The golf season actually kicks off twice every year--during the second week of January when the pros tee it up at the Mercedes Championships, and a couple of weeks later when the golf industry gathers in Orlando for the PGA Merchandise Show. Two trends were obvious at this year's show: Supersized 460-cubic-centimeter drivers are now de rigueur, and long irons are going the way of the kiltie, replaced by easier-to-hit hybrid clubs. Otherwise, these items caught our eye:
HOT NEWCOMER You know a club is the real deal when the pros play it without compensation. Last year it took only two months for the Nickent Genex ($99.99, golfsmith.com) to become the most popular hybrid on the Nationwide tour. The pros are especially fond of the 14-degree model.
BOTTOMS UP Unless you're one of those golfers who's always making an ass of yourself on the course, we're not sure why you'd want a baboon's butt on your bag, but Buttheads ($29.95, buttheadcovers.com) headcovers are so silly we couldn't resist showing them to you.
TOO GOOD TO BE LEGAL Remember David Ortiz circling the bases last fall, glove hand raised, after hitting another home run for the Boston Red Sox? That was a Bionic glove by Louisville Slugger ($24.95, bionicgloves.com). Designed by Jim Kleinert, a hand surgeon, the glove's strategically located ergonomic padding dramatically improves grip strength--so much so that those spoilsports at the USGA have ruled the glove nonconforming. (Kleinert is appealing the USGA decision.)
BETTER THAN A BUGGY This two-wheeled modern miracle was the talk of the show, and take it from us, the famous Segway people mover is more fun than riding a pony and more practical than hiring a llama as a caddie. The golf version of the Segway ($4,895, segwayhtamerica.com) has attachments for a full-sized golf bag on one side and a fully stocked cooler on the other.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS Callaway has come out with two new sets of irons, the game-improvement, perimeter-weighted Big Bertha Fusion ($999.99, edwinwatts.com) and the X-Tour (price NA), the company's first forged iron.
PAINT IT BLACK Did you see 'em at last week's FBR Open? Stewart Cink, K.J. Choi and some other Nike players used the company's black-painted One Black ball ($39.99, edwinwatts.com) on the raucous 16th hole at the TPC of Scottsdale. (There's no rule against using a ball painted a different color as long as the same model of ball is used throughout the round.)
SIMPLY DIVINE Those players who worship Bobby Jones--and name a golfer who doesn't--can honor the 75th anniversary of Jones's Grand Slam with a full-sized stained glass window ($25,000, golflinkstothepast.com) by Kentucky artist Laura Mentor, or with a replica set of the 14 hickory-shafted clubs ($3,650) that Jones used in 1930, including the famous Calamity Jane putter. The clubs are handcrafted by Heritage Golf in St. Andrews, Scotland, and fully playable.
BIG FIVE A triple-flex shaft (MacTec NVG), a new version of a classic (Big Bertha 454), Tiger's stick (Ignite) and adjustable weights (Redline RPM and Big Ben CS-3) highlighted the category.
> Hogan Big Ben C-S3 ($399, benhogan.com)
> Callaway Big Bertha Titanium 454 $299.95, edwinwatts.com)
> Nike Ignite ($299.99, edwinwatts.com)
> Adams Redline RPM ($299.95, theworldofgolf.com)
> MacGregor MacTec NVG ($399.95, theworldofgolf.com)
TEN COLOR PHOTOS