The 2022-2023 PGA TOUR season was jam-packed with fun and interesting equipment stories, from Michael Block’s $50,000-dollar 7-iron offer to the emergence of the old Odyssey Jailbird putter as one of the most popular mallet putters in golf.
It remains to be seen what the equipment world has in store for us in 2024, but as this year concludes, the gear landscape in 2024 is beginning to take shape on the horizon.
Below, GolfWRX.com previews the 2024 PGA TOUR season, as it relates to the ever-evolving equipment space.
1. McIlroy, Fleetwood debut new TaylorMade Qi10 LS driver
During the first week that the new TaylorMade Qi10 LS driver became approved on the USGA Conforming Clubs List, both Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood switched into the driver at the recent DP World Tour Championship in mid-November.
Like its Stealth 2 predecessor from TaylorMade, the new Qi10 LS driver prototype appears to have “carbon” written on the face, thus implying the new drivers have face inserts made of composite materials. As a reminder, TaylorMade’s Stealth 2 drivers had red-colored faces made of 60 layers of carbon – a lighter-weight material than the industry standard titanium material – to help boost ball speeds across the face.
Although TaylorMade hasn’t yet released details about the new technologies featured in the Qi10 LS, it’s clear from the photos that the driver boasts a weight-adjustable sole and a silver weight port in the rear portion of the driver head.
Additionally, on Monday during the week of the Hero World Challenge, a new TaylorMade Qi10 driver (which does not have the “LS” nomenclature) hit the USGA Conforming Clubs List. Presumably, the Qi10 would offer slightly more spin than the LS “low spin” version, but those details are yet to be confirmed.
Using the new Qi10 LS driver, Fleetwood finished T2 at the DP World Tour Championship, and McIlroy finished T22.
2. New Ping driver plus slew of new Ping wedges
On Monday at The RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ping surprisingly unveiled a new prototype driver, called the G430 Max 10K, with Cameron Champ and Harris English on the list of early testers.
While Ping has yet to release details about the new driver offering, GolfWRX.com photographed the club at The RSM Classic, showing that the driver has a carbon crown and a large footprint from address.
“The head is definitely bigger (looking), and it goes really, really straight, which is really impressive,” English told GolfWRX.com in Sea Island.
Ping also unveiled its new S159 wedges, which were available in a slew of loft, grind, bounce and finish options.
“Man, they’re good,” English said, about the set of raw S159 wedges he switched into. “I like the raw look. Haven’t had that in a while. They have so many more different grinds, which is great … They have a lot more options.”
3. Odyssey’s new AI putters and what else is coming from Callaway?
For years, Callaway has been enlisting the help of artificial intelligence to help design its face structures to maximize ball speed, spin and forgiveness for its intended users. Now, the company is expanding AI usage into its new putters.
Jon Rahm and Sam Burns were among the early adopters of Odyssey’s new AI-One milled putters; Rahm has been spotted using an AI-One Rossie putter, whereas Burns has been spotted using an AI-One 7S model.
The putter switch was especially surprising for Burns, who used the same Odyssey O-Works Black No. 7 putter for his entire PGA TOUR career.
“We knew we had a great product when we launched this because the testing results came in so strong, but the one thing that I think we were a little bit, maybe not surprised, but excited about was early on – this putter captured the attention of the best players in the world,” said Jacob Davidson, general manager of Odyssey Golf and Callaway vice president of Global Tour. “This putter is already in the bag of a No. 1 player in the world (Ruoning Yin). This putter is already in the bag of our Masters champion (Jon Rahm). This putter is already in the bag of someone that made a switch at the TOUR Championship (Sam Burns). … The same player has never made a switch in putter since he turned professional in 2017.”
Odyssey’s AI-One putters hit retail on Nov. 3, and they come equipped with a unique contour pattern on the back of the face insert to help minimize speed loss on off-center strikes. There are eight putter models within the AI-One lineup, which sell for $449.99 apiece.
The new putter release from Odyssey also brings up the question: What’s coming next for Callaway in 2024?
4. New drivers emerge from PXG, Cobra
Along with the new Ping G430 Max 10K driver and S159 wedges, The RSM Classic also acted as a proving ground for new PXG and Cobra drivers.
From PXG, GolfWRX.com spotted four different PXG 0311 Black Ops prototype head models, which, according to PXG staffer Eric Cole, produced slightly varied trajectories and spin rates. Using one of the PXG 0311 Black Ops drivers, Cole went on to finish T3 at The RSM Classic, and he finished 36th in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green on the week (Cole is ranked 158th in SG: Tee-to-Green on the season, thus showing a large improvement in this statistical category in Sea Island using the new driver).
Additionally, Cobra unveiled its new Darkspeed drivers, consisting of a Darkspeed LS (low spin), a Darkspeed X and a Darkspeed Max model.
5. Are there major changes ahead in the golf ball space?
Back in March, the USGA and R&A announced a proposed “Model Local Rule.” The rule would give competition organizers the option to require the use of golf balls tested under modified launch conditions, thus impacting the distance the golf ball travels in relation to the current rules.
At the time, the PGA TOUR released an official statement on the matter, noting:
“We continue to work closely with the USGA and The R&A on a range of initiatives, including the topic of distance. Regarding the Notice to Manufacturers announced today, we will continue our own extensive independent analysis of the topic and will collaborate with the USGA and The R&A, along with our membership and industry partners, to evaluate and provide feedback on this proposal. The TOUR remains committed to ensuring any future solutions identified benefit the game as a whole, without negatively impacting the TOUR, its players or our fans’ enjoyment of our sport.”
In late November 2023, R&A CEO Martin Slumbers spoke more in-depth on the matter in an interview with Golf Digest, where he said: “We have been very clear, as has CEO Mike Whan at the USGA. There are only three options: We can bifurcate; you change the whole game; or you do nothing. And doing nothing is not an option. We stand by that.”
If approved, the Modified Local Rule regarding golf balls would go into effect in 2026.
“The biggest fundamental change in the game since I’ve been a pro is traditionally the driver has been the hardest club to hit in the bag, and now it’s the most forgiving,” 14-time TOUR winner Adam Scott said recently at the 2023 Australian PGA Championship. “And that’s the biggest evolutionary change in the golf bag to me out of the equipment.
“The ball is the ball, but the driver went from the hardest club to hit to, now, the most forgiving and the go-to club for guys if they are nervous. The penalty for missing a driver just isn’t high enough anymore, in my opinion, at the top level. I’d like to address that first and see what knock-on effects that has. If guys want to swing at it 130 (mph) with a tiny driver head, then good luck.”
Will the great golf ball debate finally reach a concrete solution in 2024? The entirety of the golf world hangs in the balance.
Source : PGA Tour