The word that seems to be on the lips of every golf club manufacturer producing equipment for 2008 is forgiveness.
To the unitiiated and those outside the business, the word might look like begging an apology for sub-standard goods or seeking a reprieve for over-charging.
Not a bit of it! It's the hot, buzz word to describe of the feel of golf ball on the metal face of a club, even though it's not struck in the centre of the clubface - and every club-maker wants it.
In the past the uncomfortable tingle or vibration we got through our fingers and hands and arms, immediately identified when we hadn't struck the ball purely. The ball flight never carried as far as a well-struck shot but tended to zoom on a low trajectory like an Exocet missile, as we rung our stinging hands.
The secret of success in making clubs for the modern club golfer is combining material with engineering skills to make a compact clubhead that's sympathetic to the off-centre or miss-hit shot. After all, probably 90 per-cent of strikes made by mid to high handicap golfers - the target market for most golf equipment manufacturers - are not made on the clubface's sweet spot.
The forgiving clubface is one that at impact delivers little sensation other than seeing the ball fly high and far on the line we hope rather than expect.
And forgiveness is a key reason for the emergence of rescue or hybrid clubs in recent years and which are now tending to be integrated into sets of irons as well as being sold separately.
Significantly fewer manufacturers are including 3- and even 4-irons in their sets - traditionally clubs with small heads and longer shafts that are difficult to hit consistently well for most golfers.
Callaway, for example exhibited at the recent trade show in Munich, its FTi-Brid irons with the long irons replaced by the 3i, 4i and 5i utility-style clubs with bulbous heads, tunite weighting in the sole and a black TPU SenSert in the back of the head to help get the ball airborne quickly and deliver that solid strike we all desire.
Callaway's new FT irons with a new head shape and thinner top line are also set to extend the boundaries of forgiveness and finding their way into the bags of players of the calibre of former US Open winner Michael Campbell. It's encouraging to hear that even top pros are looking to minimise their miss hits.
I recently tested the new Mizuno MX-950 blended hybrid set which made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck such was the solid feel I generated from both the irons and hybrids. I have never struck a 3- or 4-iron so purely. I'm also looking forward later this week to trying the Ping G10s ( 5- to sand iron) and 18 and 21 degree hybrids which also gave a forgiving first impression on the range.
Tell us on the forum how much forgiveness means to you in your golf game. Or are you willing to sacrifice the occasional miss-hit for power and distance over your mates?
Why forgiveness is golf's latest buzz word