Out with the old in with the new

By David AllenNovember 18, 2009, 11:54 pm

Some PGA Tour players will put new wedges in their bag every week, so they have fresh grooves on their clubs. The average recreational golfer might replace his or her wedges every few years, which makes those tough greenside shots play even more difficult. And that’s if they keep the face and the grooves clean!

Normal wear and tear reduces the effectiveness of grooves, particularly their ability to grip the ball and impart spin on it, thus making it harder to control finesse shots from the sand and the rough.

“Every time you explode from sand with your wedge it’s like rubbing a piece of sand paper on your clubface,” said Bret Wahl, senior director of iron, wedge and putter development for TaylorMade Golf. “Over time the face wears down and the edge-radius of the grooves becomes dull.”

TaylorMadeDirt, grass, moisture and other debris accumulate over time and combine to wear down the face surface and volume of each groove, making that 25-yard pitch shot over a bunker to a tight pin play seemingly impossible. For these reasons, Brian Bazzell, TaylorMade’s manager of iron and wedge creation, recommends that the average golfer replace their wedges every 15-20 rounds, or about 1,000 shots.

“For players who play with reasonable frequency, 1,000 shots add up pretty quickly,” said Bazzell. “They add up even faster for players who practice between rounds.”

Before, if you wanted to replace your grooves, you had to go out and buy another wedge for $125. That was reason enough to make you hang onto your sand wedge for another season. But now, thanks to new technology and rules that allow for clubface adjustability (before the round), you don’t have to wait.

Enter the TaylorMade TP xFT wedge. The letters xFT stand for Exchangeable Face Technology, a system which allows you to exchange a worn face for a new one with a few twists of a wrench. The face is held in place by two screws on the back of the clubhead. To insert a new face (sold separately for $39), you simply loosen the two xFT screws, remove the old clubface, insert the replacement face, tighten the screws with the R9 torque wrench, and presto! You’ve got a new, fresh face with clean, spin-inducing grooves.

Each face is backed by a soft layer of urethane foam and fits snugly into the precision-milled pocket, providing the same performance as a one-piece club.

“It’s been in the work for some time,” said Bazzell. “We have been testing grooves and specifically groove plates with our R&D team for more than 10 years. When the rule of adjustability was implemented we felt like we could bring to market a viable product that consumers could benefit from. With the groove rule in place, it finally gave us a good launching pad for this type of product.”

The groove rule that Bazzell is referring to is, of course, the highly publicized USGA rule limiting the volume (cross-sectional area) and edge sharpness of the current “bigger” grooves. A Condition of Competition was adopted prohibiting high-level professional golfers (PGA Tour, LPGA Tour) from using the older grooves beginning on January 1, 2010. Recreational golfers have until 2024 before they have to change, although all clubs manufactured in 2011 and beyond must have the conforming grooves.

The xFT offers two different types of faces – a ZTP groove face, which conforms to the new USGA rule, and a Z groove face which conforms to the pre-2010 rule and is in play for recreational golfers until 2024. The ZTP groove is designed to provide maximum spin under the new USGA regulations, while the Z groove is said to generate green-stopping spin.

“Most players won’t experience a dramatic reduction in spin from fairway lies, but will see a decrease in spin by up to 50 percent from the rough,” said Wahl of the new conforming grooves. “All the more reason to keep the clubface of your wedge fresh and at peak performance.”

The TP xFT wedge with Z groove face will be available online and in stores on December 1st, but only in the 56-degree version (with 12 degrees of bounce). It will retail for $129. Nine more combinations will follow in mid-February 2010, with lofts ranging from 50 to 64 degrees. Each wedge comes equipped with a slightly heavier than normal KBS High-Rev shaft, designed to increase spin because of its weighting.

For a closer glimpse of the TP xFT wedge as well as several other new wedges click here.

Getty Images

Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

Getty Images

Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

Getty Images

DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

Getty Images

LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.