Callaway’s Apex Muscleback is Neither Bertha Fast nor Bertha Long

Callaway’s Apex Muscleback is Neither Bertha Fast nor Bertha Long

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Written By: Tony Covey

“The Apex Muscleback Irons are classically crafted, Tour inspired blades with playability in our most premium forged design, and if you’re an elite player, they need to be in your bag.”

Very quietly (by current Callaway standards anyway) Callaway has begun the process of letting the world know about their new 2014 Apex Muscleback. For now the Twitterverse is nearly mute, but give the boys time, I’m sure we’ll have a hashtag or two before the introductory period is over.

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Is it the Right Time?

We know the industry is in a bad place right now, but that doesn’t mean the global release machine is going to (nor should it) come to a halt. Mizuno is moving forward. Titleist is moving forward. Callaway and Nike are moving forward too.

Given my rumored hatred for all things Callaway (you guys kill me), I’m sure some of you are expecting that I’ve come here today to bury the Apex MB, not to praise it.

So what the hell, let’s get on with it.

The language deficit continues. Shame on Callaway for playing on a series of predictable cliches that are omnipresent in the marketing of blade designs.

  • The new irons are Tour Inspired
  • They offer playability
  • They are most premium (premium is arguably an absolute)
  • And apparently unlike most irons which are manufactured, the Apex MBs are crafted…and classically so.

Yes, I am nitpicking, but if I come right out and tell you that I can’t find any real fault with what Callaway is doing here, the “how much did Callaway pay you crowd” will bury me too.

I’m trying to find some balance – My own personal Zen of Callaway if you will.

Ommmm.

Passing the Sniff Test

In reality, Apex Muscleback has the markings of a very solid release from Callaway. If we consider the new iron within the context of everything that is going wrong in the golf equipment industry right now, the Apex MB more than passes the sniff test.

By my recollection, the last true blade in the Callaway lineup (RAZR X MB) was released in early 2011. My personal feeling is that 3 years is an appropriate amount of time between releases, so there’s not a rational complaint to be made here about Callaway flooding the market in this particular category.

There is clear differentiation between the new Apex MB and everything else in the current lineup. It’s a blade, the only blade. There’s no reasonable chance of confusing the consumer, or overwhelming him with an overabundance of overly-similar products.

The marketing…at least the early marketing…is largely BS free. The Apex MB isn’t #BerthaFast or #BerthaLong it’s not Bertha anything (probably because it’s not a Bertha), and it’s not 3, 5, 7, or 17 yards longer than Callaway’s previous blade (apparently) or any of the other Callaway irons you may have purchased 3 months ago.

It’s a true player’s blade, and Callaway is treating that with the seriousness it commands.

high-performance-grooves

Yes, I nitpicked a few cliches and I don’t love High Performance Grooves, but everything has to have a clever name, and in fairness, Callaway has to say something to entice us. If they wrote it 100% as reality it would read more like this:

“The tour inspired Apex MB would look great in any golf bag, however, the majority of you have absolutely no business playing such an inherently unforgiving design, and frankly, you’d be better off with the standard Apex or even X2 Hot. A healthy percentage of our Tour Pros will likely play something more forgiving, and let’s face it, you…you’re no Phil Mickelson.”

Even I’ll admit that if the goal is to actually sell irons, Callaway wrote it better.

Aesthetics

Aesthetically the Apex MB is everything you’d expect from a true muscleback, and more specifically a Callaway muscleback. While the company has gradually transitioned away from the X-everything nomenclature of recent years, elements of the X-shaped back design remain.

Cosmetically that means the new irons will look nice alongside any Mack Daddy 2 (or X Forged Jaws CC) wedges you might have, or the new Apex Utility. It also means the Apex MB may not appeal to the purists who are absolute in their belief of what a blade should look like.

Worth a mention, while the X design fits well within the construct of that previous X-based marketing, the design was functional as it related to the placement of mass and the center of gravity. I’m guessing that’s still true today. At some point maybe the Callaway guys will stand in front of a coffee maker and discuss it in more detail.

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From what we can tell, the rest looks pretty straightforward. Compact heads, thin toplines, minimal offset…you know the drill. What we don’t yet know (and chances are a set won’t be showing up on my doorstep) is whether Callaway has gone the progressive route and shaped the long irons a bit differently than the short.

I don’t believe they have, and here’s hoping that’s true. It’s a true muscleback afterall. There’s no need to get fancy.

Specifications

apex-mb-spec

The most hardcore of traditionalists will lament the fact that the pitching wedge is only 47° and that the 5-iron is an ungodly long 38″. By modern standards, however; I’d say the specs are on point. This is as close to traditional as you’re going to find. It’s time to move on fellas, the good ol’ days of niblicks and mashies are over.

At D1, the swingweight is perhaps a bit on the light side, but I’m sure Callaway’s custom department can help you with that. And while they’re at it, if you ask nicely, they can probably build off a 37.75″ 5-iron if you prefer.

Pricing

Like the other 2 sets in the Callaway Apex series, the Apex MB will hit the street for the higher-than-average prices of $1099 (retail 9/12/2014). $1100 (I rounded for effect) is a lot of money, but we’re entering a new golf economy, and while the consumer is going to grumble, $1100 means both Callaway and your retailer can maintain healthy margins.

Those sonsofbitches.

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Also officially announced is the Callaway Apex Utility Iron which popped up just before The Open Championship. Street price for the Utility (available in 18°, 21°, and 24°) is $229.99.

Final Thoughts

Who doesn’t love a good blade?

I believe a true, clean muscleback should be a part of every manufacturer’s lineup. It’s the most-niche of any iron offering, but it’s the best opportunity any manufacturers has to showcase their aesthetic capabilities while creating a product that makes statement about the brand.

With Apex MB Callaway has created an iron that respectfully carries on the heritage of the Apex line while remaining true to the new identity it the company has forged for itself.

Callaway’s Apex Muscleback is a statement iron; one that would look strong in any golf bag (even if you’re no Phil Mickelson).

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Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

adidas Cuts 15% of Golf Workforce, Closes Adams Golf HQ in Plano, TX

adidas Cuts 15% of Golf Workforce, Closes Adams Golf HQ in Plano, TX

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Written By: Tony Covey

Earlier this evening we received confirmation that The adidas Group (parent company for TaylorMade-adidas, Ashworth, and Adams Golf) has decided to close Adams Golf headquarters in Plano, Texas and to consolidate business operations at TaylorMade Headquarters in Carlsbad, California. Additionally,15% of the golf division’s global workforce, including what I’m told is a majority of Adams Golf employees, has been laid off.

A company spokesperson declined to comment on specifics, but confidential sources are telling us that the cuts include a high-ranking member of TaylorMade’s golf ball R&D Team.

Here is the official statement from TaylorMade-adidas Golf:

“We recently announced that a reorganization of our company was being planned.  This restructuring includes the consolidation of our Adams Golf business currently located in Plano, TX to our global headquarters in Carlsbad, CA.  We are also realigning our workforce at TaylorMade to better meet the needs of our business and ultimately, our consumers.  This includes investing in new areas to strengthen our brands and strategically approach our future to reinforce our leadership in the industry.”

I know. It’s not particularly informative.

For those tracking TaylorMade’s financial situation, the moves come as little surprise. Profits are off significantly from last year, Dick’s Sporting Goods golf business basically imploded under the weight of excessive TaylorMade and inventory, and as a result the parent company is forecasting further declines in its golf business for the remainder of 2014. The Q2 report was a disaster. There really weren’t any better options.

Profitability Challenges

“We also have decided to take strategic measures to tackle our profitability challenges at TaylorMade-adidas Golf and in Russia/CIS.” – Herbert Hainer, adidas Group CEO

At best the disintegration of Dick’s Golf Business was bad PR for TaylorMade, and worse still it has caused serious damage to the company’s bottom line and likely its reputation. One of their marquee athletes (Dustin Johnson) is taking a leave of absence from the game under apparently dubious circumstances, and for the coup de grâce, just last week adidas released it Q2 2014 which rather explicitly cast TaylorMade-adidas Golf division in the role of 10-ton financial boat anchor.

These are not happy times at TaylorMade.

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Just the Facts

It’s been suggested to me that when it comes to the financial reporting of the golf industry it’s best to either hire an expert, or stick to the absolute letter of the facts.

That’s probably sound advice.

Granted, I did manage to get through a 2-day Finance for Managers course at a previous job (next up, Spelling for Writers), but realistically that no more qualifies me for the task at hand than staying at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

So in the interest of not letting opinion creep into a realm of absolute fact, for the next few paragraphs we’ll stick to the bullet points from the adidas quarterly report (download HERE). That said, one probably doesn’t need to be a top-tier Wall Street analyst to realize that when the letter from the CEO to shareholders begins “It is with disappointment that…” what comes next ain’t gonna be good.

Mainly As A Result of Double-Digit Sales Declines. . .

While there were some unquestionable bright spots in that previous mentioned adidas financial report – things like a strong World Cup, a new sponsorship deal with Manchester United, and solid growth at Reebok-CCM Hockey – nearly every bit of good news was tempered by bad news from the golf division. The refrain mainly as a result of sales declines (sometimes double-digit sales declines) at TaylorMade-adidas Golf is found numerous times in the report.

I encourage you to read it in its entirety, but in the interest of avoiding TL;DRs, here are some of the unfortunate facts gleaned from the adidas Group financial report:

  • TaylorMade-adidas Golf sales were down 18% in Q2, and 27% year-to-date
  • That amounts to a €236 million (~$315 million US) decline from the first six months of 2014
  • Currently-neutral sales in North America were down 20%, mainly due to double-digit decreases at TaylorMade-adidas Golf
  • The gross margin of TaylorMade-adidas Golf negatively impacted the group’s gross margin by 40 basis points.
  • Given the challenges with TaylorMade-adidas Golf, the adidas Group expects a double-digit decline in other businesses compared to our previous projection of a stable performance. (Note: Other Business is the internal division in which adidas places TaylorMade-adidas Golf )

tmag-outlook

Simply put, TaylorMade is having a really bad year, and its parent company (The adidas Group) doesn’t think it’s going to get better anytime in the immediate future.

How Did We Get Here?

By now most of you are well aware of what happened to get us (and TaylorMade to this point). The industry was forced to weather it’s second consecutive brutal winter (the adidas report mentions the late start to the season in the Northeast). As you know from our story on the Dick’s debacle, there’s more inventory in the retail channel than anyone can reasonably hope to sell in a timely fashion. There are some numbers (although not everybody agrees) that suggest consumers are buying less equipment, but nobody is arguing that the bulk of what they’re buying isn’t heavily discounted. TaylorMade’s profit margins are down.

If you want to, you can throw in something about the decline of the American middle class and a general lack of consumer confidence too. The bottom line is that the golf industry is hurting right now, and TaylorMade’s wounds are as deep as anybody’s.

By the adidas Group’s own admission (it was discussed during the earnings call), it was slow in responding to the downturn in the market. The retail channel was already flooded, but TaylorMade kept on releasing new gear while refusing to discount their flagship lines.

The company recently reversed course on its promise not to discount SLDR (now as low as $369) until the next big thing was ready. The disappointing YTD results mandated the change in policy, but most would agree that it waited too long to have any meaningful impact on the market.

What’s TaylorMade Going to Do About It?

The question is actually what is adidas going to do about it?

other-businesses

In actuality, a few things have already been done. While big changes (like the closure of Adams HQ, and substantial layoffs) are expected as a result of the less than stellar financial results for the year to date, the reality is that things at TaylorMade-adidas Golf have been in a perpetual state of flux since the end of the first quarter.

In April, TaylorMade’s longtime CEO, Mark King was appointed to the position of President of adidas Group North America. Ben Sharpe moved over from his position of Executive Vice President of adidas Golf and Ashworth to takeover for King. Coincidentally or not,  Bob Maggiore, TaylorMade’s Cheif Marketing Officer, and the man widely credited with creating the aggressive marketing strategy that helped TaylorMade ascend to the top of the golf industry, also left the company.

That’s barely the beginning. The adidas Group plans to take an aggressive approach to restoring the expected levels of profitability for shareholders.

How will they do that?

Here’s what adidas Group CEO Herbet Hainer had to say about what’s going to happen next.

“At TaylorMade-adidas Golf, given the inventory that is still in the market, we will carefully look at new launching introduction timings. In addition we will begin restructuring program at TaylorMade-adidas Golf to align the organizations overhead to match lower expectations for the golf industry’s development. Combined I expect these measures will impact second half operating profit by €50 million to €60 million. As the dominant market leader, we take these initiatives now to secure our lead, and to be the first mover in reinvigorating the market. Our innovation pipeline is full and we are set to go, whenever we feel the market is ready.” – Herbert Hainer, adidas Group CEO

In layman’s terms, some serious shit is about to go down…and I suppose it just did.

Inventory Reduction: Mr. Hainer suggested that as the market leader TaylorMade has a responsibility to the market itself. At a minimum the Group sees a need to help “clean the market“. What that likely means is another round of deep discounts for consumers. adidas has effectively written of the golf business for the rest of 2014, so there’s absolutely no reason not to undertake a major effort to unclog the channel. Arguably this is good news for the golf industry.

Additional TaylorMade Product is 2014 is Unlikely: You can’t rationally argue that the channel is flooded and then funnel more gear into the marketplace. PING has new product. Callaway has new product. Titliest has new product on the way too. Rather than fight for whatever premium dollars are left to be grabbed, it appears TaylorMade will do the responsible thing and hold off any significant product launches until 2015 – even with both SLDR Driver and SpeedBlade due for a refresh this fall. Instead of hyping new gear, the focus will be on clearing the shelves of existing product (see above).

Come 2015, TaylorMade will be ready to go (see that bit about the innovation pipeline).

Restructuring: It’s an ugly word that can mean a variety of things, none of them are good, and nobody does it when business is booming. The Group’s goal is to come up with €50 million to €60 million worth of operating profit by the end of the year. For those too lazy to do the conversion, we’re talking about somewhere between $65 and $80 Million USD worth of expenses that adidas wants off TMaG’s books.

Where is all that money going to come from? It’s murky, but we can make a few educated guesses.

No new product means reductions in related manufacturing, shipping, and advertising costs. There’s a savings there, but nothing that gets you close to $80 million bucks. Multiple sources speculated that the bulk of savings would need to come from salary reductions.

Today that speculation has become reality as the company reduced the size of its golf division’s workforce by 15%. We don’t have an exact headcount, but we estimate the number of employees let go is between 200 and 250.

It’s stomach churning. Worse still, we’re being told that very few high salary positions were cut, so another round of layoffs isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

The Shutdown Of Adams Golf

One way to reduce cost is to eliminate duplicate positions. When the balance sheet looks good it’s less of an issue to have redundancies in areas like HR, finance, and IT. When the balance sheet doesn’t look good, positions perceived as redundant are often among the very first to be eliminated. That appears to be, in part, what’s happening at…or perhaps to Adams Golf.

In the interest of avoiding any confusion; the Adams Golf brand hasn’t been eliminated. The company’s headquarters in Plano, TX will be shuttered (metaphorically…maybe literally), but some members of the current Adams staff are expected to relocate to Carlsbad to manage the brand from TaylorMade headquarters.

Since Adams falls under the TaylorMade umbrella it’s hard to know exactly what their numbers look like. Sources are telling me that Adams is currently running $10-15 Million in the red. When TaylorMade purchased Adams over two years ago, many believed the shutdown of the Plano location was a foregone conclusion anyway. With adidas looking to reshape a leaner and meaner golf division with a reinvigorated emphasis on profitability, maintaining the Texas location makes zero practical sense.

The closure of the Adams facility in HQ is unfortunate, but it’s just the latest example of the consolidation taking place within the golf industry.

Unfortunately, There’s Likely More To Come

This is likely only the beginning of what is shaping up to be major changes at the current #1 company in golf. We’ll provide additional details as soon as they emerge.

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The Beginning of the Rory McIlroy Era?

The Beginning of the Rory McIlroy Era?

Post image for The Beginning of the Rory McIlroy Era?

Written By: Tony Covey

Shortly after Rory McIlroy rolled in his winning putt to secure his second Major in the narrow span of 3 weeks; without any additional context we posted that RIP Tiger Era banner (see above) on Facebook.

Gratuitous? That wasn’t the intent.

As is usually the case when you don’t give the Internet sufficient guidance, the results were predictably snippy. Those condemning us as idiots commingled with those supporting our apparent contention that Tiger is toast, with some suggesting that his era actually ended in 2009.

Toss in a few complaints about Nike’s unwillingness (I’m being kind, some called it stupidity) to release the 006 Method Prototype to the masses, and well, the Internet was what the Internet usually is.

For better or worse, the interwebs never fail to deliver.

So in the interest of clarity, please allow me to expand on what that apparently controversial image means.

Very simply, it’s none of the above (although maybe Nike should release the putter). Seriously…to both.

Tiger Isn’t Done Yet, But. . .

As a general FYI, I’m not one who happens to believe that Tiger is finished. Even through an apparently never-ending series of injuries, his competitive drive remains immense. While I would argue that he would have been better-served sitting out 2014 (what do I know? I’m not a doctor), his unwillingness to do so also suggests a golfer not yet ready to call it a career. He’s going to put in the work. I believe he’ll be better than competitive again. I’m talking Top 5…and not in the Patrick Reed sense either.

I’m also not delusional. Tiger will be 39 years old when he tees it up at Augusta next year. Grind as he might, the calendar math alone says his skills are in decline. The greatest golfer on the planet for nearly two decades isn’t going to get any better.

With every elite athlete (and Tiger certainly qualifies), age brings a point of diminishing returns. Tiger has reached that point.

Jeter, Jordan, Montana, none was better at 40 than he was at 35. You can argue that golf is easier on the body, but looking at a clearly hobbled Tiger Woods, I’m forced to ask; are you sure?

Even the most-ardent believer in Tiger Woods ability as a golfer must realize that Tiger Woods simply cannot play this game forever at an elite level. He is superhuman, but not immortal.

The clock is ticking and I think we all understand that.

Don’t misunderstand me. I believe Tiger will win again. I believe Tiger will win another Major…maybe even Majors, but Rory McIlroy’s win yesterday makes his the new face of golf.

We should all be good with that.

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Plan B isn’t So Scary

What’s different today is that a professional game without Tiger Woods isn’t nearly as scary of a proposition as it was yesterday. We have a reason to watch a Sunday without Tiger. We finally have a viable alternative, and not simply because the media said so. Rory is no longer the next big thing. He is the big thing. His accomplishments say so.

Let’s celebrate that.

If Tiger manages to come back healthy, focused, and driven, all the better still. Rory is the legitimate rival that Sergio, Phil, and Ty Tryon were never quite able to become.

It’s the best-possible scenario for the game of golf, and it’s almost certainly the scenario that Cindy Davis and her team at Nike Golf envisioned when they signed Rory McIlroy to a longterm deal in January 2013. Last night was unquestionably a milestone moment.

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The Beginning of the Rory Era?

Let’s not go crazy just yet.

There’s plenty to like about young Mr. McIlroy. Confidence, determination, and plenty of game; there’s some Tiger in the kid.

He’s generally affable. He’s thoughtful, analytical, but seldom overly calculated in his dealings with the media. Occasionally he’s perhaps a bit too quick to speak his mind, but he’s good with the fans, and so we let it slide. There’s some Phil Mickelson in the kid too.

It’s a bright future, but the start of an era?

Absolutely, hedged with It’s the start of something, anyway. Whether that’s the Rory McIlroy era, or simply the long-anticipated passing of the torch to the younger generation (McIlroy, Fowler, maybe even Spieth), remains to be seen.

Of this much I’m sure: something monumental happened in the game of golf last night. We witnessed metaphor intermingle with reality as an obviously reluctant Phil Mickelson watched Rory McIlroy almost literally play through on his way to the 4th Major Championship of his career.

Much like Nike’s RZN, Rory is.

4 at 25. It’s unquestionably impressive. Is that the start of an era or a run of damn good golf by a kid with apparently limitless potential? Time will tell.

For now, there’s no need to label it. If yesterday really was the dawn of the Rory McIlroy Era, the time will come when we’ll all realize how silly it is to even ask the question.

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

Judge Rules Against NCAA For Restraint of Trade; What Will Be The Effect On College Golf?

Judge Rules Against NCAA For Restraint of Trade; What Will Be The Effect On College Golf?
NCAA limits on what players can receive for playing sports “unreasonably restrain trade” in violation of antitrust laws according to US District Judge Claudia Wilken. In a 99 page ruling,…

Golf Blogger

New Driver, Same Old Story – Callaway Announces Big Bertha V-Series

New Driver, Same Old Story – Callaway Announces Big Bertha V-Series

Post image for New Driver, Same Old Story – Callaway Announces Big Bertha V-Series

Written By: Tony Covey

In case you missed it, yesterday Callaway made their new Big Bertha V-Series driver (and fairway wood) official. Thus far, the interwebs aren’t impressed (don’t read too much into that. Early reaction to most releases from TaylorMade and Callaway is almost always negative), but this time around, it’s hard to blame them..or it…or whatever is the proper way to refer to the interwebs as whole.

I’m not sure Callaway can warm up this crowd.

This particular release feels (Opti) forced.

Newer is Better (and brings in higher margins).

We could probably go digging around for some well-manufactured quotes from Callaway’s R&D team to explain why this year’s version of Lighter, Faster, Longer is better than last’s, but the simple reality is that FT Optiforce is an entire year old, everything else in the Callaway driver lineup has been discounted (in part to make room for the V-Series and whatever is to come next Spring), and well, it’s not going to hurt Callaway any to have a new full-retail-price/full-margin product on the shelves.

Such is the reality of the golf industry. Things are changing, but we’re not there yet, and so the prices of the old have been slashed, and here comes the new. Let the buying frenzy begin.

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About Big Bertha V-Series

As you’d expect from the successor to the most excellent FT Optiforce, Callaway’s V-Series (the V is for velocity) is packed full of Speed Enhancing Technology designed to promote distance through weight reduction and aerodynamics.

We’ve covered this design principle before, but for the sake of mind-numbing redundancy… if you can make the club travel faster (through aerodynamic improvements, weight reduction, or both), you increase ball speed, and the ball goes farther. Hence the whole lighter, faster, longer thing.

Understand? Good.

bertha-v-specs

Callaway also mentions that the V-Series driver offers what it calls high MOI. Most R&D guys will tell you that there’s a direct correlation between head weight and MOI (heavier heads are more stable), so while V-Series might be higher MOI than something else, it’s almost certainly lower MOI than the same design would be with a more conventional head weight.

Like nearly every other club design decision, there’s a tradeoff that comes with going light. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it is something you should be aware of.

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Stop Me if You’ve Heard This Before

Big Bertha V-Series, is lightweight, it’s aerodynamic, and it’s got a hotter Hyper Speed Face.

Let me say it another way…Lighter, Faster, Longer. Just like Optiforce.

In fact, exactly, basically word for word, just like Optiforce. And really, at the risk of fixating on Callaway’s over-reliance on this particular bit of jargon, I’ll remind you that all the way back in 2010, the Diablo Octane (not exactly one of the company’s most-revered designs) was billed as Lighter, Faster, Stronger.

Somebody get Kanye West on the phone, I think there’s a hit song in this.

It would appear that I was right. The golf industry really has run out of words. Is this really the best Callaway can do?

Of course not. There’s more.

What would a driver release be without a yardage claim?

And so here goes…

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The Big Bertha V-Series driver is up to 7 yards longer than the company’s Big Bertha. Times like this I wish the blink tag hadn’t been deprecated. And we’re not talking about the original Big Bertha either.

The new driver is up to 7 yards longer than the 2014 Big Bertha you paid $400 for 3 months ago (the same one you can buy for $350 today).

Sorry guys. Time for an upgrade. Your almost new Big Bertha simply can’t hunt with the new big dog.

It’s All About Differentiation

Now the Callaway guys would certainly point out that Big Bertha isn’t the same as Big Bertha Alpha, and neither one is remotely the same as Big Bertha V-Series. Given the obvious similarities in the names, I can understand your confusion, so I bet you’re wondering:

Who is Big Bertha V-Series for?

Well…according to Callaway’s own “Who’s it for” video (that was convenient), the V-Series driver is for “anyone who wants to hit their driver farther“.

If you don’t want to hit the ball farther, then the Big Bertha V-Series is not for you. How’s that for differentiation?

Really guys?

For the next 6 months or so Big Bertha V-Series is also for guys who are willing to pay full price for a driver while Big Bertha, Big Bertha Alpha, and X2 Hot, are for guys who aren’t.

Cynicism aside, this particular branch of the Callaway driver tree (the Speed Enhanced Series) is markedly different from X2 Hot, Bertha proper, and Alpha. While realistically the differences between those models boil down to bells and whistles, price, and some slight nuances on the launch monitor, the V-Series really does offer something unique from the rest of the Callaway lineup.

Simply put, there is a legitimate market for this type of driver, and by offering up “for anyone who wants to hit their driver farther” Callaway has, to a degree, obfuscated their actual target demographic.

I’d call that a disservice to golfers, but that’s part of the shady side of selling golf clubs. Nearly everything has to be billed as being for nearly everyone, even when it’s clearly not.

The ultralight design (starting at 290g total weight) is generally suited to the slower swing player looking to gain some speed however he can. While there are no absolutes in fitting, lighter-weight drivers are often a better fit for smoother (less aggressive) swingers. For a sizable segment of golfers, heavier is almost always better.

I could give you a list of other less than ideal fit categories, but your takeaway should be that Bertha V-Series isn’t actually “for anyone who wants to hit their driver farther”.

Aerodynamic improvements are nice too, but by all accounts that particular design feature favors guys who already swing the club fast. For most of you, any appreciable distance gains will need to come via the weight reduction, not aerodynamic improvements.

Noteworthy perhaps is that Callaway has reduced the stock shaft length on the Big Bertha V-Series to 45.5″. As you may recall, 46″ was standard on Optiforce. While we found FT Optiforce relatively easy to control given the length, the V-Series should be better in that regard, albeit with the potential for lost distance on your best swings…but it’s still longer than Big Bertha.

Kinda Updated Aesthetics

As is reasonably obvious, the new Big Bertha V-Series doesn’t look much at all like last season’s FT Optiforce. It’s a bit of a throwback to Callaway’s popular Warbird sole design. Coincidentally, so was Callaway’s 2013 Japan-Only Legacy Platinum Forged Driver. The similarities between the two are unmistakable. Callaway didn’t start from scratch. One almost certainly begot the other.

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We’ll give Callaway the benefit of the doubt and assume they made some reasonably significant under the hood changes, but what we see sounds like a 2013 driver (same marketing) and looks like a 2013 driver (Japanese model). That dubious combination, plus the price tag (coming on the heels of price cuts and the Dick’s debacle) doesn’t do much to raise our excitement level for this particular offering. And again…I’m a guy who loved Optiforce.

Final Thoughts

It’s entirely possible that I’ve read this wrong, and Callaway really thinks they have something of consequence in the Big Bertha V-Series, but more than any Callaway Woods release in recent memory, this has the feel of a club line being released for the sole purpose of putting something new on the shelf.

Not only is it not compelling, it feels unnecessary.

Bertha V-Series comes on the heels of a rapid discount cycle (6 months on Bertha and Alpha, faster still on X2 Hot). The marketing story is a 3rd-generation rehash, and the design itself isn’t fresh. Toss in the premium driver asking price ($400), and the 1-year release cycle for what by most reasonable accounts is a niche product, and I promise you I won’t be the only one wondering what Callaway is thinking right now.

Everything about this release (all of the above and that bit about being 7 YARDS LONGER) is lockstep inline with what consumers are telling us they hate about the state of the golf equipment industry right now. Quite frankly, if I didn’t know any better I’d think the release was satire, or at least an attempt at comedic irony.

If only this release was a special Callaway Edition of The Onion.

It’s not. This is real, and I don’t think it’s going to go over well with the consumer.

If I’m wrong, the cash register (and 3 or 4 guys who work for Callaway) will offer the proof.

Let’s chat about it again in 6 months.

Pricing and Availability

Pre-Orders for the Big Bertha V-Series Driver and Fairway wood begin on Friday August 8th. Retail price for the driver is $399. The fairway wood, which includes Heavenwood designs in the #4, #5, #7, and #9 models, retails for $249.

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poll-results

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

2014 Golf’s Most Wanted Push Cart

2014 Golf’s Most Wanted Push Cart

Post image for 2014 Golf’s Most Wanted Push Cart

By Dave Wolfe

Who makes the best push cart?  Which one has the features I want? Which one is the lightest? Will a cart work with my cart and my carry bag? How many steps does it take to fold and unfold? Are there differences in the brakes? Is one cart more stable than another? Which is the easiest cart to push?

That’s a whole bunch of questions.  

With that many questions, deciding which cart to buy can be a difficult task. But we have the answer:  The most comprehensive head-to-head test ever (seriously) done on push carts has been completed. We have done the testing. We’ve collected the data. We’ve compiled the values, and we know which cart is the #MostWanted.  

Golf’s Most Wanted Push Cart: The Contestants

Most Wanted Group Unfolded

 

Notable Push Cart Features

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How We Tested

Comparative scoring was calculated based upon ten measured characteristics that fall under two general headings: Portability and Playability. Totals for each cart were then determined and the carts ranked on an overall 100 point scale to determine the Golf’s Most Wanted Push Cart. Here are the details of how each category was assessed and scored.

Portability Scoring

portability-scoring

Most Wanted Cart Group Folded

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For a push cart to be an effective tool for the golfer, it must meet the golfer’s needs going to and from the course as well as on the course. While some may have the option of leaving their bag, and cart in a locker at their club, many golfers must transport the cart along with their bag. As such, Portability, is a key push cart component. To measure portability, we assessed the following three features.

The weight of each cart was measured directly using a digital spring scale. Carts were then ranked, and scored on a ten point scale from lightest to heaviest.
The folded volume was calculated for each cart. Measurements were taken to the furthest protrusion in length, width, and height directions. Carts were then sorted by volume, and scored on a ten-point scale based upon their relationship to the smallest volume cart.
The steps to unfold a cart to “play-ready” configuration were identified for each cart. Carts were then ranked from fewest to most steps, and that ranking was then translated into the ten-point scale for the category.

Playability Scoring

playability-scoring

Cart Consoles

Cart Testing Photos-3Cart Testing Photos-7

For a push cart to be Golf’s Most Wanted, it must perform on the golf course. Golfers want a cart that is easy to push, holds their bag securely, stays put when the brake is on, and has enough storage to hold their gear during play. We tested these features and more. Here is how we scored the various Playability components.

Features for each cart’s console were tallied and ranked based upon abundance and access. We recorded the number of ball holders, tee holders, cup holders, scorecard holders, and yes, pencil holders. Consoles were also scored for storage volume and ease of access. If a cart had additional storage, like a cargo net or additional cargo bag, those features were also part of the console score. Carts were ranked, and then the ranking converted to the ten-point scoring system.

Both cart and carry bags were used to assess the fit of golf bags into the different carts. For the cart bag, we used the Wilson Staff Ionix cart bag. The carry bag used was the PING Hoofer. Carts were scored based upon how secure the bag remained while traveling the terrain one would encounter during play. Points were deducted if the bag twisted, or slipped from the straps.

Straps were assessed based upon ease of adjustment and range of adjustment. How well the straps secured the bad was also assessed using the digital spring scale.

To assess the force needed to get the cart rolling, the carts were outfitted with the PING Hoofer bag, again with a full complement of golf gear and clubs. Once the bag was secure, the pounds of force needed to get the cart moving was measured. Five measurements were taken for each cart, with the average pounds of force for those measurements used as the final score for the cart.

Front wheels of the carts were positioned at the same spot on a level concrete surface for each cart and each repetition. Concrete was used for the roll tests to minimize the effect of changing grass and underlying dirt conditions as the test progressed from cart to cart.

The force to overcome the brake was assessed in the same way as the force to start rolling. The difference was that this time the force was measured with the brake engaged. If necessary, carts were rolled until the brake engaged prior to measurements being taken.

The stability score is based upon two measured components. For these measurements, carts were again equipped with the fully loaded Wilson Staff Ionix cart bag. Lateral stability was measured by recording the force needed to tip the cart sideways such that the rear wheel would lift off of the ground. The spring scale was anchored to the bag at the same position each time, with the force then applied at 90° to the bag.

The second stability measurement was recorded by hooking the digital scale to the handle and pulling straight down. Each cart was assessed for how much force was needed to lift the front wheel off the ground.

Cart maneuverability was scored based upon how well the cart performed over our test course. For this test, the carts were fitted with the Wilson Staff Ionix bag, containing a full set of fourteen clubs, a rangefinder, a dozen balls, two gloves, a towel, and a bag of tees and markers. Push handles were adjusted to the same height relative to the tester (i.e. navel height). Carts were assessed for ease of roll over various terrains and topographies. Points were deducted when a cart had difficulties turning, lost traction, or started to tip on slopes.

Golf’s Most Wanted Push Cart: The Results

Cart-Data-Table2

Golf’s Most Wanted Push Cart Winner

Bagboy Tri-Swivel 2

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Golf’s Most Wanted Push Cart Runner-Up

Clicgear 3.5+

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Bagboy C3

lightest-cart-final

Big Max Blade

small-trunk-final

 

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)

Leaked: Titleist 915 – All the Details

Leaked: Titleist 915 – All the Details

Post image for Leaked: Titleist 915 – All the Details

Titleist’s 915 Series metalwoods are coming. You’ve seen the pictures. You’ve heard a few things about ARC (the slot), and you’ve probably made some reasonable guesses about what the Titleist story will eventually be.

Wouldn’t it be great to have some actual information? We’ve got your back.

Whatever you think about Titleist, I can tell you one thing with reasonable certainty. Much like PING, the company doesn’t trade in bullshit.

They don’t oversell innovation – steady progress is fine. And while that has perhaps caused us to question their innovative fortitude more than we probably should, even we’ll concede that the next thing is always measurably better than what came before it.

Will that be the case with the 915 series?

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Titleist staffer Ben Crane showed off his 915 toys on Twitter earlier this week.

Everything we know so far suggests that not only will the upcoming clubs be everything Titleist fans have come to expect from the brand, we could be looking at a legitimate performance break-through.

It’s good stuff.

If you’re not already a Titleist guy, it’s the kind of thing that might cause you to think about joining #TeamTitleist.

Here’s everything you want to know.

Same Slot, Different Company?

915hslot

Before we get into specific details of the various products and models themselves, lets briefly cover the Active Response Channel, or as most would call it, the slot.

As is the case just about any time one company does something we think we’ve seen before, there will be plenty of discussion around who Titleist stole the idea from (and who that company stole the idea from before that).

Stop it. Stop it now.

Here’s the deal, Titleist isn’t going to get sued. There are some pretty substantial differences between their channel and the slots we’ve seen in clubs from other manufacturers.

Most noticeable (to even the “they stole it from Adams who stole it from Nike” guy) is that Titleist’s Active Response Channel is significantly deeper than those found on other slotted models.

The Active Response Channel is also positioned closer to the face than other’s companies implementations.

Finally, and pay attention because we’re going to come back to this…unlike competitor models where a slot was implemented to improve ball speed, Titleist’s Active Response Channel is primarily designed to lower spin; most significantly in the driver.

If ball speed happens to increase as well, so be it.

915 D2 and D3 Drivers

As with previous Titleist Driver releases, the D2 will offer a 460cc head while the D3 will be slightly smaller (the 913 was 445cc, so I expect that will be the case this time around as well).

In terms of MOI/Forgivness, the D2 will be in the ballpark of PING’s G25/G30. The D3 will offer among the highest, if not the highest MOI of any sub-460cc driver on the market.

Whether or not it carries over into the marketing remains to be seen, but what we’re talking about are a pair of exceptionally forgiving designs from a company that’s not generally (and probably unfairly so) associated with forgiveness in the driver category.

Apparently some inside of Titleist believe that the additional MOI is substantial enough to entice some D2 players into a new D3 setup.

A D4 or D5 Too?

As you may have seen, a couple of additional D-series models (D4 and D5) are also on the USGA’s Conforming Clubs list. Both models are smaller still. The D4 is a 400cc model designed specifically for Adam Scott, so the probability is that the D5 is the one most likely to eventually make it to retail.

Over the Limit

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Photo Credit: Cool Clubs Australia

While it’s a common element to most driver design stories, early iterations of the 915 series drivers exceeded USGA limits for COR/CT.

As most do when that occurs, Titleist thickened the center of the face, but also thinned out lower stress areas towards the perimeter. The result should be improved ball speed on off-center hits. Our source tells us that the driver is particularly hot on high, slightly toe-biased strikes.

The 915 SureFit hosel is compatible with both the 913 and 910. The alignment aid has been updated as well.

The key takeaway from a design perspective is that Active Response Channel lowers spin while still allowing Titleist to actually increase MOI.

cool-clubs-sole
Photo Credit: Cool Clubs Australia

While I’m sure Titleist won’t phrase it this way, think SLDR spin reduction with G25 forgiveness.

We haven’t been able to confirm stock shafts with 100% certainty, but given past offerings, the Next-Generation Mitsubishi Diamana +PLUS series is possible if not probable. It has also been suggested that a version of Aldila’s Rogue shaft will be among the offerings.

No word as to whether or not Titleist will be offering its own version of the Loft Up message. I’m guessing…NO.

915 F/Fd Fairways

915fw1

As they have done in the past, Titleist will offer two distinct variations of their 915 fairway wood. The lower spin Fd has a noticeably smaller footprint than the larger, more forgiving F model.

Both models have what would generally be regarded as a forward CG placement.

Like the 915 driver the fairways feature an updated alignment aid. The fairway version of the SureFit hosel is compatible with the 913, but will not work with the 910 version.

915 H/Hd hybrids

915hy

With their upcoming hybrids, Titleist will be drawing distinctions between sweepers (guys who sweep the ball with their hybrids), and diggers (those of us who hit down on them).

The standard H model is designed for the sweeper, while the smaller/deeper Hd has a bit more offset and is designed for guys with a steeper angle of attack.

The new hybrids will launch lower than the previous model and the shape has been updated. There’s a little less bulk on the toe. We’re told it’s not totally unlike some Adams models.

As with the fairways, the weight is located forward on both models.

There is no alignment aid on the hybrids. Adapters are also compatible with the 913, but not the 910.

Miscellaneous Notes

face

SureFit hosels have been updated with white coloring to make it easier to read the various settings.

Unlike previous years where Titleist has launched drivers in the fall and fairways/hybrids in the following spring, the entire lineup will hit store shelves this November.

Finally, while we have no additional details, a new utility iron (presumably a 915u or 916u) will be released sometime next year.

cool-clubs-oz-915
Photo Credit: Cool Clubs Australia

Golf Forum – Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com)