Thursday, February 1, 2018

2018 PGA Merchandise Show - Demo Day Recap Part 2 of 4: PING Golf, Callaway Golf, and Fujikura Golf

Demo Day feels a bit like the Gold Rush for me. Trekking around Orange County National Golf Center and hitting swarms of new clubs can be grueling for sure.  But when you discover those gold nuggets panning through the waters of new equipment, it's a glorious adrenaline rush. 


In my Demo Day Recap Part 1, I told you about new riches from Wilson Staff, TaylorMade Golf, and Mitsubishi Golf shafts.  Next up would be PING Golf, Callaway Golf, and Fujikura Golf shafts, and competition for my Best of Show winners started to really heat up. 

PING Golf 
If you're a golfer who doesn't practice much, or your performance off the tee changes radically from round to round, even tee to tee, then the PING G400 MAX is your driver.

The G400 MAX produced solid distance for me, but it wasn't the longest driver I hit at demo day.  What impressed me most about it however, was that it produced consistently high and straight drives swing after swing, and was one of the easiest to hit drivers at Demo Day. 


The MAX has a deeper profile than the original G400 and has a larger 460cc head, which allowed PING to create the deepest CG in any driver they've ever designed.  It receives top marks for stability, forgiveness, and fun to hit quotient.  I didn't have time to hit it with a different shaft, but if a new shaft bumped up my distance, it would be a hard driver to top. 


I also took the new G700 irons for a spin and these were ridiculously long.  Granted, some of that distance might be due to the jacked up lofts, but even with stronger lofts ball flight was high and carry was dazzling. 


Forgiveness is point and shoot easy, making it great for golfers with inconsistent swings.  And for a game-improvement iron it's one of the cleanest looking, best feeling irons around today. 

The PING Glide 2.0 Stealth wedges are available in four different sole grinds.  The SS (pictured) is an all-purpose grind for a variety of conditions.  The WS has the widest sole and is the most forgiving.  Those of you who play on firmer turf should look at the half-moon grind TS.  While the ES (pictured) is the modern version of the EYE-2 with a scoop sole ideal for bunker play. 


The 2.0 Stealth might look just like the older 2.0 wedges, and shape wise they're basically identical.  However the 2.0 Stealth wedges are made from 8620 carbon steel for a softer feel, and feature an additional bottom half-groove close to the lead edge in higher lofted models for a little extra spin. 

Callaway Golf 
Six simple words best describe what I thought about Callaway's new Rogue and Rogue Sub Zero drivers: "This is how babies are made."  Distance, forgiveness, and overall performance just blew me away.  My joys hitting the Rogue were endless. 


It seems a bit bigger at address than last year's EPIC driver, which I normally wouldn't prefer, but it was impossible to resist the results.  I'm not sure how much longer it is than the EPIC, but I know it is.  It was definitely one of the longest hitting drivers of Demo Day.

It's hard to say after one range session, but I also believe it's more forgiving than the EPIC.  What impressed me most about Rogue however, was the tight dispersion - like it had tunnel vision.  Accuracy was flat our exceptional. 


The Sub Zero is basically the same driver in terms of power, forgiveness, and accuracy, except it's extremely low spinning.  I preferred the standard Rogue, but those players looking for lower spin will find Sub Zero the most effective. 


Callaway also incorporated their Jailbreak Technology into fairway woods and hybrids for the first time, and I'm convinced they put everything they know about equipment engineering into these clubs.  No exaggeration here: the upper echelon of performance. 


Callaway's made some great irons over the years, but the last set I truly loved was the Diablo Forged.  Unfortunately for my beloved Diablo's, they've finally met their match.  The Rogue Pro irons are the total package.  Granted I was hitting off just one lie, but I believe the Pro are Callaway's best combination of distance, accuracy, and playability - ever. 


I haven't played game-improvement irons for years, but the standard Rogue irons have me seriously re-thinking my bag.  More offset and a wider sole will means you'll sacrifice some playability, but the distance was powerful and effortless,  trajectories were perfect rainbows, and I was amazed how forgiving they were.  A tired swing is usually a bad swing, and was starting to feel a bit gassed from hitting clubs all morning.  So I  purposefully hit some shots flat-footed, with less than full turns, even at different postures - and the Rogue irons kept hitting balls straight, high, and long. 


Finally, I got to the Mack Daddy 4 wedges.  There's that smooth 8620 carbon feel to them, but Callaway clearly did something more with the MD4s.  They're soft, strong, and balanced at impact, like they've been touched by a patron saint of wedgegasms. 


I can't say much about the versatility of the four grinds hitting from one lie at Demo Day, but feel, spin, and control was exceptional. W Grind is the most forgiving.  S Grind lets you open the face but still keep the lead edge close to the ground.  C Grind has the lowest bounce and is best for firm conditions.  While the new X Grind has a narrow crescent sole ideal for softer conditions. 





The MD4s appear more compact than previous Callaway wedges, but a tight leading-edge radius means it's easy to make clean contact with each grind. 


Progressive groove formations and microgrooves (Callaway calls this Groove in Groove technology) gave me more control on full shots and more spin on short shots. 

Rogue and Odyssey staff bags are fire.  Thirty minute lines to grab water and food are not. 


Fujikura Golf 
One of the things I like about Fujikura Golf besides the great performance of their shafts is they're not going to release a new shaft every year just to follow the industry.  When they design a new shaft, you know it's because they've legitimately figured out how to do something better. 


It's been 4 years since the original PRO shafts were released, and this year the PRO 2.0 and 2.0 Tour Spec take everything they've learned in their ENSO labs since then to create even more kick speed.  And that of course means more distance. 


In general, the tip and mid sections have been stiffened, the butt section has been softened, and the torque reduced.  I didn't have a lot of time to hit and compare different weight or flex versions of the 2.0 and 2.0 Tour Spec, and I'll be writing a full review on both shafts later this spring.  But I still wanted to at least get a feel for them so I could share my impressions with you. 


I grabbed different drivers already fitted for someone else with both shafts, and I clearly felt a smooth, strong kick that also gave me a great sense of control.  The 2.0 delivered a brilliant low-spin, mid launch flight, while the 2.0 Tour Spec as you'd imagine launched noticeably lower.  With multiple weight and flex categories, the new 2.0 shafts should give golfers of all skill levels more distance. 

READ MORE:2018 PGA Merchandise Show - Demo Day Recap Part 3 of 4