5 Tips for Getting More Out of Your Equipment
As you might imagine, I get many emails from golfers asking all kinds of questions about their equipment. These range from set make-up to shafts, to fitting specifications to . . . . well, you can just about name it. Compared to just about any other sport or activity you can get into, golf does have a mind-numbing array of things to learn and understand, doesn’t it? Rules and etiquette alone can boggle the mind, but let’s stay focused on the equipment for today. I want to sound off with some thoughts I have, and then ask all of you to chime in with your ideas and opinions, OK?
1. Do you really need a full set? I think a great number of golfers are doing themselves a dis-service by carrying a full complement of 14 clubs. When I was just starting out at about 6 years old, I had a 2-wood, 3 iron, 7 iron and putter. What more did I need on that little 9-hole golf course? I could get close to the green with 3-4 shots with the 2-wood and 3-iron and then chip and putt to finish it off. Worked fine as I remember. Then I graduated to a set that had a driver and 3 wood, and 3-5-7-9 irons and putter. That took me all the way to consistently shooting in the low 40s for nine holes.
The key is that until I could hit the ball far enough to experience a 10-yard gap between irons, then I didn’t need them all. And that applies to many golfers today, particularly women, seniors and juniors that don’t hit it all that far. If you fall into one of those categories, might I suggest you take out about half of your clubs and go play a few rounds. Remove the odd or even numbered clubs and see what happens. I think you’ll find, at the very least, it makes the game simpler, and at the best, lowers your scores by reducing your confusion.
2. Do you really need a driver? It’s the very hardest club to master without a doubt, and my experience is that too many golfers really can’t handle a club of that length with that low of loft. Check your testosterone at the door, please, and honestly answer this question, “Is your driver one of your most consistent clubs?” If not, then play a few rounds hitting your 3-wood off the tee and see what happens. Even the tour pros drop back to the 3-wood from the tee when the hole before them really, really requires a shot in the fairway to score. If you want even more proof of what your driver might be costing you, play a few afternoon rounds and hit two tee shots on each hole, one with your driver and one with your 3-wood. Keep track of how many times your 3-wood set you up for a better approach to the green, even if it might be a little further back. Oh, and I’ll share something with you from the golf club tech side – if you don’t hit driver longer than 200 yards, you probably will actually get more distance from your 3-wood on the average. It will optimize your carry distance.
3. Do you really ‘know’ your irons? If you’ve bought a new set of ‘high tech’ irons in the last few years, chances are that you are playing a set with jacked up lofts, so that you no longer really have a pitching wedge. The iron manufacturers have been altering lofts and lengths so that they can advertise their clubs are longer than the competition. But if your new set has been “re-numbered”, so that the same length and loft you used to call a 9-iron now has an “8” on the bottom, what have you really achieved? Visit a clubfitter or golf shop that has a loft/lie machine and length board and learn what you really are playing.
4. Have you had your putter fitted? I have been through a number of putter fittings the past few years, and am a believer that of all the clubs that should be fitted, this one should. The science has been developed to match the putter to your visual alignment tendencies, and putting is just so much easier if you start out with the putter aimed accurately at the hole! Seems simple enough, right? But if you will watch your buddies when they putt, you’ll find that most start with an alignment error then make up for it with the stroke. Doesn’t that seem to make this part of the game that much harder? A properly fitted putter will put you in the right alignment more consistently, and fit your stroke so that it is much more likely that you will make a good back and through motion, with the face square. It WILL shave strokes, I assure you.
5. What ball do you play? If your answer is “whatever I can find” or “whatever is on sale”, then you are not optimizing the science of the golf ball that is available to you. And you’ll never get the most out of your putting and short game by playing a variety of balls that feel and react differently off the scoring clubs. All of the balls today go plenty far, but you can personalize them to whatever degree you want. The tour pros spend hours and hours matching their ball to their game, monitoring spin and launch angle. You might not be able to do that, but if you find a ball you like, STICK WITH IT!! And I’m a big proponent of playing a softer, higher-spinning ball as it will not cost you yard, but it will sharpen your short game. And that’s what scoring is all about.
So, there you have my five tips for getting more out of your equipment. I’m looking forward to hearing from all of you with those that you think should be added.
Have a great Labor Day Weekend!!!
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[ comments ]
I agree with most of your points. My issue is with not carrying a driver. I am VERY adamant on this issue. WHY do amateurs carry 45 and 46 inch drivers when pros use 43 and 44 inch drivers? Because we DON'T know and the manufacturers aren't going to tell us that the reason we can't control the club is because it's too long to handle. When I started cutting my drivers down- it made a huge difference- it becomes one of the best clubs in the bag- advancing the ball into playing position much more often. Choking down is good to try to show this- but it is not the answer. Spend the $50 to get 2 inches cut off your club shaft- I promise.
Bryan K says:
Now I'm going to go home to measure my driver:)
That said...I see a lot of high handicappers on the course who are teeing up their drivers on 150 yard par threes and hitting it short of the green. Then, two holes later, they find themselves 150 out on a par 5 and hit the green with a 5-wood. I think you see my point.
I believe another "club key" is that there should not be a player on here reading this that should carry any iron higher than a 5 iron - HYBRIDS! They are like cheating!!! I know, I can hear you now saying but I can hit my 3 and 4 iron. Trust me, like anything else, with practice, you will be more consistent with a good hybrid!!! I am a +2 handicap and haven't carried more than a 5 iron for over 5 years!!!
i love my hybrid i should get another my 4I rarely gets used. But i agree with getting the right clubs that fit your game. I recently got a stiff shaft driver same model driver i had before with 1 more degree loft (went from 9* to 10*) and i am hammering it str8 about 175 consistenly for 2 weeks now. I have a new found love for my big stick! but back to the article i rarely use my 5w and 4I, and i rarley use every club per round, but i like having the choice of shot i wanna make. thats why i play with 14 clubs always.
check that = "and i am hammering it str8 about 275 consistenly for 2 weeks now."
Would like to hear wedge guy's take on hybrids, banking off of bducharm's eloquent point. I *think* I should, in a few years, give my grandson the same clubs as wedge guy had @ 6, but wuddabout hybrids, which were not available in wedge guy's youth? (Although 4, 5, 7 woods were.)
i agree with most everything except getting rid of the driver. there is WAY too much technology in it that will help the average duffer.
i say get rid of your 3 wood and opt for a shorter (like Kickntrue mentioned) shafted 460cc driver with a higher degree of launch, like 11 degrees. it would be like having a 2 wood but with all that new fangled driver technology that helps you keep it straight on mishits.
A lot of these questions really depend on where you are in your game. Get a consistent swing before you get custom fit clubs. Until then, take more lessons.
When I started playing, I hit 3-wood off the tee. I just got into too much trouble with my driver at that time. Now, I'm much more consistent with my driver and can use it regularly. That said, it's an off-the-rack driver and my next one I plan on getting custom-fit. Oh .. and for most amateurs, any club whose model name says "Tour" in it should be avoided (Yes, this excludes Tour Edge, a maker of golf clubs).
ALSO, if you take your existing drive and have 2" cut off the shaft, you are going to change the playing characteristics of the shaft. I would recommend buying a new shaft that possibly is shorter and having it fit properly.
Shafts are built to be butt trimmed. So a new shaft would just have to be butt trimmed also. And for goodness sakes, who charges $50 to shorten a club 2". I'll do it for you for $10.
i agree about how it depends on your skill level. i love having the option of club choice. i just got a 4w to replace my rarely used 5w. just need to figure out my distance gap between hybrid(3I 21*) which flies about 195yds and this new club im hoping about 205-210 since my 3w goes around 225 max.
Is there a good way to determine what ball you should be playing? I have seen ads for Bridgestone ball fittings but how can you determine the best ball for you out of everything out there? I am currently experiencing with Callaway HX Hot Bite and Titleist NXT Tour (less expensive 3 piece balls) and also recently played the two piece Srixon AD333 but have historically always been a "play what I find" kind of guy. I am 5'10" and 160 lbs, 27 years old, and a 6 handicap. The few times I swung in front of a monitor, my swing speed was 90-100 mph. I have no interest in paying over a few dollars per ball. I feel like anyone doing a ball fitting has an agenda- sell me balls. Any help would be appreciated.
No-one has touched on #4, the putter fitting. I bought a new putter 2 weeks ago at Golf Galaxy and got a half price putter fitting. I fiqured if I am spending $100 on a club then another $10 wont hurt. Check out www.ralphmaltby.com/23 for details on why a putter fitting helps.
It's too early to tell for sure but after 2 rounds with the new fitted Nike OZ#1 (compared to 17 without), my putting is looking and feeling better.
Getting the lie and loft (yes most putters have a loft of 4*) set correctly for your own stroke is imperitive for hitting smooth, straight and consistant putts, especially the longer ones where the margin of error is magnified by the distance.
@ Shankapotamus. A ball fitting service is available at most big box golf stores. They use a sophisticated hi-speed camera and/or doppler radar system to look at club speed, ball speed, ball spin and launch angle. This info is fed into a computer to analyse the ball flight from your particular swing. From this data the computer suggests a ball type for you. Hi/Low compression, Hi/Low spin etc. With this info you can pick a ball in your price range that will work effectively with your swing, just tell the golf pro what you need and how much you want to spend.
If you go to a Bridgestone fitting they will fit you to a Bridgestone ball (guaranteed or they will buy you a box of your choice - I think that is what I read, but don't quote me).
PLAN B. Try some different balls out on the course and see what works for you.
I have been experimenting all season with different balls, all costing less than $1.50 each. So far Noodle+ works best for me, but a friend recommended the Mojo over the Noodle so I am trying those for a few rounds.
@Shanka'. It's getting to be a bit dated now, but the Feb 08 issue of GOLF Magazine has a great article on "The best ball for you" They tested 54 ball for distance and spin. The two balls you mention both were rated high spin off an 8 iron, the NXT Tour had 5 yards on the hotbite at 254 (90 mph swing speed)with the driver. Another ball thats a bit cheaper but with similar characteristics is the Taylormade Burner TP. I use the NXT Tour.
Point by point! Heh!
1. Yeah, I think early on it's easy to fall in love with certain clubs, psychologically, and physically. Some clubs just pull you into the right posture/ alignment. It takes years to really get the distances crisp and hit them all confidently.
2. Gotta disagree here. Nowadays with the huge marshmallow heads it's so hard to miss! Most people who suck with the driver suck with the other clubs except perhaps down to 5-iron or such hybrid. If you're a good to very good golfer, you can hit anything off the tee, and going without the big fella can be a real advantage. Then again why do people even buy them if they can't hit them?
3. Don't most new clubs have loft angles in the brochure? Are you saying they cheat on the specs?
4. Never had a putter fitted, but lucked into one that must've been just right. I was sort of collecting putters for my loner sets, and for friends, and lucked into a Bettinardi Hawk ($20) that had everything lined up to my eye. Everything short was going in and my confidence soared. I told everyone who would listen that if they couldn't see their alignment clearly, get a new putter. I think a lot has to do with "target lines" and not the perpendicular alignment (the face). So I say again, if you can't sink all the short straight ones, get a fitting, or get a new flat stick. Used putters are cheap and plentiful.
5. This is the first year I've really tried to "fit" a ball. Mixed reactions. It may be the "smallest percentage difference" category unless you know how to take advantage of your ball's properties. Slicing or hooking the crap out of your tee shot isn't going to help anyone just to get a lot of spin on a flop shot for quad. Knowing you can't stop it coming in hot with a 2-piece is important.
@Shanka... I like to have nice new matching 3-piece balls on hand to start a nice clean round. If the round is getting weird, and I'm losing them, say. It's nice to have 2-piece options. Also, going into a round, you can select for the conditions (temp, wind, precip, softness, and the course layout, style). Generally, the nice 3+piece balls are pretty similar, and can't effect you more than your natural variation anyway. My faves: nike1vapor, prov1, nxt, TPs. For 2-piece I like Topflite D2 straight, XL5000 supersoft/straight (those are real cheap, too). I've played equally well with all of them. Though, with bunkers in front of greens all day, go with highest spin you can manage.
Tim Horan says:
@aaronm04 - Respectfully I disagree with you on getting a consistent swing first. A wrongly fitted set/ club, and by this I mean a radically wrong swingweight, or even physical weight will "deform" your swing mechanics and intrench bad posture, swingplane and feel through release. IMO - get fitted first for type of club (OS/CB), length, basic lie and flex then build a swing around that with a coach/ pro. Tweaking a set through dynamic lies, lofts (to get the gaps right) will be an evolution rather than a revolution. It takes a long time to remedy a lifetime of bad habits, as I discovered working with a club fitter. Go independent they have no interest in selling you anything and will recommend on the basis of observation and experience.
Tim Horan says:
I have never had a putter fitted. I have several putters all quite different weights, lengths and head designs. Although rarely taken out to the course I use a 1928 blade putter to practice my putting. It shows me how good or bad my putting stroke is by sheer feedback. Anywhere heelside of centre and the ball does not get to the hole but hold it's line, anywhere toeside of centre it doesn't get to the hole and finishes right of line. My choice of putter is then based on green/ weather conditions.
Has anyone ever heard of a place where you can go a hit all the different brands of balls in a controlled, monitored area to see the difference it makes for your swing? Sure we can see what iron byron, (or whatever robot) does with the ball and what the manufactured say it will do but they don't hit the ball for you. Plus to go a out and purchase all those balls to try them on the course takes multiple rounds. Any one ever heard of a place like that?
I hit my driver much farther and straighter than my 3 wood. In fact u ntil just recently I couldn't hit a 3 wood at all. So the driver will definitely stay in my bag. As to the balls where I play some of the home owners along the course pick up the balls in their yards and maybe elswhere and have tables set up where you can buy balls 3 or 4 for a dollar. Some fairly bad players seem to play some high dollar balls. I buy them and try them the new Taylormade worked really well for me. That way I can find the ones that work best with my swing and then I stay with them and for a quarter a ball. I haven't tried the hybrids yet but I am deffinately curious about them.
So - if a 10 yd gap is good for the irons and say the average difference between clubs is 4* that's 2.5* per degree of loft. Dare I say I for one (I'm sure many) don't hit the ball consistently enough to trust that 10 yds. It gets worse in the long clubs where there's a 3* gap between clubs (7.5* between the 4 & 5)A little choking up will accomplish the same thing and probably be more consistent. I believe more loft gap in the long clubs, less in the short irons is the smarter choice; provides more scoring options. My game - Driver - 225yds, 5/25* - 150yds
My bag - Driver(10.5*),15*hy,20*hy,25*hy,30*hy,35*hy,8(39*),9 (43*),PW(47*),GW(51*),SW(55*), putter. I've been playing 4 years, 55yo next month,14hdcp. I don't hit it far but I hit it straight most of the time. I spend more time practicing putting and my 50yds and in shots than full swing. I never (almost) use a full swing on my 8 thru SW. I would like to see clubs marked with degrees of loft versus some arbitrary number.
I have 14 clubs in my bag, but not because I need them... the bag just looks better when it's full. :)
Seriously, though, my bag is an assortment of clubs that range from heavily used (driver, wedges, putter) to once this season (3w). I have pulled the 3 & 4 iron out, and haven't hit my 5-iron more than 2 or 3 times this season. I have given up, at least for the foreseeable future, of making a par 5 in 2, since I don't have a club that can get me over 200yds off the fairway (or out of the rough). As long as I stay with that mentality, my driver typically puts me in position to have no more than a 7-iron into the green.
I think the one thing Terry missed with this column is lessons. Get some lessons to help you hit the clubs you're having trouble with. I got a set of 3 from my wife for my birthday, and my 3rd lesson, I'm hoping will give me the help I need with my 3w. If not, I will continue to layup on the par5's.
The more your game improves, the more likely you will play particular shots on particular holes/ situations, and have specific equipment. For instance, my driver is long low, and straight with a slight draw, and doesn't like me to fade it (it's a stiff, draw driver). For the fade the 3-wood is much more nuetral and approaches 250yds. If I have the 7-wood, it's great for a light draw or even a severe hook for spectacular recoveries from jail.
Anyway, certain clubs and their properties fit certain shots and what you want the ball to do based on your lie, your stance and balance, the conditions, etc.
It's just some kind of approximation of properties which give you standard set features. Length, loft, lie, material, flex, shape, are all completely independent properties.
Just think... you know when you need to punch out from under trees, and the ball can't go above 3-4 feet? Well you grab your 3 or 4 iron and close the face to hit a hot roller or some kind of skittering blast. Well one of the difficulties with that shot is that your lowest lofted club is really long. And except for the putter, nothing else will give you the control you need - especially if you're hunched over. Choking up just doesn't work because you need to go a long way (200-300yds), say. Well I don't think they make that club - a one-iron with a 34" shaft!
So my point is, your clubs are an arrangement of specific properties, that mostly work well in most situations. By, they have SPECIFIC DESIGN. Hybrids try to play with the usual arrangement. Longer shaft with higher lofts and more flexible shafts and different shaped heads. I don't use them. I think for one, that many people hate hitting irons - even the word is cold and hard. The truth is, hitting the irons sweet is still king. All it is, is a matter of getting swing speed, grip strength, balance, swing plane, swing depth, ball position exactly right, and then hitting the ball dead center! It's never the club's or ball's fault! Enjoy!
All very true statements. I love having and using all the different clubs in my bag for those "trick" shots that just seem to work better with a 9 iron than a P wedge. But that's all in the beauty of the game. Still haven't got the hang of spinning with my wedges very well.
As all you know...golf is work in progress.
To me, golf is all about comfort. If you only have 11 or 12 clubs, I wouldn't tell someone to buy more. But if you already have 14 clubs, and you take one or two out- I guarantee you'll find a shot soon where you want that club back. Sure, you can take a longer club and swing easy or choke down. But once doubt creeps in, you're F-ed.
I agree completely with the driver theory, except one small variation. In all honesty, I could, and sometimes do, take four clubs onto the course with me. I've found taking only my 4I, 7I, E, and putter gives me consistent 74-78's, compared to my driver putting me in bad positions and costing me strokes.
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