Titanium Graphite and Steel - Oh My


The swing purists ' and here I mean the wrinkle-free, never-worried teaching pros who pure every 8-iron 157 yards and think you should, too ' tsk-tsk and shake their heads at the idea of bolstering ones game by purchasing the latest in equipment.
Cant buy a game, theyre likely to say, as they club-toe another ball into place, take their stance, and pure it once again.
In the strictest sense, theyre right. Without a sound swing, any advantages equipment offers will be only temporary.
On the other hand, golf is a hard game. We should no more play with substandard gear than a carpenter should make do with outdated tools.
The premium golf equipment industry couldnt agree more. This year, as they have every year in recent memory, the top companies are offering a veritable smorgasbord of science at the end of graphite shafts.
Since persimmon gave way to steel and titanium in drivers, the name woods for the bigger clubs in the bag has been largely ceremonial. With its new C4 driver, Callaway Golf gives us a look at what may be beyond metal. The name stands for Compression Cured Carbon Composite. Thats right, graphite has moved from the shaft into the clubhead. Its not the first time weve seen composite clubheads (remember models by Kunnan and Yonex?), but Callaway says its new club takes the genre a step further.

Callaway designers placed tungsten-loaded urethane weight strips in the clubhead to move the weight away from the center of the clubface, resulting in a more forgiving hit. Theres plenty of room, too: The clubhead is 360 cc, one of the biggest on the market. And because its mostly graphite instead of metal, the clubhead is very light. So expect to get it going faster, Callaway says ' and enjoy the extra yardage. The C4 will be available in February; the suggested retail price will be $540.
Metal certainly hasnt been abandoned. Callaway offers the third generation of its dependable Steelhead line. The Steelhead III drivers and fairway woods feature larger heads ' theres that forgiveness again. The clubs also incorporate the companys variable face thickness technology, which allows metal faces to be thinned and remain strong, so more mass can be moved to the outside edges of the clubhead. The new design also extends the clubhead from heel to toe, to make a bigger hitting area.
Titanium golf club prices still cause a lot of sticker shock, so major companies have used their steel lines to keep potential customers from fleeing the pro shop. TaylorMade-Adidas Golf is doing that with its new 200 line of metalwoods. The clubs offer all the advantages of the companys successful 300 titanium line, which was the talk of the PGA Tour in 2001, but in a less costly steel version. And the clubs have the highest coefficient of restitution (spring-like effect off the face) ever in a TaylorMade club on the legal side of the U.S. Golf Association limit, the company says.
The 200 Series is out now. Suggested retail prices are $329 per club with graphite shafts; $249 with steel shafts.
Of course, cost consciousness can be quickly forgotten in the search for a long drive, so titanium is still a big seller. Ping is updating its popular TiSI driver into the TiSI Tec, keeping the enormous head but adding weight pads inside the sole plate to distribute the mass just right. Ping also employs its own variable face thickness knowledge to move weight around a stiff clubface.
And that ET number on the club isnt loft, but effective trajectory. Thats the loft of the clubhead at impact, once that shaft bends and stores up all that energy youll use to out-drive your foursome compadres. ET is 1.5 degrees less that the static (at-rest) loft. The whole idea is to reduce spin. Less spin on the drives equals more distance.
The TiSI Tec is available now. The suggested retail price - $515.
Some companies like to keep the wraps on their latest and greatest until the PGA Merchandise Show, the big golf industry confab set for Jan. 24-27 in Orlando. The biggest mystery on golf gearheads minds is what the new Nike golf clubs will be like.

The worlds largest sporting goods company has grabbed a foothold in the highly competitive golf ball market, and got the worlds No. 1 player to use its products. Presumably hell do the same with Nike golf clubs. But what will be available to us mortals?
Two forged titanium (read: expensive) drivers will be in the line, along with forged, muscle-back irons and a collection of wedges. The drivers will be available in February, with the other clubs to follow in the spring. Some tour pros, most notably David Duval, have had prototype irons in their bags already.
Forged clubs, with their sweet feedback but small sweet spot, are usually the province of better players. But its unlikely that Nike would cut itself off from a big segment of the golf market by making clubs only the experts could hit. And Nikes clubs were designed by Fort Worth, Texas, club master Tom Stites, whose clubmaking pedigree goes back to working with the great Ben Hogan.
This is only a sampling of a multitude of offerings from an industry thats hoping for a big year in 2002. And no matter what the swing purists say, theres likely to be new equipment out there that can help you tune up your game ' or at least have a darn good time trying.
For more from Adam Barr, LIVE from the PGA Merchandise Show, catch Golf Central every night at 7:30 p.m. ET during Tune Up Your Game Week Jan. 21'27.