BEN HOGAN BIG BEN CS-3 DRIVER
The Ben Hogan company likes to emphasize that its first driver in ten years looks traditional—and it does, from the playing position. From the back, however, the 420-cubic-centimeter Big Ben CS-3 ($399) looks like a space pod with windows. Those three cavities contain permanently installed weights, available in three configurations for a neutral, draw or fade bias. Compared with TaylorMade's popular r7 and r5 drivers, the two outside weight ports in the CS-3 are located farther toward the club's heel and toe, providing more corrective power, and the heaviest weight is eighteen grams, whereas none weighs more than ten in the r7. We were very impressed with the CS-3's accuracy as well as with its sound and feel. Also new from Hogan are similar-looking Big Ben C-455 fairway woods ($225). Call 866-834-6532 or visit benhogan.com.
BRIDGESTONE J33R DRIVER AND J33 FORGED COMBO IRONS
Bridgestone Sports of Japan has been selling golf gear in this country under the Precept name since 1985. Now it's rolling out a second brand—Bridgestone Golf—aimed squarely at the premium, high-performance end of the market. (The Bridgestone Air Muscle hybrid club was previewed in our March/April 2005 issue.) Based on our early look at the line, endorsers Nick Price, Stuart Appleby and Fred Couples will have plenty of innovative technology to tout. Two forged titanium drivers—the rounder-faced, higher-launching 420-cc J33R ($499) and the pear-shaped 375-cc J33P—have thin crowns designed to flex slightly at impact and thus promote a higher, lower-spin launch. A proprietary elastomer compound inside the clubhead dampens vibration. The J33 Forged Combo irons ($999) progress from very forgiving tungsten-studded long irons with a low center of gravity to short irons with muscle backs. Bridgestone is also introducing a second set of irons, the J33 Forged Blades. Call 800-358-6319 or visit bridgestonegolf.com.
MCHENRY METALS TOURPURE II FAIRWAY WOODS
McHenry Metals founder Gary Adams, who previously founded TaylorMade and helped pioneer the development of metalwoods, died in 2000, but not without leaving behind a legacy of innovative club design. The TourPure II fairway woods ($169) are an evolution of what may have been his best concept. A thin forged-steel face cups around the front of the clubhead, delivering a sophisticated-sounding thwump at impact and excellent power. Steel rails on the nether side provide lift and extricating muscle from bad lies, and the "Power Ring" across the back helps with stability. Available in three lofts. Call 866-410-2544 or visit mchenrymetals.com.
ORLIMAR VT830 FAIRWAY WOODS
The most striking innovation in Orlimar's VT830 fairway wood ($249) is the interchangeable weight in the rear, which allows you to jigger the club to hit balls either higher or lower. But the VT830 is no one-trick pony. Its hull is shallow (like that of the old Orlimar TriMetal) and made of a proprietary stainless steel that helps boost the club's coefficient of restitution (the engineers' measure of springlike effect) to just under the USGA's limit of .830. That's the same as in the hottest drivers, and this is a fairway wood. A slice-fighting VT830D version is also available; both come in four lofts. Call 877-675-4627 or visit orlimar.com.
CLEVELAND CG2 IRONS
Cleveland Golf first used its soft CMM metal in wedges, then in a set of pure blades of interest only to low-single-digit handicappers. Now CMM—for Carbon Metal Matrix, a steel infused with vibration-dampening carbon molecules—is available in a cavity-back iron, the CG2 ($999 steel shafts, $1,264 graphite). The clubhead is small, there is minimal offset and the cavity back is not generous, so the CG2 is still in better-player territory (David Toms used them to win February's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship). But the feeling at impact is something anyone can lust after: the jolt and power of a hard-steel club combined with a muted, cushy sound. Multiple custom-shaft options available. Call 800-999-6263 or visit clevelandgolf.com.
YONEX CYBERSTAR VX IRONS
Yonex's deluxe new Cyberstar VX irons ($1,280, graphite shafts only) have a hollow core filled with graphite (the company's specialty—Yonex made the first graphite-headed driver in 1982) and compressed air. This provides support to the extra-thin steel clubface, but Yonex says the face still manages to flex slightly at impact to launch the ball with added speed and height. The weight saved in the core by the use of graphite and air is repositioned to the perimeter to enhance forgiveness. The result is a club that feels remarkably light in hand, doesn't look game-improvementy and is easy to hit. Colin Montgomerie put them in his bag in January and promptly took second place in a European Tour event. Call 800-449-6639 or visit yonex.com.
Thin is in in 2005. The makers of these new three-piece balls boast of ultrathin layers that allow for bigger cores, which, they say, produce more ball speed—and thus more distance on your drives. The CALLAWAY HX HOT ($32/dozen, 800-588-9836 or callawaygolf.com) has both a thin cover and a thin second layer and is priced for a thin wallet to boot. Even slimmer shells can be found on the SRIXON Z-UR ($55, 888-477-4966 or srixon.com) and the HOGAN TOUR DEEP ($49, 866-834-6532 or benhogan.com). Their equally thin covers are no more than polyurethane membranes, about the width of four sheets of paper (two-hundreths of an inch). The Hogan ball gets its name from six strategically placed deep dimples that, the company claims, improve aerodynamics.
Vijay Singh has finally settled on a putter (as of press time, anyway), and it's from the new NEVER COMPROMISE MILLED SERIES ($255). These beautiful flatsticks are made from a Japanese carbon steel that produces a marshmallow-soft feel, which can help in distance control. A heavy weight in the sole balances the blade nicely throughout the swing. The Milled Series comes in five different traditional shapes, but no oversize mallets. Vijay uses the Five (pictured). Call 800-999-6263 or visit nevercompromise.com.
At a barely there 3.5 pounds, the new MIZUNO AEROLITE ($130) is an innovative carry bag with a "Kabuki" top design, a seven-way club divider styled to encourage clubs to separate themselves, reducing clang and the damage it can cause. And it works, too. With four ample-size pockets, an umbrella holder and a padded dual strap, the sporty-looking Aerolite is available in blue, black, gold or "steel." This bag is made for walkin', though it also fits securely on the back of a cart. Call 800-333-7888 or visit mizunousa.com.
Metalwoods in the new BOBBY JONES PLAYERS SERIES BY JESSE ORTIZ ($180$300 per club) have the shape of old persimmons. Ortiz, who designed Orlimar fairway woods for decades, teamed up with the Jones heirs to create this visually appealing, technically advanced line of drivers, fairway woods and hybrids. A medallion with Jones's likeness graces the sole, and Ortiz thinks the grand slam champ would be a convert. "He'd be thrilled with their classic shape and their simplicity," he says. We certainly are. Call 888-603-8968 or visit bobbyjonesshop.com.