Fuzzy Thinking

Fuzzy thinking, even by well-known and respected people is still fuzzy thinking and when the topic is the distance the golf ball goes, fuzzy thinking easily results in a call to “doing something before the game is ruined.”

Respected icons of the game such as Jack Nicklaus and Hale Irwin have said more than once the problem with golf is the ball goes too far.

Maybe by taking a look at the facts we can sweep away the fuzziness concerning golf ball distance because if we don’t, sure as heck, the fuzzy thinking will eventually prevail.

First, this controversy over technological advancement is not new. It was essentially the same in the nineteen century and rears its head with every major advancement in balls and clubs. If you have some time, look up the evolution of the feathery ball to the gutta percha and then to the rubber-core ball or the story of the Schenectady center-shafted mallet putter being outlawed after Walter Travis used one to win the British Amateur.

The cry was all the fine old courses would be made obsolete because they were too short and no longer challenging or simply improvements in equipment meant the game was becoming too easy. Sound familiar?

Today the distance the golf ball goes is due to vastly improved launch conditions. This began with the introduction of metalwoods and then the development of graphite shafts allowing an increase in size of driver club heads. When titanium heads were introduced makers were able to almost double driver clubhead size again and driver shafts could be made much longer. All of these plus an immense improvement in ball aerodynamics added significant distance with all clubs.

Professionals—the ones fuzzy thinkers believe hit the ball too far—have also benefitted from intensive computer-aided instruction, better physical training and the simple fact a large number of them are taller and bigger than in the past.

Improved equipment and better agronomy have resulted in courses, especially on Tour, playing firmer and faster. Plus we must recognize the desire of operators to have the longest, toughest layout so they can boast of the difficulty for professionals rather than the playability for recreational golfers.

The number of golf courses is steadily decreasing so overall use of the land is not an issue. It is true some “fine old courses” may not have the land to be stretched in order to accommodate the modern professionals but that’s OK. For the average player not every course needs to be like this year’s US Open venue Erin Hills and have the capability to be played to over 8,000 yards.

However, the fact is in 2017 the average driving distance on the PGA Tour is 291.20 yards, an increase of about one yard in the preceding ten years so there’s been no “distance explosion” in more than a decade.

For recreational players titanium-headed-graphite-shafted drivers and solid-core-low-spinning urethane cover balls have not produced anywhere near the gains in yardage achieved by professionals. Technology has not caused golf handicaps to plummet and the typical male golfer still isn’t hitting the ball over 200 yards–if that.

The rulers of our game don’t seem to understand the problem in terms of the average golfer who occasionally makes a par and buys a celebratory beer when he makes a birdie. Additionally the USGA continues with the idea the ball goes should be reduced while telling weekend warriors to play from a shorter tee set. That’s illogical and a nonstarter.

Of course the culprit most often cited is the Titleist Pro V1 which debuted in the fall 2000 and at once became the most played ball on Tour. Every manufacturer now makes similar balls that are low spinning with urethane covers and solid cores.

The PGA Tour is in the entertainment business and the business model should be what its customers, i.e., golf fans, want. There’s no question we want to see birdies and eagles and drivable par-4s not to mention DJ smoking one 340. In 2007 the scoring average on Tour was 71.34 and this season it is 72.00. In fact going back 20 years the average was 71.77 showing courses aren’t getting easier despite what some would like you to believe.

As Frank Thomas former technical director of the USGA and current golf industry consultant has often said, driving distance has gone as far as it can go because the physics involved are maxed out. Or put another way, you can’t argue with Mother Nature.

Finally, part of the fuzzy thinking can be laid at the doorstep of the media because it’s easy to write that a well-known player, ex-player or some administrator is decrying the state of the game. One headline trumpeted “Great Balls of Fire!” referring to today’s low-spin golf balls. This is a cheap shot displaying a lack of knowledge not to mention an abuse of journalistic standards.

The inescapable conclusion there’s no horrific problem with the distance the golf ball travels. That’s just plain old fuzzy thinking.

And the solution is easy. Do nothing.

The crisis in golf technology or golf ball distance is only in the minds of fuzzy thinkers.

On Course Gifts for Dad’s Day

Father’s Day June 18 is just the occasion to gift Dad something he can use on the course and remember you’re thoughtfulness each time. Here are a selection of gifts we like and fathers will really like.

Arccos Golf – Tracking each shot and providing precise yardage are only some of the features of this second generation system. Data is analyzed in real-time and a new service is available, Arccos Caddy, golf’s first artificial intelligence platform using the Arccos data to provide the best strategy for playing any hole. Compatible with iPhone and Android devices, a GPS 2.0 provides distances to any point on 40,000 courses and one-touch, front/middle/back yardages to the green. Sold at www.arccosgolf.com for $250.

Bridgestone Golf – Bridgestone used data from more than 2 million ball fittings to develop the e6 series and their testing reports they are longer and straighter than competitors. The e6 SOFT provides wonderful feel throughout the bag, reduces driver spin for longer distance and optimizes launch with irons/wedges for superior stopping power and the e6 SPEED delivers lots of initial ball velocity for incredible straight distance. Retail price is $29 per dozen and you can may find out more at www.bridgestonegolf.com.

TecTecTec VPRO500 – Don’t let the attractive price fool you into thinking the VPRO500 laser rangefinder lacks in performance, distances to 540 yards are accurate to within one yard. The multilayered optical lens combined with diopter adjustment and 6x magnification provide a clear and accurate view. It is incredibly lightweight, rainproof and features three scanning modes. The VPRO500 is available in standard ($135) and “S” editions ($180) featuring PinSlope Technology to calculate elevation-adjusted distance to target. www.us.tectectec.com

GolfTec Lessons – GolfTec teaches approximately 1 million lessons each year and says the average student lowers their handicap by seven strokes. Located in every major metropolitan area there are lesson packages to fit most any budget. The company pioneered a step-by-step plan that builds skills faster and provides lasting results. It is a convenient and effective one-stop-shop for every game-improvement need. Find out all the possibilities for Dad to improve his game www.golftec.com

Swing Coach – The Swing Coach practice club provides instant feedback and using it just a few 5 minutes a day gives users the feel of the correct swing. It’s a repeatable golf swing with the three easy steps: “load, launch, learn.” SCI-CORE “real feel” practice golf balls are the other part of this Father’s Day Duo and perfect for use with the Swing Coach club but may also be hit with regular woods and irons. The Swing Coach Club and one dozen Sci-Core Practice Golf Balls is $117 at www.swingcoach.com.

Shoes for Dad

With Father’s Day coming the gift of golf shoes is not only appropriate but will be greatly appreciated. Here are three models from as many makers that we like and meet our criteria of performance, style and price.

Callaway LA JOLLA:

In the Callaway footwear collection the LA JOLLA is among the most popular and features classically stylish looks and colors. Resistance to water penetration comes from the Opti-repel microfiber leather upper in conjunction with the Opti-soft EVA midsole and 8MM molded EVA sock liner. Callaway uses their Opti-vent mesh liner for breathability and to pull heat away from the foot. The outsole has low-profile Champ Slim-Lok spikes with seven PiviX cleats and each pair has a two-year waterproof warranty. Color choices are the traditional black or white plus a white and brown saddle. Pricing is $99.95 so check them out at callawayappatel.com.

ECCO Cage Pro:

Featuring their new SYPDR-GRIP outsole, the Cage Pro targets the foot’s pivot points to give better traction and are available with the BOA closure for easy adjustment during the round. This model is designed for both stability and flexibility with a one piece PU cage that wraps around the heel, through the midsole and across the toes. The PU structure is bonded to ECCO’s light weight and breathable HYDROMAX treated textile upper. Suggested retail price is $210 for the conventionally laced model offering four color combination choices and $230 for the BOA model which has a choice of two color combinations. Additional information may be found on eccousa.com.

New Balance NBG2004:

High performance and lightweight (just 11.6 ounces) are descriptors of this stylish shoe which makes use of an exoskeleton TPU outsole that moves naturally with the foot. The upper is a water-resistant microfiber leather with their FantomFit technology giving great support while keeping moisture from penetrating. The midsole has added cushioning while giving a sharp looking low profile. The NBG2004 uses the low-profile SLIM-Lok Zarma Tour2 cleat system. Priced at $99.95 the NBG2004 comes in a choice of colors white/red, black/green or grey/blue. Get all the details at newbalance.com

Ten Rounds with Callaway Steelhead XR Irons

Fifteen years ago I had a set of Steelhead X-14 irons from Callaway Golf. They were actually released in 2000 and though at the time they were cutting edge design Callaway’s new Steelhead XRs would blow them away in a side by side comparison—that is if I still had the X-14s.

Besides the name the newest model has a similar head shape, particularly at address with a somewhat more rounded toe, the X-14s longer looking blade length and a revamped bore-through hosel. But don’t make the mistake of thinking the XRs are merely an updating of some model pushing its 20th anniversary. They are also more than an update of the XR model from 2015 though both fall into the category of iron most of us should be playing…namely game-improvement.

Steelhead XRs are a modern game-improvement iron suitable for even low handicappers looking for an easy-to-hit forgiving club.

After extensive on-course time the benefits of Callaway’s 360 face cup construction were very evident and never more so than on off center impacts. The distance produced when hit in the center of the face is impressive but to me more significant is how far the ball when the impact wasn’t in the exact center.

Steelhead XRs’ bore-through hosel allows weight from the heel area to be shifted closer to the impact area so the center of gravity is dead in the center of the face. As Dr. Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s senior vice president of R&D, points out not all irons are able to do that. “We’ve used the lightness of this hosel to get that weight distribution and put the CG right there.”

Game-improvement irons don’t have progressive center of gravity placement but the Steelhead XR long irons have it low and back in the head while the mid-irons have the CG mid-back and the short irons have a low mid placement to help the ball flighting and spin control. So decide for yourself but that sounds very close to being progressive as the loft increases.

Of particular note, living in Florida where the wind blows almost all day every day, the ability of an iron to produce different trajectory shots is a must. The Steelhead XRs did that very well. As an example during a morning round one of the par-3s, which plays slightly downhill, had a light breeze helping left to right. The shot called for a 6-iron which I hit into the middle of the green.

Late that afternoon, having gone back out and playing the same hole, the wind had strengthened and switched to directly into us. I felt a 6-iron was still the club but hit the shot about half the height of the morning, again to the middle of the green.

It’s helpful to be playing clubs that not only will do that but more importantly after some experience with them gave me the confidence to even attempt those totally different shots.

Negatives: The basic trajectory of the Steelhead XRs is higher than some will like if they already are high ball hitters. Though they should be attractive to low handicap players since the amount of offset is minimal and the forgiveness is evident with every swing, some may want a more of a “players’ iron” look at address.

Recommendation: Callaway is on a roll with the entire iron line and if your to-do list this summer has a line item for the purchase of new game-improvement category irons the Steelhead XRs are a great choice. A set of 5-iron through pitching wedge is $600.

Images courtesy of Callaway Golf                                                                                                          

 

It’s “All-World” at THE PLAYERS

This week is the almost-a-major started by former PGA Tour commissioner Dean Beman, THE PLAYERS played over the ever challenging TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course with perhaps the most famous hole in golf, the island green par-3 17th. Printable descriptions of Sawgrass, a creation of Pete and Alice Dye, might include long, fairly tight, lots of water and challenging greens.

The greens have all been redone since last year and several other changes will offer challenges to the field which includes 48 of the top 50 in the world rankings. In addition to new putting surfaces players will contend with a new lake between the sixth and seventh holes and the redesign of number 12 into a risk/reward drivable par-4.

Candidates to hoist the trophy next Sunday include last year’s champion Jason Day who at the time held the top spot in the world rankings. Unfortunately for Day his level of play so far in 2016-2017 after a back problem in the fall hasn’t been exactly stellar with only one top 10 and missing the cut at his last outing, the Zurich Classic.

And there’s another factor that doesn’t bode well for the Australian, no champion has ever successfully defended. In fact Rickie Fowler missed the cut in 2016 after his thrilling playoff win in 2015.

Speaking of Fowler he’s our pick for the most likely former winner to win at Sawgrass. Outside of the missed cut in New Orleans his worse finish since January was a tie for 16th at the WGC-Mexico Championship and includes his win at the Honda Classic plus a nice tie for 11th at the Masters.

In the mix come next Sunday but probably not in the running for various reasons are world number two Rory McIlroy, Olympic bronze medalist Justin Rose and Kevin Chappell a first time winner at the Valero Texas Open. Chappell was the runner-up in 2016 to Day so he plays the Dye’s creation well.

No discussion of potential winners would be complete without Jordan Spieth who had a win early in the year and five top-tens this season. His last five starts though are not exactly spectacular with a T-12, T-30, Cut, T-11 and fourth at the Zurich Classic. He’s such a good player though it’s tough to count him out of any competition.

Well any way now down to my picks.

Most Likely Former Champion to Win: Rickie Fowler as discussed above.

Most Likely Rookie to Win: Jon Rahm – Is there any other choice? Watching Rahm is exciting. He’s long off the tee, a crisp iron player, deft around the greens and a superb putter. Rahm was a factor at the Wells Fargo last week, finishing in fourth, even though he started the final round with a bogey plus on the par-5 sixth made a six and he is usually great on the par-5s.

Most Likely Recent Major Winner to win: Sergio Garcia – the volatile Spaniard hasn’t played in this country since his Masters win last month but seemed to exhibit a maturity in the taming of Augusta possibly related to his coming marriage and the influence of his fiancée. He was going to be my pick for THE PLAYERS until “All-World” Dustin Johnson returned to the Wells Fargo Championship.

Most Likely “Go to the Bank” Player to Win: Dustin Johnson – We all were wondering if the back injury from that fall the day before the Master began was Ok…it is. DJ, my new “All-World,” was masterful at the Wells Fargo attempting to make it his fourth win in a row. Though he wasn’t successful, his closing 67 was tied for low round of the day and put him in a tie for second. Rusty, maybe, sometimes having an issue with distance control with his irons but averaging almost 311 yards off the tee and hitting almost 60% of the fairways his game is obviously in shape to win at Sawgrass. This guy is really hard to bet against.

 

Ten Rounds with a Cleveland Huntington Beach Putter

Golf clubs, and putters especially, get their names for lots of reasons—some having to do with their performance, some for the designer’s family members and some retain the R & D department’s project moniker. In the case of the new putter collection from Cleveland Golf the name I’m told is simply a reflection of the town where company headquarters is located, Huntington Beach, Calif.

Cleveland as everyone knows makes outstanding wedges and though not particularly thought of as putter company some of their previous models have been excellent such as the TFi 2135 from two years ago. But my interest in the Huntington Beach putter series frankly was because I like Cleveland wedges and therefore thought it would be worthwhile to see what their putters were like.

The model chosen was the 6C which is a mid-size mallet, face balanced, center shafted design with a head weight of 360 grams and 3° of loft. The companion model 6 has a similar head but is heel shafted. Three of the others in the collection are traditional blades of 345 gram head weight plus there’s another mid-mallet, the 10, of 360 grams.

At first look the most striking feature is the milling of the face which is what Cleveland calls, “a coarse diamond-shaped” pattern that’s four times deeper than their Classic HB putters from 2014. This was done to increase the friction at impact to produce a truer roll.

The head is a soft 304 stainless steel and tests by Cleveland engineers found it to be 51% softer than the more common 17-4 stainless used in putter heads. In addition to producing a soft feel at impact, despite the fact there is not insert, it is also easier to bend for customizing allowing plus or minus 4° of lie angle to make the putter exactly what your set up requires.

After the first three holes of the first round it was evident the HB 6C was a quality putter. It helped me to knock in a six footer for par, a 20-footer for birdie and a par save on the third hole. It would be fair to say I was sold.

Over the remaining rounds were all in Florida on Bermuda greens and, as you get with Bermuda, widely varying speeds and grain. However, the HB 6C gave me the confidence that comes from seeing putts go in or at least get close time after time.

It performed well from around the green off the Bermuda fringe where lies are often very tight and prone to the dreaded chunked wedge. The HB 6C was a natural for taking Hank Haney’s advice that many times a putter is the best choice from off the green, if the turf conditions warrant, on the belief a mediocre putt will almost always be as good as or better than a chip.

The face has a very comforting, consistent feel so playing with a Titleist Pro V1, which has a soft cover, distance control was hardly ever an issue. Even testing done on the practice green with a Surlyn or hard cover distance ball did not reveal any problems adjusting to the inherent difference in impact.

Negatives: The sole could use a little more curvature to smooth passage through the fringe especially if the putt is into the grain.

The HB 6c hit the ball solidly since the sweet spot is fairly large but on downhill-down grain putts care is needed to get the speed correct.

Some of the players who tried this model did not like either the head shape or alignment line but liked the feel and all thought a blade-shape would be more suitable.

Recommendation: At the top I said Cleveland wedges were the reason for testing the Huntington Beach 6C putter but that was only partly true because I was intrigued at the possibility of finding a premium performing putter at less than a premium price. Each of the putters in the Huntington Beach collection sells for $100—plus $10 more for an oversized Winn grip. So the recommendation is to get to a golf shop and try one. I think you’ll like it as I do.

Images courtesy of Cleveland Golf

An Old-Fashioned Attaboy

In the past there have been a number of times I have been critical of golf’s rules givers, the United States Golf Association and R&A, but today they deserve an old-fashioned “attaboy.”

The reason is they promptly came up with a fix to what many viewed as a ludicrous situation, namely the four stroke penalty given to Lexi Thompson during the ANA Inspiration. The USGA and R&A modified the Rules of Golf to address an obviously inherent unfairness.

Decision 34-3/10 of the Rules of Golf, which takes effect immediately, limits the use of video in accessing potential rules infractions. The announcement has caused an eruption of comment on the Internet from both the knowledgeable and, as one might expect, also those who are evidently clueless. Though the Internet is a tool we have come to rely upon it’s also provides a ready forum for the uninformed.

But setting that aside and in case you’ve been otherwise occupied, Lexi Thompson was on her way to winning the ANA Inspiration, the LPGA’s first major of the year, when during the third round she marked her ball on the green but inadvertently replaced it one-half inch from the original spot. A television viewer pointed this out in an email to LPGA.com the next day and after reviewing the video the LPGA rules committee assessed Thompson a four stroke penalty.

Officials informed Thompson of the penalty on the 13th hole of the final round and what was a three shot lead at the time became a one shot deficit. Thompson eventually lost the championship in a playoff.

The outcry by everyone from fans to players to those who can’t tell a birdie from a bogey was tremendous. Tiger Woods even got into the discussion condemning the whole idea of officiating from a sofa.

Though the USGA said no particular case prompted their action it’s more than coincidental Decision 34-3/10 came just three weeks after the Thompson penalty. In addition of course, there was the other well publicized incident during the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open playoff when Anna Nordqvist was hit with a two shot penalty after high definition, close up, slow motion video showed her club grazing a few grains of sand.

Now under Decision 34-3/10 officials have two ways to judge the use of video in determining if a penalty is to be accessed. First is the so-called “naked eye” standard which simply means if high definition video is needed to see a potential violation then reasonableness dictates there is no problem. The other part of the decision also uses the reasonableness standard to judge the location of a drop or ball placement.

The lords of Far Hills and St. Andrews evidently got a lesson from the situation surrounding what’s called the “DJ Rule” last year. During the 2016 U.S. Open Dustin Johnson was penalized when his ball laying on a green rolled about the width of one dimple and it was judged more likely than not he caused the ball to move. However Rule 18-02 was rewritten done less than six months later and under the same circumstances should a player cause the ball to move inadvertently it could be replaced without penalty.

Is the new “Lexi rule” in Decision 34-3/10 perfect? No, and it may be modified in the future. But critics and naysayers should take into account the obvious. The game is not one of perfection nor played in a controlled environment. There always has been and always will be room for judgement, equity, reasonableness and fair play.

Reasonableness and reasonable judgement…how refreshing and we didn’t have to wait for the usual four year cycle of rules rewrites.

Unfortunately what has been lost in all the noise over the unfairness of the Nordqvist or Thompson incidents, is congratulations to the USGA and the R&A for doing something in a competent and timely manner.

An “attaboy” well earned.

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