Originally created 04/11/98

Clubs, balls see big innovations



In the quintessential golf movie Caddyshack, it was Rodney Dangerfield's character who had the best equipment: a custom golf car, a laser-guided putter and a golf bag that housed not only a stereo system but also a beer tap.

Although golf-product technology has not exactly moved in that direction, it has, in recent years, given many golfers things to get excited about.

"Golf right now is kind of like the computer industry," said Paul Talledo, sales associate at Pro Golf Discount. "Every year, there are new product innovations. It's incredible."

Most innovations are being done to the sport's most important piece of equipment, the club.

One of the hottest new clubs is the Adams Tight Lies club, whose patented design places the mass at the sole, giving it a lower center of gravity.

The metal club, which retails between $180 and $200, is designed to be used in place of a normal 3-wood in problem areas. Its shallower face helps get the ball up in the air for a 175- to 225-yard range.

"It helps you get the ball in the air off a bad lie," Mr. Talledo said. "It's a good utility club if you hit it in the rough."

Another development is a product called SensiCore, from True Temper, which is designed to give metal shafts the shock absorbency of graphite.

Although most serious players choose metal shafts for their irons because of their superior performance, metal tends to vibrate more than graphite shafts.

Vibration is believed to be a major cause of golfing injuries.

So to get the best of both worlds -- less vibration and greater accuracy -- golfers can buy shafts featuring the special composite polymer core at a cost of about $29 per club.

"You still get to keep all the accuracy of the steel, but you get less vibration like a graphite," Mr. Talledo said.

But clubs aren't the only items undergoing innovation.

Two companies, Wilson and Top Flight, have introduced golf balls with titanium cores and partial titanium covers. Mr. Talledo said the balls, which retail between $30 and $50 for a dozen, are supposed to have greater distance than standard balls.

"Anything titanium is hot," he said.

Personal computer technology, by way of the Pocket Caddy, is also on the market.

The hand-held handicap calculator, produced by T2Green, allows the user to keep score for four players, while the 64-kilobyte memory system maintains an archive of up to 20 rounds of golf. It retails for $50.

Other gizmos include a binocular/sighting device from Bushnell that allows a golfer to sight any object, whether its a tree or a flag, and accurately gauge the distance in yards. It retails for $400.

If you're looking for something to wear that is not only stylish but purports to have medicinal qualities, try Sabona of London's copper wristband. The $25 wristband, endorsed by golfer Seve Ballesteros, is supposed to help golfers with tendinitis and arthritis.

"It's one of our best-selling items," Mr. Talledo said.

As for other apparel, anything in Tiger Woods' Nike clothing line is a best seller, shopkeepers say. Other hot items include new "wind-shirts" made by various manufacturers, retailing from $40 to $150, which are lighter and less cumbersome than normal jackets and allow for freer movement.

In the shoe department, a new trend is the use of "soft" shoe spikes instead of the traditional metal spikes, Mr. Ratcliff said. Your feet not only feel better after a round of golf, but the rubberized spikes save wear and tear on the course, particularly the greens.

"There's not as much damage between the cup and the golf ball, so it gives them (golfers) a better chance of making the putt," he said.