PRODUCT REVIEW

PowerBilt's forged ironSticks & Stones:
Matching golfers with products

By Kiel T. Christianson,
Senior Writer

BOSTON (May 22, 2003) -- Welcome to the first installment of Sticks & Stones, TravelGolf.com's new monthly equipment report. The report is thus named because golf clubs and balls can not only break your bones if improperly used, they most certainly can break your budget if imprudently purchased. The aim of Sticks & Stones is to help readers navigate the gauntlet of ever more sophisticated - and expensive - equipment and come out the other end unscathed.

The plan is to compile updates of new product information from both big-name and emerging manufacturers. The philosophy is simple: Players like what they like. I've met a Nike Tour, er, Buy.com Tour, er, Nationwide Tour player who won a tournament using a $15 putter purchased at K-Mart.

Feature: Custom-Fit Clubs
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I've met once-a-week players who can blast their persimmon drivers 270 yards. And I've met mediocre players who swear by their custom-built $2,000 forged irons.

In short, every club, every ball, every practice aid (well, almost every practice aid) out there has some subset of golfers whose game it fits perfectly. The trick is finding the right equipment for your individual game, and taste. So think of this column as a kind of matchmaker service for golfers and golf products. Just please remember to practice safe golf.

True Temper's New Testing Range

True Temper's testing facilityTalk to any master club fitter, and she or he will tell you the most integral part of a club is the shaft. In many cases, if you have the right shaft for your swing, you can glue a $5 head to it and still improve your game. With the increasing popularity in custom club fitting, golfers are becoming more aware of the importance of shafts.

On the other hand, the remarkable technological advances have produced shafts that can more than $200. So how can you find the right shaft for your swing without getting the shaft in the process?

True Temper, the No. 1 shaft on the PGA Tour, has opened its test center in Robinsonville, Mississippi. Located on 14 acres, the state-of-the-art facility consists of a fully sensored driving range, computerized swing robot, VectorT launch monitor, a club assembly operation, and eight all-weather hitting bays in order to conduct extensive player testing. The complex is located on property adjacent to the Cottonwoods Golf Course at Grand Casino, Tunica.

True Temper engineers now will be able to utilize these facilities to analyze ball launch trajectory and spin rate, as well as distance and dispersion statistics, in order to optimize a shaft's performance and specifications. The ultimate outcome will be the accelerated development of new steel and graphite shaft concepts and designs.

Sitting down with these folks for a swing analysis and fitting is to golf gearheads what an audience with the Pope is to Catholics. For more information on True Temper, go to truetemper.com.

KZG Expansion

KZG's forged wedgesKZ Golf (KZG), a small Studio City-based, high-end equipment company, has built a solid reputation within club fitting and pro-shop circles. Their drivers are hot (looks and performance), and they recently have added lines of forged irons (cavity back and blade) and wedges. The wedge line-up has been expanded to include 50-, 52-, 54-, 56-, 58-, and 60-degree models. (With my first swing of my 58-degree KZG wedge, I holed out from 40 yards. It's staying in my bag.)

The biggest news at KZG, however, is the launch of Carlton Golf, a lower end KZG subsidiary that will target discerning players who want quality but who don't want to pay the premium for a big-name brand. With the costs coming down on titanium castings, even massive-headed titanium drivers now are within reach of the budget-conscious. Carlton's flagship 400cc Ti driver is tight from grip to toe, and retails for a ridiculously low price of $139 (graphite, $119 steel). According to KZG VP Lisa Shinnerer, "the Carlton line was very well received" at the 2003 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.

Keep an eye on TravelGolf.com for a full review of this bargain behemoth, and for more information go to kzgolf.com or carlton-golf.com.

PowerBilt's New Hybrid Irons

Hardaway at True Temper HQPowerBilt has nearly a century's worth of experience building sound clubs that won't cost you an arm and a leg. With the introduction of their new Citation forged hybrid irons, they continue this worthy tradition. Larry Edlin, President of the PowerBilt Golf, stated the new irons are "[d]esigned for today's better players or for those golfers who prefer the appearance of a very classic looking design. The more demanding the golfer, the more he'll appreciate the 'evolutionary breakthrough' our new irons represent.

Mark Wilson, PowerBilt's Director of New Product Development said, "A major difference between the new Citations and other forged/hybrid irons is this: our top line thickness is only 0.185 of an inch. That's amazingly thin for a cavity back iron. When design savvy pros or players examine our irons, they'll also see that the top-line flows into the hosel. That's important because it eliminates what golf club designers call 'bulkiness.'" You know, that clunky top-line that makes it look like you're hitting the ball with a tire-iron rather than a 5-iron?

The hybrids feature more offset and deeper cavity-backs on the long irons, less on the short irons. And best of all, a set of 3-PW runs only $699. For more information go to powerbilt.com, and watch upcoming issues of TravelGolf.com for a complete review of these irons.

That wraps things up for the inaugural edition of Sticks & Stones. Check in next month for a "Whatever happened to?" update on Liquid Metal Golf, along with more of the latest news from golf equipment companies both large and small.

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