CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Nearly five years ago, we reviewed the first Tour Edge Bazooka Driver and predicted that the company's move in a high-tech and higher-priced direction would pay off. We were right.
For 10 years prior to that, Tour Edge had been specializing in solid yet undistinguished budget-minded equipment. With the introduction of the Bazooka Driver and the Iron-Wood, one of the first of the new breed of utility woods, which we also reviewed, the small company from St. Charles, Ill., began a steady ascent up the list of club manufacturers.
Tour Edge's new Exotics Combo Brazing fairway woods (MSRP $399) and re-designed JMAX Iron-Wood (MSRP $80) line are making noise among golfers of all handicap levels, including a few touring pros. The secret is in the new, funky materials.
According to Jay Hubbard, marketing director for Tour Edge, "The (Exotics) woods take advantage of a revolutionary process in which the titanium-cupped face and Hypersteel body are blended together by a proprietary chemical bonding process called ‘Combo-Brazing.' This process starts with a cold-rolled titanium cup face that is computer-milled around the edge of the cup with a high precision rim.
"The remaining body is precision cast to include an interlocking channel. The parts are chemically treated, pressed together and vacuum heat-cured for permanent bonding without welding."
But what does all of this mean? Well, we tested the 15-degree Exotics 3-wood with a stiff, mid-kickpoint shaft. The first thing you notice is the powerful sound the ball makes as it springs off the clubface - an extremely pleasing "TINK!" Shots struck in the sweet-spot seem to explode of the club with a medium-high, boring trajectory.
The shallow-faced design allows for play off of tight lies, but the smallish surface area is not as forgiving as some. Specifically, although mis-hit shots tended to go straight, their distance was noticeably affected by the less-than-optimal contact. Still, if you aren't facing a carry over water, a 200-yard worm-burner down the middle of the fairway is not a bad lay-up, even if it doesn't look pretty.
The only serious drawback to the Exotics is the price tag: To many average golfers, nearly $400 for a fairway wood, which will get less use per round than a wedge, putter, driver, or even some mid-irons, might seem excessive.
It seems you can't turn on a PGA Tour event any more without one of the announcers cajoling the average-golfer-audience to trade in their long irons for hybrid clubs. I happen to like my long irons, but that doesn't keep me from trying out the hybrids, including Tour Edge's revamped JMAX Iron-Wood.
We tested out the 24-degree Iron-Wood, the equivalent of a standard 4-iron. After swings from fairways and rough, I found it easy to hit and easy to get into the air. For me personally, it was no better than my regular 4-iron and less workable, but as I say, this is very much a personal preference.
The Iron-Wood is a solid performer in the sardine-like hybrid market, and the price here is very reasonable, especially if you're taking Ian Baker-Finch's advice and replacing just one or two long irons.
Talk to golf shop managers or head professionals and they will tell you one huge selling point for Tour Edge clubs: The lifetime warranty. Dave Huber, head professional at Lake of the Woods Golf Course in Mahomet, Ill., couldn't say enough about the great customer service offered by the home-state company.
"You can't go wrong with that lifetime warranty," Huber said. "My customers love the idea of having such a good warranty."
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May 17, 2005
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.
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