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 »  Home  »  Equipment  »  Player's Choice Awards  »  The Best of 2006
 »  Home  »  Equipment  »  Play Testing  »  The Best of 2006
 »  Home  »  Equipment  »  The Best of 2006
The Best of 2006
By Tom Landers | Published  12/1/2006 | Player's Choice Awards , Play Testing , Equipment | Unrated
The Best of 2006
      
Two Hundred Seventy-Seven Clubs and Balls

Eleven Hundred and Eight play-testers

Golfing Magazine’s readers play tested two hundred seventy seven models of new clubs and balls in the past 12 months helping you to answer the question “What should I buy?”

On the following pages you can find the culmination of the best products as rated by average golfers, just like you. The products highlighted here are exceptional according to our readers. Your favorite club may not be listed on the following pages, however we did our best to include most every product in our play-testing program. We understand that certain player types and swing types might require specific products, and we know that club designers have created clubs for specific golfers, however the following pages are a guide to what our readers determined were the best of 2006.

In each previous issue this year, Golfing Magazine utilized PGA professionals to supervise amateurs to test the latest products both on a range and over at least one round of golf. We asked our play-testers to rate the product for what it is, to them. Our testing is a subjective exercise and we make no pretense to being scientific. We simply offer our readers the same kind of informal feedback they might get, say, from a friend.

In each product category, you will find products that go beyond innovation and make this hard game easier through technology. What follows is the culmination of Eleven Hundred and Eight play testers hitting countless shots and playing countless rounds to make the indecipherable equipment market clearer. Like you, we are often confused by the guarantees of the manufacturers, but here you have what other average golfers have recommended.
Our advice is to review the following pages and then visit a PGA professional for a professional club fitting session to determine the ideal set make-up for your game.



TaylorMade R7 XD
www.taylormadegolf.com



The r7 XD incorporates an inverted cone milled directly into the rear side of the clubface and effectively increases the size of the r7 XD’s COR zone (Sweet Spot). Pull-Face technology construction allows the clubface to be made from thin milled titanium that is welded to a steel body to enhance perimeter weighting and also moves the CG lower and deeper, which makes it easy to launch the ball. A Tuned Performance Cartridge in the back cavity saves 26 grams, which is relocated into the perimeter of the clubhead to improve MOI, equaling greater forgiveness.

Player Profile: All Skill Levels

Tester Comment:

“Great Ball flight, easy to hit and not big and bulky – they almost hit themselves.” Rich Parks, 8 handicap

Mizuno MP-60 Forged
www.mizunousa.com


The Grain Flow Forged MP-60 is 4% larger and has a 10% larger sweet area than the MP-32.  The Cut Muscle design precisely positions the center of gravity in each club and delivers a slightly higher ball flight in the long irons, and a mid trajectory in the scoring irons. The Modified U-grooves produce the ideal spin rate for maximum playability in all conditions.

Player Profile: Low to Mid Handicap

Tester Comment:

“When I grow up I want these. Just felt like butter when I hit the ball.” Nick Anderson, 9 handicap

Callaway 2006 Big Bertha
www.callawaygolf.com

Extreme “Notch Weighting” positions the weight in the toe and heel and provides increased forgiveness and preserves distance on off-center hits while a deeper 360-degree Undercut Channel creates maximum perimeter weighting and enhanced forgiveness. A constant-width sole helps each iron in the set move smoothly and easily through the turf. In addition, all of the core Callaway technologies – S2H2®, Tru-Bore®, and Variable Face Thickness (VFT®) –are present in these new irons.

Player Profile: Game Improvement - Mid to High Handicap

Tester Comment:

“All I can say about this is Straight, Straight, Straight.”Jim Lloyd, 12 handicap

Ping G5
www.pinggolf.com


A deeper, parallel cavity design widens the sole and expands the perimeter weighting in the G5 iron. The larger head and sole width allow the center of gravity to be positioned lower and further from the face. A larger, thinner Custom Tuning Port (CTP) in the rear of the clubhead stabilizes the face and dampens vibration for improved feel.. A wider, more forgiving sole moves the center of gravity (CG) further from the face and Two uniform cavities provide added face support and allow weight to be distributed to the clubhead’s extreme perimeter.

Player Profile: All Skill Levels

Tester Comment:

“I own Ping Irons and these are the best I ever hit. Nice balanced feel.” Chris Walters, 12 handicap



Best Appearance • Game Improvement Irons
    Nickent 3DX Pro
Players Irons
    Mizuno MP-60
    SMT 303MB
 
Most Forgiving • Game Improvement Irons
    Callaway 2006 Big Bertha
    Element 21 Eagle One

Best Consistency • Game Improvement Irons
    TaylorMade r7XD
    Callaway 2006 Big Bertha
Player’s Irons
    Mizuno MP-60

Best Distance • Game Improvement Irons
    Callaway 2006 Big Bertha

Best Value • Game Improvement Irons
    Tour Edge JMAx QL
    Dunlop LoCo  Dart
Player’s Irons   
    Vulcan Golf XDC3



TaylorMade r7 460
www.taylormadegolf.com


TaylorMade’s r7 460 driver is the latest, greatest, biggest, and best of the pioneering company’s drivers.  The r7 460 uses Movable Weight Technology to become the most versatile driver on the market.  Whether you want to promote a draw or a fade, the 16 grams of movable weight allow you to do so.  The extra-large body and face of the r7 460 gives golfers more forgiveness on off-center hits, while the exclusive TaylorMade RE*AX shaft from Fujikura gives more clubhead speed and shot stability.

Tester Comment:

“Very Forgiving, Really liked feel of the shaft. Nice high, long drives. I loved it.” Robert McCullagh, 11  handicap

Callaway X460
www.callawaygolf.com 


 From the company that brought you the Big Bertha, Callaway introduces the X460, their most advanced driver yet.  The X460 features a new X-Sole design that allows the club to rest on two distinct points at address to give a more consistent alignment every time.  Callaway’s innovative Tru-Bore technology allows for the ultimate in clubhead control and feel, while distributing weight to the perimeter of the club makes the X460 Callaway’s most forgiving driver ever.

Tester Comment:

“Trading in my Big Bertha from 2004 for this. This is Hot. Easy to hit.” Michael Tierney, 14 handicap

MacGregor MacTec NVG2
www.macgregorgolf.com


This 445cc driver’s beta-titanium clubface enables maximum rebound properties over a bigger hitting area, which means your off-center shots will feel and perform as if you’ve hit them dead center. Simply put, the MACTEC NVG2 Driver represents a whole new generation of technology-driven power and forgiveness. By employing a one-piece cup face made entirely of high performance TVC beta-titanium, MacGregor’s Cup Face 360-Degree technology delivers a 30 percent bigger sweet spot than drivers with standard face insert technology. The combination of high-rebound TVC beta-titanium and Cup Face 360-Degree results in “hot ball response across the entire clubface. Quadra tungsten precision sole weighting in the drivers delivers a high-moment of inertia, resulting in increased stability and accuracy.

Tester Comment:

“Seemed like I hit every fairway.”
Nick Morelli, 12 handicap

“I hit this 10 yards past my normal drives and very straight. I want one.” Matt Ruggerio 10 handicap

Nike Sasquatch
www.nikegolf.com


 Golf Digest’s Editor’s Choice for drivers features “the largest footprint in golf.”  The Sasquatch pushes the breadth-to-face ratio to the USGA limit in an effort to deepen the center of gravity.  The club also has an enormous sweet spot that gives the maximum in power and forgiveness.  The face of the Sasquatch is made of Nike’s patented NexTi titanium, the lightest, strongest titanium on the market.

Tester Comment:

“Cool look, everything went straight, even mis-hits. “Trey Williams, 9 handicap



Best Appearance
    TaylorMade r7 Quad 425
    Ping G5
    Bridgestone J33

Most Forgiving

    TaylorMade r7 460
    Nike Sasquatch

Best Consistency

    Callaway X460
    MacGregor MacTec NVG2
    Vulcan V14 Powerball

Best Feel
    Ping G5
    MacGregor MacTec NVG2
    Element 21

Best Distance
    TaylorMade r7 460
    Tour Edge Exotics
    Cleveland HiBore

Best Value
    SMT Encore
    Dunlop LoCo Dart



TaylorMade Rescue Dual
www.taylormadegolf.com


The Rescue Dual features two TaylorMade Launch Control (TLC) ports positioned low in the back of the clubhead, near the heel and toe designed to increase clubhead moment of inertia. A V-shaped sole reduces drag at impact, helping to maintain clubhead speed through the hitting area. Installing TLC cartridges of differing weights in the TLC ports allows the player to move the clubhead’s CG position to promote a draw bias or to promote a neutral, or straight, ball flight.

Testers Comments:

“Easy to shape shots. I felt like I was cheating, it is so easy to hit.”  Tony Fraser (6)

“Good power and launched the ball with a great feel and sound.” Kevin O’Connor (10)

“Great from fairways rough, bunkers and chipping around green – very versatile.” Terry Anderson (6)

Nickent 3DX DC Ironwood
www.nickentgolf.com


Nickent thinned the face of the 3DX DC, creating a much higher C.O.R.. A special plasma welding process was used to help redistribute the weight to the extreme perimeters of the clubhead. Forty grams of weight were moved down and back in the head using two tungsten-polymer fused inserts (XW Inserts). This unique feature gives Nickent the ability to make the DC Ironwood the same shape as the Tour favorite 3DX Ironwood, while increasing the MOI by 25%.

Testers Comments:

“This is my money club – it never failed me.” Terry Anderson (6)

“Nice compact head – great on tight lies and in rough.” Jim Goodman (8)

“Loved it chipping around the greens, made some awkward chips easy.” Rich Pasquariello (12)

Nike Golf Slingshot
www.nikegolf.com


The weight-saving carbon crown and thick bar set low in back positions 70% of the weight in the lower half of the club.  The Carpenter 455 Steel face and the moderate offset design of the club gives the Slingshot forgiveness on mis-hits, while retaining a solid feel on well-struck shots. The Slingshot is also available in a Tour model that features more workability than the regular model for low-handicap golfers. 

Testers Comments:

“Unique look makes it easy to align and this just wanted to go straight.” Rick Goyette (10)

“Very forgiving club, even bad swings ended up at target.” Dave Lange (9)

“Easy to get airborne from the rough.” Jim Andrews (8)



Best Appearance
    Ping G5
    Ben Hogan CFT Ti

Best Forgiveness
    MacGregor MacTec NVG2
    TaylorMade Rescue Dual

Best Playability
    Callaway Fusion FT
    Nike Slingshot
    TaylorMade Rescue Dual

Best Feel
    Nickent 3DX DC
    Nike Slingshot

Best Distance
    Callaway Fusion FT
    Cleveland HiBore

Best Value
    Tour Edge QL Ironwood
    SMT Avocet
    Wilson Staff Dh6



TaylorMade rac TP Satin
www.taylormadegolf.com


Tour-proven Y-cutter grooves are 100% individually CNC milled after the face is milled flat, resulting in clean, sharp, consistent groove edges that grip the ball better, and a perfectly flat clubface. The sole is ground low on the trailing edge and at the toe and heel allowing players to open the clubface wide to play high, soft chips and pitches.  Also, the leading edge is radiused, enhancing players’ ability to hit low, controlled shots without digging. The versatility made possible by both the C-grind sole and radiused leading edge make it possible to hit an extraordinarily wide variety of approach and greenside shots with one bounce configuration.

Testers Comments:

“Really sharp looking and great feel. Handled every situation I tried them in wonderfully. Stephen Lindquist (10)

“Seemed like shots were seeking the pin. Great accuracy and distance control.”  Gary Abram (6)

Cleveland 588 DSG RTG
www.clevelandgolf.com


When opening the face at address, the Dynamic Sole Grind allows the leading edge of the 588 DSG to remain closer to the ground than the original 588. This gives you more versatility to hit high and soft flop shots around the green. With adequate dynamic bounce, the 588 DSG remains effective out of soft sand or from soft turf conditions as well. The RTG+ finish provides an initial rust-like appearance without having to wait for the rusting that will take place over time. This type of finish is designed to reduce glare at address.

Testers Comments:

“Easy to hit flop shots with these from most any lie around green.” Michael Boston (8)

“Impact is soft and I could really control spin and trajectory.” Scott Riggins (10)



Best Appearance
    Cleveland 588 DSG
    TaylorMade rac TP satin
    Wilson Staff Fw6

Best Playability
    Cleveland 588 DSG
    TaylorMade rac TP satin

Best Feel
    Cleveland 588 DSG
    TaylorMade rac TP satin

Best Distance
    F2 Face Forward

Best Value
    Mizuno MP R Series
    Tour Edge JMax Bounce
    Wilson Staff Fw6
    SMT Durometer



TaylorMade r7 Steel
www.taylormadegolf.com

Much like its award-winning r7 driver, TaylorMade’s r7 Steel fairway wood utilizes Movable Weight Technology to shape ball flight to each golfer’s needs.  Sixteen grams of movable weight in the perimeter of the club promote stability on mis-hits, while the shallow face of the club makes the r7 Steel exceptionally easy to launch from off the tee or from the tightest of lies.

Tester Comment:

“Sleek look. I dialed in my weight make-up and just killed it every time.” Steve Sherman 6 handicap


Callaway X
www.callawaygolf.com

The new X Fairway Woods feature a 3-piece stainless steel design and two subtle keels in the sole that contact the turf, aligning the face and eliminates the clubhead’s tendency to rock address. The Variable Face Thickness Technology increases ball speed and adds to the perimeter weighting. Callaway’s Tru-Bore technology deepens the center of gravity to give you a perfect ball flight from any lie.

Tester Comment:

“Hot, hot, hot – loved the club off the tee especially. Could really control it.” Rick Allen 9 handicap


Best Appearance
    Ping G5
    TaylorMade r7 Steel

Most Forgiving
    Cleveland Launcher
    Tour Edge Exotics

Best Feel
    Callaway X •  Nike Sasquatch
    TayloMade r7 Steel

Best Playability
    Macgregor NGV2
    TaylorMade r7 Steel

Best Distance
    Callaway X
    Tour Edge Exotics

Best Value
    Dunlop LoCo Dart
    SMT Solitaire




MacGregor Fat Lady Swings by Bobby Grace
www.macgregorgolf.com

The Fat Lady Swings mallet putters are 100% milled aircraft grade aluminum and feature 195 grams of strategically placed weighting and a milled beryllium copper face insert for tremendous feel. The M-Series Weight Kit (which is available for an extra $50) has  heavier Nickel-Tungsten and Tungsten weights,  and lighter Aluminum weights to complement the standard Copper-Tungsten weights making it easy to dial in the perfect putter for you.

Testers Comments:

“Adjusted the weights and got the balance I wanted  .…Swings well and lines up nicely  .… Good balance.”

Taylormade Rossa Monza Corza
www.taylormadegolf.com

The Monza Corza features Rossa’s new Anti-skid Groove System Insert (AGSI) characterized by a large putterface insert made of Titallium. It promotes forwardspin, according to the company, because the unique shape of the grooves hold the ball through impact, reducing backspin. The putter also features TaylorMade’s Movable Weight Technology that allows players to change weight and feel by installing differently weighted cartridges in the two ports located in the rear of the putterhead to suit personal taste and playing conditions.

Testers Comments:

“Great balance and weight….Nice solid feel at impact .... best mallet I have tried (bought one) .…Rolled the ball nicely.”

Guerin Rife Two-Bar
www.guerinrife.com


Unique Features: RollGroove Technology™, a narrow space between the grooves that grips and carries the ball forward slightly off the putting surface. This gets the ball started with its forward rotation while in the air allowing it to continue rolling with out skidding. The stainless steel bars create another form of heel/toe weighting by moving the weight back and behind and on either side of the center of the putter face.  This ensures greater stability and less torqueing of the shaft on off center hits.  The removable cylinders in the back of the two bars allow you to customize your putter depending on the speed of the greens.

Testers Comments:

“Not a look that suited my eye at first, but this putter rolled the ball  …Solid feel at impact and easy to align  … Loved the roll off the putterface  …made a ton of 4-6 footers.”



Best Appearance
    Rife Aussie
    Mizuno Bettinardi A-02
    Never Compromise GM2

Best Feel
    Rife 2-Bar
    Nickent Pipe
    Taylormade Monza Corza
    MacGregor Fat Lady Swings

Best Balance
    Taylormade Monza Corza
    MacGregor Fat Lady Swings

Best Alignment
    Rife 2-Bar
    Nickent Pipe
    Never Compromise GM2
    Dead Straight Sharpshooter

Best Distance Control
    Rife 2-Bar
    TaylorMade Monza Corza
    Heavy Putter Series Milled

Best Value
    Dunlop LoCo



Titleist ProV1
www.titleist.com

The most successful golf ball in history has undergone a few changes, including an improved core formulation that provides outstanding feel and a redesigned ionomer casing layer that provides lower driver spin for longer distance. The only other change is a high coverage icosahedral dimple design for optimized aerodynamics and a more penetrating trajectory. In short, the New Pro V1 is designed for golfers with a wide range of launch conditions that are seeking Tour-level performance.

Testers Comments:

“Great Distance and Feel  ..… My favorite ball that I tried  ..…. Awesome around greens.”

Maxfli RedMax
www.maxfli.com

This two-piece ball has a large, low-compression core and firm Surlyn cover that work in conjunction to deliver an unparalleled combination of red-hot distance and soft feel. The Surlyn cover combined with the ultra-large core is fast off the club face for long-carrying distance off the tee for all levels of swing speed. The core’s low-compression properties also give RedMAX a remarkably soft feel while the thin Surlyn 293 copolymer cover works with the core to boost ball-COR for red hot distance.

Testers Comments:

“Great Trajectory and Distance  ..… Preformed more like a Tour ball  ..… Nice Spin into greens.”

TaylorMade TP Red and TP Black
www.taylormadegolf.com

No one knows more about the science of launch control and how to optimize golf club performance than TaylorMade. They have united their bold new NdV4 Super-Core Technology, formulated to deliver great ball speed, with a cast urethane cover and a proprietary multi-blend ionomer mantle. The main difference in the performance of the two balls is the result of their different core diameters and mantle thicknesses. The TP Red incorporates a larger core and thinner mantle, which promotes low spin rate off the driver and a slightly lower launch angle off every club, which promotes increased control. A thinner mantle promotes a slightly softer sound and feel.

The thicker mantle of the TP Black permits the ball to slide up the clubhead a fraction of a second at impact for a higher launch angle, while the thicker mantle and smaller core work together to promote an even lower rate of driver spin. This combination promotes increased carry and distance.

Testers Comments:

“Really like this, great distance and it stops going into greens ....Not to much spin on iron shots .....Superb Greenside Feel.”

Nike Ignite
www.nikegolf.com

 The new Nike Ignite will light a fire under your golf game.  This three-piece ball sports a truly seamless dimple design for the most aerodynamic experience a golf ball can have.  This adds distance and consistency to your ball flight from tee to green.  The hot, responsive core is another reason the Ignite gets such awesome distance, yet the soft Surlyn cover provides fantastic feel and control that is rarely seen in a ball with so much distance.

Testers Comments:

“Really flew far on tee balls  ..… Good stopping on the greens  .….Overall a really nice ball.

Titleist NXT Tour
www.titleist.com

The new Titleist NXT Family of golf balls has been enhanced to provide even longer distance while maintaining a soft feel and optimum greenside spin to provide golfers of all levels with the game improvement options best suited to their needs.  Titleist’s advanced solid core and Fusablend cover technologies provide more speed and lower spin at a softer compression. The reformulated cover also increases ball speed and reduces driver spin.

Testers Comments:

“Good distance and stopped on greens, I will be playing this ball…..A lot of feel and great around greens.”


• Shallow dimples create higher flight, and deeper dimples allow the ball to fly lower.

• Compression is a measure of how hard the ball may feel--the higher the compression number the harder the feel (and the less it compresses during impact). A common misconception among players is that a 100-compression ball always flies farther. Clubhead speed, rather than compression, is most important to distance. For some golfers, a lower-compression ball will fly farther.

• A two-piece ball generally produces more distance and less spin, while a three-piece ball gives you more feel and additional spin. A three-piece ball often flies higher as well, because spin is what causes a golf ball to lift.

Best Distance • Tour Ball
• Nike One Platinum 
• Callaway HX • Taylormade TP

Best Control • Tour Ball
• Titleist Pro V1

Best Feel • Tour Ball
• TaylorMade TP • Titleist Pro V1
• Nike Platinum

Best Short Game Feel • Tour Ball
• Callaway HX • Titleist Pro V1

Best Durability • Tour Ball
•Titleist Pro V1 • Taylormade TP