Equipment Reviews

In this issue: the new Cobra Long Tom Driver, TaylorMade R11 irons, the newest hybrid from Adams Golf, and, among other things, some of our top picks for golf reading through the offseason. Yes, the golf year is wrapping up and some golf equipment companies are working on their next set of products while others are already cranking out new stuff. All year long, we have featured items in this article that could make up a dream bag of equipment, and this time we feature the very latest and even one yet-to-be introduced item. We also cover some of our top picks from some recently published golf books. As much as we don’t want to admit it, snowy, cold, non-golfing months are ahead. So if you can’t play as much golf in the next four or five months as you would like, at least you can read about it.

The Cobra Long Tom Driver is a new introduction and while the name may have come from a World War II era cannon, it is certainly fitting, especially in terms of the stock shaft. At a whopping 48 inches long, the standard shaft is much longer than anything you’ll normally find in the golf shop. For the sake of comparison, most drivers have historically been inching up from 43 to 45 inches or so with a number of drivers in the market reaching 46 inches over the last couple of years. That long shaft is light at only 50 grams and we were surprised the clubhead was only 445cc instead of the full 460cc as allowed under USGA rules. That difference isn’t noticeable, however, but the sheer length of the club was something we found challenging to overcome in terms of feel and tempo. The club is a good option for someone who that extra length doesn’t bother and who wants extra clubhead speed anyway they can get it.

The Adams a12 OS hybrid is due out this month, so if you cannot find it, check back at your local golf shop. The new hybrid features Adams new Velocity Slot technology, which is a deep groove that runs across both the crown and sole just behind the clubface. This allows the face to flex and provide more spring-like effect at impact. Not unlike a trampoline means longer shots across the face. The rest of the clubhead is elongated from the face to the back, with more weight placed back and away from the face to create a higher ball flight. In our testing of the 3-iron (19 degrees of loft), we found it flew just as far as our other hybrids that have a lower, more penetrating ball flight. However, the a12 OS flew a lot higher, which means it would settle softer on a distant green. The club is available in lofts from 17 degrees (the 2i model) through 32 degrees (the 7i).

You’ve heard about, know about, and maybe even own the TaylorMade R11 driver, but what about their new R11 irons?A relatively new introduction, these irons pack a ton of technology and forgiveness into a very attractive and understated design. And no, they aren’t painted white. With a cambered sole and weighting shifted to the edges of an undercut channel, these clubs look, feel and play like players clubs, but provide all the forgiveness of a game-improvement iron. That means the thin sole can cut through all kind of lies without getting hung up, but they are just as easy to hit as some other thicker-soled options on the market. They have a hot, thin face so they’re plenty long and the progressive offset provides forgiveness where you need it. In short, these clubs these clubs look like player’s clubs, but have the help you need to score like a player.

A great-looking, functional new wedge makes up the next part of our dream bag. The Mizuno MP-R12 wedges are a forged club made from 1025E Pure Select carbon steel to provide a soft, workable feel. They have Mizuno’s new conforming Quad Cut grooves on a precision CNC-milled face. The R in the name stands for “rounded” meaning the general shape of the clubhead – a shape preferred by many better players. They come in two finishes, white satin and black nickel, and nine loft and bounce combinations starting at 50 degrees through 64 degrees.

We’ll skip the putter this month, because what could probably do you more good than a new putter is knowing how to use your old one. Dave Stockton’s new book, “Unconscious Putting”, is likely just that book. You’ve heard about Stockton spending a week or a few days or even thirty minutes with folks like Rory McIlroy, Yani Tseng, Phil Mickelson, Michelle Wie, and others just before they go on a hot streak by winning tournaments, taking out competitors in Ryder/Solheim Cup matches, or even capturing Major tournament titles. He has become something of a putting guru lately and thus far has only shared a few hints about his approach via major magazine articles and television shows. Now, he has teamed with Golf Digest senior writer Matthew Rudy to share a lot more about this extremely important part of the game. Every reader, even those with great short games, will pick up some hints, learn a new approach, or come away with a new way of thinking about putting. There is little about mechanics, although he does spend time discussing the grip, forward press, and other parts of the stroke. He is clear, though, that mechanics are often personal and different styles can all be successful, but what’s more important is the mental aspect of putting and the approach golfers should take to see great results.

For another great book, think back over the history of the PGA Tour. From the establishment of the TPC courses (including Sawgrass and the land purchase for $1), through the growth of sponsorships and TV coverage, the lawsuit with Ping over grooves, and the establishment of what are now known as the Nationwide and Champions Tours, one man was central to all that change. Deane Beman, the former PGA Tour Commissioner, chronicles the backstories, controversies, conversations, trials and tribulations that took place during his twenty year tenure in “Deane Beman: Golf’s Driving Force.” The book shares a number of other stories you probably have never heard, the most notable of which was a power coup orchestrated by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer over fundamental differences in how much business and what kind of business the Tour should conduct. Along with GolfWeek senior writer, Adam Schupak, Beman conveys an interesting history of the PGA Tour from his own unique perspective at the center of it all.

Another book that is less about golf as it is a remarkable true story with golf woven throughout is “Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everything” by Kevin Cook. The book covers the life and times of a man who became known as Titanic as he traveled the country for decades, making bets with anyone and everyone on anything and everything. He was an athletic and mental genius who could figure out any angle and then find a sucker who would be willing to hand over money betting on it. He once took down Al Capone in a bet and eventually turned to golf to continue to make his living. In an era where he could make many times more by hustling than playing legitimate professional tournaments, he ended up in matches with folks like Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, to name just two of the marquee names who appear in this book. Considered by many who knew him to be one of the best golfers of his era, Titanic rarely found himself on the short end any bet. For one example of how broadly interesting this book is, remember the Broadway play “Guys and Dolls?” The playwright, Damon Runyan, was a friend of Titanic’s and based his main character on him. Why bother with fictional writings when Titanic Thompson’s real life is this interesting to read about.