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My Year In Review, Too

Last week was courses. This week, a look at the golf products that made 2012 memorable

By: James A. Frank

With 2013 upon us and golf’s annual trade show about to commence, new-equipment announcements are hitting my in-box almost every day. (The LINKS crew will continue reviewing and reporting on the best gear and gadgets on the website all year long.) But just as I did last week with the great courses I saw in 2012, I wanted to ring out the “old” one more time, giving credit where it is due to those golf products of the past year that should not be forgotten. The product/company names below are hot-linked so you can go right to their websites.

Putters were big news even before the long-stick ban was announced at year’s end. I was very impressed with Odyssey’s Metal-X putters (the lightweight aluminum face backed by urethane plastic), in particular the Flip Face that featured Metal-X on one side and the slightly firmer White Ice on the other. And TaylorMade’s Ghost putters—the white heads available in different sizes and shapes—are scary good, as a number of Tour pros can attest.

But flying under the big-company radar is the P2G2 TopStrike putter (shown above), made by a golf pro from Rhode Island named Norm Alberigo who has devoted the last 30 years to studying the science of putting and how golfers roll the ball. The P2G2 has a taller face (to ensure contact is made in the center of the ball without manipulating the stroke) and more weight higher in the head. My putting has never been better and I can’t tell you how many playing partners, including club and teaching pros, asked about the P2G2 and how to get one.

Surprisingly, I tested only one new set of irons last year—TaylorMade’s RBZ (or, if you must, “Rocketballz”). The name denotes power, and I can’t complain about the distance. But what stands out is their consistent accuracy: This is what manufacturers mean when they label irons as “game improvement.”

anserdriverIt seemed a new driver was released weekly last year, many of them adjustable. The one I use most often is Ping’s Anser, which combines three loft settings with a choice of four shafts for the perfect fit. I’ll be trying Ping’s newest adjustable driver, the G25, very soon, and also will hope to report on new models from Adams, TaylorMade, Callaway, and others. Many match with adjustable fairway woods and hybrids, which may become this year’s hot products. For the moment, my “control” is TourEdge’s Xrail fairway woods, which pack a lot of heat at an affordable price.

Last year saw continued acceptance of distance finders, both laser rangefinders and GPS, and I tried a bunch the last few months. In rangefinders I was most impressed with those from Leupold, particularly the GX-4i, and from Bushnell. In GPS systems, I spent the most time with Callaway’s upro MX+, which is extremely small and light. But besides testing various features, I routinely checked models against one another for discrepancies in accuracy and found none: Whichever system you prefer, and whatever model, the yardages are spot-on, certainly good enough for us amateurs.

Another sign that some golf traditions are changing is the market for spikeless golf shoes, each weighing next to nothing, available in a spectrum of colors, and gripping the ground with an array of nubs, slots, and bumps on their soles. I’m presently alternating between Nike’s Lunar Swingtips and the adicross II from adidas (below). But kudos to ecco, which popularized the style and continues to innovate with models like the Biom hybrid.

Classic golf shoes haven’t gone away, and hats off—or feet up—to Allen-Edmonds, which are American-made to the highest standards of construction and comfort. They also go nicely with Kentwool socks, also made in the USA and now available in cool color combinations.

Quite a few of last year’s rounds would have been unplayable without a good rainsuit. In Scotland and Ireland I did everything but sleep in the Torrent suit from Sun Mountain. I also learned the good sense behind layering, wearing a high-tech “base” shirt under a golf shirt and/or sweater. I got great use out of two or three underlayers from Fila that I wore in nearly every season: They kept me warm, blocked the wind, wicked away moisture, and didn’t add bulk.

All wonderful examples of the innovation finding its way into golf. I can’t wait to see what 2013 will bring.

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