“Lighter, faster, farther.” If there is a theme to the new equipment hitting golf shops in 2011, that would have to be it. Expect lightweight clubs that allow for faster swing speeds and thus greater distance to dominate the marketplace this year, as was evidenced at the annual PGA Merchandise Show, a winter staple that draws tens of thousands from around the world to Orlando, Fla.
After the last couple of seasons, and the tremendous success of TaylorMade’s r7 and R9 lines, one might have expected the show floor at Orange County Convention Center to be teeming with clubs with movable weights and adjustable hosels. After all, companies like Cobra and Nike had jumped on the “wrench” bandwagon a full year earlier. And Titleist debuted its first-ever clubs with adjustable hosels when it unveiled its 910 line of drivers, fairway woods and hybrids last fall.
A side note here: While the Titleist 910 lineup includes some excellent equipment, including the easy-to-look-at and equally well-performing 910 D2 and D3 drivers, the adjustment mechanism Titleist employs, with one ring to control face angle and another to control loft, can be very confusing. Settings like “B-2” or “C-3” have no relevance to right, left, up or down, so it is critical that one doesn’t lose the fitting chart that comes with the clubs. Even more important, because the settings are opposite for left- and right-handers–“A-1” being standard loft and face angle for righties and “D-4” standard for lefties–don’t make the same mistake one Carolinas Section club professional did when his new 910 D3 arrived.
Going out to play with some members, this particular pro, who requested anonymity, produced a string of diving ‘ducks’ before realizing he had set up his new 910 according to the left-handers side of the fitting chart.
Maybe that’s one reason other companies did not join the adjustable club movement in 2011. Companies like Cleveland/Srixon, Ping, Tour Edge/Exotics, Adams and Callaway, to name a few, are relying on traditional epoxy in their new lineups of static clubs. One clubmaker, Mizuno, which had offered moveable weights in its MP-630 Fast Track driver, moved away from adjustability with its new JPX 800 driver.
But with clubmakers up against the USGA and R&A’s mandated limits on clubhead size, COR (coefficient of restitution) and MOI (moment of inertia) numbers for the last few years, they have been forced to seek other ways to improve performance and, yes, distance.
One way they are doing that is with lighter clubs that can be swung faster. Again, faster clubhead speeds produce more distance; that is simple physics.
“Lighter, faster, farther. That’s what it’s all about,” said Mike Ferris, vice president for global product marketing for TaylorMade.
While TaylorMade has attracted a lot of attention with its new R11 driver, with its stark white head, movable weights and adjustable hosel and sole plate, the new Burner Superfast 2.0 – just as white – is said to be the longest driver TaylorMade has ever produced. Coincidentally, it is the lightest driver they’ve ever made, at just 279 grams.
The Burner Superfast 2.0, $300 at retail, employs a Matrix X-Con 4.8 shaft in the 44- to 46-gram range, depending on flex. But despite its overall light weight, the club sports a D9 swingweight because of its 46.6-inch length. (Note: the TP version, $400 retail, is one inch shorter and shaft options are generally heavier.) The longer shaft length adds to clubhead speed.
“The Burner principle is all about speed,” Ferris said. “And that’s not just with the driver but throughout the entire Burner family. Lighter weight means a faster swing, which means more ball speed and more distance.
“If that principle is true in a driver, why wouldn’t it be true in an iron?”
According to Ferris, that’s the thinking behind the new TaylorMade Burner 2.0 irons. Longer, lighter shafts are the engines behind the new Burners.Even the steel shafts are just 85 grams. And while the enhanced cavity-back head design certainly fits into the “game improvement” category, these slightly offset irons are appealing enough at address to attract players across the handicap spectrum.
In addition to lighter shafts, lighter grips and a very forgiving head design, TaylorMade engineered the club face on the Burner 2.0 irons with varying
face thickness from club to club. The thinner the clubface, the hotter it is. So the Burner 2.0 irons have been designed with thinner, hotter faces in the long irons to enhance distance, while dialing back in the shorter clubs to provide greater control.
Expect to see the Burner 2.0s priced at $700 for an eight-iron set with steel shafts, $900 for graphite, in most golf shops and online.
At Tour Edge/Exotics, weight, or lack thereof, is the story behind the XCG-4, the lightest driver Exotics has ever offered--if you select the 276-gram super-ultralight model. There is also a 310-gram version, the primary difference being a 46-inch, 45-gram Graphite Design Tour AD shaft standard in the lighter model and a 55-gram Fujikura Motore shaft cut to 45.5 inches standard in the heavier.
But with the XCG-4, “heavier” is definitely a relative term. According to Exotics, the head design of the XCG-4 advanced head design “features a titanium face and sole, an amorphous carbon crown, two amorphous carbon sole inserts, and two tungsten sole weights. The ultra-light weight carbon frees up 27 grams of weight that is strategically positioned in the lower rear of the clubhead to improve MOI by more than 15 percent over previous versions.”
The variable thickness “Boomerang” face, with V-shaped boomerangs designed into the face to maximize COR, provides enhanced feel and hotter rebound orspring-like effect over previous face designs.
Look for the XCG-4 to retail for $330 at most shops.
Complimenting the XCG-4 driver and matching fairway woods ($300) are the XCG-4 irons, which promise the greatest distance ever from an Exotics iron set. The key to the new irons is a clubface that is less than 2.2 mm. thick – or should we say thin? Exotics paired that with a deep undercut cavity and heel and toe tungsten weighting to achieve its