PGA Tour’s Member-Guest Down on the Bayou

It could be called the PGA Tour’s version of the member-guest. The Zurich Classic of New Orleans came up with the idea of changing the format of their tournament to attract more of the top players and boost fan interest. And it seems to have worked though of course we will know better come Sunday.

The top 80 eligible players committing to play picked a partner for foursomes play on Thursday and Saturday and four-ball on Friday and Sunday.

At courses especially here in the United States, foursomes is probably better known as alternate shot and four-ball as the more common name best-ball. In most everyone’s opinion an exciting and refreshing change from the usual 72-hole medal-play events week after week.

Though world number one Dustin Johnson is still recovering from a fall just before the Masters’ some really interesting partnerships were put together and talk about “Dream Teams.” How about Jason Day/Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson/J.B. Holmes, Jimmy Walker/Sean O’Hair, Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson, Jason Duffner/Patton Kizzire or Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer?

Should be a lot of fun to watch.

Each partner chosen must have PGA Tour status or receive a sponsor’s exemption and after play on Friday there will be a cut to the low 35 teams and ties. The playoff, should one be needed after 72 holes, will be sudden-death in a four-ball format.

The Zurich Classic is the first team event on Tour since the 1981 Walt Disney World National Team Championship won by Vance Heafner and Mike Holland played over three of the courses at Walt Disney World.

The Zurich Classic of New Orleans will award FedExCup points and official money plus the winning team will each receive credit as an official victory, a two year Tour exemption and be eligible for the elite Invitational fields, including the Tournament of Champions and THE PLAYERS Championship.

FedExCup points and prize money will be proportioned to teams making the cut based on combining every two positions with each team member receiving half. The winning team will split first and second place FedExCup points (500 for first and 300 for second for 800 total points, or 400 for each player). Official prize money will be distributed the same way.

Ten Rounds with Epic

The Great Big Bertha Epic driver from Callaway Golf caused a flurry of comment on the Internet and in club rooms around the country for a simple reason…its construction is unique.

When I received the advanced information and specifications for the Epic prior to the official announcement, I wasn’t an enthusiast for the name. Nor am I now however, there no denying the construction is unlike any other on the market so I think we can allow Callaway some license to call it what they want. Actually I’m told Epic was the code name used during development and it stuck.

But enough about the nonessentials. For the first time a manufacturer has been able to place bars of titanium inside the clubhead connecting the crown and sole to reduce the amount of deflection at impact. This transfers energy to the clubface and Callaway says it creates maximum face flex and more ball speed even though the clubhead speed remains the same. The name for this breakthrough is another I’m not thrilled with but of course my opinion doesn’t matter. They call it “Jailbreak Technology.”

The club body is a titanium skeleton or “Exo-Cage” with the areas between the “ribs” filled by carbon fiber. Included are the crown plus three sections of the sole so the Epic clubhead’s surface area works out to 46% carbon fiber. This says Dr. Alan Hocknell, senior vice president of research and development, creates a light yet stiff structure leaving lots of weight which can be redistributed to alter the curvature bias of the ball. To provide for a draw or a fade shot tendency Epic has a 17-gram sliding weight at the rear of the sole which according to Hocknell can adjust the ball curvature up to 21 yards. That of course goes a long way in straightening out most any slice.

To maximize performance Callaway also recognizes the importance of the correct shaft so with the Epic they offer a choice four stock shafts in four different weight categories. A very nice feature that can mean having a driver that “works” or not and may be a significant cost savings over buying a non-stock shaft.

The Epic comes with a choice of basic lofts–9 degrees, 10.5 degrees and a HT model of 13.5 degrees. Settings on the hosel can adjust that loft from two degrees more to one degree less and there’s also a setting for a draw or neutral lie angle.

The GBB Epic tested was a 10.5 degree model with a Project X HZDRUS T800 shaft the standard 45.5 inch length and from the very first swings on the range it was apparent Callaway has a winner. Though the shaft was one inch longer than my current driver, contact was solid and trajectory (after adjusting the loft to 11 degrees) was exactly what my swing should produce.

Distance was as good as any driver we have tested but the most important fact is that on my usual towards-the-toe miss the ball still went almost the same yardage, though of course exhibiting a fairly pronounced right to left hook. As the Epic became more familiar the forgiveness exhibited swing after swing makes it an unqualified winner.

Negatives: Epic’s price of $500 mandates a club fitting by a qualified fitter. This makes good sense even though there may be an additional cost.

The stock shafts may be too long for some, especially slower swing speed players, and those with pronounced slices so it might be a good idea to consider trimming the standard length.

With the lie angle setting at neutral, some who tried the Epic thought the face looked like it was slightly open. This was not actually true, only what it looked like, but this may be a concern for some potential purchasers.

Everyone commented on the impact sound though truthfully after a couple of rounds it didn’t bother me. It is a harder or perhaps sharper sound and certainly distinctive from any other driver.

Recommendation: Put the Great Big Bertha Epic on your short list. It’s a premium driver that stands out in comparison with others in its class for both its construction and most importantly forgiveness. There’s a low spin version without the sliding weight but with two interchangeable sole weights called the Epic Sub Zero also priced at $500.

Images courtesy of Callaway Golf

Ten Rounds with Leupold GX 5i3 and GX 1i3

Leupold makes great laser rangefinders and so the opportunity to test out two of their newest models, the top of the line GX-5i3 (street price $550) and the entry level GX-1i3 (street price $300), was welcomed.

Our ten round test procedure was simple. For the first two rounds every yardage was shot with both units and then, alternating, four rounds were played with each. The results were hardly unexpected given my experience with Leupold products including my “regular” rangefinder, one of their older models a GX-2i2. And trying the new models under a wide variety of conditions each could clearly be appreciated.

The GX-1i3 and GX-5i3 share several features starting with both have a 6x magnification with an eyepiece that can be focused for the user’s vision. Both weigh about the same—7 oz. for the GX-1i3 and 7.3 oz. for the GX-5i3. Their lasers have a fast rate of pulsing so not only are distances quickly determined but any slight movement by the user is, for all intents and purposes, ignored by the unit.

Both have a fog mode and one touch scanning so measurements to the pin and say, the top of a bunker can be made while sweeping the entire area.

The difference between the two however is in the ability of the GX-5i3 to be personalized to the user and the outside conditions because it measures the slope uphill or downhill and compensates the yardage accordingly. Called True Golf Range (TGR) it tells you how much longer an uphill shot is playing and likewise how much shorter a downhill shot plays.

The GX-5i3 as has a club selection feature which, once the distance you hit three clubs is entered the unit suggests which club to hit based on the TGR and even shows if you are between clubs.

In one word, amazing. Add to that the GX-5i3 also makes yardage compensations after temperature and altitude are entered and all you’re left to do is swing the club.

To make the GX-5i3 USGA tournament legal these adjustment features may be turned off leaving only the line of sight distance feature similar to what the GX-1i3 provides.

We particularly liked the way the GX-1i3 fits in the hand making it very easy to use. The GX-5i3 is handy as well, just that we like size of the other one. The view through the eyepiece is the same though the GX-1i3 has a choice of seven aiming reticles while the GX-5i3 has three.

Both reach out and give back yardages extremely well, to a tenth of a yard. The head to head comparison didn’t find any meaningful discrepancies…to a tenth of a yard. Now if my swing were able to do that we’d be all set.

Negatives: You are getting a whole lot more in the GX-5i3 but at a $250 higher price and you should think carefully if, to you, the features are worth the extra outlay. In my mind there’s no question they are. Some who tried both units didn’t like the more “ergonomic” shape of the GX-1i3. We did.

Recommendation: We highly recommend either unit. Probably the best all-around laser rangefinders we have tested and the ease of use is tops.

Images courtesy of Leupold

Evaluating Snell’s My Tour Ball

An old friend was on the phone the other day talking about his golf game and asked if I knew anything about the Snell ball. He’s been a scratch player for many years, a loyalist of the ball played by the majority of Tour professionals and had received a sleeve of Snell Golf’s My Tour Ball as a tee gift.

In response to his question I asked if he had played the Snell ball yet and that started a discussion about the MTB in comparison with other premium performance balls, so-called Tour balls. We talked about the construction and the fact Tour balls all have at least three layers and a cast thermoset urethane cover. This type of cover provides excellent control on the shorter scoring shots but is more expensive to manufacture.

The second point we talked about was price, i.e., how much money are you willing to spend relative to the performance you want. Some may decide the out of pocket dollars are the only factor while others may feel purchasing a less expensive ball that doesn’t have the spin characteristics to help scoring is a bad idea. With Tour balls costing from $40 to $48 per dozen the idea a ball that can deliver the same or better performance for $32 is a winner.

Snell Golf’s My Tour Ball fits that description perfectly.

At the PGA Merchandise Show last January company founder Dean Snell told me one of the secrets of the ball business is from the tee all golf balls, i.e., Tour balls or distance balls, go the about the same distance. Manufacturers have figured out how with the longer clubs, specifically the driver, to get soft-cover Tour balls to launch with low spin similar to harder cover distance balls. In contrast to the cast urethane of Tour balls, distance balls have an ionomer or Surlyn cover which is much firmer and spins a lot less which originally gave them added yardage over Tour balls.

Snell also added virtually every ball is at or very close to the limits set by the USGA.

So the difference comes down to how a ball behaves on those short shots around the green. Does it fly high with low spin, hit and roll out or does it come in lower and check? In other words does it act like distance ball or a Tour ball?

We took the opportunity to do a test with a number of average golfers playing Snell’s MTB and reporting back their reactions. Here is a sampling of the unedited comments (except for length) from golfers with handicaps from 2 to 16 after playing the My Tour Ball. They weren’t told up front whether the MTB was a distance ball or Tour ball nor unless they looked it up for themselves, the price.

13 Handicap: “I really liked them they had a great feel and I thought I was hitting a little longer than usual. I am not a great striker but the feel on the club was good. I would buy these balls but again it would depend on cost. If they are a reasonable price I am all in.”

16 Handicap: “I’ve used the Snell balls the last three days. I think they are comparable to the Titleist NXT tour. It’s hard for me to tell about distance, but as for the soft feel in the short game, I thought it was equally as good. If priced right, I would buy them.”

10 Handicap: “It felt the same off the driver, fairway wood as the ball I normally play; Titleist NXT or Top Flite Gamer Tour; Distance off the tee was about the same; I notice no difference when chipping around the green; (Except sometimes I STINK!); I noticed no significant difference with my hybrids or irons.”

14 Handicap: “My observation are that I did hit the Snell ball straighter with less fade than my ball. I found that I experienced less distance with Snell and it did not give me the feeling of popping of the driver head as I am used to. On approach shots I found that Snell did hold the green better than the [Titleist] Velocity. One point of significance is when putting I found that the Snell did not spring off my putter as I am used to with the Velocity. A small point but did notice the difference.”

4 Handicap: “Play Pro V1 or Pro V1x exclusively and could see no difference with driver. Wedges stopped and were easy to control. Will be switching due to price.”

10 Handicap: “Distance seemed to be average, same as NXT Tour which I like to play although the flight path [trajectory] seemed lower. Even though the ball appeared to be solid it felt good off the club and reacted well when hitting the green. Putting, again it felt solid but was very nice to putt with and I sunk several lengthy putts.”

12 Handicap: “Off the tee the Snell was at least 10 yards longer on most drives. Longer carry but roll probably about the same as other balls. I used my GPS to check distances. With the 5 wood and 3 hybrid there was some added distance, but some of that may have been due to a better swing. I did not find any real difference with irons, or my mid length hybrids. With my game, the iron game can be very erratic. Putting would take more study to determine any difference between balls. I do not think my skill level could tell any difference.”

6 Handicap: “The Snell ball is as good as the Pro V1 or Chrome Soft I usually buy.”

2 Handicap: “Have worked through a dozen Snell’s and I’m hitting it higher, therefore longer, with all clubs. 5-10 yards longer off tee and ½ to 1 club longer with irons. It’s a keeper, at least for me.”

So how good is the MTB? Each of us has to decide but I have seen data for pitch shots showing the $32 per dozen MTB has similar spin rates and as flat a trajectory as any of the Tour balls.

Snell has worked in the ball business for almost 30 years, first for Titleist and then for TaylorMade. Snell Golf was started in 2015 as a low budget operation with Snell himself doing the design, overseeing of manufacturing and most of the administrative duties. He shared with me that many times he enlisted family and friends to spend their evenings in his kitchen putting together sample packages of balls. The company has grown exponentially since that modest beginning but it’s still not huge and sells only over the Internet at SnellGolf.com. Snell confided he is working on further refinements of both the MTB and the two-piece Surlyn cover Get Sum ball which sells for $21 per dozen.

Can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

Images courtesy of Snell Golf

The “Secret” About Wedges

There’s a lot of talk about drivers and there’s no doubt the club taking up the number one slot in the bag is important but it’s also true the clubs in the other end of the bag, the wedges, are important as well. It’s wonderful to hit a booming drive but if you can’t wedge it close going low will be tough.

The secret about wedge play is there is no secret. It just takes a basic knowledge and the selection of the proper wedges for you, plus of course maybe a lesson from a PGA Professional.

To maximize results make sure the lofts are correctly gapped so the distance each wedge goes with a normal swing is about 10 to 15 yards different than the next more lofted wedge. This is often, but not always, four degrees of loft.

An example would be the wedges in my bag starting with the pitching wedge which has a loft of 45 degrees and using a “normal” swing flies 120-125 yards. Next is a 50 degree “gap wedge” good for 105 to 110 yards, then one with 54-degrees of loft used for 90 to 100 yards and finally a 58 degree wedge at 80 yards.

So, four wedges effectively covering a range of 40 plus yards.

It’s important to note—and this is another “secret” that’s not really a secret—ideally you would carry the wedges that give you as many full swings as possible in a round realizing though, no matter what loft your wedges you will always be faced with in-between yardage shots.

There is no magic formula and gapping to a certain extent is a matter of personal preference. It comes down to getting it right so you hit the ball closer with more confidence. A discussion about bounce, that other vital aspect of wedge selection, will be covered in another article.

Here are three of this year’s wedges that caught our eye and we have tested extensively:

Callaway Golf Sure Out: The name was used by the original Ben Hogan brand and since Callaway owns the name they were able to bring it back for a super game improvement wedge designed with input from instructor Hank Haney. Callaway’s team made the Sure Out with lots of sole camber, i.e., curvature from heel to toe. Additionally there is lots of bounce to help it through sand and long grass and 17 grooves that go all the way across the face. These features plus a nice wide sole mean sand shots, greenside pitches and even flop shots can be hit without opening the face or cutting across the ball, techniques that “scare” many average golfers. Priced at $120, Sure Out wedges are available with either lightweight steel or graphite shafts in 58 or 64-degrees of loft.

Cleveland Golf RTX-3: Compared to Cleveland’s previous RTX-2 model, nine grams of weight has been moved from the hosel to the clubhead so the center of gravity is closer to the impact area making a noticeable improvement in feel. For more consistent contact there are three different V-grind soles to match your swing profile and Cleveland’s third generation micro-milled face in between the grooves provides more spin and thus control. Choices include finishes of black satin, Tour satin and Tour raw plus there’s a cavity back version. The available lofts range from 46 to 64 degrees and each is priced at $130.

Ping Glide 2.0: The updates of the original Glide wedges involved making grooves sharper-edged and slightly decreasing the spin between to increase friction to produce more spin. Impressively Ping lab testing reports the Glide 2.0 generate up to 400 rpm higher spin which is important to aid in getting the distance and trajectory just right on every shot. We especially like this wedge’s finish which the company has tagged “hydropearl.” It not only looks good but sheds moisture to reduce the chance of flyers. Ping offers four sole grinds to match your attack angle and the turf conditions at the course you most often play. With steel shafts they are priced at $140 per club.

Images courtesy of manufacturers

Masters Favorites

Next week for many is the opening of the golf season, the Masters. An arm chair pastime has always been evaluating the field and picking possible winners and why they are the short list to wear the green jacket come Sunday.

The King, Arnold Palmer, will be missed but the memory of his four wins and exciting play will never be lost. Every year since 1954 he has been there and though he hasn’t played in recent years he took the job of honorary starter seriously with his customary humor and good grace.

One question on everyone’s mind is will he or won’t he, i.e., will the aging athlete with a bad back Tiger Woods be able to tee it up. He has said repeatedly he wants to and wants to continue his run at passing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. This Masters would be a wonderful place for him to start.

Many of the top Tour players are under 30…some way under. This brings added interest from younger fans and the Masters is another chance to see who has what it takes. To win the Masters requires the maturity to handle the situation and of course putting well on the contoured, sloping and ridiculously fast greens. But paraphrasing Bobby Jones, founder of Augusta National and the Masters, “There’s golf and then there’s major championship golf.”

Defending champion Danny Willet has, even at his best in the past year, exhibited lackluster ball striking and putting. No wins since last April and typically finishing—if he made the cut—well down the leaderboard.

Concerns about his mother’s health have put former world number one Jason Day into the situation where he may not play and it’s unlikely even if he does he will be able to set it all aside and play up to the level necessary to win.

Taking a look at the rest of the field’s chances to win the 81st playing of what many say is their most memorable major championship one has to consider Hideki Matsuyama as a possibility. Plus a slimmer Bubba Watson trying for his third win at Augusta is an excellent pick and we shouldn’t overlook the long-hitting youngster Justin Thomas.

Henrik Stenson, winner over Phil Mickelson in the British Open, and his fairway-hitting Callaway 3-wood is a maybe. His season hasn’t been up to what we have come to expect and he doesn’t do particularly well at Augusta with his best finish being 14th three years ago.

So, with all that in mind, here are our picks to win the green jacket:

Dustin Johnson – what can you say about a player who hits it as long as DJ, often in the fairway, has his wedges dialed in and, for the trifecta, is in the top 30 for putting. The flat stick has always been a key at Augusta National and if the man from South Carolina has a good putting week he will be hard to beat. The WGC Match Play Three win was his third in as many starts and places him at the top of the list.

Jordan Spieth – The demons from his infamous finish last year will be exorcised. Spieth is not super long but long enough as he has proven with his 2015 Masters win. The 23-year old Texan’s strongest attributes are his ability to manage his round and his putting from outside 10 feet. Admittedly he hasn’t been able to separate himself from the rest of the Tour this year as he did in the past but his Pebble Beach win was impressive though his performance at the WGC Match Play was not. 

Rory McIlroy – it’s tough to bet against the star from Northern Ireland who at times has it all. One fan labelled him “All-World,” and that’s not much of an exaggeration. A suspect putter could be the reason he isn’t adding a Masters trophy on his mantelpiece to go with his Open, U.S. Open and two PGA Championships hardware.

Rickie Fowler – now is the time for Fowler to prove he is in the elite bracket of players who not only can win any given week but can take charge in a major championship. He won at the Honda and skipped the WGC Match Play and at 28-years old he must step up to avoid being in the Sergio Garcia category—close, but never a major winner. Remember in 2015 Fowler quieted those who said he was the Tour’s most overrated player with his stellar Players Championship victory.

Dark Horse: Jon Rahm – The young man from Spain seems to play well every time he tees it up and though a rookie has a win at Torrey Pines. His put on a very impressive display of hardnosed golf to almost take Johnson in the final at the WGC Match Play. Quick to smile and though he sometimes gets hot under the collar if he smiles his way around Augusta the first two rounds the weekend could be very interesting.

Sentimental favorite: Phil Mickelson – the best 46-year old golfer in the world. He still hits it long and when he is on, his controlled iron shots make any course look easy. As a bonus, Lefty’s putting stroke has never looked better. With no rough at Augusta and if his sometimes wild driving can at least keep his tee shots out of the loblolly pines this could be a great chance for his sixth major.

Ten Rounds with the Ping i200 Irons

By ED TRAVIS

Right out of the box the new Ping i200 irons make a positive impression. They look great, like an iron should look, with almost classic lines and this makes sense since Ping intends them to be “shot-makers” irons. They are targeted for use by recreational players wanting a cleaner look with less offset than a game-improvement iron such as the Ping G.

Before getting in to the technical side of the i200s a big part of the first impression they make is their finish…a soft chrome look called “hydropearl.” Eye pleasing to say the least and functional too, which we will cover in a minute.

The i200 story revolves around three features. In the back of the head is a muscle-stabilizing bar to aid shot control and produce the nice smooth contact inherent in the irons. Second is an elastomer insert in the cavity behind the face that helps the face flex and dampen impact vibration. The insert is almost double in volume from previous models which means it is in contact with three times the area of the face.

Finally, the clubface is thinner so it is more reactive but equally important the saved weight from the face Ping was able to move towards the toe and into the hosel so it contributes to more forgiveness. There are some nice smaller features as well, such as the look of minimal offset at address which some, myself included, find is confidence inspiring. This of course won’t fix any swing faults but for me, if an iron sets up well that’s a positive factor in making the ball go where it should.

The blades leading edge has been given slightly more contour and a little more bounce was added so turf interaction improved meaning shallower divots and better ball contact. Finally, even the hydropearl chrome finish has a second purpose beyond making the i200s look good, it actually repels moisture which helps to minimize flyers from wet grass and rough.

On the course, few irons we have tested felt any better right from the first swing. Short irons were extremely solid and trajectory control was easy especially when trying to knock it really close from inside 150 yards.

Distance was no problem though the short irons were 2-3 yards longer compared to my previous set relative to the distance comparison of the longer clubs. Or put another way a Ping i200 9-iron generally went farther than the 9-iron I had been using but the Ping i200 5-iron was the same carry distance.

Street price is $125 per iron with steel shafts so a set of 5-iron through pitching wedge is $750.

Negatives: Surprisingly and considering the soft feel of most shots, some strikes felt very hard on the face. Granted it was always when the swing was poor and contact poor, usually towards the heel. It didn’t happen with every bad swing, but when it did it was almost startling given the usual smooth contact. Longer irons tended hit the ball somewhat higher and living in Florida where the wind often blows, a lower penetrating flight is useful. This was not a major problem but definitely one to be aware of for shots into the wind.

Recommendation: Anyone wanting for irons with the look and performance of player’s iron but the playability of a game-improvement club should jump on the Ping i200s. They answer both requirements admirably.

Bermuda Sands for This Spring

For years when visiting a new course I purchased a logoed shirt both as a memento of the round and because like all frequent players, I go through golf shirts at a pretty steady clip. At one course there was a nice looking shirt in kind of a peach color and I bought it. (I know—real men don’t wear peach but you had to see the shirt to appreciate it. It was a masculine peach shade.)

This was my first exposure to the Bermuda Sands brand and while I don’t remember the course and the shirt is long gone into the rag bag the Bermuda Sands apparel line has become one of my favorites.

They have a wide variety of men’s short and long sleeve shirts plus outerwear and for ladies there are tops, skorts and outerwear.

This spring they’ve done it again with several items for men that are standouts and with pricing that’s friendly to any wallet.

Action Polo

The Men’s Action shirt is an authentic plaid print with both a pop of color and a measure of style that goes with any wardrobe. It’s made of the G2 Tech polyester/spandex performance fabric, a fine gauge jersey, with a UV Protection of 25+…comfort and sun protection wherever you wear it. It has a three button placket and available in Peri Blue or Amethyst for $77.

Griffin Shirt

The Griffin shirt is made of the same G2 Tech performance fabric with a twist on the tried and true striped design, featuring wider and alternating color stripes, along with an accent striped collar to keep the look fresh all season long. Also with a three button placket there are six color options each priced at $72.

Steam Polo

The Steam Polo is one of my favorites offering a choice of five colors all with a striated look. Bermuda Sands says, and I agree, “This shirt feels like wearing a cloud.” Both lightweight and soft it retails for $60.

Strata Shirt

The Strata is a perfect layering piece when spring is less spring maybe a little winter. Lightweight, long sleeve and quarter zip it’s made from polyester jersey and built for active wear with a relaxed drop shoulder. Priced at $65 there are four color options from which to choose.

All these and the entire Bermuda Sands apparel line may be seen at bermudasandsapparel.com.

Ten Rounds with EX10 Fairway Woods & Hybrids

Tour Edge Golf doesn’t spend millions on television advertising campaigns nor do they dole out money for toursters to play their clubs.

They aren’t a huge equipment company but they are though an OEM who has successfully created a reputation for high quality clubs using the latest manufacturing techniques, design and materials. Their clubs give golfers top notch performance day in and day out, often at what could be called, “very competitive prices.”

This season’s Exotics EX10 Fairway Woods ($250) and Hybrids ($180) are perfect examples.

The fairway woods use high density steel for the cup face which is combo-brazed (rather than welded) to the steel clubhead body producing a face that is both responsive and strong. Due to its strength the face can be thinner so more of the impact energy is transferred to the ball. Plus since the face is a variable thickness design hits not quite on the center, say towards the heel or toe, can still result in a “good” shot.

It’s obvious during testing, from the nice high ball launch, the work Tour Edge did to push the center of gravity lower and deeper in the head (including the use of a 9-gram sole weight), was a success. And there’s an added benefit with this weighting, it gave the EX10 fairway wood lots of forgiveness. The slim-looking aerodynamic shape is easy to like and the updated wave pattern on the sole (longer rails and deeper channels in between) helps the club pass smoothly through even fairly heavy grass.

EX10 Fairway Woods have a choice of lofts with heads becoming progressively smaller as the loft increases: 13-degree (173 cc), 15-degree (165 cc), 16.5-degree (165 cc), 18-degree (158 cc) and 21-degree (150 cc).

EX10 Hybrids are a similar construction to the fairway woods with the same high density, steel cup face–HT 980 high-tensile strength steel—and again, since it can be made very thin, it produces the trampoline effect, the key to added distance. The face and body are also combo-brazed and the wave pattern on the sole is improved.

In the hybrids a 2-hybrid (17 degrees), 3-hybrid (19 degrees), 4-hybrid (22 degrees), 5-hybrid (25 degrees) and 6-hybrid (28 degrees) are available.

On the course testing was done for ten rounds with a 13-degree 3-wood and two hybrids, a 3-hybrid and 4-hybrid. It should pointed out after a couple of rounds it was plain these newbies weren’t just squatters in the bag slots. They quickly earned permanent occupancy.

The course I often play, depending on the wind, requires a 3-wood from the tee on three or sometimes four holes and the performance of the EX10 can best be described as a “mini-driver.” On more than one occasion the ball actually went too far and since its Florida that usually means one of two things. Either the ball is in the water or blocked out by palms or oaks. Heck of a problem to have.

From tight Bermuda grass fairway lies the EX10 gets the ball in the air every time, the first 3-wood from any manufacturer I can say that about. Granted not every strike is dead solid perfect, my swing sometimes seems to go on hiatus, but my poor contacts are usually towards the toe and the EX10 still gets the ball in the air with credible distance.

The EX10 hybrids are a little longer from the tee than the previous model EX9s which were tested last year and more readily work the ball to tucked pins. Realizing anecdotal evidence for what it is, the second round with them from a par-5 fairway bunker, the 4-hybrid not only got the ball out but laser measurement of the carry and rollout was 186 yards. At my skill level I can’t ask for more than that.

However, where the hybrids really come into their own is from the rough. They get the ball up and out. Period. They feel solid everytime and the shot is almost always online. Long par-3s are even fun since with just a driving range swing, not trying to do anything special, both the 3- and 4- hit the ball high and it lands softly…sometimes even near the pin.

Negatives: Did not spend a lot of time hitting the EX10 3-wood from the rough since Florida rough is Bermuda and even in the winter time a hybrid is a better choice. If you are someone who takes a little divot with a fairway wood—à la Tom Watson—the “Slipstream Sole” of both the wood and hybrids may take some getting used to. Plus, and I know this sounds picky, the head covers on the hybrids are a pain to put back on.

Recommendation: These are in my bag to stay. The best recommendation I can give them.

Proper Threads–Devereux

My first impression three years ago meeting the Devereux brothers, Will (left) and Robert (right), was here were two guys who were passionate about life and golf. And they were frank about their goal of translating that passion into being leaders in golf-lifestyle apparel. Since then they have created the Devereux brand and each piece uses high quality fabrics constructed with the distinctive looks a sophisticated well-dressed man wants to wear on and off the course.

In other words, they created Proper Threads.

As the Devereux brother’s point out this is more than a tagline. It reflects their approach to dressing well without the commonness of other lines in color and cut.

The Devereux collection has shirts, shorts, slacks and sweaters in distinctive colors with lots of style and modern cut. All are made with attention to detail plus there’s a hat line in the modern flat bill design with some that have the more traditional look of “Dad hats.”

For spring we were attracted to one of their lightweight sweaters, the Naples Crewneck made from long staple Pima cotton in a camo knit pattern. Seams have a raw finish and the side vents are ribbed for better stretch. Priced at $145 it comes in two good-looking shades of blue.

The Cruiser Hybrid Shorts ($85) are made with Stretch Hybrid Woven fabric (71% Polyester/25%Cotton/4% Spandex) that is quick drying and the mesh pocketing means they are at home on land or on the water.

Also take a look at the Cameron Polo (also $85) made from breathable and moisture wicking fabric called Airflow Knit that’s 96% Polyester/4%Spandex. It helps to regulate body temperature for warm day activities such as golf.

You can see their entire line for spring at Devereux – Proper Threads.