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Golf Gadgets: The Good, The Fad and The Funky

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I am not a great golfer. Heck, I am not even a good golfer. What I am—like many of you reading this—is an obsessed golfer. I simply cannot get enough of the game. But that wasn’t always the case.

Nearly 20 years ago, frustrated by the fact that I would never come close to mastering this oh-so-difficult sport/hobby/self-inflicted torture, routinely posting numbers that were ideally suited for bowling scorecards, I tossed my clubs into an 18th hole greenside lake and swore off the game for good.

Recently—a whopping two decades later—I rediscovered the paradoxical love that drew me to the game of golf in the first place…

The endless challenge.

The often beautiful (and occasionally majestic) scenery.

And above all else, the enjoyment that comes from competing head-to-head (in a manner of speaking) against both the course architect and the game’s inherent difficulty.

I’ve also come to grips with the fact that I will never master this game. (Play a round with me—you’ll concur!) I’ve accepted the realization that my swing won’t ever be mistaken for Rory McIlroy’s or Adam Scott’s (or anyone else on the PGA Tour). And I’ve come to the understanding that, barring divine intervention, my only chance of becoming a scratch golfer would be to fall into a patch of poison ivy.

And you know what? I’m cool with that.

Which brings me to my association with GolfWRX…

I’m a writer. It’s what I do for a living. It’s quite possibly the only thing I’m actually qualified to do to earn a paycheck. Last I checked, all the underwater basket-weaving positions were taken. So, with the goal of playing more golf, I figured why not mix business and (yeesh!) pleasure and contribute to the biggest and best online golf community on the planet. To my amazement, the GolfWRX editorial team welcomed me with open arms — although based on some of my previous work, I’m sure they’re keeping a watchful eye on my contributions.

What you’ll get from me each month is anyone’s guess — mine included. A (terrible) player’s review of a golf course, a wacky golf adventure, an over-the-top golf trip… You’ll just have to “tune-in” to find out. And while I can’t promise that the golf you’ll read about will be worth emulating (I’m working on it, people!), I can promise that the story you read will be entertaining. At least that part I can control.

So, without further adieu, here’s my first offering…

Golfers the world over, regardless of their level of experience, handicap, or frequency of play, all have one thing in common: they will do anything– ANYTHING — to shave strokes off their cards with using an eraser. Now factor in the “fast food mindset” that dominates the human condition and the result is an “As The Crow Flies” methodology.

In layman’s terms, golfers don’t just want results — they want results yesterday. They want the fastest and most direct route to the Promised Land. And these days, it doesn’t get any faster than the Internet and a credit card or PayPal account. With just a flurry on the keyboard and a click of the mouse you can have innumerable golf-specific gadgets and gizmos delivered to your doorstep, any of which might take your game to the next level. Exactly which direction that level is, that’s on you!

So I dispatched my minions far and wide to find and procure the coolest of the cool and the best of the best golf game improvement products — items they felt would be beneficial to the average golfer (and even those below-average duffers like yours truly). One of them brought back a chainsaw and a Yo-Yo and suggested I permanently “modify” my clubs then take up a new hobby. For the record, he’s no longer in my employ.

But the others did indeed return with a veritable grab bag of golf goodies and I’ve taken the liberty of putting each and every one of them through their paces. Based on my findings (remember, these are solely my opinions), I’ve broken them down into three categories: the good, the fad and the funky.

The Good

Orange Whip Trainer — $109 — www.orangewhiptrainer.com

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Simply put — I love the Orange Whip. Right away you know what you’re getting. There’s no multi-page instruction manual to consult, just pick it up, take your stance and swing. It’s that simple.

The perfect warm-up tool, the Orange Whip takes the places of stretching bands, uncomfortable quasi-yoga maneuvers, or holding and swinging a few irons. Even though I’m on the shorter side (5 feet 8 inches) I have a rather muscular build so the 47.5 inches, 1.75-pound “standard” version is the Orange Whip I preferred. They also make a Mid-Size (43.5 inches, 1.70-pounds, $109), a Wedge (39.5 inches, 1.65-pounds; $109) and a Junior (38 inches, 1.30-pounds, $99). Conjured up in the mad scientist mind of PGA instructor Jim Hackenberg, the Orange Whip is used by roughly 250 Tour players, including 70 of the top 100, and was voted the No. 1 swing training aid of 2014.

Besides the warm-up benefits (and every athlete knows you need to warm up before playing your sport), the Orange Whip will help you groove your swing by improving your balance and tempo and it will go a long way toward improving both your flexibility and core strength—must-haves for any golfer.

SKLZ Gold Flex — $69.99 — shop.sklz.com

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Another strength and tempo trainer, the Gold Flex is similar to the Orange Whip with the exception of the patented counterweighted ball on the end of the grip that sets the Orange Whip apart, both visually and in swing feel. It’s also a half-inch longer (48 inches) and weighs more (2.5-pounds). Personal preference will dictate which one is right for you. Introduced in 2011 (three years after the Orange Whip hit the market) the Gold Flex is also used by numerous PGA and LPGA pros. SKLZ makes training products for a variety of sports and their golf offerings are certainly worth considering.

BirdieBall RollTech Putting Green — $34.99 to ??? — www.birdieball.com

BirdieBall

The problem with most portable greens is that they don’t give you an accurate representation of the real thing. Not BirdieBall. Their RollTech greens are made from an aerated polymer with a thick cross-section; it compresses and rebounds when you walk across it exactly like a real green would. And just like out on the links, RollTech grass blades are cut down to the nubs, leaning at a slight angle to create a putting surface with grain, thus giving you the chance to putt with or against the grain. And the fact that you can take them anywhere—even the larger sizes roll up nicely to sleeping bag “jelly roll” proportions—means you have absolutely zero excuse for not practicing at home or on the road.

I took a 2-foot by 13.5-foot RollTech to my favorite sushi bar and challenged the owner—a fellow golf addict—for a free meal. Naturally, I got smoked and wound up paying double for my usual sashimi selections. During the post-putt-off dinner, where my victorious host graciously poured me a few glass of high-end sake gratis, he said the RollTech was hands-down the best portable practice-putting layout he’d ever tried. I concur. In my opinion, one of the best golf improvement products you can get.

EyePutter — $49.95 — eyeputter.com

eye-putter

Another putting aid, this one at the opposite end of the size spectrum, is the EyePutter. But as fans of Eva Longoria know, good things come in small packages. I was especially excited to put the EyePutter through its paces because it deals with muscle memory. As an avid tactical shooter, I learned long ago that muscle memory is the key to precision. Members of our elite spec ops community can tell you that no less than 10,000 presentations (drawing a firearm from a holster) are required to make the process truly fluid, where the firearm essentially becomes an extension of your hand.

The EyePutter works on that very same principle, targeting the two most common flaws in the average golfer’s putting technique. The level provides instant feedback, teaching your hands to hold the putter square, allowing for consistently clean strikes. Ditto for the mirror, which teaches you to keep your head down throughout the putting stroke. It’s a KISS-simple product that delivers immediately. And in the “bang for the buck” category it’s a definite winner.

CS2 Putting Aid — $99 — www.cs2putting.com

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The Golf Digest “Editor’s Pick” from last year’s PGA Merchandise Show, the CS2, endorsed by one of the best putters on the PGA Tour, Ian Poulter, is a legit all-in-one training aid designed to help you master the five fundamentals of putting:

  1. Aim correctly
  2. Proper body alignment
  3. Consistent stroke path
  4. Square face upon impact
  5. Speed control

After just one 15-minute session with the CS2 I had a lot more confidence on the greens—my stroke felt like it had been professionally “grooved” to some degree—and I actually made a few putts I probably would have missed had I not practiced with it prior to hitting the links. Granted, I still have a long way to go to transform my game from an ugly duckling to a swan but a few less putts a round is certainly a step in the right direction. Supposedly, 65 of the Tour’s Top 100 players use a CS2. Based on what those guys do week in, week out on the greens and what it did for me after the first time I tried it, I’d say the CS2 is the real deal.

Ballfinder Scout — $49.49 — www.ballfinderscout.com

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Let’s be honest, golf isn’t the fastest game out there. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; life moves fast enough as it is—it’s important to take time to enjoy the scenery and “smell the roses.” But anything that slows the game down even further is just plain annoying — like looking for your ball.

Unlike the pros, most of us don’t have the benefit of spotters or video replay. And how many times has your playing partner announced that he saw exactly where your monster smashed drive went, only to arrive at the spot and find nothing?

The Ballfinder Scout solves our problems by using digital imaging technology to find your ball. Look, when it comes to anything having to do with “tech” I have the acumen of a houseplant. But considering U.S. golfers lose an average of 2.5 million balls per day—I probably account for half of those!—anything that promises to cut into that number has got my vote.

Zepp GolfSense Sensor — $149.99 — www.zepp.com/golf/

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Yet another “tech” product that I don’t fully understand the science behind. What I do know is that the sensor you attach to your glove wirelessly transmits all-important swing data (via Bluetooth) to your mobile device, allowing you to “crunch the numbers” and analyze it, compare your swing to the pros, or simply view it for posterity purposes. After a few swings you’ll completely forget it’s there and go on about your range session or round as if nothing were out of the ordinary. Ah, but with this gizmo you’re far from ordinary. Zepp—a familiar name in the sports training arena—helps you embrace your inner Terminator. Now if only you could find Sarah Connor!

Drink Caddy Driver — $89 — drinkcaddy.com

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Even if you’re playing golf on the finest course in the Caribbean, getting a properly mixed Mai Tai, Zombie or some other exotic umbrella drink from a “cart girl” out on the links is simply not going to happen.

Enter, the Drink Caddy, one of my absolute favorite golf gadgets. A hide-in-plain-site drink dispenser, the Drink Caddy’s dispenser looks like the head of a Driver (there’s also a putter version), blending in perfectly with the other clubs. A 52-ounce reservoir holds hot or cold drinks and keeps them that way throughout the round (rated for over five hours; if your beverage of choice doesn’t stay hot or cold you’re playing too slow!). Sometimes, all the stretching in the world won’t loosen you up nearly as quickly or as enjoyably as the right adult libation.

The Fad

Fans of Shark Tank will know that any time an entrepreneur comes on the show to pitch a “special formula” product promising increased physical performance and any other positive physical and/or mental benefits, Mark Cuban is on them like a fly on poop, ready to tear them asunder should they fail to provide

  1. Scientific evidence
  2. FDA approval.

For these first two products, Cuban would be all up in their business.

Golf Formula — $34.95 — golfpill.org

GolfPillScreen Shot 2014-12-18 at 10.25.24 AM

Promising clinically researched ingredients (Tribulus Terrestris Extract, Fenugreek, Siberian Ginseng, Cordyceps Mycelium, Deer Antler Velvet) and no harmful side effects, the makers of Golf Formula claim it will “maximize your gains on the golf course, help you gain strength and lean muscle mass, improve athletic performance by giving you more energy, endurance, stamina, longevity and speedy recovery, and boost your libido and desire.” Boosted desire? Really? I desire to avoid hazards and find my ball in the rough, not play a round sporting wood! The advertisement showcases a sexy woman pressed up against a golf bag wearing a revealing outfit unacceptable on any golf course except the TPC Scottsdale during the Waste Management Phoenix Open. How could you possibly go wrong?

Golf Fuel — $39.95 — golffuel.com

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With the tag line of “Better golf through science,” I’d be far less skeptical if there were any type of FDA-approved study to examine, or if a big name PGA pro (sorry Skip Kendall) gave them a thumbs-up. Until that happens, I’ll just have to take the makers of Golf Fuel at face value that my mental focus, concentration and hand-eye coordination will all be improved thanks to their recipe. I also tried their “Focus Drink” shot and all I felt was jittery, double- and triple-bogeying the first two holes I played immediately after taking it. Granted, that might have happened even if I had consumed a glas of water instead but I guess we’ll never know.

Talking Swing Meter — $19 — www.ebbrands.com

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It’s bad enough that my shots spray all over the course. The last thing I need is some little electronic wanna-be robot device adding insult to injury, telling me “Hook” or “Slice” when I can see bloody well that that’s exactly what my ball did. Sure it also says “Nice shot” when you hit it straight, but that’s not a result I’m too familiar with!

33-in-1 Golf Club — $129.95 — www.hammacher.com/product/81021

81021_1000x1000

With a head that’s adjustable to 33 different loft angles, and the ability to retract to only 19-inches long for ease of transport (or hitting out of phone booths; are there still any booths around?), I have just one question: Why stop at 33?

The Funky

Gotham Golf Cart — $35,000 and maybe, just maybe $7,500

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Inspired by “The Tumbler” from The Dark Knight movie series, this over-the-top custom golf cart was a one-off done by a Hollywood special effects company for $35,000. Rumor has it they’re working on a kit to transform regular golf carts into Batman’s links transport but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Hovercraft Golf Cart — $32,125.09 — www.neoterichovercraft.com

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Smart money says you will never become a two-time Masters winner like Bubba Watson. I could be wrong but, for the moment, let’s assume I’m right. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t own and play with some of Bubba’s favorite golf toys. His hovercraft golf cart is high up on that list and for roughly the price of a small SUV you can get a golf cart that any Spec Ops warrior would be proud to own. Since it rides on a cushion of air, you’ll never have to worry about damaging those roped-off areas around the green and, even better, if you dump one (or a whole sleeve!) new $5 ball in the drink, even the shortest golf ball retriever will fish it out—considering you can position yourself directly above it.

Soldius Solar Cart Bag — $349.99 — www.mysoldius.com

soldiusgolfbag158569-2-soldius-solar-cart-bag

The golf course is supposed to be an escape—an enjoyable and necessary departure from the daily grind. No e-mails, no phone calls, no texts, no work. Just you, your sticks and that little white ball against the course architect’s diabolical scheme and Mother Nature. But for the tech-obsessed among us who refuse to leave their gadgetry behind, this solar cart bag offered by Soldius will keep them connected to The Grid. It’s got five interchangeable mobile phone adapters, a mini USB cable, two interchangeable iPod adapters, a mobile device-charging compartment, a rainhood, and an umbrella holder. Oh, and let’s not forget the tee holder strap!

520cc Green Monster XL — $120 — nexttgolf.com

Nextt_green_monster_xl_crown_2014670078298_o

Maybe it’s just me but there’s something cool about having an “illegal” club in my bag, and that’s exactly what the Green Monster XL is. Because of its largesse (520cc), the USGA has declared this behemoth driver cluba non grata for any sanctioned events. But that won’t stop me from grippin’ ‘n rippin’ whenever I have the urge. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to be participating in any legit golf competition any time soon. And so what if it looks like something a caveman would use to procure his dinner? In today’s society, size matters, and seeing how my golf ego needs all the stroking I can get it, the Green Monster XL has a permanent spot in my bag.

These products represent a mere fraction of what’s available to the golfing public. Jump online and explore—there’s definitely something for everyone. Hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas… If not for yourself than as a gift. And speaking of gifts, if you want to give one to yourself, check out my new book, Cracked Aces: The Wildest, Craziest, Most Unbelievable TRUE Poker Stories.

Granted, the stories are about poker not golf, but I’m hoping you enjoyed my writing enough to give it a whirl. If not, no probs. Tune in next month for my next golf piece. Until then, Happy Holidays to you and yours.

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An adrenaline junkie with an unusual and widely varied skill-set, Adam took “participatory journalism” to the next level, penning hundreds of high-octane feature articles for many of the hippest men's lifestyle publications including Maxim, Stuff, Razor and Robb Report. Some have been optioned for feature film development. Factor in a Cryptozoology degree from the U of Haiti in Port-au-Prince—perfect for Bigfoot safaris and Chupacabra expeditions—and Adam has pretty much covered it all. He's a far better writer than he is a golfer, although that might not be saying much! For those of you who actually enjoy my writing you might want to check out my latest book, Cracked Aces: The Wildest, Craziest, Most Unbelievable TRUE Poker Stories. Visit my website

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. hayesh

    Dec 23, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I’m curious about the putting green. I’m tempted to buy one. You said you have a two foot wide one, so clearly you aren’t standing on it to putt. But you feel it’s great even with your feet below the putting surface? I can’t see spending the money on a stand surface (which they sell for $40) or wanting to have to lug it around. But i was wondering if i should buy a 4 foot wide one to be able to stand on it while putting (although that makes it pretty bulky, versus a 2 or 3 foot wide one). Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. other paul

    Dec 18, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Golfers the world over, regardless of their level of experience, handicap, or frequency of play, all have one thing in common: they will do anything– ANYTHING – to shave strokes off their cards with using an eraser”.
    With using an eraser? I prefer new way. Just change my number on my digits score card. No eraser needed and no smudged evidence left behind ????

    • other paul

      Dec 18, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      Ha ha. Oops. Digits=digital. Guess everyone makes mistakes.

      • P

        Dec 19, 2014 at 3:23 am

        Yes, and your parents did when they had you

        • Leon sugarfoot

          Dec 19, 2014 at 8:53 am

          Hey man no need to be hateful it’s Christmas time this is a time to bring each other up not down

  3. Philip

    Dec 18, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Who cares about a golf formula. If I had her caddying for me I would be at my peak the whole round!

    • P

      Dec 19, 2014 at 3:24 am

      Was waiting for that very comment to see if somebody would say it

  4. JEFF

    Dec 18, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    this is the stuff that turns people away from golf…… except the idiots you don’t want to pay golf!

  5. renoaz

    Dec 18, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Wonder if that Golf Formula would last for 4 hours in attempt at correcting my Trajectile Dysfunction.

  6. ca1879

    Dec 18, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    “…or if a big name PGA pro (sorry Skip Kendall) gave them a thumbs-up.”

    Yeah, because big name golf pros are so much better at biochemistry than your run-of-the-mill golf pros.

  7. Nolanski

    Dec 18, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    No Golfboard? I would literally buy one of those. I sit for a living so I hate sittin in a cart but I still like to play really fast.

    http://www.golfboard.com/

  8. Andy W

    Dec 18, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Went to see how the Ballfinder Scout works. Claims if within 12 steps of your ball, and the ball has three dimples above grass/ground level, and I assume must be in the device’s line of sight, that this device will lead you to your lost ball. Need a video if going to sell me…

    Why haven’t the ball guys make all balls with a honing device. Seems like something that could be attached to every golf cart in the world….

    • Scooter McGavin

      Dec 18, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      Yeah, for the Ballfinder Scout, you pretty much have to be right on top of the ball for it to pick it up, so you’ll see it before it does. There is a company that makes a finder that uses RFID to find them, but you have to use their special balls (with chips inside) with the system. I think it’s Prazza.

      • Alex K.

        Dec 19, 2014 at 1:00 am

        I have this ball, if it lands in the tall grass a flap opens up and a little flag pops up from the top to let you know where it is and a mini hedge trimmer comes out the side and mows the grass all around to give you a better shot. If it lands in the water, pontoons inflate so it rises to the surface and then it pops out a little sail so it sails itself back to the shore. I’d love to be able to tell you where to get one but I have no idea; I found this one. 😉

    • xerpro

      Dec 19, 2014 at 1:12 am

      Why would they want you to find your balls? It would decrease the amount of balls sold.

  9. bradford

    Dec 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Nice article. I’ve always believed the Orange whip was the best thing out there too (second to an actual short game facility). It solves a problem which is incredibly hard to see, but has huge implications. Timing is almost impossible to detect, and even harder to teach. If it’s off, the best you know is something just feels off, and that’s what the whip can correct.

    • Cameron Finn

      Dec 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      I used the orange whip and liked it. But now I use a tempo device that I can hit the ball with. Gives tempo and timing. http://www.swingti.com

      I’ve got a friend that ALWAYS comments on my bad shots so I don’t need ANY product that helps him.

  10. Brodie Hock

    Dec 18, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    What kind of shaft does the Green Monster come stock with…
    😛

  11. Drew R.

    Dec 18, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Great article Adam! I’m really interested in that BallFinder scout as a stocking stuffer gift. Right now the only training aids I truly believe in are (1) alignment rods (aka 36-48″ lawn reflective posts) (2) mirrors (putting or full mirrors for the range) and (3) Sharpies. That being said, this opens my mind a little and perhaps not all of the training aid manufacturers are fleabag charlatans.

    • Drew R.

      Dec 18, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      After 5 mins of Googling reviews I’m going to retract my previous statement for all items except the Orange Whip, which i’m not in any need of.

      • Scooter McGavin

        Dec 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm

        Yeah, I was going to ask if the author even tried these products, or if he just read the description on their package and then wrote about them. That ballfinder is the one of the biggest pieces of junk I’ve ever tried. We sold them at our store for a while and couldn’t get rid of them. It works off trying to see your ball with a 3.2 megapixel camera… The camera on your phone probably has double or triple that. Long story short, there’s no way that thing finds a ball more quickly than your eyes. It’s one of those gadgets that they put at a price point just high enough to make them money, but not high enough that most people are going to bother with the hassle of returning.

        • Adam Slutsky

          Dec 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm

          Scooter,

          I tried everything I wrote about. I liked the Ballfinder Scout… Perhaps my shots are more errant than most golfers, making my balls more difficult to find (there’s a joke there, I know). Regardless, the article was simply my opinion of what I found worked and what didn’t.

          Cheers,

          Adam

          • bigtmatdaddy

            Dec 23, 2014 at 12:32 pm

            Adam,
            I’ve been using the Golf Fuel capsules for quite a while now. I really think they work. I notice my rounds start off better when using the product. I do not like the fuel shots for during the round, I prefer to take a few more pills at the turn to keep my concentration up. I think if people gives this product time they will agree with me.

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Golf Hall of Fame resumes—what does it take?

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We are back from last week, and Knudson is finally a father! Steve asks what it takes to get into the Golf Hall of Fame, how much do majors count? Knudson talks about his last round and how much fun he had. Finally, we talk about the Rory and Keopka beef that is starting to play out.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Getting more out of your wedges

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When I started SCOR Golf in 2011 and completely re-engineered the short end of the set, I took on “the establishment” and referred to our line of clubs not as “wedges” but as “scoring clubs”—I felt like the term “wedge” had become over-applied to clubs that really weren’t. While I’ve tempered my “respectful irreverence” a bit since then, I still think we are shackled by the terms applied to those high-loft clubs at the short end of our sets.

Think about this for a moment.

It all started with the invention of the sand wedge back in the late 1930s. This invention is generally credited to Gene Sarazen, who famously had metal welded onto the bottom of a niblick to give it bounce, and introduced the basic “explosion” sand shot. Over the next few decades, the sand wedge “matured” to a loft of 55-56 degrees and was a go-to staple in any serious golfer’s bag. In his 1949 book, “Power Golf”, Ben Hogan described the sand wedge as a very versatile tool “for certain shots” around the greens, and listed his maximum distance with a sand wedge as 55 yards.

Even into the 1970s, the pitching wedge was considered the ‘go-to’ club for short recovery shots around the greens. And because the typical pitching wedge was 50-52 degrees in loft, it was very versatile for that purpose. I remember that even as a scratch player in the 60s and early 70s, I would go days or weeks without pulling the “sand wedge” out of my bag—we didn’t have bunkers on that little 9-hole course so I didn’t feel like I needed one very often.

Fast forward into the 1980s and 1990s, people were hitting sand wedges from everywhere and the wedge makers began to add “lob wedges” in the 60-degree range and then “gap wedges” of 48 degrees or so to fill in for the evolutional strengthening of iron lofts to a point where the set match pitching wedge (or P-club as I call it) was 44-45 degrees typically. Along the way, the designation “G”, “S”, “L” and “P” were dropped and almost all wedges carried the actual loft number of the club. I think this was a positive development, but it seems we cannot get away from the pigeon-holing our wedges into “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” nomenclature.

So that history lesson was a set-up for suggesting that you look at all your wedges as just “wedges” with no further limitations as to their use. I think that will free you up to use your creativity with each club to increase your repertoire of shots you have in your bag…more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

For example, long bunker shots are much easier if you open the face of your 50- 54-degree wedge so you don’t have to swing as hard to get the ball to fly further. You’ll still get plenty of spin, but your results will become much more consistent. Likewise, that super-short delicate bunker shot can be hit more easily with your higher lofted wedge of 58-60 degrees.

When you get out further, and are facing mid-range shots of 40-75 yards, don’t automatically reach for your “sand wedge” out of habit, but think about the trajectory and spin needs for that shot. Very often a softened swing with your “gap” wedge will deliver much more consistent results. You’ll reduce the likelihood of making contact high on the face and coming up short, and you can even open the face a bit to impart additional spin if you need it.

Around the greens, your lower-lofted wedges will allow you to achieve more balance between carry and roll, as almost all instructors encourage you to get the ball on the ground more quickly to improve greenside scoring. For the vast majority of recreational/weekend golfers, simply changing clubs is a lot easier than trying to manipulate technique to hit low shots with clubs designed to hit the ball high.

Finally, on any shots into the wind, you are almost always better off “lofting down” and swinging easier to help make more solid contact and reduce spin that will cause the ball to up-shoot and come up short. Too often I watch my friends try to hit hard full wedge shots into our all-too-common 12-20 mph winds and continually come up short. My preference is to loft down even as much as two clubs, grip down a bit and swing much more easily, which ensures a lower trajectory with less spin…and much more consistent outcomes. It is not uncommon for me to choose a 45-degree wedge for a shot as short as 75-80 yards into a breeze, when my stock distance for that club is about 115. I get consistently positive results doing that.

So, if you can wean yourself from referring to your wedges by their names and zero in on what each can do because of their numbers, you will expand your arsenal of shots you can call on when you are in prime scoring range and hit it close to the flag much more often. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

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Opinion & Analysis

Autumn golf is the best golf

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For many, golf euphoria occurs the second weekend of April when the flowers start to bloom, courses begin to open, and the biggest tournament of the year is on television. But I believe the absolute best season for golf is the fall.

Let me explain.

SPRING

Spring is the season of hope and rebirth, and for most golfers, it’s the first opportunity to break out new clubs or take the game you’ve been working on all winter to the course for the first time in many months. Depending on where you are in North America or around the world, golf courses are just opening up and the ground is drying out from a winter filled with snow and ice.

Yes, spring is fantastic, you can shrug off the occasional mud ball since it’s probably your first round in four months and you’re willing to cut “the super” some slack for the slow greens, because you’re just happy to be out on terra firma chasing around a little white ball. Your game is rusty. Courses aren’t quite there yet, but it’s golf outside, and you couldn’t be happier.

SUMMER

The dog days. This time of year is when golf courses are the most busy thanks to the beautiful weather. But high temperatures and humidity can be a real deal-breaker, especially for walkers—throw in the weekly possibility for afternoon “out of the blue” thunderstorms, and now you’re sweating and drenched.

Unless you are a diehard and prefer the dew-sweeping pre-7 a.m. tee time when the sun breaks on the horizon, rounds tend to get longer in the summer as courses get busier. And you’ll often find more corporate outings and casual fairweather golfers out for an afternoon of fun—not a bad thing for the game, but not great for pace of play. Summer makes for fantastic course conditions, and with the sun not setting until after 9 p.m. for almost two months, the after-dinner 9 holes are a treat and you take them while you can.

FALL

As much I love nine holes after dinner with eight clubs in a Sunday bag and a few adult beverages in June, nothing compares to the perfect fall day for golf.

The sun’s orbit, paired with Mother Nature, allows you to stay in your warm bed just that little extra, since you can’t play golf when it’s still dark at 6:30 a.m. The warm, but not too warm, temperatures allow you to pull out your favorite classic cotton golf shirts without fear of the uncomfortable sweaty pits. We can’t forget that it’s also the season for every golfer’s favorite piece of apparel: the quarter zip  (#1/4zipSZN).

Courses in the fall are often in the best shape (or at least they should be), since player traffic and corporate tournaments are done for the season. As long as warm afternoons are still the norm, firm and fast conditions can be expected.

Last but not least, the colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—frame the green fairways and dark sand to make them pop in the landscape. Fall is the final chance to get in those last few rounds and create happy thoughts and mental images before the clubs go away for the inevitably cold, dark days of winter.

Fall is meant for golf! So take pictures, smell the smells, and make great swings, because golf season is quickly coming to a close, and now is the time to savor each moment on the course.

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