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GOLF GEAR By John Kinmonth

Golf is a supreme metaphor for humankind’s relationship with nature. Rife with trials and tribulations, it’s the simple story of a little, dimpled ball making its way through flora and fauna in the search for a home. It’s a survival story. Every decision proves either brilliant—or disastrous.

What’s a golfer to do when faced with the heaviest of odds?

Find a lighter shaft. Or a new set of irons. Or Fred Couples’ shoes.

The quest for the latest and greatest golf gear is never-ending. In a mixed bag of marketing hype and legitimate innovation, that lower score could be one shiny, new pitching wedge away.

With nearly 1,000 vendors at the annual PGA Merchandise Show each year, figuring out the new product that will actually benefit your game can be as tough as finding your way out of the Road Hole Bunker at St. Andrews.

With this in mind, REFLECTIONS has compiled a guide to some of the latest and greatest golf innovations and brands in 2011.

TaylorMade R11 Driver

OK, we admit it—it looks cool. The white crown and black clubface of TaylorMade’s newest driver is instantly identifiable, but it’s not just another pretty face. TaylorMade claims that the white crown provides greater contrast and makes it easier to align the face to your target. Glendale Country Club Head Pro Kenney Boyd says the R11’s true strength lies in the adjustability for each shot. Players can adjust the loft, face angle and flight path with three tuning features on the club.

“The adjustability is probably the best thing for most players,” he says. “It’s fantastic, you can adjust it for every shot that’s out there.”

Golf Simulator
Dancin’ Dogg Golf

Putt in Palm Desert. Tee off at Monterey. Get frustrated in Scotland. And do it all while wearing a Snuggie because you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home with this new home golf simulator.

Perfect for the Northwest winter, play replicas of famous courses in this immersive experience. Simply hook it up to the television, choose your course and start swinging. Be sure to move the vase first.

Mid-Spring 2011 Line
Travis Mathew

Guys named “Bubba” typically aren’t on the forefront of fashion. For that matter, neither is golf. However, the Travis Mathew clothing brand’s spring line has proved both notions wrong.

With hip stitch designs and retro-inspired colors, the Southern California-based company is pulling influences from Rodeo Drive rather than Myrtle Beach. Travis Mathew pro, Bubba Watson, made a bold fashion statement at the 2011 Masters in his all-white Travis Mathew Masters outfit.

“The buzzword this year is lifestyle pieces,” says Kenney Boyd of Glendale Country Club. “Things that will look nice on the golf course and with a pair of jeans off the course.

Golf Street
Ecco Golf Shoes

At the 2010 Masters, Seattle native and PGA legend Fred Couples had everyone talking with his street-inspired shoe that sported traction bars instead of spikes on the insole.

“They almost look like a skateboarding shoe for golf,” says Boyd. Wear them on the green. Wear them in the city. You’ll look good either way.

Several other golf shoe manufacturers have followed suit this year, coming out with golf shoes that, well, simply don’t look like golf shoes.

Golfshot: Golf GPS for iPhone, iPad and Android
ShotZoom Software

Leave the mini pencil in your bag because the Golf GPS app lets you plan and record every shot from your round at more than 35,000 courses worldwide (yes, the local courses are on there). With accurate yardages, it can be a handy tool when deciding whether to lay up or go for the green. Plus, after each round, you can analyze your strengths and weaknesses with PGA-level statistics about your game.

Also, the scorecard function lets you send recent scores to friends. Can you say ultimate bragging rights?

Prodigy Putter
Prodigy Putting Systems

Mirror, mirror, near the ball. Which is the fairest line of all?

Developed and manufactured right here in Washington, the Prodigy Putter includes an attached training mirror that lets golfers actually see where they’re aiming when lining up a practice putt. The mirror, along with a level vial and customizable shaft, allows golfers to adjust the putter to fit their unique stance.

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