2011 Year In Review

To a certain degree, 2011 seemed like it was déjà vu all over again compared to 2010.  Many of the same stories and trends repeated themselves.

Disaster

The biggest image of 2011 had to be the devastating earthquakes and the tsunami in Japan. While those in the gulf are recovering from the oil spill from last year, this tragedy will last much longer. There may have been a temporary shortage of products like high end graphite golf shafts coming out of Japan at the beginning of the year, but it all seemed so inconsequential compared to the toll on life in that region.

Weather

If you were a meteorologist, once again you had job security. On the other hand, groundskeepers had to work double time at least when they could. There was more violent weather in general as some places were so sweltering hot and dry and in other places the ground was super-saturated.  All those lost golf days are sadly never made up.  I am beginning to think Mother Nature isn’t a golfer.

Uncertainty

The Arab Spring prompted protesters across the world to stand up against dictators and create change. That latter spread to depose of ideologues and then to Occupy (Fill in the Blank). There was economic turmoil creating high gas pricing and just about everything else you can think of.  To top it off, our Do-nothing Congress is in perpetual gridlock.

That got me wondering imagine if we had the Do-Nothing Congress design a golf club. Just think of what it would look like.  For one, no one would agree on anything so you wouldn’t have any new products for the coming year(s).  In the case they actually did, it would be full of promises, delivery on none and end up costing taxpayers for decades to come.

Yet in all that chaos, Hireko fared exceptionally well and we would like to thank you for that support. While we can’t do anything about the weather, Hireko can do something to settle uncertainty to golfers everywhere. We stayed committed to serve the 99% with affordable, trendy and high quality products that golfers really want.

Golf Trends - White, light and long

White continued to be the popular color (I know it is not technically a color). But I sense more vivid and non-traditional golf colors to help identify heads/brands like the graphite shaft market did for next year.

More and more lighter shafts, grips and clubs options sprang up all in the name of squeaking out a little more yardage out on the course. Expect more of the same for 2012.

Belly Putters
Drivers crept up in length as a result of the lighter shafts selected, but maybe more noticeable were all the longer putters on the professional tours sparking another craze of belly putters and a resurgence in long putters too.

While traditionalists think they should be banned, let’s face it, longer putters are now part of the game. History was made when a longer putter was used to win a major championship (PGA).  Several other tournaments were won with longer putters and up to two dozen players in the field per week sported one.

I for one am glad to seem more options to help struggling golfers.

Technology

There is an app for that!  Who’d a thunk it, but your iPhone is now able to track your swing. Ping developed their iPing putting application to help identify a player’s stroke among other information. They weren’t alone. Another company is developing an interface to work with your iPhone to measure speed and distance while at the range.  I guess that is why they call it a “smart” phone.

Move on over 2011

What does 2012 have in store for you?  Only time will tell, but expect many changes for the positive for your favorite supplier – Hireko Golf.  We will continue to provide you even more products for the coming year at the lowest price, plus keep you abreast of the latest trends in components, clubmaking and fitting.

Best wishes and Happy New Year to all, especially to our troops who proudly served overseas and are finally headed home.

 

What Ever Happened to the Word Surprise?

With Christmas just around the corner, it got me thinking back to my childhood. Magically on Christmas Day my sister and I would awake at the crack of dawn and run to the living room to ogle at all the presents that Santa had left under the tree.  We knew it had to be Santa because the glass of milk and tray of cookies we left the night before was all but a few drops of warm milk and couple of crumbs left behind.

We would see each other point and say “what could be in that package, or this one or that one?”  Our minds wandered for what seemed like hours and hours until Mom and Dad finally got up and allowed us to open our presents.  Wait…now that I think about it, it was hours and hours.  Anyway, once were given permission am sure all one could see was a whirling dervish with shreds of colorful wrapping paper strewn across the room until all our presents were opened.  The best part was the surprise of the one gift we really, really wanted.

Every once in a while this blog gives me a perfect opportunity to rail against something.  That something today is whatever happened to surprise in the golf industry?  At Hireko, we are all in full catalog mode putting the finishing touches on it so it will be in your hands by the end of January.  That is traditionally when our customers usually get their first chance to see what we had been working on the year before or even longer than that. Image the enjoyment of sitting down in your comfy chair and thumbing through page by page thinking to oneself “I want that, no, I want that…ooh, I really want that!”

In my neck of the woods, golf season is done and I won’t get to play until March, except the occasional days I can go my local range to knock off the rust. Maybe my opinion would be different if I lived in an area where I could play 365 days out of the year. But in this digital age I see leaked photographs of clubs, shafts and grips long before they come available to the market.  Sometimes so long, by the time they reach the market it seems like they a dated product.  Who wants yesterday’s new?

The annual PGA Merchandise show at the end of January also happens to coincide when our catalog will be ready.  It used to be attendees and even fellow vendors were so excited to be surprised by what hot new product will be unveiled.  Those days are sadly over as magazines and websites are vying to be first to show such and such’s new product if the manufacturer doesn’t beat them to it.

For those who want to know what Hireko has coming out ahead of the catalog, PGA Show or our 2012 Clubhead Preview Webinar, I have one statement for you – let it be a surprise.  Revisit your childhood and get back the feeling of starring underneath the Christmas tree and wondering what might be there.

Why Aren’t There Any Flex Choices on Certain Clubs?

Last week’s Blog posting showed you all the multitude of new flex designations that you now see listed in catalogs and on the shafts themselves.  In this week’s article, I am going to show you just the opposite situation or when you don’t see any flex designation at all.  Plus I will attempt to give a valid explanation as to why manufacturers don’t provide more flex options for certain clubs in the bag.

Putters
What flex is a putter shaft anyway? Believe it or not, I don’t get this question asked often and probably the reason why manufacturers don’t label the shaft the same way they do all the other 13 clubs in the bag. The putter is designed to be used primarily on or possibly just off of the putting surface therefore the person putting is not going to put a whole lot of stress on the shaft the same as they would a full swing club.  On one hand you want as much accuracy as possible so you would think putter shafts are pretty stout.  But on the other hand, you want to have some feel.  If you were bored and wanted to find out what flex they are the majority of conventional length putter shafts you would find they fall into the R-flex category.

Wedges
The majority of popular name brand wedge sets like Cleveland and Titleist have a shaft label that says on them “Wedge” flex.  Go ahead and dig around in the bin at your local golf store and try to find another flex.  I don’t care if you are a strong young man, member of a ladies league or elderly gentlemen; you’ll all get the “Wedge” flex.

So what exactly is a “Wedge” flex?  It is basically a version of the Dynamic Gold steel shaft or a stiff-tipped, heavy weight S flex taper tipped shaft. Year in and year out these wedges sell very well and are sold in only one flex option.  So who am I to say it is wrong?  I guess we can always get Jesse Ventura to do a Conspiracy Theory episode to uncover the truth. However, you have to realize most of these shafts go into blade style wedges designed for the better player or professional who is more likely to hit S-flex shafts. The “wedge” flex shaft is not going into the matching wedges of a cavity back game improvement set which are offered in multiple flexes.

If people want to play what the pros do, this is one time they can get it the same way.  With wedges available in an assortment of lofts, finishes and even bounces, the last thing a manufacturer wants to do is multiple their inventory 5 times by having one each of the five flexes when the formula to offer one flex has worked so far.

If accuracy is what you are looking for the standard “Wedge” flex may be just fine.  If you want feel, then consult your local club fitter to possibly put you into a lighter and/or more flexible shaft.

Chippers
A chipper is technically an iron according to the USGA as they have more than 10º of loft.  The stroke used on a chipper is more akin to one you would use for a putter or an abbreviated swing. Therefore you aren’t (or supposed to) put a whole lot of stress on the golf shaft.  As a result, the shaft in a pre-assembled chipper will typically end up being R-flex regardless of who uses it with no other options available.  But for clubmaker’s they always have that option of making the flex whatever they would like – possibly to match the iron flex in the player’s set.

Men’s Irons
You might have seen the term “Uniflex” given to a shaft and wondered what it was.  It is really an R or fall somewhere in-between an R and S flex shaft when compared to all the flexes.  What makes it Uniflex is the manufacturer only gives you one option, hence the term “uni”.  Typically you will find these on men’s boxed sets or in certain steel-shafted name brand game improvement irons.  In defense of boxed sets, they are generally going to be sold to beginners who are not going to know the difference between purchasing a regular or stiff set of clubs, nor could tell much by hitting them.  Or in the case the manufacturer made the shaft halfway between R and S flex, the average strength male golfer may be off at most by half a flex.  It certainly saves a manufacturer from inventorying more stock keeping units as well as keeps it simpler to order for the average Joe.

Unless consumers start demanding from manufacturers to start offering more flex options on these categories of clubs or one company does and immediately starts taking market share away from others, don’t expect differently.  But at least you are now aware of why manufacturers offer certain clubs in only one flex option.

The ABC’s of Shaft Flex: No Longer Your Normal ARS’s

Shaftology 101 states there are 5 basic shaft flexes (L, A, R, S and X).  For those new to golf, here is what the letters stand for in the order from the most flexible to the stiffest. The L stands for ladies, A for amateur or senior flex today, R is regular, S is stiff and finally X is extra stiff. These have pretty much stood the test of time since shafts first received flex designations, but that is not the case anymore.  Here is a primer to get you up to speed with all the new designations you may encounter.

R2
Not to be confused with sub-flexes for True Temper’s Gold series (R200), the R2 designation is mostly found in high end Japanese manufacturers such as Fujikura, Graphite Design and UST Mamiya’s Attas division.  The R2 is the equivalent of the modern day A-flex.  Instead of calling it amateur or senior flex which is ability or age related, the R2 is simply a softer shaft than a standard regular flex for those with reduced swing speeds.

R3
The R3 nomenclature was also derived from the Japanese manufactures and would be the modern day equivalent of L or ladies flex.  The name R3 takes out the sex of the individual in the fitting equation and instead relates it the player’s swing speed much the same way that ladies grips are now referred to as undersized. The R3 flex is the gender neutral term for those with the lowest swing speeds.

SR
This flex designation can be confusing because some may look at the SR as being short for senior flex. Or others may think it could be a combination R and S flex model depending how it is cut.  It is neither.  If it were a combination flex, most manufacturers would have it look like R&S or R/S.  The SR actually stands for strong regular.  Another way to put it, it is in-between a traditional R and S flex as a single or discrete flex.

SX
Unless you see characters like / or & in-between the S and X, then it is not a combination flex shaft like some of the FST steel iron shafts.  Rather this is a discrete flex that is in-between standard stiff and extra stiff.

TS
The “T” as we will show in a couple of examples refers to Tour flex.  So the TS are short for Tour Stiff.  This is a flex that is stiffer than traditional S flex but softer than X flex within the same family of shafts.  TS may be equivalent or a cross-over to the SX designation.

TX
Ditto here, it indicates Tour extra stiff and is stiffer than a traditional X flex.

XX
The double X – yes, there is such a category for those with very high swing speeds in which standard X is just not stiff enough.  XX may be equivalent or a cross-over to the TX designation.

2X, 3X
2X is the same as the XX, but just another way to see it.  You might find these specialty shafts for long drive competitors.  There are also shafts designated as 3X or essentially a XXX flex which would be the stiffest shafts of all.