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Confessions of a Golf Equipment Tech Rep

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It seems like a dream job, doesn’t it? Golf equipment tech reps spend hours on the driving ranges of some of the most prestigious courses. They have access to all the new gear from a golf equipment company and get to talk golf with like-minded individuals.

Let me tell you, it’s a ton of fun, but just like any “job” it does have its challenges. Here’s an inside look into what it’s really like to work as a summer tech rep for a golf equipment company.

The Travel

The commute can be one of the most challenging parts of any job, but traveling to golf courses really isn’t that bad. Most demo days are in the afternoon or around the lunch hour, so traffic in most cities is pretty light. Also, the majority of courses are located around the outskirts of the downtown cores just off arterial roads. The trick is avoiding the evening rush hour, but that’s easy when you have your clubs and an endless bucket of premium golf balls.

In contrast my car (cover image, this is car of a full-time Ping reps. He built a shelf for his van.

In contrast to my car (cover image), this is car of a full-time Ping rep. He built a shelf for his van.

The most difficult task actually is trying to get everything to fit into your car. Full-time reps have the luxury of either a company van or have made the decision to own a large vehicle. Tech reps, on the other hand, are not always so well prepared. I, for example, own a (humble brag) 2009 Toyota Matrix. It’s not a large car by any stretch of the imagination, but on the plus side it is a hatchback. A few other guys have small to mid-sized sedans. In another life, we must have all been very good Tetris players, because we somehow always get everything to fit (including the pop-up canopy tents). Speaking to the camaraderie, I’ve seen reps help each other out by taking an extra staff bag or two to the next event if for some reason it won’t fit in a rep’s car.

The Other Reps

Since we spend so much time together during the busy summer demo-day months, we’re more of a band of brothers than rival tribesman. When working with customers, it’s all business, but during off times we hit each other’s gear and trade golf balls and war stories. We even play golf together after demo days wrap up.

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When it comes to finding the right piece of equipment, someone is either going to end up with our gear or move on down the line. We always do our best to make sure every golfer that comes out is giving our gear a fair shake and tries what’s right for them, but we all know people have brand biases, too. The one thing we all abide by is the unspoken etiquette of the range, which includes never interrupting another rep during a conversation with a golfer. We’re also never “that guy” who walks all the way to the other side of the range to push a product onto someone at another booth. We’re not new to the golf industry, and we’re all in it together. Our job is ultimately to fit and sell clubs, but at the end of the day, regardless of what equipment the golfer decides to purchase, it’s more important to represent your company the right way and make sure every golfer has a positive experience. 

The Food

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Each course we visit treats us amazing, from the head professionals all the way to the back-shop and range teams. Plus, since they want us to be good guests and stay with their members on the range, lunch is provided and delivered.

I’ve made the joke many times now that, by the end of the summer, I will be able to rank every sausage, hamburger, and chicken-caesar wrap from every private club in and around the Greater Toronto Area. So far, they’ve all received top marks.

The Fitting Experience

One of the best things about being on the range with golfers at their own club is that they’re comfortable in their surroundings and familiar with course conditions. This, to me, is one of the best ways to fit a golfer, especially one that plays a majority of their golf at their club. 

Fittings move very quickly when a golfer can see ball flight and make an apple-to-apples comparison with their own clubs on their own range with an outdoor launch monitor. The benefits of new equipment are quick to spot and problems are easy to correct.

The Golfers

From scratch club champs to weekend warriors, we fit them all. The better golfers are easier to fit them since their swings are more repeatable. Most better players are also able to more accurately describe what they are “feeling” swing after swing.

When testing equipment, it helps to clean your clubs in between shots. It also helps a tech rep!

When testing equipment, it helps to clean your clubs in between shots. It also helps a tech rep!

The one thing that still shocks me is the lack of understanding golfers have on simple fitting principles. Many are stuck in the past with what they know about technology. So many golfers also have misconceptions about what leads to gains in distance, accuracy and consistency. It’s part of our job to help make things simple to understand, and something we take pride in. Here are the top-5 misconceptions I hear from golfers on demo days:

  1. Hitting it higher with a driver causes distance loss.
  2. Graphite shafts are only meant for the slowest swingers.
  3. Forged irons are only for highly skilled players.
  4. “I don’t need to get fit. Just give me off-the-rack clubs.”
  5. All “stiff” shafts and all “regular” shafts are the same. 

The other difficulty lies in the outliers: the guys who are 6-feet, 6-inches tall and have club head speeds in excess of 120 mph with hands the size of bear paws. These are tough fits since most carts don’t have mid-sized grips. And as far as aftermarket shaft options go, it’s really hard to carry more than what’s already offered by golf equipment manufacturers. The great thing about the Mizuno fitting cart, particularly the company’s iron shafts, is that there aren’t many people I can’t fit given the wide amount of options.

The Weather

This is the one thing that is beyond our control. I’ve experienced days where it’s blowing 30 mph directly into golfers on the range and that’s a tough place to be. Not only that, but be prepared for at least one face full of dirt and sand along the way. No lie, on an extremely gusty day, I once saw a rep get thrown 8 feet into the air trying to save his tent. Thankfully, he walked away unscathed, but I can’t say the same for the tent (he crushed it when he landed inside of it, upside down). 

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And rain… even the thought or possibility of it scares people away, which can lead to pretty slow days on the range. We all know how much it sucks to have to dry out your entire golf bag after a soggy round. Imagine doing that with 5-6 golf bags after a few extra hours in the rain.

Golfers, don’t let the sun get away with anything, either. One of the first lessons as a tech rep is to load up on sunscreen or risk a very bad sunburn. If you think a golfer’s tan is bad, a rep tan can be even worse.

 —

To all the golfers headed to the demo day, make sure to stop by and say hello to us tech reps. Don’t be nervous or embarrassed to make a swing in front of us; we hold no judgement. And please, ask as many questions as you’d like. We’ve heard them all, and want you to learn and enjoy trying out some new gear. You might just be surprised what ends up working for you, and you may even have a great conversation with one of unsung road warriors of the industry.

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Chris Downing

    Apr 23, 2018 at 5:49 am

    I think Ryan thought he boss would read this before he submitted it. In the past I have worked as a rep in a lot of industries – pluses are new cars supplied to you, quite a lot of freedom – downs – not all customers are nice, targets you need to hit causes stress, hours wasted on the road. Because you get a car and lots of people want the job it depresses the salary. It’s also not a particularly well respected career – as my mother said,” Couldn’t you get a proper job?” Ouch!

    • D williams

      Mar 29, 2019 at 7:18 pm

      I have been the top tech rep in Texas for many years. I command top dollar from any company. The things that have been said are BS. Tech reps will never be more than that and most tech reps I know don’t have the ambition to be more. I have worked for multiple companies at same time I’ve worked full time Year around. In closing if you want to be a tech rep good luck maybe get a real job

  2. ooffa

    Jun 25, 2017 at 6:42 am

    Calm down dude. If some one wants to get fitted let it be. Why are you always freaking about stuff?
    High handicapper, low handicapper, so what, let people enjoy themselves a bit. Stop being such a know it all downer. You must be a whole lot of fun at the monthly member mingler.

    • Ward Wayne

      Jul 1, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      What?! Are you responding to the comment above?

  3. Dave R

    Jun 25, 2017 at 12:02 am

    Very good article and well explained. Every time I went to demo days I was always treated with respect . And showed the same in return . Never did I feel that I was being pressured into buying. And yes would strongly advise before you buy get fitted by someone who knows what they are doing. Expensive is not always the answer.

  4. Tom1

    Jun 24, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    you rep’s need larger vehicles

  5. Compressthis

    Jun 23, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Long time Cobra demo tech in the Midwest. Liked the article, we are a band of friends at all events looking to only set up anyone with the clubs that best fit their swing. Of course I will do my best to explain why my clubs would be the best when you hit them as I believe like everyone that we have the clubs to fit your swing. You are still the one making the decision to purchase. It is your job to take the launch monitor readings, ball flight information, feel and performance observations and narrow down your ideal club selections for final comparison. We all have no problem going head to head with each other because the customer walks away satisfied knowing he got the best club for him. Not sure where the tech reps are shoving new product down people’s throats, that is not the case here. If you are not interested in hearing about or trying the new equipment why are you at a demo day anyway? Hopefully your response isn’t for the free balls to hit! ????

  6. Bobbyeggroll

    Jun 23, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Best time for me was when working a driving range I received a few new clubs and put them in the demo bag for an afternoon demo day. I set everything up and while getting setup a few keeners went looking in my bags and took a new hybrid out and started hitting it. This person wasn’t the best golfer but made reasonable contact and brought the club back to me and said they really liked it particularly the grip. Amusingly the protective plastic was still on the grip as I had only got the head plastic off. Slipped the club in the bag and said I was glad they liked it and could I order it for them? They came back later and bought one through the proshop and I never heard anything negative from the transaction and never told the pro the story.

  7. mr b

    Jun 23, 2017 at 11:04 am

    always been something i wanted to do….but…there just wasn’t any money in it from what i saw. but if money wasn’t a concern it’d be a dream job for this guy.

  8. Me

    Jun 23, 2017 at 9:17 am

    I too am a Club fitter, have been for over 10 years. The amount of stock & custom upgrade-able shafts, fitting heads for both Right and lefties- there is no way I could fit in a small SUV. I travel with more club and shaft selections ( including driver shafts in different lengths} that any superstore could possibly offer at any time. I have full sets of lefties, ladies, even full sets of ladies lefties. In addition I have the latest Trackman launch monitor not for consumers ego, but to be fitted. It amazes me that some large club companies, send a guy out with a tent and 2 staff bags, no launch monitor of any kind, a folding table with table cloth, a 1/2 dozen iron & driver fitting heads and conduct a demo day. A “demo day” consisting of hitting free range balls is not the way to conduct business. A fitting day on the other hand, with appointments is a partnership(s) between the Pro, vendor and consumer/member….Sadly many “pros” do not understand this & act like they are too busy. PXG, Taylormade and Titleist understands appointment driven fitting days, the consumer loves the attention to detail and often buys. The pros that do get it, see in an up tick in business profits and often an increase in lessons by these purchasers investing in their game.

    • Thomas Murphy

      Jun 23, 2017 at 10:17 am

      Yay a full set of lefties. I hate when I go to fitting events and they have like 30 RH 6 irons of the same model and no LH. And I also agree that models like Titleist with “fitting thursdays” and appointments is great though at times I am not wanting a “fitting” I just want to try(demo) stuff but more directed models are great.

      • Mike Sykes

        Jun 23, 2017 at 4:03 pm

        I am a Titleist Product Specialist (Tech Rep.). Titleist Thursdays serve both purposes…Fitting Appts. offer 45-min. total attention to a player’s wants & needs. If a player just wants to demo clubs & ask questions, they just need to walk up..no appt. needed. A somewhat consistent swing does help in fitting and player feedback during the fitting is critical. We are there to help players with their equipment. No-pressure selling here. If I can’t help improve their game, in their opinion….thanks for coming out!

        • Nick

          Jun 23, 2017 at 8:59 pm

          Mike I to am a Product Specialist which Rep do you work for? I am on the west side of Michigan.

  9. Bert

    Jun 23, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Best quote in the article is scratch golfers are easier to fit than bogey golfers.

    ” The better golfers are easier to fit them since their swings are more repeatable. Most better players are also able to more accurately describe what they are “feeling” swing after swing”.

    Said this for years and still believe it. If you can’t repeat a swing, it’s difficult at best to be fit. Fitting is normally, hit this, hit this, I think this will fit you best, your numbers are better.

    • Dat

      Jun 23, 2017 at 9:43 am

      This IS the truth. Not everyone can benefit from a true fitting unless you have a consistent swing. Truly has nothing to do with handicap or the size/shape of the golfer. The best question I was ever asked was if I had a “Flex Shaft” for a gentleman to try out…

      • Was

        Jun 23, 2017 at 9:55 am

        Well you know why men ask for e “Flex” shaft, don’t you? They’re too ashamed to ask for a “Soft” one. Ego gets them every time.

        • Steve

          Jun 23, 2017 at 10:49 am

          Launch monitors have really smoothed out that shaft flex thing for me…my motto is your best fit driver will hit the fairway, best fit irons will hit the green and if you find a putter that will put the ball in the hole I want one….

      • Ude

        Jun 23, 2017 at 6:04 pm

        New club designs — stronger lofts and softer shafts — more distance and more flex for higher shots — and the OEMs don’t tell you about it because golfer’s egos would suffer

    • Bishop

      Jun 23, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      I’m personally on the fence about this statement. I think that though the low ‘cap may be easier, even a high handicapper would be easy to fit, so long as their swing is consistent (which I completely agree, is absolutely necessary). To play Devil’s Advocate, I have a couple of friends who are 35 handicappers, but have a very consistent and repeatable swing (one in particular has a high handicap because he doesn’t line up for his 20 yard slice to land in the fairway, and thus his second shot is almost always out of the rough).

      • stephenf

        Jun 23, 2017 at 2:58 pm

        Absolutely. A _lot_ of higher-handicap players have distressingly consistent swings. From a teacher’s perspective, the typical challenge is to get them out of those consistent patterns.

      • Dave

        Jun 25, 2017 at 7:50 am

        He should line up to see that a 20 yard slice ends up in the fairway he should determine what is causing that slice and FIX it. I speak from painful experience.

        • Dave

          Jun 25, 2017 at 7:53 am

          That should say SHOULD NOT line up …. doggone bad typist.

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Podcasts

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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On Spec: Blades vs cavity backs | Classic gear vs. modern equipment

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In this episode, host Ryan talks about a recent experience of playing poor golf and what it took from an equipment perspective to get his game back on track.

The talk is wide-ranging and offers an inside look at what equipment tweaks or experiments might help you play better golf—or get you out of a rut.

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From the GolfWRX Vault: How far should you hit your golf clubs?

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Editor’s note: Jaacob Bowden‘s 2013 piece on how far a club “ought” to carry based on clubhead speed—i.e. how far you should hit your golf clubs–remains one of our most widely read pieces (thanks, Google search). And while seven years have passed since its publication, the data remains the same, and thus the piece remains just as relevant today. 

We’re happy to crack open the GolfWRX Vault for this excellent bit of writing. 


One of the nice things about having all this new fancy technological equipment like Trackman, Flightscope, ShotLink, etc., at various PGA Tour events is that distance data can be gathered for each of the players.

In case you haven’t come across it already, here are the approximate Trackman carry distance averages for men at the professional level.

Average PGA Tour Carry Distances (yards)

Club Carry
Driver (Total) 289
Driver (Carry) 269
3-Wood 243
5-Wood 230
Hybrid 225
3-Iron 212
4-Iron 203
5-Iron 194
6-Iron 183
7-Iron 172
8-Iron 160
9-Iron 148
PW 136

Pretty cool info. Perhaps they hit it farther than you might have thought…or maybe they hit less than you may have been lead to believe based on what you’ve seen on TV, read on the internet, etc.

Since I deal a lot with swing speed training and helping people in general hit the ball farther, a relatively common question I get is, “How far should I hit my clubs for my swing speed?”

Well, since we also know that the average driver swing speed on Tour typically runs around 112 to 113 mph, using a bit of algebra and the above distances we can approximate a guide for how far you could expect to hit the ball (assuming fairly consistent and solid contact) given your personal driver swing speed.

Here are those carry distances.

Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

 Approximate Carry Distances by Driver Swing Speed (mph)

I took the ranges down to 60 and 70 mph because those are swing speeds I’ll encounter when working with some amateur women and seniors. I also went up to 140 mph because numerous long drivers I’ve trained can get their drivers up that high (RE/MAX World Long Drive champions like Joe Miller, Jamie Sadlowski and Ryan Winther can actually reach over 150 mph).

Aside from using the chart as a general reference point, here are a few other things that I think are worth pointing out:

First, these numbers are based off how the average Tour player strikes the ball. Although Tour players are overall good ball strikers with all their clubs, most of them are actually not as efficient (the Tour average is about 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed) as they can be when it comes to distance with their drivers because on average they hit drives that launch too low and with too much spin.

LGPA Tour players (2.65 yards/mph of swing speed) and Professional Long Drivers are actually more distance efficient with their drivers…but that’s a topic for another article. The good news for you is that greater carry and total-driving distances can be achieved at all the range of swing speeds shown above if you are a more efficient driver than the average male tour player at 2.58 yards/mph of swing speed.

With a 2-degree change in driver loft and some minor adjustments made to his swing path, angle of attack, etc, one of my amateur students went from being an already above-average efficient driver at 2.61 yards/mph to an extremely efficient one at 2.75 yards/mph. So with no change to his 102 mph swing speed, he increased his driving distance average from 266 to 280. Then after some swing speed training, he got up to 112 mph and can now hit drives around 307 yards with that same efficiency of 2.75 yards/mph. That’s 41 more yards!

Second, the club distances are based on the driver swing speeds that you would get from a system like FlightScope and Trackman. So if at all possible, get yourself checked on one of those. Otherwise, if you measure with something like a Speed Stik (which measure higher in my experience), you could get a false sense of how far you might expect to hit the ball.

As another example, Sports Sensors Swing Speed Radars (SSR) also read faster. It should be pointed out that SSRs are still a great personal training aid, and because of their accuracy and relative affordability and portability, they are actually the radar I recommend in my swing speed training programs.

However, the Doppler radar in an SSR measures the fastest moving part of the club head (typically the toe) versus a Trackman or FlightScope, which each have proprietary algorithms to calculate the speed at the center of the club face. For this reason, SSRs will read about 5 to 12 percent faster, depending on how you as an individual move the driver through impact. If you have an SSR, just hit 5 to 10 balls with it and a Trackman or FlightScope at the same time and you’ll find out your personal difference for sake of comparison.

Third, the above numbers can be useful for a good general reference, but like I mentioned in my article about understand distance variance, recognize that carry distances can vary a lot depending on conditions. Slopes, wind, temperature, altitude, etc., are all things that can affect how far the ball flies, so remember to factor that in.

Fourth, keep in mind potential loft differences between your clubs and the ones here. As a general rule of thumb, club manufacturers have made their club lofts (especially in the irons) continually stronger over the years as a way of marketing and selling consumers the new clubs.

Many top Tour players are being paid to play the latest clubs, which could mean they might also be playing irons with stronger lofts than the set you are playing. This isn’t always the case, however, but it’s another thing to be aware of.

Last, once you start approaching less than 80 mph with the driver, notice how the distances start bunching up between clubs.  At this point, you start getting to an area where you really don’t need a full set of 14 clubs. If this is you, perhaps you might also find that you hit a 3-wood or 5-wood further than a normal driver.

My wife is very strong and athletic, however, as a beginner who doesn’t play or practice very much, she hasn’t developed much swing speed. For that reason, we got her fitted for a 9-club set of Wishon 730CLs, a set that is designed specifically for men and women with less than 80 mph of club head speed.

The shafts are very light, the driver is 16 degrees and only 42 inches, the fairway woods are 20 and 26 degrees (versus the commonly used 15- and 19-degree fairway woods), and the remaining hybrids/irons are gapped out in 6-degree loft increments (compared to the normal 3- or 4-degree). Also, since many beginners, lesser skilled players and those with slower swing speeds can struggle with really high lofted wedges, the highest lofted wedge in the set is 54 degrees.

All of these things combine to provide a driver that can actually be hit in the air for distance, clubs that have substantial distance gapping, plus it’s just less clubs in general to lug around and choose from.

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