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Jan 24, 2014 | 06:39 AM

Where Golf Is Going

The LINKS editors have been writing on our blog, “Blinks,” about new products and other announcements coming out of the PGA Merchandise Show, soon to wrap up its three-day run in Orlando. And we will continue to introduce you to new gear on this website and in the magazine over the next few months. But besides specific debuts, the show featured some broader themes proving just how advanced golf technology has become. Such as…

1. Light Is Right. Carry bags are considered really light if they get below 4 pounds. Oakley—well known for its eyewear and youthful apparel, and charging into other sectors of golf equipment under the banner “be disruptive”—offers a new carry bag that weighs 2.8 pounds. The “Factory Lite” (a name the company also uses on reduced-weight shoes, even apparel) trims precious ounces throughout its construction, using shorter zippers, fewer rivets, smaller pockets, and carbon-fiber legs without giving up any convenience. There are also a number of incredibly light shoes stepping into the light, including some from Oakley and Ogio, but perhaps not slimmer than the Minimus from New Balance, which enters the golf market for the first time with a snappy athletic-look shoe (above) that weighs just 7.2 ounces.

2. Follow The Bouncing Balls. As reported a few weeks back, Titleist has redone all the balls in its line other than the Pro V1 this year: The Velocity, DT Solo, and NXT balls have been updated with better aerodynamics, feel, and in some cases new dimple patterns. Plus there are the new RZN balls from Nike, with a new inner core; a new four-piece FG Tour ball from Wilson that promises lower spin off the driver and higher spin off the wedges; and Callaway’s just-introduced SuperSoft ball, which is, yes, very soft. Plus Bridgestone has revamped its B330 balls, rolling out four new models all with something the company calls Hydro Core technology.

3. Front And Center. For years, club makers have been buliding drivers with the center of gravity low and back, which gets the ball up and flying. Suddenly, the new catchphrase for drivers is “high and forward,” with a few models—notably TaylorMade’s SLDR—moving the center of gravity up and ahead, producing a lower, more penetrating flight. Tour Edge is offering the woods in its new XCG7 line in both traditional and “beta” models for better players (the latter with the CG higher and more forward). Other companies with new drivers—including Ping with the I25, Cobra with the Bio Cell+, Callaway with the Big Bertha (although its CG can be moved slightly with an adjustable sole weight), and even TaylorMade with its other new driver, the JetSpeed (which falls somewhere in between in CG)—still seem to favor weight lower and further back. To help the everyday player make the most of forward-weighting, TaylorMade has launched a campaign to “Loft Up,” telling consumers to play with more loft to balance the effects of the lower CG. There’s no doubt the club is hot; the question is whether golfers will understand and accept the message.

4. Health Matters. Fitness devices and other wellness products—from sunscreens to stretching/exercise bars, vibration platforms, snacks and drinks, weights, resistance training, inflatable balls, and more—were everywhere. The Buzz especially liked GolfersSkin, a greaseless sunscreen that dries clear and dry, and is looking forward to working out with Gold Flex, a swing trainer that also helps strengthen and stretch muscles. But just a few rows away from the fitness section, Kraft Foods was serving Oscar Mayer maple-flavored pigs in a blanket. As always, the PGA Show offered something for everyone.

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Jan 23, 2014 | 12:13 PM

Luxury Lodge for Streamsong

Build it and they will come. But where will they stay? Streamsong Resort in Florida recently answered that question. Golfers have been coming to the 36-hole facility since last year for its distinctive layouts: the Blue, designed by Tom Doak, and the Red, created by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Now the resort has opened the doors of a 216-room Lodge, a necessity given its location almost 90 miles southwest of Orlando and 60 miles southeast of Tampa. Amenities include three restaurants, a spa and a rooftop lounge. Not to mention two spectacular courses nearby. The current Stay & Play package includes 36 holes, accommodations for the night and breakfast for $595 per person, based on double occupancy.

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Jan 22, 2014 | 07:26 AM

Hackgolf Hopes To Save The Game

When the history of the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show is written, one of the key moments is certain to be the launching last night of Hackgolf, an initiative to make golf more fun, bring new players into the game, revive its economic fortunes, and help perpetuate it for generations to come. Backed with funding and manpower by TaylorMade—but intended to involve companies and people both inside and outside the industry, and backed by the PGA of America and the National Golf Foundation—Hackgolf is following the path of innovations like iTunes, the smartphone, and other revolutionary ideas to re-think golf from the outside-in. The first phase is to go “open source,” asking anyone interested in golf to contribute ideas to help it. Those ideas will be assessed and some prototyped and paid for by an initial $5-million contribution from TaylorMade. Anything and everything is open to scrutiny and “hacking,” a business term that means to tear something apart, look at it thoroughly, then reconstruct it better than ever. This is a fascinating and, with luck, very important program that relies on everyone’s participation. So if you have ideas to make golf more vibrant and fun, or if you simply want to see what others are saying and weigh in, go to hackgolf.org. Let’s hope this is an initiative we come back to again and again to report how golf is benefitting, growing, and becoming even more fun.

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Jan 20, 2014 | 07:05 AM

Will Rio Be Ready?

The Winter Games that start in Sochi, Russia, in a few weeks rightfully top all Olympic news at the moment. But that doesn’t mean work isn’t continuing in Rio, site of the 2016 Summer Games, and in particular, the building of the golf course that Gil Hanse designed specifically for the event. There have been numerous rumors about the slow pace of building the course—which is supposed to open next summer—with Hanse noting that construction is at a “critical juncture.” The best look at how the work is shaping up comes from CNN, which sent a correspondent to Rio to check on the progress, even hiring a helicopter to fly over the landscape for a bird’s-eye view.

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