Archive for August, 2009

Titleist NXT Tour Review

With a brand name that oozes quality, a three piece construction and a name containing the word ‘tour,’ you would expect great things from the Titleist NXT Tour ball.

In reality, however, I was left a little disappointed with the overall performance of the so called ‘tour’ ball. Considering the ball is branded in a similar market to the Srixon AD333, I was expecting a good distance off the tee, coupled with a slightly softer feeling ball than the two piece AD333.

On one of these counts, the NXT Tour certainly delivered. With a satisfyingly firm feel off the face of the driver, the ball performed admirably in the distance stakes, launching on a high, but not ballooning flight.

In the short game, the ball left a lot to be desired. The cover of the ball feels much firmer and less responsive than its competitors. This is perhaps due to its ‘fusablend’ cover; hardly the urethane cover many premium balls rely on for soft feel.

As a trade off, though, the ball was satifyingly durable, but not enough of a trade off to warrant ousting the AD333 ball, which is a much better all round golf ball.

Update: In the last post, I wrote of my frustration of the premium price of the Bridgestone B330-RX. A reader has since notified me that this ball can be obtained online at some retailers for around £23.99 a dozen; a much more affordable price. I’m off to buy a dozen, and I’d recommend you giving them a go.


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Ball test 2: Callaway HX Hot Bite

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After the last ball test, I was left a little frustrated. Having found a ball that ticked all of the boxes, I’d found the ball in question (Bridstone b330-rx) out of my price range.

So, my attention turned to an old friend; the Callaway HX Hot Bite. I have used this ball a long time ago, when it was first released, and played with it for a couple of months, before switching to the AD333. I took a sleeve of the latest edition balls out to the course; could the friendship be rekindled?

Another factor, in addition to the ones noted in the previous test that may influence ball choice, is marketing. A family member noted his choice of ball (the Hot Bite) was due to the attractive green packaging. If this is a factor for you, the bright, eye-catching packet will appeal.

Being a spin off of the HX Hot, the ball’s marketing suggested that it should fly off of the clubface. It did not disappoint, with the Hot Bite giving a satisfyingly firm feel off the driver and a long carry. Although comparable to the AD333, the Hot Bite perhaps edged it on the distance stakes, however this could not be 100% proved without the aid of a launch monitor.

The Hot Bite was also designed to be a lot softer around the green, which was a compromise of the previous HX Hot model. Again, the ball did not disappoint. You may struggle to get this ball bouncing and spinning back, a la the tour professionals, it is rather ‘a couple of hops and stop” kind of ball. It checks nicely on chips and pitches, giving me the control that is more than adequate for my level of skill. Feel off the putter is soft and responsive, comparable to the srixon soft feel.

One issue with the Hot Bite is durability. In my previous encounters with the ball, I did not have a problem, however, with a couple of three-quarter wedge shots, the ball did seem to cut up a little more than the competitors. It should be noted, the offending wedge was a vintage Callaway X-Tour model (renowned as a sharply grooved wedge), however, this is not a problem I generally encounter with balls. The ball shredded to the extent that the edging around the dimples was ‘peeling’ away.

More testing will be required to confirm the reliability of the ball, which will be worthwhile, considering the benefits of it. It is a true rival to the AD333, just a little less durable. Whether or not this is a worthwhile concession is a personal preference.

Never doubt a Tiger

Tiger Woods overhauled a three shot deficit to win the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone yesterday.

Trailing Irishman, Padraig Harrington, the surprise round three leader, Tiger took advantage of a 16th hole triple bogey from his rival to win the revered event.

Controversy surrounded the chief referee’s decision to warn the final pairing for slow play, where they were put on a shot clock, having to take theirs  shots within a time limit. Failing to do so would have brought financial and stroke penalities. Enforced on the 16th hole, it is perhaps one of the factors that prompted Harrington’s shot selection on the nightmare hole, which ended in an approach shot going into the water.

Critics of both players were writing them off after disappointing Open performances, with the severest of critics doubting Tiger’s major winning ability, following knee surgery last year. Winning the WGC event will go some way to silencing such doubters.

Similarly, Harrington, suffering a complete loss of form after multiple swing changes this season, was an unexpected leader. Runner up spot will, however, put him back into the world’s top ten rankings.

All eyes will be on the pair going into the final major of the year, the USPGA at Hazeltine, which starts this week.

What’s the wildlife like?

Many courses are home to many species of wildlife. Here at Broome Manor Swindon, a ‘big cat’ is caught. It’s a leopard…oh wait, just a cat. What’s the best you’ve seen on the course?

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The Ball Test: Part One

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Whether you’re using at Titleist ProV1, a Callaway Big Bertha, or something you found in the rough, you will understand that the golf ball is one of the vital pieces of kit in the game.

Odds are, that instead of investing in a new £300 driver to cure ‘that slice,’ the same problem could be cured by choosing the correct ball to match your game.

The golf ball is something that I have constantly changed, trying to solve the eternal mid to high handicappers’ problem; finding a ball that feels great in the short game, whilst going miles off the tee.

This test tracks my progress in finding that perfect ball, and I’ve thrown in a premium ball for short game comparison.

Srixon AD333 – Current ball of choice

Hailed as one of the most popular two piece balls, the AD333 aims to solve the distance/feel issue. Straight and long off the tee, the AD333 has remained my ball of choice for a while now. It suits my moderate swing speed down to the ground, and short game feel is not bad either. The ball will not stop and spin back like the premium balls on the market, rather take a couple of hops and stop; perfectly adequate for my kind of game, which often sees me short of the pin anyway. The benchmark, and the one to beat.

Srixon Soft Feel

The soft feel is marketed as a ball for slower swing speeds, around the 70mph mark. My swing speed is around 85mph with the driver, so was not the perfect combination for me. It feels slightly softer than the AD333, but at the same time did not spin too much more around the green. Due to this, the ball also launched slightly higher and shorter, not a brilliant combination with my high launch Callaway FTI driver. Would work better for those with the recommended slower swing speed. The large arrow shaped alignment aid was also ridiculous, and did not work well due the size of it.

Srixon Trispeed

The Trispeed is a three piece ball, which compares well with the Titleist NXT Tour. It seems to be marketed as a more versatile ball for a range of swing speeds, so should fit well with my swing profile. It was comparable with the AD333 in terms of ball flight and distance, with perhaps feel characteristics in between the Soft Feel and the AD333. On the green, the Trispeed felt a little ‘dead’ and a little lighter feeling than other balls. This was something that was not suited to my taste. At a higher price than the AD333, it is hard to justify the extra cost, as there is little benefit over its cheaper cousin.

Bridgestone B330-RX

I went to the local golf shop in the hope of procuring either the Bridgestone E6+ or E7+, designed for a similar market to the AD333. I instead left with the B330-RX, which is allegedly the premium B330 ball, with a lower compression for slower swing speeds. Initial testing of the ball showed that the ball compares well to the AD333 for distance, perhaps a little longer when hit well. In addition to this, the short game feel sat nicely in between the top premium balls and the AD333. Finally, a ball that truly satisfies the issue. However, the one concern is cost. The premium feel translates into a £30 a dozen price, something I cannot justify. It would be my ball of choice tomorrow…if I could afford to lose them!

Srixon Z Star

Used as a short game comparison, this ball was buttery soft and span more than any other ball tested. A great option for the low handicapper.

For now, the AD333 remains the favourite. Watch out for further ball tests, with the NXT Tour and Callaway HX Hot Bite up for review…

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In Cornwall, the likes of St Enodoc, Trevose and St Mellion are often heralded as the county’s classics. However, situated on the most southerly point in England, Mullion Golf Club also offers a memorable round of golf.

The 6,000 yard links course, featuring four par 3s, twelve par 4s and two 5s, boasts a long history, and regular visitors included the likes of A.A.Milne and Conan Doyle, drawn by the inspiration of the scenery experiences around the picturesque course.

A friendly welcome greets you at Mullion, one I had already experienced prior to my visit. Normally requiring handicap certificates, something I was not in possession of, I contacted the club’s secretary, who was more than willing to accommodate me.

“Mullion Golf Course was a fabulous test of golf, offering a friendly welcome and atmosphere”

After timing my visit exactly at the time the putting green was being mown, I made my way to the first tee. Unusually, the course starts with a quirky par three, which cuts across the 18th fairway. Fortunately, the course was quiet, and there was no chance of injuring any unsuspecting golfers finishing their round!

From the first tee, to the 18th green, the course condition was impressive. Fairways were tightly cut, the rough (in which I visited often) lush but punishing and greens uniformly quick. The greens are largely flat, with only subtle breaks; I rarely had a putt needing alignment outside the edge of the cup. Putts often did not break as much as expected, but the roll on them was always true. The course demands straight driving. It is acceptable to miss the fairway by a couple of yards, but wayward drives often equal lost balls, something I can certainly relate to. Despite being my first visit, and only hitting two fairways, albeit most missing by feet rather than yards, I returned a respectable 91 (I hold a 24 handicap) on a slightly windy day. Harsher conditions would make the course incredibly tough.

The course moves from good to stunning from hole six onwards. Early holes ease you in to the style of golf required, offering reachable holes, mixed with some blind drives and numerous bunkers to avoid. Hole six, a downhill, 293 yard par four, is the first real test of the day. A driveable hole due to the approximate 80 foot drop, the green comes close to one of the coves the course borders, offering a taster of the vistas you will experience during your round. The seventh brought the only course condition issue; due to heavy rain, a large ‘river’ of water was meandering down half of the fairway, making the landing zone even tougher to hit.

The par four tenth hole is Mullion’s signature hole. The green lies perilously close to the beach, with a steep bank to the right of the green. A tad confusing to work out the fairway direction from the tee, the fairway drops in elevation to the green, adding to the difficulty.

Talking of confusing layouts, as a first time visitor, I struggled at times to find the right tee; for example finding the third, to the entertainment of some members, was difficult. Thanks to some friendly pointing from said members, the problem was solved. Perhaps some more accurate signage would help, along with a greater knowledge of the course. The map provided with the scorecard, along with the course planner, went some way to alleviating the problem.

Off course facilities include a good value restaurant, well stocked pro shop, putting green and practice ‘fairway,’ in the absence of a driving range.

Mullion Golf Course was a fabulous test of golf, offering a friendly welcome and atmosphere, it was a breath of fresh air compared to the often stuffy posh courses golfers often encounter. For the £15 green fee (£30 for adults), it offers great value and entertainment. A great introduction to links golf.