The weather forecast the night before Demo Day for Winter Garden, Florida wasn’t exactly ideal. For me, there was a sense of disappointment because not only was there rain in the forecast but there were thunderstorms expected at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.. Fortunately, the rains never came and instead came blue skies and temperatures in the high 70’s. Sure there were a few clouds in the sky and there was plenty of wind for attendees and manufacturers alike but not once was there a threat of ill weather.
My day started at around 8 a.m. after a drive from the Plant City area that was mired in traffic. Upon arriving at Orange County National Golf Resort and Lodge and driving through the fescue to park I made my way into the grounds with my media badge proudly on display. I stopped at a couple of booths that were setting up (Wilson Golf and Cleveland Golf) just to say hello to a contact or two there. I took advantage of watching Cleveland Golf Staffer Jamie Sadlowski make some swings before attendees came in. Sadlowski is a recent signing and I received an amazing tip of a new staffer tat’s going to be announced. Later in the morning while I was at morning meetings Wilson Golf announced that the sequel to Driver vs Driver was currently undergoing filming. At this time Wilson Golf also introduced the judging panel who includes Wilson Golf President Tim Clarke, ex-NHL superstar Jeremy Roenick and internet sensation Rick Shiels.
As I moved on from there I met with a representative of Buffalo Agency (Bill Fiedler) who introduced me to a few of their clients. The first was a brand of high-end golf shafts from a Japanese-based brand called Seven Dreamers. The brand sees its root in the aerospace and medical industry’s respectively. Their golf shafts offer a wide variety to players of all types which totals 27 different SKU’s in a wide variety of weight and shaft flex options. A review will be coming but once we found the right shaft for me putting the ball in play was easy. Predictable shot patterns and trajectory. Afterwards, I was introduced to the team at the JPGA. The Junior Players Golf Academy attracts junior golfers (and their parents) from all over the world. Having two locations (Orlando-area and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina) the academy teaches junior golfers not only how to play the game of golf but also gives them an education with the goal of the golfers earning scholarships into university golf programs. Moreover the academy also teaches their prospects very important life skills.
I had an appointment at 10:30 a.m. with the VP of Cobra-Puma Golf Tom Olsavsky . Mr. Olsavsky talked me through the 2018 product range from Cobra Golf and the range is setting up what could be another juggernaut of a year for the brand. The brand features two color stories for their metal woods (F8 and F8+). This year the finishes come in black (stealthy) and a color called Nardo. The Nardo is mean and is accented by having metallic flakes infused into it. The face features CNC Milling as opposed to forged types and the reason for this will be explained in a later article. The brand also released the new F8 ONE Length irons building of a very successful F7 model in 2017. Added to the ONE Length range in 2018 is a matching hybrid. I will be receiving a set of the F8 ONE Length irons for review and the one feature that the irons have is the integration of Cobra Connect. Launched in 2017 in only their driver Cobra Golf has added the Arccos Golf system to their sets. Arccos has so many features that I can’t list them right now but this might be the ultimate golf metrics data collection in the business. It’s powered by Mircosoft and this thing is amazing.
I had an appointment with TaylorMade Golf where I made swings with the new M3 irons and the M3 and M4 drivers that feature “Twist Face Technology”. I really enjoyed the M3 irons (preferred the pairing of the Tensei graphite) and between the M3 and M4 I had to lean towards the M3. Both clubs were easy to hit but my time was rather limited. I would go back to Wilson Staff and swing the new C300 range. Their irons come in two different models (C300 Forged and a Cast version). As much as I liked the C300 Forged the C300 (cast) “went like stink”. The exit speed was great and the 8 iron was carrying 165 yards. I really did like the hybrid, fairway wood and driver as well.
So as one might expect you always have the givens. The can’t misses that are the giants of the golf industry. You know them… TaylorMade Golf, Callaway Golf, Titleist and PING. What people don’t realize there are so many terrific independent or lesser known brands in the industry… especially on this side of the pond. I have to start by mentioning New Level Golf Equipment. Their CEO Eric Burch brings 20 years of design and clubmaking knowledge with him. New Level launched new irons and wedges and I fell in love with with the 1031 Forged irons. KBS Shafts is a partner of his and paired with the C-Taper 125 the 1031 Forged proved to be a hidden gem (btw his 902 irons are no slouch either). All of their irons are forged. I made swings with Vertical Groove Golf who launched their driver last year and a fairway wood this year. Drives into the wind with an 8* head and X-Stiff shaft hit bombs into the wind. Back in North America is Lynx Golf. After their purchase by Dick’s Sporting Goods the brand was all but extinct in North America. With the launch of their new Prowler VT irons and their Forged CB irons they are clearly no longer “that Lynx”. Performance and irons that are simply good looking. I had high expectations and those were met. But their #BB driver was the biggest shock of the day because that driver is one sneaky, long, and consistent performer.
Finally, this year I got to swing some of the lesser known (to North America) JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) manufacturers. Starting with Epon the brand offers the cleanest wedge on the market because it is essentially void of markings. Forged by premier foundry (Endo) these irons are of the highest quality and their AF-705 irons were a powerful combination of beauty, forgiveness and distance. Honma Golf might be a brand that as far as I’m concerned has a huge stigma attached to them. That stigma is that they are for the wealthy and feature a gold driver worth $2000 USD (4 Star). They are that but… they also feature 3 other models including the BeZeal. The driver and irons were disgustingly good and I’ll save that write-up for another time. Also in the brands that I’ve never made swings with until now category is Onoff Golf. Their Onoff Kuro Black range is sleek, sneaky and powerful and again they were well worth the wait.
Stay tuned for more PGA Show coverage in the upcoming days.
Until The Next Tee!!