high kickpoint in the shaft to maintain the club’s swingweight while giving the head a little more force?
Srixon did just that with August’s launch of the Z355 – a 450cc, all-black-headed driver that the manufacturer positioned for mid to high handicappers saying it generated extra ballspeed while promoting greater stability and consistency.
4. Cobra King LTD
Perhaps the most eye-catching new driver of the year was the Cobra King LTD which Cobra developed alongside the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Houston, TX-based Nanoracks LLC, a company providing ‘space services’ for governments, space agencies and private research institutions wanting to make use of the International Space Station and other low orbit spacecraft. The light but incredibly strong TeXtreme crown and 16g, see-through SpacePort that twists into the sole of the club combined to lower the Center of Gravity below the neutral axis helping to decrease spin, increase launch angle and increase ball speed – a potent combination leading to longer drives.
3. TaylorMade M1
Without a doubt the loudest equipment noise in 2015 was generated by TaylorMade’s striking M1 driver which combined a titanium face and white titanium section at the front with a black, seven-layer composite section at the rear – TaylorMade’s first composite crown – a design that enabled TM to lower the Center of Gravity and incorporate the T-Track system giving golfers the choice of where to position the clubhead’s heel/toe weighting thus affecting shot-shape bias, and its CG for lower/higher launch angle.
Delayed Strike Technology, developed by Englishman Bertie Cordle over several years of study and experimentation, resulted in a training aid that helps golfers feel the most effective impact position – with the hands well ahead of the clubface at the moment the clubface contacts the ball. “The curved DST shaft replicates the shape of a normal shaft under its maximum load during impact,” said Cordle who sold out of the Compressor Wedge at January’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, and then spent much of the year documenting success stories and positive feedback from amateurs and Tour players all over the world.
1. High Heat Driver
After testing Dean Knuth’s impressive High Heat driver at the PGA Merchandise Show, we made a point of recommending the club to readers of this web site three times – in January, August, and December. There was no greater testimony to its efficacy than a sizeable group of golf writers (notoriously reluctant to part with cash for golf equipment) purchasing the driver immediately after hitting it in Orlando. Knuth used his considerable knowledge and expertise, and many years of research, to create a club whose sweetspot was surprisingly large, and which gave very satisfying results from less than stellar strikes.