Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Turning Back the Clock to Hickory Shafted Golf Clubs

Modern golf equipment has experienced a constant technological march forward. More distance, more power, more accuracy. With 460cc titanium drivers, cavity back irons, space age graphite shafts and high tech putters, golfers are constantly searching for the Holy Grail of equipment.

At the same time, there seems to be a movement away from scoring low with the latest equipment, to the more ethereal 1920s when mashies, guttta-percha balls and cool clothes were all the rage. Players are donning knickers, finding hickory shafted collectibles and entering tournaments like the 3rd Annual World Hickory Open at Craigielaw Golf Club in Aberlady, Scotland and the 10th Annual National Hickory Championship at Oakhurst Links in West Virginia.

Yet, finding authentic 1920s-era equipment and using it on the course requires scouring antique shops, flea markets and grandpa’s attic and that doesn't guarantee you'll find anything worth playing with. For those ready to go all out for a complete set of "retro" clubs you can pick up a circa 1930 Bobby Jones Replica Set offered by Golf Links for a mere $3995.

A new company, hoping to take advantage of the surge in "retro" golf is Sweet Wood Golf Company based in Maryland. They have introduced their first hickory shafted putters called "Brunette", "Red Head" and "Blonde", not because they have pictures of women on the soleplate, but because of the stain color on the hickory used in their shafts. They expect this line to retail for $135. A bargain in comparison to some of the fancy high tech putters currently on the market.

Since 1974 there has really only been one company that dominates the "semi-retro" space in golf equipment and that is Louisville Golf. They have been making persimmon drivers and putters all that time and have seen the ups and downs of being a unique golf club manufacturer, but they only take the "retro" movement so far. Their heads are wood, but their shafts are modern steel and graphite. Their prices are modern too.

Another option might be playing with irons fitted with hickory shafts. Sweet Wood Golf Company expects to introduce their Modern-Day Hickory Irons that will have 8210 soft carbon steel iron heads, modern loft/lie angles, USA turned hickory shafts and PGA Tour certified slip on leather grips for the expected market price of around $1800.

It remains to be seen if hickory-shafted golf clubs take off, but if you are a "retro" fan and think that the authenticity of the equipment you play is as important as the game, then modern day golf equipment has nothing over niblicks, brassies and hickory shafts.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Why Can't There be a Double Standard in Golf?

The official keepers of the Rules of Golf are The United States Golf Association (USGA) for the United States and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in Europe. Periodically they come out with ways to make the game more frustrating.

The latest is a potential rule change for the grooves on the face of an iron clubhead. The Royal and Ancient takes issue with U-grooves, which according to an article in the Scotsman, "the combination of U-grooves and thin covered balls have enabled elite players to spin approach shots from the rough - thereby minimizing the importance of driving accuracy in the modern game."

Their objection seems to be in part a desire to protect the purity of the game. According to David Rickman, the Royal and Ancient's director of rules and equipment standards, "while there may have been different speeds for different parts of the game, ultimately it all comes together. The Royal and Ancient has existed for more than 250 years and, during that time, we've played under one set of rules for everyone."

Let’s all dress up like Tevye the Milkman in Fiddler on the Roof and sing about Tradition.

What's wrong with a double standard in golf?

I will never play well enough to compete at an elite level. More likely, I will never play well enough to break 75. Thus, I will never be considered an "elite" player. Is it going to make any difference to me or the millions of hack golfers like me to be concerned about my "non-conforming" U-groove iron face?

Establishing two levels of equipment is known as the bifurcation of the game. This is a nasty word that gives rank amateurs like most of us as much opportunity to enjoy the game as we can.

In reality, what do we enjoy more: the ability to shoot 2-3 strokes better because our equipment is "non-conforming" according to the USGA and the Royal and Ancient or being true to the game and shooting another dismal 94?

I'll take shooting a few strokes better on my favorite course, thereby beating my playing partners and winning the pot, over the psychic scars that I'll get dealing with my moral "non-conforming" club selection quandary any day.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Golf Gear News #31: Wie's Injury, Hockey Like Golf, Square vs. Weighted Drivers, Ice Golf in CO and Golf Novel Predicts Future

CLICK HERE to listen.

In Episode #31 of Golf Gear News, host Bruce Stasch reports at The Newstand that Wie is Out for Month with Injury, Hockey Wants to Emulate Golf and TaylorMade-Adidas Inks Deal with Chinese.

In the Perfect Fit section we learn about the R & A's Ruling on Iron U-Grooves.

The Guru Commentary asks the question Is TaylorMade Losing It's Edge to the Square Driver?

She Golfs Too explores About.com's Top 50 Female Golfers List and Golf Around the World visits Colorado and the Newest Ice Golf Course.

In Can't We All Get Along a Golfer is Wanted in Course Vandalism and Golf of the Weird reports on the Golf Novel That Predicts the Future and the Only Par-4 Hole on the PGA Tour.

Our Website Spotlight is Sweet Wood Golf Company.

As always, our show is sponsored by Golfknockoff.com.

Check out our new Media Kit.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why Do I Care What Bag the Pros Play?

I got my daily e-mail from Golf Press Association. It is basically a regurgitation of the press releases they receive from equipment, apparel and marketing companies. I accept that. Sometimes these e-mails even contain some interesting announcements.

What I don't get is why I would care that in the recent AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, "6 of the 20 finishers at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, including the runner up relied on Izzo to carry their bags". Izzo is a great golf bag. They come up with innovative designs, cool colors and have bags that are easy on the back. That's not my issue. Aside from the fact that it was a caddie that actually carried an Izzo bag for his pro, I wasn't aware that the bag that I put my clubs in is going to make me successful.

Is this a case of "the clothes make the man" or maybe a Venn diagram problem that we learned in math class: if everyone in my group has an Izzo bag, Izzo bags are cool, then that must mean that I'm cool because I carry an Izzo bag. I think this is a not so veiled attempted to generate publicity about a product that has absolutely nothing to do with success on the golf course.

Just another example at trying to garner some press exposure when you really don’t have something worthwhile to say.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My Apologies to Glen Everhart

On a recent podcast, I inadvertently attributed a song clip to a singer/songwriter based here in Minnesota named Glen Everhart. Boy was I ever embarrassed. The clip I played was a parody song, not an original composition of the likes that Mr. Everhart writes. So, here's my official apology to Glen for screwing this up. Sorry Glen.

To make it up to him, I thought I'd pen a few lines about who he is and why I think his original golf songs are so fun. First off, Glen is a Minnesota-based family man that has been performing his one-man golf show to hundreds of audiences across the Midwest over the last seventeen years. Last year he put out a CD entitled The One Putt Strut with eleven original pieces like "Golfing in Paradise", "Slackin’ & Hackin" and "The Chance to Shoot His Age".

According to his bio, his live shows include hitting balls into the audience (waffle balls that is), tricks shots and audience participation. He's got an agency that gets him out on 80-100 gigs a year so he’s a busy guy. Since he's got a night job, he’s got time to play golf during the day (why can’t we be so lucky).

So, if you’re looking for a golf-themed show for a company function or just want some novelty songs about the game we all love, checkout Glen Everhart and his new CD The One Putt Strut at www.oneputtstrut.com

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Is TaylorMade Losing It’s Edge to the Square Driver?

The "hottest" marketing trend in the driver world today is the square-headed driver. Both Callaway and Nike officially hit the market with their entries at the recent PGA Show. Yet, TaylorMade appears to be sticking with their moveable weight concept they introduced in 2004. Does this mean that TaylorMade is losing its edge in the driver market that it's owned for years?

According to president and CEO of TaylorMade-Adidas Golf who was quoted at the PGA Show, "the square-headed driver phenomenon will be over in about 90 days." Wow! That's a big time shot over the bow of Callaway and Nike who are relying on their "squares" to help push driver sales in 2007.

What seems to be really occurring is the creation of two retail pricing levels. The first at $300 and a second at $500. Mr. King at TaylorMade is probably right in that the square driver phenonmenon will quickly fade and be replaced by something new in 3-6 months. Look at the last three Ping gererations with the G2, the G5 and now the Rapture all coming out in the last eighteen months.

TaylorMade's entries for 2007 are a throwback to their earlier Burner (retail price $359) which is targeted to price-conscious "bomb and gouge" player that focuses on speed to satisfy their need for added distance and the r7 SuperQuad (retail price $499) which should attract bigger budgeted golfers more concerned about course management and accuracy versus power.

In comparison, Callaway's entries are the Big Bertha 460cc (Retail Price $299) and the FT-i Series (retail price $499). Even Nike gives you two pricing options with its SasQuatch Sumo Square Driver (retail price $499) and the SasQuatch Sumo Driver (retail price $299).

If square drivers take the market by storm, expect to see new iterations of the concept extending into fairway woods and perhaps hybrids. If not, you'll see those hot "squares" in the discount rack for $299 by May 1st.

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