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Winter Weapons

Jeff Harris

Photo: Jeff Harris

The best late-season releases of 2008 underscore two trends in equipment. With woods it’s adjustability, as new shaft-connection systems advance tinkering possibilities. With irons it’s toward increasing forgiveness (although as Tiger fans we had to show you the maestro’s new blade)—clubs with broad soles and deep centers of gravity (CG) designed to get golfers attacking flags.

Callaway FT-iQ

Callaway claims this driver is 35 percent straighter than the FT-i, the company’s previous benchmark for accuracy. The FT-iQ maintains the interchangeable-shaft system of its predecessor but has been restyled (more sports car, less boxy) and revamped to include a weight-saving composite chassis. An X denotes the thickest part of the improved clubface, which was designed to launch drives struck on the margins almost as long and straight as ones that are pured. $625. Call 800-588-9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.

Cobra L5V

This multimaterial driver has a more refined look than its forerunner, the L4V, but its most notable feature is its adjustable face angle. The head can be set in either a neutral or a draw position—the difference markedly affects ball flight—by loosening the shaft, rotating it and then tightening it back into the hosel. Its sound is more muted than that of competitors’ drivers, but the L5V scored high marks for distance, forgiveness and its ability to cut through wind. $399. Call 800-223-3537 or visit cobragolf.com.

Nike Victory Red Forged TW

This model is appearing in golf shops because Nike wanted to offer consumers the exact same irons as those played on Tour. Forged of carbon steel, these clubheads feature a traditional muscle-back design highlighted by a silky finish. Designers worked with Tiger Woods himself to position the CG in what he considers to be the best location for control and shot-shaping. The clubface is CNC milled and, in order to generate the penetrating ball flight many pros prefer, the toe is a bit thick. Indeed, better players will appreciate the irons’ workability, consistent feel and distance control. $1,000. Call 888-799-6453 or visit nikegolf.com.

Mizuno MX-100

Mizuno says the MX-100 is its most forgiving line ever. This forgiveness is in part the result of a Y-shaped cavity pad, which expands the sweet spot by extending mass toward the toe, where research shows most mis-hits occur. The set comprises hybrids that can be custom-fit for loft and lie (most can’t), mid-irons with pocket cavities and extreme perimeter weighting, and short irons bearing a deep undercut cavity. Mis-hits can sting just a tad, but shots hit on the sweet spot feel as satisfying as any club’s can: A crisp, slightly metallic ring lets you know you’ve kissed it spot-on. $700/steel, $850/graphite. Call 800-966-1211 or visit mizunousa.com.

Ping Rapture V2

Like the original Rapture, the V2 has a stainless steel body, a titanium face and tungsten sole weighting, though Ping tweaked the tungsten concept (less is used in long irons, more in short irons) to lower the CG and increase the moment of inertia (MOI). These “super-game-improvement” irons fit the bill in looks and performance. There’s a considerable amount of offset, and at address you’ll notice the lower flange peeking out from behind the thick topline. But shots consistently feel solid, with an assist from the green elastomer cavity insert. $1,320/steel, $1,560/graphite. Call 800-474-6434 or visit pinggolf.com.

TaylorMade Burner Plus

The Burner Plus features a bevy of typical game-improvement nuggets: built-in draw bias, perimeter weighting, a deep CG and noticeable offset. But these irons also have lightweight shafts that are half an inch longer than standard in order to help generate more clubhead speed. This set is available as eight irons or with three-and four-hybrids that generate a higher trajectory than their corresponding irons but carry the same distance, thus maintaining consistent yardage gaps. $800–$900/all irons, $900–$1,100/irons with hybrids. Call 800-456-8633 or visit taylormadegolf.com.

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