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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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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: How is the new PGA schedule looking? Gross golf bag cleaning story!

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The new PGA schedule is out and how will so much major golf look in the fall. What golf gear would you buy with your stimulus check if you could blow it all on golf? Knudson has a gross story about cleaning out a golf bag.

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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19th Hole

Tiger at the Masters: The 3 that got away

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This time last year, Tiger Woods earned his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters, breaking a 14-year drought at Augusta National and completing a storybook career comeback (see Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters WITB here).

Between his 2005 and 2019 victories, Woods gave himself several chances to reclaim the green jacket, but for one reason or another, the championship continuously eluded the 15-time major winner.

Looking back on that drought, three years in particular stick out in my mind where Woods (being the ruthless closer that he is) could, and maybe should, have capitalized on massive opportunities.

2007 Masters

A unique tournament broke out at the 2007 Masters with chilly and windy conditions meaning we would see an over-par score winning the event for the first time in a generation.

Unusually however was the fact that Tiger Woods had got himself into a fantastic position heading into the final day’s play—one stroke back of the lead and in the final group.

By the first hole on Sunday, Woods had a share of the lead. A couple of holes later, and he was the sole leader. But instead of the game’s greatest ever closer doing what he does best, we saw the first small chink in Tiger’s major armor.

Unable to keep up with the improved scoring on Sunday, Woods finished the championship two strokes behind Zach Johnson. It was the first time Woods lost a major in which he held the lead at some point in the final round.

11th hole Sunday. Woods saved par.

Summing up after the round why things hadn’t turned out the way the entire golf world expected, Woods said

“Looking back over the week I basically blew this tournament with two rounds where I had bogey, bogey finishes. That’s 4-over in two holes. The last two holes, you just can’t afford to do that and win major championships.”

2011 Masters

In one of the most exciting final rounds in Masters history, an electric front-nine charge from Woods coupled with a Rory McIlroy collapse saw the then 35-year-old tied for the lead heading into the back nine.

After back-to-back pars on the challenging 10th and 11th holes, Woods found the green on the 12th before it all slipped away. A disastrous three-putt was followed by a deflating five on the par-5 13th and an agonizing near-miss for birdie on 14.

In typical defiant fashion, Woods then flushed a long iron on the par-5 15th to give him five feet for eagle and what would have been the outright lead. But he couldn’t find the cup.

Directly following his round, a visibly miffed Woods said

“I should have shot an easy 3- or 4-under on the back nine and I only posted even. But I’m right there in the thick of it and a bunch of guys have a chance. We’ll see what happens.”

What happened was eventual champion Charl Schwartzel did what Woods said he should have done—shooting 4 under on the back to win his first major.

2013 Masters

Luck, or lack of, is a contentious topic when it comes to sports fans, but at the 2013 Masters, Woods’ shocking fate played out as if those on Mount Olympus were orchestrating the tournament.

Woods entered the 2013 Masters as the World Number One, brimming with confidence having won three out of his first five tournaments to start the year.

By Friday afternoon, Woods had cruised into a share of the lead, before crisply striking a wedge on the par-5 15th as he hunted for another birdie.

In a cruel twist of fate, Woods’ ball struck the pin and ricocheted back into the water. “Royally cheated!” shouted on-course announcer David Feherty. Nobody could argue otherwise.

A subsequent “bad drop” turned a probable birdie into a triple-bogey placing Woods behind the proverbial 8-ball for the rest of the tournament. The game’s ultimate closer should have been in the lead with two rounds to play on a front-runner’s paradise of a course; instead, he was in chase-mode. (From 1991-2012, 19 of the 22 winners came from the final group).

Woods tried to rally over the weekend, but if he didn’t think the 2013 Masters was ill-fated for himself by Friday evening, then he would have been excused to do so on the eighth hole on Saturday.

 

Had Woods’ golf ball missed the pin at 15 on that hot and humid Spring afternoon in 2013, then he not only wins, but he likely wins going away.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Power Leak No. 1: Your grip

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One of the things I like the best is when a friend or stranger asks me to take a look at their swing to see if I can help them. I never get into the “lesson” business, because that is the domain of our golf staff at the club. But I have spent a lifetime in this game, and have studied the golf swing pretty relentlessly. I also have been blessed with a pretty good eye.

So, the other day, I was out hitting some balls in the afternoon, and a good friend from the club asked if I’d take a look at where he is losing power. Darrell is a big guy and a good player, but not nearly as long as you would think he’d be. He plays with the “big dog” money game, which has a few really big hitters that can be quite intimidating.

I’ve played with Darrell enough to know exactly where his power leaks were, so when he came out to the range, I watched him hit a few and dropped the first one on him.

“It’s your grip!”

He, like so many amateur golfers, was holding the club too far out on the end, and much too high in his palms — not low in the fingers like you should. I’ve always been of the opinion that the grip is the most important fundamental in the entire golf swing. Without a solid and fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, the rest of the swing cannot function at its best. Hogan thought it was so important, he dedicated a whole chapter of “Five Lessons” to the subject.

You’ll see the occasional pretty good scorer at the club with a funky grip, but you never see a bad grip on tour. The golfer who has mastered a great grip is the most teachable there is.

In my opinion, the grip is only ‘personal’ to a small degree. Whether you like to overlap, interlock or use the full finger grip (not baseball)…whether you like to rotate your hands a little stronger or weaker . . . the fundamentals are the same, and they aren’t negotiable.

The club has to be in your fingers to allow the “lag” that builds power, and to allow or even force the optimum release of the club through impact. The last three fingers of the left hand have to control the club so that it can be pulled through the impact zone. The right hand hold is limited to the curling of the two middle fingers around the grip, and neither set of forefingers and thumbs should be engaged much at all. One of the best drills for any golfer is to hit balls with the right forefinger and thumb totally disengaged from the grip. Google “Hogan grip photos” and study them!!!!!!

So, with the changes in the grip I had Darrell make, he immediately began ripping drivers 15-20 yards further downrange than he had. The ball flight and even sound of the ball off the driver was more impressive. So we went out to play a few holes to see what happened.

Historically, Darrell is only 5-10 yards longer than me at best, and sometimes I outdrive him. But not anymore!! On those five holes we played late that afternoon, he consistently flew it out there 20-25 yards past my best drives.

And that made us both really happy!

Next Tuesday, I’ll talk about the second in this series on Power Leaks.

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