Orlando, Fla. — Annika Sorenstam nailed it when, as a first-time keynoter at the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show, the World Golf Hall of Famer called the aisles and aisles of the newest and snazziest gear and gewgaws for golfers at the PGA Merchandise Show “a fantasyland.”
Fortunately for women of every playing ability, equipment manufacturers displaying their wares were not so much fantasy as reality. With an almost infinite number of products to test drive, we couldn’t help but notice that, now more than ever, thanks to hot new colors and cool technologies, manufacturers want women to drive for show.
So many big sticks, so little time. That’s how it seemed as I stalked the driving range of Orange Country National hitting one club after another during Demo Day. The verdict: new drivers from TaylorMade, Callaway, and Cobra are just what the lady ordered.
TaylorMade R1. With so many (former) kids waiting to get into its Demo Day candy store, TaylorMade instituted an electronic buzzing system. It was worth the wait to sample the R1 driver, despite the racing stripe slapped across the crown (why mess with the clean, white look of golf’s most recognizable club?).
But don’t let the paint job distract you from what’s under the hood. With extensive data from TaylorMade’s club-fitting system showing that 80 percent of golfers play the wrong loft in their drivers, is it any wonder that the company lets you adjust yours more than any other in the field? Indeed, you may tune the new R1 to 12 lie, face-angle (from neutral/square to maximum/closed), and loft settings (from 8 degrees and 12 degrees).
The No. 1 driver on the PGA Tour has already made it to the 2013 winner’s circle (Dustin Johnson at the Tournament of Champions and Brian Gay/Humana Challenge).
Callaway RAZR Fit Xtreme. Phil MIckelson’s all in on his new Callaway RAZR Fit Xtreme driver. Lefty even went so far as to kiss the big dog during the Phoenix Open, in which he shot a near-59 and won by four shots — using the club for the first time in competition. Callaway claims that, thanks to its Speed Frame Face Technology, its second adjustable driver out-drives and generally out-performs its RAZR Fit predecessor by offering a bigger sweet spot, faster ball speed, and better ball flight.
You may adjust the hosel to open, square, or closed, and shift the weights for neutral or more draw off the tee.
Cobra AMP Cell. If it’s hot colors you’re after, you may have to swing all four freshly coated Cobra AMP Cell Drivers. Cobra’s patented MyFly technology lets you adjust the loft to optimize distance and trajectory. While you may choose from six loft settings (8.5 degrees, 9.5, 9.5 Draw, 10.5, 10.5D, and 11.5), the equally trademarked SmartPad technology promises a square face at address.
So, will it be orange (Rickie Fowler’s favorite hue), red, blue, or silver?
Nike VR_S Covert. Thanks to the Rory-Palooza announcing that the world No. 1 had joined Tiger Woods as a shill for all things Swoosh, the lustrous crimson VR_S Covert driver was one of the hits of the show. While McIlroy had some issues with his new club (missing the cut in Abu Dhabi, thanks to a slew of errant tee shots), Nike officials claimed it would just take time to tame Big Red. With a white swoosh on the crown and a cavity-backed bottom (hidden from view at address — thus, “covert”) for higher speeds and longer, straighter shots, “the most innovative club Nike Golf has ever produced” features 15 adjustable-loft settings and three independent face-angle settings for each loft.
On the quirkier side of golf, three new non-club products caught our eye.
The tiny Spider Divot Tool from Insta Golf ensures you’ll fix every ball mark the right way. The push/pull action of this little device means no more little dirt patches on the greens from flawed attempts to yank at the grass to repair divots. Just remove the cap, push the spindly legs into the mark, pull up with a twist, and tamp down.
Vibram Fivefingers is the closest thing to playing golf barefoot. A spinoff of the company’s popular running shoe, the spike-less foot glove, in several vibrant colors, earned distinction as one of the top new products at the show and will be available at retail later this year.
“There’s a reason golf pros practice barefoot,” says Mike Gionfriddo, chief executive of Vibram USA in Concord, Mass. “That connection to the earth improves stance and stability, which can ultimately improve your game.”
The king of golf carts, Sun Mountain displayed an integrated push-cart an d bag called — you guessed it — the Combo. Weighing it at 18 pounds, the union of satchel and trolley features full-length club dividers, three wheels, and a built-in seat. Available in July, the model folds up into a bite-sized package of 16 inches by 10 inches.
Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminerWHAT'S YOUR REACTION?