Image: Nike Sasquatch Sumo2 driver
Nike
Waves have been made in the industry with square-headed drivers, including the Nike Sasquatch Sumo2, which emits a strange sound when club strikes ball, but is an incredibly forgiving piece of equipment.
By
Special to msnbc.com
updated 12/20/2007 12:46:32 PM ET 2007-12-20T17:46:32

Is it tough for you to believe all the global warming warnings when you look out at the first hole of your favorite golf course this holiday season and find it lined with snow and ice? Does the inhuman sting of a thinly hit 3-iron in the crisp December air have you avoiding the local driving range like that Carrot Top Christmas special?

If the answer to either question is yes, then it’s time for you to pack up your bags and head to the nearest warm spot for a much-needed golf vacation. And with the all-important PGA Merchandise Show coming up next month in Orlando, here’s a sampling of the latest in innovative equipment to fill up those bags if Santa (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) or anyone else you might know in the giving spirit comes through for you.

Drivers
We won’t get into the very technical and very boring details, but high MOI, or Moment Of Inertia, means you have as much forgiveness as a golf club can give you on mis-hit shots, and 460cc means you’re getting the most distance allowed by the rules of the game. And if you don’t have a 1-wood with these two qualifications, you’re way behind the times — and probably way behind your friends in the fairway.

These developments have ushered in an era of ridiculously big clubheads on drivers, but you’ll get used this shoebox-on-a-stick look the more you play. Of the top-of-the-line models, the new Ping G-10has great feel and a simplified look with a traditional round head, as does King Cobra’s L4V X. Meanwhile, Titleist’s 907D1combines the high MOI and 460cc head size into a cool triangular shape.

Waves have been made in the industry with square-headed drivers, including the Nike Sasquatch Sumo2, which emits a strange sound when club strikes ball but is an incredibly forgiving piece of equipment. The latter can also be said for Callaway’s square FT-i driver, of which Callaway boasts that it’s “designed to be the world’s straightest driver.”

There’s a couple of do-it-yourself models out there, too. The triangular-head Taylor-Made r7 CGB Maxhas “Movable Weight Technology” with three weights that allow you to personally dictate trajectory change. And the Mizuno MP-600has a “Fast Track” with two adjustable eight-gram weights that gives players a choice of 15 ball-flight settings.

Fairway clubs and hybrids
In this ever-changing world of golf where 2- and 3-irons are practically extinct, Titleist’s 960F4fairway wood is available in three different degrees of loft and its 585.H hybridcounterpart provide a good one-two punch with a more conservative, old-school look and feel that traditionalists might like. Nike also makes excellent 3- and 4-metals in its square and round Sumolines along with hybrids that take the place of 2- and 3-irons.

TheAdams Golf A3 Ideahybrid iron sethas helped Adams become an industry leader in the hybrid market. Buy this set and you get your traditional 3-, 4- and 5-irons in the form of beautiful, easy-to-hit hybrids, with regular shorter irons rounding it out. The King Cobra Bafflerhybrid has two designs — one for a recreational player and one for a more advanced golfer — and is an excellent rescue option.

Irons
So many irons, so little time to figure it all out. Well, I tested out a bunch and found an excellent set in the new Taylor-Made r7 CGB Maxline, which also has the weighting options on the back of the club. They’re cool-looking and comfortable to hit, even for a hack like me. Taylor-Made insisted that I go out to one of their custom-fittingcenters, too. There, a professional painstakingly figured out my swing and tailored the clubs to how I hit the ball. All of this is based on club speed, where you strike the ball on the clubface, and more. And it’s absolutely essential before you make a purchase of this magnitude, so do it no matter what set you’re looking into.

Nike has several high-quality iron sets out there, with the CCI forgeda standout because of the gorgeous, clean-line, higher-end look and feel. They’re more advisable for the scratch or single-digit player. The “UF” in King Cobra’s UFiirons means “Ultimate Forgiveness,” and that can’t be a bad thing, right? The irons are fantastic — great to look at, fun to play with, and offering some of the best technology out there.

Cleveland’s CG Redirons are geared more for the better player, with color-coded hosel markings that denote if the lie angle is flat, standard or upright. They feel buttery when you hit one cleanly, and the same can be said for the Srixon I-701 forged irons. Srixon, known for making an excellent golf ball — more on that in a moment — and for sponsoring Jim Furyk, also is carving its niche in the club market, and this set should help in that regard. These irons are elegant to look at, easy to hit and offer an innovative two-piece clubhead design.

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Wedges
Wedges are all about feel and comfort, and Titleist’s Vokey Designline hasn’t been a staple on the PGA Tour for the last decade because they’re lacking in those departments. They’re still among the best you can buy, and Cleveland, always respected for its wedges, shouldn’t be ignored either. Their new line of Cleveland CG12wedges offer a new type of groove called ZIP Grooves that Cleveland swears is its “most consistent, precise and visible wedge technology to date.” Video: Holiday travel gifts

If you’re into old-school, check out a smaller club-maker based in Seattle called RedBird. Their wedges come in a traditional shaped blade design, and, like all RedBird clubs, will be custom-fitted for you. Mizuno also has a new line of old-fashioned looking wedges, the Grain Flow Forged MP-T Series. These wedges feature the classic teardrop wedge shape and “innovative workshop C-grind sole that offers players maximum versatility around the greens.”

And if you’re into ridiculously high-end, luxury equipment, Miura Golf furnishes hand-finished clubs, including the new Nobel Black Wedgesthat use a proprietary “spin welding” process that gives it what Miura calls the “industry’s most consistent hosel.”

Putters
Nowhere in golf is equipment — and mental capacity — more important than on the green, where great rounds turn to horror shows in mere seconds. You need a putter you’re comfortable with, and there are a few technological advances out there designed to get your confidence up and your strokes down.

The MacGregor Response DCT Putterwith Face-Off technology might bring to mind that lame movie with Nicolas Cage and John Travolta, but the putter comes with an extra face and a tool that allows you to switch out putter faces if the speed of the green or your personal preference dictates that you need a change. Another popular putter is the Yes! C-Groove Valerie model, which takes advantage of the patented technology devised by Yes! in which each putter has a 20-degree upward slant of the C-Groove’s concentric edges. As Yes! States, “Upon contact, these edges grip the ball surface and apply physical forces that simultaneously lift the ball out of its resting position and impart and over-the-top rolling motion,” making it a true roll without skips or bounces.

You can always go old-school with the flat stick, too, and the exceedingly popular Scotty Cameron line by Titleistis a good place to start on that end. The Circa 62putter in particular brings back the old days with a classic retro design but feels very 2007 with the milled soft carbon steel construction and comfy grip.

Balls
Going on vacation, you’ll probably need to take a bunch of these annoying little things with you and then buy some more in the middle of one of your rounds. A good place to start is with Srixon’s Z-URCandZ-URSmodels, which are good enough for Furyk so should probably be good enough for you. These balls aren’t quite as pricey as some of the other industry leaders but offer soft feel for spin without sacrificing distance.

Titleist’s Pro V1and Pro V1Xare wildly popular and still among the favorites of PGA Tour players, as are the Callaway HX Tourand Nike One Black and Platinumlines. Taylor-Made’s TP Redand TP Blackmodels, both of which score high marks in the industry.

Shoes
The agony of the feet isn’t a good thing to suffer when you’re stranded on a golf course in a foreign land, but golf shoes have become unbelievably light, comfortable and even good-looking over the years. It shouldn’t be surprising, but Nike’s Air Tour TW 8.5is among the best golf shoes out there, and if you don’t know what the “TW” stands for, well, maybe you shouldn’t be reading this story.

Other great products are the Tour360 II by adidas, the Etonic Difference 3Z, with waterproof GoreTex built in, and anything from Bite, which is now owned by Crocs and includes very comfortable standard shoes and the best golf sandals — yep, soft spikes and all — in the business.

Clothing
Did you happen to watch the recent Presidents Cup and see Tour player Woody Austin swing at a ball in the water, slip and fall into the lake? It was one of the best golf bloopers ever and also a showcase for the outerwear he had on by Zero Restriction, which produces fantastic waterproof and wind gear, particularly the TOUR-Lite Traveler’s Jacket. You can also get outfitted by Mizuno’s tree-layer approachto apparel with turtlenecks, sweaters and rain outerwear. And if you’re into more conservative, classic golf apparel, check out Fairway & Greene, which makes everything from shirts to pants to a fantastic après-golf suede bomber jacket.

For those sunny days on the course, Bollemakes the Upstart and Anaconda models that are so popular that they’re even worn by PGA Tour star Sergio Garcia, who has the game and attitude to match a hipper look. And for fitness, adidas Golfis coming out with a golf version of its TechFit PowerWeb apparel that uses thermoplastic urethane power bands that cling to the body in the “ClimaCool” fabric that helps manage moisture.

Accessories
When it comes to golf gadgets, Bushnellhas two of the better ones on the market this holiday season. The Medalist Range Finder with PinSeeker technologyallows the golfer to get exact yardages and hole viewpoints and conforms to PGA Tour rules. And while it might not be the most courteous invention in the world, the Travel Tunes portable music systemlets you plug your iPod and take it anywhere — even if you’re going to stick it to the golf cart for a makeshift stereo system.

Golf teacher John Novosel has come up with a product called the Tour Tempo player, which is a small digital music player that allows golfers to musically time their swing tempo to. It also includes a CD with six music tracks that incorporate all six swing tempos for long game and short game training. And if you’re looking for a good golf workout that you can take on the road, check out the TRX Suspension Trainer, which was conceived by Navy SEAL teams. It’s less than two pounds, can fold up into a backpack, and anchors to any overhead structure that can support your body weight.

If you’d rather stay home for vacation, you can “play” a bunch of the top courses in the world via the AboutGolf home simulator, which lets you swing the clubs and test your skills on computerized courses such as Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Harbour Town and St. Andrews.

Bags
Alrighty. Now that you’ve selected all of your new equipment, you’re going to need to put all of it into something to take on the road. And it might as well be protective, high-quality and good-looking, right? You should start with what they now call “Travel covers,” or bags to put your golf bags in so you don’t have to affix those flimsy snap-on hoods to the top and then worry about losing your 60-degree wedge and golf glove somewhere over Sandusky, Ohio.

The biggest new travel bag is the very-appropriately-named Mammoth by Ogio, one of the leaders in the bag market. The Mammoth is absolutely enormous but has every conceivable luxury you’d want, including four wheels for easy tugging through airports and a detachable shoe bag. Not quite as big but also impressive is Datrek’s new AT-Xtreme travel cover, with the AT standing for “Armored Transport.” This bag offers serious protection including dual skid plates on the back and a “crash helmet” on top. And Taylor-Made’s TM Players travel coveris worth checking out, too. It’s built tough with metal hardware, and has fancy in-line skate wheels.

For regular golf bags, Burton’s Hybrid CXS Cart-Stand Bagis constructed to have the durability to sit on the back of a cart but lightweight construction to make it easy to carry on the course. Ogio’s Edge stand baghas a zipperless ball pocket and a Torq stabilizing strap that keeps the bag secured to a cart. In the old-school department, The MacKenzie Golf Bag Companymakes beautiful, high-end leather golf carry bags perfect for walking the great golf courses of the world. And Sun Mountain’s H2O Techmodel is constructed of completely waterproof fabric, making it the ideal vacation bag if your parade gets rained on.

Bon Voyage, and hit ‘em straight!

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