Rrrrroll Back??

Alright! Right up until this moment I’ve been very quiet about the hot topic that has come up lately. No it isn’t Tiger’s comeback at the Hero World Challenge but he is involved in this article. Then again so are legends of golf Mr. Jack Nicklaus and Mr. Gary Player. Of course I am talking about the latest talk of rolling back the golf ball.The reason is simple and I totally understand their concern. The fact is that Tour players are making certain golf courses obsolete. Most notably, some of the courses in the rota for the Open Championship. Imagine a world where there is no Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrew’s. When you think about it… it isn’t far-fetched at all.

The talk of rolling the golf ball back is not a new idea. Mr. Nicklaus has stated this in the past so his suggestion about a uniform golf ball is nothing new. I remember going back to 2015 during the week of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay the timeless legend Mr. Player stated that golf courses were “getting too long” and that the “mismanagement of the golf ball” is leading to the demise of golf courses. Even more recently, Mr. Player stated that it was “sad” to see the Old Course being defeated by today’s golf ball. He actually expressed concerns in 2005. Tiger Woods joined the “campaign” on dialing the golf ball back very recently as well. Of course, there were those who follow the game that said he wants the golf ball rolled back because he is no longer the longest guy out there. But there he was clearly stating that “We” need to do something. So if this is a concern than why has nothing been done?

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While evolution and progress can be a great thing in some cases it isn’t. In a world of checks and balances something has to give. I have a hard time seeing the likes of the major brands in the industry saying yes to having a uniform golf ball. After all, in the case of Titleist their marketing model has nothing to do with their golf clubs or their mid-range golf balls. It’s all about the Pro V1 golf ball. Play what the best in the world play! Of course, the Pro V1 will almost certainly continue to live for the masses.  But getting back to giving a new meaning to “the one ball rule” how would that process occur? Bids by the likes of Acushnet, Srixon Golf,  Bridgestone Golf, Wilson Golf etc with the winner being selected and to the victor go the spoils? Seems hardly fair right? If all company’s had to adhere to the same criteria that would theoretically work. But then I get this eerie premonition.

Just like when rolling and shaving softball bats was a thing when I was still playing softball. To make composite softball bats more lively guys at all levels of softball would shave the inner walls of the bat and roll the bats to make them “pop” reducing their break-in period which made the bats hot!!!. The result… pitchers dreaded lobbing up every pitch because of the balls exit speed coming back up the middle. Trust me.. it was deadly!   The governing bodies at Provincial Championships had x-ray machines to check for any suspected bats breaching the rule. Remember my premonition? Imagine the eventual winner of a tournament won a tournament that we’ll call ‘The Masters”. The winner was  hitting the “rolled back” golf ball long. Meanwhile, up in The Butler Cabin  by the fireplace sits an x-ray machine. Right before the Green Jacket presentation they examine the golf ball… or all of the golf balls in the golf bag of the winner. Somehow, there was one ball that magically slipped through quality and control at Plant#3 and there’s an illegal golf ball. Disqualification.

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Photo Credit: scottishgolfhistory.com

 

The reality of the game and rolling the golf ball back only is a concern for such a low percentage of golfers around the world. For everyone else (mere mortals) this debate doesn’t or shouldn’t really effect them. With all due respect to Mr. Nicklaus, Mr. Player and Mr. Woods the problem really stems back to my entire baseball bat scenario. Sure the golf ball is long. Maybe it doesn’t spin as much. But those baseball bats started to launch the ball out of the ball park 375 feet  at will. One league I played in had houses built right behind the sports complex. Segments of 50′ mesh nets were strung up in a vain attempt to protect the houses against incoming “mortar shells”. It sort of worked but yet windows were still getting smashed. The league brought in a flight restricted ball and sure the instances of baseballs being hit off of the roofs of neighboring houses decreased but not by much. So what was the correlation and why was it still a problem… other than poor city planning? The bats and athlete’s themselves.

I personally think that the issue with golf and this entire “rolling back crusade” is with the golf clubs themselves. Let’s face it… when you’re an arthritic 70-year-old man you shouldn’t really hitting the ball further than when you were 50. But you are! If there’s an issue with too much length look at the new equipment that’s being constructed from space-aged materials. If it’s anything it’s the equipment causing the issues.  Not just drivers and irons but the turf equipment too. Bear with me for a second regarding the latter. But again, this only pertains to a small percentage of golfers. Have scores dropped significantly among amateurs over the last 5 years with all of the advances in technology? The answer is no! Look at the technology in place for these guys playing on television on Sunday afternoon’s. Sure it’s out there for amateur’s as well  but the technology goes far outside of having the right shafts installed into your set. Who saw Rocky IV? Remember the technology that “Ivan Drago” had? Technology that actually makes the athlete with much advanced workout programs. Golfers at the collegiate and professional levels like their NHL, NFL, and MLB counterparts are quite simply bigger, faster and stronger. So… is the answer having 8,500 yard long golf courses? My thought is no! How the heck does that help and what is a solution?

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The course of the future now. (Photo Credit: Daily Mail)

I never thought that I would say this but maybe.. just maybe the USGA has had it “sort of” right all along with their set-ups. Maybe the superintendents at said courses would take an issue to this but maybe growing out the rough, making fairways narrower and the greens firmer and faster is the answer. Moreover, water the living “bejeezus” out of the fairways. Drench them… and forget about these guys getting 50+ yards of roll. My Lord… most of the fairways that these guys play on roll faster on a “Stimp” than the greens at most Semi-Private golf courses. The machinery that superintendents have at their disposal has come a long way since the era of “Caddyshack’. I’ve said for too long that golf has become hard to watch. Seeing these guys posting combined -24 scores for a tournament is hurting the game and making the game boring to watch. Many people go to car races for the “wrecks” and that’s why I love the carnage at the U.S. Open. High scores and punishment for wayward shots. Many of these courses also feature fairways as wide as the eyes can see… or they should be considering their width. Look at Erin Hills… wow! Heck, even Glen Abbey site of the RBC Canadian Open has massive fairways where the bombers can bomb away at will. If they miss… no big deal because there is no rough. If you want to roll anything back… roll back the course conditioning.

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2004 U.S. Open Shinnecock Hills (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Maybe my solution is too simplified. You aren’t going to be able to roll back the athlete (force them to be obese) and you might be able to do something about rolling back the ball and/or equipment. But the one thing that golf needs to do is preserve the game and preserve the likes of Tillinghast, Thompson, Nicklaus, Palmer, Robert Trent Jones and Ross. Make these guys “golf the ball” around the course. Screw “bomb and gouge” and make these guys hit golf shots. Make them work the ball and penalize a miss.

Until The Next Tee!!

Review – FootJoy Canada

In the amount of time that I’ve had a blog whether it was my old one or this new endeavor some of my subjects have come from surprising places. Today’s subject is one of those cases. Who would have thought that attending Practice Round Tuesday at the RBC Canadian Open would have offered such an opportunity.

When you attend the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ontario shuttle buses transports the spectators to and from the various parking lots. As you enter the grounds there are all kinds of booths that are mostly corporate. However intertwined amongst them was a booth from FootJoy Canada. Even though I never bothered to stop on the way in to the event (I was hoping to see and maybe meet Mr. Jack Nicklaus) the booth really got my attention on the way out.

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Photo Credit: mytpi.com

 

FootJoy in general is a booth that I rarely attend while at the PGA Show in Orlando because of how busy their booth is while at the show. This opportunity was perfect as it was practically empty so looking at the products was a breeze. I took in all of the new shoes from the 2017 range and I was very intrigued by two models. First there was the sleek, athletic looking D.N.A. Helix and then there was the ContourFIT (which for the record are more present than “old man styled). As I continued to browse I was approached by Senior Product Specialist for Acushnet Canada Darquise Leduc. After talking for a while with Ms. Leduc I explained to her that I did not trust FootJoy footwear after developing a pressure wound while wearing FootJoy a few years ago at the PGA Show. So she asked me about sizing and if I’ve ever been through their Performance Fitting System. I hadn’t.

Proper fitting isn’t exclusively for golf clubs as i was quick to find out. According to research “over 70% of golfers wear the wrong size of shoe”. Also according to the same research there is a 21% increase in performance when you wear the proper size of shoe”. For those with conditions of the foot like Diabetic Neuropathy (talking from experience) proper fitting shoes is a complete necessity. Before this chance opportunity I honestly had no idea that this sort of fitting for golf shoes existed. As I sat in a chair in the booth Ms. Leduc explained to me the science of the foot and where a shoe should fit in relation to the bones of the feet in particular the Metatarsal Bone. As we talked about the shoes further my foot was placed into a Brannock Device (the thing that you use for fitting a shoe) and we determined that my foot was a Size 10.5. As we started to talk about the shoes that piqued my curiosity I mentioned the ContourFIT and the D.N.A. Having explained my issues with the feet Ms. Leduc steered me away from the D.N.A. because of their tight toe box. Moreover, she said I could wear a size bigger but then the shoe and foot wouldn’t align themselves properly thus potentially causing issues.

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Photo Credit: boditraksports.com

After concluding the proper we picked out the shoe which was the ContourFIT. This particular shoe has a wider toebox so if you do like FootJoy and have the need for a wider toebox look at this shoe. This shoe felt like a glove and I was asked to walk around while wearing it. Yes they felt great and I simulated a few swings and I could feel a difference in how this shoe was performing. So now I was asked if I wanted to make a few swings into a net. Where the net and mat were set up there was also a second mat sitting there. This mat is from a company called BodiTrak. BodiTrak is a company that specializes in the science of pressure-mapping. In the case of the FootJoy Performance Fitting System the use of the BodiTrak device is the key. During the fitting process they ask you to hit three golf balls (which I did) and the sensors in the mat relay to the fitter (Ryan Parsons in this case). After the third shot they look at your data. With the data that is collected it tells them about where the weight is at set-up, the transition and finally the finish. As Darquise looked at the data she asked me if I was a low handicap golfer based on my weight signatures. Reluctantly, I admitted that I was a former Mini-Tour player.

FootJoy has gathered, collected and analyzed data on thousands of golf swings and determined there’s not one shoe for every player. Based on a player’s interaction with the ground, we can determine the best shoe to fit their swing. With the FJ Performance Fitting System

It really is amazing that FootJoy can determine which shoe is best for each golfer and with the aid of BodiTrak determine what type of golfer you are. Like shoes all feet are not built equal. This FootJoy Performance Sitting System was eye-opening. If you have the chance take part on one of their fittings you won’t be disappointed.

Until The Next Tee!!

Review – Titleist 917 D2 and D3

One of the many things that I like about Titleist is the fact that they have a product cycle that last two years.  A cycle that they are adamant about observing. Golf consumers know that when Titleist releases a product it is definitely worth a look.

If you were to go back and look at the previous generations of Titleist drivers a few things come to mind. One constant of Titleist products is that they’ve always been had a feel that can be best described as “solid”. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the classic 983K or the venerable 905R the older generations exuded that quality. More recently the 915 followed suit with a couple of “bells and whistles” thrown in for good measure. The other quality that Titleist has been committed to is their retention of maintaining a classic pear shape (907 series notwithstanding). These are aesthetics that  have always appealed to players. Having brought up the 915 series I was at their National Fitting Centre (Canada) during a Team Titleist outing for the launch of the 915 range of metalwoods. I left Eagle’s Nest Golf Club (Toronto)  that cold October day very impressed and to be honest I thought that the 915 D3 would end up in my bag… it didn’t. As the 917 series was launched this past fall I couldn’t help but wonder what they would be like in comparison. How would the 917 compare to the 915 or even 910 (which still remains my favorite driver from Titleist)?

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I had the opportunity to attend a launch event similar to what I did for the previous two generations however I couldn’t attend. Prior to attending the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show (Demo Day) I had never visited the Titleist demonstration area. Mostly because I had already manged to swing their new products well in advance of the show. 2017 would be much different. After swinging various manufacturers throughout the morning I made my way over to Titleist. Much to my surprise, I had no issue getting in some swings right away with product and quickly directed my attention towards the 917 D2 and D3 drivers.

For 2017, Titleist re-introduced new and improved versions of their most recent technological advances. First seen in the 915 metalwoods,their Active Recoil Channel and Radial Speed Face (Version 2.0) were front and center. In case you’ve forgotten the Active Recoil Channel is what Titleist R&D engineers did to address spin reduction while increasing ball speeds through more trampoline effect. However this time (Active Recoil Channel 2.0) the channel has been more refined. Radial Speed Face 2.0 is what Titleist did in an effort to construct thinner face walls along the perimeter of the face. This also aids in increasing ball speeds in particular to when strikes haven’t been struck off of the center of the face. New to the 917 is the SureFit CG which “allows the CG to be moved from a back, heel position to a forward, toe position through interchangeable weights, optimizing spin and launch conditions for every player”. The SureFit Hosel returns and offers 16 independent loft and lie settings to enable golfers the luxury of finding their optimum setup. Make no mistake about it the 917 D2 and D3 are the most adjustable drivers that Titleist has ever offered.

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Photo Credit: titleist.com

The 917 D2 driver is a 460 CC pear-shaped head that offers distance and forgiveness. Meanwhile, the 917 D3 offers a classic pear-shaped profile but it’s a head that is “Tour inspired” as it’s slightly smaller coming with a head volume of 440 CC. The 917 D3 head offers distance with more workability than the 917 D2 while having lower spin rates and a slightly lower launch. Whether it’s the D2 or the D3 both models have a standard length of 45″and the stock shaft options are premium. Models of premium shafts available include the Aldila Rogue M*AX 65, Fujikura Speeder Pro TS 74, Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana LTD. White 70 and the Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana LTD. Blue. All four are terrific options.

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One of the shaft options. Fujikura Speeder Pro TS 74. The only one I tried.

Dispensing with some of the technical information I thought that it would be time to talk about my observations. First, I have to point out that I never spoke to anyone at Demo Day as I was more or less ignored by representatives at the booth. Secondly, I will say that I never tried the SureFit CG technology because no representatives took the time to approach and/or assist me and I couldn’t find a wrench. Honestly, I was a little put off by the lack of their attentiveness. Something I found a little disheartening seeing that 12 out of 13 of my clubs are Titleist and I am proud to play Titleist. They are a brand that I have always felt confident holding in my hands and that confidence goes right to my head. In the past, Titleist has been looked at in golf circles as being “elitist” and maybe in this instance they figured that I didn’t have the appearance to be worth their time. I really don’t know why it happened but it did. Either way, this review isn’t about their “customer service” which I would score a perfectly rounded “0” out of 10. If there was a review that could truly live up to the moniker of “The Home Of Organic Golf Reviews” then this would be the one.

In the address position both drivers are so eye-pleasing that it’s almost not fair. I love the charcoal crown on the black face and when you look down at the crown you want to make a swing. I would end up swinging two drivers and the D2 and D3 were shafted with the same Fujikura Speeder Pro TS 74 in X-Stiff and had lofts of 9.5*. All of the settings were stock. Generally, I swing a Stiff flex but this was the shaft that I  just happened to grab. In the past, I have seriously considered going to X-Stiff based on my tempo and aggression and decided to not to bother to look for a softer flex. Recent launch monitor numbers indicated that making a switch to X-Stiff might be the right choice as I saw 105 mph 7 iron clubhead speeds. Working out has seen me get stronger so the time might be right for such a switch. Anyways, I made the first pass with the 917 D2 and my swing was rewarded with a ball flight that was long and straight. I chose a spot at their hitting area that was to their extreme right. This location afforded me the opportunity to make swings both downwind and with a slight change at address (aiming to my right) I could see what the ball would do with a knockdown crosswind. I loved the launch and ballflight that I witnessed. The ball showed no signs of ballooning and upon landing there was rollout adding to the already impressive carry distance. I teed up several more balls with the D2 and each was the same result. Every swing yielded shot patterns that were straight or a slight draw. The launch looked about as good if not better than I have seen with any driver. Something can be said for the Active Recoil  Channel 2.0 because the ball really jumped off of the face which reminded me of when I was at the product launch for the 915… but better. Switching over to the 917 D3 I looked down at that classic 440 CC Titleist charcoal head and immediately I grew extremely fond of it. I made several confident swings and to be totally honest… if the 917 D3 launched lower and had lower spin I couldn’t pick up on it with the naked eye. I would suggest that the carry and overall distance looked to be about the same. I’m all for making observations using my senses (prefer real-time flight over launch monitors) but when it comes to comparing two similar heads from the same manufacturer with one claiming lower spin and launch… I want to see hard evidence. I think that with all things being equal they were in fact… equal with the exception of my love affair with the smaller head of the D3.

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Titleist doesn’t mention anything about forgiveness when talking about the 917 D3 but this isn’t to say that the 917 D3 isn’t forgiving. I firmly believe that to a degree there is in fact some forgiveness. After all ,the D3 also boasts the same Radial Speed Face technology to help with off-center hits that’s found in the 917 D2. Forgiveness was something that I did not test because I just wasn’t missing the sweet spot. Or perhaps, that fact speaks volumes about the forgiveness found in both models. Titleist says that the acoustics and sound are Tour validated “to inspire confidence and feel”. I don’t know what that means exactly but what I do know is that the sound and feel was “perfect”. The sound was typical of Titleist and the feel at impact was solid. It was everything that Titleist aficionados have come to expect from the brand. Bear in mind that my perfect may not be your perfect and the term is relative and intimate to each person.

In closing, If you’re in the market for a new driver you may want to give the Titleist 917 D2 and 917 D3 a look. Performance, great aesthetics and even better sound and feel with premium stock shafts. What’s not to like? The 917 D2 and D3 retails at $649.99 CAD or $499 USDVisit the Titleist website for more information.

Until The Next Tee!