The Bag Drop was on location for the inaugural playing of The Newport Cup matches in North Carolina last weekend. A hearty congratulations to the Blue Team on their victory, and to the Red Team on its punctuality and fashion sense.
While I spent most of my time at Talamore, Pine Needles and Anderson Creek hitting shots into and out of the majestic pine trees, I did have time to make some observations about the equipment The Sand Trap crew takes into battle.
Observation No. 1: Mallets Rule the Day
I've certainly noticed this trend before, but it was in full effect during The Newport Cup. Six of our eight participants took on the severely sloping Carolina greens with mallets. There were three Odyssey models (a White Steel 2-Ball Blade, a center-shafted White Hot 2-Ball and a center-shafted White Hot 5), a Titleist/Cameron Red X, a Yes! Olivia and a TaylorMade Monza Corza CS. Along with Josh Premuda's Big Oak T'Ville, my trusty old Ping Scottsdale Anser was the only other blade in play.
Personally, I prefer playing a blade-style putter on fast greens like those at Pine Needles, and putting wasn't the part of the game I struggled with last week. But the mallet users in the group seemed to like having a beefier putter behind the ball on those wicked putts across the inverted bowl greens. Our friend Rafi even putted one out of the pine straw - rolling it onto the green and into the hole (for a par) with his Monza Corza. Needless to say, manufacturers are all over this trend, pumping out lots of new mallets for this season and next.
Observation No. 2: Hybrids Really are Hot
Again, this isn't the first time you've heard this. But it isn't hype: People are playing hybrids, and they're playing well with them. Five of us used them at The Newport Cup, and used them often. There were three TaylorMade Rescues in play, along with one Titleist 503.H and my Sonartec Md. These hybrids were mostly used to put the ball in play on short par-4s, for tee shots on long par-3s and to go for par-5s in two. But I had one of my highlights of the weekend with a hybrid from closer range.
For my third shot on the 4th hole at Pine Needles, I was behind a stand of pine trees and 135 yards from the green. I couldn't go over the trees, and there were also low branches in my line. I used my Sonartec Md (21 degrees) to hit a low punch with a bit of cut on it. With a simple chipping motion, the ball scooted off the pine straw and under the branches toward the green. It rolled up the green and settled pin high, 40 feet away. Pumped up by the fact that I had gotten onto the green from absolute jail, I charged the putt into the hole for an improbable par. Bottom line: Hybrids are hot for a reason. They're very versatile, and I can't think of many golfers who wouldn't benefit from having at least one in their bag.
Observation No. 3: Oldies can be Goodies
The Newport Cup was full of competitors who are gearheads, lovers of golf equipment who often review the latest goods. So it was no surprise that most of us were decked out with some of the newest clubs on the market. For example, Erik J. Barzeski had the Titleist 735.CM combo irons and TaylorMade RAC TP wedges, while I had the Callaway Fusion FT-3 driver.
But some of us also mixed in equipment of a less-recent vintage. Dave Koster and I each had our Callaway Steelhead Plus fairway woods in play, more than five years after they hit the market. Josh's Titleist 962b irons are still going strong nearly nine years after they were introduced. And my Ping Scottsdale Anser, which I've had since January 1996, is a design that goes back to the 1960s. I'd say all three of those products deserve a place in the Bag Drop Hall of Fame for designs that stand the test of time.