Mizuno's Performance Mock Turtleneck
By Woody Hochswender
Friday, April 03, 2009

Teeing up on an early spring day can present meteorological challenges. If you dress warmly, you might start to sweat when the sun breaks through, dampening your clothes. Eventually, if your clothes are, for example, regular cotton, they will form a moist layer against the skin, which will give you that familiar back-nine chill when the wind gets up and the sun begins to fade behind the trees.

Is there a way for a garment actually to get warmer when it gets wet? But of course. In the miraculous world of high-performance golf apparel, the concept of temperature-control fabrics—turning water into wine, so to speak—is a reality.

Mizuno, the apparel giant based in Osaka, Japan, has been in the forefront of temperature-control apparel, which it developed for its skiing and running clothing for the Japanese Olympic teams. Lately it has been applying its proprietary "breath thermo" fabric, which keeps runners warm over long distances in changing conditions, to the golf course.

Mizuno's thermal fabric is a type of polyester (technically, a polyakrolate fiber mixed with polyester yarn) that grows warmer when it comes into contact with water. Sound unbelievable? Mizuno USA executives hand out samples of the stuff—a little poly-plastic envelope with a tuft of pink yarn and a vial of water inside—and ask you to try it out for yourself by dripping some water on the fabric, then scrunching it up in your palm. We tried it, and it definitely works. As the yarn gets wetter, it gets warmer. Applied to Mizuno's thermo mock turtlenecks ($49.99) and thermo mock extreme outerwear ($59.99), the technology is ideal for those cool morning rounds. The colder it is, the higher the heat-generating effect.

Other companies make their own version of body-warming golf apparel, including PING, whose trademarked "dry fiber dynamics" shirts absorb body heat and release it as the body cools down.

The obvious advantage to the golfer: you need to wear fewer layers in order to keep warm, and therefore you have greater freedom of movement.

A NEW CONCEPT IN SHOES
Surely one of the great advances in golf wear was waterproof shoes, which were perfected and popularized when FootJoy came out with DryJoys in 1989. But no matter how streamlined and sneaker-like golf shoes have become, they have never been as flexible and comfortable as the kind of mesh sneakers used in other sports. The trouble with mesh, for all its flexibility, is that it is inherently porous. When applied to golf shoes, mesh also tends to make to make the shoe's support feel mushy—and thus unacceptable to better players.

Now Adidas Golf has come up with a grand compromise: the Tour 360 Sport, a version of its popular high-end Tour 360 series but with mesh-based uppers. The new shoe incorporates Adidas's wraparound 360 support system, giving it the stability required by serious players. For waterproofing, it employs a new technology Adidas calls "50/50 Protect," which essentially encases the shoe with a water-resistant TPU (thermoplastic urethane) shield to protect the lower half of the foot from the elements. The result is super lightweight footwear with mesh uppers that are flexible, breathable and comfortable—and a waterproof lower shield that keeps your feet from getting soaked as you walk down a well-sprinkled fairway.

The shoe is not meant for heavy rain days, when fully waterproofed footwear is required. It represents a compromise between lightness and breathability, on one side, and absolute waterproofing on the other. In most cases, a golfer needs waterproofing only up to a certain point, typically to shed morning dew and overnight sprinkler moisture on the course. But as the round continues, the somewhat stiffer, heavier properties of fully waterproofed golf shoes may not be necessary. In fact, they can be kind of a drag.

The question is: how will the Tour 360 Sport shoe perform in high rough? If the waterline—the TPU encased lower section—goes only halfway up, won't it get wet?

"If you are in super-high rough, it could get wet," said Dave Ortley, the global director of footwear for Adidas Golf. "But on the vast majority of golf courses, your foot is going to stay dry. It's not maximum protection. It's ample protection."

POLO RE-SIGNS PRODIGY
Polo Ralph Lauren has re-signed Morgan Pressel, the youngest golfer to win a major tournament in LPGA history, to a multiyear contract to continue wearing its clothing and representing its brand.

In 2001, as a 12 year old, Pressel became the youngest woman to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open. In 2007, she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship at age 18. The company also sponsors golfers Tom Watson, David Love III, Luke Donald, and Jonathan Bryd.

Have a question, suggestion or news item for Woody? Send an e-mail to woody@golf.com.

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