Longer, Straighter, Higher, Faster

The average handicap for players in United States has remained largely unchanged for the last 40 years

As a golf nut, I watch, read and listen to most everything that has to do with golf. That means I watch infomercials, read new product reviews, listen to golfers who have just purchased new equipment, and try out new equipment when the opportunity arises (which it seems to quite frequently).

I have yet to come across a golfer who says, “I just got this new driver because my old one just went too far”.  I hear a lot more of, “this new driver goes 20-30 yards further than my old one”.  Commercials and infomercials convey the same message. They will usually tell you something (sometimes a lot) about a new product and conclude with a testimonial or two about how, “I’ve never hit a club that went, this far”, or for that matter “this straight” or “this high” or “this low” depending on the product being sold.  This scenario applies to drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons.

And it goes beyond clubs.  Ball manufacturers are in on the act as well.  Despite the fact that the USGA has restrictions on how far balls can  go, companies persist in telling us that their ball, although USGA approved, goes further than the competition.

Golf tee manufacturers are in on the act as well claiming that their tees will help you drive the ball an extra 2 to 3 yards off the tee.

As indicated in an earlier article, in golf there is no substitute for distance, so if a manufacturer can prove, or at least claim with a straight face, that their  clubs will make the ball go further, or that their ball goes further than other balls, golfers tend to buy it.

In my mind there have been but a few eureka moments in golf in the last 30-40 years where manufacturers changed the game and the way the average golfer plays it in a dramatic way.

1   cast perimeter weighted irons (the Ping revolution);

2  the move from wooden woods to metal woods;

3  the move from the smaller steel heads to the 460 cc titanium heads with thin faces that tend to sling-shot the ball when hit off the center of the face (the trampoline effect);

4  the introduction of hybrids.

As well, let’s not forget shaft material.  Although the big leap occurred before my time, going from hickory to steel was the big jump but even after the introduction of steel shafts manufactures have dabbled in aluminum, titanium and other metals.  The standard nowadays, especially for long clubs, is graphite. With its lower overall wight and precision engineered kick points, graphite has proved to be a consistent performer  when it comes to distance and determining ball flight.

Lastly, the ball.  Where would we be without solid core, multi-layered, soft covered balls  like the ProV1 and its many competitors.

Be careful that you don’t buy new equipment that will make the ball go so far that it makes the current course you play obsolete (he said tongue firmly panted in cheek).

How has this affected the average golfer?  Lets say for the sake of argument you hit the ball 240 yards off the tee and you hit your 7 iron around 150 yards.  That means you should be very comfortable playing par 4’s  up to 390 yards in length, (a 240 yard drive and a 150 yard approach shot).  Lets add-on some of the main  game improvement claims:

Driver         20 -30 yards

Irons           10-15 yards

Ball              10-15 yards

Tees             3-4 yards

Now you play that same 390 yard par 4.  You are hitting your driver from 270 to 285 yards off the tee leaving you an approach shot between 105-120 yards.  And because of the improvements in irons and balls,  an approach  shot that previously would have required anywhere from a gap wedge to a 9 iron now requires only a flop wedge or a sand wedge.

Here is the punch line:  With all your game improvement investments on full display  you hit your flop wedge onto the green and 3 putt for a bogie.  Everything has changed yet nothing has changed.

Despite all the game improvement equipment  that has been introduced you still cannot buy a game.  According to the USGA the handicaps for American golfers have been static for the last 40 years despite all the equipment improvements.




How Many Sets of Golf Clubs Do You Have

A few of my ‘extra’ clubs


For those who have golfed with me over the years this will come as no surprise. One of the things I really enjoy is either changing out my entire set of clubs, or at least of few of the clubs in my set with great frequency.

Why you may ask?  When you play as much golf as I do you need to do things that stimulate continued interest and concentration and changing clubs does that for me.

As well, there are times when I configure my set in keeping with the course that I will be playing.  For example, if I’m playing at Wildewood, which is a relatively short (6048 yards) course that has a lot of trees and ball positioning off the tee is of prime importance, I might opt for a low lofted (13 degree) 3 wood to use for tee shots on some of the shorter and narrow par 4’s.  I might also remove one of the longer hybrids and substitute an additional wedge.  At times I will even remove my regular driver from the bag and use a 12 degree ‘mini driver’ for accuracy purposes.

When playing a longer course such as Bridges where distance is more important and lack of accuracy is not as severely punished I might again remove my regular driver and replace it with a longer driver with an overall length of 47 and 7/8 inches to add distance off the tee.   I might also pull out one of the wedges and add a low lofted (17 degree) hybrid.

Other times I might simply swap out my entire set of irons either just for a change or to compensate for some temporary anomaly in my swing.  If for example I go through a phase where I’m drawing my irons I may use a set of forward progressed irons that tend to promote a slight fade, or conversely if I’m fading the ball I made used a set of irons with a slight offset to promote a straighter ball flight.

At times my swing may get out of whack and if I find I’m hitting a lot of fat (club makes contact with the ground behind the ball) shots or when the course conditions are wet and sloppy I’ll revert back to a set of irons that consist entirely of hybrids.

On other days when I’m just feeling adventurous I may bring out a set of irons that are all the same length, with heads that all have the same weight.  This type of club allows you to position the ball identically for each club as the only thing that changes from club to club is the loft angle.  This means you are able to use exactly the same swing with each club.

So how many sets of clubs to I have, well right now I have 5 sets of irons and an assortment of drivers an fairway wood in different combinations of loft and shaft length, a descent collection of hybrids in different lofts, an assortment of wedges and a few putters.

This array of clubs allows me to configure different set of clubs to suit my game, the course I’m playing or just the mood I happen to be in.

Does anyone else do this?