Horses for Courses

Pair Your equipment to the Course for Optimal Performance
 
For serious golfers living in the Midwest, winters and early spring are simply too long. We pass the time reading golf magazines, practicing indoors and watching The Golf Channel. If you are getting the itch to head somewhere warm to put into practice what you’ve learned and worked on, consider the Carolinas.
 
Pinehurst, with its nine courses, is on many golfers’ bucket list. You can find top-ranked North Carolina golf courses with breathtaking mountain views or with the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop.
 
In South Carolina, Hilton Head and Kiawah Island are frequent PGA Tour stops and for variety, it’s hard to beat Myrtle Beach. If that’s your destination, consider two terrific courses in the area. We played and enjoyed them immensely. Both are in North Carolina, just minutes from North Myrtle Beach. If you’re going to be in the area, be sure to check them out.
 
Thistle Golf Club and TaylorMade Drivers
 
The first course was the Thistle Golf Club. Situated in Sunset Beach, it features three very challenging 9-hole layouts with plenty of water, natural areas and sand bunkers. Its five sets of tees enabled each member in our foursome to play at his or her level. In addition to pristine conditions, we were duly impressed with the service, the friendliness of the staff and the 12-minute tee times. It felt like we had the course to ourselves for the most part.
 
Accuracy is extremely important at Thistle, so I recommend the new TaylorMade R15 or AeroBurner drivers. The R15 continues TaylorMade’s approach of reducing ball spin off the driver by increasing loft and moving the center of gravity toward the front of the club.
 
“To maximize driver distance, the golf ball must be launched at a higher angle and with very little backspin. A number of PGA Tour players are playing 12-degree drivers and they are among the longest on tour,” explained TaylorMade’s Jeff Nielander.
 
The R15 features even more adjustability than last year’s SLDR model, with two sliding mechanisms that can be adjusted to offset hooks, slices, maximize distance or consistency.
 
“We’ve also made the speed pocket longer and placed it a little closer to the clubface,” Nielander added. The speed pocket increases the clubface’s trampoline effect for greater distance.
 
For those who don’t need – or want – the R15’s adjustability, TaylorMade offers the AeroBurner driver. According to Nielander, it’s the company’s most aerodynamic driver ever made, resulting in increased club speed, which means more distance.
 
Crow Creek Golf and Nike Vapor Speed Driver
 
We also played and recommend Crow Creek Golf in Calabash, NC. It stretches to 7100 yards from the tips, though even good players will find the next sets of tees challenging enough. For average golfers, I recommend the white tees (just under 6100 yards). Like Thistle, there is plenty of trouble to be found at Crow Creek, though our group felt that there were fewer bunkers and more generous landing areas – if you choose your tee box wisely.
 
To give you a better chance at being on in two on some of the par 5s, I recommend the new Nike Vapor Speed driver.
 
“This is the line of drivers played by the number one golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy,” said Nike’s Chris Coffman.
 
As Coffman explained, Vapor Speed is designed to deliver optimal distance and low spin by combining FlyBeam technology with a NextCor face and spreading the weight across the head and toe. It further features the company’s FlexLoft 2 for 15 different launch options.
 
“Vapor Speed delivers consistent distance, even on off-center hits. It’s ideal for anyone who wants to hit it farther. In other words, pretty much every golfer,” Coffman added.
 
Callaway Chrome Soft Ball
 
Whether you play Thistle, Crow Creek or your favorite course, there is a new ball I recommend to players of all levels: Callaway’s new Chrome Soft. As the name implies, it’s soft (65 compression), enabling you attack fast, undulating greens and greens that require accurate approaches.
 
“This ball is going to change the category; it’s a paradigm shift for the industry,” explained Callaway’s Steve Conley. “It used to be that you had a soft ball that didn’t go far or a hard ball that would not spin on the green. Chrome Soft eliminates that compromise.”
 
Callaway believes most players will see increased distance with the driver and irons. Plus, the may get their ball do what we see pros do every weekend on TV:
 
“The low compression will allow average players to compress the ball like the pros. They’ll see the ball land and stick … maybe even back up,” Conley added.
 
Just as a good meal is truly complemented by an excellent wine, pairing your clubs with a ball that is ideally suited to your game and skill level will greatly enhance your golfing pleasure.
 
Nick Lico has dual passions: writing and golf. An avid player for 30 years, he has spent the last six years teaching golf at various after-school programs in Metro Detroit.
 
-Par Shooter
 
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Hit Long Hit True

The new breed of high-tech drivers can help you master that tee shot.

You’re at the tee, in the zone, and locked in on the task at hand. You address the ball, raise your driver and swing powerfully in a graceful, perfect arc. The clubhead makes contact right on the sweet spot and square to your target. The ball soars into an azure sky before landing in the fairway, hundreds of yards away and perfectly positioned for a short and easy shot to the green.

Then the alarm clock sounds, and you wake up.

We all execute perfect tee shots in our dreams, but on the golf course it’s not that easy. Hitting that little ball hard and straight with even the best club seems nearly impossible to the novice golfer and is vexing to even experienced amateurs.

Perhaps that’s why golf club manufacturers lavish so much attention and research on the development of new drivers. And for 2013, they’re offering a bumper crop of innovative new clubs, many of them featuring adjustable heads that allow precise tailoring of loft and clubface angle. At the same time, they’ve improved materials and streamlining in order to maximize energy transferred to the ball and optimize the ease with which the clubhead moves through the air.

TaylorMade, long a major supplier of drivers for touring pros, is among those marketing an adjustable driver. Tom Ovasky, senior director of product creation, as quoted in Golf Digest, said, “With a few adjustments, golfers can improve their results in minutes.”

That’s what we like to hear.

Tech Assistance at The Tee

The new breed of adjustable high-tech drivers utilizes one or more adjustments to change the face angle, loft setting and lie. By altering those variables, the path in which the ball travels as it leaves the club can be changed, as can the direction and rotation of spin. All of those factors have an effect on how far the ball will go and where it will land.

If we were all perfect golfers, we could find the driver that’s best suited to our game and stick with it. But most of us are far from perfect when it comes to swinging a golf club consistently, and our game varies greatly from one day to the next. An adjustable club head allows compensation for those variations while compensating in part for the individual golfer’s weak points.

Some makers offer adjustable clubhead weighting as well. By moving weight inboard, a slice can often be corrected. And an uncontrollable slice is probably the most common problem that amateurs face on the tee.

Other features common to the best new drivers include wider sweet spots, weighting that optimizes the moment of inertia for longer drives, and even clubhead styling that helps golfers square the driver’s face when addressing the ball and may even make the clubhead look larger than it really is. That, say the manufacturers, can inspire confidence. And confidence is a big part of the game.

Choose Your Weapon

TaylorMade’s R1 series of drivers allow a dozen different lie, face angle and loft settings. Movable weights enable further adjustment and an adjustable soleplate can change face-angle appearance at address. The manufacturer says this driver than can be tuned to fit both Tour pros and amateurs. According to TaylorMade spokesman, Brian Murphy, the R1 is the number one driver played on the PGA Tour.

The R1 offers seven standard and five upright loft options between 8° and 12°, along with seven face-angle options. To expand the sweet spot of the clubface, TaylorMade employs Inverted Cone Technology. In addition, the clubhead is styled to help the golfer address the ball squarely. TaylorMade notes that in trying to square a conventional, unmarked clubhead, many golfers fall victim to an illusion that suggests the clubface is square when it is actually open, inviting a wicked slice.

Nike has developed an adjustable driver as well. It’s called the VRS Covert, and it features independent adjustment of loft and face angle, allowing golfers to customize the club to fit their swing, thereby maximizing distance and accuracy. Dual axis adjustment decouples the loft and face angle variables, thus multiple configurations are possible.

This conforming driver is built with a cavity back for longer, straighter shots, and the manufacturer’s Nexcor face technology provides a wider sweet spot.

The driver is available in “Tour” and “Performance” versions. The Performance club is engineered to redistribute weight into the corners, thus increasing the moment of inertia in a traditional head shape.

The Adams’ Super S driver is, in the words of its maker, “a big bomber” that allows easy adjustment of loft. Adams’ Fast Fit Adjustability provides a 2° range of loft variation, enabling golfers to change the adjustment as their game varies. A streamlined head optimizes clubhead speed through aerodynamic efficiency.

Adams says the new driver is the first with a VST expanding sweet spot that enables consistently longer drives. It’s also the most aerodynamic driver Adams has ever produced. Because the clubhead slips smoothly through the air, speed is optimized. The company has even given thought to clubhead color and says that the matte white crown and contrasting faceplate make the head appear larger, which helps with alignment while inspiring confidence.

Cobra’s adjustable driver is called the Amp Cell. The drivers MyFly™ technology provides six different loft settings over a range of 3°. The manufacturer says that its SmartPad technology squares the face at every loft setting.

A 12% larger face shape is said to deliver faster ball speed even on miss-hits. The titanium head is available in four dramatic colors.

The Amp Cell Pro model has a 440 cc head with a lower, more neutral center of gravity and is available in two colors.

-Par Shooter

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Put Some Color in Your Game

Golf has always been a colorful activity. Since the first Scotsman put on a pair of knickers at St. Andrews the sport has allowed people to express themselves with colorful clothing. Yes, we’ve all seen those neon rainbows that take it to the extreme.

Now the style element in golf goes well beyond what you wear. You can make a fashion statement with the clubs you use. While golf equipment manufacturers have always emphasized a distinctive look for their clubs to enhance the brand image, they are now giving you a lot more choices in colors.

Get a Grip on Color

By far the easiest and cheapest way to color up your game is with your grips.  “We never realized how many different sports teams there are and how many different colors they represent,” says Golf Pride, a leading manufacturer of grips.  “We’ve got colors for just about every team, and they all sell like crazy.”

Of course, color will always be secondary to how well a piece of golf equipment works, and Golf Pride emphasizes that Golf Pride grips work well whether they are orange, purple or basic black. They are partially cord, which puts woven material over the palm of the upper hand to improve wear characteristics.

The explosion of color in golf grips began a few years ago, and Golf Pride expects the trend to continue. “As club manufacturers continue to bring out new colors in their products, we can match whatever they do.”

Pretty in Pink

Wilson Sporting Goods has a complete set of ladies clubs in pink, but the primary motivation isn’t really color.  Their Lady Hope Pink set recognizes the fight against breast cancer and the company has contributed more than $2 million from sales of the set to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The pink set is complete, with clubs, putter and wedge, cart bag, balls and glove. While colorful, this is a very serious set of golf clubs. “The Hope line provides our customers with premium women’s golf products and a way that they too can support breast cancer research,” says Wilson Golf .

New Technology, New Color

Golf technology is highly competitive and manufacturers constantly look for new methods to add just a little more distance and a little more accuracy to their clubs. Now, they’re also paying more attention to the look of those clubs, adding color to make them more distinctive. A perfect example is the new TaylorMade R11 adjustable driver, with the technology to independently adjust the face angle and loft, is breakthrough.  But the first thing you’ll notice about the R11 is the dramatic white color of the clubhead. Not only is it distinctive visually, but the surface is specially formulated with a non-glare finish.

Now that is a two-stroke advantage.  Improve your game and look better doing it.

-Par Shooter

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Ten Golf Road Trip Tips

The Midwest offers a wide variety of challenging public-access golf courses. Whether you’re destination is far or close to home, to one location or a number of them, for just one day, a weekend or longer, there’s a lot to consider. When you’re on the road, what’s in your bag can really make a difference. Knowing that, here are 10 tips to help make your golf road trip an unforgettable, birdie-filled and bogey-free experience.

1. Think Light

Leave your bulky, oversized club bag at home. Some courses, like Whistling Straights, are walk-only, links-style tracts. Others offer reduced twilight rates for walkers, long after power carts are put to bed. Don’t let a large heavy bag limit your golf opportunities. Great-looking, light-weight bags from Callaway and PowerBilt feature premium materials, state-of-the-art tripod stands and multiple waterproof zippered pockets to help keep everything you need exactly where you want it.

2. Play the Best of Both Balls

Don’t limit your choice of golf balls to only one type. Match the type of ball to the course you play. A two-piece ball like a Callaway Warbird offers the control you’ll need to negotiate the tight, tree-lined doglegs of the Heathers Course, along with the distance you’ll need to carry the large water hazards of the Lake Course. On the other hand, a three-piece ball like a Titleist Pro V offers the softer feel and superior greenside control you’ll need to hit and hold on the large double greens of the Gailes and devilish pin placements at Shanty Creek.

3. Fit to a Tee

All golf tees are not created equal. Remember to pack a variety. Use short 2 1/8” tees for irons, hybrids and low-profile woods. Use 2 ¾” tees for drivers under 360 cc and tees up to 3 ¼”for larger drivers. The longest allowed by the USGA is a 4” tee. Incidentally, the General Course has four tee boxes, but doesn’t use a color-coding system. Each is marked with 1, 2, 3 or 4 stars. So, you can be a “4-Star General,” at least for a day.

4. One Good Glove Deserves Another

Severe elevation changes at Meadows Valley, narrow fairways at Quail Hollow, and the field of rocks from tee to green over the 7th hole at Mystic River will all test your meddle. Stay in control of your clubs and your nerves by changing your golf glove often. Nike and Taylor Made offer a variety of good-looking, great-fitting gloves made of durable Cabretta leather or moisture-resistant, breathable fabrics.

5. Dress for Success

Why not “shoe up” in style for your golf road trip? Callaway, Nike and Adidas all offer a variety to choose from. Choose a shoe with plenty of toe room and good arch support. Choose waterproof shoes if you plan to play in the early morning on damp, dew-covered greens or at courses like The Wilds, where water is in play on nearly half the holes.

6. Drive Longer and Straighter

Do you love smashing the ball off the tee? Make your road trip one to remember with a new TaylorMade Burner, Callaway or PowerBilt Air Force One Driver. All incorporate advanced technology to help you drive longer over windswept tracts like Arcadia Bluffs and straighter on the heavily wooded fairways of Kemper Lakes.

7. Get Hip to Hybrid Power

If your “second shot” is your nemesis, new developments in hybrid design and construction can help. Nitrogen-pressurized club heads like the Powerbilt AFO hybrids and ultra-light graphite shafts like the Adams Pro Gold Hybrids are more playable and forgiving. They can help you reach more greens in regulation and be the envy of any foursome.

8. Iron Man Up

If your irons look old and tired, they probably are! Nike Slingshot 4D Irons will not only look good in your bag, they can also dramatically change your game. Packed with state-of-the-art technology Slingshot 4D irons might be the most forgiving and accurate you’ll ever hit, no matter where you play.

9. Energize Like a Pro

A challenging course or long road trip can physically drain you. Why not energize like a pro? The Phiten X30 Titanium is the official necklace of PGA Tour Professionals. A micro-titanium sphere emits a bio-electric energy field to help you overcome fatigue and muscle strain.

10. Play Weather or Not

Most golf clothing manufacturers offer a wide variety of foul weather and raingear. Remember to also pack a light jacket, extra hat or visor, and a few extra pairs of warm socks. Don’t let cool winds off the Great Lakes or unexpected rain shower rob you of an eagle, birdie or record-breaking round you’ll never forget.

-Par Shooter

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