The truth about the golf industry? Evolution is forever. Revolution is rare.
No matter how long you’ve been a reader of MyGolfSpy, it’s no secret that data is in our blood. Unearthing the top-tier performing equipment has been the sole objective of Most Wanted Testing for nearly 15 years.
That being said, highlighting products, technologies and companies who stood out each season also goes to the core of why we first began, even if they didn’t place No. 1 in the rankings. Data isn’t, and will never be, the only thing you consider before making your next purchase.
That’s not a bad thing.
Every year, our Editor’s Choice Awards give us the chance to switch gears a little here at MyGolfSpy and showcase a more subjective stance on brands and products we truly believe have, and will continue to, shape the industry. Staff, player and tester feedback are all put into consideration when selecting these awards.
Join us as we revisit 2022’s most innovative products that undoubtedly shocked the pulse of the industry. In a world where breakthroughs are far and few between, creativity, ingenuity and originality will always be there to uncover.
Here are our picks.
Golf Story of the Year: Callaway’s Expansion
“Diversify your bonds,” as Wu-Tang once said. “Dominance” might seem a lofty word but Callaway is doing its best to own the future of golf.
Within the last year, it has taken ownership of TopGolf and made a $30-million investment in indoor golf franchise 5 Iron Golf. That’s on top of the previous high-profile acquisitions of Travis Mathew, Ogio (not to mention the not-so-high profile Jack Wolfskin buy). You name it and it seems like Callaway has their hands in the pot (or your pitcher of Bud Light and plate of fajitas) just about everywhere.
Financially? Crushing it, yes. But when you see the game expanding as rapidly as it is, it makes sense to think beyond the driver (did we mention Callaway also makes golf equipment?). That’s exactly what Callaway has done.
Consider this. Even if the golf club industry implodes, on TopGolf alone, Callaway would still be in pretty good shape.
Golf Club Technology: TaylorMade’s Carbon Face
“Welcome to the Carbonwood Age” was basically the tagline for the new year—and for good reason. Like we said, it’s rare there is a revolution in this industry and, while history ultimately will be the judge, TaylorMade thinks its carbon-face technology will fundamentally reshape how driver faces are made.
If nothing else, 20 years and 60 layers of carbon later, TaylorMade has made carbon-face technology viable and that, in and of itself, is something. They weren’t the first—but they’re the first to matter and they’ve certainly got their competitors’ attention.
Whether carbon-face technology places TaylorMade ahead of the curve, at the start of a new race or alone on Carbon Face Island remains to be seen. Regardless, in a risk-averse industry that thrives on the status quo, to see a leading brand take a massive risk with an unproven technology and state that it will never make another titanium-face driver is really quite a thing.
Will carbon copies follow? Time will tell.
Driver: TaylorMade Stealth
A real technology breakthrough, a shiny red face or just a really good story? It doesn’t much matter. No golf club created more buzz inside the industry and made more noise at retail this year than the TaylorMade Stealth driver.
A ball-speed machine and a strong overall performer in Most Wanted testing, it’s worth remembering that Stealth represents the first generation of mainstream carbon-face technology. It’s absolutely going to get better.
Time will tell.
Fairway Wood: None
In the minds of many golfers, fairway woods are an afterthought. In any case, it certainly feels true for the majority of releases each year where a good bit of the tech story piggybacks on the driver.
It’s rare we find anything in the category that excites us,which is why we’ve again declined to give an Editors’ Choice Award in this category.
Even after Most Wanted Hybrid was released, we couldn’t find a consensus pick for the hybrid category. As always, there was plenty of good, highlighted by DTC brand, Sub 70’s winning Most Wanted Hybrid, but it’s not like it obliterated the field.
Historically, it’s hard to get us excited about hybrids. That’s the case again in 2022.
Players Iron: Titleist T100
The second generation rethink of AP2, the T100 is the most-played iron on the PGA TOUR. That’s definitely not nothing but it’s only part of the reason why we selected the T100 as this year’s Editors’ Choice.
The technology story is simple. The T100 mostly looks like a blade at address but the cavity-back design provides more forgiveness than a true muscle-back. You expect that from the category but what’s most remarkable about the T100 is that it’s been successful where others have failed.
Every manufacturer makes a blade because every manufacturer has guys on their Tour staff who still want blades. What’s also true is that those same manufacturers, at one time or another, have tried to get those blade guys into cavity-backs. Almost invariably, they’ve failed.
T100 is a notable exception. While the success rate isn’t 100 percent (Titleist still has some blade guys), T100 is the rare cavity-back that has not only lured some elite players away from their blades, it’s kept them away.
Player’s Distance Iron: Mizuno 225
“History in the making.” When Mizuno hinted the 221, 223 and 225 irons were going to be their most tech-rich MP release to date, we knew we were in for a treat. Proven in Most Wanted this season, the 225 didn’t come up short for overall excellent performance in nearly every category. Stealing the Editors’ Choice Award can be attributed to the improvement over the MP20 HMB.
It’s crazy to think that just a couple of generations ago, Mizuno’s MP franchise was nearly tech-less.
As golf has changed, so has Mizuno’s thinking when it comes to iron design. They have adapted to a more forward-thinking ideology that has without a doubt captured the eyes of incoming players. Mizuno saw an opportunity and grabbed it at what seemed like the perfect time. It was a no-brainer to hand over this year’s Editors’ Choice Award when Mizuno is riding the wave of the game and the golfer’s progression.
Game-Improvement Iron: Proto Concept C07
Until Lydia Ko dropped a set of Proto Concept irons in the bag, virtually no one had heard about the upstart Japanese equipment company. It’s safe to say there’s a healthy contingent of golfers who still haven’t. If Proto Concept keeps churning out designs like the CO7, that will likely change.
Proto-C originated as a collaborative effort between the Endo forging house and the Golf Partner executive ownership group. Their offerings span nearly every category but it was the performance of their CO7 game-improvement iron that truly impressed.
After an impactful first season in testing, we expect more big things from Proto Concept.
Super Game-Improvement Iron: None
There’s a high bar for this category. After COBRA’s FMAX dominated testing for two consecutive years, it was hard to find a standout among a competent, though not particularly exciting, crop of new SGI clubs.
Maybe next year.
There are plenty of competent wedges on the market and, while the category is largely devoid of the kind of visible technology you find in other categories, nearly everyone has a unique spin to their wedge stories but we haven’t found a serious needle-mover in the group.
That said, Most Wanted testing is underway and we’re always optimistic we’ll find the next big thing (even in the wedge category).
Blade Putter: COBRA KING Grandsport 35
We were skeptical when the Grandsport 35 hit our putting green, and for good reason. It’s been about a minute since COBRA launched a full line of putters so it was almost shocking to see them come to market with something that was way more than just another Anser.
Still, a focus on 3D printing and SIK face technology initially felt like another case of story over substance but when the Grandsport 35 finished Most Wanted testing as the #1 Blade Putter of 2022 we were convinced that not only is 3D printing is here to stay but COBRA now is a serious player in the putter market.
Mallet Putter: PXG Battle Ready Bat Attack
You could say the redesigned Battle Ready Bat Attack impressed us. Again, not only taking the pedestal at No. 1 for the year in Mallet testing, but with a 100-percent milled multi-material construction, you could also say there was a bit of a leap here for the “sexiest clubs in golf” (according to Bob Parsons at least).
PXG’s biggest accomplishment this season? Lowering the screw count in the putter head. All jokes aside, #1 in performance for less than $300 sounds pretty good.
Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1 Left Dot
It may strike you as odd to name a golf ball you can’t actually buy as our Editors’ Choice but when Titleist released its Left Dot Pro V1 in limited quantities, it created chaos the likes of which we haven’t seen in the ball category since the original Kirkland Signature golf ball.
If you’re just catching up, the Pro V1 Left Dot is a lower-flying, lower-spinning, previously Tour-only version of the Pro V1. As a market test of sorts, Titleist made a limited quantity available. They sold out fast, golfers loved the ball and it wasn’t long before boxes started showing up in Facebook groups and eBay for more than $100 a dozen.
The kicker? Golfers were buying.
While quantities are dwindling, demand among those in the know remains high enough that we think it’s only a matter of time before Titleist capitulates and makes Left Dot available at retail.
Golf Shaft: Fujikura Ventus
The trajectory of the Fujikura Ventus shaft borders on absurd. The original Ventus launched more than three years ago. It has been, to some degree, superceded by the recently released TR line. Yet the Ventus juggernaut keeps rolling.
Overlook the popularity of Ventus among everyday golfers for a moment and consider the impact of Ventus on the PGA TOUR. In a category where nobody (other than the LA Golf guys) get paid to play anything, nearly 25 percent of the driver shafts in play at the Open Championship were some variety of Ventus. Some weeks, the count is even higher.
In a category where new options come and go and Tour use is all over the map, not only is Ventus still gaining momentum but there’s an argument to be made that it’s the most successful graphite shaft of all time—certainly in recent memory.
Training Aid: The Stack System
The Stack has been on our radar for two seasons. The brainchild of PING’s Marty Jertson and the “Savant of Speed” Sasho MacKenzie, the technologically advanced training aid has made gaining clubhead speed easy.
From our own experience, we know it works but when Stack user Matt Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Open, interest in the Stack took off. If you want to hit the ball farther (who doesn’t?), the Stack is the best way we’ve found to do it.
The bad news: Demand is so high that new orders won’t ship until October.
Glove: PXG Players Glove
Another one! The PXG Players Glove is just that good. Don’t believe me? It’s the second year in a row we had to toss the Editors’ Choice Award to this fine piece of cabretta leather. Grip, fit, style. We dig it. Period.
Nothing blew us away this year when it came to rangefinders. Sure, the Bushnell Pro XE exemplified excellence in performance. But ingenuity? We had to take a pass on this category this year.
Spiked Shoe: FootJoy Tour Alpha
Looking for someone as passionate about their shoelaces as you are? When it came to the FootJoy Tour Alpha, folks over here (it was just Tony, actually) about lost it when BOA technology crept its way onto this year’s #1 Spiked Shoe. Ranked No. 1 for performance, the Tour Alpha crushed the competition for traction, stability, color options and riddance of laces. After all, says Tony: “Laces are for suckers.”
Why is this so significant when it came to this year’s Editors’ Choice? Surprisingly so, FootJoy has struggled the last few seasons to top the rankings of any of our Most Wanted testing. The 2022 Tour Alpha managed to dethrone adidas in what some would call an upset.
Golf Company of the Year: Callaway Golf
Callaway’s climb to the top of the food chain (literally) hasn’t gone unnoticed. Q1 sales this year topped over $1 billion with a net of close to $87 million. That’s after grabbing a company record 22-percent market share in golf balls back in March and morphing into a golf “lifestyle and entertainment” monster, thanks to Top Golf—a 60-percent increase in revenue is not something to bat an eye at.
After their release of the newest rethink to the Rogue line, some, including our staff, were fascinated to see if golf had been put on the back burner to focus on more lucrative business units. You can imagine the murmurs in the Lab when the Rogue ST Triple Diamond LS took second place overall after our 18,000-shot Most Wanted Driver Test of this season.
Signs of slowing down? Not in the least.
DTC Golf Company of the Year: Sub 70
Sub 70 has quickly developed what some would call a cult following of golfers who put customer service at the top of their checklist. I’m sure you’re with us when we say it’s rare to find a company that answers on the first or second ring and will know you a bit more than customer No. 20117. Not just a bargain brand anymore, Sub 70 is taking control of the DTC market on a larger scale than you might expect from a start-up in Sycamore, Il.
After Most Wanted Driver testing was completed this year, it became evident we were dealing with something truly special when it came to Sub 70. Big brands beware? If the 60-day money-back return policy didn’t sell you, their 849D driver was less than two yards shorter than the Callaway Rogue ST Max in testing. That’s $220 for 4.5 feet.
Just something to think about.
Best Collaboration: TaylorMade x Kith
It’s not every year we find a collaboration like this that the staff can agree on but the nostalgia TaylorMade’s collision with Kith brought was unmatched.
From an entirely customized K790 iron set adorned with 24K detailing, a Stealth model imprinted with Kith’s subtle stamp or The 19th jacket we all remember wearing in the ’90s, this was one of the more unique collaborations featured in the last five years—t least.
Best Collaboration: Vice Golf x adidas
Vice isn’t just that “hip” ball company. Originally marketed as a tribute to Whistling Straits for the Ryder Cup, the camouflage and drip pattern laid across the unmistakable adidas Boost tech made this a “shoe-in” for 2022’s Editors’ Choice. A limited release (we have a thing for these), the Vice Pro Drip Limes came with a dozen balls to match. A true spin on traditional and even a little edgier than what we’re seeing now, the Drips did not disappoint in means of creativity, comfort and bringing vibrancy back to the “sole” of the game. (Puns intended.)
Best New Trend: Virtual Fittings
Get fitted for your best clubs and ball from your couch? I suppose we can thank COVID-19 for more accessible means of getting fitted. Countless larger companies such as Bridgestone, PING, Titleist and even yours truly with TrueGolfFit, have moved into providing knowledgeable fittings via your phone.
Talk about the future of golf. Virtual fittings were the brainchild of social-distancing precautions but have coincidentally opened the door to making your best bag available from nearly anywhere in the world. Here at MyGolfSpy, “Get Fit” is a hill we’re willing to die on but it wasn’t until recently we felt like everyone actually could.
*We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.