Some observers forget there’s a danger in reading too much into the financial results of a company over the short term especially a publicly traded company whose management is very aware they are being judged on interim results. Add to that if the company is in a stagnant or slow grow industry such as golf equipment, growth only comes from “eating the other guy’s lunch.” In other words, in today’s equipment market you can figure increases in sales often come from a corresponding decrease in sales by another company. Continue reading
There’s a lot of talk about drivers and there’s no doubt the club taking up the number one slot in the bag is important but it’s also true the clubs in the other end of the bag, the wedges, are important as well. It’s wonderful to hit a booming drive but if you can’t wedge it close going low will be tough.
The secret about wedge play is there is no secret. It just takes a basic knowledge and the selection of the proper wedges for you, plus of course maybe a lesson from a PGA Professional.
To maximize results make sure the lofts are correctly gapped so the distance each wedge goes with a normal swing is about 10 to 15 yards different than the next more lofted wedge. This is often, but not always, four degrees of loft.
An example would be the wedges in my bag starting with the pitching wedge which has a loft of 45 degrees and using a “normal” swing flies 120-125 yards. Next is a 50 degree “gap wedge” good for 105 to 110 yards, then one with 54-degrees of loft used for 90 to 100 yards and finally a 58 degree wedge at 80 yards.
So, four wedges effectively covering a range of 40 plus yards.
It’s important to note—and this is another “secret” that’s not really a secret—ideally you would carry the wedges that give you as many full swings as possible in a round realizing though, no matter what loft your wedges you will always be faced with in-between yardage shots.
There is no magic formula and gapping to a certain extent is a matter of personal preference. It comes down to getting it right so you hit the ball closer with more confidence. A discussion about bounce, that other vital aspect of wedge selection, will be covered in another article.
Here are three of this year’s wedges that caught our eye and we have tested extensively:
Callaway Golf Sure Out: The name was used by the original Ben Hogan brand and since Callaway owns the name they were able to bring it back for a super game improvement wedge designed with input from instructor Hank Haney. Callaway’s team made the Sure Out with lots of sole camber, i.e., curvature from heel to toe. Additionally there is lots of bounce to help it through sand and long grass and 17 grooves that go all the way across the face. These features plus a nice wide sole mean sand shots, greenside pitches and even flop shots can be hit without opening the face or cutting across the ball, techniques that “scare” many average golfers. Priced at $120, Sure Out wedges are available with either lightweight steel or graphite shafts in 58 or 64-degrees of loft.
Cleveland Golf RTX-3: Compared to Cleveland’s previous RTX-2 model, nine grams of weight has been moved from the hosel to the clubhead so the center of gravity is closer to the impact area making a noticeable improvement in feel. For more consistent contact there are three different V-grind soles to match your swing profile and Cleveland’s third generation micro-milled face in between the grooves provides more spin and thus control. Choices include finishes of black satin, Tour satin and Tour raw plus there’s a cavity back version. The available lofts range from 46 to 64 degrees and each is priced at $130.
Ping Glide 2.0: The updates of the original Glide wedges involved making grooves sharper-edged and slightly decreasing the spin between to increase friction to produce more spin. Impressively Ping lab testing reports the Glide 2.0 generate up to 400 rpm higher spin which is important to aid in getting the distance and trajectory just right on every shot. We especially like this wedge’s finish which the company has tagged “hydropearl.” It not only looks good but sheds moisture to reduce the chance of flyers. Ping offers four sole grinds to match your attack angle and the turf conditions at the course you most often play. With steel shafts they are priced at $140 per club.
Images courtesy of manufacturers
Last weekend a buddy invited me to play golf at a nearby course we both enjoy. It’s not especially long nor tight and has relatively few acres of sand and water but the main attraction without a doubt was spending time with a friend.
As we walked off the range following our pre-game warmup, he suddenly stopped saying, “Oh nuts!” Thinking he might have left something important like a club or his golf swing back in the car I was in for a surprise.
My friend said he had meant to hit a few with the club he had just purchased. I, curious and interested, asked, “Oh, what did ya get?”
His reply floored me, “A 1-iron.”
Now to explain so you don’t think my friend has completely lost his senses, he has been playing golf for several years, though at times finds it hard to get out…just like the rest of us. He is dedicated, wants to get better and has the advantage of having above average athletic ability.
However, having said all that, his chances of integrating a one iron into his game are between slim and none with the needle nudging the latter.
But in his mind’s eye he sees himself ripping it 220-yards into the wind with a slight draw that lands on the green, checks and rolls next to the pin. Really?
The story of how he came by the Ping Eye2 1-iron (a model which first saw the light of day in 1982) is worth the retelling. The week before my friend had been playing with a couple of guys, one of who wasn’t very good and had a bad case of the “Tommy Bolt’s,” or club tossing. Unbelievably this fellow was carrying a 1-iron in his bag and with a game even less accomplished than my friend’s had a particular affection for heaving it after nearly every swing.
By the way, Bolt was one of golf’s all time colorful characters. There are dozens of stories about his time on the PGA Tour but the quotation I like the best is, “Always throw your clubs ahead of you. That way you don’t have to waste energy going back to pick them up.”
Anyway back to the 1-iron saga, between tosses the fellow was ranting he was going to dump his 1-iron. Sell it. Good riddance.
My friend sensing an opportunity asked, “How much?” and the fellow said $20. Reaching into his pocket my friend came back with, “I’ve only got $12. How about that?”
“Done!” was the reply and my friend was the owner of a 1-iron.
After my friend proudly related his tale I pointed out aside from the putter the 1-iron was probably the cause for more people giving up the game than anything but a spouse that doesn’t play. And that it was primary contributor to invention of hybrids. For crying out loud, not even PGA Tour players carry them.
Historically there are a number of famous 1-iron shots. Ben Hogan’s MacGregor 1-iron to the 72nd green of the 1950 U.S. Open setting up a par to put him a playoff the next day which he won. This all coming after being almost killed in a head on crash with a bus 16 months previously.
Jack Nicklaus in the U.S. Open back in 1972 at Pebble Beach playing the par-3 17th on the final day. The 219-yards between the Golden Bear and the hole were dead into a strong wind coming off the local water hazard known as the Pacific Ocean. His 1-iron shot hit the pin and dropped next to the hole for an easy two. Even more incredible to my mind and showing Nicklaus’ immense talent was on the back swing he felt the club was too closed which would have produced a disastrous hook. However, he had so much control that week he adjusted on the way down holding off the release to compensate. The result was his second major championship of the year.
My own 1-iron story goes back to the middle 70’s when I was a lot younger and thought I could play this maddening game. Par-5, dogleg left and after a good drive to the corner a sweet 1-iron into the hole for a two—double eagle—albatross—whatever. The unfortunate part of the story is, because of the way the green-fronting bunker was situated, I couldn’t see it go in.
But back to the present. When we got out on the course my friend tried out his Ping Eye2 “butter knife” from the tee on two holes of the second nine. As you might expect the results weren’t pretty. But he has vowed to keep at it because he can still see that 220-yard shot into the wind with a slight draw.
We often have a nostalgic memories of the good times and people of years gone by and when Ping announced the TR 1966 Anser putter my mind flashed back 48 years ago to the original Anser. You might asked how can I remember that far back, least of all remember a putter and the answer is an old photograph taken on a practice green showing me with a Ping Anser in my hand.
The original Anser and Anser 2 sold for $20 and didn’t make the sound “ping” like Karsten Solheim’s first putter but they shared the heel and toe weighting that revolutionized putter performance.
Ping has reintroduced the Anser and Anser 2 models as the TR 1966, certainly a fitting way to mark the 50th year of the iconic shape which has been copied hundreds of times by putter makers. Both TR 1966 models were designed using three dimensional scans of the originals to get the subtle contour details Solheim crafted back then using a mill and hand files just right.
And the new Anser retains two features I like the most.
There’s no alignment mark on the top and the sound is impressively solid, a result of the slot in the sole and since one of the critical factors in a putter’s feel is the sound, this works very well.
It would be great to say that after ten rounds I was making everything I looked at but that’s not the case. What did happen though was my putts per round stat dropped by almost half a stroke and that includes two rounds on greens I would guess were 12 to 13 on the Stimpmeter.
Bottom line is I just like the looks and the feel which of course breeds confidence and confidence means you make more putts.
The TR stands for True Roll, which is what Ping calls the milled grooves on the face, the only significant departure from Solheim’s original while the manganese bronze PVD finish is actually better than the original.
The Anser 2 has a stainless steel blast finish with one alignment line on the flange. Heel and toe contours are somewhat less rounded than those of the Anser and the Anser 2 top rail is a little narrower.
Both retail for $162.50, not bad a price for a trip into the past.
By the way, back in 1966 the name Anser was suggested by Solhiem’s wife, Louise. He wanted his new putter to be the “answer” to a competitor’s model and both of them liked the name Answer but it was too long to fit in on the flange. Mrs. Solheim said the “W” could be left out since the name would still sound the same. Pure genius.
Images courtesy of Ping
The PING G30 driver in the month of April, according equipment sales as tracked by Golf Datatech, not only maintained but increased its lead as the number one selling driver in the U.S. Driver sales are traditionally the highest in April as the golf season begins across most of the U.S.
This past month G30 market share rose to approximately 14 percent of all drivers sold which translated into 19 percent of dollars spent in the combined sell-through in on- and off-course retail stores.
The G30 was already the best-selling driver of 2015, January through March, at just over 11 percent market share in units sold and over 15 percent of dollars spent.
In a prepared release, PING Chairman and CEO John Solheim said, “To see momentum growing for the G30 driver in the heart of the golf season is very satisfying and a tribute to our engineering team. When we launched it last summer, it was clear this driver was special. It was used by Angel Cabrera to win the first week it was on tour and it’s been finding its way into golfers’ bags ever since. It all comes down to performance and there’s no question the technology of the G30 drivers helps golfers hit the ball longer, straighter and more consistently.”
In April unit sales were 56 percent greater than the second place model.
The G30, which retails for $350, is not the least expensive driver in shops but has built up a reputation for performance primarily for the “Turbulators” on the crown designed to reduce aerodynamic drag which helps to increase clubhead speed.
For the months of January through April combined, the G30 driver was #1 in units and dollars, with shares of 12.30% and 16.47%, respectively. Over the nine months since its introduction in July last year, it’s been the top-selling driver model in units (10.27%) and revenue (14.64%).
PING Golf is justifiably letting the world know that, according to Golf Datatech, their G30 model is the bestselling driver on the market.
Golf Datatech, which tracks golf equipment retail sales in the U.S., says not only was the G30 tops in number sold retail in March but for January through March it holds first place as well.
According to PING spokesman Pete Samuels, “In March, the G30 driver earned a 13.2% share in units (up 23% from February) and 17.46% share in dollars (up 20% from February). For the months of January through March combined, the G30 driver ranks first in units (11.38%) and dollars (15.29%).”
“The success of the G30 driver continues as golfers are seeing the performance benefits of its overall design,” said John Solheim, PING Chairman & CEO. “The combination of the Turbulator Technology and T9S face are leading to faster clubhead and ball speeds for longer drives. In addition, the G30 driver also features the highest MOI of any PING driver ever designed to ensure golfers the accuracy and consistency to hit more fairways.”
Added Solheim, “It’s especially rewarding to see the G30 driver gaining even more momentum as we enter the peak season for golf equipment sales. As golfers get out on the course and have the chance to attend fitting and demo days, we’re confident players of all skill levels will experience the benefits of the G30 driver.”
The PING G30 (street price $330) was used by Angel Cabrera last summer to win the Greenbrier Classic the first week it appeared on Tour and fan-favorite Bubba Watson, after switching the same week to a G30 with a distinctive pink-shaft, went on to lead the PGA Tour in driving distance with an average of 314 yards. Plus, Billy Horschel put it in his bag and ended the year with two wins and take the FedExCup.
Since the G30 driver arrived in golf shops in late July, it’s been the top-selling driver model combined for the months of August through March, first earning #1-selling status in September. In eight months on the market, the G30 driver holds a 13.9% dollar share and 9.63% unit share – both #1 in that timeframe.
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.
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