10 Rounds with Powerbilt AFO DFX Tour

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As I pointed out last year in my review of Powerbilt Golf’s AFO DFX driver, pumping up a clubhead with gas is not a gimmick though it would seem there are lots of players who as yet haven’t gotten the word. This patented idea is so good that, since the company’s first driver in 2008, Powerbilt makes a whole line of woods and irons filled with nitrogen under pressure.

Plus, and this is totally irrelevant, “AFO–Air Force One” is a great name for a driver. 

So, since a nitrogen-charged driver is not just marketing department hype, why do it? The answer is straight forward. The pressurized gas supports the clubhead at impact allowing for a thinner clubface which in turn means more ball speed and as everyone knows that translates into more distance.

AFO-DFX-TOUR-BLACK-DRIVER-4TThe new AFO DFX Tour driver looks identical to the previous MOI model with the major design difference being the center of gravity has been moved closer to the clubface helping to create better launch conditions with lower ball spin. Powerbilt accomplished this CG move very practically by simply placing the valve used to charge the head with gas forward a fraction of an inch.

The view at address makes it easy to square the clubhead to the intended line and as with the previous model the sound at impact is still distinctive, not annoying but different than the two best-selling drivers. Feel is one of the best features of the AFO Tour…very solid when contact is made on the sweet spot and acceptable when the hit is not exactly dead center. Trajectory off the 10.5 degree loft head was medium high and carry distance was as good as any driver tested this year (in Florida, in the summer, there’s not much roll so carry is all you get). The Fujikura Pro 63 stiff shaft was correct for my swing speed and because the AFO DFX Tour produced a low amount of side spin it was very good in crosswinds.

There’s no doubt this is a “better player” driver since, though it is forgiving, an off center hit can definitely be felt. Because of the inherent advantages of the design my typical mishit, which is towards the toe, usually resulted in no more than about 10-yards loss of distance. Higher swing speed players should have similar results though of course the carry distance will be greater.

Negatives: As mentioned the forgiveness for mishits makes the Tour model a choice for those players who usually hit the ball on or near the center of the clubface and probably have higher (over 90 mph probably) swing speeds. Unlike most drivers on the market the AFO DFX Tour is not adjustable.

Recommendation: If you are capable of producing a better than average swing speed the Powerbilt AFO DFX Tour is one that should be considered–distance is good and at $300 (which is $200 less than some top of the line models) it provides very good overall performance.

Better Scoring

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Scoring shots, those little less-than-full-swings from under 100-yards and around the green. Putting, sand shots, they all are important and when well executed they improve your score and your disposition.

In doing research for an article about scoring shots I talked with a number of amateur golfers and found some viewpoints that certainly fall in the rationalization of reality category. First was along the lines of “I can hit these short shots just fine.” Unfortunately, more often than not, a scorecard audit would find rather than getting into the hole taking no more than three strokes and occasionally two it was most often four and sometimes five.

Second was “I’m not good enough to use a soft cover ball ‘cause I can’t spin it” which at virtually every skill level is demonstrably untrue and the best advice for someone saying this is, “Clean the grooves on your wedge” and “Go see your friendly PGA Professional.” 

And finally, the one I personallScore2_533x400y love to hear (and have profited from with winning wagers), “I never practice short shots or pitches and chips or putting, just my full swing.” Reminds me of the old saying about a fast backswing and a fat wallet. 

I had also been talking with some short game instructors when Cleveland Golf enlightened me with some statistics they are using to illustrate a new promotional effort. 

Item one: 65 percent of shots are made from 125-yards or less. Think about that—and the disadvantage it is for players who never practice putting or bunker shots or…well, you get the idea. 

Item two: more than half of bunker shots don’t finish on the green. This one speaks for itself acknowledging there are few things more frustrating than leaving a ball in the sand unless it’s launching a rocket across the green into the next zip code. 

Item three: Putting – amateurs make half of their five-footers while pros make 86 percent. From eight feet pros jar 58 percent, ams 27 percent and from 15-feet the stats are 32 and 11 percent respectively. This, for us non-Tour golfers, is pitiful since it doesn’t take Phil’s or Bubba’s or Jordan’s swing to make a putt…just proper practice. 

Cleveland’s program is tagged #Own125 and based on a simple idea. To get more enjoyment from this sometimes impossible game by taking fewer strokes you have to “own” those short shots from 125-yards and in, which of course includes full and part wedges, pitches, chips, bunker shots and putting. 

Cleveland staff player Pete Jacobson put it succinctly, “Everyone wants to hit the long ball, I get that. But amateurs need to understand and pros do too, that 65% of the game is played from 125 yards and in. If you want to lower your scores, that’s where you have to practice.” 

Of course, Cleveland is in the business of selling golf clubs and well known as making some of the best wedges in the business, but their point is unassailable—have more fun and score lower when you “#Own125.” For some excellent Dave Pelz how-to-score videos and to learn more about Cleveland wedges visit their microsite ClevelandGolf.com/own125/.

And it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, visit a PGA Professional for the instruction to help you learn how to do it plus advice and fitting of the correct clubs.

Images courtesy Cleveland Golf

TaylorMade on the Block?

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Adidas (OTCMKTS:ADDYY) said they have engaged an investment bank to look into selling non-core golf brands Adams and Ashworth which along with TaylorMade Golf make their golf division. A sale of TaylorMade however, was not ruled out as golf division sales had double-digit declines in the second quarter following lower first quarter sales following a 29 percent drop in 2014.

Golf industry insiders speculate a purchaser may come from outside the sporting goods business segment due to the long term trend of declining equipment sales particularly in the U.S. which accounts for approximately one-half of worldwide market.  

In response to decreasing business TMaG has already changed Chief Executive Officers twice in the past 18 months and undergone two rounds of employee layouts in the past year. Adidas Chief Executive Herbert Hainer said TaylorMade’s the current R15 and AeroBurner metalwoods had not met sales expectations and he was hopeful the new models being introduced next month would be a success. 

Not part of the consideration, at least at this time apparently, is spinning Adams, Ashworth and TaylorMade off as a separate company and selling shares to the public as Acushnet-owner Fila has announced it is considering.

10 Rounds with the High Heat

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There has been a lot written about the High Heat driver from Knuth Golf, mostly anecdotal reports of how far it hits the ball but coming away after extensive on course trials—18 rounds to be exact but more on that later—the overwhelming impression is, “Boy, is it straight.”

Dean Knuth is the creator of the 460cc High Heat ($399) and he started on the premise that most drivers made by the large equipment companies are designed for use by high swing speed players such as those on the PGA Tour. Knuth, former Senior Director of the United States Golf Association and developer of the USGA Handicap System, felt he could do better for average golfers who typically generate as much as a third less clubhead speed than the big hitters on Tour.

As Knuth has said, he “believed that he could design golf clubs to optimize the KnuthDriver_140815-36_v3performance of amateurs that would be longer, straighter and more forgiving than the major brands for all amateurs with swing speeds less than the Tour players.”

The background story of the High Heat could probably fill a book but forming Knuth Golf with partner Steve Trattner resulted in the development of several key design features. For example, balls hit low on the face go a lot less distance than those hit above the face center so the High Heat has its center of gravity 25 percent further back than many of the major equipment company drivers and much lower, i.e., closer to the sole. The result for amateurs, who usually do make contact below the center of the face, is more distance. Combine that with seven face thickness zones and less consistent swingers have a readily apparent distance difference—even though they don’t make contact in the way tour pros do.

These guys are serious technology people and it’s worth going to the Knuth Golf web site to read things like: “Dean’s [club] face also includes his patented parabolic lobes in the upper heal and toe of the face which reduce the loss of kinetic energy at impact when the clubface hits the golf ball.” You gotta love “parabolic lobes.” HighHeatCG_CG

Another feature contributing to the straightness of the High Heat is it has a very high resistance to twisting, again aiding those of us who don’t always make center contact. Drivers usually have a MOI (moment of inertia) of around 4,000 gm-cm sq. (that’s the last time you’ll see gm-cm sq.) and really good drivers, according to Knuth, average just over 4,200. Company data for the High shows an MOI of 5,346 which is a lot closer to the USGA imposed limit of 5,900. No wonder it hits it straight.

The other really nice feature is the face has a mirror finish so each swing leaves an impression at the point of impact which, in theory at least, gives you the chance to make a correction on the next swing.

Now truth time. My first a High Heat had 10.5 degrees loft and a Fujikura Pro 63 regular flex shaft which I hit very straight but a lot shorter than my current driver from a major manufacturer. After some discussions with Knuth and Trattner we changed it out for one with 9-degree loft and a stiff shaft.

What a difference! Still straighter than any current model I have tested but with an additional 15-20 yards of distance.

So the moral of the story is make sure before you buy which specs are correct for you. The High Heat may be purchased on KnuthGolf.com and I understand fairway woods and hybrids are under development.

Images courtesy of Knuth Golf