Tag Archives: PING

JC Golf: Demo Day at Encinitas Ranch on Saturday Provides Unique Equipment Environment

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Five major equipment manufacturers – TaylorMade, Titleist, Ping, Cobra and Nike – will be represented at the biggest demo day of the year at Encinitas Ranch on Sat., Aug. 30th.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., golfers will have an opportunity to test clubs on the driving range at Encinitas Ranch and ask questions of the attending equipment professionals. In addition, fitting appointments will be available from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Golf Pride will also be taking part and providing free installation of new Golf Pride grips.

Encinitas Ranch General Manager Erik Johnson says that for golfers who’ve been pondering purchases or are simply curious about the volume of new product that has come onto the market this year, the demo day is an ideal opportunity.

“There is no obligation or commitment,” he says, “but for someone who’s considering possibly a new driver or a new set of irons, I think this is a terrific opportunity. For one, you’re hitting clubs outdoors, as opposed to inside, where can really see what the club does. And on top of that, we’re going to have the latest technology including launch monitors that can measure ball speed, launch angle, spin, etc., so you’re sure to really know how that club is performing.”

If you’ve never participated in a demo day before, know that the experience can be a little overwhelming, and exhausting, without the right approach. Swing fatigue can be an issue, Johnson says.

“We’re not PGA Tour pros. We’re not conditioned to hit 150 to 200 balls without experiencing a significant drop in swing performance,” he says.

That said, Johnson advises limiting each new club tested to a maximum of 15 swings, even including swings with differing loft settings or shafts.

So that means when comparing, say, a TaylorMade driver and a Titleist driver, it’d just be around 15 swings apiece.

“After hitting 60-75 balls, it’s usually diminishing returns. You’re going to buy off of how the club looks, feels and performs. That’s enough swings to determine that.”

A free 10-minute driver tune-up is also be offered, where your driver’s set up is evaluated to make sure the settings match your swing.

Golfers can also participate in a long-drive contest that awards a free club fitting to the winner.

Johnson says that if you’re a player pondering an equipment purchases or possibly in need an equipment adjustment, Saturday is a day to have on your calendar.

“It’s a great opportunity to come hit some new sticks.”

For more information about scheduling a fitting, please call the pro shop at 760.944.1936.

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I Survived Club Test 2014 – & Here’s What I Learned

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My Southland Golf connection afforded me a unique opportunity last Saturday.

I was one of about 15 or so golfers to participate in a club test for much of the latest equipment by the major manufacturers.

This was conducted at Oak Creek in Irvine, which was holding a huge demo day featuring TaylorMade, Callaway, Nike, Cobra Puma, Ping and Cleveland.

The task was to hit each company’s clubs in four categories (driver, fairway wood, hybrid and irons) and rate each 1-5 (five being the best) on performance in four characteristics – distance, control, feel and look.

If that sounds daunting, it’s because it is. Trying to be fair and thorough, it took me four hours to get through this exercise, which I didn’t completely complete (more on that later).

I’d never had a chance to test clubs en masse like this before, which is why I was eager to participate.

Through my work with Southland and my time at the Golf Academy, I was most familiar with the clubs from TaylorMade and Callaway and least familiar with Nike. I’d never hit one of their clubs before and couldn’t recall playing with even one person who had their driver.

Anyway, since equipment has become a bit of a writing niche for me, I thought this experience was essential to having me be properly knowledgeable.

I’m not going to divulge the results here (you’ll be able to find them in the April issue of Southland Golf), but what I wanted to do with this post is mostly relate the experience and relay some general findings. For now, the blog is going to avoid specific club recommendations/endorsements, but if you email me, I can help you the best I can. I’ve been getting more of these type questions recently as people are pondering purchases.

First, I should give you the set up of my bag, so you know my biases. My clubs have mostly all been fitted for me, and I consider my bag to be settled, save for a potential new driver purchase, although you’ll read later while I’m wavering on that.

So, my bag …

Driver/3-wood – the Stage 2 TaylorMade Rocketballz. Yes, it’s my driver, too, and the rock star of my golf bag. Golf friends of mine actually will get upset with me if I try to hit something else off the tee.

I actually have a Callaway Ignite 10.5 and only old TaylorMade 9.5 Steelhead I carry on occasion, mostly because they hit a straighter ball for me and my RBZ hits a great little draw – and a long way.

Hybrid – Nickent, 19 degree.

Irons – Mizuno JPX-825.

Wedges – Mizuno and Cleveland (56)

Putter – Cleveland blade that I bought used last year and love.

So this was the standard the new clubs were up against. Like I said, I feel this set up works for me and I’ve acquired nearly all of it in the last year, so I don’t feel much impulse to change at the moment.

That said, I was certainly curious to see how the new gear performs, especially after having written and read so much about it recently.

The first challenge I encountered was simply to set up a model for the test. I really wasn’t given one and wanted to come up with a method that was fair.

I decided not to judge a club’s performance until I felt I could hit five consecutive good shots with it. This allowed for some acclimation time with set up, tee height, etc., for various clubs. And of those five shots, save for driver, I wanted to hit some of them off the ground and a few off the tee to somewhat simulate a round.

Some quick math of the information provided will tell you this is a lot of golf swings. Too many, actually. Fatigue was the biggest factor. Figuring on that, I hit the least familiar clubs first, to give them my best shot, and saved the more known products for the back end of my session.

My swing hit the wall at least twice, but at times it was hard to tell if it was me or the clubs. I will say there was one manufacturer whose clubs I couldn’t hit at all, so in that case, I don’t have doubt – it was the clubs. Everything seemed to be off, to my feel and my eye, and I probably spent too much time trying to make their gear work for me.

After 20 minutes of futility, I moved on to more familiar equipment and the ball started jumping again immediately.

I got through three company’s sets and then broke for lunch. I then hit two more and while I was testing a TaylorMade driver, it finally happened – rip. Yep, I ripped open a blister on my pinkie finger. And I can’t remember the last time I got a golf blister.

Being a trooper, I Band-Aided it up and soldiered on, but I shortly thereafter DQ’d myself with one equipment company left to go – one I know well, so I wasn’t too concerned about not finishing.

I learned a lot about equipment and what works for me on Saturday. However, given how different swing profiles are, there’s no guarantee what works for me will work for you.

For instance, I seem to be the only golfer I know who can’t hit the mew Titleist driver. I have several friends who own it and love it. I’ve tried it a number of times now and even under optimal set up conditions on Saturday, I got ordinary results at best. I don’t get it because it feels good to me. I just doesn’t wow me after that. And, as I’ve said, I’m the outlier here.

Truth be told, most of the drivers felt heavy to me. This is partly why I favor my 3-wood. I like the lighter weight. I feel like all I have to do is pull it through and I get effortless distance.

That said, I was very curious to test the other 3-woods against my 3-wood, and I have to say they faired quite well. I was probably most impressed with the across-the-board performance in this category.

And that’s why I’m telling a lot of my friends who are inquiring about drivers, “How about a 3-wood?”

Nearly every one I tested seemed to pack a lot of pop for a smaller club. Actually, probably the longest ball I hit all day came off my first swing of a 3-wood. It launched low and was on the end of the range in a blink.

I would seriously look at this option, for performance reasons and a economic ones, before looking at making a biggest investment in a driver.

The other revelation was in hybrids. This is where I found the greatest disparity in performance, and you can really tell the difference from company to company just be looking at the them. The club head sizes ranged from tiny, and I mean the size of a candy bar, to those that were pretty plump, like a 5-wood almost. The size, for me, translated entirely to confidence in the ability to the hit the club. I couldn’t even get the smallest one off the ground. Some of the others, I hit and got surprising distance from.

If I were to make a change, adding a second hybrid is definitely something I’d consider. And as for purchases, I would definitely take your time with this one since there is such a noticeable disparity in what each company offers.

As for irons, I hit some very goods one – and found I got the best performance often with blades – but I didn’t experience anything that would prompt me to change, though I certainly know my next two preferences would be if I had to.

The only thing we didn’t test was putters, but I had my favorite conversation of the day about putters.

I was talking to a tester from LA who was lamenting not testing putters before concluding, “Ah, I always just go back to my old Ping anyway. I can’t rid of it. The thing makes putts.”

I feel the same way about the Cleveland I acquired last year. I don’t always make them, but putting and chipping are the two things I know I can roll out of bed and do every round.

But the LA tester and I got talking about how personal putters are.

“You have your most personal connection with your putter,” he said, and he’s so right. That prompted me to a realization.

When you hit a bad drive, it’s the club.

When you hit a bad iron or wedge shot, it’s the club.

When you miss a putt … it’s you.

Seriously, how often do you blame your putter. After a miss, it’s the green or the read or the stroke. The last thing it is is your putter’s fault. Maybe this is because putting can be just plain hard, but I think it goes back to bond. Our putter became our putter for a reason – at some point it made putts. Putts we obviously still recall and cherish and have endeared us to the club.

Drivers can be flaky, but for some reason, once we trust a putter, it’s considered to be the model of consistency. When it misses, we’re flawed. Maybe because it’s because we inherently hate change and changing putters is a scary thought for many of us.

Anyway, that probably should’ve been its own post, under “Ode to Putters” or something, but it just shows you that the people who tested Saturday take their equipment seriously.

I can tell you in the brief chat I had with a few other testers, we had fairly uniform consensus, so I suspect the results in the issue with be fairly declarative about what people liked and what they didn’t.

You can look forward to that issue in April, but, like I said, if you have questions feel free to email me and I’ll do my best to give insight.

For now, I can tell you Band-Aid brand is still the No. 1 Band-Aid. I’m typing this pain-free and ready for my rounds this week, same mostly reliable clubs in tow.

A Pro At Work: We’re Talking About Practice

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Billy Horschel walks with his caddie during his Tuesday practice round at Torrey

On a day when the clouds refused to yield at Torrey Pines, Billy Horschel’s white golf ball dropped out of a gray sky and nearly into the cup on the South Course’s par-3 8th hole Tuesday.

Horschel’s tee shot to the front-right pin location caught a slope in the middle of the green and nestled back to within mere inches of an ace. On Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, it might’ve been an ESPN highlight. Today? As Allen Iverson famously once said, “This was practice, man.  We’re talking about practice.”

His reward for near perfection after he walked to the green? He got to pick the ball up and go to work. A ball had been dropped in each bunker by his caddie and two more were hiding in the lush greenside rough, buried deeply like eggs left by an evil Easter Bunny.

Five balls in all and Horschel’s job was to drop each within 6 feet of the tournament’s four locations, three indicated by wooden pegs in the green.

Horschel worked through the shots, the toughest being a ball in the back bunker to a back pin, a tight shot to execute with about 5 feet of green to the hole.

Horschel’s sand shot floated out softly but didn’t land within the desired distance. Do it again, his caddy, Micah Fugitt, directed him.

“Oh, man, that was perfect,” Horschel said in a bit of mock protest. And then he hit another one that passed the test.

Hole after hole, this is how Horschel’s practice round went until he walked off the 18th green at about 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

This was a PGA Tour pro at work on tournament week.

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Horschel hits bunker shots to multiple pin locations

If you follow the PGA Tour, you might remember Horschel for the octopus pants he wore for a round at the U.S. Open.

Locally, you’re possibly more likely to recall that he was in the final group of last year’s Farmers Insurance Open. Playing alongside eventual, and seemingly perpetual at Torrey, tournament champion Tiger Woods, Horschel couldn’t follow up his strong start and finished T-39.

Horschel, dressed in a pink shirt, white PING hat and white pats, was working hard Tuesday to prepare himself to better last year’s finish at a tournament that was his breakout a year ago.

“I still have good vibes about the place, for sure,” Horschel said. “There’s a learning curve out here and that was a learning experience.

“I’m looking forward to playing well the first two days and then playing better the last two days.”

To better his best finish at Torrey, Horschel spent his practice time Tuesday with a heavy emphasis on the short game, but with no neglect of anything.

His overall game certainly seemed sharp. He followed his near ace on No. 8 by bouncing his pitch shot into the pin on the par-5 No. 9 for a near eagle. The reward? Two more pitches to alternative pin locations and more work on the green – by Billy and his caddie.

While Horschel worked, Fugitt hand-rolled multiple balls to one peg and studied the break.

Two holes later, Fugitt switched to being videographer. On the long par-3 11th, as Horschel teed off with an iron, Fugitt stood behind him taking video with a cell phone camera. Horschel’s shot came up short right of the front pin location.

Horschel studied the video for about 45 seconds and re-teed. Similar result.

“Too high,” Horschel self-analyzed as he walked off the tee.

At the green, the short-game game began all over again with him hitting chips, bunker shots and putts to various locations.

After watching a putt to a back pin location veer wide, Horschel asked his caddie, “Didn’t I three-putt here last year?”

His caddie confirmed and Horschel dropped more balls.

On 12, the tough par-4 played toward the ocean, Horschel spent more time testing the Torrey rough, which was ankle-deep and thick. After Horschel’s club hit the rough with a grassy thud his swings produced divots the size of small house plants.

Trying to hit a flop from a particularly tough patch, Horschel’s flop flailed meekly and promptly returned to the rough prompting him to self-scold, “Geez, Billy.”

He hit four or five more from that spot.

The desired short-game goal always seemed to be six feet, but Horschel wouldn’t be that specific when asked later.

“The closer you get to the hole, the better your chance on the putt,” he said. “If you average getting it within 6 feet on your short-game shots, you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting up and down.

“Everyone has their way of practice and mine is to spend more time on my short game. It’s just a little game we play.”

On 13, a par-5 played with two split tee boxes, Horschel found the middle of the fairway with his drive and then tried to get home in two to a green fronted by tiered bunkers.

His first attempt slammed into the wall of the front left bunker; his next did the same on the right.

After taking a minute to recalibrate, Horschel fired a 3-wood that cleared easily and bounded onto the green.

“That was a solid,” Horschel said while handing his club to Fugitt. It was the closest he came to an audible self-compliment all day.

After he walked off the 18th green, I asked about his practice routine and the amount of time, especially, he spent playing out of the rough.

“The rough is thick. You know you’re going to miss some greens, unfortunately, so I needed to find out how the ball was going to react. Getting up-and-down can save you a lot of shots,” he said.

Starting Thursday, we’ll find out if Horschel’s practice saves him enough.

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