The 2006 PGA Merchandise Show is underway in Orlando. That means the action has shifted inside the Orange County Convention Center instead of yesterday's massive Demo Day at Orange County National Golf Club.
Another big event under yesterday's sunny skies here in Florida was Callaway Golf's media outing. Olin Browne was the guest of honor, and Callaway took the wraps off the new X series woods, Big Bertha irons, X-Tour wedges and Odyssey Tri-Ball SRT putter.
I had a chance to play 9 holes with the new Callaway products. I was most impressed with the new X460 driver and X fairway woods. The Fusion FT-3 driver and fairway woods - and a new FT-3 hybrid that wasn't on display at the event - will remain the top of the line for Callaway. But the lower-priced X series is poised to do big business with players who aren't looking for the carbon composite technology built into the Fusion series.
The X460 driver is an all-titanium design that actually looks larger than the Fusion FT-3. The face area is larger, and the deep blue clubhead looks great at address. The X460 driver and the stainless steel X fairway woods all feature a unique sole with a concave area that helps the club sit square at address. This little touch makes the X woods look great behind the ball, not closed like so many woods today.
I tried a 9° X460 driver with a Fujikura stiff shaft. I found the distance to be comparable to the FT-3, which is to say long. The feel was very solid, and the sound was loud but not obnoxious. The fairway woods were exceptional. I was able to use the 3-wood to hit a low stinger into the wind that set up a birdie on a par-5, then used the same club to hit a soaring drive on a downwind hole. My first impression is that the X series fairway woods could be the best Callaway fairway woods I've hit since the Steelhead Plus, one of which is still in my bag after five years. Might be time for a change.
The 2006 Big Bertha irons are very similar in look and performance to the 2004 version. They're a solid game-improvement iron, with beefy soles and plenty of offset. If you're looking for a point-and-shoot iron, this would be a good place to start.
The X-Tour wedges are the latest iteration of forged wedges created by Callaway design chief Roger Cleveland. The 56° model I tested was solid. The 58° and 60° models will have special "Mack Daddy" grooves preferred by Phil Mickelson. Apparently they spin the ball like crazy, and are set to battle Titleist's Spin Milled Vokeys and TaylorMade's Y-cutters.
The new Odyssey Tri-Ball SRT Putter is going to turn some heads. The massive head has a ring of dense zinc alloy around the perimeter to raise the MOI. You could fit a large waffle inside the head cover. Needless to say, this thing is great on the short putts. I was impressed with how easy it was to dial in distance control, and I rolled in a 25-footer with the Tri-Ball. A smaller Two-Ball version is coming soon.
I also had the chance to play with the "improved" version of the HX Tour ball. It now uses the same production process as the HX Tour 56, with the special injection process that creates six extra-deep dimples. As the original HX Tour did, the new version handled the gusty winds of Florida very nicely.
Callaway also unveiled its new sunglasses collection. Some very nice styles, all very lightweight. They worked great on the course, and they also look good enough to wear off the course. I tried a pair that was reminiscent of a light Maui Jim titanium shades, and the Callaway model was very light and comfortable. And the packaging is very cool - the box looks almost exactly like a box of HX Tour balls, and comes with a sturdy glasses case and a cleaning cloth.
The new FT-3 hybrid wasn't on display, nor the new wide-sole version of the Fusion irons. But from what I saw, it looks like Callaway has a pretty solid lineup for 2006. We'll get you some more in-depth reviews when the products become available.