10 Rounds with the R15 Driver

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TaylorMade Golf is the number one club company for a reason and though some “pundits” have almost made a cottage industry out of criticizing them the bottom line is they sell more clubs than anyone else. Just as with other market leaders (Microsoft and CoCa-Cola come to mind) a few people seem to have a psychological need to take out after the guy on top which probably says more about them than the leader being attacked.

But let’s be clear, TaylorMade sells more clubs for a good reason. Golfers believe they perform better and all the carping or back biting doesn’t change that fact one bit.

With that bit of philosophizing behind us and turning our attention to the newest lead dog from TMaG, I admit I was looking forward to the arrival of the R15. The comparison with last year’s SLDR model was going to be fun.

For 2015, the premier driver model’s name is a return to the old standby “R” designation first seen in 2002 but most significantly as the groundbreaking moveable-weight R7 Quad in 2004. Last year the TaylorMade SLDR model hit the top of the charts with a single sliding weight that could be adjusted either towards the toe or heel by moving it along channel in the sole to compensate for the user’s slice or hook.  And it worked allowing average golfers to adjust the club to, at least in part, fix swing faults.

WZ132_zoom_D2The R15 also is a return the distinctive white clubhead (though a black version is available) and it has all the technology seen in the SLDR with two significant differences, the first being not readily apparent. The weight channel was moved closer to the face so it acts as a slot to give additional face flex at impact. This in combination with 40-grams of weight being moved 12mm closer to the clubface means the R15 produces quite a bit less side spin than the SLDR and by extension just about every other driver on the market.

The second and more obvious change is the addition of a second weight in the sliding sole channel. Now, not only can the user compensate for ball curvature but because the weights can be spread widely apart, the moment of inertia or resistance to twisting is really increased. As Tom Kroll, in charge of TMaG’s Global Product Creation told me, you can think of high MOI as protecting ball speed when the impact is anywhere but on the exact center of the clubface.

Taking the R15 to the course a couple of things were readily apparent. The feel at impact was a step up from the previous SLDR model and though the SLDR didn’t have a poor feel, the R15 felt and sounded like the closing of a door on a Rolls Royce.

Distance for drives hit at or very near the center of the face was excellent, maybe even a bit past the SLDR yardage under most conditions but where the R15 really showed off was on off center hits, especially the ones slightly towards the heel. Distance was still good and as a guess, the loss of distance was about 10-yards compared to center impact.

The test 10.5 degree R15 had the smaller 430cc clubhead with the stock 45.5 inch Fujikura Speeder 67 Evolution shaft and the already impressive forgiveness would presumably be even better using the 460cc model. Of course the 430cc head tends to produce even lower spin so there is a tradeoff.

Shortly after completing the 10 rounds with the R15 while staying at the Reynolds Plantation outside Atlanta I visited The Kingdom, TaylorMade’s world class fitting center located there. After an hour long session on the launch monitor under the guidance of The Kingdom’s Noel English testing the R15 with a variety of shafts to maximize launch conditions he recommended a Fujikura Pro 53 trimmed to 45 inches—1/2 inch less than the stock shaft. The results since have been impressive or put another way I’m over the moon.

On just a typical swing with average contact I’ve gained 15 yards.

The game’s a lot easier the farther you hit it.

Negatives. The price. At $430 the R15 is among the highest priced drivers but in my opinion the performance more than compensates.

Recommendation. The R15 has to be at the top of your list if you’re looking for a new driver.

The Latest Golf Movie–”The Squeeze”

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As everyone from the movie’s publicists to bloggers reviewing this film for the first time have pointed out…”The Squeeze” is a golf movie with characters that really can play golf, meaning they don’t look like Dr. Molly Griswold in Tin Cup. Now it’s true the “Tin Cup” character played by Rene Russo wasn’t supposed to be a golfer but somehow her contraption contrived swing didn’t look that much worse than the passes Kevin Costner was making…even after coaching by the likes of Gary McCord.

The point is, it’s nice to have golfers playing golfers in a golf movie but absolutely irrelevant if they can’t act.

The story of “The Squeeze” is based on what actually happened in real life to a young man played by Jeremy Sumpter (“Peter Pan,” “Friday Night Lights”) when he gets taken under the wing of a big time gambler named Riverboat played by Chris McDonald (“Happy Gilmore,” “Thelma and Louise”). Sumpter playing Augie is a small town golfer that doesn’t know how good he is but recognized by Riverboat as having the skill to win high stakes matches.

Augie and Riverboat

Augie and Riverboat

They wind up in Las Vegas (where else?) for a million dollar match against the reigning U.S. Amateur champion played by Jason Dohring over the ultra-exclusive Wynn Las Vegas golf course. Dohring’s character’s sponsor is called Jimmy Diamonds and as played by Michael Nouri becomes easy to hate. He threatens to kill Augie if Augie wins the match and while Riverboat makes the same threat should Augie lose.

Hence the movie’s name, “The Squeeze”.

Michael Nouri as Jimmy Diamonds

Michael Nouri as Jimmy Diamonds

Obviously our hero Augie has to get out of this lose-lose situation and does with the help of his girlfriend Natalie (Jillian Murray) by double crossing Riverboat and Jimmy Diamonds on the 18th hole. The movie’s climax takes place in the desert outside Las Vegas with Augie and Natalie holding the two gamblers at gunpoint before driving away leaving two briefcases. One filled with $2 million and the other a loaded automatic. As the happy couple drive away a single gunshot is heard, the outcome of which is left to the viewer’s imagination.

It’s an old saying that to make a good movie you need two things primary things namely a good story and good acting. This combination is found in “The Squeeze” and for golf fans there is much to recommend seeing it.

Written and directed by Terry Jastrow with co-producing by wife Anne Archer there was little doubt story and acting would not be first rate. Jastrow was ABC’s golf producer and produced dozens of other major sporting events as well as motion pictures, stage and television programs. Archer has a long list of superlative acting credits and drew a major amount of attention in “Fatal Attraction,” “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger.”

The story moves along with a minimum of distractions with the final match and Augie’s double cross being extremely well done leaving the outcome in doubt until the final few minutes of the film.

”The Squeeze” will be theaters as well as VOD and on iTunes on April 17, 2015. Even non-golfers will enjoy it.

10 Rounds with PING Glide Wedges

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When talking with Pete Samuels of PING Golf about which of their new clubs should be included in the “10 Rounds with…” testing series I was somewhat surprised to hear him nominate wedges before any of the other new offerings such as the G30 driver (which will be also be tested). However my interest grew after hearing two comments about the Glide wedges, “These wedges are really special,” and “Our best wedges hands down.”

Coming after PING for years making some very popular wedges, such as the iconic Eye2s with square grooves back in the 1980s, made the idea of the Glide series “taking wedge design to a new level” intriguing. The company sent a 54° and 58° Glide standard sole (more on soles later) so I was off to the range for comparison with the 52° wedge—bent to 54° and 56°–bent to 58° I had been using.

Stopping first at the practice green for some pitching and chipping two of the wedge’s features came into play. The Glides have a ¾ inch longer grip which may not sound like much but in play that little bit more grip means you are able to go down on the shaft just that much more giving just that much more control of the height of shots. Later on the course over the 180 holes for this test, time and again it was very nice to know regardless of the shot required the Glide could provide the control needed.

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Glide wedges have a choice of three sole widths

I also found the more aggressive grooves on the 58° Glide (in fact on all the lofts from 56° to 60) very good to have for around the green (not to mention on bunker shots) and those “difficult lies.”

Taking them to the course, the first use was on the second hole, a medium length par-5, for my third shot of 55-yards from a grassy Bermuda lie to a raised green. The 58° Glide clipped the ball out and actually caused it to check which was certainly different than what I had experienced with my other wedges. Incidentally in case you’re thinking I had been playing beat up 20-year veterans, both of the “old” wedges the Glides replaced were from major manufacturers, one being less than two months old and the other about six months old.

As that first round continued the comparison in performance was striking. I won’t go into a shot-by-shot description but the two Glides quickly had my confidence, a confidence that only grew over succeeding rounds. Spin, particularly on partial shots, using a Titleist Pro V1 or a Callaway Chrome Soft (ball tests are underway as well) was excellent and on full shots into Bermuda greens the ball often did the really unusual…it spun back.

As noted before, Glide wedges give a choice in sole widths. There’s a thin sole model for swings that produce shallow divots and for play on firm turf, a wide sole for swings making deep divots and when play is on softer turf and of course the standard width. The name Glide comes from PING’s description of how they “glide” through the turf better than any other wedge presumably due to the very smooth, low friction sole and soft leading edge.

The only major negative putting the Glides into play was getting used to the bounce of the 58° in comparison to my previous sand wedge which had a wider sole.

My recommendation: These are very good wedges and if the new season means new wedges you should evaluate the PING Glides. Retail price is $140 in steel and $160 graphite.

Images courtesy of PING Golf

TMaG Goes Retail

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TaylorMade Golf, a division of Adidas (OTCMKTS:ADDYY), says they going into the brick and mortar side of the business with the opening of their first branded outlet store next month in Myrtle Beach with more stores to follow. The business plan is for the stores to be exclusively outlets, selling previous season merchandise from the company’s four brands TaylorMade, Adams Golf, adidas Golf and Ashworth. At present each of the brands offers current merchandise and clearance items for sale over the Internet.

“The outlets are designed to benefit our current retail partners and golfers alike. There has been an influx of product in the marketplace that has moved at a slower pace than expected,” states Ben Sharpe, CEO TaylorMade Golf Company.  “The outlets allow us to sell off-season product at a discounted price, while giving our retail partners the ability to set prices on in-season product at sustainable levels.”

Parent company adidas will partner with TMaG to manage the stores. A second location in Livermore, Calif. will open soon after the Myrtle Beach outlet and additional locations are anticipated before the end of the year.

“The retail outlet model will enable our company to more effectively manage distribution of prior generation products while strengthening the position of our brands.” Says David Abeles, President of TaylorMade Golf Company.

Some observers see this move as a response to criticism from green grass and other retail outlets of TaylorMade’s multiple product launch marketing. It also is a way to get a jump on club competitors such as Callaway Golf (NYSE:ELY) for off price sales while at the same time giving TMaG a distribution channel to help traditional retailers inventory.