The PGA Merchandise Show, which begins today (through Jan. 26) inside Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center, will display everything from sand trap rakes to shoes to putters, but as it is almost every year, drivers are the well… driving force behind the show, as the golf industry’s top club companies show off the new technologies and designs behind the big dogs in almost everyone’s bag.
Here’s a look:
Callaway says the Paradym Ai Smoke Drivers ($599.99) represent a “quantum leap” forward in its Ai journey, with the most sophisticated face they’ve ever created from player data and machine learning. The Ai Smart Face, according to the company, optimizes driver performance using swing dynamics from thousands of golfers. By leveraging Ai and Machine Learning, these swing dynamics are used to create over 50,000 virtual face prototypes, optimizing performance for each head shape.
Four models are available: Ai Smoke MAX is suited for every level of player with a forgiving shape and adjustable perimeter weighting for up to 19 yards of shot shape correction. MAX D is built with high MOI, and a generously stretched profile for players looking for shot shape correction. Triple Diamond is for better players looking for increased workability, and MAX Fast promotes lightweight, easy-to-swing performance.
Cleveland Golf’s Launcher XL 2 Drivers ($449.99) are packed with an XL blend of distance and forgiveness technologies that give golfers longer distances off the tees with more accuracy.
The company says it reworked its XL Head Design and weighting setup to deliver even more forgiveness and consistency. Using an extremely thin crown that’s supported by a strong, lightweight framework, Cleveland Golf was able to up MOI to the highest levels ever in a Cleveland Golf Driver.
The company says testing showed a 2% increase in heel/toe MOI and a 12% increase in high/low MOI compared to the previous generation. How does that translate on the course? Longer, straighter drives – even on mishits.
The Launcher XL 2 models are a standard version and a draw model made specifically for those struggling with a slice. Both feature an adjustable hosel ranging from 9°-12° in 0.5° increments, making for 12 possible adjustments.
Cobra Golf’s new DarkSpeed irons are designed to provide the ultimate combination of speed, distance, and feel. The company says the irons feature an all-new hollow body construction filled with feel-enhancing foam and re-engineered PWR-BRIDGE™ and PWRSHELL™ technologies to create COBRA’s longest, best-feeling game improvement iron to date.
Taking cues from metal wood designs, the company says a new hollow body construction creates a thinner, more responsive clubhead structure that unlocks up to 25% more face flection for faster ball speeds and longer distances. To achieve enhanced sound and feel, the hollow body of the new irons is injected with foam microspheres, which expand to fill the internal cavity. Once injected, Cobra says the foam supports the PWR-BRIDGE weight while also providing vibration-dampening properties for a soft feel and pleasing sound.
For optimized performance through the set, the DarkSpeed irons feature a progressive TECFLO construction that transitions from a full hollow design with PWR-BRIDGE and PWRSHELL in the 4-7 irons to a full hollow body with no face insert in the 8-PW to a half hollow design in the GW-SW.
The new DarkSpeed irons are available in Variable and ONE Length options, allowing players to choose between a traditional setup or a ONE Length configuration. The Variable Length irons are available in a 4-PW set composition (RH Steel Stiff and Reg – $999) or 5-GW (RH/LH; Steel Stiff – $999), as well as a graphite combo set in 5H, 6-GW (RH/LH; Graphite Reg and Lite – $1099).
Honma’s Distance Technology on its new Beres Driver ($900) features a new CG design and clubhead construction, which retains the signature Beres feel plus optimization for maximum yardage. High-strength lightweight carbon material on the toe side of the sole empowers the typical golfer with a draw bias, providing a significant advantage. According to Honma, the surplus weight resulting from the incorporation of carbon is positioned on the heel side for superior performance.
The company says the newly developed face incorporates an intricate uneven-thickness design, precisely engineered to optimize repulsion power. This quad bridge structure provides exceptional support, elevating the power output and significantly enhancing repulsion capabilities.
A strategically positioned stainless weight (10g) at the rear of the clubhead vs. the sole effectively converts impact energy into a repulsive force, enhancing initial velocity for an amplified impact. Additionally, the back weight promotes a draw bias.
At $650 (suggested retail), Ping’s G430 MAX 10K driver is among the most expensive here at the PGA Show, but that’s somewhat offset by the fact that Ping says it has the highest MOI and is its most forgiving and straightest driver to date.
The “10K’’ in the name refers to its record-setting combined MOI that exceeds 10,000 g-cm². The G430 MAX 10K has a lot of the performance of the G430 MAX driver but differs in several ways from a design standpoint, including a fixed backweight, larger head profile, and a Carbonfly Wrap crown – each contributing to the new level of forgiveness.
“It fits a wide range of golfers, from players who rely heavily on forgiveness for more distance and accuracy off the tee all the way to tour pros, who are seeing lower spin and increased ball speed as the result of swinging more aggressively, knowing the forgiveness will help them find more fairways,’’ says Ping CEO John K. Solheim.