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And the best equipment of the year is...

Several of the major manufacturers are releasing new equipment in September. With the new stuff coming out, now is a good time to look at the best of the past golf year (and the stuff that should be going on sale soon).

And in the spirit of the recently completed Olympics, we're handing out medals.

Best driver: Nike Sumo2 (gold). We tested this driver in October of 2007 and it's held up to some stiff challenges. About our only qualm, as with most of the new drivers, is the nearly 46-inch shaft length. After cutting it down and adding a little tape to get the weight right, testers found this club to be straight and long. Even high handicappers who slice found extra yardage and short grass.

When we put a Graphite Design Tour AD shaft in it, things got even better.

Silver (tie): TaylorMade Tour Burner and PING G10. Bronze: Nicklaus FastBack

Fairways: Tour Edge Exotics XCG (gold). It's long. It's pretty and it's expensive. At $349.95, you can buy two fairways from other manufacturers, but this was – by far - the longest and straightest fairway we tried. It can give driver distance off the tee. For the second straight year, we give the best in show award to the Tour Edge brand.

Silver: Callaway FT-i. Bronze: TaylorMade Tour Burner

Hybrids: PING G10 (gold). Testers simply loved this thing from the start. It looks easy to hit. It is easy to hit and feels very soft. It plays well from the fairway or the rough and has at least three golfers I know thinking of ditching their 5-irons.

Silver: Nike Sumo2. Bronze: TaylorMade Tour Burner

Irons: Callaway FT (gold). We tested more than 50 products last year and this was far and away the favorite of all the testers. These are expensive at $1,000 for a full set, but come with a thin top line and a titanium face. They are as forgiving as the widest club you can find, meaning the high handicapper and the scratch guy can play the same stick.

They've got a forged smooth feel and look great, too.

Silver: PING G10. Bronze: Cobra S9

Wedges: The Cleveland CG14 Black Pearl is the softest feeling wedge we tried and although it's the most recently tested piece of equipment in the shop, it's quickly become a favorite among our 10 regular testers. They comment it will stop and back up most anything short of a Top Flite, and it doesn't shred balls like some of the competition. Plus it looks really cool. A yellow dampening insert makes every shot feel pure, although some testers wanted more feedback. Overall, this is your gold medal winner.

Silver: Nicklaus Dual Slot. Bronze: Callaway X-Tour PM

Putters: After we tested the new Rife 2-bar hybrid (gold), six guys went out and bought it. It's adjustable in lie angle and with weights, and it has a buttery soft insert with one of those faces that gets the ball rolling quickly. The ball seems to roll an extra couple revolutions with this putter, helping it get to the hole.

Silver: TaylorMade Spider. Bronze: Scott Cameron Red X Mallet

GPS: Nothing beats the Sky Caddie SG4. But the Garmin GPS (silver) is a solid contender. Give the bronze to the new SkyCaddie SG2.5 that is a little more affordable at $260.

Shoes: adidas's 360 Limited is made with high grade leather and isn't as tall as some of the company's other products. It gets the gold medal this year because of comfort and looks. You can walk 18 and feel no pain. You feel well-grounded with this shoe and traction is excellent. The fit is snug but not too snug.

Silver: ECCO Hydromax. Silver: adidas Powerband.

Apparel: adidas wins the gold for the third straight year. The company has styles that younger golfers would appreciate that fit a little tighter and have daring color combos. But it also has plenty of traditional gear in a range of colors and finishes. Silver-medal-winning Nike is starting to develop more gear along the youthful lines that adidas does and bronze-medal winning Ralph Dunning simply makes the best feeling golf polos on the market.

Langston Wertz Jr: 704-358-5133