Field Tests

Monday October 22nd, 2007

A few years ago at the PGA Merchandise Show, I was intrigued by the Heavy Putter. I loved it on the artificial putting surface in Orlando but decided it wasn't for me once I got it on the course for a round.

I learned my lesson. Everything looks great at the show or in the pro shop, but I need to test the gear in the field to find out what works for me. Here are some of the interesting items I've tried out this year.

Has your bag hugged you today?

The best thing about the Sun Mountain Superlight 3.5 Hug bag ($199, SunMountain.com) is that it hugs you back. A mere 3.5 pounds, it comes with a clamp that grips your hips and takes much of the weight off the dual shoulder straps. I used it to walk two nine-hole courses on the same day and it was a breeze. One nitpicky thing: When removing the bag I kept snagging one end of the clamp on my pants pocket. But that was mostly because I wasn't used to the maneuver.

The clamp snaps down tight, so the bag is no problem to use on a cart, and it has more pockets and pouches than I know what to do with, including one for a water bottle and another for a pen. It also has the "integrated top handle," one of the great inventions in bag history. It's a carved-out handle on the top of the bag, and once you get used to it, other bags just feel clumsy.

If the shoe fits...

Fred Couples was an early endorser of Ecco golf shoes. Of course, he was paid to wear them, but a guy with chronic back troubles wouldn't wear shoes that weren't first class. I've had my favorite shoe models over the years, and Ecco is my latest. I've been wearing a pair of the Casual Cool Ribbon ($160, EccoUSA.com), which look like tennis shoes and are as comfortable as any golf shoes I've ever worn, in large part because of a soft and malleable insert. This company knows what it's doing.

Size matters

TaylorMade pioneered adjustable weights in its drivers, and Sizemore has given the concept a new twist with its putters. I just played 18 holes with the Sizemore XM-1 ($349, Sizemoregolf.com). It's a mallet putter that looks like a pair of aluminum-colored binoculars on a stick. It comes with a variety of weighted end caps and aiming inserts for the top of the putter head. The face is copper-colored and balanced, and the shaft has a double bend. On the sole are two raised ridges, almost like runners. I'm still toying with the weight system, but the XM-1 has a nice setup and feel.

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