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The Big Dawg Review: RocketBallz Stage 2

March 5th, 2013 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Each year TaylorMade Golf continues to come up with new and different driver designs to keep their death grip on leading the world in driver sales.  They turned heads with their new white headed drivers that now have all the manufacturers breaking out their Crayolas trying to one up TaylorMade with red, blue and orange drivers.

RBZ2 soulBut white is the color of choice at TaylorMade as their new R1 and RocketBallz Stage 2 drivers continue to dominate driver sales.  I was able to test out the RocketBallz Stage 2 driver and it seems to be everything TaylorMade says it is.

Here’s all the techy stuff from TaylorMade.  It has a larger face than the old RocketBallz.  Inverted Cone Technology increases ball speed and improved aerodynamics promotes faster clubhead speed.  A “Thick-Thin” crown lowers the center of gravity and increases ball speed, lowers spin and increases launch angle.

The Loft-Sleeve Technology allows for 7 standard and 5 upright loft options.  A 10.5 degree driver can be adjusted lower to 9 degrees or up to 12 degrees.  It comes with an ultra-light 50 RBZ2gram shaft and the black and gold graphics on the white crown set it apart from other white drivers.

Be aware that the RocketBallz Stage 2 comes with a 46 inch shaft, that’s an inch longer than most stock drivers and even longer than the R1 which comes with a 45.5 inch shaft.  That may be trouble for some players but the club is so light it doesn’t feel like you lose any control.

All this technology is designed to help us hit it longer and straighter and isn’t that what it’s all about with the big dawg.

I found the adjustability on the RocketBallz Stage 2 to be simple and straight forward.  The ball jumped off the face and with a little tweaking and experimenting with the head and the wrench finding that all important correct launch angle is easy.

As far as the graphics and the white head go, I originally was a non-believer when TaylorMade came out with them but count me as a convert now.  It’s simple: after a few balls that go further and straighter than your old driver you’ll be convinced.

The RocketBallz Stage 2 retails for $299, that’s $100 cheaper than the R1 and if you don’t need 168 different options like the R1 offers this may be the right stick.  The RocketBallz Stage 2 is so successful with the professionals that it is threatening to overtake the R1 on tour.  That tells you something.

I enjoyed hitting this club as I definitely got extra yards from it and even though it can be a bit intimating at no time did it feel like it was too much club.

If you’re looking for an adjustable driver and a few extra yards, and who isn’t, the RocketBallz Stage 2 has to be considered.  As far as the white head goes?  Get over it; this is the way drivers are going to be for a long time.

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Nike’s Method Midnite Lets You Love Your Putter

August 2nd, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Dr. Bob Rotella is a leading sports psychologist who works with many high profile golfers.  I’ve read every one of his books and try to adhere to his “Ten Commandments” that are designed to keep you relaxed and able to play your best golf.  Number ten on his list is “Love Your Wedge and Your Putter.”

I do, I honestly do.  I’ve been using the same putter for fifteen years, ever since I stole it from my Greek brother-in-law.  But the people at Nike Golf have made it very difficult for me to remain faithful to my old flat stick.

I recently got my hands on one of the new Nike Midnite putters and I can tell you it’s a winner.  The Midnite line of putters is Nike’s latest entry into the specialized putter market.  I tested the Midnite 006 model and was impressed.  The 006 is essentially the same as the Method 001 which Tiger Woods has in his bag only it has a different finish.

The Midnite line gets its name from the Dark Chrome Finish which reduces glare.  As with the original Method, they are fashioned from milled stainless steel with more than 30 grams of tungsten placed in the heel and toe for weight and stability.  The Midnite also boasts Nike’s polymetal groove technology that “generates a faster forward roll at impact” and reduces skidding.  A multi-material face along with the polymer filled groove dampens vibration while still giving that sound and feel at impact relished by players.

There’s a ton of technology in these short sticks and to put it simply: it works.  The ball rolls off the face so true and pure it’s amazing.  This putter just feels damn good.  So much of putting is about feel and the Method Midnite delivers just that feel.

I understand why Tiger has a Method in his bag.  In the hands of a player like Tiger this putter can be lethal.  It may not make you putt like Mr. Woods but it definitely will give you great roll and feel.  It’s all about confidence with the putter, like Dr. Bob says “Love your wedge and tour putter.”  With the Nike Method Midnite it’s easy to do just that.

Check out Michelle Wie’s trip to Nike’s lab, The Oven.

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RocketBallz Driver Lives Up to Its Name

July 12th, 2012 No comments

It’s a never ending battle: golfers trying to hit the ball longer.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a world class tour player chasing a major championship or a weekend hacker try to win a few dollars from your buddies, we all want to hit the ball longer.

This year TaylorMade has once again set the driver market spinning with the name of its latest product, RocketBallz.  Yes, the name started some controversy and snickering when first introduced but no one is snickering now.

The RocketBallz line of drivers, fairway woods and hybrids supposedly got its name during testing when tour player Dustin Johnson said the ball took off like a rocket off the clubface.  After some internal discussion at TaylorMade the name stuck and with good reason.  This driver is long, it’s that simple.

Now the folks at TaylorMade have a bunch of technical and scientific reasons why RocketBallz is longer and we may or may not understand them but here’s the bottom line: it works.

Like every other TaylorMade driver the RocketBallz, RBZ for short, has a matte white crown that eliminates glare and a black face to improve alignment.  And the clubhead is full of advanced aerodynamics to reduce drag and increase swing speed.

TaylorMade’s Flight Control Technology (FCT) let’s you adjust the clubhead to optimize your launch angle which is critical for squeezing a few extra yards form RBZ.  You are able to adjust the loft up or down 1.5 degrees in eight different increments.

These eight incremental adjustments change the clubface angle and loft and lie of the club for as much as a 60 yard spread of side to side correction.  And the Inverted Cone Technology allows off center hits to still get that kick in ball speed.

The standard model is fitted with a 46 inch, 50 gram, lightweight, shaft that once again allows for more clubhead speed at impact.

All that technology comes together to give you one very hittable and very long club.    The lighter club should encourage more clubhead speed and off center hits still seem to go farther than they should.

The only grumbling I heard from those that tested it was the white crown and the name, RocketBallz.   I know we all are creatures of habit but generations of golfers have had to make changes with technology.  I remember going from persimmon to metal drivers and then to a 460cc driver and even though I fought it at first, I soon came to realize that I got longer drives with each change.

The same is true with the RocketBallz Driver.  You’ll hit the ball longer and isn’t that what we want from our big dog?  The RocketBallz Technology is sure to get you plenty of extra yards off the tee.

 

 

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Nike VR_S Driver: Sounds Good & Hits It Long

May 8th, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Every golfer is looking for more from their driver and many will go to great lengths to find just the right big stick.  In an effort to help with that search Nike Golf has introduced the VR_S Driver this season as a follow on to their VR line.

The VR_S boasts plenty of cutting edge technologies to aid the average golfer in getting longer and straighter off the tee. 

NexCOR Face Technology allows the center of the very large club face to be a bit thicker with a thinner edge to create more ball speed off the club face.  Nike’s STR8-Fit system allows you to change the loft, lie and face angle in seconds to give you eight different setups, and in a sense eight different clubs.  The head has been designed to increase clubhead speed with a very light aerodynamic design.  A lighter shaft is also standard to allow for an even faster swing speed.

In the past Nike drivers had the reputation as being “loud” but the VR_S has a very traditional sound at contact and the ball really pops off the club.  This clubhead is the most conventional looking club Nike has produced in years.  Its lines are sleek and the color scheme muted and traditional.

The VR_S was very hittable right off the bat.  And when hit off  center it seemed like toe shots and heel shots didn’t stray too far off line.  It was easy to change the settings with the wrench and after a few sessions you’ll find the one that gives you the best results.

And the answer to the question is, yes.  Yes, it is longer.  I had a few of my buddies test it out we all hit it longer than our current driver.

The VR_S driver should be considered by anyone looking for a few extra, straighter yards off the tee.  After all, isn’t that what we are all looking for?

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Nike Speed Trials: Yours vs Theirs

May 1st, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

There isn’t a golfer alive that isn’t looking to get longer off the tee.  Yea, we drive for show and putt for dough but if you can’t get off the tee you have no chance at the dough.  A few more yards is what we are all in search of and the people at Nike Golf have made it easy for us to find those extra yards.

Nike has come up with a unique promotion: The Nike Golf Speed Trials.  Nike, in partnership with five national golf retailers have made it easy for us to try out their new clubs and at the same time compare them to our own.

I normally am a little hesitant about any sales pitch promising to cure my slice and get me more yards.   But when you’re desperately seeking fairways you’ll try anything so I gave it a shot at a Golf Galaxy store.

I brought in my current driver, it’s my second one this season so you know I am desperate, and the Speed Trial guy told me to hit a few to get a reading from my current driver.  He recorded the data off the launch monitor and then he handed me a brand new Nike VR_S driver.  Now, I haven’t swung many Nike’s except my son’s driver (which is way too much club for me) but after a few swings I felt very comfortable hitting the new Nike.  And yes, I actually hit it longer then my own and then we tried some three woods and after that I hit the hybrids.  I will say that I was impressed with all the Nike clubs, but I’ll save that review for later.  Here we are talking about the Nike Golf Speed Trials.

I was apprehensive at first, my swing isn’t a pretty sight, but I am very glad I tried it.  The guy running the Nike Golf Speed Trial,  he says they are called Brand Ambassadors, was really helpful and knowledgeable.  The Brand Ambassadors were dressed in Tiger’s Sunday outfit, red shirt and black pants and while the guy worked with me in the hitting bay his female counterpart took down our data and asked a few questions.  They weren’t pushy and they made the experience fun and I got to see all the data from each club I hit.  They even give you a two ball sleeve of the new Nike 20XI.  It was a good way to get your hands on some very good equipment.

And I bet that is just what Nike thinks.  Put these new clubs in enough hands and maybe they will get some converts.  The Nike VR_S line  seems like they are the real deal.  The driver and fairway woods felt really good and I think the big surprise were the hybrids, they are really long.

If you are looking for some additional yards, and who isn’t, the Nike Golf Speed Trials is a good place to start.

Click here for the Nike Golf Speed Trails website.

 

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Tour Reps & “Rocketballz”

January 4th, 2012 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

The professionals might be getting ready to start their season at Kapalua but for many of us the start is still a few snowstorms and some months away.  If you don’t live in a “year round” golf environment the best you can do is fantasize about your first round when you open up with you best round ever.  Remember, I did say fantasize.

Maybe we can do more than that like dream about some new clubs that will enable us to become that scratch golfer we know we all can be.  Golf Digest’s February issue gives us a preview of the hot new clubs hitting the market this year.  Everything you need to hit it longer, straighter and just like a pro is there.  All you need is a few grand to get those new sticks to complete your fantasy.  Believe it or not Taylormade has a new driver out this year, that’s nothing new, as they lead in driver sales each year.  But the  name of the new line is “Rocketballz” yes, “Rocketballz.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Chris Tuten is a Titleist tour rep and an expert club fitter.  James Achenbach of Golfweek has a conversation with him about fitting the pros.

Question: How long are drivers on the PGA Tour?

Tuten: Rickie Fowler, 45 and a quarter. Zach Johnson, same thing. Ben Curtis is one of the longest at 46, but he’s been messing around with a 45-inch driver. On the short side, Geoff Ogilvy is 44 and a quarter. So is Bobby Gates. Bobby is one of the tallest guys out here (6-foot-5). You look at him on the range, it looks like he’s playing a kid’s club.

Question: So what’s the lesson here?

Tuten: All golfers are individuals, and there is no such thing as fitting a player strictly by the way he looks.

Tuten says that the two iron isn’t dead and that Gary Woodland can hit one 275 yards.

Question: Forget the Tour for a minute. Is this the Golden Age of golf clubs for consumers?

Tuten: I’ll say this: Golf clubs have never been better. I feel confident in saying that any golfer can find the perfect set.

Maybe this is the year you can find yours.

 

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The “New Look” Golf Shoe

May 28th, 2010 No comments

We have all seen Freddy Couples sporting the low profile ecco’s this season, and it seems like the golf shoe will be taking on a much different look in the near future. Almost-Sponsor-Free Ryan Moore just signed an endorsement contract with TRUE linkswear golf shoes, and we are now seeing new brands like kikkor and even veteran brands like NIKE are introducing this “new look” to the golf shoe. 

For those of you who were hoping to get some of these modern kicks, it seems that most of these shoes won’t be available to the public until end of this season. Ecco has just released “Golf Street Premiere” and NIKE has the “Air Anthem” incorporating the young, almost skater shoe. Ryan Moore has been seen wearing vans and puma c-hoopers, both similar to the new-to-golf brand kikkor, which has taken the skater/golf shoe to another level.

Over the next few years the golf shoe looks to be headed for significant changes, very far away from the two-tone saddles that most of us seem to enjoy.

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Top Ten Golf Innovations of the Past 20 Years

March 11th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Check out Golf World’s Senior Editor Mike Johnson as he breaks down his top ten golf innovations of the past twenty years.  In my opinion the most obvious is the big 460cc driver.  Everyone plays the biggest of the Big Dogs now.  But the innovation with the most impact has probably been the ball.  300 yard drives are the norm even for double digit hackers.  If Nicklaus played with these balls he would have never lost.

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Heavy Putters Feel Great

February 24th, 2010 No comments

As Phil Mickelson demonstrated at the end of the season, the putter can be a “weapon of score reduction.” After a few hours with putting guru Dave Stockton, Phil went on to win two tournaments and The Presidents Cup, putting lights out the whole time. The putter is the club that can reduce your score the quickest but at the same time it can be the club that causes us the most aggravation.

It’s critical to have a putter that fits you right, that allows you to make solid, centered contact with the ball and most importantly feels right. Feel is a critical aspect of putting and even golfers with the most mechanical of putting strokes recognize the importance of feel.

I have experimented with some putters over the years and determined that I like a little more weight in my putter. I have added a few lead strips to my putter head and have been sold on a heavier putter for years.

I recently tested a few of the “Mid-Weights” from Heavy Putter and found them to be quite suitable to my more weighty expectations. When Heavy Putter made its debut with the original Heavy Putters I tried those but found them to be too weighty and unsightly to look at. They looked like a piece of the Flux Capacitor that was left on the floor. No such issues with the Mid-Weights.

After listening to players and consumers feedback they have reduced the weight and made the Mid-Weights in the shape of many traditional and classic putters. I tried out the CX2, J2 (both Blades) and the H3 a Mallet. All three felt great. They had just enough weight to feel very comfortable and had that “swing by itself” feel. All you had to do was bring it back and the putter comes through the hitting area with a good follow through all by itself. That’s part of the thinking behind the Heavy Putter philosophy: heavier mass engages the body’s larger stable muscles, resulting in a more consistent pendulum stroke.

Each putter has a weighted shaft to better distribute the weight so it doesn’t feel like a sledge hammer and a thicker, mid-size grip that feels perfect in your hands.

The putter face is scored and the ball comes off the face with little skid and rolls true. The classic designs of the Mid-Weights make them easy on the eyes as you stand over your putt. Most importantly to me the putter feels right. It swings easy and gives plenty of feedback and feel. With a few practice putts you’ll adjust to the weight and before long it could be your “weapon of score reduction.”

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Slappy Magee Makes the Cut

January 29th, 2010 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Each week we watch the pros on The PGA Tour play at beautiful locations throughout the season.  They play for million dollar checks on a weekly basis. The PGA Tour is a walking millionaires club.  Ninety one tour members earned over a million dollars on The PGA Tour last year and the top fourteen earned well over three million each, led by Tiger Woods with $10,508,163.  One win usually gets you a million bucks and a bunch of perks, like exemptions and endorsements.  But there are many tour players that toil all year and never get a sniff of a first place check.  There are lunch pail guys out there on tour that are grinding each week trying to make the cut and cash a check.  You can still earn a good living by just making the cut.  Let’s see what making the cut and finishing last in each tournament can do for your bank account.  That’s right, make the cut but finish last.

Let’s say for example there’s a golfer who’s been out on tour for awhile and he has some status on tour.  He can get in to most of the weekly tournaments and will play as much as he can. We’ll call him Slappy Magee.  Now Slappy has been around and has some connections and the crowd loves him and the tournament directors do too.  So he can get into most any tournament he wants on a sponsor’s exemption but he really has enough game to pull his own weight.  Slappy has a strong constitution and being on the road doesn’t bother him so he plays all he can.

Slappy starts playing at The Sony in January and pauses at the start of The Fed Ex Cup.  That’s twenty seven weeks of weekly PGA Tour events and five other weeks where the majors and The Players take place.  If Slappy makes the cut and takes last in all twenty seven starts he’ll have pocketed $278,821, not bad for a journeyman.

Now if Slappy can qualify for some majors he’ll pocket some more cash.  Playing in the four majors and The Players Championship and still bringing up the rear in all five will get The Slapster $79,496 (we deducted the cash from The Reno-Tahoe Open, played opposite The Open Championship).  So far Slappy has a total of $358,316 in earnings and he’s feeling pretty good about earning ten times the average income in the United States.

Since Slappy didn’t qualify for any World Golf Championship events and didn’t earn enough FedEx Cup points to play in the Playoffs he is feeling fresh and plays in the Fall Series.  As usual he takes his familiar spot at the bottom of the list but still cashes three checks and adds another $26,801 to his stash.  Slappy can be proud of his effort and the $385,118 he earned from the thirty five tournaments he played.

Yes, I know thirty five tournaments is a lot.  The iron man of the tour last year was Brian Davis ($1,874,318) and he played in thirty two.  So if Slappy needed a break during the year let’s say he only played in twenty five weekly tournaments and earned an average of $10,187 each week.  He only qualified for two majors for an average $17,088 (they pay well) and he still plays in The Fall Series.  That’s thirty events and a grand total of $315,631.  The Slapster played in no FedEx Cup or WGC events and still earned a pretty good buck.

Slappy can rest up during the off season and work on his game. He’ll have to if he wants to play again next year.  In all of the scenarios that we just examined Slappy falls short of the magic number, 150.  The top 150 in earnings get to play next year but for all of Slappy’s hard work, even in his best thirty five tournament season he misses last year’s cutoff of $454,510 by a pile of money.  Slappy will have to try and do it all over again next year.  It’s not as easy as it looks out there on tour.

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