Fourth Quarter Starts With New Product Blitz

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A prototype Nike driver turned up in Tiger Woods bag Tuesday, and it seems to have heralded a meteor shower of new equipment. Put on your hard hats and lets review:
 
Nike. The head of Golfer No. 1s new driver is 25 percent larger than anything he has played before, say Nike sources. The face is made of a new material that will help Tiger work the ball the way he wants to. Nike isnt divulging any more about the club yet. It will be available in the spring.
 
You will recall that Woods made quite the marketing hoopla ' and increased sales of antacids among some Nike Golf execs ' when he put aside his former Nike driver earlier this season and took up his old Titleist again. Woods never spoke in detail about the change, but the sense from the time of the change, at least within Nike, is that the benching was temporary, and that Nike club developers should take the change as a challenge to surpass themselves.
 
Woods has spoken often about his general theory of driving the golf ball, which seems to be a refinement of the Grip-Rip School. In the clinic in Atlantas Piedmont Park that preceded this weeks American Express WGC tournament, Woods discussed the need to compete with long-hitting players coming out of the elite college ranks. But he also noted that even the biggest hitters eventually feel the need to throttle it back, as he put it, to keep the ball in play and not destroy good rounds with bad tee balls.
 
That is, a hot clubface is only as good as the shortness of the grass on which the ball lands. Sounds like Grip-Rip has become the Grip-Rip-Fairway-to-the-Green-is-a-Shorter-Trip School.
 
WilsonWilson. The veteran label from Chicago has a whole slew of new gear, led by its latest entry in the big-headed driver market. And I do mean big. The Deep Red II Maxx (not a typo; its two xs) is the third driver in the Deep Red family, Wilsons best-selling clubs ever. And if head size has anything to do with brains, this driver is off to Harvard. The 450 cc head is the biggest Wilson has ever made, and it features low-and-back weighting to fine-tune the high launch characteristics many players now want. The DRIIMaxx also features a low-torque version of the companys standby Fat Shaft, Wilson says.
 
Suggested retail: $449; shipping to begin October 15.
 
Callaway. The ERC Fusion driver, which we showed you in prototype form on Golf Central this summer, has been introduced officially and will be ready to ship in December. The club features a cup-face technology titanium face bonded to a lightweight graphite composite body. (Callaway fans will recognize this as the next generation of the technology the company first tried with the C4, which did not do as well in the marketplace as Callaway would have liked.)
 
Callaway is high on the light graphite body, but the focus is that face, which Callaway says is the key to the clubs explosive performance. It has that wraparound construction onto the sides of the head ' hence the cup idea ' that became popular with the original ERC II drivers. Internal weighting accounts for a full quarter of the clubheads mass, and Callaway says it has placed the weight to best influence ball flight.
 
Suggested retail: $625. And yes, a high-COR version will be marketed outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Golf Association, which limits clubface springiness.
 
Also from Callaway: A new HX Tour golf ball, meant to be the flagship of the companys ball line. The three-piece ball will feature a very thin cover ' 25 thousandths of an inch ' and a proprietary chemical additive in the core to increase ball velocity. Callaway promises a fast and soft ball worthy of pro aspirations; indeed, Annika Sorenstam, James Oh and Jim Thorpe have already won with it.
 
Suggested retail: $50 per dozen. The ball will be available in January.
 
Ping. A larger version of Pings latest driver is available. The new Si3 380 has a 380cc head, 40cc more than the original, which will continue to be available as well. The bigger head is designed to give confidence and forgiveness to players who prefer that kind of big, meaty mass behind the ball. The 340 will appeal to golfers who want a slightly more workable head, says Ping chairman and CEO John Solheim. But some pros have headed to the larger version: Chris DiMarco and Miguel Angel Jimenez have had Top 10 finishes since switching to the Si3 380. The fully forged and very thin clubface, first seen in the Si3 340, is the clubs signature feature, Ping says.
Winn
Suggested retail: $465.
 
Golf Pride. The venerable power in the hands-on portion of the game, a division of Eaton Corp., has unveiled its 2004 line of golf grips. The GL model is genuine leather one-piece slip-on in a classic shade of green, available in mens sizes and for putters. Its Golf Prides first leather grip ever.
 
The V-55 is an update of the classic V-50 model on the occasion of the companys 55th anniversary in 2004. The high-traction Tour velvet feel grip comes in regular rubber and corded models.
 
The Whisper E series is a thinner, synthetic leather model designed for golfers who want a very soft feel, Golf Pride says. Mens and womens sizes are available. Whisper Blends combine rubber performance with synthetic leather comfort; these come in mens, womens and putter sizes.
 
Look for the new grips in the fourth quarter. Also, Golf Pride will supply grips for the increasingly popular C-Thru Grip line, the clear grips that can encase logos of everything you can think of, from teams to companies to your kids picture. As part of the agreement, struck in August, Golf Pride got exclusive rights to market C-Thru clear grips and labeled products.
 
Winn. Continuing its crusade toward new materials in grips, Winn has developed a new polymer for its V17 AVS grip that is tacky in all weathers, the company says. The grip also boasts a new seaming system that is virtually invisible, Winn says. Three sizes and two firmness options will be available. The new grip will be ready for 2004.
 
Barr Golf Pharmacology. A new drug will be available for those who feel compelled to display their anemic swings on television
 
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