ORLANDO, Fla. – I missed most of those famous tours by rock and roll bands back in the 1980s, but I attended the Jay Hubbard 2011 Preview Tour.
What instrument does Hubbard play? Oh, driver, fairway wood, hybrid, iron, wedge, putter – take your pick.
What kind of songs does he sing? Long, as in long drives. Sweet, as in sweet spot.
Hubbard is vice president of marketing for Tour Edge Golf.
If you ever wondered how golf companies provide a sneak peak at their new products, here’s a glimpse inside a fast-paced industry in which new models are introduced with rapid-fire frequency.
Hubbard goes on the road during the final quarter of each year. On behalf of Tour Edge and its tour-quality Exotics division, he becomes something of a one-man band.
When Hubbard flew recently from Chicago to Orlando, it was the ninth trip on his current tour. At Metro West Golf Club, it was impossible to overlook Hubbard’s bag — two dozen clubs in an oversized Tour Edge staff bag.
On these trips, Hubbard entertains writers and broadcasters.
“I enjoy this,” Hubbard said. “It doesn’t really get old. I get a lot of honest comments. People don’t really try to hide their reactions.”
The schedule goes like this: Hubbard makes a product presentation over lunch, then leads his little rat pack to the practice range. It’s the same every year, and, to be honest, I look forward to it.
After two hours on the range, Hubbard had a pretty good idea which clubs have emerged as favorites among the Golfweek writers.
Can you say fairway woods?
In several respects, Tour Edge is a different kind of golf company. Founded in 1985 by David Glod, it has remained in business for 25 years and steadily raised its profile without paying any touring pros to use Tour Edge products.
This hasn’t stopped PGA Tour players such as K.J. Choi, David Duval, Matt Kuchar, Brian Gay, Luke Donald, Ryan Moore and Zach Johnson from using Exotics fairway woods at one time or another.
Fairway woods are at the heart of the Tour Edge reputation. Glod, a former golf professional, was among the first golf industry executives to publicly state his goal of designing and producing so-called “hot” fairway woods.
As a result, Tour Edge 3-woods gained a foothold among players obsessed with hitting par-5s in two.
The newest Exotics fairway wood is the XCG-4, whose hallmark is its maneuverability. This is a club for skilled golfers who like to work the ball and hit different types of shots.
Meanwhile, the new Exotics Trilogy fairway wood offers another choice. At $199, the Trilogy costs $100 less than the XCG-4, and its theme is forgiveness as much as it is distance.
From address, the Trilogy exhibits a traditional pear shape. It is a beautiful club. Looking at the bottom of the club, though, there is a modern touch — a large, diamond-shaped rail at the trailing edge of the sole.
My personal 3-wood evaluation always starts with the same question: Can I get the ball up in the air? For many 3-woods, the answer to that question is no.
With the Trilogy 3-wood, however, I was able to achieve a satisfactory trajectory off the tightest of lies. The ability to hit a consistently high 3-wood shot is important to me because I often have to use a 3-wood on second shots to long par-4s.
While my long-hitting friends may be consumed with the distance they get from their 3-woods, I need a club that provides both accuracy and a predictable carry distance.
The Graphite Design Tour AD 60 shaft is a perfect choice for the Trilogy fairway woods. Although it has a softer tip to help produce a higher flight pattern, it also has enough stability to produce repeatable shots.
One more intriguing development from Tour Edge: As shafts and clubs continue to get lighter, the new Exotics XCG-4 driver is available in a 276-gram version.
Any driver weighing less than 300 grams generally is considered ultralight or featherlight, and Glod has plunged below 280 thanks in part to a 26-gram Winn Lite grip. Furthermore, Glod has done this at 46 inches, an inch longer than the contemporary standard for drivers.
The theory here is that lighter clubs can be swung faster. Jesse Ortiz has been a lightweight pioneer with his Bobby Jones drivers, and Glod is pursuing the same path.
For those who want a slightly heavier club, the XCG-4 driver also comes in a 310-gram model (at 46 inches).
There were several curtain calls at the end of Hubbard’s grand tour, but eventually he packed up his traveling circus and was on his way.
Darn. I am left to speculate: Will 2011 this be my year? Will a new 3-wood help me break 70?