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.
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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.
5 examples of how Lexi Thompson has been treated harsher than any of her peers
Following Lexi Thompson’s Solheim Cup post-round presser on Friday evening, the 28-year-old has been the topic of much discussion.
Golf pundits and fans alike have been weighing in with their takes after this exchange with a reporter surrounding an untimely shank on Friday afternoon went viral:
Confounding answer from Lexi and subsequent reaction from the US side. It was one of the pivotal moments of the entire day and somehow that's off limits? pic.twitter.com/9std3LFlmN
— Tron Carter (@TronCarterNLU) September 23, 2023
After the incident, LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez said that Lexi has “been picked on and drug through negative comments. She is tired of it”
So has the criticism of Lexi Thompson been justified, or is this yet another example of her being unfairly treated?
Well, here are five times, in my opinion, that Lexi has been scrutinized far differently over the years than her peers.
2022 KPMG PGA Championship
At the 2022 KPMG PGA Championship, Lexi Thompson held a two-stroke lead with three holes to play. She couldn’t close the deal and lost the tournament.
Afterwards, she was fined $2k (as were the rest of the group) for slow play.
Lexi declined to speak to the media and got hammered on social media for doing so…
Lexi Thompson has declined to speak with the media here at Congressional.
Not a great look?
— Zephyr Melton (@zephyrmelton) June 26, 2022
Almost every golfer at some point has skipped a media session following disappointment on the course, and nobody has really batted an eyelid.
Tiger skipped back-to-back post-round media briefings at the 2019 WGC Mexico after being frustrated with his putting. Remember the backlash over that? Nah, me neither.
Every (or nearly every) big-name golfer under the sun has played golf with Donald Trump. Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy etc. Nobody really cared.
For whatever reason, when Lexi Thompson did, it was a story, and she took herself off social media soon after the photo was posted.
View this post on Instagram
2021 U.S. Women’s Open
In the final round of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, Lexi Thompson had a 6-foot eagle on her opening hole. She missed and made birdie to lead by five.
She then lost the tournament.
Following the round, Brandel Chamblee said on ‘Live From’:
“She’s got 6 feet away. Now professional golfers don’t miss the center of the face by a pinhead. Look where she hits this putt on the very 1st hole. Look where this putt comes off the face. She would have missed the center of the putter there by a half an inch. I have never — I have never — seen a professional golfer miss the center of the putter by a wider margin than that. That was at the 1st hole. “
Honest? Absolutely. Correct? Brandel usually is. Has any other LPGA golfer been handed the full-on Chamblee treatment? Not to my knowledge.
2023 Solheim Cup
Lexi Thompson spoke the words, “I don’t need to comment on that” when a reporter asked her about a failed shot, and the golf community collectively lost their minds.
Lost on many people is the fact that she literally answered the question instantly after.
Jessica Korda described the reporting of the awkward exchange with the media member as yet another example of the golf media shredding Lexi, but in reality, it was really just golf media covering the furore created by golf fans reacting to the viral clip.
So sad seeing golf media , yet again, shred Lexi. It’s easy writing about other people’s mistakes. It’s
Golf, bad shots happen- give the girl a break. She grows the game more than anyone on tour… And she’s a great player!!
— Jessica Korda (@Thejessicakorda) September 23, 2023
Lexi then won her next two matches, collecting 3 points from 4 for the U.S. team. But nobody seems to care about that.
‘yOu ShoUlD PrAcTIce puTTinG’
There’s very few golfers that have been plagued with such inane posts on their Instagram page as Lexi Thompson has.
I’ve tracked golfer’s social media accounts over the past few years (job requirement, sort of?). I can categorically say that Lexi gets some of the angriest and most aggressive responses to her posts of any golfer. Male or female. (She also gets some very nice ones too).
Despite countless posts of Thompson relentlessly practising her putting, the number of comments from dummies accusing her of neglecting that area of her game is both bizarre and alarming. Notice how the comments have been disabled on the post below? Probably not a coincidence.
View this post on Instagram
Go on any other golfer’s social account, and it will be hard to find the same dynamic.
Throw in the scandalous rules decision at the 2017 ANA Inspiration that cost her a second major title and spawned the “Lexi rule,” and it’s hard not to think Lexi has had a bit of a raw deal at times.
The Wedge Guy: My top 5 practice tips
While there are many golfers who barely know where the practice (I don’t like calling it a “driving”) range is located, there are many who find it a place of adventure, discovery and fun. I’m in the latter group, which could be accented by the fact that I make my living in this industry. But then, I’ve always been a “ball beater,” since I was a kid, but now I approach my practice sessions with more purpose and excitement. There’s no question that practice is the key to improvement in anything, so today’s topic is on making practice as much fun as playing.
As long as I can remember, I’ve loved the range, and always embrace the challenge of learning new ways to make a golf ball do what I would like it to do. So, today I’m sharing my “top 5” tips for making practice fun and productive.
- Have a mission/goal/objective. Whether it is a practice range session or practice time on the course, make sure you have a clearly defined objective…how else will you know how you’re doing? It might be to work on iron trajectory, or finding out why you’ve developed a push with your driver. Could be to learn how to hit a little softer lob shot or a knockdown pitch. But practice with a purpose …always.
- Don’t just “do”…observe. There are two elements of learning something new. The first is to figure out what it is you need to change. Then you work toward that solution. If your practice session is to address that push with the driver, hit a few shots to start out, and rather than try to fix it, make those first few your “lab rats”. Focus on what your swing is doing. Do you feel anything different? Check your alignment carefully, and your ball position. After each shot, step away and process what you think you felt during the swing.
- Make it real. To just rake ball after ball in front of you and pound away is marginally valuable at best. To make practice productive, step away from your hitting station after each shot, rake another ball to the hitting area, then approach the shot as if it was a real one on the course. Pick a target line from behind the ball, meticulously step into your set-up position, take your grip, process your one swing thought and hit it. Then evaluate how you did, based on the shot result and how it felt.
- Challenge yourself. One of my favorite on-course practice games is to spend a few minutes around each green after I’ve played the hole, tossing three balls into various positions in an area off the green. I don’t let myself go to the next tee until I put all three within three feet of the hole. If I don’t, I toss them to another area and do it again. You can do the same thing on the range. Define a challenge and a limited number of shots to achieve it.
- Don’t get in a groove. I was privileged enough to watch Harvey Penick give Tom Kite a golf lesson one day, and was struck by the fact that he would not let Tom hit more than five to six shots in a row with the same club. Tom would hit a few 5-irons, and Mr. Penick would say, “hit the 8”, then “hit the driver.” He changed it up so that Tom would not just find a groove. That paved the way for real learning, Mr. Penick told me.
My “bonus” tip addresses the difference between practicing on the course and keeping a real score. Don’t do both. A practice session is just that. On-course practice is hugely beneficial, and it’s best done by yourself, and at a casual pace. Playing three or four holes in an hour or so, taking time to hit real shots into and around the greens, will do more for your scoring skills than the same amount of range time.
So there you have my five practice tips. I’m sure I could come up with more, but then we always have more time, right?
More from the Wedge Guy
- The Wedge Guy: Anyone can be a better wedge player by doing these simple things
- Wedge Guy: There’s no logic to iron fitting
- The Wedge Guy: Mind the gap
Vincenzi: Fortinet Championship First Round Leader picks
The PGA Tour begins its fall season with a trip to Wine Country as the world of golf patiently awaits the 2023 Ryder Cup which is just a few weeks away. Silverado is a course where plenty of players with varying skill sets can compete, but strong West Coast history tends to be a major factor.
In the past four editions of the Fortinet Championship, there have been six first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the six, three have started their rounds in the morning wave, and three started in the afternoon. The leading scores have all been between 63 and 65.
As of now, the winds look to be very docile, with speeds of 4-7 MPH throughout the day. I don’t see either the AM or PM wave as having a major advantage.
2023 Fortinet Championship First-Round Leader Picks
Zac Blair +9000 (FanDuel)
First-Round Tee Time: 1.22 p.m PT
A big theme for me this week is targeting players who have had success at both Silverado and the West Coast in general. Blair finished 22nd here last year, and also finished 4th back in 2019. That year, he shot 66 in rounds two and three, showing his ability to go low on this track.
In 2022, Blair gained 3.8 strokes putting and in 2019, he gained 8.6. The 33-year-old seemingly has these greens figured out.
C.T. Pan +9000 (FanDuel)
First-Round Tee Time: 8.23 a.m PT
At the end of the 2023 season, C.T. Pan showed flashes of what made him a good player prior to his injury struggles early in the year. He finished 4th at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, and 3rd at the RBC Canadian Open in June. He also finished 6th at Silverado back in 2021, gaining 4.5 strokes on approach and 6.6 strokes putting.
A few weeks off may have given Pan a chance to reset and focus on the upcoming fall swing, where I believe he’ll play some good golf.
Joel Dahmen +110000 (FanDuel)
First-Round Tee Time: 7:28 a.m PT
After becoming a well-known name in golf due to his affable presence in Netflix’ “Full Swing” documentary, Dahmen had what can only be considered a disappointment of a 2023 season. I believe he’s a better player than he showed last year and is a good candidate for a bounce back fall and 2024.
Dahmen finished in a tie for 10th at the Barracuda Championship in late July, and the course is similar in agronomy and location to what he’ll see this week in Napa. He has some strong history on the West Coast including top-ten finishes at Riviera (5th, 2020), Pebble Beach (6th, 2022), Sherwood (8th, 2020), TPC Summerlin (9th, 2019) and Torrey Pines (9th, 2019).
James Hahn +125000 (Caesars)
First-Round Tee Time: 1:55 p.m PT
James Hahn absolutely loves golf on the West Coast. He’s won at Riviera and has also shown some course form with a 9th place finish at Silverado back in 2020. That week, Hahn gained 4.7 strokes putting, demonstrating his comfort level on these POA putting surfaces.
He finished T6 at the Barracuda back in July, and there’s no doubt that a return to California will be welcome for the 41-year-old.
Peter Malnati +125000 (BetRivers)
First-Round Tee Time: 12.27 p.m PT
Peter Malnati excels at putting on the West Coast. He ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on POA and has shown in the past he’s capable of going extremely low on any given round due to his ability to catch a hot putter.
His course history isn’t spectacular, but he’s played well enough at Silverado. In his past seven trips to the course, he’s finished in the top-35 four times.
Harry Higgs +150000 (BetRivers)
First-Round Tee Time: 1.55 p.m PT
In what is seemingly becoming a theme in this week’s First-Round Leader column, Harry Higgs is a player that really fell out of form in 2023, but a reset and a trip to a course he’s had success at in the past may spark a resurgence.
Higgs finished 2nd at Silverado in 2020 and wasn’t in particularly great form then either. Success hasn’t come in abundance for the 31-year-old, but three of his top-10 finishes on Tour have come in this area of the country.
Higgs shot an impressive 62 here in round two in 2020, which would certainly be enough to capture the first-round lead this year.
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