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Pro Shop: Preview 2003

The new Ping Wedges ($130 steel shaft) are the most traditional looking the company has ever made, and the emphasis is on versatility. A bilevel sole and a specialized bounce for each loft (M/B for midbounce) allow the player to open and close the blade and hit from soft and hard conditions with equal confidence. Large U-grooves channel away debris and impart extra spin. The Custom Tuning Port on the back, also found on Ping's i3+ irons, helps control vibration and allows the company to custom fit desired swing weights. The overall look, setup and feel of these wedges are very appealing. Available in 48, 52, 56, 58 and 60 degrees. Call 800-474-6434 or visit pinggolf.com.

Massive 400-cubic-centimeter driver heads are no longer a novelty, so Tour Edge is pushing ahead to the next big thing in driver design: optimization for different types of players. The company's new 410 cc Bazooka JMAX ($299) comes in four flavors, all designed to help players get maximum distance by propelling the ball at a high angle off the clubface with the right spin. For slow-swinging golfers, the version with 11.5 degrees of loft achieves this goal by matching a relatively whippy, low-kick-point Fujikura shaft with a clubhead featuring a center of gravity that is well back. The 8.5-degree version, using a stiffer shaft and a different clubhead design, is for players with fast swing speeds, while the 9.5- and 10.5-degree versions are for those in between. We found that a center hit with these clubs produces a pleasantly reinforcing ping that differs slightly from the sound of off-center hits; both shots seemed to go a long way. Call 800-515-3343 or visit touredge.com.

In 2002 Cobra embarked on a major reinvigoration of its brand by introducing the new SS (sweet spot) line of drivers. Joining the 427 cc and 350 cc clubs of last year is the "midsize" King Cobra SS 380 ($369), a sleek black-and-silver titanium driver with interior weights low and toward the rear that help send the ball high. The sound at impact is sharp. Available in lofts of 7.5, 9 and 10.5 degrees with a stock shaft by Graphite Design; numerous custom shaft options are also available, as are custom fittings at more than 2,500 demo days scheduled for this year. Cobra is also introducing the King Cobra SS 350 Tour version of the 350 driver (also $369), for better players who want less offset. Call 800-555-9282 or visit cobragolf.com.

Henry-Griffitts, now twenty years in the business, only sells custom-built clubs, and the only people who can fit you for them are the roughly 500 fitters and teaching pros certified by the company. If you've ever been curious about H-G, now might be a good time to seek out a fitter, thanks to the company's new Model 82 ($375-$445, depending on shaft). The driver's 400 cc forest green clubhead is made in Japan using an advanced casting technique that allows for the walls to be unusually thin and strong and the clubhead to be extra stable. The appropriate shaft is then mated to the clubhead by hand at the H-G factory in Idaho, according to an individual's specifications. We hit a fitted version at the PGA Show last January, and it felt extraordinarily solid. Call 800-446-0036 or visit henry-griffitts.com.

Srixon, so far best known for its golf balls (now played by Karrie Webb on the LPGA), recently introduced its first set of irons in the U.S., the forged I-201 Irons ($999 steel shafts only). Bladelike in general appearance, the clubs have a modest amount of perimeter weighting surrounding a muscle back, a slim top line, minimal offset and a handsome satin finish. At setup, the club practically invites you to create different shot shapes—but is more forgiving than you'd expect from a quasi blade. Engineers worked hard to get the right match between clubhead and shaft; thus, the I-201s are only available with Royal Precision Rifle shafts. Call 888-477-4966 or visit srixon.com.


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