Myth Busting: Who You Gonna Call?
Golf equipment can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It can be both beloved and bedeviling, often in the same round. You might feel like taking your putter out with you for drinks and dinner after a good round, or stashing the whole damn set in the closet for a few months after a poor round. Writer Ken Van Vechten knows your joy and your pain. In the text following, he dispatches a few urban legends, reinforces some long-held beliefs, presents some new takes on old subjects and has some fun along the way.
Golf’s Panacea: The Hybrid
True? Kinda. Shedding long-irons is almost as beneficial as shedding pounds around the midriff, and the appearance of the modern hybrid is one of those paradigm-shift moments that occur from time to time in our game. Just don’t think the Mighty Hybrid is the only game in town. If you’re a sweeper of the ball with a typical/average driver swing speed — 85-90 MPH — or less, the size, weighting and shaft length of a fairway club could be a better solution. “Don’t overlook higher-lofted fairway clubs,” Callaway Golf’s senior director of equipment Dave Neville reminds us.
Light, Longer, Wronger?
Golf PopPsych 101: Fast = Long. Make the club longer, make the club lighter, up goes the speed, boom goes the ball. But only to a point. Ball speed is the key. Too light and/or too long can have a negative effect on feel, so our brains slow down our swings and ball speed drops. Too light and/or too long can also lead to sloppy contact — not hitting it on the screws — which lowers ball speed. As in the fairy tale, there is a just-right “porridge” for each of us, individually, and that’s where fitting and testing come in.
Industry stats suggest that 50 percent of avowed golfers have been fitted for their equipment. Now, the quality of those fittings may vary depending on cost and the level of detail, but any fitting is better than buying blind from NoNameGolfandArchery.com, whether that’s impact tape and knowing eyes at a demo event to going all Steve Austin (not Stone Cold, the dude from the ‘70s) at a place like Club Champion. Southlanders have no excuses. A good number of the big guns are in our very backyard, and retailers and fitting centers abound. Seek help.
Cast is for Hacks
Perhaps true in the years immediately after PING first perfected the investment-casting process for irons — the technique of pouring molten steel into a shape-determined mold rather than heating and hammering a slug of steel — in the late 1960s, but no more. Forged clubs can be had rich with assisting properties and buttery smooth – “feel” is sound not feel, btw — while cast clubs are found in the hands of major champions. As Cobra Puma Golf vice president of research and design Tom Olsavsky shares, “The constructions are being confused with the shape. The shape is what players need, but they think its the material.”
Gear up to Walk
A 7,000-yard course is four miles long, and that doesn’t account for the walkabout golf that so many of us play. If the days of COVID didn’t get you to walking, get yourself walking. Sports physiologists say that a properly adjusted push cart is nominally easier on your body, but there’s nothing quite like slinging a lightweight carry bag. Either way, there is no denying the significant health benefits of walking. If you like to carry and want a little something extra, consider a stand bag with a hip belt, like Sun Mountain Sports’ 3.5 Zero-G, and share the load top and middle.
No Shame in Simple
It can be intimidating going to a fitting studio, retailer or demo event and seeing all that stuff. If you think overload could be a problem, sole-source it. (Just know that good fitters will rather quickly whittle down to a relative handful the number of clubs you will test.) If you simply like Titleist or Mizuno or whomever, shop it. Gone are the days when companies cast their lots as either “player” or “those-other-folks” brands, and there will be at least one iron (driver, etc.) model that is right in your wheelhouse and features appropriately matched shafts.
14 Isn’t a Requirement
The Rules of Golf allow us to wield 14 bludgeoning devices. For many players that’s a waste of weight, bag space and money. As is the case with so much of gear selection, it comes down to swing speed. Slower swingers simply lack the speed to achieve meaningful yardage differentials between clubs in a standard 13-club run from lob wedge to driver; at some point they run out of “gas.” It might work at the shorter end, but by the time they hit mid-irons, a 5 is a 6 is a 7, and so forth. It’s not an ability thing, it’s simple physics. Hell, most of us would probably play better with less clutter and hence more feel and imagination.
That Wrench Thing Does What?
A staggeringly high percentage of players who buy an adjustable driver
“blind” never adjust said driver; Nick Sherburne, founder of ClubChampion, says the number could run to 70 percent. A modern driver can move the ball flight and trajectory of any player through immense arcs of fade and draw, soar and pierce, and though it’s certainly not an ever-changing, fix-today’s-miss shortcut, finding your setting — along with the proper shaft — can both minimize the bads and maximize the goods in every swing. Get with an instructor or a fitter and dial in your adjustable club(s).
Not So Lofty
Flop shots are cool; wielding a 60- or 64-degree wedge is anything but automatic. It takes bags of skill, loads of practice, and the margin of error is tight, and pulling it off takes a hard-for-the-rest-of-us-to-achieve balance of speed and aggression that is done softly and with control. In other words, master the lower-lofted sand wedge before, if ever, moving on. Per teaching and fitting pro Paul Bucy, head of Palm Desert Golf Academy at Desert Willow Golf Resort: “Both beginners and more accomplished players should become very good with one wedge around the green, and a 56 is a great choice for that.”
Senior, Woman, Junior…Golfer
Like the antiquated beliefs that go with tee-marker coloration, trying to slot individuals into equipment categories based on age and gender is tired and misguided. (“Beginner” sets are a different animal, and broad-brush generalizations based on height or presumed strength help when choosing something that is intended to be introductory, of limited life-span and lower-cost.) In a static position, the club doesn’t know who is holding it and how fast she swings. The caveat is most important for, umm, men, who might not be as strong as they never were or who simply have aged and lost some pop. Drop the machismo, hit the ball farther.