Ten Rounds with Callaway Apex CF 16 Irons

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Callaway has two new iron models for next season and both are in stores now. For professionals and low handicap amateurs there are the one-piece forged Apex Pro 16 with progressive center of gravity placement and a very pleasing headshape/top line designed with input from Callaway’s Tour staff.

The second model, Apex CF 16, updates the Apex irons from two years ago and is considered by Callaway to be “a forged iron for all golfers.” In a first for the company’s forged irons there is a cupface construction in the longCallawayApex16CF_400x300 and mid-irons while the short irons (8- through wedges) have had the face plate redesigned. The set tested of 5-iron through A-wedge had True Temper XP 95 stiff shafts. Note: A cupface clubhead consists of two main pieces, the hosel and rear of the head welded to the face whose edges wrap around forming something like a cup. This construction leaves more of the face unsupported allowing for more flexing at impact and added ball speed. Several manufacturers make use of cupface construction for clubs including drivers and Callaway employ’s it in the XR, XR Pro and Big Bertha irons.

The initial impression at address was favorable, the forged heads have a relatively thin topline and as to be expected there is more offset in the long irons that becomes progressively less down through the wedges. On the range before the first round it was evident how “easy” these were to hit and on the course this paid bonuses. Easy hitting in my experience includes the feel, forgiveness and whether the ball flies with the correct trajectory.

These irons rate highly for each of those criteria.

A center h2016_Apex_iron_Explode_250x175it felt very solid and even when the center was missed, though the feedback told me of a poor swing, the feeling was still certainly acceptable not “clunky” as with some irons. This is the payoff of Callaway’s design and from the standpoint of forgiveness, similar positive observations could be made. What really struck me and everyone who I asked to hit the Apex 16 CFs was the trajectory, how quickly the ball got up in the air and from one of the higher handicappers, “the ball soared.”

My conclusion is the combination of the flexibility in the face (which tends to increase launch angle), the way the clubhead is weighted and the fact the XP 95 shafts have a low to mid kick point all would help produce the nice high trajectory most of us like from our irons.

Over the ten rounds trial the Apex CF 16s were excellent at digging the ball out from questionable lies such as those found in the Bermuda rough here in Florida. Ball spin appeared to be dependent on the type of ball used and two of the tour-type golf balls—one being Callaway’s Chrome Soft—had lots of stop, even spinning back on occasion which, as most golfers know, is difficult to do on Florida greens.

The seven club set tested retails for $1049.99 and a set of eight (4-iron through A- wedge) is $1199.99, $200 more for graphite shafts.

Negatives: On downwind shots, because of the ease at getting the ball airborne, the ball sometimes appeared to “float” and into the wind at least considering an extra club was a must. Pricing is at the upper end of the range for premium quality irons.

Recommendation: Easy-to-hit is hard to beat and if evaluating new irons Callaway Apex CF 16s should be near the top of those you try.

Images courtesy of Callaway Golf

Booking Tee Times

StockImageGolfCarts_400x300Approximately 90 percent of golfers play public access courses and account for about 80 percent of all rounds. These are important numbers since in the quest to fill tee sheets course operators target these players and particularly the segment the National Golf Foundation calls core golfers, those who play eight or more rounds annually.

Promotions, marketing campaigns and gimmicks or social inducements such as “nine-and-wine” attract players but for the 13.6 million core golfers in the U.S. it’s most often still simply, “When can I get a time Saturday morning?”

In recent years that question has frequently been answered by making use of third-party resellers of tee times, the two most prominent being GolfNow owned by the Golf Channel and a new venture, TeeTimes.com, backed by the PGA Tour. Times may be booked via a smart phone app with no need to contact the course directly.

Presently there is a lot of debate and even some sharp controversy between course operators, golf management companies and tee time resellers concerning the ability of courses to maintain control of their tee sheets and the distribution of golfers’ greens fees. The two most contentious points center on the need for courses to increase rounds played while protecting their published “rack rate” pricing and certain business practices by resellers, mostly discounting in one form or another. Industry insiders do not believe a resolution is yet in sight but some information about customer attitudes and motivations for using third-party services is available from the NGF.

The NGF conducted a representative survey of core golfers about their use and attitude towards third-party resellers and looking at the results several things are evident but it also clear the controversy between industry segments will continue.

According to the survey results, in the past year almost half of core golfers used a third-party reseller with 81 percent giving the reason of being able to view information for multiple courses at the same time and 76 percent, because they believe prices are lower. These two responses seem show the primary factor for use of a tee time service is golfer price sensitivity—looking for a “deal”—and in fact is what drives the business plan for third-party resellers.

For course operators a benefit of this behavior was 41 percent of core golfers said the services gave them access to courses they would otherwise not have played. The tee time revenue therefore may have been transferred to a different course without the operators of the first course having the opportunity to convince golfers to book an open time. In addition 48 percent used third party resellers when away from home making it a major factor for resort areas.

What the NGF survey doesn’t do is provide answers to the industry debate and that sales by resellers have not peaked since the PGA Tour is unlikely to have jumped into a market projected to flatten or decline. But golfers week in and week out tend to play the same local course or courses so it remains to be seen if they feel the need to use a reseller over a simple telephone call plus many facilities have their own tee time reservation app or web site page further clouding the prospect for resellers.

There is no doubt third-party sales of tee times are a useful service and some course operators believe it brings new revenue. But are courses simply competing with themselves? Is the lower fee they receive from a reseller a substitute for a higher priced rack rate sale they may have made?

This question will be answered as the market adjusts but a larger and still unknown factor is the effect of the declining number of courses and golf’s stagnant participation. Until these are resolved aggressive tee time price and service competition will continue.

Callaway & TMaG Sales Up

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The third quarter financials of Callaway Golf (NYSE:ELY) and TaylorMade-adidas Golf reflect small sales increases over the previous year but year-to-date sales for both are lower.

Callaway reported third quarter sales of $176 million with a $3.6 million loss compared with 2014 sales of $169 million and a $1.1 million loss. For nine months sales were $62 million less than last year at $690 million and pretax income was $11 million lower to $50 million. The company says early sales figures for the new Great Big Bertha driver have been encouraging.

TaylorMade-adidas, part of apparel giant adidas Group (OTCMKTS:ADDYY), said third quarter sales rose 6.5% to $173 million driven by double digit percentage increases in metalwoods. Profit margins were lower while year to date sales were $737 million, down 13% from 2014.

Restructuring of TMaG continues with the announcement in the third quarter report further layoffs will occur before year end effecting 14 percent of company employees worldwide. This is on top of a six percent layoff in July and previous layoffs in 2014.

Adidas is investigating sale of the Adams Golf and Ashworth brands, part of TMaG, and speculation is TaylorMade may be sold as well due to continued underperformance of sales and profits. The company acknowledged sales of last season’s R15 driver were “disappointing” but that the M1 driver model introduced in September along with the PSi irons recently announced would provide increases. Both have already been positively received in the marketplace.

The Silver Putter

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Next year is a Ryder Cup year and the 2016 contest between teams from the United States and Europe will be played over the storied Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. Team Europe is on a roll having won eight of the last 10 Cups with the Americans in 2014 being defeated by a score of 16.5 for the Euros to 11.5 for the U.S.A. at Gleneagles in Scotland.

Team U.S.A.’s most recent victory came in 2008 by the same score.

Golf fans are familiar with much of Ryder Cup history going back to 1927 but there a one recent tradition they may not know about and that’s the “Silver Putter.”

The Silver Putter was first presented to the PGA of America at the close of the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales by Ryder Cup Europe, in a case with plaques engraved with the names of all the past match venues. At the 2012 matches, played at Medinah Country Club (Illinois) it was accompanied by 24 silver golf balls, one for each member of the two teams. Meant to be both a reminder and link to the past, present and future matches, it travels to the host site with a ceremony similar to that of the Olympic torch.

Gleneagles has now presented the Silver Putter to Hazeltine, host venue next year, where it will be prominently displayed before being passed on to Le Golf National outside Paris, France, the 2018 site.