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Opinion & Analysis

Which is more important: Your equipment or your body?

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I am asking this question because we as golfers have limited time and financial resources to put toward getting better at the game we love. Therefore, if we want to improve, it’s necessary to be selective about what we choose to invest in. A common dilemma is whether to upgrade our equipment or invest in our bodies. I have gathered the opinions of a variety of experts in the field of golf to help you decide whether your clubs or your body is going to get a tune up this year.

Before we crack on, it’s probably worth defining exactly what I mean by “your equipment” and “your body.”

Equipment: Driver, Fairway Woods, Irons, Wedges, Putter and any custom fitting thereof.

Body: Golf Fitness Assessment, Personal Training, Golf Fitness Training Programs, Fitness Equipment (golf specific or not), Strength Training, Yoga, Pilates, Movement Pattern Training.

Note: Coaching deserves its own category (and article) and is not included in this debate. 

So which is more worthy of an investment of your precious time and hard earned dollars?

Some would argue that without the right equipment, it doesn’t matter how good your body is. Incorrect shafts are going to produce inconsistent ball striking, and too little loft on your driver will reduce your carry distance by 10-15 percent. But even a golfer with a body like Rory McIlroy’s is going to struggle without the right gear.

Others might suggest that you can have all the gear, but if your body doesn’t function well you can’t make use of it properly. You might have a driver that is brand new and custom fit to your swing speed and delivery conditions. If your swing speed is 89 mph, your path is 9 degrees left and your angle of attack is 5 degrees down due to mobility restrictions and a lack of strength, however, then you will always have a pretty low potential for improving your driving distance and accuracy by investing in a driver.

I am quite clearly and unashamedly biased in this argument. As a strength and conditioning coach, I will always say that your body is more important than your equipment and you should invest your dollars and your time into getting fitter, stronger, more mobile and improving your movement patterns. In my opinion, improving your body will raise the ceiling of your golf-related physical capabilities such as strength/power, flexibility, coordination and movement patterns. With bettered athleticism comes the potential to swing the club more effectively and hit better golf shots. You can find out more about my methods for raising your ceiling of potential by clicking here.

I am aware, however, that you probably don’t just want to hear this predictable and one-eyed view of the situation, so I have asked eight of my esteemed colleagues to chip in with their opinions on the matter. I tried to harvest a range of views from people who do various different aspects of golf stuff for a living. There are golf coaches, GolfWRX editors, GolfWRX writers, strength and conditioning coaches and even a former CEO of a famous equipment manufacturer. It’s a pretty broad spectrum!

For each of their responses I’ll award a point to either “Equipment” or “Body,” tally the scores as we go and summarize which category came out as the overall winner.

Chris Gibson: Golf Coach, 2015 Queensland (Australia) Teaching Professional of the Year

“I guess there are several levels to my answer that cover the different types of client that I work with. To start with, obviously if the clubs are grossly out of proportion (i.e. too long/short, heavy/light, game improvement/blade, etc.) then getting them somewhere near suitable is really important.

“If somebody walked through my door as a raw beginner and didn’t have clubs, I would always suggest not to buy them until we can improve their technique, which includes the physical training of movement patterns.

“If we are talking a long-term program for a player and their goals are to be as good as they can be, then physical first. This can determine how much they can practice and play and therefore have a significant bearing on their long term goals.

“If they are players who know they can’t practice due to work commitments or just aren’t motivated to practice more and enjoy the social aspect only, then clubs may be better suited to help them improve.

“If I am talking elite level athletes that have had their clubs fitted, then physical will always out weigh clubs or technology. Elite level athletes will adapt even if they are not spot on with a club fit.”

We start with a halve. 

Scoreboard: Body: 0.5, Equipment: 0.5

Barney Adams: Founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic “Tight Lies” fairway wood 

“Given decent equipment, meaning that you might favor some older models that play perfectly, well then I say unequivocally that body is more important. I’m 76 and at best exercise might slow down the effects of age, so equating age to condition there is no way I play as well as my younger years. Body, no contest.”

Body takes an early lead with Barney’s full support. 

Scoreboard: Body 1.5, Equipment 0.5

Kane Cochran: Co-founder of Full Glass Labs and creator of Ranger GPS

“For me… the body is more important to lowering your scores. If we assume we’re discussing any of the major, higher-quality pieces of equipment out there, there performance, as we’ve seen, is generally similar. Materials and craftsmanship sets equipment apart, but if we’re talking generally, moving your body the right way will have a bigger impact than say, upgrading your irons from last season’s model to this season. Yes, we all should have clubs fit for our BODY and our swing and it is possible to lower scores simply by getting a proper equipment fit.

“Better (lower handicap) golfers will, in my opinion, see a bigger benefit from getting their body to work more efficiently through better conditioning/fitness, which will let them get in better positions and fire everything in a better sequence.

“Higher-handicap golfers who have not been fit for their clubs or are using older technology can lower their scores with properly fit clubs or better technology (more forgiving drivers and irons for instance). But they will still see a bigger benefit from having a body that can get in the correct positions more easily, allowing them to swing the club better and improve at a faster pace.”

This is looking bad for equipment. 

Scoreboard: Body 2.5, Equipment 0.5

Zak Kozuchowski: GolfWRX Editor

“Equipment changes are best for short-term improvement, by which I mean your next few rounds. Simple things such as establishing proper wedge gaps and dialing in playable lofts and lie angles can create huge improvements in consistency for golfers of every level, and they aren’t usually that expensive. A shaft swap can also really help if golfers find themselves not being able to hit a certain type of club (driver, irons, wedges) as well as others in their set.

That being said, if it was either this or that, most golfers should probably invest in their bodies first, because they’ll only use new clubs for limited amount of time. They’ll need their bodies for their rest of the lives.

The best advice I can give to junior golfers and aspiring professionals is to understand what parts of their bodies could be limiting them and what they can do on a day-to-day basis to prevent injuries. Seek out the smartest coaches and fitters in your area, and you might learn what I did — some of the work I was putting in at the gym and on the range was not really helping, and in some cases hurting me.

Another halved point. Can equipment hang in there?

Scoreboard: Body 3, Equipment 1

Tom Stickney: Director of Instruction at The Vidanta Golf Academies

“Obviously the body is a huge part of the success of the player, but I feel at the lower levels of playing ability the clubs are more important. This is because the higher handicapper struggles to make up for poorly fit or inappropriate clubs. At least we can alter the clubs to aid the improper body motions for golfers with less ability.”

A full point for equipment. Start of a comeback maybe?

Scoreboard: Body 3, Equipment 2

Andrew Tursky: GolfWRX Assistant Editor

“I would say equipment short-term and fitness long-term. Equipment can help a golfer shave strokes without changing their technique. But improvement has a ceiling by strictly getting a set of custom-fit golf clubs.

Fitness, however, can help a golfer achieve a golf body (flexibility, stronger core, etc.) that allows them to practice more, while reducing the risk of injury. Also, they can possibly achieve movement patterns they wouldn’t have been able to without a golf-specific fitness regimen.

A new set of clubs isn’t much good if a bad back and tight hamstrings keep you from spending the proper time on the practice tee.”

A great argument in favor of body. 

Scoreboard: Body 4, Equipment 2

Richard Woodhouse: Director Of Instruction at KDV Sport

“In regards to priority, I will always address how the body is functioning first and foremost. The golf swing requires both mobility and stability. If one or both of these functions are compromised, an equipment change may only “Band Aid” over the true cause of the inefficiency in the golf swing.

“Regardless of age, gender, ability, or time availability, we can all work toward a more efficient functioning body; this might mean incorporating dynamic mobility/stability, dynamic balance and/or strength and conditioning program.

“When I have my students applying themselves with structured programs as listed above, I see a dramatic increase in acceptance of swing/technique improvement. I always believe that time spent working on an efficient mobility/stability pattern will decrease the time required to implement swing improvements on the range.

“As the pattern of the swing becomes consistent regarding sequencing, we can then address the equipment and fit the player to equipment that will in turn compliment the players development.”

The first golf coach to go all out for body. This is turning into a one-sided contest. 

Scoreboard: Body 5, Equipment 2

Nick Buchan: Founder of Stronger Golf / Co Founder of the Association of Golf Strength and Conditioning (AGSC)

“Obviously, what your body is physically able to do and the equipment you use can directly affect your swing mechanics. Getting properly fitted for your clubs can have you walking out of a 30-minute custom fitting sessions swinging better and ultimately playing better very quickly!

“Improving the function of your body in golf swing by addressing weak points in your movement chain, correcting movement patterns and alignment, etc., will optimise biomechanics and also allow improvements in swing mechanics albeit will considerably more effort and time investment. This approach has two advantages; first, the law of diminishing returns will impact physical training much more slowly or even be non-existent. There will almost always be physical issues affecting a golfer, which we can work to improve.

“Second, and most importantly, improving equipment choice and even swing mechanics through coaching is the equivalent of fine-tuning a cars engine. Increasing strength and power through physical training is the equivalent to making the cars engine bigger. A bigger engine simply has more potential for speed.”

The S&C coach predictably drives home the knife with another point for body.

Scoreboard: Body 6, Equipment 2

There we have it folks, a resounding four-point victory in favor of “your body.” The best custom fit equipment will take you right up to the ceiling of potential for improvement of your game, and there is no doubt that up-to-date and properly fit equipment can help you lower your scores — but increasing your level of (golf specific) athletic ability can raise that ceiling higher than you ever thought possible.

It’s well worth noting that quality coaching plays a huge role in game improvement. Often the best physical adaptations aren’t worth much without being told how to apply them to the swing, and every contributing member to this article massively advocates committing to some level of professional instruction if you want to get better.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the comments above and will encourage my fellow contributors to respond if they can find the time.

For more info on raising your ceiling with quality golf fitness info, you can take a look at my website: www.golffitpro.net

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Semi

    Jul 30, 2015 at 8:06 am

    I am in my 50’s and decided to start playing golf again after 4 years but before I pick up a club – I’ve decided to hit the gym for a month to build some muscle and flexibility up that I have lost. I have a good set of clubs that are about 4 years old which I will not be upgrading. I know for the most part new clubs will not improve my game as much as being able to get in positions that I want or need to get into. Besides the physical side of things, knowing that I will be more capable of swinging the club better will give me confidence which helps with the mental side as well.
    So for me, it’s the Body.

  2. marcel

    Jul 29, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    dont be lazy hit the gym. lose the beer belly and enjoy your intimate life again and golf!

  3. Larry

    Jul 29, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    I have always taken pride in being in good physical shape. It has definitely helped my golf game. However there are plenty of overweight and out of shape players who are much better than me. Why? They have better swings especially at impact. How do you get a better swing? I don’t know. I’ve tried lessons and practice. Still an 8- 10 handicap. Recently switched my 10 year old Irons for new Taylormade aero burners and instantly picked up 12 to 14 yards. May not affect the handicap much but it sure is more fun. Equipment changes especially if your equipment is old are the quickest and most certain way to improve.

    • MHendon

      Jul 29, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      Larry you’re probably right. I’m one of those overweight and out of shape guys you refer to. I can out play most people I come across. Could I improve by getting in better shape, yeah probably but my guess is not much. I’ve always said golf is the most athletic game that no one wants to accept is a sport and I’ve always been very athletically gifted. I am planning on starting a work out program soon so hopefully I’ll be able to better answer this question in 6 months to a year.

      • Nick Randall

        Jul 29, 2015 at 4:50 pm

        Good on you for considering the physical side MHendon, if you need a bit of advice getting started then don’t hesitate to get in contact

    • Nick Randall

      Jul 29, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      Larry golf is still a predominantly skill based sport. The most skilful person will almost always beat the most athletic person so it’s about maximising your skill potential. As we have seen in the arguments put forward, some people in some scenarios get a bigger boost from equipment – no question.

  4. Tom Wishon

    Jul 29, 2015 at 11:22 am

    My son has a B.S. in Exercise Science, is a multiply certified personal trainer too, and from his supervision I have been committed to a golf specific training program for 7 yrs. I’m 64 now and no matter what, this year I am seeing my clubhead speed drop for the first time. No question the training staved that off, but it is a fact that at some point the body is going to break down and with it, a loss of swing capability comes that none of us can avoid. In turn that means I have to shift some of the fitting specs of my clubs so as to have my equipment get the most from the body and swing characteristics I now have.

    At the same time, with younger people, no question the right training program can open the door to enhance/improve your swing characteristics. And in that positive direction of training result, that too is going to require the person to be properly fit so their equipment best matches to their improved body.

    While it is certain every person on the planet will benefit from exercise and should commit to a good program, in the relationship in golf of the body to equipment it is the body and its swing characteristics that will forever dictate what the equipment needs to be. To work out and just buy off the rack clubs is a waste of time and money. To not train the body and be custom fit will at least optimize the equipment for the state of the body and its swing characteristics. To work out properly AND be correctly custom fit is of course the ultimate.

  5. Ken Pierce

    Jul 29, 2015 at 10:47 am

    This article and the testimonials from some of the top teaches and coaches confirms that improving your body with golf specific exercises and training will have a more positive affect on your game than any of the newest “gear”. We have been helping golfers improve their motor pattern memory and golf specific movement patterns with resistance based swing training products since 1986. Thanks Nick for presenting this information. Ken Pierce GolfGym.com

  6. Christosterone

    Jul 29, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Body 99
    Equipment 1
    Take a look at any of tigers sawgrass U.S. amateur with a 43″ TTDG X100 driver that looks about 280cc…
    He was piping 330 yard drives with wound balatas…..
    While the equipment has helped, it pales in comparison to aging….
    Another reference is Jack’s swing circa 1966 vs 1976 vs 1986…..he swung out of his shoes through about 1972 and his age required him dial it back incrementally….
    Heck, look at how Jack was putting in ’86 vs ’66…..his age required him to stand up more which really affected his distance control…
    Had Jack had a 20 year old back he would’ve won 15 majors between 1980 and 1990 IMHO
    -Christosterone

    • MHendon

      Jul 29, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      You are using the best golfers in history as proof that exercise is more important than equipment. I believe you’re missing the point of the article. It’s what will help the average golfer more, equipment or exercise. Jack or Tiger in they’re respective primes could’ve beat anyone with just about any equipment but that’s because of their skill level not conditioning. Jack was always know for being a little pudgy and Tiger was at his best before he got so serious in to conditioning. As Larry stated above he’s always taken pride in keeping in shape but a knew set of irons did more for him than his exercise.

      • Christosterone

        Aug 1, 2015 at 12:35 pm

        I never made a reference to exercise….my point was that AGE is the factor paramount importance in golf.
        Yes fitness helps….but being Peter Lonard doesn’t make you great….
        Trevino, Casper, Monty and Floyd are all saw no issue with their lack of physical fitness….it was AGE that saw them lose their hall of fame greatness…
        I can name 30 others of the top of my head that prove age is the determining factor in a golfers decline to an exponentially higher degree than any other factor.
        -Christosterone

  7. That guy

    Jul 29, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Depends. Pros have maximized both body and equipment. For the average person I think it depends on where their game is at, and how well they preform.

    If they are scoring as low as they can and have a consistent repeatable swing, than maximizing their equipment could give them an edge to score lower.

    If they aren’t scoring well and don’t have a consistent repeatable swing, than maximizing their body could give them an edge to score lower.

    There is no right or wrong, but it starts with a true assessment of your current skill, and your consistency with your swing. If your not consistent with your swing, absolutely no equipment will make it better. Therefore; you must start with your body first, before maximizing equipment…

    • Nick Randall

      Jul 29, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      Absolutely, it’s worth mentioning again that quality instruction trumps both of these factors hands down!

  8. Todd

    Jul 29, 2015 at 7:38 am

    I think people buy equipment too frequently. Equipment does improve but not to the degree that manufactures tout. As people get older I think their overall fitness declines more rapidly than the equipment. People should focus more on their health and functional fitness.

    • Nick Randall

      Jul 29, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks for your comments Todd, I agree with you that manufactures overstate the positive effect their equipment will have. There is almost certainly an element of that in the fitness side too. I think what we have seen is that both are very important, but like you say – get the body right first!

  9. Balle

    Jul 28, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    All of the above

  10. Bobby Mqarshall

    Jul 28, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Niether. Your mind is the most important.

    • Patricknorm

      Jul 31, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      You’re not wrong. So if you include mental, physical and then equipment, I’d always put your brain number one. But that wasn’t the question.
      Given the context of
      From the article it’s always physical and then equipment. The qualifier being a good, positive, confident attitude. And with Tiger knowing his body is a wreck because of surgeries, it clearly affects his confidence.

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Opinion & Analysis

What does it really take to play college golf?

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Much has been written and speculated about this question, both in popular media and by junior golfers and their parents and coaches. However, I wanted to get a more definitive answer.

In collaboration with Dr. Laura Upenieks of Baylor University, and with the generous support of Junior Tour of Northern California and Aaron R. Hartesveldt, PGA, we surveyed 51 players who were committed to play college golf for the 2021 year.

Our sample was comprised of 27 junior boys and 24 junior girls. Most of our respondents were either white or Asian. As for some other notable statistics, 67% of boys reported working with a coach once a week, while 100% of girls reported working with a coach at least once a week. In addition, 67% of boys were members at a private club, while 100% of girls were members of a private club. Here are some other interesting findings from the data:

-The average scoring differential for a boy who committed to college golf was -1.48
-The average scoring differential for a girl who committed to college golf was 3.72
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-The average girl was introduced to golf at 12 years old
-The average boy first broke par at 12
-The average girl first broke par at 17
-67% of boys and girls who responded reported having won at least 10 tournaments

One of the most interesting findings of the survey was the amount of competitive golf being played. The data shows that 67% of players report playing over 100 tournaments, meaning they have close to 1,000 hours of tournament experience. This is an extremely impressive amount given all respondents were teenagers, showing the level of dedication needed to compete at the top level.

Another interesting showing was that 75% of boys surveyed reported receiving “full scholarship”. At first glance, this number seems to be extremely high. In 2016, in a GolfWRX that I did with Steph Acosta, the data we collected estimated this number was between 5-10%. This number is seven times greater, which could be due to a low sample size. However, I would also speculate that the data speaks to the extrinsic motivation of players in the data set, as they feel the need to get a scholarship to measure their athletic success.

Finally, boys in the survey report playing with a mixture of elite players (those with plus handicaps) as well as 5-9 handicaps. On the other hand, no female in the study reported playing with any plus handicaps. It also stood out that 100% of junior girls report that their fathers play golf. In ongoing research, we are examining the reasons why young women choose golf and the impact their environments have on their relationships with golf. The early data is very interesting and we hope that it can be published by the end of this year. Altogether, we suspect that girls hold lower status at golf courses and are less able to establish competitive groups to regularly play with. This could impact how long they stay in the sport of golf as well as their competitive development.

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TG2: Tursky vs. Knudson WITB battle! Which bag would you game?

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It is time to see who has the better WITB! Tursky and Knudson face off in a battle of golf clubs, seeing who has made the better setup. Take a listen and then let us know who’s bag you like better on our Instagram account, @tg2wrx

 

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Callaway Jaws Raw wedge review and Strackaline’s yardage and green reading books

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Review of the new Callaway Jaws Raw wedge and the new Z Grind sole on the lob wedge. Great spin and improved shape make it my choice over the Jaws MD5. Strackaline’s yardage and green reading books are highly detailed and catch all the slopes on the green.

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