GolfPass Gear Report: August 2023
SAN JOSE - Testing new golf products is an interesting exercise in balancing first impressions with patience and persistence.
Sometimes, a product just instantly clicks and feels like a significant upgrade from something you're already using or have tested in the past. Other times, it takes a few rounds or range sessions to realize what you have - good or bad. And then comes the hardest part of writing a fair review: attempting to educate readers (you!) about what they're potentially buying.
Two products I wasn't expecting much from impressed right away: Clinch Golf gloves and VKTRY performance insoles, which slip into your golf shoes.
The first time I wore the all-weather Clinch Golf Tactile Glove ($25) and VKTRY performance insoles, I shot my lowest score of the summer on a course I had never played before. A couple weeks later, I followed up with one of my lowest rounds ever, a 77. Did I catch lightning in a bottle or did these two products (or one over the other) really help? I'm a believer in both, but ultimately, that's for you to decide.
The Clinch Golf glove's innovative fabric enables the glove to grip when wet, breathe when it's hot and last up to twice as long (partly because it's washable). I especially love that it's phone-friendly, meaning I don't have to take my glove off to answer that work e-mail on my phone while playing midweek (wink, wink). It's not a surprise Clinch Golf was founded by two Oregon golfers, who battle all sorts of weather in the Pacific Northwest. I'm not sure they'll replace your rain gloves, but they're versatile enough to use in most conditions.
During this hot streak, I've been driving the ball a bit farther than usual. I've been keeping up or surpassing two playing partners who are normally longer. Could it be the VKTRY performance insoles providing the boost? They're endorsed by Padraig Harrington, who is still crushing drives on the PGA Tour Champions.
Most athletic shoes feature a thin foam insole, while popular aftermarket insoles (like Dr. Scholl's or Superfeet) are made of foam and plastic. Conversely, the VKTRY features a full-length, heel-to-toe carbon fiber baseplate. This allows the insoles to store and return energy like a spring. They actually feel a little firmer than the insole I replaced them with, a change some golfers might have a hard time getting used to. They're not cheap - $99-$149 for two pairs - but golfers are notorious for spending money in search of a couple strokes and some extra yards. Maybe these can help in your quest for both. It's working for me so far. - JSD
Finding the perfect stainless steel golf water bottle is harder than you might think. Many are too big, too small, too costly or don't maintain liquid temperatures, hot or cold, as well as advertised. I've found the Purist Collective delivers on all fronts. Their sleek and minimalist designs look good. An unbreakable glass interior keeps your beverages from tasting metallic. This extra glass layer can be rinsed clean, so you can drink coffee one day, water the next and a Jack and Coke on the third day and keep the integrity of each flavor intact. All bottles can keep a beverage hot for 12 hours and ice cold for 24. What's cool about the three sizes - the Maker (10 ounces), the Mover (18) and the Founder (32) - is that three different types of caps all fit the wide-mouth top interchangeably. Cost: $38-$56. - JSD
Most golfers just don't practice putting enough, especially at the course where the range or playing actual golf take precedent. Here's where PUTT-A-BOUT could help. Although I've got a couple more expensive and technically-advanced indoor putting mats, I like this one for its simplicity. It's not too big or too expensive with multiple mat styles ranging from $59.99-$84.99. I like the Par 3 Plus Putting Green (size 3 feet by 9 feet) best. It's got three holes to aim at, plus cutouts that catch misses. It's light, can easily be rolled up for storage and even be personalized. I don't mind that there's no ball return because those require artificially sloped mats. This one rises gently, which feels more authentic to the slope around the hole on most traditional greens. - JSD
Most products nowadays - golf or otherwise - feel cheaply made, so it's especially noticeable when I encounter one that's sturdy and works well from the beginning. That's been the case with the GrooveIt ($24.99), a club cleaning brush with a nifty pump-action water spray feature that attaches to your golf bag via a thin but strong two-way carabiner and a serious snapping magnet. I find this to be a better type of bag attachment than the retractable cords some other similar products use. Stiff nylon bristles on the brush portion of the GrooveIt feel like it will last a good long time (it carries a 3-year guarantee). The company also makes a GrooveIt mini ($19.99), which trades out some of the substance for easier portability. Some PGA Tour pros have been photographed attaching it to their belt loops and using it to clean their clubfaces between shots on the range. My favorite club-cleaning implement remains the SkinnyGolf Pocket Caddie because of the way it doubles as a pitch-mark fixer, but the GrooveIt is excellent in its own right. Frankly, pairing them - one for your bag, one for your pocket - would be ideal. - Tim Gavrich
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John Ashworth's Linksoul brand remains the best-known purveyor of modern, low- to no-polyester golf shirts, but in recent years several golf apparel companies have sprouted up to offer their own take, usually with some level of California-casual attitude. Enter Par(x), which leverages a fabric technology called Filium, which dries faster than cotton and resists odor and stains. Eye-catching polo designs include the multi-colored, striped "Buck" ($108), which is a nod to Lee Trevino, and the "Eldrick" ($98) - I bet you know who that's a reference to. Like many new brands, Par(x) adopts a small-run, limited-drop approach to their product releases. - TG