A little Bag Drop bonus coverage for you this week. Most of the new product announcements at the recently concluded PGA Merchandise Show were telegraphed ahead of time. But there were a few surprises in the aisles in Orlando. Here are three of them you'll want to know about.
Sonartec is one of my favorite companies for a couple good reasons. First, their products are great. The Sonartec Md hybrid is one of my all-time favorites, and their fairway woods have a cult-like following. Second, the company doesn't bring out a half-dozen new products every couple months to goose the retail process. In fact, they've even taken clubs off the market to streamline their lineup. Last year, they stopped selling drivers, for example.
This year, however, Sonartec did have one new product. The LS-99 is a series of fairway woods for low swing-speed golfers, like women and seniors. The LS-99 woods are available in 14°, 17°, 20° and 23°, and they're the largest fairway woods in the Sonartec collection. They're a larger version of the NP-99 woods designed with Nick Price, feature Sonartec's patented driving cavity technology and horseshoe-shaped backweight. As one Sonartec executive told me, "This is as close to a game improvement club as we're ever going to get."
Sonartec has a solid following on the major men's tours, but they've yet to break through on the LPGA Tour. The LS-99 is likely to change that. The standard shaft is an Aldila NVS 45-L in either pink or gray.
Company executives said to keep an eye out for other new products from Sonartec later this year, cryptically saying that the products would surprise a lot of people. Putters? Wedges? We'll have to wait and see.
Another company known for its hybrids is Nickent, which had announced several new products - like the new DC hybrids, two versions of the 3DX irons and two new Pipe putters - in advance of the Show. In Orlando, however, the company showcased a surprise new product: a set of 3DX Hybrid irons that it calls "the longest irons ever."
The idea behind John Hoeflich's design is to lessen the gap between a golfer's highest-lofted hybrid or fairway wood and their lowest-lofted driver. As a result, the 3DX Hybrid irons are hybrid-like in performance. They have thick soles and massive cavities, creating a super-low center of gravity. Covering the cavity is a piece of carbon composite, which dampens vibration and creates a solid sound.
Most interesting is how the set is made up. The longer irons have such a low center of gravity that Nickent was able to jack up the lofts by several degrees without losing distance. As a result, the 5-iron will actually fly more like a 3-iron for most golfers - especially the slower-swinging golfers these irons are meant for. But the lofts are spaced throughout the set so that the wedges have traditional lofts, not the 44° and 43° pitching wedge lofts we're seeing in some sets.
Are they the longest irons ever? For some golfers, they will be. We'll check 'em out for you when they ship later this spring.
And finally, Odyssey surprised us with a new line of putters. Not the new Tri-Ball and Two-Ball putters we knew were coming. Instead, Callaway's putter brand also replaced its old White Hot line with a new line called White Hot XG. The new twist in the XG line is multi-layer insert technology. There's a very soft insert that sits behind a firmer cover insert. The White Hot XG is now the softest-feeling putter Odyssey makes, and it has a textured impact area that is visually distinctive. The XG line includes a couple straightforward designs, like a Rossie model and some Anser-like blades. But there are also some funkier-than-usual designs from Odyssey in the XG batch, including a mallet with two long "wings" stretching out from the heel and toe of the putter head. A bit odd-looking, but that's what folks said about the Two-Ball, too.
The White Hot XG line isn't up on Odyssey's website yet, but I'd look for an official announcement soon. I rolled a few with them in Orlando, and they did feel very soft. Maybe these surprises will find their way into your bag when they ship this spring.