In recent years, equipment trends have followed a two year cycle before the next one started. Beginning in 2001, we saw the emergence of gigantic titanium driver heads as it was the inaugural year for a 400cc driver and continued developing toward the current 460cc volume (and beyond) by year’s end. While the buzzword in 2003 was certainly the term high C.O.R. (Coefficient of Restitution), the undercut cavity in irons quietly surfaced. In 2005, the golf world went “screwy” with the interchangeable-weighted drivers to influence ball direction. In 2007, geometry, most notably “square” was the hot trend to increase the MOI (Moment of Inertia) or the ability to stabilize the clubhead on off-center shots.
What will happen in 2008? I still feel we are one more year away from a new product trend that I will mention later, but rather in the two year cycles, the second year amounts to the refinement year. The second generation of geometric designs will still continue to have shapes that will be more unique than in the past to further enhance the MOI of drivers as well as all other clubs in the bag, but these will be carefully designed to appeal better to the golfer’s eyes at address, plus also concentrate on the sound at impact to make it more palatable to even the better golfers.
In golf irons, I see more and wider soled models introduced to position the weight lower and further back yet to improve ball flight and solidness of feel for the masses along with more specialty-faced models to increase the C.O.R. off of the face. One disturbing trend though is the strengthening of lofts. While some of this is necessary to counter some of the effect of rearward CG placement, lofts for #5-iron are developing into 24° models (while some even as low as 22°) which are about the same as current #4 irons. Well if this continues, sets are no longer going to be offered with playable 3 or 4-irons. Could this be the demise of these long standing irons the way of 1 or 2-irons a few years ago?
This leads us to hybrids. As long as manufacturers want to decrease iron lofts (and fairway woods too), no matter how much as game-improvement increases, hybrids will be the only viable alternatives to bridge the gap between higher lofted fairway woods and mid irons. Hybrids will also get a face lift by looking less wood-like to more iron-like so they can transition better into the matching irons as the traditional set make-up (#3-9 irons, PW and SW) could be gone after this year. But don’t look for the popularity of hybrids to decline anytime soon.
2008 may be the year of the golf wedge, with more changes and introductions than in the past. While blade-style models will still continue to dominate, look at designs that will be more perimeter-weighted. Grooves will also get a lot of attention as the USGA may make a ruling on the proliferation of aggressive cut grooves. Grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the discussions that will result of any potential backlash that could occur.
Putters will continue on their path to more unusual designs, making them part art and part science, further increasing the MOI. But belly putters (models 8 or 9” longer than normal) will become more popular once again. Lastly regarding putters will be the grip. Could big, flat wide grips be more commonplace for 2008 with the success of KJ Choi on Tour?
Quite possibly, this may be the year of the lady golfers as more and more companies are going to concentrate on a ladies-specific line tailored for this large segment of golfers. Rather than slap a different color on the head than the exact model devoted to men, these clubs will have specifications that will be much different to make them more user-friendly for whom they are intended for.
Colors will be more vibrant if not shocking to make them stand out, whether seen on TV, in a catalog, on an internet site or on the racks at your local on or off-course retailer or golf shop. After the popular Harley Davidson “orange” introduced a couple of years ago, another non-traditional color may emerge – kiwi green. By the way, the splash of color won’t be relegated just to grips or shaft, but expand to heads as well.
When January 1, 2008 rolls around, the USGA will relax the rules regarding adjustability of clubs. Currently the adjustability is in the form of weighted screws. I feel that there will be some innovation by manufacturers exploring different ideas on how the club could be easily altered and customized to help a golfer’s accuracy and feel. But it may not be until 2009 before the buzz word in golf will be “adjustability”.
While I am not a prognosticator by any means, trends come and go all the time. The trends that stick come as a result of a particular enhancement that can truly be measured and enjoyed by golfers across the globe. Just as CEO Mark King of TaylorMade stated to Golfweek in February of this year that square drivers will only be a 90-day phenomenon, no one can accurately predict the future. Only customers do with their purchasing habits.