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Opinion & Analysis

Love this club, hate that club

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I’ve had a love-it-or-hate-it relationship with certain clubs over the years. Take my 6-iron for example (I wish you would, Rodney Dangerfield might’ve joked). I’d thin it. I’d fat it. I’d let go at impact. I’d leave the clubface open. Pretty important club, too, since I figure if I can get my tee shot to the 150-yard marker, I’d have a decent chance of hitting the green in regulation with the 6.

But the club was like a kid on my block who I just couldn’t warm up to. I couldn’t pinpoint the problem with the kid. He wasn’t a bad kid. Nor was it a whole conglomeration of components out of place like Mr. Wilson’s take on Dennis Mitchell. It was just when I picked up that 6-iron the word “Trouble” flashed on the marquee of my brain. I just knew I wasn’t going to get it there, and maybe even knew on a water hole that it was wet before I even swung the damn thing. Odd, isn’t it, how we develop these relationships with clubs, where one feels like a comfortable pair of fur slippers and another like holding on to a crocodile’s tail.

Fortunately with today’s equipment options, I no longer need to remain locked into a bad marriage with the 6, enduring long hours of golf-elbow-syndrome practice, trying to figure out the right ingredients that would lead to a copacetic relationship with the beast. I don’t have the time, the inclination, nor the disposition for such nonsense. Nor did I have the patience to work with an old-school pro who was still recommending semi-blades and steel shafts to a septuagenarian who had “a beautiful swing,” he kept telling me. He had heard of hybrids, but hadn’t “gotten around to trying them yet.”

Hybrids. Like laptops in the late 20th century, hybrids revolutionized golf choices in the early 21st century, and almost seemed illegal. Here was a club that was swung like mid-iron, but could sweep through gnarly rough like a high-grass mower, and produce a high trajectory that made the ball hover and settle softly, making that nice thump sound indicating that “the eagle has landed” on the surface of the green.

Each year for several years now I’ve gone down to my favorite golf store, first exchanging my 3-iron for a 3-hybrid, then a 4, then a 5. But that’s where I stopped for several years, even after a good bit of success. I draw the line at the 6, I would say to myself. Not because I loved the club, but that I should be able to hit the 6, right? It’s just a mental block, I’d rationalize. Easy-peasey. I should be able to hit the 6, as should any golfer worth his or her salt. But a human being, even a golfer, can only take so much suffering. Like Dennis being sent to sit in the corner, I banished my 6 to the garage, replacing it with a 26-degree hybrid of the same number, TaylorMade, same as my iron set.

Well, I can’t say this hybrid has been an absolute blessing, but I do hit it more solidly and more consistently than I ever did with the iron. Since I don’t practice enough as my body ages, my direction is often off, missing the green by only a few feet, but enough to make a fairly sure par, or sometimes turn a birdie into a bogey due to inconsistent chipping. Still, when I now pick up that 6-hybrid, I feel more confident that I’ll make pretty decent contact (and some of time, I do), and that little mental edge makes all the difference.

The main point of this discourse is that it’s OK to experiment with the clubs in your bag. Back in the early days, Bobby Jones used to build his set club by club. There was no such thing as a matched set. He and other players of his skill would experiment with clubs until they found ones with the right swing weight, length, and that intangible, right feel. Amazingly, when later tested, they were as true in relation to each other as today’s matched sets.

Now I’m not suggesting you do as Wee Bobby did. If Jones had the choices we have today, he would have had a set custom built from the same manufacturer, as we do, with one club fitted perfectly and others following suit. But once we get our properly fitted matched set, we can make choices as I described above according to which club feels or doesn’t feel right.

As I’ve said, we have relationships with the clubs in our bag. We love our driver, say. Not so much our 3-wood. We hate the 4-iron. And our wedges and putter? That’s almost another post in itself. Those scoring clubs are the closest we come to the days of Jones and Sarazen. This launches us into the precarious realm of leaving the security of the mother-set and into choosing wedges and putters from other manufacturers. And the TV ads tempt us this way and that until we wind up with clubs we often hate. Too heavy. Too light. Too much toe weight. Too little bounce. Too much bounce. Takes too big a divot. Or isn’t long enough. Doesn’t have the right alignment aids. Too many three-putts.

A few years ago I picked up a yellow-headed “Feel” 52-degree gap wedge from a friend for 10 bucks, and I struggled mightily with that club for months before realizing it was weighted like a splitting maul. Could never figure it out, and it scuttled a number of rounds. Finally, I splurged on TaylorMade wedges that more match my set and my wedge play has improved considerably. I’ve got three or four wedges in the garage currently doing time for inconsistency and insubordination. But even with my matched wedges, I’m still adding and subtracting clubs…like my Phil-inspired 64-degree Pinseeker that gets me out of bunkers like a cart girl in hot pants offering a cold beer.

So take inventory. See what’s working and what’s shirking. Make changes to your equipment accordingly. Hybrids are a blessing from the golf gods. Wedges are confusing, but resolve that 2016 will be the year you make the changes that need to be made. Don’t hesitate. The right equipment is out there. You just have to work at finding it.

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Stephen has been a freelance writer since 1969. He's written six books, including the award-winning The Mindful Hiker and The Mindful Golfer, a best seller. His book covers all aspects of the game of golf, and can be purchased at local booksellers and online here. Stephen has also written many regional and national articles, and currently blogs at www.mindfulgolfer.com.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Other Paul

    Apr 28, 2016 at 9:05 am

    I love phils 64 degree pin seeker as well. But i have it in A 56!

  2. Steve

    Apr 27, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    Ran out of things to try, so gave up my Callaway xhot irons (never liked the wide soles) bought some new Mizuno forged jpx-850, figured I would be working twice as hard to play them, wrong, even as a 14 handicap these irons are amazing very easy to control short irons and after a few buckets got the 5 and 6 up in the air and working fine…distance is almost the same…..love the feel and the thin top and bottom lines and less off set is great.

  3. DB

    Apr 27, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    I went through this cycle over the last couple of years, buying/trying/failing/selling…
    I’ve finally gotten my bag set up with what works for me in each category and I don’t see myself changing anything anytime soon. While trial and error can get expensive, I think I’m done for a while… I hope.
    On a similar note, anyone ever had a club that worked great for a long time and then all of the sudden you just can’t hit it anymore? Obviously a swing issue since the club didn’t change, but talk about frustrating and demoralizing!

  4. John Krug

    Apr 27, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    If you can’t hit a 6 iron or a 4 iron you need a lesson rather than buying a hybrid. Nothing like understanding the golf swing and having a proper one.

  5. Scooter McGavin

    Apr 27, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Is that a Nickent 4DX driver in the photo? I miss the original Nickent clubs (before Dick’s bought them). Never should have sold my 3DX Hybrid irons…

  6. alfriday

    Apr 27, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    The following quote from the article is very telling:

    “I should be able to hit the 6, as should any golfer worth his or her salt. But a human being, even a golfer, can only take so much suffering. Like Dennis being sent to sit in the corner, I banished my 6 to the garage, replacing it with a 26-degree hybrid of the same number, TaylorMade, same as my iron set.”

    Most golfers should be able to hit a 6 iron. The problem is that Taylormade 6 irons are really 4 irons. The M2 has a 25 degree loft and 37.625 inch length. The Aeroburner 6 iron is 25.5 degrees and 37.63 inches. Even with the weight of the clubhead redistributed for a higher launch, the clubs are still too long.

    Remember the 24/38 rule? Most amateur golfers don’t have the swing speed or consistency to hit an iron longer than 38 inches or stronger than 24 degrees. No re-weighting of the clubbed changes the basic rule. The Taylormade irons are on the edge of that rule. Some will be able to hit it, some not. If the author bought a full set, then he purchase three irons he can’t hit–4, 5, and 6.

    Taylormade is not the only manufacturer to strengthen, and just as important, to lengthen clubs.

    Most amateur golfers wouldn’t feel bad about submitting a hybrid for a 4 iron. But stick a 6 on the bottom of the club and we fall into golfer’s angst.

  7. BIG STU

    Apr 26, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Good and truthful article. I do not like hybrids but then again I still can hit and play long irons. I am a feel player and I have all my clubs weighted for my feel. I do build and tune my own clubs though. Wedges Good Lord! I am a wedge ho and I have probably close to 100 wedges everything from vintage to newer stuff. One just has to figure out what will work for them whether it is a hybrid or an odd ball iron that one can hit

  8. Greg V

    Apr 26, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Sometimes you just can’t explain a club that doesn’t work – even when the ones around it do work. I suspect that all shafts are not created equal, even if they have the same shaft band as the next. Who knows if they twist and flex consistently under load. Life is too short; I will pick up another club, even breaking up an iron set to put the ones in my bag that work consistently.

    The trick is sticking with the ones that DO work!

  9. DJ

    Apr 26, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Agree completely. It’s about finding the club that has the best feel and gets the most out of it (distance, spin, trajectory). I got a Cobra driver, Callaway 3 wood, Adams hybrid, TM 4 iron, Bridgestone 5-9, Mizuno PW, TM 50 and 56, Titleist 62

  10. Brad

    Apr 26, 2016 at 11:10 am

    If there was ever a statement that accurately describes us WRXers, it’s this:

    “I’ve got three or four wedges in the garage currently doing time for inconsistency and insubordination. But even with my matched wedges, I’m still adding and subtracting clubs…like my Phil-inspired 64-degree Pinseeker that gets me out of bunkers like a cart girl in hot pants offering a cold beer.”

    Great article Stephen! Really enjoyed it.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?

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You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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Podcasts

TG2: What is this new Callaway iron? A deep investigation…

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Photos of a new Callaway iron popped up in the GolfWRX Forums, and equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what exactly the new iron could be; new Apex pros, new Legacy irons, or maybe even a new X Forged? Also, the guys discuss Phil’s U.S. Open antics and apology, DJ’s driver shaft change, new Srixon drivers and utility irons, and a new Raw iron offering from Wilson. Enjoy the golf equipment packed show!

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

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