Our annual Most Wanted tests allow us to take a purely objective data-driven look at product performance, but as the year comes to an end, we’d like to offer you a more subjective look at the best of 2017. For our Editors’ Choice Awards we consider not only performance but the opinions of the MyGolfSpy staff, the golfers we speak with on a daily basis, while also considering immediate market impact or a product’s long-term potential to advance the industry.
As has become tradition, our goal with Editors’ Choice is to recognize the products, innovations, and companies that we believe were difference makers in 2017. Once again, we’ve added a few new categories to allow us to recognize contributions across a greater swath of the industry.
Here are this season’s winners.
New Club Technology – Callaway Jailbreak
It’s sometimes difficult to find the line between what’s real, and what’s the result of a yarn well-spun, but everything we saw this season from Most Wanted to the fittings we observed to what we’ve heard from golfers suggests that Callaway’s Jailbreak Technology provided legitimate ball speed breakthroughs beyond what was supposed to be possible given the USGA limits. It’s a safe assumption that Jailbreak will serve as the foundation of Callaway metalwood technology for years to come.
Driver – Callaway Epic
Jailbreak aside; we can’t ignore the impact the Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic had on the driver market. It’s been the best-selling driver since it launched, and is a good part of the reason why Callaway eclipsed TaylorMade as the #1 Metalwood company in golf (US Dollar share) for the first time in as nearly long as anyone can remember.
FAIRWAY WOOD – NONE
As you know, we don’t always give an Editors’ Choice awards in every category. This year, we’re taking a pass on the fairway wood category. While there were some offerings we liked better than others, or even better than most, there wasn’t a single model that we’d position above the pile.
HYBRID – PXG 0317X
It goes without saying that PXG’s price structure means it’s never going to be a top-seller and that most golfers will never try its products, so it was even a bit of a surprise internally when multiple staff members submitted the 0317X as our top choice in the hybrid category. With its carbon fiber crown and TPE and honeycomb TPE insert, the PXG 0317X is heavy on tech (by hybrid standards), but it’s the blend of anti-hook bias, high MOI, and ultimately its outstanding performance that explain why it’s this year’s pick.
SUPER GAME-IMPROVEMENT IRON – NONE
As with the fairway wood category, there was plenty of good, but nothing we felt deserved special recognition.
GAME-IMPROVEMENT IRON – COBRA ONE Length
We concede that ONE Length isn’t for everyone, but we’re solidly onboard with a product that has the potential make the game a little easier for a segment of golfers. You know the story: one length, one swing, and with that, greater ball striking consistency and lower scores. Good on Cobra for being the first (and only) mainstream OEM (so far) to reintroduce and advance the technology in the single length category.
PLAYERS IRON – MIZUNO MP-18
Despite being a late-season release, we can’t overlook the Mizuno MP-18 family. In returning to the tradition of the MP line, Mizuno created a family of 4 distinct models (MB, SC, MMC, FLI-HI) that can be seamlessly mixed and matched to create the perfect combo set. The MP-18 is everything you’d expect from Mizuno and a little bit more.
WEDGE – NONE
As far as mostly traditional wedges go, there wasn’t a whole lot of separation this year. We didn’t find a clear category winner, but as you’ll see, we did find one we think deserves some attention.
BLADE PUTTER – EVNROLL 2
Anything but a Wall Hanger, the EVNRoll 2 followed up its strong showing in a 2016 late-season test with a top finish in this year’s Most Wanted (blade putter category). To date, we haven’t found anything that can outperform it.
MALLET PUTTER – TAYLORMADE SPIDER RED
A strong performer in our Most Wanted test, the Jason Day-inspired Spider Red mallet was seemingly everywhere in 2017. At one point it was the most popular individual model on tour. That’s an absolutely mind-blowing accomplishment when you consider the blade-centric culture of the professional golfer.
SLEEPER CLUB – Cleveland CBX Wedge
Over the past several seasons, there’s been a quiet movement of sorts to develop a forgiving wedge that would entice game-improvement players to replace their traditional (blade) wedges. The Cleveland CBX represents the most successful effort we’ve seen to push the boundaries of wedge design. Somewhere between conventional and Smart Sole, the CBX is a versatile and forgiving wedge that feels good all over the face. If you play game-improvement irons, the CBX should be on your radar. It works so well that even some better players have fallen in love with it.
GOLF BALL – TaylorMade TP5
The ball with all the buzz in 2017, the TaylorMade TP5 is a standout effort from a company that’s seldom received the credit it deserves in the ball category. The TP5 was the TaylorMade product story of 2017, and deservedly so. The only 5-piece offering from a major OEM, the TP5 added distance, particularly in the middle of the bag, without abandoning playability around the green.
SHAFT – FUJIKURA ATMOS
The latest Tour Spec offering from Fujikura, the ATMOS (Tour Spec) had a successful year on tour, and driven by a simple fitting story (consistent feel spanning three trajectory options) emerged as a popular choice among customer fitters.
GOLF SHOE (SPIKED) – Skechers Go Golf Pro 2
The Skechers Go Golf Pro 2 was a surprise top choice in our 2017 Buyer’s Guide. We see your style argument and raise you Best in Class Comfort, Fit, and Stability. Toss in consumer-friendly pricing, and seriously, other than the logo, what’s not to love?
GOLF SHOE (SPIKeLESS) – Skechers Go Golf Drive 2
Don’t @ me; we’re giving Skechers top honors in both of our shoe categories. The Golf Golf Drive 2 offers Best in Class comfort paired with outstanding stability, Matt Kuchar is right, this is a seriously good golf shoe.
CONSUMER TECH – ARCCOS CADDIE
Last year we recognized the Arccos 360 golf analytics platform, this year the award goes to its add-on Caddie product. Arccos Caddie leverages the power of the Microsoft Azure cloud and uses your past performance data to make real-time club recommendations – just like a real caddie. Now approved by the USGA, we think Arccos has only scratched the surface of what Caddie will eventually offer.
ENTERPRISE TECH – FORESIGHT GCQUAD
Boasting higher resolution, tighter tolerances, and a bevy of new features, Foresight Sports’ CGQuad, the company’s first new launch monitor in 6 years, set a new standard for accuracy in the enterprise launch monitor category. With a new putter module on the way, our top choice is about to get even better.
EQUIPMENT STORY – TaylorMade Sold to KPS Partners
Not quite Nike exiting the golf equipment biz, adidas selling TaylorMade to private equity firm KPS was still a huge story – even if it wasn’t exactly a surprise.
It’s too soon to say with any degree of certainty what the sale means for TaylorMade or the industry as a whole, but we’re certain it’s going to have an impact for years to come.
COMEBACK COMPANY – SRIXON/CLEVELAND
The company is boasting of a strong year, which included Most Wanted honors in the driver category. We told you about the new vibe we were feeling from Srixon after the 2017 PGA Show, and while we can’t say what that means by any quantifiable measure, fewer golfers seem surprised that Srixon makes more than golf balls. Srixon appears to be one of the few equipment companies trending in the right direction.
GOLF COMPANY – CALLAWAY
This is our 3rd year of Editors’ Choice and the 3rd year we’ve recognized Callaway as the Company of the Year. I’m not big on the redundancy, but frankly, I couldn’t find a viable argument for another brand that trumps what Callaway did this season. The accomplishments are plentiful:
- #1 Driver, Fairway, Hybrid (Metalwoods), and Iron brand in golf (US dollar share)
- #2 in golf ball
- Odyssey is #2 in the putter category based on dollar share and #1 in unit sold
- The Mack Daddy franchise with some help from SureOut positioned Callaway as #3 in wedges
Looking beyond retail numbers, Callaway made two significant acquisitions – bag/luggage company OGIO and apparel label Travis Mathew – that will expand its reach beyond the golf world and should ultimately boost both margins and revenue. Despite grumblings about release cycles (many of them misguided), Callaway continues to be the one equipment company that’s seemingly doing everything right.
While I’m starting to sense some small measure of Callaway fatigue, with the Rogue lineup queued up and rumors of a significant number of iron offerings in the works, I expect Callaway is sitting on another monster year at the expense of its competition.
Look for 2018 to be more of the same.