Our goal with Editors’ Choice is to recognize the products, innovations, and companies that we believe were difference makers in 2016. This year we’ve added a few new categories.
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 2016.
For our Editors’ Choice Awards we consider not only performance but also the opinions of staff, golfers we speak with, while also considering immediate market impact or a product’s long-term potential to advance the industry.
New Club Technology – NONE
2016 wasn’t exactly a breakthrough year for club technology. While there was plenty of evolution, as there always is, we couldn’t come up with anything we felt created any distance from the pack.
Will 2017 offer any epic innovation? We’ll have to wait and see.
Driver – TaylorMade M1
In late 2015 TaylorMade declared that one letter would define distance. It was a bold, and surprisingly accurate prediction. While M2 was the talk of the tour at the end of the season, with several former Nike staffers (including Tiger and Rory) putting it in the bag, we’re giving the nod to the M1, which took top honors in this year’s Most Wanted Driver test.
Runner Up: TaylorMade M2
Fairway Wood – Cobra KING LTD
It’s rare that a fairway wood stands out from the pack, but the KING LTD does. It’s versatile, launches high, and doesn’t spin excessively. More significantly perhaps, its ultra-low CG location is unique to the market right now. The LTD gets bonus points for being a trendsetter, as our suspicion is that you’ll see the market designing after it in seasons to come.
Runner Up: TaylorMade M2
We’ve continuously maintained that the hybrid is the hardest club to innovate, and frankly, we don’t think anybody did this year. As usual, manufacturers gave us plenty of excellent offerings to choose from, but it would be a stretch to say anything stood out from the crowd.
Super Game-Improvement Iron – TaylorMade M2
Arguably on the leading edge of the Super Game-Improvement space, TaylorMade’s M2 was a success with consumers – and for good reason. While some readers are often dismissive of so-called shovels, golfers serious about shooting lower scores were more than happy to embrace the greater consistency and forgiveness offered by M2.
Game-Improvement Iron – Callaway Apex CF 16
No single iron has generated more positive buzz among the golfers I talk to day in and day out than Callaway’s Apex CF16. A strong seller in general, and an absolute darling among custom fitters, the Apex proves that selling above $1000 is not an issue when you have the product to back it up.
Player’s Iron – Srixon Z 765
It’s time to give the iron with a cult following the mainstream attention it deserves. The Srixon Z 745 was hugely popular with MyGolfSpy testers (and with readers). The Z 765 is even better. It’s the kind of iron that should elevate Srixon into elite company.
Runner-Up: Mizuno MP-25
Blade Iron – PING iBlade
Perhaps not as refined as a classic muscleback, I’ll admit it took us some time to warm up to the iBlade. The more time we spend with it, however, the less we want to put it down. PING has managed to mitigate the inverse relationship between workability and forgiveness, which means you can still shape the ball while retaining some protection from mis-hits.
Runner-Up: Yonex N1-MB
Wedge – Vokey SM6
Going with Vokey here is practically cliché, and frankly, we’re fine with that. Progressive CG location, three finish options, five distinct grinds, and lofts from 46° to 62°. Toss in SM6’s refined styling that makes an off the rack Vokey nearly as pretty as a Wedge Works custom, and frankly, we can’t find anything here we don’t love.
Putter – EVNRoll
Offering the latest in groove technology from Guerin Rife, the EVNRoll series blew our minds when it outperformed the winners of this year’s Most Wanted putter tests. With new models on the way, we’re anxious to see what 2017 has to offer.
Sleeper Club – Cobra F6 Baffler
We wanted to create a category to recognize (when warranted) an outstanding club that perhaps flew a bit under the consumer radar. We think the Cobra F6 Baffler is exactly that kind of club. A compact 5-wood, the Baffler plays like a cross between a fairway wood and a hybrid. The shorter shaft offers tremendous control benefits with a negligible (if any) distance penalty. It’s the kind of common sense club that more of us should have in our bags.
Golf Ball – Costco Kirkland Signature
The $15/dozen (2/$30) Costco ball has set the ball market off kilter while challenging everything you thought you knew about golf balls. A tour ball for 30 cents on the dollar? That can’t be real.
Oh, it’s real.
In our tests, the Kirkland Signature Ball (K-Sig for short) outperformed the #1 Ball in Golf, but you don’t have to take our word for it. The feedback from consumers has been overwhelmingly positive – and that’s made the K-Sig so popular, Costco is struggling to keep up with the demand.
Runner-Up: Bridgestone B330 Series
Shaft – Project X HZRDUS
Without fail, each and every year there’s one shaft…or more appropriately one shaft line, that seemingly catches absolute fire. This year it was Project X’s HZRDUS. To recap, it started with Black, then Yellow, then Red, and now the T1100 prototype. Fitters are embracing the line, and as it finds its way into OEM catalogs, the buzz around the HZRDUS line only continues to grow.
Consumer Tech – Arccos Driver
By simplifying the technology for those who just want driver stats, Arccos Driver makes round tracking more accessible, super easy, and plenty of fun – even if it’s just for one club. We’re further intrigued by the partnership with Cobra Golf (Cobra Connect), which should help bring round tracking to the mainstream and has the potential to accelerate innovation in the digital club space.
Golf Shoe (spiked) – adidas Tour360 Boost
Ten years worth of adidas Golf innovations rolled up in a single model; the Tour360 Boost is a modern take on adidas’ iconic Tour360. Comfortable, stable, and stylish, the Tour360 Boost is everything we demand from a flagship shoe.
Runner-Up: FootJoy Freestyle
Golf Shoe (Spikeless) – FootJoy Pro/SL
As we discussed in our review, the thing about the FootJoy Pro/SL is that it isn’t what you expect from a spikeless shoe, and that’s what makes it so brilliant. Like many spikeless designs, it’s extremely comfortable, but more impressively; it’s clear that FootJoy never lost sight of the fact that a premium spikeless golf shoe should still perform like a premium golf shoe.
Runner-Up: PUMA IGNITE Spikeless Sport
Equipment Story – Nike Exits the Club Business
After more than a decade of trying to establish itself as a force in golf equipment, Nike, with its market share perpetually well below 5%, walked away. The news has been heralded as an opportunity for some and a warning for others.
Right-sizing, or a sign of an industry in a tailspin? Time will tell.
As we consider Nike’s equipment legacy, it’s important to note that Nike Golf isn’t gone entirely. Tiger, Rory, and reportedly Jason Day will wear Nike apparel and footwear for years to come, but what will that mean for the company’s impact on the sport?
As for Nike’s former equipment staffers; only Tiger has announced any new deal (Bridgestone, ball only), so it remains to be seen which companies will benefit most from Nike’s exit.
Runner-Up: Costco Can’t Keep Kirkland Signature Golf Ball in Stock
Comeback Company – Bridgestone
This time last year, Bridgestone had just announced that it was pulling out of the UK. Rumors of a big USA hard goods push fizzled, and there was even some chatter that the company might leave the US market.
The outlook took a positive turn when Bridgestone inked Bryson DeChambeau to an endorsement deal, and when Bridgestone announced it had signed Tiger Woods to a 5-year ball deal, it became abundantly clear the company has plans to reassert itself is a big time player in the ball market. It’s on, people.
Rest assured Bridgestone Golf isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. There’s even some fresh news that Bridgestone balls will be back on UK shelves soon.
Golf Company of the Year – Callaway Golf
If you thought the Five Year War was over, you’re mistaken. The Callaway machine continues to plow ahead, and directly through many of its competitors. As Nike was shutting down and others were trimming fat, Callaway continued to redefine the modern golf company. It expanded its Media Productions arm; adding Amanda Balionis to its talent roster. It acquired Toulon Design (and with it Sean Toulon), and hired former Nike guy, Rock Ishii, to help drive innovation in the ball category.
And speaking of the ball (that changed the ball)…
In 2016, the company cemented its position as a strong overall #2 in the ball category, led by Chrome Soft, which is now the top-selling ball at off-course locations.
Sales of Odyssey putters and Callaway wedges remain strong, but it’s the iron category where Callaway made the most noise this season.
Released in October, the Steelhead is the market’s current best-seller, and that’s helped propel the company to a dominant leadership position in the iron category. The most recent report shows Callaway’s dollar share of the iron category is better than twice that of its closest competitor.
The numbers say Callaway is the #1 club company in golf right now.
More bad news for those of you who’ve had your fill of Callaway; the company believes the Jailbreak Technology found in its upcoming Epic lineup is the next legitimate breakthrough in club design. So confident is Callaway, it’s predicting that sometime in 2017, it will overtake TaylorMade to become the #1 metalwoods company in golf.