It’s officially golf season across the United States this month of April, and Masters Tournament will be played at Augusta National Golf Club during the proper time of year. Last year’s Masters was like no other because it was played in the late fall of 2020 without the azaleas and dogwoods in bloom. The course itself, with young ryegrass, played much softer than usual, and scores reflected this difference. I am in hopes that we see Augusta National playing firm and fast this year. I can’t wait. Although I am not a fan of Nick Faldo’s commentary, I won’t miss a minute of the television coverage.
With this being a new year and golf club manufacturers ramping up to offer their freshest, longest and straightest irons and woods, golfers may soon begin shopping for new sets of clubs. A question that is asked of many good golfers by the weekend player is, “what is the best golf club to buy?” That question can never be answered truthfully. All of the golf club manufacturers are making great golf equipment. The best golf club for an individual should fit and appeal to that golfer's eye and ear.
Golf clubs consist of a few components; head, shaft and grip. For each of these components, there are several choices to be made and many big names to choose from, such as Titleist, Taylormade, Mizuno, Cobra, Callaway, Ping, PXG, etc. Most people in the golf industry will tell you that one of the most important components of the club is the shaft. A smooth swinging senior does not need a shaft as stiff as a Tour player. Using a more rigid shaft will cause some players to lose yardage and control. The number of choices for shafts is staggering.
The third most important component is the grip. Here again, there is a huge assortment of selections from various manufacturers. Golf Pride grips sell more grips than their competitors, but many other companies make terrific products. The size, texture and weight of grips are essential considerations that should be discussed with a pro when ordering new sets of clubs.
I find it somewhat funny when golf club manufacturers promote that the geniuses from the research and development group have created the longest and straightest golf club ever made and will reduce a handicap by five strokes. Marketers use this tactic year after year, and my advice is: Do not buy into this sort of marketing.
Another bit of advice, do not solely be committed to purchasing the golf club brand that your favorite Tour professional is playing. That golfer uses that brand of equipment because he’s getting paid a king’s ransom to represent them. You would be shocked to find out how those tour players are custom-fitted, especially the elite players. The custom equipment that elite players use is not easily found at the corner golf store.
Before buying a new set of clubs, take a few swings with them to ensure that the feel, look and sound supply the desired outcome. The lie angle, length and weight all need to be configured to the golfers swing.
Speak with a golf professional before buying a new set. Get his/her opinions on the quality of the clubs that they usually buy and sell. Most good club pros can well fit their members for golf equipment. Some do it better than others, but either way, have the conversation.
Some of the discount stores are very good with custom fitting; some are horrible; some will upsell the customer into products that they really don’t need. Others will be patient and work diligently to ensure the customer is buying the club that fits best.
Find a golf professional who is good at fitting equipment; and then, purchase from them. Their number one priority is to make the game more enjoyable for their members.
Your pro knows that if he does a poor job in fitting you, you just might be in his ear for a long time, where the retail store may not care or be concerned with your game improvement.
Some things have changed drastically from when I was young as far as the outfitting of golf equipment these days. I didn’t own a good sand wedge until I was 20 years old, and I played fairly well in many junior tournaments for years.
When I was 17, I found an old Kroydon sand wedge and used it until I could afford to upgrade. Recruiting at junior tournaments today, I see more money spent on a set of clubs for these kids than the price of my first two cars put together; however, I did become very imaginative with that old Kroydon wedge.
Golf equipment specifications have changed drastically over the years, but there seems to be a repeat of history, as some of the clubs’ designs have brought back similar looks, styles and features from years past. Below, I listed a few companies whose clubs resemble some older designs in my eye.
Irons (Today - 1960's & 1970's)
Titleist - MacGregor Tommy Armour
Mizuno - First Flight & Palmer "Standard"
TaylorMade - Spalding Top Flite Professional
Callaway - Hogan Apex
Cobra - Wilson Staff Dyna-Power
PXG - PING
The resemblance comes from some irons sporting longer faces, thick or thin top lines, thicker or thinner soles or more rounded toes; however, when my golf team player’s hit their irons 25 yards further than I ever did, the thought of similarities, sadly, quickly vanishes.
When shopping for putters, the assortment of choices seems endless: Mallet, blade, long and short shafts, insert, no insert, offset or straight, toe weighted or face balanced. Once again, get with a golf professional to ask for advice.
Although some putters may look good to the eye, that may not be the case; not many people stroke a putt the same. Some players open and shut the putter face in their stroke, and some try to keep the face relatively square to the target throughout the stroke. The design of the putter can help or hinder a particular stroke.
For years, I carried about four or five putters in my car and had difficulty committing to only one putter. I’ve owned hundreds of putters over the years, and I wish I could have at least half of the money back that I spent on putters that did not fit my stroke, but boy, at the time I bought them, I loved the way they looked and just knew they were going to be the golden wand.
When I first saw the putter that I am presently using, I wasn’t turned on one bit, but as I putted with it for 30 or 40 minutes, I noticed how the ball rolled down my intended line more often than not, and I could control the speed much better than the other putters I had been using. This putter has now been in my bag longer than any other putter I’ve ever owned. It’s not because it’s prettier, more expensive or that more tour players use it, but it actually fits my stroke better than any other putter I own. With the other putters I have at the house, I could stake about an acre of tomato plants with them. My suggestion is that you get properly fitted for your putter and don’t waste time, money or strokes.
Driver and fairway woods are a fun buy. When I am in the driver market, my first concern is how it fits my eye. Secondly, how does it feel? Then, I want to see numbers from a launch monitor. I would suggest having the golf pro use a launch monitor when trying these products, which gives the customer data on what happens to a ball at impact and can be used to improve a stroke or when fitting for new clubs.
For me, with my swing speed matching most sloths stretching in the morning, I need a club that will produce more spin to keep it airborne longer. This additional backspin also helps me keep the ball straighter; however, players with faster swing speeds may require less spin, and the club pro can figure out all the other equations.
Years ago, in the persimmon head days, there just weren’t as many factors to consider as today. From 1967 through 1991, I played with two drivers; 1957 Tommy Armour Super Eye-O-Matic and 1984 Ram Tom Watson persimmon drivers.
In 1991, I was pressured to move to the metal-headed driver. Honestly, I hit the metal driver 15 to 20 feet further. I couldn’t afford not to make the switch.
Since 1991, I bet I’ve owned 25 various drivers, always looking for extra yardage. Today, I have a Titleist 9.5 degree 917D3 driver with a regular shaft. I love the new TSi by Titleist, but I doubt I will buy, as I have a lot of confidence in the 917. I’m slowly learning that if something works, don’t fix it.
Folks, should the itch to replenish the golf bag with new weapons this year happen, I highly suggest speaking to a golf pro before making an online or discount store purchase. If the pro is honest and they don’t stock or cannot order what fits best, they should direct the customer to someone else who can fulfill their needs.
Do some research, ask a lot of questions and touch and look at a lot of clubs. Taking time to commit to a selection by making an educated decision will turn out better results in the end and better results inevitably lead to happiness.
Play well and have a ball.
~Dave Jennings is the men's golf coach at Central Alabama Community College.