PGA Show Attention Grabbers

Each year at the PGA Merchandise Show with its 1,000 exhibitors and thousands of products we look for a few items to highlight for our readers. Here are a few that grabbed our attention as we walked the 10 miles of aisles in Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center. There are no clubs or balls in this listing…that will come later as we complete our testing and reviews.

Bermuda Sands—Finding good looking, reasonably priced golf shirts is sometimes difficult so take a look at Bermuda Sands, it’s a great brand to consider. For example there’s the Elite polo for $60 with a sophisticated subtle stripe, self-collar and three button placket. This one looks equally at home on or off the course.

Golf Pride–MCC ALIGN grip ($10.99) is best reminder grip we have seen. It has a raised ridge with a firmer feel flanked by channels down the back of this cord/rubber all-weather model. Though grips to facilitate proper hand position have been around for a long time the combination of the already popular MCC hybrid grip and alignment aid is a real winner.

Zero Friction—The DistancePro GPS Glove is the convenient combination of a glove which, we wear anyway, and a distance measuring device. We like the lightweight and 400 hours battery life of the GPS plus the fact the glove is one-size-fits-all. Two gloves and the DistancePro GPS unit which is switchable between the two list for $129.95.

New Balance—The NBG2004 is an athletic-style cleated golf shoe with a great look and lots of features such as two year guaranteed waterproof upper, New Balance’s proven comfortable REVLite midsole and a wider area for your toes to help with balance while swinging. Three color combinations of white/red, black/green and grey/blue available at $99.95.

SkyCaddie—At last someone has put a GPS rangefinder and shot tracking watch together with a mobile app for Bluetooth connection to your smartphone. For $349.95 the SkyCaddie LINX GT has those features plus comes preloaded with thousands of courses and, if you choose, it can use data from smart tags, one of which comes in the package.

Under Armour Sunglasses—There are hundreds of sunglasses on the market but we were drawn to the UA Igniter 2.0 which happens to have a very nice feature not found on competing brands…an adjustable nose pad. It doesn’t maybe sound like much but just a seemly small touch like that can make all the difference in fit, comfort and wearablity. Polarized, super light titanium self-adjusting frames for $144.99.

Sun Mountain—Known for their high quality, functional outerwear, golf and travel bags and push carts new for 2017 is the Speed Cart GT which folds down to only 37” x 16” x 13” at weight just over 17 pounds. The bag bracket is a new design to better hold golf stand bags plus there’s a new mobile phone slot and it comes with umbrella holder, scorecard holder and padded storage tray for $209.99.

P2 Putter Grips–Golfers talk a lot about putter grips, mostly about size or sometimes about feel, but perhaps most important is really the position of the hands in relation to the shaft. P2, based in Ireland, did lots of testing to come up with a design that forces the hands and wrists upward slightly, i.e. more arched, by positioning the shaft towards the bottom of the grip. The new Tour model ($35) is 50% lighter and the tacky feel is excellent.

ECCO-The new CAGE PRO model’s outsole doesn’t use cleats but does use their SPYDR-GRIP that takes advantage of pivot point for gripping. The BOA closure is both comfortable and helps to make for a perfect fit that helps performance. Waterproof with the textile upper bonded with a custom polyurethane. A choice of either black or white for $230.

 

Images courtesy of the manufacturers

 

Keep Your Head Still…or Maybe Not

“Keep your head down. Keep your head still” are perhaps the most often heard bits of swing advice to recreational golfers from their playing partners. The trouble is, both admonishments are wrong and attempting to keep the head still especially with the chin firmly pressed downward can result in poor ball contact, a loss of distance and control.

The “head down” problem is a function of the setup position but easily fixed by correctly addressing the ball with the chin up and the derriere pushed out slightly so your weight is balanced and you’re in an athletic position…think of a shortstop preparing for the crack of the bat.

The “head still” is a little harder to fix since if the head does move, how much is OK and how much is not? Teaching professionals will tell you that the head moving slightly (maybe 2 inches?) towards the right on the backswing is correct. On the downswing the head moves back to the starting point and when the club actually hits the ball the head is moving slightly back to the right again which is described as “staying behind the ball.”

The amount of head movement and in what sequence is difficult to learn even with the help of an instructor but now there is some new technology called the PowerPlane to give you the feedback you need.

PowerPlane is simple to use, just attach the hat clip above your left ear (assuming a right handed swing), place the sensor on the clip (it’s magnetic) and set up to a ball with the PowerPlane unit parallel to the line of the shot.

If your head is out of position at address or if it goes too far in either direction during the swing the unit beeps.

We tested it and it works actually showing two of the testers they were set up too far forward at address meaning they effectively were positioning themselves for a reverse pivot. It also quickly showed there was a lot of movement on the downswing by the single digit handicap tester, sending him back to the pro shop for more range balls.

We like that the PowerPlane was equally good if you are having problems with head movement during you putting stroke or when chipping. The sound of the beep is particularly telltale for the lookup before impact either with a putter or wedge.

Negatives: Some may feel the price of $189 is a little expensive.

Recommendation: If you have conquered the problems caused by keeping your head down toward your chest and need help for fat and thin shots plus want more distance from better contact the PowerPlane can go a long way to solving the problem. For additional technical information and to purchase visit PowerPlaneGolf.net. Included in the purchase price is free shipping and a PowerPlane hat and there’s a 30-day money back guarantee.

Last Minute Golf Gifts

The time is getting short and each sometimes forget to buy a gift for someone on our list. For me last year it was my daughter’s boyfriend and thank goodness for gift cards.

This year I’m applying the criteria that whatever I get for him is something I would like myself so here are a few suggestions.

cc-driver-wall_640x440Get Fit
For even the casual player a club fitting can produce huge benefits and there are no better fitters than Club Champion with 16 locations around the country. They have special on until the end of January of 50% off a $350 full bag fitting and 33% off if just a driver, iron and putter fittings are chosen. Club prices are the same as any retail shop and they have gift cards in $50 increments. More information may be found at ClubChampionGolf.com.

Take a Swingcindy-miller
Cindy Miller, one of the best golf instructors around, has a gift that’s ideal even for non-golfers, “The Learn to Hit Kit” of a mat, foam balls, her book Golf 101, a coupon for 10% off any Callaway club plus access to her 10 video online course. Miller’s approach has modules for every level from never-had-a-club-in-hand-before novices to accomplished players. Buy “The Learn to Hit Kit” on Amazon on special for $99.99.

traxtowel_golfbag_baglatch-it_1000x1000-copy-686x686Trax Towel
Everyone has a towel on their bag and sooner or later it falls off but this new idea from Frogger is a solution, simple and effective. The Trax towel (20 by 24 inches microfiber) has a magnetic fastener, Frogger calls a Catch Latch, consisting of a clip with a magnet that attaches to the towel and a bracket that attaches to the golf bag. Six color combinations are offered and all are available at FroggerGolf.com for $24.95.

Record Drives
driver-product-open-800_1024x1024The hottest idea in golf is the real time recording of shot stats and Arccos Golf has a great way to try out their system without paying full price, the Arccos Driver. Included are one sensor that fits into the hole at the butt end of the driver grip and the apps for either an Apple or Android smartphone plus on a one year subscription to cloud recordkeeping. Priced at $49.95 it’s a great way to find out just what this new technology can do to help your game at $200 less than the whole bag system. For details and to find a retailer go to ArccosGolf.com.

Gifts for Golfers Part II

murray_330x480

As in the previous installment, here a few gifts golfers (myself included) would like to see under the tree on Christmas morning. They have the distinction of meeting the criteria of, “If I like them so will lots of others.”

Shirts by Carl Spackler
Bill Murray’s portrayal of the spaced-out greenskeeper Carl Spackler in Caddyshack is classic and so is the apparel in his new line of William Murray Golf clothing. You won’t go wrong with one their polos styled in classic lines with modern, even a bit edgy, details. Murray, a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, even came up with a pin stripe polo mimicking the World Series Champion’s uniform. Moisture wicking and wrinkle resistant, it sells for $75 at WilliamMurrayGolf.com.

Display Your Patriotismpatriot-victorystripe_150x330
Specially designed for the Birdies for the Brave and Navy Seals, the Patriot VS headcovers from Stitch Golf make a dashing statement as well as displaying your patriotism. Entirely made of leather in the U.S. they are water and stain resistant but best of all they really stay on the clubs, either carrying or carting. A set of three—driver, 3-wood and 5-wood—is $125 at StitchGolf.com.

kenrick_leather_belt_300x215Ditch the Clutter
Carrying a ball marker and divot repair tool is something we all do and are forever fishing in a pocket to find one or the other or both. A neat good looking solution is the belt from KenRick Golf that holds them at your fingertips at all times. The divot tool slips into the belt end and the marker is held by a magnet on the back. Lots of styles and colors available from $59 at KenRickGolf.com.

Play in the Coldae9305_zoom_f-200x345
Cooler weather tends to empty courses of players but golf can still be fun provided you are dressed for it properly. Take a look at the Climaheat Prime Quilted Zip Jacket ($150) from adidas. Filled with insulation made of hollow-core fibers that retain body heat yet dry quickly. The front and back panels are quilted, cuffs and bottom hem have elastic binding and the two front pockets are zippered. In a choice of three color combinations at adidasGolf.com.

Performance Socksmens-kw-pro-light-black-red-300x170
Kentwool socks for golf have to be worn to be believed. They are made here in the U.S. from wool blended with stretch nylon, Spandex and bamboo fabric and are long wearing. They are cool and wick perspiration away but best of all is they are comfortable. Period.  There’s a variety of lengths, colors and patterns but we especially like the basic Pro Light model which is priced at $20.95 per pair on Kenwool.com.

Gifts for Golfers Part I

There lots of gift guides for golfers but this year rather than the usual approach we thought it would be neat to show our list of items that the writer and a few of his friends that were consulted would like to have.

Our thought process was simple…heck, if we like them, other people will as well, so here is the first installment of gift ideas. Hopefully my family will read this and know just what’s on my wish list.

71tbxrjicwl-320x480Palmer’s Memories

A Life Well Played: My Stories by Arnold Palmer is 258 pages of anecdotes, stories and life insights by The King. Some you’ve heard before and some you haven’t but each is written in the straightforward honesty that characterized the man. Golfers and non-golfers have been enlistees in Arnie’s Army since the 1950s and this book is a fitting closure to a life well played. Online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $16.96 or in local book stores.

 

powerplane-_cmf_160727_300x145For Your Swing

One swing fault most of us struggle with at times is holding the head relatively steady so the swing can rotate around the proper axis. If you don’t know what that means or if from occasionally you slip into letting the head slip—move excessively from side to side–the PowerPlane can help. A bar laying on the ground senses head movement from a transmitter attached to your cap and signals whenever your head moves too much. More information and to buy go to powerplanegolf.net. The price is $189.

Comfortable Performance Shoes nbg1005bk-002-300x200

New Balance Golf Men’s Minimus NGB1005 are built like running shoes, are lightweight and have a waterproof upper. Support for the foot is great, comfortable and the last promotes staying on balance throughout the swing. Minimus weighs 8.6 oz. and there’s a choice of White/Blue, Grey/Green, Grey/Orange and Black for $119.95 at NewBalance.com.

hoofer_12_black_charcoal_red-copy-300x290Easy to Carry

The Ping Hoofer is at the top of the list for carry bags and makes a perfect gift. It weighs only five pounds including the bag stand but has more than enough pockets to stow away all your gear with a full length apparel pocket. There are even special slip in pockets for a range finder and water bottle plus a cart-strap channel if used on a buggy. Comes with a rain hood for $215. To purchase or find more information go to PingGolf.com.

Better Turn–Better Swing

Stand around the first tee on any given Saturday morning and several things are obvious. For the purposes of this article the one that concerns us is the lack of turn most males (and a lot of females) have in their backswing. If the idea is to pivot without swaying so your back is towards the target while not collapsing your arms, most of us haven’t got it.

MISIG in use horizontalAsk any instructor. With a proper backswing hitting the ball effectively becomes more than likely…without it, luck enters into the result a lot more than we want.

So with that all in mind I agreed to test the MSIG device which I first saw at the PGA Merchandise Show last January. Most of us, including myself, could be more flexible. And since flexibility is a requisite to a proper swing if we want to improve, get more distance, achieve more consistency and walk off with the pretty girl we have to do something.

Enter the MISIG from the fertile mind of inventor Bernie Fay who was looking for a way of stretching and strengthening his shoulders to offset the aches and pains of aging so he could enjoy playing golf more. After trial and error he came up with a simple device that he found not only helps to “limber up” prior to a round but since the device almost “forces” the MISIG shaft into the proper position, repetition goes a long way to teaching a correct backswing plane.MISIG product

Out of the box the MISIG is easy to assemble then just wrap the Velcro closure cuff around the lead arm above the elbow, grab the sliding grip with the trailing hand and make a backswing. What I felt immediately was a tremendous stretching of the back muscles and lead forearm but something else just as important. When I turned my shoulders 90 degrees the MISIG shaft was exactly on plane, i.e., pointing parallel to the target line.

I am now using the MISIG as part of my exercise program and though I can’t say it’s increased by drives by 30 yards I can make a much freer turn.

MISIG, which stands for “Most Important Stretch In Golf,” retails for $79.99 online at feelthestretch.com. It comes with three stretch cords (light, medium, strong), the shaft with sliding grip and arm cuff.

And, oh yeah…I lied about the pretty girl.

Images courtesy of the manufacturer

10 Rounds With the Leupold GX-2i2

GX_2guys_Ranging_640x425

Customization in golf is all the rage.
Drivers have ability to reposition weight and adjust the loft so ball launch tendencies can be customized to suit a particular player.
Manufacturers even make golf balls with a range of spin characteristics from tee to green, so why not a customizable laser range finder?
Enter the Leupold GX-2i2 . It is customizable to the user and adjusts the straight line measured yardage to a target by taking into account air temperature and altitude plus the amount the shot is up hill or downhill. So in addition to the straight line distance the newest of the Leupold laser range finders also gives the “plays like” yardage.
Then, after the user enters how far he or she hits three differeGX2i2_250x188nt clubs, the GX-2i2  even makes a suggestion of the proper club for the “plays like” distance plus shows when the distance is between clubs.
Remarkable to say the least.
Now, I have a confession. Contrary to the extended testing period inherent in the title “10 Rounds With…,” I am writing this after only two rounds with the Leupold GX-2i2 and the reason is simple.
It’s great. It does all its’ supposed to, quickly, efficiently and though I may not be the brightest bulb in the box it was evident from the first try this is a serious well-made piece of golf technology. I could have written this after the first nine holes, the GX-2i2 is that good.
GX-2i2 is the new model for 2016 from the family owned Leupold & Stevens, Inc., makers of high quality distance measuring devices and retails for $430.
Yardage is measured very quickly and, what Leupold calls PinHunter 2 Laser GX2i2_Reticle_250x250Technology, doesn’t seem to pick up the trees behind the green, a nasty habit with some laser rangefinders. In the scan mode distances are shown as the crosshairs move across an area, a feature that’s especially handy when the shot requires a carry over water or a bunker.
The unit light, weighing in at less than seven ounces and compact in size so it fits the hand comfortably.
And in case you are asking, the GX-2i2  is “legal” under the Rules of Golf if there is a local rule allowing the use of distance measuring devices and it is not used in the slope compensating mode.
I know it’s early to be thinking about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but this makes a great gift or you could treat yourself to one to celebrate the opening of the new golf season.

FJ FreeStyle – Inspired by a Tree Frog

FJ_Freestyle_640x480

The newest shoe from FootJoy has striking good looks and a one-of technology to provide great grip of the turf and more freedom of movement during the swing – a big factor in being able to generate more power.

And it’s the only golf shoe I know of that can claim its inspiration came from a Red Tree Frog.

“FreeStyle is arguably FootJoy’s most imaginative and distinctive shoe ever and will particularly help golfers who would benefit from increased freedom of movement when swinging the golf club,” said Doug Robinson, FJ Vice President of Design and Development Worldwide. “By drawing inspiration from a tree frog and emulating their incredible grip and flexibility properties in the texture and functional elements of an outsole, our design and development team has created something truly unique in the golf shoe market.”

The extraordinary grip of the FreeStyle can be attributed to F.R.O.G.S. Not the one pictured but “FJ’s Revolutionary Outsole Grip System,” a combination of a super-flexible translucent outsole (softer feel and extra grip), a new soft and comfortable midsole compound and Softspikes Tour Lock system using Pulsar low-profile cleats with what FootJoy says is a “frog-like flex.”

The FreeStyle will hit shops in February and golfers will have a choice of six color combinations, two with the Boa closure system. Pricing is $190 per pair or $210 with Boa.

Golf Skate Caddy

GSC Lizzie at ING3_640x480

The Golf Skate Caddy is a practical single rider golf cart that makes sense even for the less nimble and doesn’t require an outrageous set of skills to use—all you have to do is stand on it. And, because it has four wheels there’s no surfer-like balancing act to stay on. Maximum speed is 13mph and its stable as long as it’s ridden sensibly with steep slopes negotiated properly.

The battery powered Golf Skate Caddy is appealing for a couple of very practical reasons. It speeds up play and being relatively light—only about 85 pounds plus bag and rider–doesn’t tend to overly compact turf.

In front is a platform and strap arrangement to hold the golf bag, in the back there’s a cooler and a seat that slides into place for use when waiting for the group in front of you to hit. Operation is straightforward simply step on, grab the steering handle in one hand and the pistol-style remote control in the other and you’re on your way. There’s even a custom-designed umbrella that may be mounted in a bracket on the handle for shelter from sun and rain and each GSC may be GPS-tracked by golf club personnel.

GSC_IMG_31331_200x260Asked about industry and club operator acceptance prior to the 2016 PGA Merchandise Show next week in Orlando, Fla., Patrick Pires Executive Vice President said, “This is, in fact, our second appearance at the PGA Show. We had some excellent interactions at the 2015 show and fostered some incredible relations in the industry at a crucial time. This has powered GSC for an even stronger and more powerful presence in 2016.”

Pires responded when asked about pricing, “Our retail price is $4995, which includes all the bells and whistles!” This places the Golf Skate Caddy below the price of most conventional two rider electric carts.

I found the operational learning curve is only a few minutes, in fact it’s fun to buzz around on and everyone who tries it seems to have a smile on their face.

Though the company does sell to individuals their primary market is either sale or leasing to golf facilities which then rent them on a per round basis to golfers at a suggested minimum rental fee of $20.

According to the website: “The unit can speed up play by 50 percent for 18 holes and can move up to six players per tee time providing additional revenue for courses. It’s extremely turf friendly and has less impact than traditional carts. The vehicles are also equipped with the latest technology to allow users to play music and connect to their smart phones.”

Aaron Parkinson the company’s CEO reported, “Golf Skate Caddy is for golfers of all ages. Surprisingly more than 70 percent of our individual sales to date have been to people 55 and older.”

Images courtesy of Golf Skate Caddy

10 Rounds with the GolfBuddy LR5S

GBuddyLR5S_400x300

The use of technology in golf has become commonplace and most often seen on the course in the form of distance measuring devices (DMD), both GPS based and laser. The distance to the pin is fundamental for club selection and after assessing how the ball lies provides the answer to, “what club should I hit.”

Devices using data from global positioning satellites (GPS) report yardage to the front, center and back of a green and some, the distance to carry hazards such as water guarding the putting surface. But with GPS the distance to the pin is an estimate made by the user based on what he sees. Put another way, if the GPS shows 148 yards to the center of the green and 165 yards to the back and the pin looks closer to the center than the back the user might estimate the pin location to be 155 yards.

With a laser device the answer is definitive—the pin is 153 yards. At times this is not a significant distinction but when a pin is partially hidden, say behind a bunker, the need for accuracy may be crucial and that’s an ideal use for a laser.

GolfBuddy is well-known for its hand held, clip-on and wrist model GPS devices but has made the decision to jump into the crowded laser DMD market with two new models the LR5 and LR5S. The units are similar except that the LR5S has a slope compensation feature and gives a distance readout taking into account the change in elevation.

We condGB_LR5S_screen_250x450ucted a test of the LR5S over ten rounds and right out of the box the LR5S “felt good” in the hand and at eight ounces the weight is not an issue. Ease of use is excellent with clear instructions of how to change modes and the 6X view is especially good with a diopter adjustment for the eyepiece. The lettering on the “screen” is bold and appears larger than that of competitors’ devices making it easy to read regardless of the sun’s angle.

The LR5S offers three operational modes: normal, scan and pin. Each displays the slope-adjusted yardage to the target just above the aiming crosshairs with the straight line yardage and height alternating display in the lower right. And although some may not consider this significant, the LR5S comes with a very nice hard-sided carrying case which day in and day out may not be too important but undoubtedly it gives much more protection than the usual soft cases. There is always a worry in my mind what can happen to a unit stuffed into a pocket of a golf bag and subject to the handling of an airline baggage system. The LR5S case would seem to pretty much solve that concern.

The test period wasn’t long enough to judge battery life; however, GolfBuddy estimates 5,000 actuations of the laser to be standard and at an average of 20 actuations per round that translates into 250 rounds.

Before purchasing any laser DMD be aware the USGA allows DMDs (laser and GPS) when a local rule is in place but a DMD that measures wind speed or direction, temperature or slope may not be used. So if when playing in a tournament there is doubt of the use of any DMD—not just the LR5S—check with the tournament committee but slope measuring is banned in all instances. Of course this concern could be addressed by using the GolfBuddy LR5, with similar features minus slope measurement.

Negatives: None from on course experience but the use of a laser with slope measuring in tournament play is banned.

Recommendation: The GolfBuddy LR5S at a MSRP of $300 and street price of $225 puts it in the lower end of the price range for all laser range finders and certainly much less than other slope enabled units. Combined with its solid construction and ease of use it’s a definite buy.