It’s the end of the year and time for our picks of the clubs in seven categories to receive the GolfGearWeekly.com Awards for 2016 season. There may be a couple of surprises for our readers with some of the selections however, our criteria in each category were very straight forward. First: was a unique and/or breakthrough design or material used? Second is the consistency of performance and distance and third the popularity with golfers. We did consider the market price of each in relation to comparable clubs from competitors but that wasn’t a determining factor. The cost of a club is really a measure of the price compared to the results it produces and that of course is subjective, different for each player and up to each to figure out.
GolfGearWeekly.com Awards 2016 winners are listed alphabetically by manufacturer within the category.
A reshaped titanium alloy body with a 19% thinner face provides more forgiveness but the most evident feature of the XR16 is on the new stretched out crown. In consultation with the engineers at Boeing they came up with a reconfigured “Speed Step” to lessen the aerodynamic drag on the club during the downswing. The XR16 is lighter as well meaning it can be swung faster for more distance, a great combination with the loft and lie adjustability. Priced at $350 with a Fujikura Speeder Evolution 565 Shaft.
Cobra King LTD
At address this traditional looking shape doesn’t reveal all the technology and design features in the clubhead. A special carbon fiber crown is lighter than regular carbon fiber allowing the weight saved to be positioned for added forgiveness. The forged variable thickness titanium face has a channel around the perimeter to help increase ball speed. But the “sexiest” thing about the King LTD is the “Space Port” 16-gram weight in the sole that both lowers the center of gravity so it’s on the neutral axis of the clubhead and being clear, lets you look inside. An Aldila Rogue Black 60 shaft is stock and the price is $449.
When TMaG introduced the M1 last fall it immediately became the most played on the PGA Tour and then was joined by the M2 in January. The M1 has a unique T-track sole weight adjustability for ball flight, one sliding weight for draw/face bias and one for trajectory. Both the M1 and M2 have a distinctive black and white painted carbon fiber crown and the M2 in particular has gained a reputation of being very forgiving and is the driver used by Dustin Johnson, the 2015-16 PGA Tour Player of the Year. The loft sleeve on the hosel has 12 positions for +/- 2 degrees and TMaG offers a wide selection of stock shafts. Both are the M1 and M2 are $400.
Drivers Honorable Mention
Bridgestone JGR – More forgiveness and lower spin from improved milled face and “FlexAction” crown for added distance. Stock shaft is Aldila NV 2KXV Orange and price is $300.
Callaway Great Big Bertha
A forged cup face featuring the maximum allowable rebound is matched with a revamped Warbird Sole making for a very playable wood that golfers of any skill level will appreciate. The head is larger than the previous model which helps maintain ball speed when impacts are not in the exact sweet spot. There are even a Heavenwood of 20 ½ degrees and a Divine Nine of 24 degrees to fit in with club gapping. Callaway’s adjustable hosel is standard on all lofts other than the Heavenwood and Divine Nine. Each is priced at $250.
Cobra KING F6 Baffler 4-5
The Baffler name is legendary for helping golfers hit good shots from difficult lies and this new fairway wood carrying the name will not disappoint. In addition to the Baffler sole rails there are front and back sole weights to adjust ball trajectory from a lower more penetrating flight to higher trajectory while adding forgiveness for off center hits. The head is very compact and makes use of Cobra’s My Fly 8 adjustable loft hosel. $179.
Yonex Ezone XPG
One of the few stock counterbalanced clubs on the market (besides putters of course) this low profile fairway wood has 20 grams of tungsten powder at the end of the grip. This moves the balance point away from the clubhead and Yonex says the club may be swung faster than those of conventional weighting. The center of gravity is low and back in the head for better launch characteristics aided by the use of carbon graphite in the crown. Loft and lie are independently adjustable and the stock shaft is the Yonex EX310. Retail is $230 and there is a choice of three lofts.
Following up on the success of the driver, the High Heat hybrid has a Beta titanium face and because it weighs much less than steel several grams were saved. This weight was moved so the center of gravity is deeper and lower in the head which increases forgiveness plus improves launch and in general makes it easier to hit. Users also like the raised area on the sole that acts to reduce the friction when hitting the ground. Numerous stock shafts are available including the ultralight 43 gram Fujikura Pro HBSakuraL and the price is $249.
Ping G Crossover
The Crossover isn’t an iron and it isn’t really a hybrid though it shares some features of each. The clubface doesn’t have bulge and roll like a wood but is flat like an iron while the head has the same hollow construction as a metal wood. This puts the center of gravity to the extreme rear of the head and with added internal toe weighting the CG aligns exactly in the middle of the hitting area. As a consequence the control and spin are similar to an iron but the distance and playability is what we expect in a hybrid. It comes with a Ping Alta shaft stock with a choice of three lofts for $230.
Tour Edge Golf Exotics EX9
Tour Edge has made wonderful hybrids for years and the Exotics EX9 makes use of the technology, materials and construction to keep the reputation unbroken. The cup face is combo brazed to the body, an expensive process pioneered for golf clubs by the company and used because it does away with the weight of a weld as in other clubs. The variable thickness face is forgiving across more of the hitting area and the Slip Stream sole design really helps keep the EX9 from digging in as well as getting the ball out of deep lies. Street price is $160 and there’s a choice of five lofts.
Game-Improvement Category Irons
Callaway Apex CF 16
This is the first time Callaway has used their face cup construction in a forged iron and it results in a good looking clubhead with consistency across the face in the longer irons while the shorter irons (8-iron through attack wedge) use a newly designed face plate. There is progressive offset and sole widths as well as location of the center of gravity to produce the proper trajectory as lofts increase through the set. Shorter irons have a more compact clubhead to help with feel and control. A set of 4-iron (21 1/2 degrees) through pitching wedge (45 degrees) is $1,050.
Ping used their COR-Eye Technology to increase the amount of face flexing at impact of the Gs—four times as much as the 2015 model G30s. This produces higher ball speeds plus higher trajectory for more carry with a steeper angle of descent to better hold the green. The stainless steel body undergoes a special heat treatment to be 40% stronger allowing for the thinner face. The AWT 2.9 stock shaft are heavier in the short irons to improve distance control and lighter in the long irons for more swing speed. A seven iron set of 4-iron (21 degrees) through pitching wedge (45 degrees) sells for $800.
High and far was TMaG’s mantra in creating the M2s and they succeeded very well…think of them as a supercharged update of the popular Burner model from 2009. Key features include a weight-saving fluted hosel, a 360 degree undercut creating a large unsupported face area. The sole is thinner but still has TMaG’s Speed Pocket slot so that the combination of all these design element produces both more distance plus a nice pro-like high trajectory. Eight iron set of 4-iron (19 degrees) through attack wedge (49 degrees) retails for $800.
Game Improvement Irons Honorable Mention
Ben Hogan Golf PTx Irons – A game improvement iron with the Hogan name. Higher lofts are titanium core co-forged and lower lofts have tungsten weighting in hollow clubhead, all with V-sole profile. $169 each.
Wilson Staff C200 – Thin flexible face with only 24% contacting the body of the clubhead with area in between filled for vibration dampening and better feel. Set of 4-iron through gap wedge $800.
Players Category Irons
Grain flow forged from 1025 boron alloy, the club heads are 30% stronger but retain the classic shape Mizuno is so well known for. This additional strength means the face can be thinner to give more ball speed for more distance. The incorporation of a “micro-slot” behind the face of the 3-iron through 6-iron produces a soft but solid feel and the 7-iron through pitching wedge have a redesign to help with versatility in shot making and workability. An eight iron set of 3-iron (21 degrees) through pitching wedge (46 degrees) are $1,200.
Borrowing the sole and face slots from last year’s RSi model the PSi is made for better players and has a vibration reducing multi-material badge behind the face. The sole and face slots allow the face additional flexing at impact for more yardage. Long irons have tungsten weighting while the forged short irons share the redesigned head profile. The face is less than 2mm thick to take advantage of the cut-through sole slot and face slots plus there’s an undercut around the entire perimeter. A set of 4-iron (21 1/2 degrees) through attack wedge (50 1/2 degrees) retails for $1,100.
Titleist 716 AP2
The Tour-proven head shape has tungsten weighting in the heel and toe to put the center of gravity low in the co-forged constructed clubhead. Shafts in the long irons are lighter for higher launch and greater speed while the short iron shafts are heavier added control. Turf interaction has been improved—less dig—by slightly wider soles that have been relieved along the trailing edge. Eight irons from 4-iron (24 degrees) through gap wedge (50 degrees) are $1,200.
Callaway Mack Daddy 3
The latest iteration of the MD wedges offers three grinds—W with a wider sole for soft turf conditions, C for firmer conditions and S for in between. The milled 30V grooves in the lower lofts heads work best with a steep attack angle, the 20V grooves in the middle lofts are for sand and the wider 5V groove in the higher lofts are designed for shots out of rough or around the green. Available in from 46 degrees to 64 degrees the choice of three finishes is offered: matte black, chrome or gold nickel. Each is $130.
Cleveland Smart Sole 2.0
The approach of the Smart Sole line is simple, to remove stress from the short game and Cleveland does it with an extra wide sole for cleaner contact regardless of the lie near the green. The 42-degree loft C model is for chips without chunks and the 58-degree S to get out of the sand, the first try every time. The refined sole designs are matched with perimeter weighting and both come in an appealing black satin finish. This every-player wedge is priced $110.
Aggressive quad-cut CNC milled grooves and grain flow forging makes the S5 a great wedge for any level of player while the distinctive blue ion finish, though white satin is also offered, makes it stand out from every other club in the bag. The head shape has been rounded with softer edges and the five sole grinds are matched to the lofts while the groove cross section varies with loft. A total of 25 loft and bounce possibilities are in the lineup including narrow to wide soles. Price is $130.
Ping Anser TR1966
Whether or not you are in to nostalgia take a look at TR 1966 made from 3D scans of the original Anser putter handcrafted by Karsten Solheim 50 years ago. There’s even a sound slot in the sole just as the original and no alignment line but departing from the original the finish, the Anser is done in a modern manganese bronze. Also improving on the heel/toe weighting design of the original, which has been copied by virtually every other putter company, is the addition of the True Roll milled face for consistent speed. Retail price is $150.
Odyssey White Hot RX 2-Ball V-line
The most popular putter face insert for more than 15 years has a new dual inject-molded layer with a softer inside growing firmer towards the edges adding to the performance of the easily recognizable two-ball mallet design. Odyssey also put the distinctive Versa contrasting alignment aid on the top with a double bend one-shaft offset the mallet-style design. The head weight is a mid-range 355 grams. Priced at $160.
Cleveland TFI 2135 Elevado
The combination of a milled copper-infused face cap over a copolymer insert and a new alignment design give this putter two features not found on other putters. Cleveland’s 2135 alignment technology is new and very worthwhile. The alignment line is raised 21.35mm to match the radius of a golf ball so no matter if the user’s eyes are inside the ball, outside or directly over the ball the line of the putt can still be accurately seen. Besides the Elevado head the TFI 2135 also comes in two other shapes all priced starting at $160.
Putters Honorable Mention
Cure CX1 – A slightly oversize square back blade with CNC milled aluminum head. MOI can be adjusted with six weights adding up to 42 grams. Extremely high MOI design $300.
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