Spy on Equipment: Long Putters, Snazzy Shoes and New Mizuno Irons

Golf gear manufacturers release a lot of new equipment during the year. While the vast majority of offerings are simply updated, tricked-out versions of existing models, interesting stuff does come down the pike every now and then.

Here are a few equipment items that caught our attention in recent weeks.

Bellying up – way up

TaylorMade Ghost Spider

TaylorMade's Ghost Spider putter.

Every golfer of a certain age remembers Jack Nicklaus’ stunning Masters triumph in 1986. Most have forgotten the explosion of putter sales that followed his win. Specifically, sales of the mammoth-headed MacGregor Response ZT putter Nicklaus used to make all those back-nine bombs.

In the 2 ½ years following Nicklaus’ sixth Masters victory, MacGregor sold an astounding 350,000 Response ZTs. A similar boom is mushrooming now in the belly and long putter market.

Late-season victories by Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott and Webb Simpson put extended flatsticks front and center in the public’s eye. TaylorMade recently tripled fourth-quarter sales expectations for long and belly putters, and accelerated the timeline for launching long versions of its popular Corza Ghost and Ghost Spider models.

Cleveland and Odyssey have reported similar success and product plans.

adidas joins street shoe brigade

Constant innovation is a key benefit of the free-market system. And whenever something original breaks through to a mass audience, copy-cats are sure to follow.

adidas adicross golf shoes

adidas' new adicross golf shoes

Hence, Nirvana begat Bush, the Android rode the iPhone’s coattails, and adidas joined the parade of companies mimicking Ecco’s Street Premiere golf shoes.

The adicross is adidas’ entry into this expanding category, which FootJoy, Nike and startups like Kikkor Golf have joined. (For the record, we consider TRUE Linkswear shoes a somewhat different breed.)

What does adicross offer? Lightweight, full-grain leather, five color combos and, of course, a spikeless sole.

Not to be confused with soul-less tripe. For that, we recommend listening to a Bush album.

Rejoice: Mizuno intros new irons

Few golf brands inspire the loyalty of Mizuno, specifically, the company’s forged irons. (You’ll get my Mizzies when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.)

Mizuno MP-59 irons

Mizuno's MP-59

There’s a new member of the esteemed MP family, the cavity-back MP-59. Like its forebear, the MP-58, the 59 features a hunk of titanium forged into the back of the blade. The company claims a 5-percent larger sweet spot on the MP-59s than the 58s.

Mizuno aims these irons at golfers in the plus-2 to 13 handicap range. In other words, you need to be a decent stick, but not a world-beater, to wield them properly.

Spy Review – Nike VR Pro Driver

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Overview

The Nike VR Pro Tour and Nike VR Pro driver is Nike's brand new brainchild with a huge push to tour level control as well as shot-shaping. This Nike VR Pro's motto includes "It allows you to imagine more. You can imagine more choices for more distance upon more shots."

Technology

The 4 piece titanium forging alongside the thin crown in order to save weight will make the Nike VR Pro beautiful to behold. The hosel will feature thirty-two adjustable settings which permit you to target nearly all imaginable shots. Variable thickness cupface will improve the off-center hits with a larger degree of accuracy than the additional drivers. The best in tech talk includes the "Compression Channel," that’s made to equate to quicker ball speed for both off-center as well as on-center hits.

Lofts: 11.5, 10.5, 9.5 and 8.5.

Here include some actual golfer feedback:

"The appearance works for everybody...feel and sound is powerful!"

"A sweet hit is nearly hydraulic, and the hang time is awesome!"

"The appearance is a lot more conventional."

"If Tiger places it inside his bag, he may find his game once again!"

Golf Gear Select Cons and Pros

Adjustability of the driver is amazing, albeit more enjoyed by the better golfer for shot-shaping. The brand new appearance ought to fit a majority of players. The only channel is a brand new technology which is keen upon raising ball speed... a fantastic concept. Finally, including the brand new Project X Graphite is absolutely no slouch. It is still early, yet the major driver makers are fiddling with the shaft length. This one includes 45-3/4 that might affect a few golfers who are used to the 46-- this remains to be seen. Also, it seems most players don’t yet believe Nike to be a major player within the driver field. It shouldn’t be an issue for the marketing mogul Nike, yet nonetheless, will be intriguing to witness if they could push the driver upon the exact same scale as the Callaway as well as the TaylorMade.

My Rating includes a:

99.5%

My Final Thoughts on the Nike VR Pro Driver

There isn’t any doubt that the brand new Nike VR Pro Tour, as well as the Nike VR Pro driver will gain a bit of traction. Every bit of this technology that is bundled into a single driver will be enough to make most players salivate!

Tiger Kicks Off Return in Style with New Nikes

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The golf world was abuzz this week, anxious to see how Tiger Woods would play after a three-month layoff and trying out a brand new… pair of shoes.

OK, so maybe Tiger’s new caddie, Byron Bell, commanded a bit more attention in the wake of Woods’ ugly public parting with long-time looper Steve Williams.

But as equipment geeks, we’re more interested in Tiger’s new Nikes -- which look suspiciously like some of the innovative models intro’d by other brands in recent months. (More on them in a moment.)

Here’s the lowdown on Tiger’s kicks:

Having worked out in a pair of Nikes featuring the company’s new Free technology, Woods asked designer Tobie Hatfield to work up a similar pair for golf. Hatfield obliged, constructing the prototypes that Woods is sporting this week in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.

Nike heralds Free as “technology that is designed to mimic and conform to the natural motion of the foot.” Based on appearances, it’s a lot less stiff than traditional golf shoes. A lot less formal-looking, too.

Hatfield says the shoes improve stability by freeing the front of the golfer’s foot. He believes the increased range of motion will enhance Tiger’s power, and perhaps protect his oft-wounded left knee from further damage.

No matter how Tiger fares in his return, it’s doubtful the shoes will receive any credit (or blame). That said, the Nike Frees are bound to turn the heads of not just fans, but of the apparel giant’s competitors.

Specifically, shoemaking heavyweight ECCO and upstarts TRUE Linkswear and Kikkor might be interested in what Nike’s up to. ECCO’s Street Premiere models have famously adorned the feet of Fred Couples, while TRUE’s low-profile, made-for-walking shoes are worn on Tour by ever-fashionable Ryan Moore. Kikkor, founded by former NCAA champion James Lepp, offers a street-inspired shoe as well.

Wearers swear by the comfort and performance of the ECCO, TRUE and Kikkor kicks, all of which are spikeless and suitable for off-course activities. They seem to have started a trend, at least, toward a more casual, form-fitting golf shoe style.

Of course, none of those brands can match the marketing power of the mighty swoosh. We’ll see what kind of, um, traction Nike gets with its own street-style golf shoe.

Top 5 Longest Drivers On The Market