2018 PGA Show Demo Day

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

 

 

REVIEW – Tour Edge Exotics CBX Blade Irons

As I sit here and write I just posted a question on Twitter. Addressing it to the folks that run the PGA Merchandise Show (Reed Exhibitions) I simply asked… “How many more sleeps until the show?”. The answer is too many. I love going to the show for many reasons but what I really love is jumping onto the range at the Orange County National Golf Resort and Lodge where I can swing the myriad of products that are getting set to be released. One of these products this past year that I made swings with is a new iron from Tour Edge Golf.

Recently the Batavia, Illinois (outside of Chicago) headquartered company made public the release of a new iron. This new iron is the Tour Edge Exotics CBX Blade. What the CBX Blade offers golfers is an iron set that gives golfers a muscle-back iron that comes in a forging that’s constructed from S25 Carbon Steel. The use of CAD technology was instrumental in the design of this iron which features laser engraved precision-milled grooves. These square grooves gives players that choose to play the CBX iron superb control while the carbon steel used in the construction yields the feel that only a forged blade can offer. The CBX  Blade is offered to right-handed golfers and comes with the option of graphite or steel shafts. The graphite offering is the fantastic Recoil from UST Mamiya while the stock steel shafts are either the True Temper XP 95, True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT or the KBS Tour. Stock grips on the CBX Blade irons are the UTx from Lamkin Golf which has proven to be among my favorite grips used thus far.

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Upon arriving at the Tour Edge (Exotics) booth on Demo Day I was greeted by a couple members of their team. What was really cool was the fact that the two reps knew me from my reviews at my former site. Initially, I was there for the purposes of hitting their new line of metal… the XJ1. After making swings and talking a little bit of shop I was asked if I wanted to see something. That something was an iron that nobody else had seen or struck yet. That iron was the CBX Blade. My immediate first impressions upon looking at this iron was that this iron was a throwback. A classic design that was simple and clean. These might be two of the biggest compliments that I can hand to any iron. In hand (and eyes) the CBX looks retro which is a very endearing quality to me. It’s narrow sole and razor-blade-like topline were instant winners to me. Rounding out the overall look is the square toe which also adds to the playability of the CBX Blade.

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Photo Credit: Tour Edge Golf

 

So the time came to put swings on the CBX Blade irons. The head was shafted with a True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT in S300 flex. What I cannot stress enough is how great this head sets up behind the ball in the address position. You know how it is sometimes when things just “feel right”? That was the case with the CBX Blade. It felt right to me… I felt confident with the CBX Blade iron in my hands. The results reflected this confidence. My first strike was rewarded with feel unrivaled by many and a ballflight that went outward more than up. This ballflight was penetrating and aggressive. The wind was quartering slightly over my right shoulder which translates into a wind that “helps” a little. The CBX Blade produces “frozen ropes” and the ball wastes no time leaving the club face. I loved the feel in my hands and more to the point I loved feeling the sweet spot as the ball left the clubface. If you’re wondering… you could feel the “meaty” part of the muscle-back design at impact. As expected, the ability to shape shots with the CBX Blade is a breeze and the same can be said of executing punches and knockdowns.

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However a question remains… Is the CBX Blade for anybody? I will put it this way… if you’re a golfer regardless of handicap that feels comfortable with a blade then… yes. If you’re a lower to mid-handicap golfer that likes blades then the answer is… most definitely! Thus far the CBX Blade might be one of my favorite blades that I’ve made passes with up to this point… period. The CBX feels good, looks terrific and performs. It’s clean and exudes simple elegance from a time gone-by.

Until The Next Tee!!