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Opinion & Analysis

Do you really need new equipment? Yes and no.

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It’s a question we ask ourselves: Do I really need that new club? Will it help me play better? Will my scores get lower?

For a lot of golfers the answer is still a resounding NO – but it’s not the clubs’ fault! It’s that so many golfers still don’t go through the process of getting fit. Whether it be a driver, wedges, or even your golf balls, taking just a bit of extra time to work with a professional to help you find the best fit, means you won’t be wasting any more money…or strokes.

It used to be (a long time ago) you’d walk into the pro shop or retail store and say, “I’m looking for a new driver, I play a 9.5 stiff.” I still suffer from golf retail PTSD from the particular phrase “I really like that new (insert brand) driver, can you fit me for a 9 degree.”

Yep. You read that right, fit me for a predetermined loft. That’s like going into a tailor and asking for a new suit based off the measurements you had in high school…probably not the best idea.

Let’s start with drivers, considering the number of options from all the OEMs, COG options, through adjustability, hosel adjustments, shafts (profiles, weights, flexes, balance points), and finally grips (size, taper, feel, material etc), there are an almost infinite number of options (with maybe 2-3 that are actually ideal just for you).

You could take the time to try everything, but then by the time you get through most of the options as an individual, I would reckon your golf season would be close to over. There are obviously levels to getting fit, and I’m not oblivious to the fact that for a lot of golfers, cost is a factor in the decision. Even when trying to nail down a previous generation model from a big box store, you can’t go wrong with talking to one of their fitters and going through adjustments to find which settings offer the most consistent results, NOT just the one longest drive.

Irons are just as complicated, if not more, thanks to the fact that now we’re working with more than one club. You have gapping, lies and lofts, sole profile/width, forgiveness, offset, along with “the usual” shafts and grips. I could go on and on, especially when it comes to wedges, but I’m trying to make it snappy. If you are blindly buying a wedge or a wedge set based solely on the loft and stated bounce number, you probably aren’t using the right wedges!

So this brings us back to the original question: “Do you really need new equipment?”

Let’s break it down a few ways.

The “No” Crowd: If you are a VERY casual golfer already having fun with your current clubs and can’t think of a reason to switch. Don’t. I’m not saying these players won’t find improvement from a fitting, but from what I’ve experienced, these golfers will get more from their golfing budget from just enjoying the game when they play. Don’t think that means I’m only focusing on the beginner golfer. If you’re a good player, haven’t experienced any swing changes, and have been fit for clubs in the last 2-3 years, the potential marginal gains (unless replacing a truly worn out club like a wedge),  the cost/benefit of a new club or clubs might not be worth it — but I’ll leave up to the individual player to decide.

The “Maybe” Crowd: If you’re a recreational/club golfer and have been playing the with the same clubs for 6-10 years and are starting to lose the performance that you previously had, whether it be from just playing less, losing speed, injury, or just good old father time, you’re going to see a benefit from a change. This could be as simple as changing a driver to help get back some distance. Even if your average drive is 225 yards, a six percent improvement in length off the tee mean 13.5 fewer yards into every green (on average). That’s some serious strokes gained potential.

The “Yes” Crowd: This is where a lot of “WE, the WRX golfers” probably fit — unless you’re in the “no” crowd because of a recent fitting. We are the tinkerers, the club junkies, the curious, but many or most of us don’t have access to our own launch monitors or fitting studios (myself included, although I used to). The “yes” crowd is for those who constantly seek to maximize performance.

So, do you really need new equipment? Ultimately, that depends on who “you” are and which crowd you’re a part of.

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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.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. The dude

    May 10, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Good article!….I’m a ~ +2..and all my stuff is at least 8 years old. I wonder what new stuff could do for me?

    • David Elliott

      May 10, 2019 at 9:53 am

      I’m in the same boat as “The dude.” Fitted in college and got a whole new set in 2013. 6 years later I still like and trust my clubs, but wonder how my swing/technology have changed now that I’m playing less.

      • the dude

        May 10, 2019 at 1:39 pm

        I gotta “glued in” old TM…… I”ve tried all the new stuff (not as good). Kinda frustrating in a way…i wanna some new sh*t!!!!

  2. James R Miller

    May 10, 2019 at 7:15 am

    I have a old set of Mcgregor irons 2 to the 10 iron that are in great shape can you tell me what year they could be from

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Opinion & Analysis

Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments

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Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.

I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.

For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.

His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.

Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.

Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.

He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached.  I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.

On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.

When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.

Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.

Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing.  Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)

Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.

Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

A trip down Magnolia Memory Lane: Patron fashion at the 1991 Masters

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Like a lot of golfers out there, I’ve been getting my fix thanks to the final round Masters broadcasts on YouTube via the Masters channel. Considering these broadcasts go back as far as 1968, there is a lot we could discuss—we could break down shots, equipment, how the course has changed, but instead I thought we could have a little fun taking a different direction—fashion.

However, I’m not talking players fashion, that’s fairly straight forward. Instead, I wanted to follow the action behind the action and see what we could find along the way – here are the 1991 Highlights.

I love the “Die Hard” series as much as anyone else but one fan took it to a new level of fandom by wearing a Die Hard 2 – Die Harder T-shirt to Sunday at the Masters. This patron was spotted during Ian Woosnam fourth shot into 13. Honorable mention goes to Woosie’s gold chain.

There is a lot going on here as Ben Crenshaw lines up his put on 17. First, we have the yellow-shirted man just left of center with perfectly paired Masters green pants to go along with his hat (he also bears a striking resemblance to Ping founder Karsten Solheim). Secondly, we have what I would imagine is his friend in the solid red pants—both these outfits are 10 out of 10. Last but not least, we have the man seen just to the right of Ben with sunglasses so big and tinted, I would expect to be receiving a ticket from him on the I20 on my way out of town.

If you don’t know the name Jack Hamm, consider yourself lucky you missed a lot of early 2000s late-night golf infomercials. OK so maybe it’s not the guy known for selling “The Hammer” driver but if you look under the peak of the cabin behind Woosie as he tees off on ten you can be forgiven for taking a double-take… This guy might show up later too. Honorable mention to the pastel-pink-shorted man with the binoculars and Hogan cap in the right of the frame.

Big proportions were still very much in style as the 80s transitioned into the early 90s. We get a peek into some serious style aficionados wardrobes behind the 15th green with a wide striped, stiff collared lilac polo, along with a full-length bright blue sweater and a head of hair that has no intention of being covered by a Masters hat.

Considering the modern tales of patrons (and Rickie Folwer) being requested to turn backward hats forward while on the grounds of Augusta National, it was a pretty big shock to see Gerry Pate’s caddy with his hat being worn in such an ungentlemanly manner during the final round.

Before going any further, I would like us all to take a moment to reflect on how far graphics during the Masters coverage has come in the last 30 years. In 2019 we had the ability to see every shot from every player on every hole…in 1991 we had this!

At first glance, early in the broadcast, these yellow hardhats threw me for a loop. I honestly thought that a spectator had chosen to wear one to take in the action. When Ian Woosnam smashed his driver left on 18 over the bunkers it became very apparent that anyone wearing a hard hat was not there for fun, they were part of the staff. If you look closely you can see hole numbers on the side of the helmets to easily identify what holes they were assigned to. Although they have less to do with fashion, I must admit I’m curious where these helmets are now, and what one might be worth as a piece of memorabilia.

Speaking of the 18th hole, full credit to the man in the yellow hat (golf clap to anyone that got the Curious George reference) who perfectly matched the Pantone of his hat to his shirt and also looked directly into the TV camera.

It could be said the following photo exemplifies early ’90s fashion. We have pleated Bermuda shorts, horizontal stripes all over the place and some pretty amazing hairstyles. Honorable mention to the young guys in the right of the frame that look like every ’80s movie antagonist “rich preppy boy.”

What else can I say except, khaki and oversized long sleeve polos certainly had their day in 1991? We have a bit of everything here as Tom Watson lines up his persimmon 3-wood on the 18th. The guy next to Ian Woosnam’s sleeves hit his mid-forearm, there are too many pleats to count, and somehow our Jack Hamm look-alike managed to find another tee box front row seat.

You can check out the full final-round broadcast of the 1991 Masters below.

 

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 119: Gary Player joins the 19th Hole!

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Hall of Famer Gary Player gives an exclusive one-on-one interview with Host Michael Williams about his life in golf, his thoughts on the current game and his tips for thriving even in difficult times.

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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