The next generation of Titleist’s premium balls, the 2023 Pro V1 and Pro V1x, are at the PGA Tour’s 2022 Shiners Children’s Open.
The only place better than Las Vegas in October for testing golf equipment is indoors because the weather is consistently good and TPC Summerlin, the site of this week’s Shriners Children’s Open tends to yield at a lot of birdies. Last year, Sungjae Im won with a score of 24 under par.
So, Titleist has opted to once again bring the next generation of Pro V1 and Pro V1x balls to Las Vegas for their tour debut this week.
Before the start of last week’s Sanderson Farms, three players who had been involved in the balls’ prototype testing—Garrick Higgo, M.J. Daffue and Gary Woodland—asked if they could put the balls in play. The new balls are made in Ball Plant III, one of Titleist’s facilities in New Bedford, Massachusetts, so several “white box” prototype packages were delivered overnight to the players so they could be used.
It turns out the extra expense was worth it as Duffue made a hole-in-one using his new Pro V1x on the 182-yard fourth hole on Thursday and Higgo finished in third, just one shot out of the playoff between Mackenzie Hughes and Sepp Straka.
While Titleist has not released any details about the new balls, the company can only hope to match the success it enjoyed on the PGA Tour last season because each of the four major championships was won by a player using a Titleist ball—Scottie Scheffler (Masters, Pro V1), Justin Thomas (PGA Championship, Pro V1x), Matt Fitzpatrick (U.S. Open Pro V1x) and Cameron Smith (British Open, Pro V1x).
The 2021 Titleist Pro V1 is a three-piece ball with a large rubber core encased in a mantle layer that also features a cast urethane cover. Since it debuted in Las Vegas in 2000, the Pro V1 has always been a three-piece ball, so it would be surprising if the 2023 model was not a three-piece construction.
The 2021 Pro V1x is a four-piece ball that has a dual-core design encased by the mantle. Like the Pro V1, it has a cast urethane cover, but its design gives it a firmer feel and helps it produce a slightly-higher ball flight and spin rate.
“If you pro-rate (a deal), you risk pissing off the player or the agent and creating some bad blood,” one insider said.
More than a century before Instagram Reels, Twitter takeovers and highly-polished YouTube videos started being made, Harry Vardon signed a deal with Spaulding. The company paid him to tour the United States and play scores of exhibition matches using the brand new Vardon Flyer golf ball. That made Vardon, the winner of six British Opens, one of the first golf influencers.
In the years after he inked that deal in 1900, pros from Gene Sarazen to Jack Nicklaus to Joaquín Niemann have been signing lucrative sponsorship agreements with golf equipment companies.
The model for endorsement deals has not changed much since Vardon’s day. Companies pay players and supply them with equipment and technical assistance in exchange for the right to use their name, image and likeness in advertisements and commercials.
Players also agree to be involved in photo shoots, be available for a negotiated number of corporate functions and wear the brand’s logo on their bag, hat or shirt. Incentive clauses for things like winning a PGA Tour event, a major championship, finishing first on tour in driving distance and making a Ryder Cup team are also common.
Fulfilling the contracts is usually easy for pros because they just need to play golf, smile, shake a few hands and stay out of trouble, but with the emergence of the LIV Series, brands are being forced to reevaluate their marketing plans and reassess the value of players.
New Ping G430 clubs hit the USGA’s Conforming Club lists on Monday, including three new drivers.
Historically, Ping has released a new family of woods and irons every year, and while the Phoenix-based company has often debuted new better-player irons around U.S. Open time, the clubs most recreational golfers will use come out in January. However, nothing new was released before the start of the 2022 season and the G425 drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons stayed in the line-up.
Now, however, things appear to be set to change as several new Ping G430 clubs hit the USGA’s Conforming Club lists on Monday, including three new drivers, as well as new fairway woods, hybrids and irons.
While the company is mum on the details, the clubs have some familiar markings on them that may give away some details. For instance, the three drivers are the G430 Max, G430 LST and G430 SFT. Drivers with a Max designation have been stability-enhanced clubs that are made to be forgiving on mis-hits, while LST has stood for low-spin technology and SFT has stood for straight-flight technology. So, it is probably safe to assume that Ping is sticking with the formula offering a standard, a low-spin and a slice-fighting version of its new driver.
Wilson offers four putters that look familiar to nearly every player and that blend the precision of milling with soft feel.
Gear: Wilson Staff Model putters Price:$349.99 each Specs: Milled 304 stainless steel heads available in 33-, 34- and 35-inch options Available: Oct. 3 for pre-order, in stores Nov. 1
Who its for: Golfers looking for putters with classic, time-honored shapes and an especially soft feel.
The Skinny: Wilson comes to the premium putter market with four offerings that look familiar to nearly every player and that blend the precision of milling with the soft feel of 304 stainless steel.
The Deep Dive: For the past several seasons, Wilson has slowly and methodically added the Staff Model name to products it designs to appeal to accomplished golfers and serious players. For instance, the Staff Model Blade irons are musclebacks for single-digit handicap golfers, the Staff Model Utility iron is a better-player’s driving iron and the Staff Model Tour wedges feature a timeless shape and sole configuration. The Staff Model golf ball, with a four-piece construction and urethane cover, also fits in the premium family.
Now come four Staff Model putters, and as you might suspect, all of them will look familiar and are made with premium materials.
The new Staff Model 8802, BL22, MT22 and TM22 each start as a solid black of 304 stainless steel that is milled by a computer-controlled bit that passes back and forth over the block, shaving small ribbons of metal away with each pass. This is the most precise way to make a putter, and while it is time-consuming, the final result is nearly perfect consistency from club to club.
The faces of the Staff Model putters are also milled deeply, which creates a cool-looking hitting area and softens the sound and feel further.
All four models come standard with 3 degrees of loft and a 71-degree lie angle and are available in 33-, 34- and 35-inch lengths, and custom fitters can easily modify and adjust the clubs to fit a golfer’s preferences and needs. All the putters except the 8802 blade also have weights in the heel and toe that fitters can adjust to increase or decrease the swing weight.
The MT22 is a compact, semi-circular mallet with a short slant neck and a single black alignment line, while the TM22 (which stands for tech mallet) is a familiar-looking mid-mallet with wing-style extensions in the heel and toe that increase stability on off-center hits.
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With COVID-19 infection rates lowering, equipment makers are announcing they plan to return to the PGA Show in January 2023.
In the days leading up to the 2022 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida, the Omicron variant pushed positive tests for COVID-19 over 800,000 per day in the United States. That wave of infections forced most major golf equipment companies to pull out of the annual trade show held at the Orange County Convention Center and the pre-show Demo Day that takes place every year at Orange County National Golf Club in Winter Garden, Florida.
But with infection rates lowering, more people vaccinated and treatments for COVID-19 improving, brands are announcing they plan to return to the PGA Merchandise Show in January 2023.
On September 15, Dunlop Brands — the parent company of Srixon, Cleveland Golf, XXIO and Asics — announced that its golf brands would be going back to the PGA Merchandise Show.
In a release, Mike Powell, the president and COO of Dunlop Sports Americas, said, “We are excited to return to the PGA Show in 2023 to show support for the PGA of America and the thousands of PGA Professionals who help make the business of golf what is it today. All of our staff looks forward to showcasing our brands in person, while highlighting the new and exciting things we have planned for the upcoming year.”
On Tuesday, the Acushnet Company’s Titleist and FootJoy announced that they would also be at both Demo Day and have a large presence on the floor at the PGA Show.
“We look forward to attending the 2023 PGA Show and reconnecting with our partners and the golf community,” said Acushnet senior vice president Peter Broome. “The PGA Show continues to evolve and provides our Titleist and FootJoy brands a forum to strengthen partner relationships, offer educational opportunities and showcase our exciting new products. The timing of this important industry gathering sets the tone for the year, and we look forward to returning to Orlando once again.”
Golfweek has spoken with executives and officials from several other golf equipment brands and nearly all of them said that while agreements and plans have not been officially finalized, they anticipate returning to the PGA Show in 2023.
Blending cavity-backs with musclebacks, these blades offer feel and control for elite golfers.
Gear: PXG 0317 ST Blade irons Price: $199 each in Chrome finish, $219 with Xtreme Dark finish Specs: Forged 8620 carbon steel, milled face and back, adjustable swing weight. Available in 3-iron through gap wedge in chrome and Xtreme Dark finish.
Who It’s For: Elite golfers with powerful, repeatable swings who demand control and feel in a traditional iron.
The Skinny: Modern manufacturing techniques and classic shaping combine in this better-player’s offering that blends cavity-back long irons with muscleback blade mid- and short irons for a feel-oriented set.
The Deep Dive: PXG has always aspired to make game-improvement irons that look like the equipment you might find in the bag of a PGA Tour or LPGA professional. For example, the 0311 GEN5 P has a relatively thin topline and only moderate offset, but an internal elastomer system softens feel and helps support a super-thin face that produces extra ball speed.
The new 0317 ST irons are, however, the real thing. They are not something a golfer who shoots in the 80s or 90s has any business playing. The ST stands for super tour, and while PXG is blending the construction of the clubs within the set, these really are for single-digit handicappers, college players and professional golfers. Like the old joke, if you have to ask if you are good enough to play them, you probably aren’t.
The 0317 ST irons (0317 is the Marine Corps’ military occupational specialty code for a sniper) are made from soft 8620 carbon steel for an exceptionally soft feel at impact. The steel is forged three times to create the shape designers want, then the hitting area and back of each head are milled using a computer-controlled bit to ensure consistency from club to club. The milling process creates tiny lines you can see on the back of each head. Unlike the 0311 iron family, the 0317 ST is solid and has no elastomer inside the heads.
The 0317 ST is made for the game’s best players, but everyone wants a little help hitting long irons, so the 3- and 4-iron were designed as cavity-backs while the 5-iron through gap wedge are muscleback blades. The perimeter weighting in the 3- and 4-iron create more stability on off-center hits, but to call the clubs forgiving would be a mistake. In both head designs, the toplines are thin, the soles are narrow and there is minimal offset to allow skilled players to shape shots more easily.
The tiny tungsten weight screws that are a symbol of PXG clubs are not present in the 0317 ST, but there is a large screw in the back of each head that club fitters can adjust. Using screws with different weights allows fitters to increase or decrease the swing weight to match a player’s preferences and needs more easily.
The lofts of the 0317 ST irons are as traditional as the clubs’ look at address, with the 5-iron being 26 degrees and the pitching wedge having 47 degrees.
The JPX 923 Forged irons bring some distance, forgiveness and playability to a better-player’s club.
Gear: Mizuno JPX 923 Forged irons Price: $137.50 each Specs: Grain-flow-forged 4120 Chromoly (4-7 irons) and 1025E mild carbon steel (8-GW) with milled micro-slot. Available in left- and right-hand versions. 4-iron through lob wedge
Available: Jan. 19, 2023 (pre-sale), Feb. 9, 2023 (in stores)
Who it’s for: Accomplished golfers looking for a compact cavity-back iron that emphasizes feeling and control with some forgiveness.
The Skinny: Made for players who may have played muscleback blades in the recent past and golfers who demand control and feel, the JPX 923 Forged irons bring some distance, forgiveness and playability to a better-player’s club.
The Deep Dive: Between game-improvement irons and muscleback blades, there is a region for golfers who are improving and looking for their first set of control-oriented clubs, as well as players who may have contended for the club championship a few years ago. Clubs in this category need to look like something that a real stick would carry but with hidden technologies and benefits.
For Mizuno, the JPX Forged has filled this gap for several years, and with the release of the 923 Forged, the Japanese company tipped this club closer to the better-player’s irons that have made Mizuno so respected. Designers worked to make this version longer and more forgiving than the JPX 921 Forged it replaces, but it appears smaller in the playing position.
To do that, Mizuno starts with a single billet of grain-flow-forged 4120 Chromoly for the 4-iron through 7-iron. By forging the metal under extreme pressure three times into the shape engineers want, the grains and strands of material elongate, which Mizuno said makes forged clubs feel better at impact. There is no vibration dampener designed into this club because golfers who will consider playing it want all the feedback – good and bad – that the clubs can deliver.
The face of the JPX 923 Forged is thinner in every area than the JPX 921 Forged, which should allow the hitting area to flex more efficiently at impact for increased ball speed on well-struck shots and mis-hits too. There is also a milled micro-slot in the sole that is covered by a very thin plating. The slot allows the lower portion of the face to flex more easily, which should deliver better performance on thin shots. The JPX 921 Forged had a micro-slot, but the slot in this updated version is wider.
The 8-iron through gap wedge are also grain-flow-forged, but instead of Chromoly, Mizuno uses the same 1025E mild carbon steel found in the company’s muscleback blades. These scoring clubs have not been given a micro-slot.
To make its irons sound good at impact, Mizuno has studied harmonics for years and reinforced the topline of its clubs to create the type of vibrations that many golfers find pleasing. In some cases, that has forced designers to make the topline thicker, which accomplished players rarely like. In the JPX 923 Forged, the topline has more curvature, so it appears thinner in the address position while still reinforcing the hitting area.
The lofts of the JPX 923 Forged irons are stronger than those found in muscleback blades – the 5-iron is 24 degrees and the pitching wedge is 44 degrees – but by modern standards they are typical for a better-player’s distance iron.
With minimal offset, an extremely-thin topline and a narrow sole, the JPX 923 Tour is all about feel and control for shot-shaping golfers.
Gear: Mizuno JPX 923 Tour irons Price: $137.50 each Specs: Grain-flow-forged 1025E mild carbon steel. 4-iron through lob wedge
Available: Jan. 19, 2023 (pre-sale), Feb. 9, 2023 (in stores)
Who it’s for: Is your name on your bag? Are you a college golfer, a club pro or someone who has a legitimate shot at winning the A Flight at your club championship? If so, the JPX 923 Tour could be a control- and feel-oriented option for you.
The Skinny: These irons are forged and shaped to appeal to the game’s best golfers, with minimal offset, an extremely thin topline and a narrow sole. While they have some perimeter weighting, the JPX 923 Tour is all about feel and control for shot-shaping golfers.
The Deep Dive: Last year, Mizuno brought back the Mizuno Pro muscleback blades, and while the majority of golfers do not have the repeatable, powerful swing required to get the most out of them, many golfers ogled them on social media and in pro shops.
The JPX Tour irons have been one-click more playable for most golfers than the muscleback blades produced by Mizuno, and with the release of the new JPX 923 Tour, the company is keeping the focus on feel and control.
The JPX 923 Tour is forged from a single piece of 1025E mild carbon steel for a soft feel, but for the first time that steel is covered by a thin layer of copper before the final chrome plating is applied. The copper layer has been added to Mizuno Pro irons to enhance the soft feel at impact, and its addition to the JPX 923 Tour is a sign this club belongs in the Mizuno Pro and JPX families.
The JPX 923 Tour has the shortest blade length, most narrow sole and thinnest topline of the five new JPX 923 irons. Mizuno designers even gave the topline extra curvature to make it look even thinner.
In addition to extra trailing-edge relief, Mizuno added more bounce to the sole of the JPX 923 Tour to help the clubs work through the turf more efficiently. The added bounce should also help fitters if they want to strengthen the loft of any of the clubs. Delofting clubs often lowers the leading edge, which can cause digging; adding extra bounce can strengthen the JPX 923 Tour irons without making them dig too easily.
Specs: Cast nickel chromoly heads. Hot Metal, 4-LW; Hot Metal Pro, 4-LW; Hot Metal HL, 5-SW.
Who it’s for: Golfers who want the looks and feel of better-player’s irons but need distance enhancement, forgiveness and spin.
The Skinny: The three JPX 923 Hot Metal irons were designed to cosmetically mix and match seamlessly so golfers and fitters can blend clubs to make a set. The offset and sizes vary, but all three have thin, fast faces for more ball speed and sound-enhancing features to go with sleek, modern looks.
The Deep Dive: For decades, Mizuno was known as a company that specialized in some of the finest muscleback blades for accomplished players and professionals. They were aspirational. Golfers with single-digit handicaps and powerful, repeatable swings loved the soft feel and control, while players who typically shoot in the mid-80s and higher yearned to be good enough to play them someday.
With the release of several JPX models of irons, most of which offered perimeter-weighted game-improvement clubs alongside a pro version for low-handicappers, Mizuno found a larger audience. The Japanese company started using different materials, such as Chromoly, stainless steel and tungsten, to get better performance and more forgiveness out of the JPX lineup without making the clubs so big that they no longer looked like the Mizunos golfers wished they were good enough to use.
With the release of the newest JPX Hot Metal family – the JPX 923 Metal, 923 Hot Metal Pro and 923 Metal HL – Mizuno is trying to expand its footprint across an even larger segment of the market, all while making clubs that look and feel (as much as possible) like the musclebacks used by Keith Mitchell, Luke Donald and other tour pros.
The 923 Hot Metal irons are all cast using a new material called nickel chromoly. Mizuno has used chromoly for several years, but adding nickel, according to Mizuno, makes the chromoly alloy 35 percent stronger. It is so strong that it is used in airplane landing gear assemblies and gears in automobile transmissions.
Nickel chromoly allowed Mizuno to make the faces thinner and lighter without worrying about durability, so the center of the JPX 923 Hot Metal’s cup-face hitting area is just 2.05 millimeters thick, with the perimeter being 1.75 millimeters. That allows the hitting area to flex more efficiently at impact across a larger area for more ball speed while also reducing weight.
To ensure the feel at impact matches what golfers expect from a Mizuno iron, even though the face is thinner, engineers reinforced the cavity area in the back of each head, especially in the toe area and under the topline, using a series of small tooth-like pieces. They help reduce vibrations that cause low-pitched tones that sound like cracking.
Around the Mizuno offices outside Atlanta, Mizuno designers refer to the JPX 923 Hot Metal as the fastest-stopping fast iron. That means that in addition to creating more ball speed, the JPX 923 Hot Metal produces slightly more spin, giving shots more lift and a steeper descent so shots repeatedly stop quicker for better control and consistency.
All three JPX 923 Hot Metal irons were designed to have a premium look that appeals to better players, making it very easy to mix and match the clubs with the help of a custom fitter to create a personalized, blended set.
The JPX 923 Hot Metal Pro has a shorter blade length than the standard model, along with a thinner topline and slightly less offset, but the Hot Metal and Hot Metal Pro have the same lofts (5-iron, 22 degrees; 9-iron, 37.5 degrees).
The JPX 923 Hot Metal HL (which stands for high launch) is a super-game-improvement club designed to maximize forgiveness and deliver more ball speed and height. It has a thicker topline, wider sole and the lowest center of gravity, but the most interesting thing Mizuno did with the JPX 923 Hot Metal Hot HL was to make the lofts 2 degrees weaker than the standard JPX 923 Hot Metal.
Many brands make the lofts stronger in max-game-improvement irons. Still, Mizuno discovered that with lower-lofted clubs like a 5-iron, slow and moderate-swinging golfers (below 75 mph with a 7-iron) who typically buy max-game-improvement irons have trouble getting the ball up in the air with the stronger-lofted clubs. So, carry distance is reduced and overall distance is not maximized. For these players – who research showed Mizuno was about one out of every four players – adding loft created more carry distance, and for players in this category, that means more overall distance. Fitters have used the same logic for years when they recommend that slow and moderate-swinging players use higher-lofted drivers to maximize distance.
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