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2006 Club Preview

The Tri-Ball Putter

If two is good, three must be better, right?Odyssey's wildly popular 2-Ball putter (now available in ten variations) evolved from Dave Pelz's mid-1980s three-ball prototype. The USGA didn't approve Pelz's putter in part because it was longer than it was wide, but the Odyssey Tri-Ball SRT overcomes that hurdle with a semicircular metal-alloy ring that is wider at its apex than the three-ball alignment column is long. The White Steel insert offers soft feel across the clubface. For anyone comfortable with supersize mallet-style putters, the Tri-Ball should ring true. Coming soon is a smaller 2-Ball SRT. $249 MSRP. Call 800-588-9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.

New Monster Drivers

The game's largest company finally has a driver at the USGA size limit. The Titleist Pro Titanium 905R has the same core features as the 905T and 905S drivers (see T+L GOLF, July/August 2005), but is 460cc in clubhead volume to their 400. The 905R is therefore more forgiving on mis-hits and launches the ball higher even than the 905T. With its sober, pear-shaped look, the 905R is still a player's club, but it does have a tad more draw bias and a louder, more aggressive sound at impact than its cousins. We only wonder why Titleist waited so long to introduce this hot-faced beauty. $500 MSRP. Call 800-225-8500 or visit titleist.com.

Callaway already had two big drivers, the Fusion FT-3 and the Big Bertha Titanium 454. The Callaway X460 improves on the latter. Available in both a regular and a lower-launching Tour version (pictured), the X460 has a slight but distinctive concave channel on the bottom that creates two keels to help stabilize and align the club at address. It also squeezes the middle of the clubhead, allowing more volume at the rear and enhancing the moment of inertia. The titanium X460 is louder than the partly composite FT-3 and about $100 cheaper. $375 MSRP. Call 800-588-9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.

The r7 Irons

After three years of research, TaylorMade has two irons it deems worthy of the r7 designation. The TaylorMade r7 CGB MAX irons are the most forgiving the company has ever produced. One innovation is the introduction into irons of the Inverted Cone Technology used in TaylorMade's woods. Milled directly behind the clubface, these concentric ripples increase the area of the face that delivers high ball speeds. Given that the steel clubface is already TaylorMade's largest ever, that's a lot of forgiveness. The hollow topline allowed engineers to pack the saved weight into four permanently installed tungsten cartridges on the back. The thick sole and wide rear channel also help make these irons easy to hit high and far. $1,376 MSRP in steel; $1,560 MSRP in graphite.

Many players, however, will want less height and more workability than the CGB irons provide. The TaylorMade r7 XD irons fit the bill. They are a step less forgiving than the CGB (though still more so than the well-known OS and LT lines) and hit the ball relatively lower. The XD also has the inverted cone, but rather than tungsten weights, it has a tuned polyurethane cartridge in the rear channel. A superthin, lightweight titanium face welded into the steel head makes it hotter than the CGB. Combine these features with TaylorMade's decision to strengthen the lofts in both these new sets of irons by three degrees, and you can expect to hit the XDs a long, long way. $1,376 MSRP in steel; $1,560 MSRP in graphite. Call 800-888-2582 or visit taylormadegolf.com.

High-Spinning Wedges

The unholy amount of spin that pros coax from their wedges sometimes seems like a black art, but these two dark wedges could help you join in the fun. The finish on the Bridgestone J33 Black Satin wedge is primarily intended to cut glare, but it also provides a little extra spin-boosting texture that the same club in silver lacks. The J33 series incorporates an unusually long hosel that raises the club's center of gravity to promote lower-trajectory, higher-spinning shots, which better players often prefer for precision. The smaller-than-average "Tour" head has spin-creating U-grooves. $159 MSRP. In 52-, 56- and 60-degree lofts. Call 800-358-6319 or visit bridgestonegolf.com.

The coppery finish of the new Titleist Vokey Spin Milled Oil Can wedge doesn't add spin itself—at least until it begins to wear away and the club starts to rust—but the slightly rough, machine-marked texture of the face does. Titleist also says that the angle at which the grooves are milled adds 30 percent to their volume, increasing spin even on partial shots and shots from grassy or wet lies. Made from supersoft 8620 carbon steel. $125 MSRP. In 54-, 56-, 58- and 60-degree lofts. Call 800-225-8500 or visit titleist.com.

Better Ladies' Clubs

Sonartec, known for its premium men's fairway woods, has finally come out with one for women and seniors: the Sonartec LS-99. It features the same highly regarded sole cavity as the men's products, but a horseshoe-shaped weight across the rear has been added to move back the center of gravity, helping players with slower, shallower swings get the ball airborne more easily. The ultralightweight (forty-five gram) Aldila NV shaft is available in pink or black. $249 MSRP. Call 760-930-2454 or visit sonartec.com.

Mizuno has reconceived its entire women's club line to create more discernible distance gaps between clubs. Set makeup is the key. There are only six irons in the Mizuno Tava set, from six through sand wedge, with five degrees of loft between them, as opposed to three or four degrees in traditional iron sets. The woods include a 400cc driver, high-launching three- and five-woods and two utility clubs that can be bought separately—a twenty-six-degree seven-wood and a thirty-degree nine-wood (pictured). With lightweight graphite shafts standard, all of the Tava clubs are extremely forgiving and easy to get airborne for players with slow swing speeds. $632 MSRP for driver through seven-wood; $112 for the nine-wood; $488 for the set of six irons. Call 800-333-7888 or visit mizunousa.com.

The Callaway HX Pearl ball is designed to launch from a woman's slower-swinging driver head with the lower spin needed to improve distance. The soft, opalescent outer cover is unique and makes the ball easier to find in the rough. $32 per dozen MSRP. Call 800-588-9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.

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