Vote Now! Golf Pics of the Week (Anywhere But Here Edition)

Vote Now! Golf Pics of the Week (Anywhere But Here Edition)

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Hey, I’m Home and it Sucks

Well, unfortunately I’m back to reality after a couple of days in a fantasy world where “work” involved talking about golf equipment (some of which won’t see the light of day for months), hitting balls at TaylorMade’s Kingdom, and then actually playing golf at Torrey Pines South.

My new reality is back in front of the computer in my office, 18 holes on an over-developed goat pasture, and a holiday weekend spent with my in-laws. I should probably just be happy that nobody pooped on my desk.

This week we’ve got some new releases from PING and Mizuno, some nice Miura customs, more from the Japanese market, and my own personal glance into heaven.

But First . . . Last Week’s Winner

PING’s Zoey Mahan “Birth Announcement” Gold Putter

The Golf Pics of the Week (Click to Enlarge)

Coincidentally, #3 on my home course is also a par 3. I think I like the one at Torrey Pines South bettter.
RomaRo's Ray V Type R Iron looks nice.
Roger Cleveland isn't afraid to get his hands dirty at Callaway.
PING Shows off the new S55 irons.
Mizuno is showing off the new JPX EX Driver.
... and the new JPX Wedge too.
And speaking of wedges...here's some customs Miura did for their upcoming event with Oakley
This Gooseneck M8 Damascus from Machine looks pretty sick.
These Confidence Irons inspire anything but.
Bettinardi continues their recent trout obsession with this Jam with Bull Trout insert. I'm not sure I get it.

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Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

Hopkins Golf – Custom Wedges Without the Middle Man

Hopkins Golf – Custom Wedges Without the Middle Man

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A New Golf Company with Years of Experience

Written By: Spy Zinger

When I say the name Greg Hopkins, in the context of golf, what comes to mind?  Probably nothing, but for many years that was by design.

Now how about this:  ”The Year of the Wedge. The guy with the argyle sweater. Cleveland Golf?  Does that ring a bell?

Most golfers, at least MyGolfSpy readers, would probably recognize or remember the guy in the Cleveland Golf commercials that aired shortly after the USGA imposed the new groove rule.  At the time, Hopkins, the CEO of Cleveland Golf (a position he held for 16 years), was attempting to convince golfers to buy up all of the Cleveland box groove wedges since it was the last year they’d be manufacturing them.  I actually thought the message was relevant, and in my own way, I did just what he prescribed.  It surprising that more guys didn’t take that advice, no matter the brand.

I am pleased to report argyle sweater guy is back, and yes, he is still in argyle.  Greg Hopkins, former CEO for Cleveland Golf resigned from that position in September 2012. In June of this year (2013 for the Calendar-challenged), he launched a golf company bearing his own name; Hopkins Golf.  At present, they are exclusively a wedge company, but in time you can expect Hopkins Golf to evolve into a broad spectrum golf equipment brand.

After leaving Cleveland, Hopkins’s plan wasn’t to start Hopkins Golf.  The plan was to retire, fly his plane, and chase his grand kids around.  That didn’t last long. He contemplated several options, one of which was working as Vijay Singh’s agent,  but after 30 years in the golf equipment business, he decided to stick with what he already knew.

For years Hopkins had an idea for a direct-to-consumer golf company in the back of his mind.  He ultimately turned that idea into Hopkins Golf, which offers direct to consumer wedges, built to their desired specifications and customizations.

Hopkins Golf provides a tour van experience for the average player.

One aspect of the Hopkins business plan is particularly shocking. So much so that I ask Hopkins to repeat it, because I wasn’t sure I had heard it correctly.  My first reaction; Is this guy insane?  Then I thought about it for a minute…I mean, really thought about what he was saying.  What Hopkins came up with is an ingenious concept and will forever change your understanding of the slogan, “What can brown do for you?”

What Can Brown Do For Your Golf Clubs?

Listen to how Hopkins Wedges are created and eventually make it to your doorstep.

Hopkins wedges are cast from 8620 carbon steel in the same Chinese factory where other well-known American brands are created.  The heads are designed by Greg Hopkins himself. Although the phrase “Hopkins design” never made it into the marketing, it’s something he had been quietly doing for years at Cleveland.

The heads, along with all of the other component parts, arrive at a UPS Distribution Center in Southern California – one of the largest in the United States.  Hopkins Golf has a unique partnership with UPS, and that’s where the Hopkins story gets, well…different.

UPS employees build your clubs.

Let me say that again.

UPS employees build your clubs…assembly, paint-fill, custom stamping…everything.

UPS does it all.

Hopkins developed an operational partnership with UPS and secured 18 employees dedicated exclusively to the Hopkins Golf Company.  Hopkins built an assembly plant inside the UPS hub in Mira Loma, CA. The employees were chosen directly from the UPS roster and trained to build golf equipment.

The result is one of, if not the fastest turnaround for a custom built club in the industry.

“The wedges go right from the production floor to either a UPS truck or airplane.” – Greg Hopkins, CEO Hopkins Golf

The entire process is completed in one building.  When the customer places the order online, it’s immediately built onsite, packaged, and shipped in less than one business day.

It works, I verified it with three of my own.

The idea originated on the golf course, during a round at Oakmont with the President of UPS.  It started as just two guys kicking around an idea.  Years later, it’s the Hopkins Golf reality.

Building Clubs he Hopkins Way

Hopkins asked if I had ever seen a factory or assembly facility from a major OEM.  I thought, of course I have. I am SPY ZINGER. He made light of the fact that companies do not make it a common practice to hire professional club-makers to assemble their clubs.  They hire employees then teach them the trade.  “I had to go in and train them and spent weeks and weeks doing it.”  That’s exactly what he is doing here, teaching existing UPS employees how to build clubs the Hopkins Golf way.

So if UPS is heading up this process, they must come dirty, beat up, and looking like they’ve been through war, just like their packages, right?  I put their process to the test, and here is what I have found.

Barely two months in, the Hopkins process is streamlined.  Other than a minor cosmetic paint-fill smudge (an easy fix), the three wedges I ordered we flawless.  The loft, lie, length, and swing-weight were exact. All wedges arrived at D4, which must be a stock weight because you cannot specify this when ordering.

The stamping was well done.  The grinds were cut to perfection, and there were no bending marks or build defects to report.  Apart from the paint smudges, the wedges arrived exactly as ordered; nearly perfect – almost like they came from a company who has been at this for a while now.

The wedges ship in a sturdy cylinder with the club-heads embedded into thick foam. They’re packaged better than anything I’ve seen to date, and will almost certainly arrive to your doorstep undamaged. I love to give you a list of their shortcomings, but short of the smudged paint fill, there really aren’t any.

Direct to You

For now, Hopkins golf has no plans to bring their equipment to big box retailers or green grass shops.  Direct to consumer is their business model and where they intend to stay.  Giving the customer a variety of custom options is difficult to do in big box environment and would make it more difficult for them to manage inventory.

“The basis of the company is giving the customer what they want.  I want them to be able to walk into their tour van, which is my website, and get what they want. That’s the company.” -Greg Hopkins

Currently Hopkins only offers wedges in one finish; Tour Raw.  They chose that finish because, as the name suggests, it’s what is preferred on tour.  “We’re a tour authentic company, so that’s the finish we launched with.”  However, more finish options (black and chrome) are arriving soon along with some additional grind options and additional lofts (46, 48, 62, 64).

While Hopkins Golf currently manufactures and sells wedges exclusively, Greg Hopkins says the plan is to progress through the bag, and will most likely be adding irons to the portfolio next.

“You’ll see some irons out of Hopkins Golf in 2014…absolutely.  I’ve not used all my bags of tricks just yet.” – Greg Hopkins

Hopkins Golf On Tour

Hopkins golf already has a fairly significant presence on the Champions Tour.  The reason for the focus on the Champions Tour, Hopkins said, is twofold: “Most of these guys, I have known for most of my life, most all of them are friends of mine.”  Hopkins said that with all of the full-bag contracts on the PGA Tour, the available population pool for his wedges is fairly small.

“There are not many bags I can get them into simply because the players are under contract.  It’s pay to play out there.  One hundred percent, pay to play.  On the Champions Tour, some of them have contracts, but most of them don’t.  We’re knocking on the door for the #2 company with the most wedges in play [on the Champions Tour].  That’s unheard of for a start-up company…unheard of.  And, that’s with little to no money.  The product is good, these guys know me, they trust me.  So it was the right tour to go after.” – Greg Hopkins

I asked Greg if, having worked at TaylorMade as a salesman, and at Cleveland as CEO, if he was having fun working on a start-up company bearing his own name.

“As companies mature, as they become more successful, corporate, they get away from that golfers mentality.  It goes through a metamorphosis, sitting in a boardroom is not as much fun as coming up with ideas on a better grind, then running out to the course and trying them out.  It’s what I did at TaylorMade in the early days, it’s what I did at Cleveland, and that’s what I am doing now again.  I am having fun…I am having a lot of fun.  I am a golfer that learned about business.  I am not a business man that happened to play golf.  My first and primary love is golf, and that’s what makes it fun.” –Greg Hopkins

At first glance, Hopkins Golf would appear to be the latest in a growing line of niche wedge companies, but in talking to Hopkins, I got the sense wedges are really just the beginning.  It’s clear to me that if all goes according to plan, the direct to consumer, tour van experience is going to eventually cover every club in the bag.

Just listening to Hopkins talk; he seems genuinely excited to present his brand, and it’s obvious he believes in both his product and his business model.  My impression is that Hopkins is going to perfect each category of equipment, then move along to the next. First wedges, then irons, driver, fairway, and eventually, perhaps even putters.

Personally, I would love to see the tour van custom Argyle sweater vest

“Within the industry, guys know me, the tour guys know me.  I think they know what I can do.  To the general golfer, I am just the guy in the argyle sweater.  Hopkins is the one company in golf where the business really is about the golfer.  We want to give them the tour van experience.  Because we are giving them the tour van experience, we offer them options no other company in golf can and at a cheaper price.”. –Greg Hopkins

:: Website: HopkinsGolf.com
:: Like Hopkins Golf on Facebook
:: Follow Hopkins Golf on Twitter

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Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

Review – Leupold GX-1i and GX-2i Laser Rangefinders

Review – Leupold GX-1i and GX-2i Laser Rangefinders

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Leupold GX-1i vs. GX-2i:  Slope or Nope

by Dave Wolfe

To slope or not to slope, that’s the question.

OK so I don’t know if it is really the question, but it is a question that you need to think about when shopping for a laser rangefinder. To make this decision, you need to consider the type of golf that you play and where you play that golf.

Is your home course flat or does it have lots of elevated tees and greens? Are you planning on using the laser in tournaments, or are you a casual player looking to get the most accurate distance numbers possible. “Slope or nope slope?” really should be a simple question to answer with a little golf game reflection.

Luckily most of the laser rangefinder companies offer their units in both with slope and nope-slope configurations. Slope or not, you can get the laser rangefinder that you need for your game. What I have for review today are Leupold’s new GX-1i and GX-2i laser rangefinders. The GX-1i is the no-slope unit, while the GX-2i will give you yardages calculated for slope. As you will see, the GX-2i can actually take more than just slope into account when giving you that distance that you are looking for.

 

Looks + Feel

The GX-1i and the GX-2i share the same basic body design. They both feature a very hand-friendly shape, with the smooth plastic base complementing the tacky rubber on the top. The only real cosmetic difference between the two units is that the GX-2i has a grey body, while the GX-1i’s is black. The lasers’ solid feel/ergonomics is also demonstrated by access to the buttons.

The seldom-used MODE button is in a place where you won’t hit it accidentally. The frequently pressed power button is right where you finger goes looking for it. It’s easy to find without having to see it.

 

Like the previously reviewed Leupold PinCaddie laser, the GX-1i and GX-2i units have a lanyard attachment sites, but you really won’t need a lanyard as these lasers also come with the excellent Leupold carrying case. The case is amazingly well designed in terms of utility.  The top is easy to open via a bungee/hook closure.  There are slots for the cleaning cloth (included) and an extra battery (just one battery is included).  The back has a hook to attach the case to your bag, as well as a loop to attach the case to your belt.

A very cool feature of both the GX-1i and GX-2i units is the ability to choose between seven different targeting reticules. The shapes range from a classic cross shape to a diamond, including many permutations of cross and diamond. I went with the Diamond Plex with Plus Point reticule.

Looks + Feel Score: 20/20

 

Performance

Leupold GX-1i and GX-2i Specs:

  • 6x Magnification
  • 23mm objective aperture
  • Line of Sight Distance
  • DNA® (Digitally Enhanced Accuracy)
  • Pin Hunter Targeting
  • Yards/Meters
  • Fog Mode
  • Inclinometer– GX-2i
  • TGR™ (True Golf Range) – GX-2i
  • Club Selector™ – GX-2i
  • Quick Set Menu
  • Weatherproof
  • GX-1i is USGA Legal (not GX-2i)
  • Black LCD Display
  • 800 yard range to reflective target
  • 400 yard range on non-reflective target
  • 6.2 ounces
  • 4×2.75×1.5 inches
  • 1 year warranty
  • Battery good for >6 Actuations

 

Ease of Use

The GX-1i is the paramount of ease. You press POWER to turn it on, and then press POWER again for your reading. If you want to get a variety of ranges, just hold down the button and sweep through targets. Easy. The rubber eye cup also easily folds down for use with glasses.

 

The GX-2i works fundamentally the same way, press POWER to turn on and again to range, but the set-up for all of its features is a bit more involved. You see, in addition to taking slope into account when calculating yardage, the GX-2i can also be calibrated to include temperature and course elevation into the overall yardage. This can be a huge help for the traveling golfer who plays in a variety of locations.

Now you don’t need to guess the yardage boost in the mountains, or loss at the ocean. The GX-2i can do that for you. Getting into the menus and changing the settings is a little challenging at first due to the navigation-restricting, two-button design of the unit, but gets easier with practice. There is also an included laminated card (that fits in the case) to guide you through the setting should you need a refresher.

 

On the Course

I was fortunate to have both of these units at the same time so I could truly compare them head to head. Truth be told, I did actually try to use them simultaneously. Sadly, simultaneous dual lasing was not successful…

High Points for the Leupold GX-1i and GX-2i:

  • Optics: Amazingly clear! Simple diopter adjustment can really get you some of the best images that I have seen in a rangefinder.
  • Speed:  Quick to fire up and quick to range.
  • A+ Case: The well-designed case really does make it easy to quickly get the unit, and then to put it away.  You can take readings without slowing down play at all. The loop closure keeps the lid on while the plastic hook keeps it attached to your bag.
  • Targeting Non-Flags: Both adeptly measured trees, hazards, and other non-flag objects.
  • Deep Battery Life: >6K Actuations is a thousand shots less than the Leupold PinCaddie, but still probably more shots than you will take in a year. Outstanding battery life.
  • Range:  Both of these units get a bump in range compared to the PinCaddie. 800 yards to a reflective target (prism) and 400 to a pin are more than adequate for my game, even when I top that drive on a par 5.
  • Targeting:  The DNA® (Digitally Enhanced Accuracy) feature again elevates these units above the less expensive PinCaddie. I don’t mean to keep bashing the PinCaddie. For what it is, the PinCaddie is an excellent budget-featured and budget-priced unit. These two are just better performing because of better components. Even with the DNA®, it’s still possible to occasionally pick up objects behind the pin, but it did not happen very often. If it hits a prism, it will beep and lock the yardage in as well. This actually scared me a bit the first time it happened…

 

GX-2i Calculated Yardages

The big differences between the two units is the fact that the GX-2i can give you a number that takes incline, temperature, and elevation into account. As I mentioned before, you will need to decide if this feature is useful to you based upon where you play.

I don’t typically play golf in non-slope laser situations (i.e. tournaments) and as such I appreciate the calculated number. Over the years of using sloped lasers, I think that this has helped my game. It’s educational to see the difference between the measured number and calculated number as I look up and down at greens. Now I find that if I am playing with a GPS or non-slope laser, I still have an idea about how to adjust my yardage due to slope laser training.

The temperature and elevation features on the GX-2i were not as useful to me as most of my golf occurs at the same elevation and relative temperature. Again, if you travel a bunch, this may be a huge boon to your game. If you are in Tahoe one week, and then Maui the next, then the chance to program in the temperature and elevation could be huge.

Going a bit on a tangent, the GX-2i got me thinking about the next generation laser tech. I envision a laser that can connect via Bluetooth to a small portable weather unit. This unit will measure temperature, elevation, humidity, and wind speed, sending all of this data to the laser. The laser then calculates the yardage based upon measured distance and sensor data. The weather unit could be mounted to a cart, your bag, your hat, or something. I like the image of golfers playing with little wind monitors spinning on their hats. Maybe you could even tell it what ball you are playing and it can take ball performance characteristics into account.

GX-2i Club Selector™

The GX-2i can also function as a digital caddy for the golfer, suggesting the correct club for a given distance. You first will need to input accurate distances for your 4, 6, and 8 irons. Once these are in, the GX-2i can then suggest what club to play when you take a range measurement. It can even tell you if you are in between clubs. Honestly, I’m not totally sure about the necessity of this feature. It seems like the golfer who is dedicated enough to buy a laser rangefinder will also likely know distances for each club.

Once you have the slope-adjusted range, you will likely already know the club to hit. Maybe this is a way that someone could learn what club to hit, like I learned how much to adjust for slope over the sloped-laser rounds. I just don’t know though.

Performance Score: 60/60

Value

So let’s get to the pricing.  The Leupold GX-1i comes in at a suggested retail price of $374.99, with the suggested price of the GX-2i being $439.99. A little bit of searching <cough> Amazon.com <cough> will turn up prices that are about $100 off of the MSRP. If we compare these units to the pricing of their competitors, both of the Leupold units are priced below other similar units from other brands. Outstanding value.

Value Score: 20/20

Overall Score: 100/100


Summary

The Leupold GX-1i and GX-2i are the best laser rangefinders of 2013. The GX-1i and GX-2i both met and exceeded every challenge and expectation that I could throw at them. I really could not find a single thing that was left wanting on either unit. You will need to decide if the features of the GX-2i warrant the extra cost, but that is really the only decision you need to make. One of these lasers will be hanging off of my bag for the remainder of 2013, and the Leupold GX-1i and GX-2i will be a tough act for rangefinder companies to top in 2014.

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

First Look – TaylorMade Ghost Tour Series Putters

First Look – TaylorMade Ghost Tour Series Putters

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It’s Time to Come Clean

I have a confession to make. I don’t hate TaylorMade putters.

Actually…that’s not the complete truth of the matter. The full truth…and it pains me to admit this publicly…I actually like TaylorMade putters.

There…I said it.

I’m such a toolbag.

Look, I’m no different than a lot of you reading this. I love Bettinardi putters, and to a lesser extent Scotty Camerons too. Like most anyone else, I can see the beauty in a Gene Nead, or T.P. Mills design.

I’m not blind.

I would love to bag one of those semi-boutique to boutique putters. I’m not even put-off by the $350+ price tag.

I’ve tried a bunch, some with more success than others, and yet, try as I might to be one of the cool kids who putts with artwork, I keep finding my way back to less expensive, mass-produced (oh, the horror!), non-milled putters from the likes of TaylorMade and Odyssey.

Shame on me.

My only defense is that I like making birdies…and the occasional eagle.

We won’t talk about that 11 I carded during my Club Championship…except to say that it was a 1-putt, 11, which is nice.

She’s Got a Nice Personality

The story coming out of TaylorMade is that they took a full year working on the aesthetics of the new Ghost Tour Series. The goal was to create a stunningly beautiful lineup of putters.

Look, I’m not saying TaylorMade wasted their time, or failed or anything rotten like that, but the reality is that when it comes to the aesthetics of putter design, TaylorMade isn’t (and my hunch is they have no desire to) playing at the same level as some others.

If for whatever reason you find yourself disagreeing with that last statement, go check out BettinardiTourStock.com and then get back to me.

My point is that, for now anyway, TaylorMade has voluntary pigeon-holed themselves as a company who makes nothing but white putters with inserts. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does limit your options as far as getting creative goes, and it most certainly limits your consumer appeal.

“Without a doubt, golfers will be blown away when they set one of these putters down for the first time” – Brian Bazzel, Category Directory for Putters and Wedges, TaylorMade-adidas Golf

Are they ugly putters? No (unless you despise white putters – in which case, yes, they’re hideous), but you’re probably not going to find the homecoming queen in this crowd either (unless you’re from Iowa).

Subtle Refinements

What TaylorMade has done (at least judging by the 3 samples they sent us) is make subtle refinements to what are admittedly the staples of most any putter lineup. Of the 3 models TaylorMade sent (Daytona 12, Seabring 62, and Fontana 72), the Daytona 12  (Anser 2 style) is the one that most appeals to me, perhaps because it’s not dissimilar from my current gamer.

Unlike the relatively bland (grey or black/white) finish on the sole of previous Ghost releases, TaylorMade chose to put a mirror-black, ion-plated finish on the new Tour series. While it’s a small detail, and largely inconsequential as far as functionality goes, it’s TaylorMade’s best sole work in recent memory…maybe ever.

If you can get past whatever issues you have with white paint, and inserts…strip all of that away and what you’re left with is a putter with soft flowing lines, a perfectly balanced sole, and (let me chose my words carefully) feel – at least for the 2 blade designs – that’s not unlike what you get from carbon steel millings.

Feel in the Fontana mallet is more muted, and insert-IER…more inserty…insertish…you get the point.

Sans the white paint, if the same designs came out of Cameron’s studio, nobody would think any less of him.

The feel thing might come as a shock to those of you who have experience with other TaylorMade inserts. Feel, in my opinion, has never been the strength of the TaylorMade putter line, but with the new lineup, that may have changed a bit.

The new Ghost Tour series features a new insert which TaylorMade is calling the 8020 Pure Roll. While the name 8020 might suggest some form of steel-based metallurgy, the latest incarnation of PureRoll is actually 80% Surlyn and 20% Aluminum (I see what they did there).

For the sake of comparison, the current generation of counterbalanced putters (Spider Blade, Daddy Long Legs, etc.) features a 100% Surlyn insert, which offers a much more muted (really insert-like) feel.  The counterbalanced design actually benefits from the muted feel, but my hunch is that I’d like Daddy Long Legs a whole lot more with the 8020 in it.

It’s All About Alignment

Sure…you can tweak feel, and refine the design aesthetics, but short of doing something different (like counterbalancing) it’s pretty difficult to make any actual performance improvements to the putters themselves.

Nobody is looking for 10 more yards, or even 10 more feet from their putter.

Instead, the putter performance story is often one of alignment.

Odyssey basically won the Pulitzer with their Versa alignment story, but TaylorMade has an alignment story of their own to tell…and it’s not the worst one I’ve ever heard.

As with most things TaylorMade these days, the story includes a chapter on contrast. The white top line contrasts with the green hues of the putting surface, and while it’s not a story TaylorMade appears to be telling, the contrasting black, non-insert portion of the face can provide a visual indicator if you’ve got the face open at address.

That’s not bad, but the alignment ‘trick’ I find most useful is what TaylorMade calls the First and Second Read Alignment System. The linear alignment system, which  is also built into the counterbalance series, features a primary sight line inside the cavity that’s paired with a series of contrasting (white), narrow secondary alignment lines which frame the ball perfectly, and in theory, make it much easier to align the putter to the target.

It works very well for me. Actual mileage, especially for guys who loathe any sort of sight line,  may vary.

The Verdict

Like I said…I mostly like TaylorMade putters (their wedges…umm…not so much), and there’s definitely nothing in this new crop that makes me think any less of them. The refinements are relatively subtle but come together nicely in a series of designs that are arguably the most sophisticated TaylorMade has released since Kia Ma’s name was on their putters.

It nearly goes without saying that if you’re not a fan of white, the new Ghost Tour Series doesn’t offer much incentive to give TaylorMade another look. This is, however, TaylorMade we’re talking about, so wait 3 months…you never know.

For those who were on the fence, or just didn’t get on-board with the counterbalance thing, it’s conceivable you’ll find something you like in this group.

Me…as intrigued as I am by the Daytona 12, I’m sticking with my current gamer.

Couterbalance, baby!

Models, Price, and Availability

The new Ghost Tour Series features three blade styles (Daytona 12, Daytona 62, and Seabring 62) and four mallets (Maranello 81, Fontana 72, Monte Carlo 12, and Corza 72). As you would expect the new putters will be available in lengths of 33″, 34″, and 35″ inches.

Retail availability begins September 1st. All models will retail for $149

TaylorMade Ghost Tour-1
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-11
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-13
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-15
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-16
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-19
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-2
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-20
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-21
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-22
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-23
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-24
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-26
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-28
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-29
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-3
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-30
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-31
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-32
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-33
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-5
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-6
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-7
TaylorMade Ghost Tour-8

 

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

Get World Class Instruction at the Kapalua Golf Academy

Get World Class Instruction at the Kapalua Golf Academy

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By Dave Wolfe

As those of you who read the MyGolfSpy Forum know, I was fortunate enough to vacation in Maui this summer. As I was looking over golf possibilities for the trip, I came across a promotion offered by the Kapalua Golf Academy. The promotion included a three-hour instruction session at the Kapalua Golf Academy, lunch at the Plantation Restaurant, and then finished off with an afternoon round on the Kapalua Plantation course.

All of this for $339 – dropping to $309 if you can find another golfer, or two, to go with you. I was impressed by the deal, but more so intrigued with the nature of the instruction at the Kapalua Academy. I have wondered for a while what you can really take from one of these short course academies.

Are we talking about instruction that will yield lasting improvement, or is this just a cool three-hour golf activity?

On a bright and sunny Maui Friday, armed only with golf gloves, golf shoes, and curiosity, we caught a cab in Ka’anapali and headed to the Kapalua Academy, ariving with plenty of time to spare before the 8:00 am class. What a view! I can’t imagine a more amazing setting for a golf school. Those of you who followed my progress through the day via Twitter have already had a taste of the Kapalua Golf Academy vistas, but those photos, and the ones that I have included today really just do not do the beauty justice. We had about twenty minutes to kill before the class started, and I swear I spent most of the time just gaping around and muttering “Wow”.

 

Question 1: Do I need to bring my clubs?

No, you do not need to bring your clubs. You may get a little more out of it with your own gear, but only a little. The Kapalua Academy had excellent Callaway rental clubs, all from this year. The stiff rentals were X Hot Pro woods and irons, with the regular clubs being X Hot. They were in great shape as the clubs at the academy likely get less traffic than the rental clubs on a course would.

 

Instruction Part 1: Putting

After some introductions, our instructor, PGA Professional Ben Hondo led us through his philosophy on the dynamics of putting. One of the interesting things about Ben’s instruction in general was that it was very data driven, with the putting instruction being no exception. We spent some time going over the impact of face angle on putting performance, as well as the accuracy of tour players at various distances. Ben’s goal for the putting section really came down to two areas: Putting Effectiveness and Effective Putting Practice.

 

Putting Effectiveness

Our first drill came in the form of hitting straight putts from four feet. Prior to class, Ben had drawn green lines on the practice green demarking the straight putts. As we prepared for the drill, Ben explained that this short putt really represents the critical make distance, and that it’s the distance that tour level putters make at a very high percentage. To achieve that make percentage, Ben explained, one needs to be properly aligned to the target line. He acknowledged that individuals use different features of the putter when aligning that club, and that that was totally OK. However he did make one bold statement with regards to the ball.

97% of tour players use the line on the ball to aim, and the other 3% should.  –Ben Hongo, Director of Instruction, Kapalua Golf Academy

As one of those “3%” guys, I found this very interesting. I have tried using the ball’s line on more than one occasion, and I find that I always second-guess that line when I address the ball. Perhaps this is just a matter of practice and confidence. Since the academy, I have been lining up putts under 10’ and it does seem to help. We will see…

The second drill that we did was all about correlating the length of the swing with the distance of the putt. We set up 30’ from the hole, standing in front of metal yardsticks that were sitting on the turf. Ben explained that for his tempo, a 30’ putt corresponded with a 20” back swing with the putter.

20” was not how far the head actually had to travel from address, but rather where a continuation of the shaft line on the backswing would hit 20”. Ben explained while many players know the distance of their last iron shot into the green, fewer will know the distance of their last putt. By walking off your putt, and having a set swing length to hit the ball 30’, a golfer should develop a better mechanism for distance control and reduce putts per round. The goal was to get that initial 30-footer inside of your 5-foot, high percentage distance.

 

Effective Putting Practice

During these drills, Ben explained that many people waste their time when practicing putting. Tour pro make percentage drops off after five feet, and then even more after ten feet from the cup. In spite of this, many amateurs will drop balls ten feet from the cup and practice these over and over. Instead, Ben recommended that we practice the five-foot putts that we need to make a high percentage of, and the thirty-foot putts. The approach shot of most amateurs is not going to be result in a putt outside of ten feet. Working on the touch from distance, rather than practicing low-percentage ten-footers, should result in fewer three putts.

Question 2: What’s the student to instructor ratio?

Our group was made up of four students to one instructor. This was much better than I expected. I also saw another lesson group start after us that had a 3-1 ratio, so I think that this class size must be fairly typical. You will get individual time with the instructor at Kapalua.

If you are looking at a program at another site, I am sure you can find out the ratio with a phone call.

Chipping and Pitching

Next, Ben took us through the basics of effective chipping and pitching. Chipping centered around using your highest lofted wedge, pinching the ball to ensure a low, rolling-out trajectory. Pitching instruction centered more on impacting the ground with the bounce of the wedge rather than the leading edge.

You may be one of those guys who makes full-swing flop shots from the edge of the green, but that shot has always scared the hell out of me. When I get the nerve to try it, I am usually rewarded with some nasty bye-bye blade-y ball.

Ben showed me something that I think will take me toward being more successful with this shot. He took a wedge and hit a chip shot, and then a pitch shot off of a painted white 2×4 to show where the club impacts the turf with the two shots . Look at the marks on the wedge. I don’t know why, but I feel that this visual has helped me to really see the difference between the two shots.

The flop still scares me, but I think I now have a better idea about what it is, and perhaps how to hit it.

 

Question 3: Are the academy instructors quality instructors?

I can only base this on my experience at Kapalua, but our instructor, Ben Hondo, has earned a handful of awards as an instructor, including “Golf Professional of the Year-PGA Aloha Section”. The Kapalua instructors are all PGA Teaching Professionals with more than ten years of experience at Kapalua alone.

Be sure to check the instructor bios if you are considering a golf academy at a different location.

 

Full Swing Instruction

One of the coolest things about the full swing instruction was that Ben incorporated a portable video analysis system. One by one he filmed our swings from the side and then down the line. After watching the swings with Ben, he pointed out where we could improve, following up with some drills and range supervision.

My prior lessons have made me very aware of my swing issues. After a few moments of video analysis, Ben picked out the same faults as my previous instructor. This speaks well of Ben’s quality as an instructor, and poorly of my ability to get rid of near-fatal swing flaws.

Overall, it was obvious that Ben was not trying to give each one of the students the same general golf curriculum, but rather individual tips and drills tailored to the needs of the individual. If I was a Maui resident, I would definitely sign up for additional lessons with Ben.

 

Question 4: Did having a lesson in the morning mess up your round in the afternoon?

This one is difficult to answer. I’m going to say maybe, but probably not. I did have some of the academy-fresh swing thoughts show up during the round, but I think that they likely helped my score as many times as they hurt it. I know that with more repetition, Ben’s teachings will ultimately be helpful.

On the lighter side, having a morning lesson with Ben did give us all a scapegoat whenever we miss-hit a ball or forgot his tip that all putts break toward Molakai.

 

On to the Plantation Course

Once we finished with Ben, my father-in-law and I caught a ride up to the Plantation course. We checked in and headed into the restaurant for lunch. I ate a very average salad while looking at very spectacular views of the 18th hole. The sun was out; the ocean was bright blue. It was going to be an amazing round!

 

After lunch, we headed to the starter where we paired up with the two other guys who had attended the academy with us that morning. We had a little time, so we hit a few on the visually stunning range and then warmed up the flatsticks on the greens that Ben had coached us about that morning.

The Plantation course rental clubs were Titleist AP2 irons with 913 metals, with a Cameron Laguna 2 putter.

I get the irons and woods choice, but the putter model still befuddles me. It seemed like we should have had “more-normal” Newport 2’s instead of the more unique Laguna 2 head. I have a Laguna 2 in the arsenal, and I like it, but it still seems weird that it was the rental putter. But hey, it was a Cameron putter in a rental set. How cool is that?

Anyway, we teed off on #1. I actually hit a good drive, in spite of first tee nerves and we were all ready for a memorable round. Here is a time-lapse video that I shot of the first ten holes using a Sony Action Cam. See if you can guess what made the round one to remember.

Yep, rain. I knew that it rains in the afternoon in Maui, but everyone I talked to said that it only rains for a bit and then clears out.

We had rain holes 3-18. Not just rain, but strong winds and pouring rain. I know it’s a cliche to site Caddyshack is a golf article, but that is the type of storm we are talking about here. I quickly understood why the carts came with built-in rain covers for the clubs.

The four of us were totally soaked. I actually poured water out of my shoes after the round. Thankfully it was still fairly warm out. Even as wet as it was, the Plantation course was amazing. I wish that we could have had better weather so that I could truly appreciate it more, but playing that round in the downpour with my father-in-law is not something I will soon forget. Plus, I now have a great reason to go back and play again.

 

Question 5: Would you do it again?

When I come back to Maui, I would love to repeat my day at Kapalua, perhaps minus torrential rain and wind. I feel like my game would benefit from another few hours of Ben’s instruction. I would like to get over to the Kapalua Bay course for a round since we did not play that track. If you need to ask if I would play the Plantation course again well then you sir are none too bright.

 

Wrapping up the Day

I think that many of you would enjoy the day that we spent at Kapalua. OK, so maybe not the rain, but the other aspects were outstanding. Ben Hongo was a great instructor who didn’t try to do too much to our swings, rather giving us some drills and pointers that could be applied and practiced when we returned home.

The lesson and play package is a true deal, perhaps overlooking the price to get to Maui in the first place. However, if you are planning a trip to Maui, and looking for an amazing day of golf, I can’t recommend enough that you look into the Kapalua Golf Academy.

When I go back to Maui, I guarantee I’m doing it again.

The memories of that day will last for quite a while. I also can’t wait to see how the pro’s play the Plantation course next year at the 2014 Hyunday Tournament of Champions. The challenges presented by that course make me appreciate just how good those pros really are. Huge thanks to Ben Hondo and all of the staff at Kapalua. You have developed something special at Kapalua.

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

Club Testers Wanted – SCOR4161 Scoring System

Club Testers Wanted – SCOR4161 Scoring System

Post image for Club Testers Wanted – SCOR4161 Scoring System

Does Your Short Game Need Help?

The team at SCOR Golf has asked us to round up 5 MyGolfSpy Forum Members to test their 5 club scoring system.

When it comes to wedges…excuse me scoring clubs (because SCOR is about a lot more than wedges), SCOR might not be the household name that Vokey and Cleveland are, but as positive reviews build, and word gets out, it might very well be a matter of time before the golfing consumer starts to put his money behind the idea that scoring clubs are more important than the 10 more yards fantasy. When that happens…say goodbye to wedges, and say hello to the scoring set.

Why SCOR Golf

In the “arms race “for more distance, club manufacturers have sabotaged what SCOR believes is the most important part of your bag – the scoring part.

The scoring end of the set either hasn’t evolved with the modern game, or has evolved poorly.  Golfers everywhere have been forced to choose between 60 year old wedge designs and cavity back scoring clubs that make it more difficult than ever to control trajectory and distance with the high loft clubs.

The SCOR4161 scoring system, with patented SG3 progressive weighting design, proprietary shaft combinations, and dynamic V-Sole, mark the first meaningful innovation in the scoring game in 60 years.

Combined with SCORFit – SCOR’s proprietary online fitting tool – SCOR delivers the complete scoring range package:  A solution designed both for the modern game, and your individual game.

What You Get, What’s Expected

The 5 readers chosen by the MyGolfSpy Staff  will receive a 5 Club SCOR Golf Prescription (8 iron – lob wedge). Those same 5 readers will be asked to provide other MyGolfSpy readers with a comprehensive review of the SCOR system.

Thorough is what we do, and we ask the same of our readers. Please don’t apply if you’re not willing to do the work.

  • Can a 5 club scoring set replace your current short irons and wedges?
  • Does the SCOR4161 deliver on its promise of lower scores?

I don’t know.

It’s your job (at least it could be) to find out.

Requirements

:: Must be a resident of North America (USA, Canada, or Mexico)
:: Must be a MyGolfSpy Forum Member in good standing
:: Must be able to string sentences together in a coherent fashion (wit and humor are a bonus)
:: Must be capable of producing quality photos of golf equipment
:: Must have willingness, time, and ability to thoroughly test a matched set of 5 SCOR4161 Scoring Clubs

How To Enter

Check out the MyGolfSpy SCORFit Pro Website.

Use the SCORFit Short Game Analysis Tool to determine your 5 Club Prescription

To enter, leave a post in the SCOR Testing Thread (click link) that contains the following:

  • Your current handicap (or your average 18 hole score)
  • 1 original photo of one or more of your current scoring clubs (8 iron-LW)
  • Your SCORFit 5 Club Prescription.

*The Final Tester will be chosen no later that Friday, August 30th at 5PM Eastern Time.

:: SIGN UP NOW ::

SCOR Short Game Clubs-7
SCOR Short Game Clubs-6
SCOR Short Game Clubs-5
SCOR Short Game Clubs-3

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

First Look! – TRUE Linkswear 2014 Lineup

First Look! – TRUE Linkswear 2014 Lineup

Post image for First Look! – TRUE Linkswear 2014 Lineup

We know lots of you are fans of TRUE Linkswear. It’s almost insane to think that 2014 will bring the fourth generation for the minimalist golf shoe that took the world by storm (relatively speaking of course). 4 years…already.

We don’t have much in the way of info yet, but we do have some pics of Ryan Moore wearing the new shoes at The Barclays at Liberty National.

What do you think? Do these look like something you’ll be adding to your shoe rack in 2014?  And if so, which one do you like best.

 

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)