After years of declining participation, golf has experienced a rejuvenation, largely due to the pandemic. After all, it provided a chance to get outdoors, play a sport and still socially distance from other players. Whether it was regular golfers playing more often, former golfers returning to the game, or beginners trying the sport for the first time, golf courses and driving ranges have seen a massive boost they hope will continue into 2021.
From June through December 2020, golf rounds increased by 75 million nationwide (a 27% gain over the previous period in 2019), pumping life back into a sport and industry badly in need of a boost.
With the weather turning for much of the country, and courses reopening, this is the perfect time to check out what the top golf companies are introducing for this year. From drivers to putters, hybrids to golf balls, there are seemingly more options than ever for us all.
While every expert recommends getting a proper club fitting, and personal preference and feel will play a major role in choosing your gear, there are still some options we’ve checked out that deserve to be on any list of contenders when it comes to upgrading your clubs, gear, and hopefully, game.
We also realize that while some of our audience are scratch golfers or better, the vast majority of you are somewhere between pretty good and terrible. That’s why we have focused largely on game improvement clubs over tour options, forgiveness over high-precision and some more mainstream options as it’s easier for many to find, test and purchase in your area.
Drivers – Let the Big Dog Eat
TaylorMade SIM2 (Standard, Max, Max•D)
Improving on their popular Sim driver, TaylorMade has incorporated what they’ve learned in recent years into their newest offering. With a full carbon crown and sole, and available in a range of eye-catching colors, the Sim2 features the Speed Injection Twist Face technology that provides forgiveness on non-perfect drives by enlarging the sweet spot.
The SIM2 is the standard model, giving golfers the chance to bomb their drive with optimal launch angle and low spin. The SIM2 Max focuses on increased forgiveness and speed, ideal for an older player or less experienced golfer, delivering a mid-to-high launch and relatively low spin. The SIM2 Max•D is similar to the Max, but does everything in its power to help the user draw the ball (a big help for slicers). $529.99 at
Callaway Epic (Speed, Max, Max LS)
Callaway brought golf design into the 21st century with its A.I.-designed Flash Face and Jailbreak Speed Frame technologies. Now they’ve improved on this next-gen tech by improving horizontal and torsional stability (a fancy way of saying it’s consistent and forgiving). Players can expect high ball speeds from strikes across the club face, helping the average golfer immensely. Again, three models are available to fit your game.
Epic Speed offers a mid-launch angle and a balance of elite performance with enough strike forgiveness for casual players. Epic MAX offers the most forgiving driver of the line for those who struggle for consistency. Finally, the Epic MAX LS is aimed at low-to-mid range handicappers so while it helps lower spin and increase distance, it also allows skilled players to best shape their shots, even in a fade. $529.99
Hybrids – Making the Game Easier
Ping G425 (Adjustable, Perfect for a Do-Everything Hybrid)
Ping may use fancy trademarked terms, but underneath the marketing there’s absolute performance as you’d expect from this legend of the industry. Spinsistency* is how they describe the insanely complex face curvature that strikes the ball differently based on where on the face it contacts. Facewrap* is the ultrathin, steel face that wraps around the crown and sole for fast ball speeds.
It’s a club that will work from the fairway to the deepest of rough, especially considering it’s available in 2H through 7H lofts and lengths. Forget the explanations and names and just enjoy the sight of your ball exploding into the air from any lie.
Don’t call a hybrid a ‘recovery club’ around the Titleist offices. Instead, the company has embraced the relatively new arrival on the golf scene, thinking of it as a ‘scoring club.’ The TSi2 and TSi3 are both excellent options, but for different golfers. The TSi2 (18, 21 or 24 degree) is a “workhorse” hybrid, in that it maximizes distance and launch angle with a large, classical profile that fits anyone’s game.
The TSi3 (18 or 20 degree) takes the model to another level, with additional customization, mid-launch and precise control for golfers who can consistently hit down on the ball. It does come with a smaller head, and face, so unless you are an excellent ball striker, you might want to stick with the TSi2.
Irons – Precision AND Forgiveness
Cobra King Radspeed Irons
Cobra has earned its reputation in recent years as one of the top brands in the industry. Its drivers have already rightfully taken their place amongst the most popular, and high-performance, long-hitters off the tee, and now they are bringing their entire catalog up to similar standards.
The combination of performance, feel and forgiveness in their newest offerings mean that anyone (short of Bryson DeChambeau) will love having one of these irons in their hands, thanks to the extra heel and toe weighting, a carbon fiber topline and a 3D printed lattice medallion structure. Or, like Bryson, you can choose the one length Cobra Radspeed irons, which take some getting used to, but could be just the radical solution for your frustrating iron play. $899.99-$999.99
Multi-sport giant Wilson is really making its mark on the golf industry, offering some of the best playing clubs and balls on the market at any price point. Their D9 irons are the game improvement offering from Wilson, encouraging higher launch, lower spin and more consistency and confidence.
Urethane-filled Power Holes and an enlarged sweet spot means players don’t have to over-swing to get the speed and distance they desire. Simply, this is an elite, performance-improvement option for the majority of players, at a price point below the competition. Wilson seems to have found a sweet spot, on the clubface and in the marketplace. (*Scratch golfers should check out their Staff Model CB irons. $649.99-$749.99
Wedges – Hit it Close, Stop it Closer
Cobra King Cobra (Snakebite Technology, Spin for All)
It just keeps spinning, and spinning and spinning. But seriously, it could be thought of as hyperbole when Cobra describes its Snakebite technology on its King Cobra wedges, but if anything, they undersell the way this wedge moves the ball.
Perfect for those who struggle to hold the green on approach shots, or can’t get a ton of height into greens, the King Cobra makes spinning the ball so easy that before long you’ll be thinking about not only where to land your wedge approach, but how far past the hole you need to aim to account for the insane backspin it creates. $149.99 (48-60*)
Callaway MD5 Jaws
For a number of years, the Callaway Mack Daddy series has been the go to wedge. The latest iteration is no different as it gives every golfer from amateur to professional what they seek around the green. Whether a player wants to hit it high and stop it close, or pitch it low and allow it to run towards the pin, the MD5 Jaws can do it all. If anything, be careful not to underestimate the spin.
A few times during testing an apparently accurate shot had far more spin than anticipated and spun back PAST the hole. A range of lofts allows each golfer to pick which fits their needs best, but we’d definitely recommend at least a couple to fill the distance gap short of the pitching wedge, and provide exact distances from 100 yards and in. $149.99 (46-60*, 64*)
Putters – Drive for Show, Putt for Dough, and Pars
Odyssey White Hot OG
The classic returns, or in this case, the OG. When the original White Hot insert arrived, it took both professional and amateur golf by storm. It’s not unusual to see regularly see golfers using years-old putters because they refuse to move on from their old White Hot. Utilizing a two-part urethane insert, the OG creates the same feel, sound, roll and direction as its forerunners, but with an updated high performance shaft and setup. It comes in eight different shapes, from traditional blade designs to popular mallet shapes.
Titleist Scotty Cameron Special Select
Many golfers swear by their Scotty Cameron putter, and the newest offerings span the range of shapes, sizes, etc. Solid milled designs feature sleeker head profiles, thinner and flatter toplines, and performance balanced weighting. Three blade styles join five mid-mallet options, so testing out different models is highly advised as the differences may appear miniscule, but could have outsized impact on your score. They’re pricy, but well worth the money if you can use it for a decade or two.
Balls – Match Your Ball to Your Game
The king is dead. Long live the king. For the past two decades, ProV1s have been the ball to play for both recreational and professional golfers alike. Nothing has changed. It’s still the best ball on the market, with a balance of feel and distance, spin and durability. Other tour level balls have started legitimately pushing Titleist for the throne (Bridgestone, TaylorMade, Srixon, or even Wilson’s unpainted tour-quality Staff model), but as of now, ProV1s are still the pinnacle. $49.99/dozen
Callaway ChromeSoft (Regular, X, X LS)
The best performing, soft ball on the market has been upgraded and updated. It will still offer players the feel, control and feedback that has made the ChromeSoft the best in its category. But now with the X and X LS models, golfers no longer have to compromise performance for a ball that doesn’t feel like hitting a rock. Expect the same buttery soft contact, albeit with a bit more distance and ball speed. $47.99/dozen
Gear – Information is Key
Bushnell Tour V5 Shift Rangefinder
Controversy hit the PGA Tour when it was announced players would be allowed to use laser rangefinders to determine distances. But for the rest of us, there’s no controversy. A rangefinder is immensely helpful when out on the course. Not only does the Tour V5 Shift measure the distance, but also the slope.
Combining these two figures it gives the player a precise, compensated playing distance to target, uphill or downhill. The BITE magnetic mount keeps the V5 securely attached to your cart, and PinSeeker technology makes locking on the flag extremely simple. $399.99