New From New Balance

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New Balance is known primarily for their high quality running shoes but they also make top notch golf shoes that have been tested and worn by this writer since their introduction. The company is based in Boston and among their worldwide manufacturing facilities are five plants in the U.S. that make more than 4 million pairs of shoes each year. This allows them to use the “Made in the U.S.A.”  label when over 70% of a shoe is domestically produced.

Golf shoes from New Balance were first seen at the PGA Merchandise Show in 2014 with six styles for men and women and since then the new player in the market has been able to effectively compete with the more established brands.

The latest from New Balance are the NBG2004 due to be at retail Sept. 15. These are good looking athletic-style golf shoes that don’t weight a lot (11.6 oz.) and have seven low profile cleats using the Champ Slim-Lok Zarma Tour system. The upper is waterproof microfiber and the NBG2004 makes use of New Balance’s REVLite midsole for comfort.

Designed with a wider forefoot that lets the wearer’s toes spread out for better balance, the instep is slightly lower to promote feeling of being “connected” with the ground to help with a more powerful swing. The PW-1 last also has a narrower heel for stability and a shallower toe area to lock in the front part of the foot. The upper is waterproof microfiber leather with plenty of support and a form-fitted tongue.

The REVLite midsole was first created as lightweight cushioning for runners and works similarly for golfers. There’s also a two year waterproof warranty.

The NBG2004 will be offered in three color combinations: White/Red, Grey/Blue and Black/Green. Suggested retail price is $119.95.

Olympic Golf – A Big Success…But

Park&Rose_Gold_640x480Olympic golf was a smash hit but will that success help to accomplish the goal of those who believe the inclusion in the XXXI Olympiad summer games could result in significant numbers of people taking up the game? Will the Olympics reverse golf’s decline in participation?

There is no question how much being on the Olympic stage meant to each of the 120 who played. It was an experience of a lifetime and each felt some of the magic of being on the world stage.

Got it. Understand it.

However, the cynic in me doesn’t get how the hoped for mystique surrounding golf returning to the Olympics will somehow solve the steady leakage of players from the game. All that was missing from the Golf Channel’s coverage was the shot of a kilted bagpiper marching over a dune into the mist at sunset playing “Scotland the Brave.”

One of the primary reasons, indeed the biggest reason, the push was made to again have Olympic golf was the worldwide exposure would somehow help “grow the game.” Well, golf is already a worldwide sport with a history of championship play older than the Olympics so if you’re looking to showcase the game an Olympic field of just 60 players is ridiculous.

If its exposure we’re after let’s have the best in the world playing, a Team USA and a Team Great Britain and a Team China competing together not as individuals. Excepting the final round, individual play turned both events into just one more 72-hole march. Hasn’t anyone heard of a two player scramble or alternate shot? Both could be done with the total score counting for four rounds maybe with one round of individual play.

Regardless even if those changes are made we are left with the sobering question. Will any of those who watched Olympic golf, perhaps seeing the game for the first time, take up the game?

It might happen but in any appreciable numbers is inconceivable. One interesting outcome worth watching though is the effect Shanshan Feng winning the Bronze will have in her home country of China where the population is more than four times the U.S.

Developing countries with their large number of non-golfers are said to have a great potential for new players but generally they struggle to feed and house their people. They certainly don’t have the money to create programs for newbies to say nothing of building golf courses. This would seem to make an insurmountable problem for all the “grow the game” folks.

By now we should have figured out people play golf for a variety of motivations stemming from their own character, social needs and culture plus of course that’s assuming they have the time and can afford it.

Golf in the Olympics changes none of those things.

Millions of us golf nuts were thrilled to see the competition and hope in four years it will be even better but thinking that Olympic golf is going to somehow cure the industry’s participation ills is unrealistic. It’s not going to happen.

 

10 Rounds with Exotics DG Tour Series Putter

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There are lots of reasons to pick a particular putter from “it looks good” to of course, “it works…at least for now.” There’s even settling on a new flat stick because of the designer has a reputation for making putters used by Tour pros regardless of whether it’s suitable for you.

But I think my reason for interest in the new putters from Tour Edge Golf, the Exotics David Glod Tour Series, may be a first. The company’s chief designer David Glod (who is also the owner) creates quality woods and irons that are top performers when compared to clubs from much larger club companies and usually at a much more pocketbook-friendly price. I have sung the praises of his clubs for several years, especially the fairway woods and hybrids.

I like them so much they are in my bag even after numerous head-to-head comparisons with the latest from just about every other maker. It was because of the performance of the long clubs from Tour Edge I was looking forward to giving the DG Tour Series putters a thorough try over 10 rounds.

I wasn’t disappointed.DG_2345_250x370

The model tested was the 5.1, a face balanced small mallet head with a Superstroke Mid Slim 2.0 grip and from the first putt the overwhelming impression was the solid feel of the impact with the ball. Alignment is easy aided by the white line and the edges of the cavity that takes up more than half the top of the head.

Did it fix all my putting problems? No, but it wasn’t too long to have my confidence rise and all questions about the performance of the putter in my hands disappeared.

Glod talked about his designs in the DG series which include two modern blades and three mallets. All have a distinctive face milling, a weight of 350 grams and offer a choice of black PVD or silver bead finish. Each is CNC milled from a single block of carbon steel and priced at $249.99 or $279.99 with a Superstroke grip.

According to Glod the main idea behind the design of the DG Tour Series was, “To improve on popular models with special nuances and create all new versions like V4.1 and V5.1.”

He produced the DG Tour Series putters with a distinctive milled “X” pattern rather than an insert in the face because, [an] “X pattern grips ball better with sharp diagonal edges for less skid,” and the head being milled from a single steel block since, “A block of steel is more pure for best the feel.”

Which it does without question.

Negatives: You may have heard this before but that doesn’t make it less true—get fitted properly. Even though the cost of a fitting session with a competent professional adds to the cost of any putter, if you rely on pure chance the odds is getting a putter that fits your stroke are slim. For example, do you know if a face balanced putter or one with toe hang or how much toe hang is best for you? I thought so.

Recommendation: The Exotics David Glod Tour Series putters are of the highest quality and though they may not cure all your putting woes at least you’ll know it’s not the putter.

A short video from Tour Edge may be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeYmZ2Nai50

One Less Slice to the Pie

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The golf equipment industry is evaluating the potential effects of Nike Golf announcing Aug. 3 it would getting out of the club, ball and bag business to concentrate on its golf apparel lines including ones under the Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Michelle Wie brand names. Club manufacturers have spent the last several years trying to find ways to increase sales and now the slice of the pie that belonged to Nike is up for grabs.

The question is what the remaining club companies will do to take over Nike’s share of the market and if the strategy involves reduction in the prices of clubs to attract sales the golf consumer could benefit.

Nike is the smallest of the big four by a significant margin with sales of $706 million this past fiscal year trailing Callaway Golf ($844 million sales in 2015), TaylorMade-adidas Golf ($989 million) and Acushnet ($1.5 billion).

However the scrum for the sales that had been going to Nike will take place in a muddy field.

There is uncertainty surrounding the two largest companies. Acushnet, the parent of Titleist and FootJoy, has registered with the Security and Exchange Commission to make an offering of stock to the public. Adidas has put its TaylorMade Golf division with the Adams Golf and Ashworth brands up for sale though details of any potential deal are unknown.

Smaller companies are also making moves that add to the list of possible outcomes such as Srixon’s Cleveland brand changing focus to wedges and putters while Srixon and their upscale XXIO lines market woods and irons. Tour Edge Golf has increased efforts to further penetrate the market for irons with well received new models.

Undecided for now is the fate of Tour players who endorse the Swoosh clubs and the list starts with Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Michelle Wie but also includes veteran Paul Casey and rising stars Tony Finau and Bruce Koepka. Woods has said he is actively looking for a new relationship with a club company with the mostly likely candidate could be Acushnet-Titleist since longtime rival Phil Mickelson is the chief spokesman for Callaway and the question marks surrounding the sale of TaylorMade.

Jordan Spieth endorses Titleist clubs and golf balls but is contracted with Under Armour for apparel.

Additionally, money paid to endorse a given club line has been put under close scrutiny by every manufacturer as profits have shrunk. The huge sums Nike has paid in the past for marquee stars are most likely not part of the equation. It has been reported Woods earns $50 million annually from Upper Deck, Rolex and Nike endorsements even though he has not played a single event in the past year. Woods’ Nike deal includes both equipment and apparel.

Three years ago McIlroy signed a 10-year deal for between $200 and $250 million according to published stories including apparel as well as equipment.

Jack Would Have Been Third

LongDrive

Two years ago the PGA of America realizing how much interest there had been in the long drive competition formerly held before the PGA Championship so they reinstated it. Fans really love seeing their favorites who will be competing for the Wanamaker Trophy in two days put a peg in the ground and swing as hard as they could.

On Tuesday South Korean sensation Byeong-Hun An had the longest drive managing a very credible 347 yards, besting Rory McIlroy by two yards and Nicolas Colsaerts by six.

But wait, Jack Nicklaus at Dallas Athletic Club in 1963 using a persimmon headed driver and a wound balata cover ball took the long drive contest that year with a tee shot just inches under 342 yards.

A drive which would have put him third in this year contest.

And, if I’ve done the math correctly, it means in the intervening 53 years the winner gained an unspectacular five yards. So allowing for the difference in the price of drivers then and now that works out to just over $100 per yard.1963Clip

Rather than this being a knock on today’s improved technology compared to five decades ago it’s more a statement of how unimaginably hard the Golden Bear could hit the ball with vastly inferior equipment. Pictured is the money clip he still carries for the win all those years ago.

Images courtesy of Jack Nicklaus and PGA of America

High Heat 3-wood & Hybrid

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There have been few startup manufacturers whose clubs have received as much attention and praise as the High Heat driver introduced last year by Knuth Golf. Golfers took to the High Heat at once with many finding it to be both longer and straighter than the major manufacturer’s driver they were playing.

Creator Dean Knuth, a former Senior Director of the USGA, designed the High Heat specifically for amateurs by giving it the combination of a large sweet spot and high coefficient of restitution or COR. And according to Steve Trattner, Knuth Golf’s Executive Vice President, sales have been very strong.

With this background in mind I was looking forward to my on-course testing of their newest clubs, the High Heat 3-wood and High Heat hybrid. In discussions with Knuth he pointed out the clubface of both is made from titanium, so in comparison to fairway woods and hybrids with a steel clubface, the cup face titanium construction has an immediate benefit. Titanium being lighter and stronger than steel produces a larger amount of face rebound at impact and that translates into something we all want…distance without added effort.

Titanium in the clubface also helps preserve ball speed when contact is not in the center of the face which is another way of saying average players will find the High Heats forgiving. So, since most of us miss the sweet spot regularly this is an important feature.

Overall the fairway woods are larger being 25% deeper and have a center of gravity that is 18% lower according to Knuth. He also explained the variable thickness face has seven zones with lobes near the toe and heel designed to increase the amount of trampoline effect.

On the course it was immediately apparent the 15 degree loft 3-wood is a strong club. After two sessions on the range the first hole I actually put it in play was a sharp dogleg around water. The ideal tee shot would be a gentle draw of about 220-yards and the High Heat performed perfectly putting the ball exactly in the center of the short grass leaving it wedge distance to the pin.

From the fairway the High Heat 3-wood gets the ball airborne from even suspect lies and did well from shorter length rough. In one instance the ball came to stop on the side of a sand-filled divot and, while I usually would not use a 3-wood from that kind of lie, I thought what-the-heck. Let’s see what happens.

Without consciously making any changes to my swing to compensate for the lie (such as being sure to hit down), the ball came out easily with just a little drift from left to right. Entirely satisfactory.

The 18 degree High Heat hybrid is a real beast and I particularly liked it from the tee on long par-3s because it gives the ball a nice high trajectory so it lands and stops unlike some other hybrids that roll out too much. In its primary job of getting the ball back into play or even onto the green from the rough it performed extremely well. The combination of a somewhat larger clubhead, a prominent sole rail and weight low in the clubhead meant it almost never met a lie it didn’t like…and couldn’t the ball out of.

Both the woods and the hybrid have a mirror finish face and while it may not seem like a big deal and might even be considered merely cosmetic, but the finish shows the ball’s point of impact giving valuable feedback after each shot.

TGA Expands Into Clubs

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Joshua Jacobs is on a mission and the mission is to introduce children to golf. For a dozen years he and his company TGA Premier Junior Golf have been doing just that with a franchise business model tailor made for PGA Professionals and others interested in growing the game. The success of TGA has led to the introduction of their own line of clubs just right for youngsters beginning the game.

“Since 2003 TGA has become a leading expert on introductory and recreational junior golf instruction,” said TGA CEO, Jacobs. “By experiencing firsthand how juniors learn, swing and react to equipment, we have developed junior clubs that kids will find esthetically pleasing and well performing, which will further expand our expertise and credibility among our golf consumers.”

They didn’t create the clubs on their own but called on the background and knowledge of industry veteran Ross Kvinge of Plus One Sports who has experience with several top-of-the-line manufacturers. He is also the owner of a TGA franchise giving him additional insight into what children need and can best use.

The clubs themselves are designed expressly to make them easy to hit the ball giving juniors the satisfaction of seeing results they can feel good about. The driver for example has a very large clubhead and clubface to easily make contact and yet lightweight for young swings. Irons have weight moved from the hosel, where it doesn’t help performance, to the topline of the face to make a larger sweet spot.

From putter to driver TGA’s equipment uses technology that allows beginning and experienced junior golfers to excel.

Boxed sets have a choice of seven color coded sizes based the child’s height with right and left handed options for both boys and girls. Parents will like the price as well. Sets of three to six clubs with a stand bag and headcovers range from $89.99 to $149.99.

Also in the good news department, TGA will be offering a trade up program for families to keep their children fitted properly.

Additional information may be found playTGA.com.

A Professional Mixture – Business & Golf

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At one time or another most of us have played golf in a business situation often with customers or potential customers and sometimes it hasn’t gone too well.

Whether it’s having novice golfers on the back tees or being stuck with the guy who never turns off his smartphone, there are literally dozens of do’s and don’ts that can make the mixture of business and golf a bust or success. Lots has been written about the synergy of golf and business but I know of no one until now to have enumerated what should be done to ensure a successful linking.

Author John Glozek fortunately not only understands all of this but has written a book entitled Business Golf – The Best Business Meeting You’ll Ever Have. It is a must read if you use or want to use golf as a positive tool for your business relationships.

And Glozek has the credentials to know, since in addition to being a golf fanatic he is publisher of an award winning publication named Golfing Magazine based in Long Island, N.Y. Plus if that weren’t enough to prove his bona fides, he is President of one of the leading golf industry organizations, the International Network of Golf.

Taking a look at the chapter headings gives an idea of the scope Glozek’s advice: “Find Your Comfort Zone,” “Etiquette vs. Skill vs. Rules,” “Pre-round Preparation,” “Score Doesn’t Matter,” “the 19th Hole” and my personal favorite, “If You Don’t Believe Me…Ask Tiger.”

It includes probably the best one liner in the book.

“John’s Bonus Golfbit: Don’t teach your guests. Leave the teaching up to the PGA professional.”

Glozek also tapped the knowledge and experience of a number of business people for their views about the golf and business combination including Donald Trump and there’s even a short contribution by yours truly.

Even if you’re an old hand of using golf to further your business interests I guarantee you will find a wealth of information in Business Golf to make your next foursome or corporate event a smashing success.

Business Golf – The Best Business Meeting You’ll Ever Have

178 pages

Author: John Glozek, Jr.

$20.00 on Amazon.com

Why Not Olympic Caber Tossing?

Caber_toss

After more than a century golf is again an Olympic sport and perhaps it would be a good idea to consider also adding that other sporting contribution from the highlands of Scotland, caber tossing. You know, when really big guys in kilts pick up a log slightly shorter than a telephone pole and flip it in the air. The winner is the one who tosses it the furthest and presumably can remain standing long enough afterwards to accept the trophy. Adding the caber toss to the Olympics would provide immediate international exposure to the sport and probably result in a surge of participation around the world.

Makes sense or at least the same amount of sense as Olympic golf.

What does make an international competition important, exciting and memorable? Let’s see:

Representing your country – check

International visibility – check

Best players – check

Established historic courses – check

Interesting format – check

Scheduled allowing proper preparation – checkGolf,_Rio_2016

Pretty much what is found in the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup, the Solheim Cup, the Walker Cup, the Palmer Cup, the Eisenhower and Espirito Santo Trophies…well you get the idea.

The Olympics, for all the mythic qualities it may have for some sports, doesn’t have many check marks on the above list when it comes to golf. Not only are world class players dropping out left and right (with the top Americans still to be heard from) but the course outside Rio de Janeiro, while probably another of Gil Hanse’s first class designs, is anything but a historic venue having been just completed.

The format is a yawner. Two limited 60 player field 72-hole events, one for men and one for women. More to the point, and at least in the case of the men, for a variety of reasons not all the best will be there. Not only because some, like world number one Jason Day, have announced they won’t go but a country’s team may only be four players and all have to be in the top 15 of world ranking. Otherwise the national team is no more than two.  

Scheduling is also a huge problem. Olympic golf is sandwiched into an already crowded season. The British Open is followed by the Canadian Open, the week after is the PGA Championship then the Travelers Championship and then the Olympics concluding for the men on August 14. The FedEx Cup playoffs of four tournaments start August 25th concluding Sept. 25th and the Ryder Cup begins Sept. 30th.

Putting two major championships almost back to back, the PGA only two weeks after the Open, would be laughable if it weren’t so serious a compromise necessary to accommodate the Olympics. It about guarantees players, not just those going to Rio, will be unable to maintain their best games for the latter part of the season. It will be “burn out’ with capital letters.

The world’s top Brazil Olympic Games Emblemplayers have a full dance card or should I say top professionals since in another of the myriad inconsistencies surrounding the Olympics, amateurs are not eligible. But then again the professionals’ sponsors, who pay large amounts of money to gain exposure, get no Olympic benefit since team uniform, bags, etc. have no brand logos…at least there’s something in common with the Ryder Cup. NBC and the International Olympic Committee are making money from the Games and the athletes, professional or amateur, aren’t. Seems somehow inconsistent.

Brazil and the city of Rio de Janeiro have real problems. The country has both a major political scandal and a financial crisis while street crime in Rio has been called an epidemic which authorities have promised to have under control during the Games.

And then there’s the Zika virus, transmitted by mosquitoes or sexual contact, adding measurably to the gamble should a fan or competitor be planning on having children. The Olympic Committee and the World Health Organization have said Zika is a small risk but nonetheless it is real. But it’s not just the fact several hundred thousand visitors to Rio will be potentially exposed to disease, when they return home they could be carrying the virus with them.

Finally, golf already is a worldwide sport with a long history of international competition so it can presumed not every touring professional feels competing in the Olympics is an absolute career highlight. Maybe to them it’s just another play-for-no-pay exhibition that interferes with their personal lives and playing schedule. Add the situation in Brazil, Rio and ho-hum format and one can see why enthusiasm may be lacking and the list of dropouts growing.

An oft cited benefit of golf returning to the Olympics after a century’s absence is exposure on a worldwide scale which will help to “grow the game,” words which have been used to rationalize any number of efforts to attract new players and reverse declining participation. People play golf for a variety of motivations stemming from their own character, social needs and culture plus of course if they have the time and money.

Golf in the Olympics changes none of those factors.

It almost like convincing yourself Olympic caber tossing would all of sudden cause Dads and Moms to rush out and buy 20-foot long wooden poles for their kids.

Golf has the Walker Cup, the Solheim Cup, Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup which truly pit the best against the best and that’s the key difference when evaluating golf inclusion in the Olympics.

From a rational viewpoint golf doesn’t need the Olympics and at best it’s a sideshow exhibition for a limited number of truly world class golfers to compete in a field filled with players of less skill.

Better Turn–Better Swing

Stand around the first tee on any given Saturday morning and several things are obvious. For the purposes of this article the one that concerns us is the lack of turn most males (and a lot of females) have in their backswing. If the idea is to pivot without swaying so your back is towards the target while not collapsing your arms, most of us haven’t got it.

MISIG in use horizontalAsk any instructor. With a proper backswing hitting the ball effectively becomes more than likely…without it, luck enters into the result a lot more than we want.

So with that all in mind I agreed to test the MSIG device which I first saw at the PGA Merchandise Show last January. Most of us, including myself, could be more flexible. And since flexibility is a requisite to a proper swing if we want to improve, get more distance, achieve more consistency and walk off with the pretty girl we have to do something.

Enter the MISIG from the fertile mind of inventor Bernie Fay who was looking for a way of stretching and strengthening his shoulders to offset the aches and pains of aging so he could enjoy playing golf more. After trial and error he came up with a simple device that he found not only helps to “limber up” prior to a round but since the device almost “forces” the MISIG shaft into the proper position, repetition goes a long way to teaching a correct backswing plane.MISIG product

Out of the box the MISIG is easy to assemble then just wrap the Velcro closure cuff around the lead arm above the elbow, grab the sliding grip with the trailing hand and make a backswing. What I felt immediately was a tremendous stretching of the back muscles and lead forearm but something else just as important. When I turned my shoulders 90 degrees the MISIG shaft was exactly on plane, i.e., pointing parallel to the target line.

I am now using the MISIG as part of my exercise program and though I can’t say it’s increased by drives by 30 yards I can make a much freer turn.

MISIG, which stands for “Most Important Stretch In Golf,” retails for $79.99 online at feelthestretch.com. It comes with three stretch cords (light, medium, strong), the shaft with sliding grip and arm cuff.

And, oh yeah…I lied about the pretty girl.

Images courtesy of the manufacturer