Dave Hoppe

Dave Hoppe

Hit it higher, hit it longer

Height didn’t always equate to length when smacking the golf ball off the tee, due mainly to the rotation of the ball itself. That was before the advent of the Taylor Made SLDR driver, new to the market this year. The club recently received 20 out of 20 gold stars while being reviewed by Golf Digest, and according to James Baxter of Red Deer Discount Golf Centre. ...

Height didn’t always equate to length when smacking the golf ball off the tee, due mainly to the rotation of the ball itself.

That was before the advent of the Taylor Made SLDR driver, new to the market this year. The club recently received 20 out of 20 gold stars while being reviewed by Golf Digest, and according to James Baxter of Red Deer Discount Golf Centre. …

“It’s the first time a driver has ever achieved that level of accolade from that magazine.

“The idea behind this driver is to change the loft of the club itself and allow the ball to carry. There’s less spin on the ball and by increasing the loft golfers are achieving a better launch and therefore a better carry coming off the club.”

The SLDR features a 20-gram weight that slides along a slot on the sole, which also allows for faster ball speed.

“Even players like (PGA star) Dustin Johnson are increasing the loft of the driver itself so that with the lesser spin it achieves a maximum kind of a launch. It’s a clever idea,” said Baxter.

“The slot itself is actually for a bias toward drawing and fading the ball. The weight is a perimeter weight that, when at the toe, will force the toe to lag open and maintain a fade.

“If the weight is toward the heel, that will close the face down and cause a draw. The club comes with a torque wrench which allows the ability to not only remove the head to adjust the loft itself, but also the ability to transfer the weight up and down the face to create a fade or a draw.”

Baxter is impressed with the technology behind the new driver.

“It’s brilliant. It eliminates a lot of the problems that a majority of recreational golfers have, and that’s the lack of getting the ball to launch and creating too much spin from miss-hitting it. Manufacturers are trying to continually grow the game and to do so they recognize that they need to stop building for professional-level players and focus on recreational-level players.”

TaylorMade has also introduced the JetSpeed driver, which promotes extreme velocity through increased clubhead speed, as well as decreased spin.

“It’s a one-piece driver geared for hitting the ball high,” said Red Deer Golf and Country Club associate pro Roy Hide.

“Basically, it’s a forgiving non-adjustable, low-centre of gravity club that allows recreational golfers to hit the ball high in the air.

“It’s a new club that can eliminate spin and every new driver coming out now features a decreased spin rate. A driver might look the same as it did a generation ago, but most likely in the face. The thickness is different as companies try to decrease the amount of spin.”

The new Titleist 913 series is another example, as is the Ping I25, Hide pointed out.

The Nike RS Covert 2.0 driver features a cavity back design that has resulted in a club that weighs less than 300 grams.

“The engineers realized that there’s not much purpose in having physical weight in this region (sole of the club),” said Baxter. “It serves no purpose, so they re-engineered it and distributed the weight in the head very effectively to control the spin and also to create a tremendous adjustability. The club can adjust down to eight and a half degrees and all the way to 12 and a half degrees with one simple adjustment which can allow you to independently go left and right of the target line.

“They continued that technology with their fairway woods and hybrid irons. There’s a lot of adjustability there as well.”

• Hybrid clubs continue to be popular with golfers of all levels for the simple reason they’re easier to hit than long irons.

“We’ve taken trades that involve old irons and I’ve seen where the 3- and 4-irons haven’t been touched,” said Baxter. “The 7-irons have been beat to the ends of the earth, but the 3 and 4 not touched. That tells us they’re hard to hit and people are not using them.”

Adams Golf has placed a hybrid on the market that features a slot along the sole — what is known as a ‘compression channel’.

The Adams Tight Lies, a fairway/rescue club, includes the same technology, as do Adams drivers.

“The new Tight Lies series also has a bit of a rocker bottom and that kind of shape allows an opportunity to get the fairway wood through divots and the second cut as well,” said Baxter. “The re-engineered clubhead and the compression channel are new to the market.”

The compression channel is a design that can clearly help recreational golfers.

“Adams has recognized that the majority of recreational golfers make an impact towards the toe, so they’ve expanded that compression channel area over the toe area as well, adding even more forgiveness. It’s called a gearing affect,” said Baxter. “It forces the energy back towards the target itself. As it collapses, it realigns the inertia and the energy.”

• TaylorMade is also a front-runner in iron technology with the new ‘Speed Pocket’ found in the sole of the SpeedBlade clubs.

“They’ve focused primarily on the long and mid-range irons,” said Baxter. “They did not utilize a compression channel to accelerate the speed of the ball off the face of the short irons. That’s more of a controlled swing.”

Added Hide: “The SpeedBlade is a game-improvement iron. TaylorMade’s Tour Preferred set of irons with the cavity backs is more of a blade type with the smaller head. It’s more for the better players.”

The new Titleist AP2 irons feature a smaller head with more weight down low on the club to help get the ball airborne.

“Titleist promotes flighting with all of their clubs,” said Hide. “Flighting means your pitching wedge is going to go the same height as your 4-iron. You want to have the same flight height with all the clubs in your bag so you have the same kind of reaction when your ball hits the green.”

Ping launched the G24 set last year and this season have introduced the Karsten set.

“The Karsten is an ultra game-improvement club,” said Hide. “It has the biggest cavity and it’s the widest golf club. It’s easier to hit and has the most forgiveness. With off-centre shots you still get good distance and accuracy. It’s more for recreational players.”

The Karsten irons also come with 3-4-5- hybrids.

• Anchored putters have been reasonably popular over the past several years and Odyssey has introduced a club that incorporates the same feel.

“They’ve added a counter-balance weight so it creates that very similar feel . . . like a pendulum,” said Baxter. “With the premier weight it feels like the putter is anchored in some respect.”

The Tank, by Odyssey, is one example of a counter-balance putter and also features a newly-designed grip.

“Another thing that has become quite popular is a parallel grip. Instead of a tapered grip that has a shallower bottom hand, there’s a parallel equal grip which maintains the same thickness throughout,” said Baxter. “So both the top and bottom hand have the same thickness of grip to hold onto.

“What it seems to do doing is eliminating the hands. With that much volume, you physically can’t get your wrist angles changing, therefore you aren’t getting your hands involved in the putting process. It’s sort of simplifying the mechanics of it all.”

The TaylorMade Spider Mallet is another example of a counter-balance putter.

“With most traditional putters you can feel the weight in the head more than anything,” said Hide. “Counter balance evens out weight distribution between the grip and the head.”