Most of the clubs featured in this issue are from big-name golf manufacturers venturing in new directions. Titleist and Callaway, for instance, have finally come out with hybrids. But leading the pack i s is Wilson's revival of a familiar name.
WILSON STAFF PI5 AND DI5 IRONS
Once upon a time, Wilson Staff was golf's "it" club, used by Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead and seemingly half of the rest of golf royalty. The Wilson name has continued, most recently with the company's excellent Deep Red II products, but the "Staff" appendage on clubs has been dormant. Now Staff is back, as a complete new line of highend irons, woods, hybrids, wedges, putters, balls and accessories; Wilson has even revived the old shield logo. The gorgeous Pi5 irons ($1,100, steel only) are performance clubs, combining control and forgiveness. The subtle undercut channel in the long irons, which makes these clubs easier to hit, gradually disappears in the short irons, providing more feel. The game-improvement Di5 irons ($900 steel, $1,000 graphite) have a bigger head, a thicker topline, more offset and lots of perimeter weighting. A third iron set, Fi5 ($1,200, steel only; not pictured), is forged. Call 800-469-4576 or visit wilsonstaff.com.
TITLEIST 503.H UTILITY IRONS
It's a sure sign that hybrids are here to stay when Titleist, that most traditional of clubmakers, joins the party. The 503.H Utility iron ($185 steel, $225 graphite) has a smaller, more ironlike head than many hybrids. It is certainly more forgiving than typical long irons and hits the ball higher and farther, but this is a performance club for better players who want a little help with their long irons yet don't want the extra-high trajectory they might get with heftier hybrids or fairway woods. Call 800-225-8500 or visit titleist.com.
CALLAWAY BIG BERTHA HEAVENWOODS
Callaway may have hesitated in bringing out its hybrid because the company's popular, highly lofted fairway woods accomplish much the same thing. But the Heavenwood ($200 steel, $225 graphite) has a more compact head than do the woods, which many find appealing, and a shorter shaft for more control. It's as easy to hit as any hybrid we've tested. Extra length from heel to toe increases forgiveness, and the sole design allows use from any decent lie. Available in five lofts, from fourteen to twenty-six degrees. Call 800-588-9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.
PING TOUR WEDGES
Finding the right wedge is as idiosyncratic a task as finding the right putter, which explains why Ping is adding another line to its wedge collection. The Ping Tour series ($125 steel, $155 graphite) has a classic look, a small head, almost no offset and a chrome-like finish. The sole is designed to keep the leading edge low when opening up the face for specialty shots, and the grooves are individually machined. This combination helps create extra spin on delicate shots around the green. Available in five lofts, from fifty-two to sixty degrees. Call 800-474-6434 or visit pinggolf.com.
CALLAWAY BIG BERTHA FUSION IRONS
Using three different materials in construction, Callaway Golf has created a significant gameimprovement club with an unusually sleek profile. The Big Bertha Fusion irons ($1,280 steel, $1,520 graphite) have a titanium face embedded in a frame made with a new extra-dense alloy. The result is that a whopping 77 percent of the club's weight is at the perimeter, making it tremendously forgiving. The rear cavity is filled with a black urethane insert that fine-tunes the feel to be more like that of a forged club. Call 800-588- 9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.
BEN HOGAN BH-5 IRONS
Traditionally, the Ben Hogan brand has focused on building elegant players' clubs. Recently, however, it has been introducing more clubs for higher-handicap players, culminating in the cast BH-5 irons ($500 steel, $550 graphite). With extreme perimeter weighting for forgiveness and a deep cavity that grows progressively more undercut in the long irons (lowering the center of gravity to promote a higher trajectory), the BH-5s are strong game-improvement clubs that somehow retain much of the elegance of Hogan's historic clubs. We especially liked the white "goalpost" alignment aid on the face. Call 866-834-6532 or visit benhogan.com.
KING COBRA FORGED CB IRONS
Cobra Golf (Titleist's more populist corporate sibling) is also moving to expand its market base, but it's coming from the opposite direction as Hogan. The Forged CB irons ($1,000, steel only) are aimed primarily at single-digit handicappers. Sporting a generous and reasonably forgiving cavity back, these are hardly blades, but the progressive muscle back (it moves lower on the clubhead as the clubs get longer) combines with the forged carbon-steel to give players a solid sense of control and excellent feel. The CB has a thinner topline and smaller head than any other club in Cobra's lineup. Call 800-225-8500 or visit cobragolf.com.
Taking the notion of the spikeless shoe into an unexplored realm of technology, the ETONIC G>SOK ($100) is a non-cleated performance shoe that really performs. The trick is a super-durable Goodyear-rubber outsole with wellplaced "lateral and longitudinal stability bars" and "tridirectional pyramid turfgrips." Silly names, great traction. With a new flexible cushioning system, the G>Sok is so comfortable you may want to make it your go-to shoe for long, hard slogs. Call 866-838-6642 or visit etonic.com.
Champions Tour fans, rejoice—FLASH BY BRUCE FLEISHER golf shirts ($65-$80) are here. (Hey, if Tiger and the Shark can have their own clothing lines, why not the Flash?) Fleisher and his wife, Wendy, helped design this classically styled collection of men's polos and sweater-vests made with Egyptian mercerized cotton. Red and black are Fleisher's signature hues and will form the core of the line, but a range of colors and patterns is available. Call 888-364-2073 or visit bfflash.com.
Finally a hybrid bag to go with our hybrid clubs. The relatively lightweight (seven pounds) SUN MOUNTAIN MPB ($175) has the retractable legs and dual strap of a carry bag but the club dividers, external putter sleeve and spacious pockets of a cart bag. All the pockets are easy to access whether the bag is strapped to a cart or standing up at the practice range. The MPB is available in silver, black, red, orange and cobalt. Call 800-227-9224 or visit sunmountain.com.
Three new gloves we like include the FOOTJOY SOFJOY ($15, 800-225-8500 or footjoy.com), which has a unique magnetic ball marker that sits atop the wrist (replacing the useless snap button forever, we hope). A hand surgeon designed the BIONIC GOLF GLOVE ($25, 877-524-6642 or bionicgloves.com), which has padding in the palm and fingers to cushion impact. The top-selling FOOTJOY STASOF ($22) has been updated with a new slanted closure system and seems to fit any hand perfectly; no wonder it's the glove of choice for so many Tour pros.
Nanotechnology—the science of manipulating particles at an atomic level—has come to golf apparel. The SUNDERLAND OF SCOTLAND SUEDED HENLEY PULLOVER ($100) features Nano-Pel fabric treatment, which repels liquid and stains without altering the soft feel of the garment or its breathability. Like all Sunderland gear, it's cut for golf and quiet during the swing. Also comes in black and blue. Call 800-999-6599 or visit sunderlandgolf.com.